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Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2017

2017 was a big year for movies and a big year for me. Two movies I produced, Jeff Grace’s Folk Hero & Funny Guy and Michelle Morgan’s It Happened in L.A. were released in theaters and VOD this year. Obviously those two would be tied for number one if I allowed them on the list, but that’s no fun. So while you get busy adding those to the top of your lists, here is a look at the favorite films I saw in 2017 (that I didn’t produce).

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2017 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically/digitally during the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2017 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters/digitally in 2017. These are my favorite films that I saw for the first time in 2017 that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/digitally.

Because of that, some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise, there are perhaps a few films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year. I’ve endeavored to mention in my comments if a film is coming out soon or awaiting distribution.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

50. Okja
Okja succeeded because of just how far over the top it went. The best example of this is Jake Gyllenhaal’s ridiculous character. His freak out scene would be on my hypothetical “Top 5 scenes of 2017” list.
Bong Joon Ho flexes his massively weird cinematic muscles with OKJA, a movie that’s over the top in every wonderful way imaginable.

49. Flesh and Blood
Mark Webber made something special casting his toddler son in his 2012 film The End of Love. This year he returned to that well, casting his mom and brother in this inner-city story of struggle. The film will be available later this month on Vimeo.

48. Oh Lucy!
This charming little movie tells the story of a middle-aged Japanese woman who follows her charismatic English teacher (played by Josh Hartnett) to America. Looks like this one isn’t quite available yet.

47. Thelma
Joachim Trier has been on the top of my directors-to-watch list since Reprise. His latest returns him to his Norwegian-language roots and takes a small step into psychological thriller (even a bit of sci-fi) territory. It didn’t make the Best Foreign Language Oscar shortlist, but it did hit theaters from The Orchard and should be online soon.
THELMA is a legit badass hero origin story w/ just right amount of super. Someone please let Joachim Trier direct season 2 of LEGION.

46. Wind River
While it didn’t rise to the Top 50 heights of the last two films he wrote (Hell or High Water no. 22 in 2016 and Sicario no. 1 in 2015), Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut is a very well made film. It also features some pretty beautiful cinematography by Beast of the Southern Wild DP Ben Richardson. The film came out last summer from The Weinstein Co. just before the scandal broke. Who knows if it might have had some awards heat if not for that.
Sicario/HoHW writer Taylor Sheridan shows he has an impressive directing career ahead in tense Jeremy Renner showpiece WIND RIVER.

45. It Comes at Night
The follow-up to the critically-hailed debut feature Krisha, Trey Edward Shults went a very different, very genre, and very successful way with this A24-released film. It’s available on VOD now.
Contained post-apoc horror IT COMES AT NIGHT is a confident, stylish, & super scary Krisha follow-up. Another hit for A24.

44. Salyut-7
I was totally impressed by this space capsule thriller that is fair to call the Russian Gravity. It’s exceedingly well made and super exciting as well. No sign of US distro yet.

43. Dunkirk
While it might not be best experienced on a plane, the big screen experience of Chris Nolan’s latest is commendable for the sheer awe of filmmaking. I can’t escape the desire for a more cohesive narrative, however, or this may have been much higher.

42. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
Brian Knappenberger’s expose on the Gawker-Hulk Hogan trial is a wake up call for the danger our free press faces in today’s billionaire-controlled legal landscape. It’s well worth the watch on Netflix now.

41. Patti Cake$
I missed this one at Sundance and was scratching my head after the $10.5M sale to Fox Searchlight. Then I saw it a few months later and was like, “oh yeah, I kinda get it.” It’s a super charming and well-made crowd pleaser. You can see why with this awesome video. Unfortunately, it never really found its audience. But you can find it on VOD now.

40. Outside In
Northwest-dweller Lynn Shelton (Hump Day) shot this multi-generational romance in drizzly Granite Falls and it’s one of the best depictions of the that NW gray I can think of. It’s also very charming with stellar performances by Jay Duplass and Edie Falco. No word yet on when The Orchard will bring this out.
Lynn Shelton’s OUTSIDE IN is a wonderful human drama that is bursting w/ heart. Also maybe the most authentically #PNW film ever made.

39. Homestate
David Hickey’s Texas-set family dramedy has a ton of indie heart and a great central performance from Blaise Miller. Hopefully this one will be available soon.

38. Casting JonBenet
With super innovative docu-technique, Kitty Green’s exploration of the people touched by the crime was the best of the content created for the anniversary explosion. It’s up on Netflix.

37. Anna and the Apocalypse
It’s the music in this Scottish zombie Christmas musical that makes it so fantastic. The Scotts, zombies, and Christmas parts are pretty good too. It was just announced that Orion will be bringing this out next Xmas.

36. Darkest Hour
Definitely the superior of this year’s two Evacuation of Dunkirk epics, Joe Wright’s film succeeds completely on the success of Gary Oldman’s performance as Sir Winston.

