This week at Reel World Theology we are featuring the top ten lists of contributors to the site. You can find all our contributor lists here, as well as links to reviews and podcasts for each movie below.
I’d like to share a quick disclaimer of my perspective before we dive in. I typically don’t enjoy ranking and providing measured satisfaction in numbers and stars. It’s just not how I perceive art. That being said, I do see the merit in creating lists because they are a way of communicating your interests across broader landscapes.
I try to judge not only technical quality or story, but also creative panache and outside-the-box approaches. I intentionally chose to exclude Marvel Avengers movies this time. This is not because I didn’t like them—I loved all the Marvel films that came out in 2017—but rather because I want to give space to other favorites that might not get the same reflex accolades from society. I also did not get to see everything I would have liked to in 2017, so this list could change over time.
10 – Split
Though Shyamalan certainly has a few rotten eggs in his basket, I remain a true fan and Split is on-point. It’s hard to go wrong with James McAvoy. He’s been a favorite actor of mine for years and here he pushes his impressive envelope even further. The subtleties and variances in his performance are hypnotic, particularly in an end scene where he flips through his personalities as if they were television channels being surfed through with a remote. This is the one Unbreakable fans have been waiting for and I am stoked for the next film, Glass! Follow this link for Blake’s Oh! The Horror review.
9 – King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
What happens when Guy Ritchie does his own retelling of a world-known legend? Well, this movie. If you don’t like Guy Ritchie’s style, you probably won’t like this film. You also will need to accept that this isn’t a by-the-numbers King Arthur either, it’s a highly unique re-imagining. The visuals are mesmerizing and the film’s strength lies in the use of visuals to tell the story. It also boasts a fun and diverse cast who bring all the sass they can muster to the renowned round table. Though there are scenes of violence, there isn’t a bit of actual gore, and no ridiculous love scenes either. See world, it CAN be done!
8 – The Zookeeper’s Wife
WWII is easily the most exhausted period of history as far as storytelling goes. It’s always important and fascinating to talk about, but because it’s been used so much, it’s very hard to stand out unless you’re really showing us something we haven’t seen before. The Zookeeper’s Wife definitely does that. It’s not only factual by showing us how this zoo, and its poor animals, were devastated by the war, but it goes a step further and uses the animals as metaphor for the atrocities being done to the Jews. This imagery offers a renewed perspective of the Holocaust to audience members who know the history inherently.
7 – Baby Driver
Honestly, I’m not a big Edgar Wright fan—cue the tomato throwing, yeah, I know—but I do appreciate his aesthetics, all-star editing, and melodious flow. It’s just his sense of humor and content choices I don’t usually connect with. However, I really enjoyed Baby Driver. Visually, it’s a calculatedly colorful candy store for the eyes. It’s shot and edited with absolute brilliance and composed like fluid choreography. I love the quippy dialogue and could barely breathe when Kevin Spacey delivered the line about Monsters Inc. toward the end. Also, Baby and Debora are absolutely adorable. Follow these links for the RWT review & podcast.
6 – Mudbound
Thank you, Netflix. This film has a longer runtime and no specific plot, and yet, it envelopes you with every minute. I loved having narration from several points of view, and that the director (Dee Rees) really let us simmer with the characters. I felt connected to them in ways a lot of other films fail to achieve. The cast is tremendous, each of them shines brightly against their dirty and depressing backdrop. My ever-present Garrett Hedlund crush aside, he was terrific in this film. I think he’s incredibly underrated and I hope he’ll get even more outstanding roles after this.
5 – Dunkirk
An audio/visual immersion for the senses. This is not a character-driven film in the usual sense because collective humanity is the protagonist. It is difficult to mold my thoughts into words regarding this film, and I honestly don’t think anything I say will describe it justly. It must be experienced to be understood. Follow these links for the RWT review & podcast.
4 – Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is a remarkable character journey, origin story, and an exhibition of the worst and greatest of our human qualities. Diana is what we all should aspire to be. She does the right thing, even if no one else does it with her. She sees the world foremost for its possibilities and wonders. She chooses love over wrath. Wonder Woman isn’t merely an advert for feminism, it’s so much more than that—because SHE is so much more than that. Follow these links for the RWT review & podcast.
3 – Logan
Even without my established emotional connection as an X-Men fan, I would call Logan truly powerful cinema. James Mangold certainly is a brilliant filmmaker and knows his way around the Western genre like nobody’s business. Dafne Keen was a thing of raw beauty, it’s hard to keep your eyes off her. Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman killed me with their adorable father/son relationship. And the symbolism… oh my gosh, symbolism, symbolism everywhere! Follow these links for the RWT review & podcast.
2 – The Breadwinner
During what I feel is a rather bleak time for animation, Cartoon Saloon exceeds my expectations with every superbly poignant film they produce. The Breadwinner is not only a peek into the brutal world of a young, Afghan girl living under Taliban rule, but also a magnificent reminder of the power of stories. Art imitates life, and life is moved by art. As Nurullah tells his beloved daughter in the first moments of the film, “Stories remain in our hearts even after all else is gone…”
1 – Bladerunner 2049
I’m not a big fan of the original film, but I am in awe of 2049. Every single frame is a work of art. Roger Deakins is king! I love the slower pace that allows you to be truly absorbed into the strange and eerie world. The pacing is also a perfect instrument for expressing the tension. There is a lot of emotional intensity, even with having minimalist approach to character development. Follow these links for the RWT review & podcast.