The end of the year is here, meaning it’s now time to definitively celebrate the finest movies that made their way to the multiplex and the art house. Over the past twelve months, moviegoers have been gifted with a bounty of great blockbusters, indies and documentaries, proving that filmmakers are continuing to find new ways—both big and small—to entertain, excite, and enlighten. No matter their budgets, scale, or subject matter, each of our selections had something to offer the adventurous cinephile, be it shining a light on today’s hot-button issues, reinvigorating traditional genres, or illuminating facets of the infinitely complex human condition. They are, in short, our picks for the best films of 2017.
In Marvel Studios' "Thor: Ragnarok," Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok--the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization--at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela. But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger--the Incredible Hulk!
Exciting, funny, and above all fun, Thor: Ragnarok is a colorful cosmic adventure that sets a new standard for its franchise -- and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Scene we loved: Thor showing us what he is the god of.
Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
Visually stunning and narratively satisfying, Blade Runner 2049 deepens and expands its predecessor's story while standing as an impressive filmmaking achievement in its own right.
Scene we loved: Flying through 2049 stunning LA.
While the mental divisions of those with dissociative identity disorder have long fascinated and eluded science, it is believed that some can also manifest unique physical attributes for each personality, a cognitive and physiological prism within a single being. Though Kevin has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey, Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him - as well as everyone around him - as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.
Split serves as a dramatic tour de force for James McAvoy in multiple roles -- and finds writer-director M. Night Shyamalan returning resoundingly to thrilling form.
Scene we loved: when no. 24 appears.
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes--Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash--it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
Scene we loved: Every single one with the Flash.
Set to the all-new sonic backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, Marvel Studios' "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" continues the team's adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes' aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's action-packed plot, dazzling visuals, and irreverent humor add up to a sequel that's almost as fun -- if not quite as thrillingly fresh -- as its predecessor.
Scene we loved: Baby Groot being Baby Groot.
It's 2029. Mutants are gone--or very nearly so. An isolated, despondent Logan is drinking his days away in a hideout on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, picking up petty cash as a driver for hire. His companions in exile are the outcast Caliban and an ailing Professor X, whose singular mind is plagued by worsening seizures. But Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy abruptly end when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request--that Logan shepherd an extraordinary young girl to safety. Soon, the claws come out as Logan must face off against dark forces and a villain from his own past on a live-or-die mission, one that will set the time-worn warrior on a path toward fulfilling his destiny.
Hugh Jackman makes the most of his final outing as Wolverine with a gritty, nuanced performance in a violent but surprisingly thoughtful superhero action film that defies genre conventions.
Scene we loved: Meeting X-23.
An Amazon princess (Gal Gadot) finds her idyllic life on an island occupied only by female warriors interrupted when a pilot (Chris Pine) crash-lands nearby. After rescuing him, she learns that World War I is engulfing the planet, and vows to use her superpowers to restore peace. Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster).
Thrilling, earnest, and buoyed by Gal Gadot's charismatic performance, Wonder Woman succeeds in spectacular fashion.
Scene we loved: That no man's land scene.
New Line Cinema's horror thriller "IT," directed by Andy Muschietti ("Mama"), is based on the hugely popular Stephen King novel of the same name, which has been terrifying readers for decades. When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.
Well-acted and fiendishly frightening with an emotionally affecting story at its core, It amplifies the horror in Stephen King's classic story without losing touch with its heart.
Scene we loved: When the kids fight back.
In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.
War for the Planet of the Apes combines breathtaking special effects and a powerful, poignant narrative to conclude this rebooted trilogy on a powerful -- and truly blockbuster -- note.
Scene we loved: Woody Harrelson fighting those damn dirty apes!
Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn't through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing's biggest stage!
Cars 3 has an unexpectedly poignant story to go with its dazzling animation, suggesting Pixar's most middle-of-the-road franchise may have a surprising amount of tread left.
Scene we loved: When that kid yells LIGHTNING!!!
Despite his family's baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history.
Coco's rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly -- and deeply affecting -- approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death.
Scene we loved: Dante's lunch.
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures' "Kong: Skull Island" reimagines the origin of the mythic Kong in a compelling, original adventure from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts ("The Kings of Summer"). In the film, a diverse team of explorers is brought together to venture deep into an uncharted island in the Pacific - as beautiful as it is treacherous - unaware that they're crossing into the domain of the mythic Kong. "Kong: Skull Island" stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Oscar winner Brie Larson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly.
Offering exhilarating eye candy, solid acting, and a fast-paced story, Kong: Skull Island earns its spot in the movie monster's mythos without ever matching up to the classic original.
Scene we loved: When Sam Jackson goes full on Sam Jackson, crazy eyes and all.
Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family's overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter's interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.
Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.
Scene we loved: The ending.
In the irreverent spirit of fun that made "The LEGO (R) Movie" a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble - LEGO Batman - stars in his own big-screen adventure: "The LEGO (R) Batman Movie." But there are big changes brewing in Gotham, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker's hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.
The Lego Batman Movie continues its block-buster franchise's winning streak with another round of dizzyingly funny -- and beautifully animated -- family-friendly mayhem.