35. Thor: Ragnarok
Can Taika Waititi direct every Marvel movie?

34. I Am Another You
Nanfu Wang’s documentary about a street kid she met bumming around the country made for a fascinating exploration of mental illness and homeless culture. It’s out on VOD now.

33. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
I might be in the minority, but as someone who wasn’t head over heels for Lanthimos’s Dogtooth or The Lobster, his latest totally worked for me. It’s still pretty wacky.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER is both his most brutal & most cohesive. Still very weird. Probably my fave of his.

32. Call Me by Your Name
Such sumptuous filmmaking. I perhaps wasn’t quite as whisked away as others, but it’s still a truly excellent film.

31. Get Out
There’s a lot of hype over this racial comedy but I just thought it was a solid, well made, darkly funny film.

30. The Death of Stalin
I got exactly what I wanted from Veep creator Armando Iannucci’s sendup of the Soviet succession process. Great performances all around, especially by some of the smaller roles such as Jason Isaacs and Rupert Friend. IFC is bringing this to theaters soon.
THE DEATH OF STALIN is the most entertaining history lesson I’ve ever had. As bitingly funny as you’d expect from Iannucci.

29. Gaga: Five Foot Two
Like all of the best music docs, this one gives you a better understanding of the person behind the music — and the music itself. It’s well worth the Netflix watch whether you’re a Gaga fan or not.
Netflix’s GAGA: FIVE FOOT TWO by Chris Moukarbel is a very human docu of a beautiful & exceptional example of the species. Great film.

28. Hostiles
Scott Cooper’s latest (Black Mass, Crazy Heart) is way dark. But it’s beautiful Western scenery and strong performances all around make it a solid watch. It’s in theaters now.

27. Blade of the Immortal
Billed as Takashi Miike’s 100th film, this supernatural samurai epic is definitely one of his 10 best. More importantly, it’s his best in quite a while. It’s out on VOD now.

26. Forever B
Sometimes you see a tiny festival indie that just totally blows you away. This stranger-than-fiction true crime docu by Skye Borgman is exactly that. Here’s hoping it finds the right distributor as it will clearly find its audience when it does.

25. The Shape of Water
I have not been a huge fan of any of Guillermo del Toro’s films since Pan’s Labyrinth. Therefore I was particularly pleased with how whisked away I found myself by his latest.

24. An Inconvenient Sequel
Just as the highlight of my year was probably meeting Al Gore, one of the definite documentary highlights was this part eco-thriller/part wakeup call. It’s available on VOD now.
Secret of the excellent AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL is the Paris Climate Talks suspense thriller in the middle. And Al Gore is the best.

23. I Don’t Feel at Home in the World Anymore
Macon Blair’s directorial debut was the surprise winner of the US Dramatic Competition at Sundance last year and it merits all the praise. Netflix did a deal for the film before the fest which meant it was released a few weeks after Sundance. Unfortunately, it didn’t get the marketing push it deserved. Hopefully you’ll seek it out on Netflix and see why it won.
I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE is just the kind of nutso crowd pleasing crimer I’d hoped for. Melanie Lynskey so good!

22. Wonderstruck
Todd Haynes is a seminal fave and his latest is a beautiful and rather magical tale that really comes together for a fantastic conclusion. It’s available on Amazon.

21. Good Time
This super stylized crimer by the Safdie Brothers is pulse-racing from the first scene. These guys have a pretty impressive ability to keep you feeling like pretty much anything could happen next. It will be very interesting to see what they do with their upcoming 48 Hours reboot.

20. mother!
Perhaps a controversial pick at number 20, but I was totally on board with Aronofsky’s surreal horror-thriller from the moment I figured out what it was about 20 minutes in. I feel pretty confident that history will judge this a lot more kindly than initial reactions this year.
MOTHER! is exactly the surreal demonic nightmare I never knew was missing from my life. Now it’s here, I don’t want to give it back.

19. Baby Driver
The movie that everyone really wanted to be good actually was! Edgar Wright made a fast-paced, musically driven heist film that was just a total blast.

18. Becoming Bond
You’re going to have to seek out this George Lazenby docu on Hulu, but I promise you’ll be glad you did. No surprise as director Josh Greenbaum killed it with his last film The Short Game and follows that up with a very different but just as entertaining go.

17. Five Fingers for Marseilles
My big discovery at Toronto was this South African western crime drama from Michael Matthews. With classic nods to greats like Kurosawa and John Ford and incredible scenery, it will be a real shame if a distrib doesn’t scoop this up for US audiences.
S. African western FIVE FINGERS FOR MARSEILLES is my surprise find of #TIFF. Part Kurosawa, part Ford. And totally totally awesome. Bravo.

16. Phantom Thread
In lesser hands, this would have been a boring exercise. But Paul Thomas Anderson was able to craft a delicate and engaging drama that one notable film publicist dubbed, “couture cinema.”

