The Most Underrated Movies of 2017

a cure for wellness underrated

4. A Cure for Wellness

Not everything in Gore Verbinski‘s absolutely batshit horror opera A Cure for Wellness works, but good lord, does this movie deserve more praise and attention. In an era where studios continually play things safe and pump out the same sort of movies over and over again, someone decided to give Verbinski a ton of money to make a big, weird, expensive-looking movie about people having eels shoved down their throats.

Full of gothic melodrama and eye-popping visuals that belong in frames on museum walls, A Cure for Wellness thinks that modern society is a sickness, and the only real cure for it is…eels? Incest? Water? Who the hell knows! I’m not going to sit here and say that A Cure for Wellness makes a lot of sense. But I will never tire of singing this film’s praises – it’s a bold, audacious, weird movie, and the film landscape as a whole could use a lot more of that.

The perennially miscast Dane DeHaan is a corporate climber who ends up in a big, beautiful castle while trying to find a missing coworker. What he finds instead is a community of gloriously oblivious old people who are happy to spend the rest of their days wearing robes and wandering the picturesque castle grounds. Oh, also, there’s a very pale, perpetually barefoot girl (Mia Goth), who may or may not be insane, a ghost, or something else entirely. Things get increasingly strange, and Verbinski stages one unpleasant moment after another, including a scene of emergency dentistry that will make you squirm. I’d rather have an entire year’s worth of unconventional, risk-taking films like A Cure for Wellness than another predictable superhero movie.

mother underrated

3. mother!

Audiences and critics alike hated Darren Aronofsky‘s over-the-top head-trip mother!, and while I certainly can’t fault folks for not having any patience for the lunacy Aronofsky is peddling here, I do wish people had approached the film with a more open mind. Yes, mother! can sometimes seem pretentious, and yes, Jennifer Lawrence probably wasn’t the right choice for the lead, but this is such a unique, risk-taking film that it deserves to be reappraised.

What Aronofsky has crafted here is a film that contains multitudes – it’s an anxiety-inducing portrayal of social anxiety; it’s a blistering condemnation of the sexist trope of the tortured male genius and the helpless female muse he objectifies; it’s a retelling of the Bible, from the Book of Genesis all the way through the Book of Revelation. It’s all these things, and more! What mother! is not, however, is boring. You can find fault with mother!‘s story, and you can even find fault with the film’s nastiness, but the fact is we need more filmmakers to take as many risks as Aronofsky does here. The Noah filmmaker has some clout by now, but rather than make safe, easily digestible blockbuster, he instead would rather make incredibly fucked-up movies like mother! That’s commendable.

blade runner 2049

2. Blade Runner 2049 

Blade Runner 2049 garnered a ton of critical praise, but audiences let Denis Villeneuve‘s tone-poem sequel slip away like so many tears in the rain. I get it: while the first Blade Runner has become a cult classic, it doesn’t have mainstream appeal. And in an attempt to keep the film’s many secrets buttoned up, the marketing for Blade Runner 2049 went out of its way to be maddeningly vague. With all this in mind it, it makes sense that audiences had a hard time showing up for the film. That doesn’t make it any less of a disappointment – there’s so much to see here, all of it rendered through Roger Deakins‘ unbeatable cinematography.

But history will ultimately be kind to Blade Runner 2049. Much as audiences rediscovered Ridley Scott’s original film in years to come, so, too, will audiences embrace Villeneuve’s gorgeous, haunting sci-fi mystery. Until that happens, however, I’ll just have to keep reminding people that Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best films of the year – a stunning, poetic exploration of what it means to be human. It also features one of the best performances of Harrison Ford‘s career. Ford has slipped into a cranky curmudgeon zone late in his life, but revisiting two of his most iconic roles – Han Solo in The Force Awakens, and Deckard in Blade Runner 2049 – has seemingly revitalized the actor. Here, Ford plays Deckard as a man overcome with bitter regret who slowly reclaims what he’s lost. The final shot of the film is simply staggering in its connotations.

alien covenant underrated

1. Alien: Covenant

Alien fans may want director Ridley Scott to return to the pulse-pounding slasher movie chills of his first Alien film, but Scott clearly has bigger, weirder ideas on his mind. After the somewhat disappointing Prometheus relaunched the Alien franchise in a whole new light, Scott’s Alien: Covenant takes the series into even more unexplored corners of the galaxy.

Rather than make a simple Alien prequel, Scott has instead crafted a futuristic take on Frankenstein; a big, gothic space opera that views humanity with a cold, distant eye. Scott doesn’t give a shit about his human characters, and instead goes all-in on Michael Fassbender‘s increasingly interesting paranoid android David, who would wipe out all of humanity if he could.

With visuals lifted straight out of Gustave Doré’s illustrations of hell from The Divine ComedyAlien: Covenant is an unapologetically misanthropic descent into the underworld, where human beings slowly but surely learn that their time is up – they’ve wasted the worlds they were given, and now it’s time for a more advanced, more brutal life form to take over. This is deep, strange, existential stuff, and while I understand why a larger audience had trouble embracing it, Covenant is fascinating. Scott is taking risks here that most filmmakers his age would avoid, and that’s worth paying attention to.

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