The Pits: Best in Film 2017

Editor’s Note: Feel free to post as big or as small of a list as you would like below but please keep your lists contained to these posts and do not open up your own or fill up the OT with them.  The winners will be announced alongside the other winners of The Pits on 12/20 and will be calculated by adding up your lists (10 points for first, 9 for second, etc. with 5 per awarded for unranked Top 10 lists).  Voting will be cut off some time on 12/20 so make sure to cast your ballot before then.  If you wish to change your ballot later feel free to, but please indicate clearly that you are recasting your vote to make things easier to count.

Greetings everyone.  Welcome to the final voting thread for our annual awards celebration, The Pits.  Like the rest of the hosts, I was chosen for this position based on my running of a prominent thread about movies, in this case my Month of Horror feature.  Aww who am I kidding, I got this position ’cause I organized this effort and appointed my own damn self.

I’ll admit that my top 25 is far from finished.  Film, more than any other medium, backloads its slate with plenty of Oscar contenders (and what will surely be the biggest film of the year) only just released, unreleased outside of NY, LA, and/or a few major markets, or unreleased entirely.  Ask me in a year and my list may be completely different (I feel pretty confident that my top 7 at least will still be up there and my number 1 almost certainly isn’t changing) and I’d feel far more confident in the accuracy Top 25 (though you are free to by all means do a longer or shorter list).  I’m sure many of you are the same way as me and maybe next year we can reconvene and add another award for Best of 2017 (1 Year Later).

Some of the films I did not have a chance to screen (or haven’t gotten around to yet) but likely had a good chance to make it include (in roughly declining likelihood they would make the list) World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s ThoughtsThe Shape of WaterThe Killing of a Sacred Deer, Star Wars: The Last JediWind RiverDetroit, A Ghost Story, The Post, Call Me by Your NameThe Disaster Artist, Good Time, The SquareLovelessLoving VincentThe Little HoursWar for the Planet of the Apes, and Phantom Thread.  Generally, I considered any film that debuted outside of film festivals in 2017 to be eligible (even if they were given festival debuts in 2016), but I’ll let you decide on whether films like The Lure and The Ornithologist (both were released prior to this year in their native countries yet received US releases in 2017, are eligible.



1. Mother! – It’s not even close.  I’m an admitted Darren Arofnosky fan who puts The Fountain on my all-time Top 10 list and thinks the man has made only one film less than excellent (I thought Pi was merely great) but Mother! may still challenge for his best film in my eyes and one of the all-time great horror films.  No film since Gravity has kept me holding my breath throughout in the theaters and it is just such an amazing build of terror and tension and madness.  It’s filled with fantastic performances including Jennifer Lawrence’s and Javier Bardem’s best, it looks amazing, and I’ve spent more time thinking about the film and all of its many meanings to me than any film I can remember.  At a time when I was struggling with doubts over my love of film and questioning if I could ever regain the passion I once had for it, Mother! was a shining light and brought that passion back.  World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts is the only film that could have challenged it but alas, it has not been released wide yet.

2. John Wick: Chapter 2 – The first film in the series was such a fantastic surprise and as someone who has always like Keanu Reeves, it’s satisfying to see him in a legitimately great movie which utilizes his strengths.  That being said, some of the best things including its tightness, originality, and world building (which made a compelling universe without going into too many details which might render it stupid) made the need for a sequel suspect.  I love being proven wrong though and Chapter 2 built off the first, maintaining everything I loved (for the most part) and while proving that this world was even more interesting than I had imagined it.

3. Logan – I have never been a big X-Man fan.  I wasn’t as a kid (when the animated series was a thing) and the movies for me typically peaked at “fine”.  They always seem overstuffed and Days of Future Past was the first I really enjoyed, largely because it was more focused with Deadpool following suit last year (though I didn’t think it was as nearly as fresh as everyone else seemed to).  The Wolverine gave me hope since for the first 2/3 it was great before imploding but it took Logan for the X-Men films to find its first classic title.  It’s a perfect example of how to handle “dark” and “thoughtful” without going overboard and it was a perfect conclusion to the mythos.  Letting Jackman, Stewart, and new addition Stephen Merchant do their thing with plenty of space to act and reflect on their characters was the true breath of fresh air with Dafne Keen being a special find for the franchise.

4. Get Out – In most years, this would probably be the defining horror title, but 2017 isn’t most years.  Jordan Peele’s step into horror was another film I was cautious about and while it wasn’t quite the masterpiece some made it out to be, it was still an awesome film with its metaphorical portrayals feeling at once funny and scarily accurate (considering all the “That’s right” at the theater I went to, I don’t think I was alone in feeling that way).

5. Blade Runner 2049 – Denis Villeneuve’s latest is an absolutely gorgeous and slow paced sci-fi sequel that improves on its predecessor with a great cast.  A film that has no reason to exist from either a critical or financial point of view and yet it justified itself and then some at least in terms of quality.

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh’s latest fits perfectly into his filmography of darkly comedic titles and lived up to my high expectations for it, bolstered by a trio of great performances that will almost certainly net the film two or three well deserved Oscar nominations.

7. Dunkirk – Speaking of directors with the rare distinction of having all their films well-liked by me (joining Arofnosky, McDonagh, and a later name on this list) who put out a new title in 2017, Christopher Nolan’s WWII tale about the titular invasion is another experience film.  Not all the stories are equal in quality, but its strength lies in the way it draws you in and naturally ties together the threads running throughout.  I love war films which take an alternate take on the typical format and highlighting the bravery in retreat and certain defeat along with the purely human desperation to stay alive (yet also those brave enough to willing to go into certain danger and nearly as certain doom) is something to be praised.

