Aaron’s Exceptional Top Ten Films of 2017

We have reached another end of a year in film, and I’m happy to look back on what I saw. I had quite a bit of fun putting together this final list of movies, as there were strong contenders for the top ten, but plenty I still wanted to acknowledge as well. Having watched over 180 films theatrically and via Netflix and Amazon Prime this year, it can be a bit much to narrow it all down, but here we are. Some films grew on me over time, and others moved down the list a bit. Still, the following list goes over the broad grouping of movies that resonated with me in some way, which I’m happy to share. So here we go with my picks for the Top Ten Films of 2017 and the ranked runner-ups. (Reviews are linked when available and, as per usual, I’ve also linked lots of Easter Eggs in all of the pictures, so enjoy that as well.)

The Ranked List of Runner-Ups:

40. The LEGO Batman Movie

39. The Disaster Artist

38. The Beguiled

37. John Wick: Chapter 2

36. The Trip to Spain

35. I, Tonya

34. Call Me By Your Name

33. Logan Lucky

32. Blade Runner 2049

31. The Breadwinner

30. Molly’s Game

29. Colossal

28. The Blackcoat’s Daughter

27. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

26. Mudbound

25. Phantom Thread

24. Personal Shopper

23. It Comes At Night

22. The Florida Project

21. Lucky

20. Wonderstruck

19. Kong: Skull Island

18. Brigsby Bear

17. The Square

16. Darkest Hour

15. The Big Sick

14. The Post

13. Coco

12. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

11. The Lost City of Z

The Top Ten:


10. Baby Driver

The only thing more exciting than seeing Baby Driver was seeing the film race past expectations and finally give director/writer Edgar Wright a legitimate hit. Of course, my opinion is what matters to me most, but this spectacular car chase musical was apparently not destined to become merely a cult favorite. Instead, audiences embraced the wild ride that is this cool flick full of killer tracks. Ansel Elgort leads a strong cast of colorful characters, and the action has a unique way of delivering the goods. Thanks to brilliant editing and sound design to go along with the many practical car stunts, there’s an incredibly enjoyable experience to be had with this slick action movie.

“Was he slow?”


9. Good Time

This visceral thriller with a darkly humorous edge was a great one to catch up with during the late summer, and it’s stuck with me. Robert Pattinson gives one of his two tremendous performances from this year (see The Lost City of Z) as a street-wise crook who gets in over his head. Writer/directors Ben and Josh Safdie place Pattinson into a neon odyssey, as we navigate the alien world of Queens, New York after midnight and there are all sorts of twists and turns to admire. The film never slows down and finds plenty of ways to ramp up the desperation of the characters, all the for the sake of a highly engrossing film.

“Don’t be confused; it’s just gonna make it worse for me.”



8. Lady Bird

It may not be uncommon to see celebrated coming-of-age stories about teenagers grappling with life, their parents, and school, but this one delivers. Greta Gerwig’s solo directing debut does so much in a small amount of time that special acknowledgment must go to her editor. The film has the feel of a rapid-fire screwball comedy, but that does not at all take away from the emotional beats that come with the wonderful moments of humor scattered throughout. Saoirse Ronan is terrific in the lead role, but Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts are fantastic in their supporting roles as her parents. Lady Bird works as a movie you are happy to smile throughout, as it has ups and downs for the characters, but always provides a warm feeling of satisfaction.

“I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.”


7. mother!

To find good companions for this film one has to go back in time to be with Luis Buñuel or Roman Polanski in his prime because there is nothing like mother! that is currently making its way to theaters in wide release. That is enough to give Darren Aronofsky some edge over his contemporaries, but what makes the film even better is how great all of the elements of it indeed are. It’s not just a random madhouse of a movie, it’s one with fantastic performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, both walking some very tricky lines as far as how to navigate these roles. From a filmmaking perspective, this is a tremendous accomplishment, given how involved things become (to say the least), as the nature of the house shifts from a paradise to a nightmare. Regardless of what message you take away from the film’s meaning, or even if you found no value in the experience, it’s more ambitious and creative than just about anything else released on 2,000 screens. That’s the sort of surreal horror I can get behind.

“Make them go!”

