No one can blame you if you didn’t get to the theater as much as you would have liked this past year. A lot of great movies came out and it’s totally forgivable if you only had the time, patience, or money to watch a handful. Maybe you only saw this year’s superhero offerings. Maybe you saved up so you could blow it all on Star Wars. Maybe you worked 100 hours a week and wanted any miniscule piece of downtime to be spent in your own home. It’s all fine. But if you wanted to turn your end of the year vacation into a movie marathon, we have a few suggestions for your lineup. Here are the best movies you missed in 2017.
Some of you may have heard of Lady Bird by now, as it’s the only movie in Rotten Tomatoes history to have a 100% fresh rating after more than a hundred critics have gotten their hands on it. If that’s not enough to get you to watch it, we’re not sure what else we can do for you, but we’ll give it a shot. Coming of age movies are usually solid, though some can get sloppy and self-important. Lady Bird avoids that by keeping itself more down to earth than its genre companions. Everyone reacts like they would in real life, for the most part. Fights don’t necessarily end with daughters or mothers storming out and slamming doors. They fizzle and are dropped, until they suddenly reappear. Lady Bird’s insecurities are human and directionless, where she wants to move to the East Coast, but isn’t sure exactly where would be best for her. She’s a teenage girl struggling with her identity, and Lady Bird gives rare, genuine insight into how that actually feels, and it does it in a way that doesn’t alienate half the public.
God’s Own Country
At first glance, God’s Own Country might seem like the English version of Brokeback Mountain, though that feels a bit derivative. The story God’s Own Country is telling is a more complicated one, involving homophobia, personal discovery, migrant workers and the racism they encounter, familial responsibility, and balancing all of that against each other. The relationship that builds between Johnny and Gheorghe in the isolation of Johnny’s family’s north of England farm is an excellent look at a romantic relationship building on mutual respect and what it has to overcome to happen. The movie explores a lot in its relatively short run time, and the humanity at the center of it is what makes it worth watching.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh released a new movie this year, which obviously means it’s worth your time. This is the guy who wrote In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, so expect something that follows those tonally. Razor-sharp wit, the blackest humor imaginable, unbelievably good performances, and a masterful script all show up in force, convincing us that a few infrequent and excellent McDonagh movies is better than getting a new, half-baked idea every year. This one should be in theaters through the end of the year, so you still have a chance to see it.
If we haven’t already told you about Free Fire, that’s a bit of an oversight. It has everything we could want in a movie. Snappy dialogue, loaded weapons, and Cillian Murphy being Irish, all in a claustrophobic warehouse. Everyone seems torn between wanting to get out alive and killing everyone else, so the fire fight probably goes on longer than it realistically should. But that also ends up being a source of good comedy, so it’s in the interest of the story for everyone to keep shooting. This movie also makes us wonder why Armie Hammer hasn’t gotten more of a shot at big movies. Although, if he makes into a hugely successful blockbuster, then we might lose some of his better character work, so it could be for the best.
It Comes at Night
The horror genre has a bad reputation. The thousands of campy releases every year taint the good name of the other, respectable movies. It Comes at Night is part of the latter. It’s a solid suspense movie with an appropriate amount of gore, just to show you what the consequences of failure are for the main cast of characters. Our favorite part of the movie is the intimate look at the apocalypse. We get a great view of how individuals react to worldwide cataclysm and how it affects a limited area, rather than taking the World War Z (movie, not book) approach and trying to show too much in too little of a running time.
The Big Sick
The romantic comedy genre is about due for a shakeup. Luckily, we’ve had a few, with Trainwreck, Sleeping with Other People, and, now, The Big Sick showing us we’re not locked into seeing James Marsden constantly lost in love. The Big Sick is the heartfelt, mostly true story of how Kumail Nanjiani and his wife met, along with the unique challenges therein. For one, his Pakistani family primarily practices arranged marriage, so Nanjiani bringing home a white woman he picked out himself doesn’t sit well with anyone. For another, Emily, Nanjiani’s love interest, falls into a deep coma, meaning his first interactions with his girlfriend and future wife’s parents aren’t the traditional dinner dates we’re accustomed to. Ultimately, it’s still a story of two people falling in love with each other despite personal struggle, but it’s great to see that story happen in a way we rarely see on the big screen. There’s a lot more honesty here, which is way more uplifting than any sappy attempt at tear-jerking could ever be.
Ingrid Goes West
Aubrey Plaza was excellent as April on Parks & Recreation, but we were worried about her being typecast as a deadpan, dark woman. Ingrid Goes West breaks that mold, because holy shit does Ingrid get unhinged and Plaza is completely believable. It’s a weird, dual life movie about what happens when some people mistake social media interactions as genuine real life connections. Ingrid not only manages to find her social media idol, but become part of her life. From there, her obsessive side takes over and things go dangerously off the rails, as if moving your entire life to the other side of the country wasn’t off-the-rails enough.
Dawson City: Frozen Time
Archival footage is usually good for a five minute video where you learn what New York City looked like in the ‘40s, but we wouldn’t have thought there was much more you could do with it than that. Then Dawson City: Frozen Time comes along and proves us wrong. Dawson City came about after the 1978 discovery of 533 nitrate films buried in the Alaskan permafrost. Filmmaker Bill Morrison used the films to make a documentary about the history of the Alaskan territory and specifically the city of Dawson Creek, including the Native American hunting camp that was displaced by the Alaskan gold rush. Most of the footage is intact enough that it can still be played, but the majority of it has some kind of corruption or decay that gives it an eerie sort of surreal quality. The only way we can think to describe it is if someone captured unquestionable proof of the existence of ghosts, that proof would feel the same to watch as Dawson City: Frozen Time.
Channing Tatum is a woefully underused comedic talent (though there’s been some change with that in the Jump Street movies), and we didn’t know Daniel Craig could pull off such great character work. Between the two of them, and a great supporting cast, Logan Lucky plays a little like a Southern Ocean’s Eleven. Characters work together to pull off an ambitious heist, personalities bounce off each other to the amusement of everyone, and it all happens around a single event. For Danny Ocean, the casinos were having grand openings or competitions. For Logan Lucky, Coca Cola is hosting a huge NASCAR event. But that doesn’t make either heist more or less difficult.
The Lost City of Z
The Lost City of Z is definitely one of the more ambitious movies to come out this year. There’s an impressive sense of scale in the movie and it covers a sizable amount of time. It primarily tells the story of one Englishman’s quest to prove there was once civilization in the dense forests of South America, meaning the arrogance of the British Empire is on full display. Percy Fawcett’s (Charlie Hunnam) claim of a lost civilization isn’t an outrageous one, yet he’s met with near complete derision from his countrymen, mostly thanks to the fact that the British believe there’s no way a group of savages could ever rival their own marvelous empire. Obviously they’re wrong, because we know how this story ends in general, but it’s a grand and beautiful look at an age of exploratory enlightenment.