The Best Films of 2017 So Far

Halfway through the year 2017, there’s been some ups and downs at the movies. From thrillers and horror films to superhero blockbusters to smaller gems, here are the 10 best films of the year so far in my opinion out of the many I’ve seen. These are going by U.S. release dates. Leave your comments down below and let us at We Live Entertainment know what your favorites of the year are.

A few well-regarded 2017 films I’ve yet to see (A-Z): Band Aid, The Beguiled, The Big Sick, Colossal, Graduation

Honorable Mentions (A-Z): Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, John Wick: Chapter 2, The Lost City of Z, Personal Shopper

10. A Cure For Wellness

Director: Gore Verbinski

Cast: Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, Jason Isaacs

IMDB Plot: An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps, but soon suspects that the spa’s treatments are not what they seem.

The psychological thriller A Cure For Wellness from director Verbinski bombed at the box office and has received mixed reviews from critics. Yet it already feels like a cult film in the making. The cinematography by Bojan Bazelli is beautiful and haunting and the film delivers a fine level of mystery for its first two-thirds, recalling great haunted house and asylum movies from the 50s and 60s. The last third does tumble a bit, but to me A Cure For Wellness is too stunning in parts to fully dismiss even if its reach is bigger than its grasp. Grade: 8/10 (B+)

9. T2: Trainspotting

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle

IMDB Plot: After 20 years abroad, Mark Renton returns to Scotland and reunites with his old friends Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie.

T2: Trainspotting was my most anticipated film of the year, with Trainspotting (1996) being one of my absolute favorite films. While this sequel from Boyle and company doesn’t reach the masterful heights of that movie, it still has moments of originality, sting, and hilarity among the flawed characters. Some of the moments of nostalgia are too easy and the basic plot involving revenge and a brothel are disappointing, but the acting and filmmaking style are impressive throughout. There’s also one scene involving a conversation about a baby and mistakes in life that hits you like a punch to the face. Grade: 8.2/10 (A-)

8. Okja

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Cast: Seo-Hyun Ahn, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal

IMDB Plot: Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja.

The latest from visionary filmmaker Bong Joon Ho, Okja, is uneven in tone and not very subtle about its messages involving capitalism and the food industry. However, it’s also unique, funny, and eye-opening, with some moments that feel like a Hayao Miyazaki animated film brought to life. The young Ahn is terrific and the heart of the film, while the supporting cast (including wacky performances by Swinton and Gyllenhaal) and CGI are top-notch. Okja doesn’t always work, but it’s bold, ambitious, and beautiful for the most part. Grade: 8.3/10 (A-)

7. Megan Leavey

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Cast: Kate Mara, Ramon Rodriguez, Tom Felton, Common

IMDB Plot: Based on the true life story of a young Marine corporal whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq.

Mara gives one of the finest performances of her career so far in Megan Leavey. The film, being a true story about a dog, could have easily been cloying if handled wrong. But director Cowperthwaite and Mara deliver the occasional sweetness while never losing focus of the seriousness of the character’s situations. The film’s look at the military dogs and their owners gives the film a fresh perspective, while the combat sequences are tense and realistic. The third act does become rote and predictable at times, but overall Megan Leavey is a change-of-pace military biopic. Grade: 8.4/10 (A-)

6. Wonder Woman

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston

IMDB Plot: Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

The best film of the DCEU so far, Wonder Woman is a badass and emotional female-driven superhero film. Gadot and Pine have excellent chemistry and the action scenes are spectacular, but it’s the subtler moments (such as a particular dance scene) that director Jenkins nails that make Wonder Woman shine even more. The film uses the slo-mo-to-fast-mo technique to a distracting degree and the final showdown is a tad messy in its staging. Still, Wonder Woman is a blast of summer entertainment. Grade: 8.4/10 (A-)

5. Split

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson

IMDB Plot: Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

McAvoy deserves an Oscar nomination for his tricky, complex, and memorable performance(s) as Kevin/his other other personalities in Split. This is an amazing and thrilling return to form for Shyamalan as a filmmaker, who for about fifteen years made less-than-satisfying movies. He has found his footing again, and Split joins the ranks of The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2000) in being among the director’s best works. That ending is a cherry on top too for in-the-know fans. Grade: 8.4/10 (A-)

4. Logan

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook

IMDB Plot: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.

The R-rated Logan supposedly features Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine on the big screen. If that is so, then Jackman has gone out on a high note as he delivers on both the rough and vulnerable sides of the character. Mangold treats the material as a road trip/modern Western film more than a superhero picture, and the results feel personal and edgy. The environments feel lived-in, the emotions are layered, and the character decisions are realistic. Logan scores as both a comic book film and a gritty drama because of these things. Grade: 8.4/10 (A-)

3. Baby Driver

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm

IMDB Plot: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

The main last-job-and-then-I’m-out and fall-in-love-with-a-waitress plot mechanics of Baby Driver are pretty standard. But those small gripes aside, the film is another gem from the ever-talented Wright. It’s the spaces in-between here that matter, as Wright puts meticulousness and style into every frame and turns Baby Driver into exhilarating time at the movies. It’s fun, flashy, smart, and terrifically acted summer fare. Grade: 8.5/10 (A-)

2. Raw

Director: Julia Ducournau

Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella

IMDB Plot: When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.

Raw, the feature debut by French filmmaker Ducournau, could have easily been a silly cannibalistic horror movie. Instead Ducournau and her cast expertly — and subtly — treat the unsettling subject as a metaphor for sexual awakening and more. The film does have its graphic moments, but it’s more focused on character and atmosphere and is refreshingly intelligent and deep for a modern horror film. Marillier is also a star in the making, delivering an alluring and emotional performance as Justine. Grade: 8.7/10 (A-)

1. Get Out

Director: Jordan Peele

Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener

IMDB Plot: It’s time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambience will give way to a nightmare.

Far and away my favorite film of the year so far is comedian-turned-director Peele’s Get Out. This brilliant satirical horror-thriller has loads of social commentary about racism in modern America, but under the surface it also has subtle symbolism and twists in its writing and presentation — with a few characters struggling with regret. Get Out has white-knuckle suspense, interesting characters, and snappy dialogue. And it gets even better with repeat viewings. Grade: 9/10 (A)

Written by
Daniel Rester is one of the administrators and lead writers on the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing shorts for years, and even wrote and directed a feature-length film for his capstone. Daniel also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here."

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