Aaron’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Christmas-time, a season of joy. A time when many take a much needed break to relax, enjoy family, and celebrate religious traditions. Oh, and there’s also that fun little part of gift giving. Well, Christmas is also the time when film critics are finalizing their year-end lists, a gift given to the world (but without that whole relaxation part). So, after much debate and internal stress, I’m ready to discuss my Top 10 favorite films of the year. There are many lists out there, but I expect you won’t find another one that matches up perfectly with mine.

2017 was a banner year for me as both a film critic and podcaster. Some of the biggest highlights:

  • Feelin’ Film’s inaugural listener-nominated and listener-voted 2017 Feeler’s Choice Awards
  • The addition of contributors Don Shanahan, Steve Clifton, and Jeremy Calcara to the Feelin’ Film staff team
  • Gaining press credentials to screen films early for review purposes and covering the Seattle International Film Festival
  • Becoming a member, and then Communications Director, for the newly re-formed Seattle Film Critics Society
  • Feelin Film’s two incredibly fun themed months: Christopher Nolan Month (January) & Book-to-Movie Month (September)
  • Voting in the 2017 Seattle Film Critics Society Awards
  • Witnessing the amazing growth of our Facebook Discussion Group that offers daily film conversations and relationship building among our listeners
  • 155 films seen that were released in 2017, by far a new “career high”

Now about those movies. 2017 was a fantastic year at the cinema. Offering numerous superb indie hits, documentaries, and some big, unique blockbusters as well, the wealth of exceptional and diverse content was both a blessing and a curse. Experiencing all of these wonderful films was great, but trying to rank them, not so much. So my disclaimer is that while 10 have been highlighted, with 10 more selected for recognition as just missing the cut, even these films don’t scratch the surface of what 2017 provided in terms of quality.

10. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – This spot on a Top 10 list is always a brutal decision. No less than five other films got serious consideration here, and I could make an equal case for any of them. Ultimately, I had to go with a film that blew me away my expectations and reinvigorated my childhood love of a franchise. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is not without faults, but it is a wonderful next step in this new trilogy and one of most epic cinematic space operas since THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Its unexpected plot choices had me gasping in surprise, and several emotional moments brought me to tears. Its impossible not to respect director Rian Johnson’s talent, ambition, and passion, especially as the film’s momentum builds and races home to its incredible climax. I LOVE the direction this film takes the series and can’t wait to see where it goes next.


9. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN – Hugh Jackman has said that “A bad musical stinks to high heaven, but when a musical works, there’s nothing like it. It’s everyone coming together and opening their heart.” THE GREATEST SHOWMAN worked for me and opened my heart, too. Its reverence for musicals of old shines through every frame and its impressive soundtrack has been played on repeat endlessly since my first viewing of the film. It may not be a perfectly accurate historical representation of P.T. Barnum, but as entertainment it is a fun and emotionally provocative family-friendly film complete with several inspirational messages. It’s the kind of film that deserves being seen with an audience, a real crowd pleaser.


8. DARKEST HOUR – Winston Churchill is a fascinating figure. Historian and politician, but also extraordinary leader. His actions within that first month as British Prime Minister changed the course of world history. Had he sued for peace, who knows if Hitler would have been stopped from overtaking Europe (and beyond). DARKEST HOUR is a high-energy thriller as much as a period piece drama, with Wright combining the two styles to form an incredible, visceral, inspiring film experience that is anchored by Gary Oldman’s award-worthy transformation and performance.


7. THE FLORIDA PROJECT – THE FLORIDA PROJECT wowed me in a way that few films did this year. I resonated deeply with its primary theme of empathy. As a parent myself, watching it was sometimes difficult but always worthwhile. My hope is that many will see this poignant film and begin to look a little more closely (and with more compassion) at those outside the margins as they go about their everyday lives, and perhaps even be called to action. Sean Baker continues to be one of our best young directors and he has created a film that is unforgettable down to the final shot.


