Sorry. Snobs aren't welcome here.
If you're someone who thinks that the only movies that matter are arcane and whose online clicks number in the single digits, you'd best move along smartly. More comfortable destinations await. This list of the year's best movies isn't for you.
By the same token, if you're someone who always prefers to show up in a jabbering throng at your local megaplex for tentpole movies on their first day -- especially in IMAX -- instead of arriving full of hope at small art houses, this list isn't for you, either.
There are wildly individual but little films on it. But also there are some huge big-budget movies that gobble up box office numbers the way adolescent boys on the football team gobble up lunch.
The subject is movies. Not box office. Nor is it politics, political, gender or otherwise.
And you know what? It was a truly wonderful subject in 2017. And that was largely true because of the amazing achievements of small independent movies encouraged by the explosion of formats available and independent producers.
A good many likely candidates for this list -- "The Post" and "Molly's Game" to name two -- couldn't be seen in time for consideration. Nevertheless, here's a pretty good list of how very many good movies there were in 2017, whether you saw them or didn't. In alphabetical order.
A GHOST STORY by David Lowery. No one had ever seen anything remotely like it before. Nor are we ever likely to see anything like it again. It's utterly transfixing--funny, wondrous, wildly creative and cosmic about life, love and death, all at the same time. It shouldn't have worked at all but my God, how it does.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT by Sean Baker. Some kids you can't help but love try to get by in a Florida welfare hotel just outside Disney World. Your heart bends and breaks before it's over.
GOOD TIME by the Safdie Brothers. Yes, Robert Pattinson can act. More importantly, the moment that New York street grunge stops becoming a perfect milieu in American movies will be the moment they've lost their soul.
CHASING TRANE: THE JOHN COLTRANE DOCUMENTARY by John Scheinfeld. A singular jazz documentary full of the deep and intimate family stuff you seldom if ever see in jazz documentaries. People mostly worshipped him before, if they liked him at all. After seeing this, they'll also like him enormously as a man (in a way they couldn't possibly like, say, Miles Davis.)
LADY BIRD by Greta Gerwig. Coming of age is as old as movie subjects get. Here is proof that nothing will ever stop brilliant newcomers from showing moving, funny and unsually beloved movies about it. People expected a lot from Gerwig's first effort as a director. They never guessed they'd get this much.
LAST FLAG FLYING by Richard Linklater. A completely unfortunate title that led people to expect some sort of war and killing movie. It's nothing of a sort. It's a funny and deeply emotional movie about three Vietnam vets coming together to bury the son of one of them after he was sent home from Iraq in a coffin. Perfect performances from Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell.
THE SHAPE OF WATER by Guillermo del Toro. The world is full of people who love old movies. If it weren't we'd have no TCM. It has precious few, though, who'd take their love for "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" from 1954 and make this romantic and clever "Beauty and the Beast" creature feature.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI by Martin McDonagh. At no point in this movie could anyone stop it and predict what will happen in its next five minutes. It's that fresh. And it features one the great movie performances by Frances McDormand, who seldom gives performances that are anything else.
THE WALL by Doug Liman. The most overlooked masterwork of 2017 -- a minimalist war movie about a couple of American solders in the Middle East pinned down by an Iraqi sniper behind a ravaged wall. Before it's over the sniper has quoted Poe's "Raven" on their field phone to mock them. Everything about it is crisp and fresh -- the script by Dwain Worrell, director Liman and the lead performance by Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES by Matt Reeves. The year's best megaplex blockbuster -- a more powerful film for some of us than "Dunkirk" or "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: RUNNERS UP TO THE YEAR'S BEST
Patty Jenkins' "Wonder Woman"; William Oldroyd's "Lady Macbeth"; Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' "Battle of the Sexes"; Steven Soderbergh's "Logan Lucky"; Kathryn Bigelow's "Detroit"; Terence Davies' "A Quiet Passion"; James Mangold's "Logan"; Alexander Payne's "Downsizing"; and, yes, Chad Stahelski's "John Wick: Chapter Two."
MOVIE HERO OF THE YEAR
Not only did 80-year old Ridley Scott release "Alien: Covenant" and "Blade Runner 2049" this year but he also re-filmed the climax of "All the Money in the World" for Christmas release when original actor Kevin Spacey's private life filled up with too many repulsive sexual abuse accusations to make him a comfortable major player in a Christmas movie. Christopher Plummer -- eight years older than Scott -- took Spacey's place.
WORST OF THE YEAR
While cinematic reality turned senior citizens into saviors, they were slandered hideously onscreen in the remake of "Going in Style" and, especially, in "Just Getting Started" which was written and directed by Ron Shelton, who once gave us "Bull Durham." "Snatched" was a criminal waste of Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.
"Rough Night" had twice as many big name actresses so it was, at least mathematically, twice as bad. "Valerian and the City of The Thousand Planets" was visionary sci-fi rubbish. "Fifty Shades Darker" continued the series' successful quest to make S-M sex boring. "Mark Felt: the Man Who Brought the White House Down" managed to make even Watergate tedious.
Awfulness way above and beyond the call of duty, though, requires an attempt to do homage: Danny Strong's "Rebel in the Rye" for instance, which showed what happens when a hopeless slob tries to show us the "real" J.D. Salinger, and George Clooney's "Suburbicon" which tries to show us why a rejected old script from the Coen Brothers really shouldn't have been made after all. Not by anyone demonstrating tone deafness in every scene, it shouldn't. One of Clooney's worst moments on film.
From our contributors
News contributing reviewers offer the following choices among the films of 2017, whether they’ve shown this year or not.
Best: “Kedi,” “Land of Mine,” “Wonder Woman,” “Hidden Figures” and “War Machine” (Netflix).
Best: “The Shape of Water,” “Lady Bird,” “The Florida Project,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Mudbound.”
Best: "The Exception," "Citizen Jane: Battle for the City," "Menashe," "Loving Vincent" and "Lady Bird."
Kathleen Rizzo Young
Best: "The Big Sick," "Lady Bird," "Wonder Woman," "Maudie," "Step."
Worst: "The Emoji Movie."