Top 15 Films of 2017 (According to Tarek’s humble opinion)

Post by Tarek J

Hey, this is your local film buff checking in on my yearly visit to this blog to spout out my favorite films of the year (because my opinion is right and everyone else is wrong). If this is your first time reading an article of mine, that’s normal cause I’ve written 5 over 6 years or so. My name is Tarek, I’m a filmmaker, ad director, and curator for Cinemagic rooftop cinema (I basically choose the films they show, so any complaints can come my way). Let’s get to the list!

Disclaimer: At the time of writing this article, I hadn’t seen the following highly acclaimed films that might have had a spot otherwise: Faces Places – Raw – The Square – Loveless.

15) Get Out
Living in Kuwait means being able to watch a film without having to take into consideration the social implications it has within American society. As such, I loved Get Out, it was one of the most unique and exciting horror films of recent films. But although it’s in my top 15, it can’t be near the top (like most critics in America have put it) cause I’m not worried about being labeled unprogressive. Jordan Peele proved to be an excellent director of tension with some beautiful visual tricks up his sleeve (The Sunken Place is already an iconic image etched into our minds). My only issue with the film that kept it from being higher in the list is the character of Rod. I know he’s a fan favorite, but to me, he really broke the tension and mood of the film in a way that kept it from greatness.

14) Baby Driver
The most fun I’ve had in a movie theater all year, Edgar Wright’s latest is the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve seen the film 5 times since its release, and every time I notice something new to make me smile. Brilliantly written and conceived, but the direction here is the star, and the fact that Wright wasn’t nominated for Best Director is an utter crime. You owe it to yourself to relish in this feast for the eyes and ears.

13) Columbus
Directed by youtube video essayist turned filmmaker Koganada, Columbus is what you get if Garden State was directed by Ozu. A heartbreaking, gentle, and beautifully shot film, this is one that silently went below mainstream audiences’s radar, but thankfully won many awards at the independent circuits worldwide. John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson give career best performances and the cinematography is among the top 3 of the year.

12) Coco
Pixar’s best film since Inside Out, Coco is a tribute to the Mexican culture in a way that doesn’t feel politically inclusive or condescending, but in fact feels authentic. It’s visually a stunning film, but this is also their most moving and tear inducing film since Up. This film floored me, and yes I say it with my masculinity in tact, I cried like a baby. An almost perfect film.

11) Okja
Who would’ve thought that after being desensitized to countless documentaries about the horrors of the meat industry, that it would be a sci-fi film about a fictional creature that would make me actually consider veganism as a path worth considering. Directed by Bong Joon Ho, Okja is a made for Netflix film (their best yet) which is both deeply moving and batshit crazy at the same time. It might be too strange fro some, but this is the closest we’ve gotten to making a live action Miyazaki film. Beautifully directed with some excellent creature design and characterization for the main attraction, Okja, this is the most entertaining film to make you reconsider the way you look at the world.

10) Blade Runner 2049
How do you follow up a beloved timeless classic masterpiece from 30 years ago? Simple: Just make a better film. Something considered impossible up until now, but Blade Runner 2049 achieved what none could believe could happen. It not only improved on the original, but actually retrospectively patched the flaws in the original (and there are flaws) at the same time. Hands down one of the most incredible looking films of all time, it also carries one of Harrison Ford’s best late-career performances and a brilliant multi-layered script. Director Denis Villeneuve was one of the most exciting new voices in Cinema. Now, he’s one of the best living directors.

9) Mother!
The most ambitious film of the year is also the most claustrophobic. Mother! is a hard film to recommend. For one, it’s very disturbing on all the senses. Two, the entire film is an allegory, and if you don’t get it, you can end up hating it like many have. And Three, It’s so experimental in its storytelling that even if you do get it, you might still not understand it all. But to me, Mother! is one of the most impressive achievements in cinema this year. Directed to a tee and with a story so ambitious, it starts with a loving couple fixing their home up and ends with the apocalypse (spoilers). There was no film like this in the last couple of decades if ever, and for that reason alone, you have to watch it.

8) Good Time
This film came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me. Directed by little known independent filmmaking duo, the Sadie Brothers, and starring Robert Pattinson in a career-best performance, Good Time is a refreshingly original and heart-pounding film that reminds me of early Scorsese if shot with 1000mgs of adrenaline. Taking place over one insane night, this movie kept me guessing about where it’s going because it shifts gears every ten minutes up until its nerve-wracking finale. And I didn’t even mention the soundtrack, one of the best and most original of the year. Watch this the moment you finish reading this article.

7) Paddington 2
If this wasn’t such a strong year for cinema, then this film would’ve had a chance to be number 1. As beautiful as Paddington was, the sequel is even better. You might be thinking “really? the kids film”, but this is one of the most cinematic experiences of the year, each scene more beautifully directed than the one before it. It’s inventive, hilarious, beautifully performed, and utterly charming. A Masterpiece. Really.

6) The Shape of Water
So much has been said about this perfect little love story between a mute and janitor and a fishman, But it’s all deserved. This is a piece of accessible art, beloved by all audiences and directed with equal amounts of passion and perfection, The Shape of Water is an incredible achievement. A film about so much, yet is so elegant and moving in the way it tell it, you’ll forget all the messages being delivered and just be swept away by its beauty. I can’t wait to watch it again.

5) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
At the time of writing this article, The Academy Awards winners weren’t announced yet. But many are expecting the big prize to go to this film, and it’s no surprise. Three Billboards is at once hilarious and heartbreaking, a film that plays with your expectations and is perhaps the most vulgar film about healing and letting go of anger, it’s also the most effective. Oh, and Frances McDormand gives the performance of her career, there is no way she isn’t winning this year.