6. SONG TO SONG – For those willing to meet director Terrence Malick halfway and open themselves to engaging with the film, SONG TO SONG offers a moving emotional experience. Its dialogue is lyrical poetry that works perfectly in concert with Emmanuel Lubezki’s stunning cinematography, an expertly balanced soundtrack, and wonderful acting performances all around. This may be some of the least abstract and aimless work Malick has ever produced, but it is also among his best, and quite possibly my favorite. SONG TO SONG is a film that needs to be more than just seen, it demands to be felt.


5. DUNKIRK – Christopher Nolan’s vision of this important but little known battle is a hold your breath affair, set to an almost never ceasing Hans Zimmer score that is pounding with atmospheric dread. Fear, after all, is at the heart of this portrayal of the civilian rescue of nearly 330,00 allied troops pinned down by Germany on the beaches of Dunkirk. It is a wholly unique war film, gorgeously shot and focusing on the authenticity of its characters’ feeling, displayed much more in act than exposition. A truly remarkable achievement that left me shaking in amazement and raw emotion.


4. PHANTOM THREAD – In what has been proclaimed to be his final performance, Daniel Day-Lewis once again collaborates with director Paul Thomas Anderson for a story about an obsessive man, this time with an unconventional view of romance set around the industry of high fashion. Though PTA’s films have never spoken to me before, PHANTOM THREAD is captivating from the opening scene to the end credits and casts a spell unlike any other film experience in 2017. Thematically, it’s exploration of submissive/dominant relationships makes it feel like the arthouse version of MOTHER! combined with FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. Cinematically, it is one of the most well-crafted, stunningly beautiful, perfectly scored, impeccably acted dramas I’ve seen in years. PTA’s meticulous attention to detail marries so well with Daniel Day-Lewis’ devotion to character immersion, and on top of that newcomer Vicky Krieps is every bit DDL’s equal, flat out owning the screen in every scene. This film left me unable to shake it for a month and dying to talk to others about it. If this is really Day-Lewis’ last hoorah, he goes out with a bang, and PTA has a new fan.


3. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – Matt Reeves’ WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is the rare third film to end a trilogy on the highest of notes. It is a spectacular marvel of technical achievements, acting, and thematic blockbuster storytelling that uses Biblical, historical, and cinematic references to craft a compelling epic. It has surprisingly limited action and the film lives in bleakness, but out of that comes a celebration of the human spirit – embodied by apes. Caesar’s journey is gripping from beginning to end, filled with emotional depth and moral complexity. His place among the greats is now secure, and the trilogy stands as one of the finest the 21st century has seen. APES. TOGETHER. STRONG.

The films above are all exceptional works of art which I expect to remember many years from now. These last two films, though, are special to me, and choosing between them was an impossible task. Both of these films are guaranteed inclusion in my next Top 100 Movies update, and as much as I just want to make them 1a and 1b, I made the hard choice. So for today, this is where they fall.

2. YOUR NAME (KIMI NO NA WA) – Like many Americans, my only exposure to anime films prior to this were the works of the great Hayao Miyazki. But when I heard that this film had broken box office records to become the highest worldwide grossing anime film in history, I took notice. Directed by Makoto Shinkai, YOUR NAME is the story of a star-crossed boy and girl, perhaps destined to forever yearn for a meeting that will never come, connected across space and time by an unexplained magic and framed against the backdrop of an impending supernatural disaster. It is a story of dreams (and desperately trying to not forget them), time travel, body swaps, natural disaster, coming of age, and romance that is emotionally riveting from beginning to end. Comedic at all the right times, soul-crushingly painful, and yet tender and hopeful. This is an animated masterpiece that goes far beyond its dazzling visuals and one of the very best films I’ve seen this decade.


