Just as the Academy, the Screen Actor’s Guild, the Golden Globes, and every bloke with a film blog has released their top tens, we figured it was time we released ours as well.
This post is a combination effort between Logan Judy, Andrew Warnes, and Zack Tinsley. We combined each of our individual top ten lists and weighted them, and the results were pretty interesting. As a result of this method, some very good films may have been left out, because only one of us saw it, or because we have differing tastes, but what follows are ten films that at least one of the three of us, if not all three, feel confident ranks among the year’s best.
10. The Disaster Artist
James Franco delivers the performance of the year in this love letter to worst movie ever made. Similar to Tim Burton’s profile of Plan 9 in Ed Wood, James Franco profiles Tommy Wiseau in a bio-pic about the making of the The Room. However, unlike Burton’s underrated masterpiece, The Disaster Artist focuses more on the conflict between actor Greg Sistero and Tommy as they attempt to make it big producing their own movie after being rejected by Hollywood. In true Wiseau fashion, Franco not only starred, but produced, wrote, directed, and featured his many of his best friends as secondary characters. There is never a dull moment as the amount of great cameo appearances keeps the movie moving at a lighting pace. The entire ensemble fits together like a glove as we see the making of our favorite bad movie come alive. The title character is a fascinating mystery as Franco truly transforms himself with a perfect portrayal of Tommy’s mannerisms, accent, and charm. The audience can feel the awkward tension between characters throughout the film as the Franco brothers turn an otherwise ordinary comedy into one of the best films of the year.
9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, fans have been roughly divided into two camps: those that love the new films, and those that call them unoriginal. For those in the latter camp, Rian Johnson’s film more than appeases their concerns. Johnson has crafted a film that, while building on the foundation that J.J. Abrams laid, expands into bold new territory, challenging our preconceived notions of how Star Wars should go. More importantly, it explores themes that strike at the core of the Star Wars mythos, how we engage with our legends, and what role the past plays in our futures. But more than any Star Wars film, The Last Jedi brings nuance to its central characters, both the good guys and the villains, in a way that brings out the battling good and evil natures within all of us. That makes for a much more effective film, and many thought-provoking moments that relate to morality, and when we should declare that someone is beyond saving.
8. Wind River
In short, don’t underestimate a slightly generic looking film if Taylor Sheridan has his hooks in it. This time, he introduces us to a cold and cruel world. The frigid, frightening, and secluded location captured here is rather perfect to drop the audience and conflicted characters alike into darkness (having spent small portions of winter in Wyoming myself, this film chilled my bones). In this mystery/revenge flick, as per usual, Sheridan delves much further into unsettling themes then meets the eye. The film is both a look into what grief looks like to a people who have learned through cruelty to depend on themselves, as well as a picture of the harsh and failing conditions many of the Native American Tribes have been presented with in life. While many Tribes have overcome obstacles in triumphant form throughout the country, still, anyone who has been to an isolated reservation will tell you the set-up-to-fail conditions we have given them. Sheridan magnificently captures this by (in an unpopular opinion) outdoing his great Hell or High Water of last year (though perhaps not Sicario) with the help of a cast on top form, a script in perfect complexity, and one of the best atmospheres of the year (be warned, while harsh content is very infrequent, when it’s there, it startles).
7. Wonder Woman
It’s happened – DC has made a good movie. Granted, there are still those who are willing to be the oddballs in the room and call Batman v Superman an intriguing, if overambitious film. But, as far as the wider audience is concerned, Wonder Woman is a resounding success. That’s doubly encouraging, not just because we love good comic book movies, but because Wonder Woman embraces the theological leanings of the DC universe. It’s a film that engages with the problem of evil, original sin, the fall, and even, at times, delves into Christ-like imagery. While it maintains the Greek mythological context, the film’s influences are clearly Judeo-Christian, and provide ample opportunities for a discussion on the nature of evil, why humans do so much of it, and what the proper response to it should be.
6. War for the Planet of the Apes
As the close to the prequel series in the Planet of the Apes Saga, War completes the trifecta of a great sci fi action trilogy. With the addiction of Woody Harrelson, War for the Planet of the Apes represents the final stage of Man’s struggle to keep humanity safe in a reverse evolutionary world. In contrast to James Franco who represented man’s inherent good in Rise, or Jason Clarke who represented man’s ability it reason in Dawn, Harrelson portrayed man’s inherent black and white good and evil. Unlike many third installments, War serves a the perfect climax and finale to an already great series. Similar to its predecessors, it focuses more on character development than action. All that being said, once again the most impressive part of this movie is motion capture CGI from Weta Workshop. For the first time in my life, I was actually fooled by CGI and that is a good thing. The Apes are so realistic the viewer will never become distracted, and ultimately learn to feel pain for a CGI character never before accomplished until now.
