The best films of 2017 so far

At the year's halfway point, we reflect on the 10 movies that have made film in 2017 great thus far

| June 29, 2017

At the halfway point of 2017, I want to reflect on the movies that have shaped and inspired me this year. These are the films that shook, impressed, scared, inspired, disgusted, intrigued, elated, broke, confused and captivated me in ways that other films this year have not. While that doesn’t mean that the films that didn’t make this list aren’t worthy in their own special ways, I unfortunately cut it off at 10 entries. These movies all represent something different for me in ways that the other films couldn’t achieve otherwise. These are all unique and wonderful films that I’m pleased to call the best 10 films of 2017 thus far, in descending order.

Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films/Orion Pictures

10. “Past Life (החטאים)”

Set in 1977 Jerusalem, “Past Life” is the best film of this year that you’ve never heard of. Packed to the brim with intrigue and mystery, this isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill World War II-focused film. “Past Life” doesn’t beat you over the head with depressing sentiments or heavy-handed imagery, instead it weaves a unique and impressive story of faith, trust and redemption in the volatile world of post-World War II Europe. Bolstered by killer performances from Joy Rieger and Nelly Tagar, as well as incredibly admirable and ambitious direction from Avi Nesher, this Israeli drama hits you in the gut hard, but leaves you feeling surprisingly good about it.

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

9. “Get Out”

What’s a “Best of 2017” list without “Get Out?” If any film this year truly made an legitimate splash into society, it was this one. A satirical horror film detailing the experience of black/white relations in a “post-racial” world, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a film full of laughs, cringes and screams. The best part about this film isn’t just in how scary it is, but how smart it is in its portrayal of the overly sympathetic liberal white man, in his overly apologetic ways of reconciling with the black community. Pair this with the incredibly dark turn this liberal white man takes near the end of the film and you have one of the smartest, sharpest films of our time.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

8. “Personal Shopper”

I didn’t know how to feel about “Personal Shopper” at first, with me liking it, but giving it a 4/5 in my initial review. But as time has gone on (and the high of me being able to meet and talk to director Olivier Assayas after seeing the film opening night in New York City), the film has grown on me quite a bit, to the point that I’m starting to become very antsy with IFC Films for not having announced a Blu-ray of the film yet, despite it having come out in March. Still, this is a hauntingly unique film unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and it is polarizing as hell. A lot of you might check this film out and come back to me and ask “What the fuck was that?,” and that would be valid. This is a movie that’s a love-it-or-hate-it endeavor, and it’s so uniquely chilling and masterfully acted by Kristen Stewart that I’ve had no choice but to love it like my own.

Photo courtesy of Open Road Films

7. “Before I Fall”

This is a film I did not expect to give a positive review to, let alone me adore so very much. This is a film that really resonated with me as a millennial and as someone with quite a few high school regrets still running through me in my system. The “Groundhog Day” storyline of waking up every day and restarting the same day from before is played out, but the way in which director Ry Russo-Young, screenwriter Maria Maggenti and novel author Lauren Oliver play with the sort of dynamics that an actual high schooler would play with if they had the chance to relive days as the main character Sam does, is really refreshing, touching and occasionally very funny. Top this off with a wonderful soundtrack and a beautiful performance from Zoey Duetch, and you have one of, if not the best teen movie of the decade so far.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures

6. “Baby Driver”

Sometimes a movie has a good soundtrack, while sometimes a movie really is worth the price of admission because of its soundtrack, and sometimes there are movies like “Baby Driver,” which uses music in every facet of its existence in such an impressive, bombastic and fun way that it’s impossible to ignore. Not only that, this film is meticulously directed in nearly every aspect that really makes it feel like a true master of filmmaking is behind this, to which director Edgar Wright is truly making his way to be. Add that into a incredibly clever, but never overreaching screenplay with very interesting characters with even more interesting performances, and some of the most fun action sequences you’ll see in a film this side of the new millennium, “Baby Driver” rocks out.