1. BLADE RUNNER 2049 – It took more than one viewing to get there, but after seeing my most anticipated film of the year three times, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to the 1982 classic BLADE RUNNER is more than worthy of its name. Staggeringly incredible cinematography by the masterful Roger Deakins is matched by a thought-provoking, multi-layered script. Not a single word of dialogue is wasted. So much emotion is conveyed through expression and silence. Performances are brilliant and memorable. The film strikes an ideal balance between cerebral and action-packed while remaining so mysterious that even more is revealed with every subsequent viewing. Despite being over two and a half hours long, it is so immersive that I would have gladly lived in this world for two and a half more. Inconceivably, an improvement in every way over than its hallowed source material. Cinematic perfection – the best film of 2017.

And now for the rest. In many cases, multiple viewings and rewatchability were major factors in determining how to order these.

16. LA 92

Keep in mind that just because a film isn’t listed doesn’t mean it wasn’t incredible. I could list another 20 “great” films from this year that deserve attention. 2017 was truly an excellent year. Here’s hoping that 2018 is even better, but if it’s not, we’ll always have these gems.

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted. 

The Best Films of 2017 (So Far)

It’s hard to believe we’re halfway through 2017.

Traditionally, the first half of the year is a mixed bag. We must endure the dumping grounds known as January and February, hoping maybe something of note will slip through the cracks.  Summer seems to begin earlier and earlier each year, as some big budget players try to get a jump on the blockbuster season with notable releases in March and April.  And then the popcorn season officially begins in earnest on that first week of May, and the cineplexes fill up with loud explosions, CGI, and cute animated critters.

When looking back on films you’ve enjoyed from January to July, it’s always interesting to think about how many of them will actually land high on your top ten list come year’s end.  Let’s face it, for many of us, some of the best films roll out after October first, either as Oscar bait or holiday blockbusters.  The back half of 2017 is loaded with some serious heavyweights in both regards, so it’ll be fun to see how it all shakes out.

That said, the staff at Feelin’ Film has compiled our individual top three films of the first half of the year, presented for your reading enjoyment below.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on our picks, and invite you to leave your thoughts and own lists in the comments section or on the Facebook page.  Or, if you just want to mock Aaron for his pretentiousness, that’s okay too.

Without further ado….

#3  Steve – Beauty & the Beast

I admit I’m a bit bias here, with having been a slave to the Mouse House for nine years of my existence.  I met my better half at Disney and our first date was actually seeing the animated version in theaters.  Personally, I think this is one of Disney’s best tales, and the live action film was everything I hoped it would be.  Haters gonna hate, but I think Emma Watson was a perfect choice for the role of Belle, and the production value is a high point.

#3  Don – Lucky

In a rare and perfect leading role for his stature, Harry Dean Stanton play the titular nicknamed war veteran, diner regular, and barfly slowly coming to grips with his own quickly approaching mortality.  In “…if it hasn’t killed me yet” fashion, the rough edges of this straight shooter melt away to a warm heart at the core as he looks into himself and his small town connections.  Lucky washes its salty kick with a soft finish, without a wasted spec of storytelling patience.

#3  Patrick – Spider-Man: Homecoming

My man Peter Parker comes swinging onto the big screen once again, but this time I think the filmmakers found the perfect balance of what makes your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man work.  Tom Holland is a great long-term investment, and the deal between Sony and Marvel Studios is a win-win for EVERYONE.  I’m looking forward to seeing how creative both companies will get with this latest and hopefully final iteration of the web-slinger.

#3  Jeremy – Spider-Man: Homecoming

I didn’t think it would be possible for me to enjoy a comic book film more than I enjoyed Wonder Woman, but Spider-Man proved me wrong.  It’s a perfect combination of cast and story; comedy and drama; thrills and fun.

#3  Aaron – Get Out

This place on my list is extremely competitive.  Personal Shopper, The Beguiled, and The Lego Batman Movie all deserve recognition here.  But the most impactful film of this group was my experience seeing Get Out among a packed, diverse crowd.  Jordan Peele has taken his trademark humor, social commentary, horror, and thriller aspects and reassembled them into one of the most creative, intense, crazy genre-benders I’ve ever seen.  It’s one of those rare films that feels “important” while also being incredibly entertaining, and it’s one film I suggest everyone see.

