Man, the years go by quicker and quicker. It feels like I was just doing my Top 10 movies list for 2016 (a pretty weak year overall), but here we sit as a far-stronger 2017 flew by. I had 31 movies in consideration for the Top 10, so it was a tough job to chip away to get down to 10. And a reminder, these are any movies I hadn’t seen before, not just films released during 2017.
10. When In Rome (1952)
It’s getting more difficult to track down older movies that 1. I haven’t seen and 2. I want to see. I loved this one. Van Johnson plays a priest traveling to Rome for the 1950 Holy Year with thousands of other priests, but he meets a crook (Paul Douglas) on the run…who steals his identity. Filmed in black and white with filming locations in Rome, this is just a nice, sweet, well-told story.
9. Black Hawk Down (2001)
I read the Mark Bowden novel in high school but never tracked down the movie. (Graphic war violence gets to me at times). The true story of a disastrous American mission to capture a warlord in Mogadishu in 1993 is very moving, uncomfortable and definitely stuck with me. A deep cast leads the way. A story and film that stuck with me long after watching it.
8. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
I’m a huge fan of the original Planet of the Apes series, so I was naturally a little wary of the rebooted franchise. I was wrong. These movies were excellent. This capper to the trilogy is a gem, a combination of war movies, apocalypse flicks, road trip stories and so much more. An absorbing story is aided by amazing special effects with Andy Serkis stealing the show as Caesar, the highly-intelligent leader of the apes.
7. Gifted (2017)
More proof that it doesn’t need to be a huge blockbuster flick to be good. A family story about a brilliant young girl (Mckenna Grace) being raised by her uncle (Chris Evans). Should she grow up in a more defined lifestyle? Reminded me a little bit of a modern Frank Capra film, but with a moving story and a cool cast, this was probably my most pleasant surprise of 2017.
6. Logan (2017)
Hugh Jackman shot to immense stardom as the most famous of the X-Men, so it was pretty cool to see the character transformation over all the films, capped here with the last one. Given a hard R-rating (VIOLENCE and BLOOD!) in the vein of Deadpool but handled far more seriously, Jackman delivers a career-best performance as an aging Logan with Patrick Stewart similarly stealing the show. Superhero movie with darkness and depth.
5. Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Movies like this are why I love actually going to the movies. Big, loud, smart, fun and damn entertaining. A reboot (along with the Godzilla movies) of a familiar character from film history with a King Kong origin story (of sorts). That said, this is a Kong unlike we’ve ever seen. Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and John Goodman star in this action movie that was a hell of a lot of fun, using the mid 1970’s as a backdrop.
4. Dunkirk (2017)
Director Christopher Nolan does a World War II film? Um, yes, count me in! Filmed in typical, unique Nolan style with a shifting timeline, almost minimal dialogue and strong reliance on music (a Hans Zimmer score) and visual, this was a doozy of a film. Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Brannagh, Cillian Murphy and Mark Rylance round out an impressive ensemble cast. Highly moving story, incredibly visceral moviegoing experience.
3. Forbidden Planet (1956)
If you’re looking for classic science fiction, the 1950’s are a good place to start. Here’s another classic, awesome to watch and also to see the profound impact ‘Forbidden’ has had on countless sci-fi and horror flicks since. More impressive? It’s a rare movie where the twist, the payoff is worth it in a big way. Smart, SMART twist. Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis lead the cast.
2. Hoop Dreams (1994)
My full-time job is a sports writer/editor. I love a lot of sports, but basketball and baseball are my favorites. This ahead of its time documentary tells the story of 2 African-American teenagers in Chicago during their high school and college careers as they pursue their dreams of playing in the NBA one day. Fascinating, uncomfortable and unsettling, funny, dramatic and sad, this is a must-see film.
1. John Wick Chapter 2 (2017)
Keanu Reeves returns as the impeccably cool hitman, John Wick, looking to dispatch more bad guys in impeccably staged action scenes. Loved the first one, and this sequel takes it up a notch or 2 or 10 or 189. So profoundly fun to just go along for this ride in a world that keeps building up, a world of hit men, killers, codes and principles. Reeves is so perfectly cast with Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Common, Laurence Fishburne and many others providing key supporting parts. And that ending? Oh my. Can’t wait for Chapter 3.
Other movies in consideration: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, A Matter of Life and Death, Kingsmen: The Golden Circle, Baby Driver, School Ties, Diabolique, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Hopefully we have a great 2018 of movies in store!