In this age of nostalgia-driven entertainment, the best works explore the past rather than allow it distract us from the present. Too many bad sequels, prequels and remakes merely restaged an established story for a cynical cash-grab for those seeking easy escape or willing to accept their lowered expectation. On the other hand, some of the year’s best were not only original works but sequels, reinstated franchises and reconfigured narratives that came back stronger than ever.
- Blade Runner 2049– In a year full of sequels, this one came with the most baggage. Made decades later by a new director, for a generation that grew up on the 1982 original, this one could gave very easily failed big. Instead, director Denis Villeneuve’s entrancing, complex work is less a chapter two than a companion piece that stands alone and might even, incredibly, be better. There isn’t a bad scene or performance anywhere in this is, as every moment is masterful in its composition and the stack of ideas it builds. Somehow both dreadfully sad and hopeful, it asks simple and forever valid questions: is there any humanity left in a world run by powerful corporations and, really, just what does it mean to be human? Villeneueve’s prior works had always been building towards this, a suitably hypnotic, risky and intelligent work of science fiction that hones in on the nature of true identity.
- All The Money in the World– Ridley Scott’s roaring depiction of how money defines and corrupts.
- The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)– Noah Baumbach’s funniest, most insightful film yet.
- In This Corner of the World– Sunao Katabutchi’s insightful animated masterpiece on art and war.
- Columbus– Kogonada’s moving drama is the best of its kind since “Before Sunrise.”
- IT– Yes, it’s scary, but also a smart and compassionate look at a haunted childhood.
- War For the Planet of the Apes– A landmark in this franchise as worthy as the 1968 original.
- John Wick: Chapter 2– A fierce and amazing work of action cinema. This year’s “Mad Max: Fury Road”
- The Disaster Artist– James Franco’s uproarious comedy made me laugh the hardest this year.
- Song to Song– Terrence Malick’s experiment offers intuitive performances and sublime moments.
Runner-Ups: Jane, Alien Covenant, The Beguiled, Coco and Wind River
- Boo! 2: A Madea Halloween– Barely a movie, as every scene feels like an outtake from a dated sitcom. Tyler Perry’s best films are scrappy and made with passion, which in no way describes this one. I like Madea but the character needs a long hiatus and Perry needs to put his heart back into his work.
- Kingsman- The Golden Circle– Foul from top to bottom, with a gratuitous Elton John cameo.
- The Mummy– Tom Cruise has never been in a film this shockingly bad before, not even “Cocktail.”
- Fifty Shades Darker– What was initially tacky-bad is now just dull. Kim Basinger, why?!
- The Snowman– Val Kilmer’s dubbed cameo isn’t the only baffling thing about this failed mystery.
- Transformers: The Last Knight– Anthony Hopkins should’ve stayed in “Westworld” and not this.
- Snatched– A crushing letdown, as a grating Amy Schumer and poor Goldie Hahn couldn’t save it.
- King Arthur- Legend of the Sword– an obnoxious and thankfully DOA franchise studio “event.”
- The Great Wall– aside from “The Disaster Artist, this is the year’s funniest movie.
- The Book of Henry– What on Earth were they thinking? “Radio Flyer” meets Jason Bourne?!
Runner Ups- Rings, Justice League, A Bad Mom’s Christmas, The Emoji Movie, CHIPS
Better Than Expected
The Lego Batman Movie
Good but Seriously Overrated
Murder on the Orient Express
The Shape of Water
Flawed but Occasionally Brilliant
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
A Ghost Story
A Cure For Wellness
The Dark Tower
The Fate of the Furious
Kong: Skull Island
All Eyez On Me
The Bad Batch
Battle of the Sexes
Beatriz at Dinner
Beauty and the Beast
Ghost in the Shell
Happy Death Day
The Lost City of Z
Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri
Forgot I Even Saw This in the Theater
It Comes At Night
The Zoo Keeper’s Wife
Best Comic Book Movie
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
John Wick: Chapter 2
Best Movie Poster
Remakes No One Asked For
The No Thanks, We’re Good- RIP Franchise Awards
A Bad Moms Christmas
King Arthur- Legend of the Sword
xXx: Return of Xander Cage
Best Use of David Hasselhoff
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Worst Use of David Hasselhoff
Proof That, even with Dwayne Johnson, a funny trailer and a powerful marketing campaign to back it, There’s No Such Thing as a Sure Thing
Really Sorry I Missed