2017 Movie Superlatives

Ken Jones & Noah Golden


Noah: Lady Bird

The opening duet scene from Lady Bird sets up Greta Gerwig’s gorgeous debut feature perfectly. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf’s parent-daughter relationship is frighteningly relatable, entertaining and exceptionally moving. This scene, that ends in Ronan taking a tumble out of her mother’s moving car, is the best way to start one of 2017’s best films.

Ken: Baby Driver

There were quite a few opening sequences that were memorable in 2017, but nothing stood out to me quite like the opening moments of Baby Driver. Baby sits in the car, singing along to “Bell Bottoms” while his accomplices pull off a bank robbery. When they get in the car, he puts on a virtuoso driving performance to evade the police, and it perfectly sets the stage for the rest of the movie.


Noah: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Mildred and the Priest

Three Billboards was my favorite film of the year thanks to Frances McDormand’s intense, layered performance and Martin McDonagh’s fascinating, snappy dialogue. Those two elements were best brought together in a monologue McDormand delivers to a visiting priest that just stopped me in my tracks. Months later, it’s still my favorite movie-going moment of the year.

Ken: A Ghost Story – Ghost Talk

A Ghost Story is a small little movie that features Casey Affleck under a bed sheet for most of the movie, but one scene from it I haven’t been able to get out of my head is when he spots another ghost in the house next door, and they have a conversation that runs the full gamut of emotions from a chuckle to melancholy and sadness, which really encapsulates the whole movie.

Best Action Scene

Noah: Baby Driver – Opening Heist/Car Chase

As a musician and a professional video editor, I was entranced by how director Edgar Wright (and his editors) put together the mesmerizing opening sequences of Baby Driver that features one of the best car chase sequences ever put on film. The music is perfectly in synch with the action, the pace is quick but doesn’t distract from the narrative and the whole thing has this freewheeling, unbelievably infectious energy.

Ken: Atomic Blonde – Stairwell Fight

This was no contest for me. And words do not do it justice. Just watch this movie and enjoy the craziness of this extended fight scene. It’s an incredible 6 minutes of almost non-stop action.

Funniest Movie Moment

Noah: Coco – Battle of the Bands

Pixar’s “Coco” has a lot of things going for it. It’s beautiful to look at, has a heart-warming message and some great songs. It’s also really funny, especially a hilarious scene that takes place at a Battle Of The Bands afterlife-style.

Logan Lucky – List of Demands

I laughed a lot at many 2017 movies (The Trip To Spain, Captain Underpants, The Disaster Artist just to name a few), and it’s nearly impossible to pick just one scene, but this one from Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky really gets me. A prison riot is staged as a distraction and the inmates make a list of demands, which quickly devolves into a discussion about Game of Thrones.

Funniest Movie

Noah: The Big Sick

My favorite comedy of the year was Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s The Big Sick. Alternately hilarious and touching, this real-life romantic comedy puts a multicultural spin of a familiar tale with loads of humor and heart.

Ken: Thor: Ragnarok

There were a lot of funny movies this year, but nothing had me laughing as consistently as Thor: Ragnarok. The jokes, the physical comedy, the self-awareness, the Goldblum of it all; Taika Waititi made a thoroughly entertaining superhero movie uniquely his own.

Scariest Movie Moment

Noah: Land of Mine – “Minesweeper”

Foreign Language Oscar-nominee Land of Mine isn’t a horror movie, but it contains some of the most disturbing, suspenseful scenes I saw in 2017. It tells the true story of young German WWII POWs who are tasked with combing the beaches of Denmark for live landmines then disabling them by hand. Trust me, watching these boys play a very deadly game of Minesweeper in a series of agonizing scenes is far scarier than the CGI-enhanced antics of that cackling Pennywise.

Ken: It - Georgie Meets Pennywise

There were quite a few scary scenes to choose from in several movies, but I decided to go conventional here. Georgie’s rainy day meeting at the storm drain with Pennywise is so creepy and unsettling. It establishes what is to come, and shows that this movie isn’t safe and anything and everything is on the table.

Scariest Movie

Noah: Get Out

Some semantics: Get Out isn’t the scariest movie of the year but it’s the best scary movie of the year by a suburban mile. Jordan Peele’s debut feature is razor sharp, pitch perfect in its direction, laugh out loud funny and edge of your seat frightening. It’s a landmark film of 2017.

Ken: It

What made It so effective to me was the variety of horror in the film. Because Pennywise is a monster who preys on the fears of the children in the story, their fears are unique to them, so that allows the film to have a little bit of every kind of scare and thrill. There’s something for everybody.

Dustiest Movie Moment

Noah: Call Me By Your Name – The Father-Son Talk

There’s a moment in Call Me By Your Name in which Timothee Chalamet and the terrific Michael Stuhlbarg sit on a couch together and have a father-son conversation that is so simple in execution but incredibly powerful emotionally. I won’t spoil it here. But it’s a moment you’d need a heart of stone to escape without a tear in your eye.

