Ben Pearson’s Top 10 Movies of 2017 So Far

Ben Pearson's Top 10 Movies of 2017 So Far

(With 2017 halfway over, the /Film staff will be spending this week compiling lists of the best movies they’ve seen this year. In order to be eligible for the list, a film they’ve seen simply has to have a 2017 release date, even if they saw it early at a festival or early screening. First up: here are Ben Pearson’s top 10 movies of 2017 so far.)

I have not spent nearly enough time this year seeking out the types of smaller movies I tend to love, and frankly, I’m a little embarrassed that three superhero movies made the cut on my list of favorites so far. But damn it, they’re really good superhero movies, and as ashamed as I am that my list isn’t as “cool” as it might be if I’d spent more time at my local arthouse theater, these are the movies I’ve seen so far in 2017 that spoke to me the most in one way or another. The good news is that I’m guessing only a couple of these will end up on my favorite movies of the year list when December rolls around, so at least you’ll be getting some variation if you compare that list with this one. Enough preamble: join me in counting down my favorite movies of the year so far as we hit the halfway point of 2017.

The Little Hours

10. The Little Hours

The Little Hours may be best known as the “nuns going wild” movie, but Jeff Baena’s period piece, set in a 14th century convent, is about more than just sex and swearing. Sure, there’s plenty of that going on, but this movie is also a fascinating exploration of desire and hypocrisy. It stars a who’s who of awesome people from beloved TV comedies – Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci, Dave Franco, Nick Offerman, Fred Armisen, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, and Adam Pally – and has a surprisingly sweet heart at its center. But the real reason this movie makes the list is that it’s one of the few comedies I’ve seen recently that actually had me laughing out loud all the way through. Film is subjective, but comedies may be the most subjective genre of them all, so your mileage may vary. But I’m admittedly difficult to please when it comes to comedies, so the fact that this movie had me cracking up throughout says a lot. The writing and the performances – which range from deadpan to completely outrageous – are top notch, and though the film flails a bit near the end, it’s still well worth checking out.

Logan - Wolverine and X-23

9. Logan

From its opening frames, James Mangold’s Logan tells the audience exactly what kind of movie we’re in for: “fuck” is the first word spoken, and it’s not long until Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, playing the character for the final time after 17 years) is slicing off arms and stabbing his adamantium claws through skulls. But this is a different version of the character than the one we know: Logan is beaten, bruised, drunk, and desperate, and tasked with protecting an aging, forgetful Professor X (Patrick Stewart) who becomes more dangerous as he loses more of his faculties. Dafne Keen is excellent as the coiled young mutant Laura, who we learn is Logan’s daughter, and the film becomes a Western-inspired meditation on family, religion, aging, and legacy as the trio embarks on a cross-country trip toward Eden. Logan is arguably the most violent R-rated superhero movie ever made, but amid all of the head stabbings and dismemberment, it’s also a moving conclusion for a character who has spent so many years broken, lonely, and helpless. It’s a truly fitting send-off for one of superhero cinema’s most iconic characters, and features one of the best final shots of any superhero movie to date.

John Wick pic 3

8. John Wick: Chapter 2

The first John Wick was fun, but John Wick: Chapter 2 does everything a great sequel should do: it deepens our understanding of the protagonist, addresses the consequences of the events of the first movie, expands the franchise’s mythology, and takes the action to the next level with inventive, jaw-dropping sequences that made me suppress the urge to pump my fist with excitement in the theater. Keanu Reeves totally owns this character, and the way director Chad Stahelski shoots the action – with an eye for wide shots and clear choreography and a limited number of edits – is the perfect match for Reeves’ physicality, which is on full display here as his character endures beating after beating while trying to complete his mission and retire peacefully. I love the way this series honors its rules and mythos, and by the end when you realize that much (if not all) of the homeless population in New York City are actually undercover assassins, it makes perfect sense as something that would happen in this heightened world. Common absolutely crushes it as one of Wick’s antagonists, and the non-stop action beats (chases, fist fights, and headshots, oh my!) make this movie a far more intense experience than its predecessor. I can’t wait for John Wick: Chapter 3.

baby driver

7. Baby Driver

Baby Driver, Edgar Wright’s rapid-fire, music-driven, car chase passion project, is practically oozing with cool. Its protagonist, Baby (Ansel Elgort), who works as a getaway driver for a mob boss (Kevin Spacey), sounds like…well, like an Edgar Wright character: Baby creates remixes out of everyday sounds in his normal life and constantly listens to music on his old iPod to drown out tinnitus that’s constantly ringing in his ears. He has a song for every occasion, whether it be a bank robbery getaway or simply a walk to the nearest coffee shop. He’s the best driver in the business (who, naturally, is looking to do “one last job” before he gets out of the game for good), and like the movie itself, he radiates an almost effortless sense of grace and slickness. The supporting cast, which includes Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, and Jon Bernthal, are all varying degrees of good, but Elgort stands in the spotlight with Lily James, who plays his diner waitress love interest; this is their fairy tale, and it’s one hell of a ride. Baby Driver is a toe-tapping heist movie that’s meticulously edited to fit its soundtrack, resulting in a unique twist on a well-trod genre that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Spider-Man Homecoming Cameos

6. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has finally returned to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and though there are plenty of connections to the MCU with Iron Man and Happy Hogan, Homecoming strikes a nice balance between the requisite set pieces and telling a scaled down story about what Peter Parker’s day to day life is like when he’s in high school. This is the Spider-Man we know from the comics, the kid who has to struggle with how to talk to the girl he likes and then worry about surviving a scrape with a super villain. There’s a part of this film in which those two aspects intersect, and the resulting scene ranks among the most tense scenes in superhero movie history. I’m shocked that a staggering six credited writers were able to string together something that ultimately turned out so well, since we’ve seen tons of mega-budget movies fall to pieces with too many cooks in the kitchen. But under the guidance of producer Kevin Feige, director Jon Watts was able to wield Tom Holland’s boyish charm like a weapon and create something fans have been waiting for since the 1960s: a Spider-Man movie with a spot-on portrayal of the webslinger at its center.

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