Photo courtesy of NEON

5. “Colossal”

With “Godzilla” having hit theaters in 2014 and “Kong: Skull Island” having just left theaters, the age of the big-budget monster movie is back. Not only that, an original monster film, “Colossal,” also hit theaters this year, with one little twist: it’s not big-budget. While the film might look seamless and like a big-budget studio piece, this independent festival circuiter was made on a budget of $15 million. But that’s not what makes “Colossal” so great, what makes “Colossal” great is its refreshing unpredictability and incredible ingenuity in its plot. Focusing on an alcoholic woman returning to her hometown after hitting rock bottom, she soon realizes that when drunk, she manifests as a giant monster halfway across the world in Seoul, South Korea. Armed with this information, she must get to the bottom of this mystery. While “Colossal” is wonderfully directed, with a fabulous performance from Anne Hathaway, the best part of the film is having no idea how to pin down anything that is going to happen, and that level of unpredictability in a film is something that has been sorely missed from the film scene.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

4. “Logan”

It almost seems unfair to call “Logan” a superhero film, because a superhero Wolverine is not. This is a dark, brooding sci-fi western that does everything a film like this should. From its opening scene to its final, haunting frame, this R-rated take on the X-Men franchise is a haunting reminder of what a world full of superheroes would actually look like. Taking human nature into consideration over all else, this is not a film for the faint of heart, nor a film for anyone expecting anything remotely “Marvel-esque,” but with an Oscar-worthy performance from Hugh Jackman and a star-making performance from newcomer Dafne Keen, beautifully bleak direction from director James Mangold and a refreshing take on the superhero sub-genre, this is a wonderfully crafted film that will be burned into your memory long after the final title card has faded.

Photo courtesy of Focus Features

3. “Raw (Grave)”

When a film is released with controversy surrounding it, it’s typically because a white character has filled the role of a person of color, or perhaps the director has made some inflammatory comments or the film is just generally terrible, but “Raw” hit the scene with a controversy which was turned into a badge of honor by Focus Features. A Belgian film directed by Julia Ducournau, this film made a splash at the Toronto International Film Festival when ambulances were called after multiple people fainted due to its graphic nature, with the same happening at the Gothenburg Film Festival, with many people leaving the theater to be sick during some scenes. I’ll be honest in saying that “Raw” made me once consider heading to the nearest trash can during one specific scene, but it’s not the graphic nature of this film that’s so compelling, it’s the subtext that follows it. Following a young vegetarian girl undergoing a harsh hazing routine starting veterinarian school, she soon becomes addicted to the taste of raw meat following an incident of being force fed raw animal parts as a hazing ritual that soon turns her hunger into a craving for human meat. This coming of age story details the forbidden nature of female sexuality wonderfully and finds such a unique, grotesque and nerve-wracking way to display it. This is European cinema in its highest form.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

2. “War for the Planet of the Apes”

While the film doesn’t release until July 14, 20th Century Fox was kind enough to screen the film nearly a month in advance for Charlotte-area critics, and for good reason. Capping off the Caesar trilogy in this new “Planet of the Apes” reboot, this is a film that features blockbuster special effects, but is anything but a blockbuster. This is a heavy, borderline oppressive film about the dangers of fear-mongering a group of people against other groups of people. This film is a painful reflection of our society that I didn’t expect to hit as hard as it did. Director Matt Reeves continues his work from “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” in such a masterful and incredibly powerful way that I don’t think any blockbuster for the rest of the decade is going to even slightly match the emotional gravitas he brings to this film here. With an Oscar-worthy motion capture performance from Andy Serkis, absolutely stunning visual effects and possibly one of the most hauntingly horrific stories to come from a big-budget blockbuster in a long, long time, this will be the magnum opus of nearly everyone involved in this film.

Full review for “War for the Planet of the Apes” publishing soon.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

1. “Wonder Woman”

Frankly put: “Wonder Woman” is everything a summer blockbuster should be. Grand, exciting, fun, thrilling, humorous, touching, inspiring and of course, well-made. Everything about this DC comic adaption puts anything before it to shame. Beautifully directed by Patty Jenkins, this film takes our characters from the vibrant world of Themyscira to the underworld of World War I and back, creating an incredibly expansive and varied film that shows off all sides of talent of everyone involved. While doubting her gravitas at first, Gal Gadot shows the world that there is no one that could play Diana of Themyscira but her, with a foreign sense of naïveté in the outside world, but a fiery passion to protect the lives of those in it, this is what it means to be a true superhero. Uncaring of the consequences levied against herself, Diana is steadfast in her ideals and will stop at nothing to protect them. I almost feel bad for Warner Bros. for having to deal with so much backlash on the film following the critical failures of both “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” only to shock the world with the master-class that is “Wonder Woman.” Superhero films don’t have to be dark, morally conflicting and destructive to be good, they just need a hero behind the name worthy of being called super, to which Wonder Woman has enough charisma and heart to carry the entire Justice League on. This is one of the best superhero films ever made, and easily the best film of 2017 so far.

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Film

Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.


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Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.