Ken: Coco - The Last 10 Minutes

The Florida Project, A Ghost Story, Wind River, Logan, Okja, and The Big Sick all had moments that had me fighting back tears, but by the end of Pixar’s Coco I was practically a blubbering mess and I was glad that I was sitting a few rows in front of the only other two people in the theater (a dad and his young daughter) so they couldn’t see me cry. Simply put, Coco made me miss my grandparents.

Best Musical Moment

Noah: “Visions of Gideon” in Call Me By Your Name

“Visions of Gideon” by Sufjan Stevens in Call Me By Your Name was the perfect choice to score the heartbreaking final image in Luca Guadagnino’s lush and sensual drama. Stevens’ lyrics perfectly mirrored Timothee Chalamet’s performance, proving the perfect period at the end of this movie’s sentence.

Ken: “Harlem Shuffle” in Baby Driver

I’m glad Noah gave props to Sufjan Stevens. That was a great closing song. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets use of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is pretty great in a mediocre movie, and there was a lot of John Denver options to choose from (Logan Lucky, Alien: Covenant, Okja, Free Fire, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), but I have to go back to Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. When Baby goes to grab coffee, and “Harlem Shuffle” plays on his iPod while the song comes to life on the street around him is some great moviemaking magic. Honorable Mention to “I Get Overwhelmed” in A Ghost Story.

Most Ambitious Movie

Noah: I, Tonya

In my OnStage review, I called I, Tonya a “fresh, energizing, fascinating and fearless film.” While it is a bit messy and struggles with tonal whiplash that occasionally diminishes the human suffering at the heart of Tonya Harding’s story, Craig Gillespie’s wildly original feature uses creative flourishes to tell a 21st century parable on the way news outlets can shape our collective reality.

Ken: Blade Runner 2049

It’s no small thing to try and follow-up a foundational text of sci-fi movies with a sequel more than 30 years later and try to live up to the iconic status of that film, but that is what Denis Villeneuve did with Blade Runner 2049. The film is more emotionally engaging than the original and builds off of the questions raised before and makes them relevant in 2017, and features cinematography from Roger Deakins that arguably matches or exceeds the 1982 film’s imagery.

Most Surprising Movie

Noah: Personal Shopper

I didn’t know much about Olivier Assayas’ surreal Personal Shopper when I sat down to watch it. Turns out, it’s a family drama, a psychosexual horror film and a metaphorical ghost story all in one. It’s ambitious and strange and absolutely fascinating.

Ken: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

This movie got lost in the end-of-the-year shuffle as I just couldn’t make time to review it, but Jumangi: Welcome to the Jungle is a wild ride of a movie and is way more fun and enjoyable than I expected. Really, it’s the kind of movie that is better than it has any business being. It far exceeded my expectations.

Weirdest Movie

Noah: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer takes this one, no contest. I was a big fan of his earlier film The Lobster, but this follow-up keeps the stilted dialogue, kaleidoscopic commentary on gender politics and sterile locations of its predecessor without any of the tongue-in-cheek humor that made The Lobster a real treat. Deer is fascinating for sure. It’s well-acted, beautifully filmed, terribly creepy and highly original. It’s also totally, unquestionably, start-to-finish bat-crap crazy. See also: Mother!

Ken: Raw

I’ll second that The Killing of a Sacred Deer is out there. But for me, this French horror film from first time filmmaker Julia Ducournau is so bizarre and disturbing, and unexpected. A vegetarian goes to vet school and develops an insatiable, cannibalistic appetite. Sexual awakening and another kind of awakening are mingled together. The film even piles on family drama on top of all the crazy it brings to the table.

Most Disappointing Movie

Noah: Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread is directed by one of my favorite filmmakers and stars the best actor of my generation, yet the whole thing left me cold. The characters were unlikable and lacked depth. Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction, which is usually so visceral and kinetic, was stiff and always emotionally at arm’s length. That’s not to say there weren’t interesting or beautiful touches in Thread, but given the names involved it was a giant let-down.

Ken: Alien: Covenant

I so much wanted to like this movie. I was ready to embrace it and see Ridley Scott tie everything together from Prometheus to Alien. Alien is one of my favorite movies. And yet, I was completely out on this movie by the end of it, to the point where I ultimately wished it hadn’t been made, because it demystified the monster the center of it all for me.

Most Overlooked Movie

Noah: The Florida Project

Can a movie be overlooked if it has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and as Oscar nomination? Maybe I’m cheating. But despite love from the critics, The Florida Project didn’t really seem to enter the pop culture conversation this year and only played in select theaters. That’s a real shame as Florida is a joyous, moving, impeccably acted and bittersweet film that’s one of my absolute favorites from the year. You can read more of my thoughts about the film here.

