The Most "WTF" Movie Moments Of 2017

When "end-of-year recap season" rocks the film journalism world each year, I find myself drawn to recalling those weird and obscure moments that exemplify the glorious unpredictability of cinema. These are the "WTF" moments. You know, those particular scenes that make you want to spring from your seat and scream "What the f––k!" at neighboring theatergoers. So, in order to qualify for a list of most WTF movie moments of 2017, there must be a true shock and awe value – sometimes for the best, other times quite the opposite.

Just to clarify, we're not talking about entries that'd notch on a "Most Disturbing" list (I already wrote that one). This article is all about being flabbergasted, awestruck and stupefied, either positively or negatively. Happy little surprises or doggone illustrations of ill-fitting logic.

Naturally, spoilers for many 2017 movies follow.

the shape of water

Sally Hawkins And Her Fishman Lover (The Shape Of Water)

Guillermo del Toro made quite the extravagant splash with 2017's unconventional The Shape Of Water, a splendidly sensual romance between woman and fish creature. Sally Hawkins could win an Oscar for her shared aquatic chemistry with costumed gillman Doug Jones, as she whimsically lulled audiences into accepting the film's audacious premise through compassion and human complexity. The Shape Of Water is a romance only del Toro could dream up – old Hollywood fantasies rushing alongside a current of emotional bliss.

Yet, even with the eccentric del Toro at the helm, we all pondered one simple question – will Sally Hawkins actually copulate with her sideshow companion? And, if so, how would it play on screen? Del Toro calms our nerves through presentation, even going as far to demand Jones' costume feature a tight, squeezable rump for Hawkins to ogle, but we still don't believe until actual sight confirms underwater intercourse is a go. A moment so beautifully fearless, a payoff so lustily divine...Guillermo del Toro, forgive us for questioning even in the slightest.

Call Me By Your Name music video

“That” Peach Scene (Call Me By Your Name)

Timothée Chalamet takes an opportunity in Call Me By Your Name to challenge American Pie for cinema's most memorable "food porn" sequence, but Luca Guadagnino's intent is hardly comedic. Chalamet de-cores a soft, runny peach, pushes apart the flesh and messily places...I mean, you don't need a play by play. It's organic self-gratification that certainly comes out of left field, but also represents such a carnal awakening for Chalamet's conflicted romantic. A boy who's realizing his desires may not be considered "normal" – so fantastically open, raw and representative.

Much like Sally Hawkins' waterplay in The Shape Of Water, Chalamet's sexual exploration is also momentously applaudable and somehow becomes even better when Armie Hammer walks in on his crush and taunts him with the "finished" peach. It's first jovial, as Hammer threatens to eat the "discarded" fruit, but then Chalamet bursts out crying. Maybe because he's ashamed and now embarrassed, or maybe because of something far deeper. Do not let the inherent "WTF-ness" of the peach scene distract from a larger significance, for that would be a foolish misunderstanding.

The Mummy Clips

The Dark Universe Objectifies a Mummy (The Mummy)

There's one-million-and-one reasons why the Dark Universe has failed "so far," none more confusing than the hyper-sexualization of Sofia Boutella's Ahmanet. Director Alex Kurtzman wastes no time rejuvenating her otherwise crusty cadaver into "hot wrapped corpse who Alex Kurtzman definitely wants you to fantasize about" form. Then she's chained up by Russell Crowe's Jekyll, Ahmanet made to writhe and moan like some male-gazey, BDSM influenced "horror" take that is like a bullet to the head for genre fans. I mean, I'm not saying you can't be attracted to a mummy – no kink shaming here – nor do I suggest mummies themselves cannot be beautiful, but such a distraction confirmed how little Universal's "Dark Universe" braintrust understood about what horror audiences craved.

2017: the year cinema wanted you to screw a fishman, ripened produce and a mummy who ends up being, quite honestly, the most insignificant part of a movie titled THE MUMMY. Good riddance, Dark Universe.

Power Rangers - Rita Repulsa - Elizabeth Banks

Rita Repulsa is Seeing Stars (Power Rangers)

Dean Israelite's Power Rangers reboot squandered the Saban property with its oddly "gritty" reimagining, but one specific moment turned a wasted screening to a slightly-less-wasted surprise. No, not the Krispy Kreme tie-in. I'm talking about when Elizabeth Banks, as Rita Repulsa, finds herself the recipient of a Megazord attack that shoots her into outer-freakin-space. It's staged so seriously as Rita lunges towards Megazord in a final act kind of way, only to have the conjoined mech backhand her into oblivion. Granted, Repulsa is a space lord who might someday return, but that doesn't make this hilarious swat any less perfect.

