Jacob Hall'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 at a festival or early screening. Here are Jacob Hall's top 10 movies of 2017 so far.)

On the cinematic front, 2017 has been a year of mixed blessings. In terms of sheer number of good movies, we're already trailing 2016 quite a bit. But the movies that are good? Man, the first half of this year has given us some real treasures.

Before we dive into my top 10 of 2017 so far, here's what didn't make the list. Logan, while very good and present on several of my colleagues' list, missed the cut. As did two other superhero movies I enjoyed very much, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The biggest runner-up here is Atomic Blonde, which I loved at SXSW and occupied spot number 10 until the literal last minute.

it comes at night review

10. It Comes at Night

Trey Edwards Shults' horrifying chamber piece believes in people, but it doesn't believe in humanity. Set in a vaguely defined post-apocalypse where a virus has ravaged the cities, the film takes place almost entirely in an isolated cabin in the woods. A family of four lives there. Five minutes into the story, they're a family of three. And then another group of survivors, desperate but able and willing to contribute, shows up. Things go well until they don't. Buoyed by subtle performances (Joel Edgerton is especially good at quiet desperation), It Comes at Night manipulates cinematic language and geography to create the sense of a waking nightmare. It's sometimes tough to tell what's literal and what's not (note the ever-shifting aspect ratio), but that's not the point. The point is that the institutions we hold so dearly crumble when poked a little too hard. The things we fight for, the things we're willing to die for, are the first things to shatter when we betray ourselves. It Comes at Night is not a good time at the movies, but it's certainly not something you'll shake easily.

free fire trailer

9. Free Fire

Movie shootouts tend to be fast and elegant affairs, with one or two heroic characters blitzing their way through an army of foes and walking away mostly unscathed. What Ben Wheatley's bleakly hilarious Free Fire suggests is that gunfights are actually wild, chaotic, sloppy, and full of people who can't hit the broad side of a barn. Set entirely in a warehouse where an arms deal goes horribly wrong, the film is essentially a screwball comedy with firearms: a large cast of oddball characters (and a few straightforward foils for them to bounce off) yell and scream and exchange bullets for 90 minutes, sometimes swapping allegiances and always being wholly unreasonable. It's a pitch-black hoot, a movie whose extreme violence is treated with the levity of a Three Stooges adventure. While certainly not to all tastes, Free Fire is an absurd, cynical little miracle. It has no right to work as well as it does.

the blackcoat's daughter trailer

8. The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Movies about demonic possession are a dime a dozen, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that Oz Perkins's The Blackcoat's Daughter was just another run-of-the-mill horror flick. But it's not. Oh, no. Deliberately paced and vague in character and intent, this slow-burning monster of a movie slowly reveals its cards one at a time, leading to a finale that completes the puzzle and leaves your jaw hanging on the floor with its pure audaciousness. There are scarier horror movies you'll see in 2017. Bloodier ones. Funnier ones. But few will top how The Blackcoat's Daughter inverts its own genre, turns it inside out and creates something so majestically twisted that you can't believe what you're seeing. This is a horror movie that truly rewards your patience.

the disaster artist review

7. The Disaster Artist

The most surprising thing about The Disaster Artist is that it's not a joke. When it was revealed that James Franco would direct a movie about the making of the infamously terrible cult classic The Room and also star as the enigmatic and eccentric writer/director/actor Tommy Wiseau, everyone assumed it would be an ironic experiment. A gag. A trifle. Instead, this is a movie that is as soulful as it is hilarious, a comedy about a broken (and brokenhearted?) weirdo who immerses himself in his art, tears his soul to pieces to tell his story...and reveals that he has absolutely no talent. Like Tim Burton's 1994 masterpiece Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist is fascinated by failure and by the artists whose visions reach far beyond their grasp. Franco's Wiseau is hilarious, but he's also a despairing and vicious figure, a guy who earns your empathy in spite of his increasingly awful behavior and taste. He's the tragic monster of 2017 – the man who yearns to create and simply can't.


6. Colossal

The less you know about Nacho Vigalondo's Colossal going in, the better off you'll be. Know that it's a giant monster movie starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. But also know that it's less interested in giant monsters and more interested in addiction, abusive relationships, toxic masculinity, and how we're willing to harm others when hiding behind the anonymity of an avatar. What begins as a quirky comedy with a giant monster soon evolves into a parable about living life right now. This is a film about the internet, about growing up, about taking a long, hard look at your life and counting your failures. And most importantly, it's about taking stock of those failures and deciding what you're going to do next. And it also has a giant monster stomping around Korea.