#2  Patrick – Wonder Woman

In the muck and mire that is the DC criticism, and the reality that is superhero fatigue, I walked out of this movie feeling incredibly encouraged and refreshed about the future of the genre.  Having never been a huge fan of Diana Prince, being able to keep me engaged and wanting more installments of the Amazon goddess says something about director Patty Jenkins, star Gal Gadot, and company.  I’m looking forward to Justice League even more after seeing this one.

#2  Don – The Big Sick

The Big Sick nimbly moves with a constant levity, even when the potential for heavy drama invades.  That jocular wit makes you appreciate any of the lows that sneak up on you because they arrive bearing tissues for your smiling eyes.  It is one of the best romantic comedies of this short century and one of the best films of 2017, period.

#2  Jeremy – Baby Driver

While it’s probably my least favorite Edgar Wright film, Baby Driver is still thrilling enough to be my second favorite film of the year so far.  Heck, if all I got was a blank screen with the soundtrack blasting, it would probably still land as my number three.

#2  Steve – Baby Driver

Edgar Wright continues to expand his unique visual style in this revved up, supercharged action thriller.  The story of a misguided kid getting in too deep with big time criminals might not seem unfamiliar, but with fantastic performances and the soundtrack of the year keeping tempo with the on screen mayhem, Baby Driver is a white knuckle ride of pure adrenaline.

#2  Aaron – A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story is a simple, unique, and poetic film about the fragility of life and passing of time.  Its pacing requires complete dedication and patience from an audience, something that will certainly not appeal to all, and may cause frustration.  However, for those who commit, this is a masterpiece filmmaking effort by the superbly talented David Lowery that will haunt their emotions and thoughts.

#1 Don – War for the Planet of the Apes

So far this year, I’ve only given four five-star reviews, and no film has impressed me more completely from top to bottom that this trilogy capper.  From Michael Giacchino’s score and all of the weighty nuances brimming inside this epic, to the masterful and special performance by Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes carries the highest and best emotionality that actually felt like it mattered.

#1  Aaron – Your Name

This is a story about dreams (and desperately trying not to forget them), time travel, body swaps, natural disaster, coming of age, romance, and deep longing that is emotionally riveting from beginning to end.  Comedic at all the right times, soul-crushingly painful, and yet tender and hopeful.  Your name is an animated masterpiece that goes far beyond its dazzling visuals, and is the film that has most deeply affected me in 2017 so far.  (Note:  This film initially released in Japan in 2016 but did not receive an American release until 2017)

#1  Steve – Wonder Woman

Consider me the chief skeptic when it comes to the DC cinematic universe, but Wonder Woman far surpassed my middling expectations.  It took studios long enough to throw bank at a female fronted superhero film, but man, the wait was worth it.  Director Patty Jenkins handled every nuance with such great care, Gal Gadot owned the role of the princess , Diana, and the importance of what this film manages to accomplish for women everywhere cannot be understated.  Is this not the best cinematic moment of any superhero film ever?

#1  Jeremy – Get Out

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is both the most important and most thought provoking film I’ve seen this year.  It’s gotten funnier and more intense every time I’ve watched it, even though I’m fully aware of what’s coming.  I’d be shocked if it’s much lower on my list come January.

#1  Patrick – The Lego Batman Movie

I don’t know that I’ve laughed this loud and so many times in a theater in a long time.  Everything about this film made my theater experience incredible.  The story felt original, the callbacks to the past franchises were on point, and the jokes felt perfectly placed.  Walking out, I knew I wanted to own it immediately.

There you have it.  Disagree?  Let us have it.  Share your top films with us.  Hopefully, we’ve added something to your cinematic radar and you’ll all soon be feelin’ these films as well.