Lady Bird rotten tomatoes

“A” For Effort, Coach (Lady Bird)

Greta Gerwig's sense of humor influences Lady Bird a bit more than expected, but we still shouldn't be shocked by these human-experience laughs. Except one. It's favorite comedic moment of 2017, quite frankly. It's a quick cut to Lady Bird's theater class (sans Lady Bird), now taught by Bob Stephenson's sports coach/PE teacher thanks to a last-minute substitution. The stage is outlined on a chalkboard, actors are represented by X's and O's, "singing" is signified by thicker lines as he runs through "plays" where backup vocalists "come in hot" from behind the curtain. It's "fish out of water" comedy in the best way, complete with Beanie Feldstein and her classmates scribbling frantically to keep up with their obviously overwhelmed new leader.

It's a perfect comedy moment that's accentuated by Gerwig's warm, jubilant balance between hearty relationship emotions and tremendously tuned humor. A pure, do-gooding breath of unchecked confusion matched with fierce enthusiasm.

Martin Starr Steals Spider-Man: Homecoming (Martin Starr)

Spider-Man: Homecoming was a monumental success for Marvel on multiple levels. Tom Holland immediately won fans over as Peter Parker, the MCU could finally integrate New York City's friendly neighborhood webslinger into crossover titles, and Michael Keaton's Vulture gave us hope that future Marvel villains would step their game up. But I'm not here to talk about any of that. Instead, I'd like to point out how Martin Starr's teacher "Mr. Harrington" stole almost every scene he was in, especially when being interviewed after Peter's Washington D.C. rescue. "I couldn't bear to lose a student on a school trip...not again," Harrington remarks with visible horror as the camera slowly pans in on his contemplative face.

Everything Starr does is a tonal bombshell in terms of dry, unexpected comedy, always worth an absurd laugh – but never better than the school trip line. All I could do was laugh hysterically.

mother underrated

The Mother(!) of Unexpected Chaos (mother!)

Despite my middle-of-the-road thoughts on mother!, Darren Aronofsky's renegade commitment to poetic constructs and unshaken blasphemy deserves "WTF" honors. Granted, Aronofsky is an artist – reputation precedes him and bigwigs act accordingly. That said? There's nothing about a religious allegory involving unbraced sinks, infant sacrifice and fanatical fanfare that seems primed for major studio slates these days. Enter Paramount Pictures, who – albeit by selling the film as Jennifer Lawrence as some housewife in a straight horror flick – released one of the most head-scratching, caustically ambitious endeavors of 2017. The whole ordeal deserves recognition for its mainstream existence alone.

That said, it's no We Are The Flesh – a Mexican film of the same nature with triple the offensive intensity. But as far as American cinema goes? My entire screening was spent muttering the same phrase over and over.

Cult of Chucky Blu-ray

What’s Better Than Two Chucky Dolls For The Price Of One? Three! (Cult Of Chucky)

As an avid horror consumer and specific Child's Play superfan, I loved seeing Don Mancini take undeniable risks without ever worrying about safe franchise furtherment. This is a time of reboots, formulaic sequels and general side-stepping around originality, yet here comes Mancini, redefining EVERYTHING we know about Chucky's power. It's such a brazen remodeling of Child's Play mythology that introduces an ability to possess ANY vessel Charles Lee Ray wants. The payoff coming when three separate Chucky's all triple-team an asylum orderly, cackling and wisecracking one another with slasher glee the whole time.

Seeing the trio of Chucky dolls all reanimated on screen was a major cinematic moment for me in 2017. Not even a fantasy – Don Mancini rocked me, shocked me and took me by surprise. Such a large change is hard to find in today's Transformers-crashin', superhero lovin' Hollywood system. When filmmakers take risks, I'll always applaud if they fly or fail. Thankfully, Cult Of Chucky sticks the landing despite a thick layer of blood coating the floor.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Review

Going Out With A Bang (Brawl In Cell Block 99)

I have issues with Brawl In Cell Block 99 as a film, but goddamn, that ending. We know it's coming. We know Don Johnson honors no plan that'd allow Vince Vaughn to escape his maximum security deathground. So why am I screaming at the top of my lungs as a molded, dummy Vaughn head explodes like a cantaloupe? The lead-up. The calm in Vaughn's acceptance. The fact that the credits punch immediately after S. Craig Zahler has taken his lead character to the end of a bloody-knuckles journey. Vaughn goes out with one good gosh-dang bang – a fitting cap on his strongest performance in years.

