Ten Best of 2017


One of the privileges of being a film critic is getting to do a ten best list at the end of the year. For me, it’s an opportunity to tout the movies I most enjoyed and was most likely to recommend. There were other films I liked – and a few films that my colleagues swooned over that I detested – so this is a personal list, and gives you a chance to judge my take on the movies.

DUNKIRK – Christopher Nolan’s impressionistic take on one of the most dramatic moments of World War II, where the British were desperately trying to evacuate their troops from France, was a stunning achievement. It showed how the horrors of war could elicit the best of both soldiers and civilians in the direst of circumstances.

GET OUT – Comedian Jordan Peele’s debut as a director was a stunning achievement, a horror film that made a powerful statement about racism and modern culture. The dramatic payoff, where he pulled the rug out from under us and our expectations, demonstrated a filmmaker ready to take on the world. This was the directorial debut of the year.

THE SHAPE OF WATER – Guillermo del Toro gives us “Creature of the Black Lagoon” as a romance, and one of the most stylish films of the year. Set in the 1950s, it provides a snapshot of where we were while pointing to how much better the future might be. A top-notch cast and outstanding art direction and special effects made this the science fiction film of the year.

DETROIT – A dramatization of outrageous police brutality during 1967 protests, it is a movie that demands to be seen by viewers who think they can ignore it. This is not a “black film.” African-American viewers already know what it says. This is a film for white viewers (like this critic) who need to understand why “black lives matter” is not only an important movement, but is an understatement of the problem this country must address.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – There was a time Hollywood knew how to do movie musicals. You wouldn’t know it from last year’s “La La Land” or this year’s “The Greatest Showman.” Once again, Disney surprised us by successfully giving us a live-action version of one of their animated classics. This was a sheer delight and the proof was in “Be Our Guest.” When they pulled that off with a mixture of live action and CGI – and they did – it was a moment of triumph.

COLOSSAL – Anne Hathaway plays a misfit who discovers that when she goes to her childhood playground, a giant monster mimics her actions in Seoul, South Korea. And then the film gets weird. This was a movie that not only pulled off its bizarre premise but managed to do so while keeping us guessing where it was going. This was an inventive and provocative movie that never tipped its hand right through its final shot.

COCO – Pixar is no longer batting 1.000, but when they get it right, they are head of the class. In their best film since “Inside Out,” they use Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” celebration to tell a story about being true to yourself across generations. If you’re not shedding a tear by the end, you need to check your emotions.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE – I make no apologies for this. Having been one of the few critics to pan “The Lego Movie,” I was bowled over by this follow-up. It is easily the best superhero movie of the year, hilariously taking apart the givens of the Batman mythos. Whether it’s Batman in particular or superheroes in general, this was the must-see superhero movie of 2017.

FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER – Angelina Jolie grabs our attention in her third outing as director, relating the horrors of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. We’ve seen this in “The Killing Fields” (1984) but this is different, showing us what occurred through the eyes of a child. We experience it as it happens and learn how this remarkable young girl managed to survive.

LAST FLAG FLYING – Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne are three Vietnam vets accompanying Carrell’s son’s remains from Iraq. This is not merely about war, but about men confronting the issues of reaching late-middle-age and reflecting on their lives. Younger critics may not have appreciated it, but director/co-writer Richard Linklater knew what he was doing.

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, including Jar Jar Binks Must Die. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


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