6. Get Out

I never want to visit the sunken place, but I have been happy to revisit Get Out on multiple occasions. Writer/director Jordan Peele’s social thriller is a fantastic debut feature that will be earning him plenty of awards recognition in the months to come, along with a pass to do what he wants. He’s earned it, as this twisted take on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? is the sort of horror film that places so much racial tension on display without taking the easy route. Rather than dig into the usual culprits, the film heads in another direction to play into the awkward sense of humor it so brilliantly realizes, while slowly building suspense out of its setup as well. It doesn’t hurt to see excellent performances from all involved, including a star-making turn from Daniel Kaluuya and great support from Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Lakeith Stanfield, Betty Gabriel and Lil Rel Howery. Timely and well-crafted, the micro-budgeted Get Out was a huge success for a good reason.

“If I could, I would have voted for Obama for a third term.”


5. Detroit

While Get Out was designed as a genre thriller that could incorporate a racial agenda into its story, Detroit dove headfirst into dramatic territory, without the sheen of a high concept to make it more palatable. Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal have once again put together an intense drama, this time using the facts surrounding the 1967 Detroit riots and a particular incident centered around people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is not an easy film to watch, and the extended middle section is very much a horror film that takes no easy ways out. The committed performances make emotions register all the more clearly, and the filmmaking style certainly does a lot to balance the shock value with our sense of empathy for the victims. The idea that racism is a horrible thing may seem obvious, but here’s a film that doesn’t pull punches, provides a lot of talented people the chance to shine, and can surely start a conversation among audiences, given a chance.

“I’m just gonna assume you’re all criminals.”


4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I had a lot of fun with The Force Awakens, but here is a Star Wars film that feels challenging and ambitious in the ways you hope for when it comes to science fiction, as well as goofy space operas. Writer/director Rian Johnson had some big ideas for how this franchise needed to evolve to become more than just large-scale spectacle with guaranteed box office returns and man did he deliver. I’ve never been more interested in the ways of the Force than I have been with this movie and it’s thanks to his handling of new and old characters that I was able to get behind the struggles that kind of power presents. Add to that exciting new worlds, fantastic cinematography, great action, a terrific score and so much more to make an incredible film that satisfied me as a Star Wars fan, a movie fan, and a person excited to see something new on the big screen.

“We are what they grow beyond.”


3. Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan took the setting for a war movie and made an intense thriller. Much like Mad Max: Fury Road, the film functions as one huge action sequence that never stops, and there is plenty to admire in that sort of effort. It’s made all the better thanks to his work as an artist who knows how to paint on a huge canvas to tell an affecting story. Subverting various tropes, offering a bare minimum of dialogue and letting the editing do some heavy-lifting, here’s an incredible effort that has very little in common with other war films and it’s still every bit as stirring as one’s merely aspiring to show good triumphing over evil. And, of course, this movie is the technical marvel you’d expect from the man who has continued to find innovative uses for an amazing IMAX experience. While I’ve been continually pleased with how the film plays at home, the experience of seeing a 70mm IMAX experience only makes me wonder what Nolan could possibly do next to continue showing audiences why going to the movies can be a special experience.

“You can practically see it from here.”


2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Not every year will gift me with a new film from Tarantino or the Coen Brothers, but I’ll be happy to accept the latest from Martin McDonagh. His profanity-laden scripts have continually done an exceptional job of wrapping me up with interest in his characters and the plans he has for them in skillfully made dark comedies. This time around he gives Frances McDormand one of the best roles of her career and lets her play right alongside a terrific cast of supporting characters as well, including the great Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. This is a film with anger on its mind, and it does a fine job showing varying perspectives on how actions can have an effect and what it is to attempt to understand as well as forgive. Three Billboards is made all the better for the way it refuses to let anyone off the hook, developing certain characters while still allowing the audience consider just how redeemable they are. There is no right answer, and the film knows as much, but it can also tell a joke or two while getting to its conclusion.

“Don’t say ‘what,’ Dixon, when she comes in calling you a fuckhead.”


1. The Shape of Water

Some filmmakers strive to make the film they consider their masterpiece. Guillermo del Toro has merely delivered his latest masterpiece. Here’s a movie that combines so many of the things the acclaimed director loves and finds a story that perfectly assembles those ideas, themes, and ambitions. It’s a love story and a creature feature, with an eye on the future, politics and being progressive. Top tier performances come from all involved, and the visual language of the film is completely stunning. A brilliant score by Alexandre Desplat ties everything together as an adult fairy tale with plenty of moments of humor, romance, drama, suspense, and quirk. This is brilliant filmmaking, and I’m happy to see it’s not being written off as some obscure pleasure for only the Del Toro super fans to enjoy. It’s resonating with a sizable audience, given the budget, release schedule and subject matter and I’m all for seeing the film rack up as much positive attention as possible. The Shape of Water is my favorite film of the year.