A Dog's Purpose

An Animal Lover’s Nightmare (A Dog’s Purpose)

Let's be fair. 99.99% of the time, there's no reason to kill a dog on screen. I will not detail any positive examples because even if they exist, I'll encourage no such storytelling. Please stop. For my heart and the soul of every dog lovin' movie watcher.

Enter A Dog's Purpose, 2017's emotional torture porn disaster on par with 2016's Collateral Beauty. "Let's just kill a bunch of pups and blur definitions of an afterlife – audiences will love it because the dog is always voiced by Josh Gad!" Except creators never actually reveal a dog's purpose besides dying for humans over and over? Like, the dogs just keep dying and addressing their deaths in Josh Gad's voice without ascertainable reason. A Dog's Purpose is, quite honestly, the most misguided narrative I've ever analyzed. THE FIRST SCENE ALONE IS A CUTE 'LIL PUP BEING EUTHANIZED AND PONDERING WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE. Ban this movie for life.

alien covenant

John Denver Songs Popping Up in Five 2017 Movies

John Denver's camp saw residual checks piling up in 2017 thanks to his catalog prominently figuring into five big-budget films. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" became an unofficial "Film Twitter" theme song as critics left theaters laughing about yet another classic ballad by Mr. Denver appearing. Let's see: Mark Strong belted out "Country Roads" as an act of theatrical martyrdom in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, "Annie's Song" blared as Mija and Okja fled from pursuers in Okja, colonists received a "Country Roads" distress beacon in Alien: Covenant, more Denver popped up in Ben Wheatley's shootout bonanza Free Fire, and of course, how could Steven Soderbergh not lodge Mr. Denver's lyrics into the heart of Logan Lucky? 2017 – the year of twangy guitars and Rod Farva's least favorite musician. You pick which counts as the "WTF" moment based on whichever one of these movies you saw last.

Pottersville trailer

The Only Christmas Movie About Bigfoot And Furries You Need (Pottersville)

Chances are that if you've been following entertainment journalism this past month, you've heard about the bizarre-sounding, Ron Perlman-produced Christmas movie called Pottersville. Michael Shannon plays a "beloved local businessman who is mistaken for the legendary Bigfoot during an inebriated romp through town in a makeshift gorilla costume." "WTF" from the get-go, right? What if I told you it gets better. What if I told you that Shannon's character embarks on his make believe blackout excursion only after finding his wife, portrayed by Christina Hendricks, engaging in "Furry" roleplay with the town's sheriff (played by Perlman). This, plus a lethal dosage of Ian McShane's moonshine, pushes Shannon to suiting up in a hackneyed Halloween costume.

A Christmas movie...about a fake Bigfoot scam...plotted around one small town's flourishing Furry community. Each out-of-touch second so perfectly, joyfully "WTF" around every turn. But that first, early-on Furry scene hits fast and with a wallop. Hendricks in her bunny get-up, Perlman as a wolf. You quickly realize just how much Pottersville is influenced by Furries and life seems golden at that very moment. Granted, Pottersville ends up being a strange hybrid between Hallmark niceties and the weird vibes of a very "furry" Xmas, but for one, glimmering frame of seasonal "WTF-ery," life is pure. If only all oddball movies possessed this euphoric ability to still provide a hearty shock.

ghost in the shell clip

My Name is...What? (Ghost In The Shell)

Rupert Sanders' Ghost In The Shell was an internet PR disaster from the nanosecond Scarlett Johansson was announced as "Major." Things got to the point where a local studio PR rep kicked someone's guest from my NYC screening because he yelled "Whitewashed!" while the rep was trying to prepare us for the film. However, I find that open minds always lend to the best movie-watching experiences. "Maybe Sanders and his team would handle the Americanization with deft, understanding hands," I optimistically thought.

Ha. Right.

2017's Ghost In The Shell is largely the disposable action flick many naysayers predicted, both artistically and when it comes to racial appropriation. No such moment worse than when "Wonderbread Woman" Johansson states – with pause-for-effect "realization" timing – her name is "Motoko" (Major's real name). Cut my theater laughing uncontrollably (Johansson later walks over a grave that reads "Motoko Kusanagi," which caused even more laughter).