15. Chasing Coral
Another fantastic and important enviro-docu, Jeff Orlowski’s film, like An Inconvenient Sequel, succeeds because of the fast-paced elements of the plot that keeps the audience engaged and things moving forward so briskly. It’s on Netflix now.

14. Becoming Who I Was
The particularly intelligent and remarkably attractive documentary jury at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival gave their Best Documentary award to this moving film by Moon Chang-Yong and Jeon Jin about a young Rinpoche in India with a quest to get to Tibet. I, coincidentally, agree with them. No word on distro yet.

13. Small Crimes
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (aka Jaime Lanister) turns in a killer performance in E.L. Katz’s much-anticipated follow-up to Cheap Thrills. It was worth the wait – but you don’t have to as it’s on Netflix now.
SMALL CRIMES is wayyy too much fun. Katz does not disappoint. Every bit the follow up to Cheap Thrills we all wanted plus much more.

12. The Beguiled
I’m a pretty unabashed Sofia Coppola fan and her latest is just too much fun not to love. I think my tweet pretty much sums it up as well as anything.
THE BEGUILED is a bit like a French dessert: decadent, sumptuous, and I feel just a little guilty for enjoying it as much as I do.

11. Bodied
Between this film by Joseph Kahn and the awesome Netflix series American Vandal, young actor Calum Worthy is about to be a star. His role as the rap-battling college nerd in this film is one of the year’s breakout performances and the movie is just pure fun from frame one. While US distribution is rumored to be in the bag, details are still scant.

10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
We enter the Top 10 with the latest and greatest entry in the Star Wars franchise. I think we can all agree that Rian Johnson is the real deal. I’m even more excited to see what he does with his spinoff trilogy.

9. The Relationtrip
This directorial debut from NCIS-star Renée Felice Smith and her bf C.E. Gabriel is a wonderfully fun and playfully surreal take on the stages of a relationship that all play out on a weekend getaway. Smith and co-star Matt Bush have perfect chemistry. It’s truly remarkable how much Smith and Gabriel accomplish on such a modest budget and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. You can find this on VOD next week.

8. The Disaster Artist
Toronto’s Midnight Madness program is undoubtedly the best audience you can see a movie with. So it’s high praise to say this was my favorite Midnight Madness experience to date. James Franco’s film is just pure joy. Expect The Room/Disaster Artist double features to play on for years to come.
THE DISASTER ARTIST really is as excellent as you’ve heard. I’ve never seen a higher % of audience stay for a Q&A (+stand whole time).

7. Blade Runner 2049
Denis Villeneuve’s take on this sci-fi classic was every bit as gorgeous and engrossing as I’d hoped. It’s as much of a big screen experience as Dunkirk and I was totally on board with the moody story that stays pretty true to the original.

6. Icarus
My top doc of 2017, Bryan Fogel’s movie started out as one thing and turned into something so different and so outrageous that you really need to just go watch it on Netflix now and then we can discuss.
Talk about saving best for last, ICARUS is a magnificent exposé of Russian doping scandal w/ just as incredible filmmaking story.

5. I, Tonya
This raucous retelling of the Harding-Kerrigan scandal is just too much fun and too well made not to fall for. Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) strikes the perfect tone and the performances by Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are stellar. If you’ve been on the fence on this one, go see it while it’s still in theaters.
I, TONYA (from the guy who brought you Lars & The Real Girl) is a ridiculously fun depiction of true dumb dumbs. Aces for @NEONrated!

4. The Post
It’s not an exaggeration to call Spielberg’s latest the perfect film for the perfect time. My only complaint is that it’s a feature length movie and not a 12-part series.

3. Molly’s Game
I was a little afraid there would be a lot of anti-Sorkin backlash for his feature directorial debut. It’s nice to see critics and audiences have basically embraced this fast-paced and wonderfully acted flick that had me hooked from the start.
We have a winner. Don’t know if it’s gonna get more dead on for “entertaining awardsy” than MOLLY’S GAME. I was riveted.

2. The Square
It was a pretty close call, but this year’s number two spot goes to Ruben Östlund’s hilarious follow-up to 2014 list-topper Force Majeure. You gotta hand it to Östlund for his ability to put his characters in such intensely uncomfortable situations while making the audience grin ear to ear the whole time. It works for me. This one should still be in select theaters.
Ruben Östlund’s THE SQUARE is every bit the follow up to Force Majeure I wanted. Wonderfully awkward and awkwardly wonderful.

The Florida Project
This lovely and emotional journey through the eyes of a six-year-old is pure magic. It’s also incredibly deft filmmaking with brilliant performances by both the professional and nonprofessional actors. I fell in love with this movie when I first saw it and the passion is yet to abate. It’s in theaters now and coming to VOD soon.
Sean Baker’s THE FLORIDA PROJECT is an emotion-packed journey through life’s difficult realities, enchanted with magic of childhood.
Sean Baker paints as nuanced characters as any director working today. Dafoe’s Bobby in The Florida Project maybe most compelling @ #Cannes.

Posted by enderzero at 9:49am on Jan. 14, 2018