“When he looks at me, he does not know how I am incomplete. He sees me as I am.”


Films I Missed:

Blade of the Immortal, Crown Heights, Faces Places, Foxtrot, God’s Own Country, Lady Macbeth, Loveless, My Happy Family, A Quiet Passion, The Transfiguration, The Villainess

This brings me to an end. Feel free to check out my blog for favorite movie moments, random film shout-outs, as well as my biggest disappointments, worsts, and films I just didn’t get. Also be sure to check out my list of the best Blu-rays of the year and the best original Criterion Collection covers from this year. And lastly, be sure to check out the lists of all the other guys at Why So Blu! It’s been a great joy to make these lists and, more importantly, go to the movies and see so many terrific films. I always try to be as open-minded as I can be and it’s great when it pays off, as evidenced by this list of 40 great films. 2018 shows a lot of promise for both huge movies and smaller entries, and I can always count on plenty of surprises as well. Let’s see what happens, as there’s plenty of filmmaking ambition out there.


12 Responses to “Aaron’s Exceptional Top Ten Films of 2017”

  1. Ryan

    I love this list. It’s so difficult to squeeze in a top 10 list, when you find yourself watching so many films and list 25+ when your just listing the most memorable ones. I’ve been follow your writing on films/Blu-Rays since your days posting mini-reviews on the Flixster App years ago. I think you also know my friend Kenny Miles? It’s great to see your appreciation of the film mother! It’s highly underrated and misunderstood, though the nature of the film lends itself to that. I enjoyed The Last Jedi (I enjoyed it more on second viewing, as with Blade Runner 2049) but wouldn’t put it in the top ten. Other than that we’re much in agreement. Not that that matters, but I value your opinions.

  2. Brian White

    I’m with Ryan on Jedi being Top 10 material 🙂 joking to each his own I could care less about it.
    What I do want to comment on is the Billboard movie. That movie looks AMAZING and I heard equally AMAZING things about it. I had a chance to see it down here, but time commitments prevented me. I am looking forward to my first time with it on 4K!
    Edgar gets the caboose here, huh?
    I have still yet to see Detroit. Not that I don’t want to, but just haven’t had the time. People seem a bit split on that one at least according to the review sites. Oh well. I’ll catch it on Prime or Netflix one day! Great list as always, Aaron!

  3. Jason Coleman

    Wish you had told me you missed The Transfiguration – would have bought it for you for Christmas! (Great list sir!)

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    @Ryan – Thanks and wow, Flixster throwback! Yes I know Kenny, we just had him on the podcast recently. Peace right back at you.

    @Brian – Edgar made the Top Ten! I hope you enjoy Three Billboards.

    @Jason – It’s been on Netflix and it’s right there at the top of my queue. It will be seen!

  5. Gerard Iribe

    Wow, I think you’ve been reading my mind for those Top films on your list. We’ll definitely be crossing streams. I still need to see Detroit and Good Time, though.

  6. Brandon Peters

    You have a top 10 full of #1s. Honestly…any order these go in could be the right order. As we discussed before, we are going to have a lot of cross over. This year has been great for films, but there’s also some that are just clear cut top films and favorites.

    In a year full of terrific super hero movies, I’m surprised Lego Batman is the only one to make your list. But, then again, I kinda dig it as you’re also proving how false those tired “Ugh, so many comic book super hero movies” people are!

  7. Brandon Peters

    Oh and Good Time was awesome. Yes indeed.

  8. Aaron Neuwirth

    Ha! Didn’t even realize that with LEGO Batman, but it is the best one in a year of greats! And Valerian was the best comic book movie.

  9. Brian White

    I need to see Good Time yet. I watched Brawl in Cell Block 99 last night.

  10. Brian White

    I am also interested in seeing Detroit because of the reviews. It has a lot of mixed reviews so I want to see for myself who is telling the truth.

  11. Gregg

    Ah dang it! ‘Three Billboards’ and ‘Lady Bird’ were two films I also did not manage to squeeze in. I almost caught LB a month ago. Well, it looks like I’ll be visiting Red Box a few times this year. I hadn’t heard of ‘Good Time’ but it sounds like it lives up to its name. Okay those three go on my must-see list along with Bron’s mention of ‘Ghost Story’. Btw, Happy New Year everybody!

  12. Aaron Neuwirth

    Did everyone check out the Easter Eggs!