8. Lady Bird – The platonic ideal of the comedy-drama (emphasis on the latter) coming-of-age film is far better than I expected out of Greta Gerwig and leans on Saoirse Ronan to give yet another great performance.  It also felt at times far too realistic both in terms of the experiences of Lady Bird, and even more so in the people surrounding her.  It walks right up to cliché only to subvert or take the more logical path instead.

9. Happy Death Day – With a delightful title that evokes the 80s boom of slasher films seemingly made solely to fill video rental shelves, I had high hopes but low expectations for Happy Death Day.  Thankfully, the movie turned out to be one of the most purely pleasurable filmgoing experiences of the year.  Jessica Rothe makes for the third actress on this list (after Lawrence and Ronan) who is onscreen almost the entire length and who the success and failure of the entire film largely rests on their shoulders.  It’s a smart (if fairly predictable) playing with the Groundhog Day and slasher formulas.

10. Thor: Ragnarok – Sure it felt largely like a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but Thor: Ragnarok is better than the other Marvel film of this year it felt so reminiscent of and it is wonderful to have people finally coming around on one of my favorite performances of the MCU (in Chris Hemsworth as Thor) and the best entry yet in the series (even though I think Thor is the most underrated film in the MCU).  It’s pure fun and charm throughout.

11. Cries from Syria – So many dead bodies and dead kids.  It’s not a pleasant documentary to watch or anything exceptional from a style point of view (though it is well done), but it’s such an effective and necessary one.  It never tries to shield the viewer, giving us a truly complete look at the real-life horror.

12. The Florida Project – This year’s Moonlight is a hangout comedic drama take on the documentary Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County.  It’s very good but there’s a certain element that felt missing from making me feel too passionate about it and that ending certainly left me with a lesser impression of it (despite it not really affecting the film that came before).

13. Colossal – A darkly comedic take on the kaiju genre from the director of TimecrimesColossal has some major issues in characters (aside from the Anne Hathaway’s lead role) and the plot for the most part makes little sense, but it’s such a fun film that I’m willing to overlook these issues.  The film is clever in the way it makes the most of a low budget, but it never feels that way and its money saving techniques are instead the highlight.

14. Kong: Skull Island – A film that’s seemingly and largely been forgotten this year among all the other big name sci-fi/fantasy titles that were released to very mixed success.  The Vietnam era setting certainly plays into its tone and watching Samuel L. Jackson descend into madness is always a pleasure, but who am I kidding.  This film is this high largely because it is very much my kind of film and just so satisfying to watch.  It’s so much better and better looking than Jackson’s King Kong

15. Columbus – A quiet drama which gains most of its strength from John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson’s low-key interactions.  It manages to be compelling despite containing no big scenes and a sparse soundtrack.  It’s hard to explain what separates this from the countless films of this type which get released every year (hello Liberal Arts), but it works.

16. Baltimore Rising – The kind of documentary designed solely to bring out the anger (I had to stop it the first time because it was not something to be watched before bed) it’s a great look at the causes and details of the riots and their aftermath, but like so many docs, it really loses steam late.

17. Prison Fighters: 5 Rounds to Freedom – Interesting take on the matter of rehabilitation that sets itself apart from similar films about such programs largely by its setting and means.  Thai prisons using Muay Thai is so counter intuitive (teaching inmates to fight better and holding competitions to see who can leave feels like a Jean Claude van Damme or Undisputed movie) but the case for the system is well made and it is effective at reflecting on how and if we can truly rehabilitate those we lock up.

18. Coco – Lee Unkrich’s latest animated film is arguably Pixar’s strongest release since his own Toy Story 3.  Coco is a delightful trip to the Land of the Dead and spotlight of Mexican culture that looks and sounds wonderful with a strong, if predictable emotional core.

19. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Gunn’s weakest film to date failed to live up to the expectations set for it and the story is ultimately disappointing despite all the promise inherent, but the characters (well aside from Rocket) are still great and still fun.  While the addition of Kurt Russell probably should have been the big get, it’s the increased roles for Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn which are the film’s biggest strength.

20. Mudbound – Well-acted throughout and with some great cinematography, this ’40s set drama does nothing unexpected and gets by on just being very well executed.  I’m still unsure over the multiple narrator format as too often it felt like the film was telling rather than showing.

21. Disgraced – A documentary on the murder of Patrick Dennehey which brought back so many memories from an era where I cared about (and in fact would say that was my prime interest) in sports and yet still felt in depth, insightful, filled in quite a few details that have been lost to mental time, missed at the time, or forgotten.

22. Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) – From director Colin Hanks comes this much better than I expected (considering the asshole at the head of the band and the potential for an easy surface level treatment) and is effective at chronicling how the band is dealing with the emotional impact of the tragedy at the Bataclan.

23. Raw – A bloody and occasionally tough to watch (thank you for reminding us how naturally terrifying Brazilian waxes are) female-focused horror title, Raw is hardly subtle in its messages, but is effective nonetheless.

24. Warning: This Drug May Kill You – Good enough documentary that made it to this list largely on the fact that it’s a subject which is relevant to my extended family.

25. Tough Guys – Fun if minor take on an early, independent fighting championship.

So please cast your ballots as we vote on the First Annual Robots’ Choice Award for Best Film 2017.