Fair warning, Dunkirk is not your typical war film. Honestly, what were we to expect from Christopher Nolan? Many films within the World War Two setting introduce viewers to a set characters going up against a visible enemy. In Schindler’s list we get a firsthand account of Nazi terror as a main antagonist. In Letters from Iwo Jima, the Japanese are portrayed as a resilient enemy fighting for honor. In Dunkirk, the enemy is never seen. There are no shots of Nazi’s invading, no main character associated with with the German Air Force, no scenes of dialogue between our characters and their foe. However, with the viewer in a constant state of claustrophobia as with Nolan’s breathtaking cinematography and Hans Zimmer’s beautifully unique score, Dunkirk delivers the most emotionally effective war drama’s in a decade. Set in three different timelines (the beach, the air, and the sea,) all taking place over the course of the week-long quest for safety and rescue. We are thrown right into the rescue mission the minute of the film starts from only the perspective of the heroes this story focuses. Rather than chronicle the successes of a famous general or platoon, Nolan gives a face to many nameless soldiers and civilians as he tells the story of the everyday hero of Dunkirk.
Or perhaps, Bound By Mud. For there we find the crux of the film. A band of diverse opinions, backgrounds, traits, ambitions, and prejudices defiantly bound by a place that symbolizes the human condition. In short, a film about us. How we have, all of us, met similar descriptions, and how we often choose to make the worst of our differences. It is a preachy (if not old-school) film, to be sure, but one that is lovingly told. As the families therein are thrust into working together, for better or worse, you can almost sense each individual’s reservations, hopes, loyalties, and struggles. It is, as mentioned, a very human film. And made much more emotionally investing and wrenching as you look specifically to the well laid relationship of Jamie (Garrett Hedlund – in his best work) and Ronsel (Jason Mitchell). Dee Rees (who ought to get a history making Best Director Nomination) blends all these stories, themes, and marvelous actors (who could easily each deserve some awards love) in one of the most rewarding films of the year (if approached with patience). The only set backs might be two lewd scenes to be warned of.
Who could have predicted this end of an era? James Mangold teased at the departure in genre with his (so-so) Samurai infused The Wolverine. Yet, setting one of films’ favorite/most iconic characters in a gritty, distant, and classic western location? Unheard of! Yet, it worked to splendid and mature new heights for not only our lone ranger, but also perhaps the Super Hero genre itself (if you can get past the admittedly over the top language and violence displayed). And yet, by this departure, it somehow recaptures the original flair and direction Logan (Wolverine) had to begin with. He just wants to get by, he just wants to resist the need of obligation, and at the same time, when he’s required, it ought to be well worth it. What about stepping down in small form? What about putting all your last chips down for a lost cause? What about fading away as a father, rather than a world defying Super Hero? This is what Mangold has given us as the farewell to a legendary hero, and I couldn’t have asked for a better bow. All this strung by Hugh Jackman’s best go at the role (and one of his tops ever), and you have a lasting classic!
2. Blade Runner 2049
Denis Villenueve has found his home in science fiction. The Arrival director had big shoes to fill, tackling the sequel to one of the biggest cult hits in the genre, but Blade Runner 2049 comes through in a big way, expanding and enriching the world of Ridley Scott’s original 1982 film. Most notably, he wastes no time on questions of Deckard’s humanity, and instead goes to the heart of Scott’s prime theme: human rights, social justice, and how the oppressors ultimately dehumanize not only their victims, but also themselves. Villenueve does this marvelously, with a methodical and intentional approach to the story that tackles big ideas while giving us some of the best character development in a sci-fi film in recent memory. While it certainly contains R-rated content and some of Villenueve’s decisions may be questionable, there can be no doubt that he has crafted a thought-provoking and engaging film that gives more force to the original Blade Runner’s questions, which are every bit as relevant in 2018 as they were in 1982.
1. The Big Sick
A film that’s nearly impossible not to fall in love with, The Big Sick is a genuine and authentic semi-autobiographical romantic dramedy about honesty, hypocrisy, and forgiveness. Centering around real-life comedian Kumail, it tells the story of a clash of cultures when he, an Arab-American, falls in love with Emily, a white American. This flies in the face of his family’s traditions, so he decides to live two separate lives – an idea that quickly blows up in his face. But it’s what happens after that that makes the film as wonderful as it is. Anchored on Oscar-worthy performances of Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents, the film is frequently funny, sometimes uncomfortable, and always engaging. Like some other films on this list, it does have some R-rated content (language, in this case), but remains a fantastic story with a lot of meaningful things to say.
That concludes our top ten list! Where did yours differ? Let us know in the comments!