4) Phantom Thread
Watching Phantom Thread is just another reminder about what exciting times we are living in. Paul Thomas Anderson is our generation’s Kubrick. Every film he’s made has been excellent, and his latest is no different. Phantom Thread is an original and unique take on love in a way that I haven’t seen before in the medium. Starring an always insanely good Daniel Day Lewis in a role he claims to be his last, the rest of the lesser known cast somehow hold their own against him, never being outshined by his presence. An incredible score, beautiful set design, and of course stunning wardrobe, the real hero in this film is dynamic and chemistry that Anderson extracted from these performers. From the director of Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will be Blood, and The Master, is it possible his latest is his greatest? Perhaps not, but it’s definitely in his top 3.

3) Call Me By Your Name
A beautiful piece of cinema. A poetic look into youth and freedom. An utterly realistic look into first love. And it happens to be about a gay couple. But for the first time, that’s not what this film is about. It isn’t a message film about tolerance or rights or acceptance. It’s just a story. And what a wonderfully written one it is. Watching this film, I felt like an old man looking back at memories I never lived and yet feeling nostalgic towards it. Its directed with a delicate respect, written as though a piece of timeless literature, and performed as though it were the last role of the actors’ careers. Experiencing this film is an utter joy, but when it comes to a final scene of dialogue between a father and his son do you realize what a masterpiece this film really is.

2) The Florida Project
Criminally ignored at this year’s oscars, The Florida Project is the most beautiful film of the year. Featuring a cast of first timers who seem like they aren’t even aware of the camera’s presence, director Sean Baker does the impossible by portraying a tragic tale in the most optimistic and bright light possible. You spend the whole film living with impoverished children who’s parents have forgotten about them and whose lives are in utter ruin, and yet this is the feel good film of the year. The performances floored me, especially from the main actress Brooklyn Prince who had me smiling from ear to ear throughout the film until the end when she had me crying out tears (I don’t cry much, I swear, it was just this film and Coco. Anyway, you’d be heartless not to). This may have been ignored at the mainstream awards, but this film will solidify its place in cinematic history as a cult classic.

1) A Ghost Story
The moment I saw this film 5 months ago, I knew it would be on the top of my list for the year. It was THAT good. This is the most unique and original film I’ve ever seen, and it was one that had me question my very being. What a monumental achievement of a film this is where a man can go in with zero expectations and come out with his life changed forever. This is the most powerful film of the year, with a haunting soundtrack, a heartbreaking story at its essence, and an existential mind bending meditation of time at its core. You will find yourself constantly intrigued and impressive with each passing minute, but it’s only in the last 20 minutes where you begin to realize what a timeless and unmatched achievement this film is. It’s just… perfect.

Honorable Mentions (films that just missed the top 15)

The Post, Split, Wind River, Lady Bird, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Last Jedi, It, It Comes at Night, The Big Sick, Gerald’s Game, Loving Vincent, Get Out

Greatest film that missed the top 15

Lady Bird

Performance of the Year

Brooklyn Prince, the protagonist of The Florida Project. Wow.

Most Jaw-Dropping Scene of the Year

Suicide Light Speed Attack in The Last Jedi. The crowd went silent, the film went silent, your mind went AAAAAAAAA.

Best Opening Credits of the year

Baby Driver’s coffee run as we follow in one unbroken take a beautifully choreographed stroll that syncs to the music playing in more ways than one. Every time I watched it, I caught something new. A Masterpiece in Opening Credits.

Best Song from a Film

I Get Overwhelmed, from A Ghost Story.

Best Score of the Year

Good Time, by Oneohtrix Point Never

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15 comments, add your own...

  1. Mark says:

    ummm… where is I, Tonya? It should easily be in the top 5. Also Dunkirk over Get Out and Baby Driver easily!

    • Tarek J says:

      Alright so I totally forgot about I, Tonya. Excellent film, I would’ve probably put it instead of Get Out or right behind it.

      As for Dunkirk… sadly not a fan. A monumental achievement in filmmaking, but the film left me cold with no character to empathize with (except Tom Hardy’s masked face) and no emotional core. It felt like watching real archival war footage , which is impressive but empty. So for being harsh :-)

      • khaled says:

        i thank you for my what to watch list but considering the last jedi as close to the top 15 is ridicluous. it was just about one of the worst movies i have seen period. and not just worst star wars movie. Get out was ok the tension and all but i feel it was a bit overrated.

        but the last jedi.. seriously?? it messed up so bad i wouldnt have mind if they had copied the story from the episode 5 just as TFA was a copy of ep. 4

  2. PN says:

    Get Out was AMAZING. Such a clever film, and hooks you right from the start. You’re encouraging me to check out Mother And A Ghost Story as well!

    I would be interested in your horror movie recommendations.

  3. Zaid Al Khaled says:

    Where is brawl in cell block 99? This list is racist, sexist and reinforces rape culture. I think making a list ranking American movies is also culturally appropriating American culture and Mr. J should be fired.

  4. Tarek you *****!

    I sent you a WhatsApp message saying something along the lines of Paddington 2 being one of my favorite films of the year.

    You wrote back saying that it wasn’t in your top ten, that’s for sure.


  5. i.b.mac says:

    no Dunkirk no list

  6. Anony says:

    This list is terrible…Dunkirk, The Big Sick, Your Name. Where are those?!? Mother!, A Ghost Story, Okja and The Shape of Water belong in pretentious land. Those 4 are really lame movies.

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