Scene we loved: When Robin discovers the Batcave.
Acclaimed auteur Christopher Nolan directs this World War II thriller about the evacuation of Allied troops from the French city of Dunkirk before Nazi forces can take hold. Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance co-star, with longtime Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer providing the score.
Dunkirk serves up emotionally satisfying spectacle, delivered by a writer-director in full command of his craft and brought to life by a gifted ensemble cast that honors the fact-based story.
Scene we loved: When Tom Hardy flies in.
A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine--distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man--but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.
Spider-Man: Homecoming does whatever a second reboot can, delivering a colorful, fun adventure that fits snugly in the sprawling MCU without getting bogged down in franchise-building.
Scene we loved: When Peter "hugs" Tony.
In Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Skywalker saga continues as the heroes of The Force Awakens join the galactic legends in an epic adventure that unlocks age-old mysteries of the Force and shocking revelations of the past.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi honors the saga's rich legacy while adding some surprising twists -- and delivering all the emotion-rich action fans could hope for.
Scene we loved: Ironing.
A talented, young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. But after being coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.
Stylish, exciting, and fueled by a killer soundtrack, Baby Driver hits the road and it's gone -- proving fast-paced action movies can be smartly written without sacrificing thrills.
Scene we loved: Every single one with that awesome soundtrack.
WIND RIVER is a chilling thriller that follows a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who teams up with a local game tracker with deep community ties and a haunted past (Jeremy Renner) to investigate the murder of a local girl on a remote Native American Reservation in the hopes of solving her mysterious death.
Wind River lures viewers into a character-driven mystery with smart writing, a strong cast, and a skillfully rendered setting that delivers the bitter chill promised by its title.
Scene we loved: when Jeremy Renner goes hunting.
In this next chapter following the 2014 hit, legendary hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins' guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world's deadliest killers.
John Wick: Chapter 2 does what a sequel should -- which in this case means doubling down on the non-stop, thrillingly choreographed action that made its predecessor so much fun.
Scene we loved: When John Wick goes to the party.
Trying to reverse a family curse, brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) set out to execute an elaborate robbery during the legendary Coca-Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
High-octane fun that's smartly assembled without putting on airs, Logan Lucky marks a welcome end to Steven Soderbergh's retirement -- and proves he hasn't lost his ability to entertain.
Scene we loved: When we meet Joe Bang.
Imagine the end of the world. Now imagine something worse. Award-winning filmmaker Trey Edward Shults follows his incredible debut feature KRISHA with IT COMES AT NIGHT, a horror film following a man (Joel Edgerton) as he learns that the evil stalking his family home may be only a prelude to horrors that come from within. Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, the tenuous domestic order he has established with his wife and son is put to the ultimate test with the arrival of a desperate young family seeking refuge. Despite the best intentions of both families, paranoia and mistrust boil over as the horrors outside creep ever-closer, awakening something hidden and monstrous within him as he learns that the protection of his family comes at the cost of his soul.
It Comes at Night makes lethally effective use of its bare-bones trappings while proving once again that what's left unseen can be just as horrifying as anything on the screen.
Scene we loved: When the red door opens.
The Foreigner, starring Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan, is a timely action thriller from the director of Casino Royale. The film tells the story of humble London businessman Quan (Chan), whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fueled vendetta when the only person left for him to love -- his teenage daughter -- is taken from him in a senseless act of politically-motivated terrorism. In his relentless search for the identity of the terrorists, Quan is forced into a cat-and-mouse conflict with a British government official (Brosnan), whose own past may hold clues to the identities of the elusive killers.
The Foreigner adheres strictly to action thriller formula, but benefits from committed -- and out of character -- performances from its talented veteran stars.
Scene we loved: When Jackie Chan asks for names.
In Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig reveals herself to be a bold new cinematic voice with her directorial debut, excavating both the humor and pathos in the turbulent bond between a mother and her teenage daughter. Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) fights against but is exactly like her wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed mom (Laurie Metcalf), a nurse working tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird's father (Tracy Letts) loses his job. Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, amidst a rapidly shifting American economic landscape, Lady Bird is an affecting look at the relationships that shape us, the beliefs that define us, and the unmatched beauty of a place called home.
Lady Bird delivers fresh insights about the turmoil of adolescence -- and reveals writer-director Greta Gerwig as a fully formed filmmaking talent.
Scene we loved: Picking out the dress.
For 10 idyllic years, young Mija (An Seo Hyun) has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja--a massive animal and an even bigger friend--at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when a family-owned multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where image obsessed and self-promoting CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) has big plans for Mija's dearest friend. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission, but her already daunting journey quickly becomes more complicated when she crosses paths with disparate groups of capitalists, demonstrators and consumers, each battling to control the fate of Okja...while all Mija wants to do is bring her friend home. Deftly blending genres, humor, poignancy and drama, Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) begins with the gentlest of premises--the bond between man and animal--and ultimately creates a distinct and layered vision of the world that addresses the animal inside us all.
Okja sees Bong Joon-ho continuing to create defiantly eclectic entertainment -- and still hitting more than enough of his narrative targets in the midst of a tricky tonal juggling act.
Scene we loved: Okja frolicking.