Baby Driver Sequel

5. Baby Driver

Best described as "Heat re-imagined as a jukebox musical," Edgar Wright's Baby Driver is nothing short of joyful. The parts are familiar, but the build is unique – a "one last job" crime movie set to a killer soundtrack the informs the pace and rhythm of everything you're seeing on screen. Watching car chases and action scenes (and even mundane conversations) move to the beat of whatever is playing on the soundtrack never gets old and a game cast ensures that their archetypal characters stand out beyond the tropes they're inverting. While Ansel Elgort provides a lovely deadpan as the lead, it's Kevin Spacey's menacing papa bear crime boss and Jon Hamm's raging henchman who steal the show.

Garance Marillier in Raw

4. Raw

Calling Raw a "cannibal movie" is both accurate and misleading. Yes, this is a horror movie about a young vegetarian girl who goes to veterinary school and learns that she has a taste for human flesh, but it's not about eating other people. Raw is less interested in cannibalism and more interested in the loneliness that comes with being away from home for the first time, the isolation of finding yourself between cliques, those awkward moments when you try to evolve into a new person amongst those who don't know the old you, and the unpleasant ickiness of your early sexual encounters when you have no idea what the hell you're doing. Above all, it's about sisterhood and the complex feelings that drive siblings apart before bringing them together again. And yes, it's also full of extreme gore and body horror. Oh, and it all wraps up with the greatest ending you'll see in 2017, an exchange between two characters (and a sudden reveal that is both deeply romantic and horrifying) that will scar your brain even as you go "Awww."

John Wick pic 3

3. John Wick: Chapter 2

There has never been an action movie series quite like John Wick. The emphasis here isn't just on the bonebreaking, head-exploding action (of which there is plenty). Just as much time is spent building a complex world of assassins and secret organizations that operate by arcane rules and regulations. Just as much time is spent transforming every single character on screen into someone we understand, love, or loathe. Even those who exist simply to supply helpful exposition are brimming with personality. And at the center of it all is Keanu Reeves in a role that is built to emphasize all of his strengths and nullify all of his weaknesses – a seemingly zen warrior whose effortless manner of dispatching his foes slowly cracks, revealing the rage within. I have already written 4,000 words on why John Wick: Chapter 2 is a masterpiece that manages to top the first film in just about every way, so I'll just get to the point: this is one of the best and cleverest action movies of all time and it is a gift to fans of the genre.

The Big Sick Alamo Drafthouse

2. The Big Sick

Warm and sweet and hilarious and humane, The Big Sick isn't just the best romantic comedy of 2017...it may be one of the best romantic comedies ever made. Directed by Michael Showalter and written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (who based their screenplay on their real-life relationship), this is the most downright pleasant experience you'll have in a movie theater this year. That's not to say the film is without drama or stakes – the relationship at the heart of the movie between Nanjiani (playing himself) and Zoe Kazan (playing a version of Gordon) has its ups and downs and, uh, comas, but it's all so fresh and so funny and so honest. Even as The Big Sick is recognizable and painfully human in every single frame, it's hilarious. Even as The Big Sick tackles race and religion and breaking from family tradition to pursue your heart's desires, it feels universal. This is the kind of movie so gentle and good-natured that it sneaks up and blindsides you with unexpected power and grace.

get out

1. Get Out

Holy hell. How do you even begin to talk about Get Out? As a horror movie, it's top-notch – an unnerving and spooky and paranoid tale of abductions and stolen identities. As a comedy, it's perfect – those horror elements are balanced by wry jokes that escalate as the plot grows increasingly insane. As a social satire, it's ferocious – the topic of race in America is keenly explored and dissected with wit and clarity. As a political statement, it's a molotov cocktail – it uses its horror imagery to examine how white America continues to exploit people of color and sell their bodies well over a century after slavery was abolished. In his directorial debut, Jordan Peele has established himself as one of the cleverest, angriest, funniest, and most incendiary voices working in cinema today. Get Out has no right to work as well as it does, but those elements come together in a maniacal, violent, and hilarious clockwork to create an experience so singular and unforgettable that I haven't stopped thinking about it since I saw it. It's a film of such stunning depth that I feel unqualified to even write about it. But I can't stop talking about it.