Ken: Ingrid Goes West

This black comedy came out in late summer, and barely made over $3 million at the box office. This movie is like Single White Female and The Cable Guy hooked up, had a child, and that child never got off of Instagram. It’s a disturbing, scathing critique of the “your best life” millennials who are constantly on their smartphones.

Most Underrated Movie

Noah: Menashe

Joshua Z. Weinstein’s Menashe didn’t get much attention this year, which is a real shame. This cinema verite-style drama follows a Hasidic divorced man trying to navigate life as a single father in a strict, intrusive Jewish community. Filmed on location with first-time actors (speaking mostly in their native Yiddish), Menashe was a captivating window into a culture seldom represented on film.

Ken: Colossal

A lot of discussion at the end of the year centered on the #MeToo movement and a handful of movies that, through fortuitous timing, captured the sentiment of that. Colossal was a movie that came out in the spring, barely made $3 million (like Ingrid Goes West), and was a unique mashup of genres. But it was also a movie that would have been talked about a lot more if it had come out six months later.

Best Cast

Noah: The Post

This was a tough, tough category but The Post wins by a margin on star power alone. Seriously, the wattage in this movie could light up all of Times Square. From Meryl Streep to Tom Hanks to Tracy Letts, Carrie Coon, Bradley Whitford, Bob Odenkirk, Jesse Plemons, David Cross and even Broadway favorite Jessie Mueller, Spielberg’s cast was an embarrassment of riches. The Post was a fascinating, important film with, no doubt, the best overall cast of 2017.

Ken: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Frances McDormand is my Meryl Streep. I have long been a fan of Sam Rockwell. Same goes for Woody Harrelson. That’s a great trio, but director Martin McDonagh’s apparent Oscar frontrunner is also populated by great supporting minor roles for Lucas Hedges, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Caleb Landry Jones, Clarke Peters, Kerry Condon, and Samara Weaving. They blend together beautifully.

Breakthrough Actor

Noah: Daniel Kaluuya

Daniel Kaluuya found just the right notes to play in Get Out, perfecting modulating between comedy, drama, horror and emotional-depth. Kaluuya has a bright, bright future ahead of him.

Ken: Barry Keoghan

Keoghan had a supporting role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk this summer as the British kid in the boat who looked like Tye Sheridan. Later in the fall, he had a prominent role in The Killing of a Sacred Deer as Martin, the creepy kid who worms his way into Colin Ferrell’s family and turns their lives upside down.

Breakthrough Actress

Noah: Beanie Feldstein

Beanie Feldstein’s role in Lady Bird might not have had the emotional-heft as some of the others who could have taken the title, but from the first frame it’s clear Feldstein is a star in the making. Her performance was funny, raw, natural and irresistibly charming.

Ken: Brooklynn Prince/Millicent Simmonds

I couldn’t choose between these two. Prince is a preternatural and precocious little kid, a non-professional actor who was the center of The Florida Project. I was blown away by how natural she was in front of the camera. She was the heart and soul of that film. Simmonds was great in Wonderstruck; her face captured the camera. She’s also deaf, and there aren’t a lot of deaf roles out there, so I hope she gets more work in the future. She has A Quiet Place coming in 2018.

Breakthrough Director

Noah: Julia Ducournau

Julia Ducournau’s astonishingly assured and wildly creative debut feature Raw is a lot of things: It’s a brazen and stomach-churning horror film, a meditation on the power of burgeoning female sexuality and an impeccably, deliberately shot art piece. It’s a coming-of-age story like you’ve never seen before and a thrilling (as well as terrifying) film to watch in the eye of the #MeToo storm.

Ken: Greta Gerwig

Gerwig was already one of my favorite actresses; with Lady Bird she showed that she is immensely talented on either side of the camera. She has worked with Noah Baumbach in the past in co-writing Frances Ha and Mistress America. It was a bit of an open question how much of a collaboration those movies were and how much input she had. Lady Bird puts any questions to rest. Actors turned directors aren’t supposed to knock it out of the park like that on their first try.

Who Won the Year

Noah & Ken: Get Out/Jordan Peele

Noah: There were a lot of great movies this year – from Three Billboard to Mudbound to The Meyerowitz Stories to Dunkirk – but the movie that best represents 2017 is Get Out. So much has been said about this stunningly original, smart and fun social satire, so there’s no need to sing its praises even more. But when we look back at the year in film, Get Out’s artistry and relevance will be remembered for a long time to come.

Ken: Get Out was the most-talked about movie of the year. The Sunken Place broke through and became part of the pop culture zeitgeist and the larger cultural discussion. Daniel Kaluuya’s face, full of fear at being unable to move, with a tear streaming down his face, is one of the iconic images of 2017. It became a cultural phenomenon, was made for $4.5 million and made over $175 million domestically. And its garnered multiple awards nominations. Jordan Peele won 2017.