The 10 most overlooked films of 2017

By

Published December 26, 2017

IMAGE COURTESY OF SONY.

 

Beatriz at Dinner

If this talky ensemble piece was released at any other political moment than this one, it might not have made this list. But writer Mike White and director Miguel Arteta’s story of a Mexican holistic healer who attends a dinner with a bunch of one percenters is hard to ignore in a climate where immigrants are openly under assault by a blustering, heartless billionaire. Here, that role is played with patronizing perfection by John Lithgow, and his verbal sparring with Salma Hayek, playing the title character, unfolds the tenseness of a tight thriller. Beatriz at Dinner also features Hayek’s best performance since Frida. — Ben Barna

The Girl With All The Gifts

British sci-fi is usually a turgid genre, but every so often there’s a gem that breathes life back into it; The Girl With All The Gifts was this year’s entry. Set in a dystopian London that’s been overrun by zombies, a group of flesh-eating children that still retain their sanity are the human race’s only hope for survival. When their school-like base is attacked, a mysterious young girl, played by a riveting Sennia Nanua, escapes with her teacher in tow. — Douglas Greenwood

Brigsby Bear

When I saw this eccentric comedy at Sundance, I was certain it was going to be a sleeper hit upon its release. But that didn’t really happen, as Brigsby Bear came and went, destined to be discovered on airplanes and streaming services for years to come. Good Neighbors alum and SNL weirdo Kyle Mooney co-wrote and stars as a superfan obsessed with a children’s TV show. To say any more would be to rob you of the sense of surprise I felt when I first saw it, as a plot twist about 30 minutes in turns the story on its head. All I’ll say is you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll do both at the same time. — Ben Barna

Beach Rats

Frankie, the masc for masc leader of his Brooklyn crew of hardened bros, harbors a big secret: he’s gay. Coming to terms with that amidst having to put on an act, convincing those around him, and himself, that what he shares with his stopgap girlfriend is real is hard to watch. Beach Rats, only director Eliza Hittman’s second feature, is a visceral, deeply-felt and wonderfully acted—especially by its lead Harris Dickinson—reflection of the pain of self-discovery and learning how to become who you truly are. Why did so few see it? — Trey Taylor

Free Fire

Ben Wheatley is notorious for dividing audiences, but that sentiment really rung true with Free Fire: his starry, all-guns-blazing action-comedy that reveled in testing viewers’ patience. Starring Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer and Brie Larson, relentless, choreographed violence makes up every one of the film’s 90 minute runtime. Chronicling an arms deal gone wrong, it’s the kind of film you either love or despise; most critics sided with the former. — Douglas Greenwood

Lady Macbeth

A lethal, excellent slice of feminist cinema, Lady Macbeth transports you to 19th century England, where we watch a young woman in a vacuous marriage take control of her own sexual agency, sleeping with the stable boy behind her husband’s back. A runaway hit at the industry’s most prolific film festivals, Florence Pugh proves herself as a real talent worth watching with her killer lead performance; this is unmissable British moviemaking. — Douglas Greenwood

Maudie

Before The Shape of Water arrived, there were murmurs of awards buzz for another film dominated by the brilliant talent of Sally Hawkins. Maudie told the tumultuous life story of the famed Canadian painter Maud Lewis, and her relationship with the humble fishmonger, Everett, she’d eventually marry. It’s one of those rare biopics that portrays a subject with color and authenticity, but its mid-summer release meant it was overshadowed by the time award season came around. — Douglas Greenwood

The Lost City of Z

James Gray is one of American cinema’s most underrated and consistent filmmakers, and The Lost City of Z finds him painting on his biggest canvas yet. Adapted from David Grann’s non-fiction book of the same, this classical epic tells the story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), whose obsession with finding a remote civilization drives him deeper into the Amazon jungle and further away from his loved ones. It’s one of the most beautifully photographed movies of the year, making it even more of a shame that more people didn’t see it on the big screen. — Ben Barna

Detroit

As if to say, “Hey guys! You missed this!” Annapurna Pictures re-released this intense historical drama for a brief theatrical run in November (the movie originally came out in August). The real reason behind the move was the studio’s belief that they had a legit awards contender on their hands. And why wouldn’t they? Kathryn Bigelow’s unflinching and sadly relevant look at the Algiers Motel siege by law enforcement and the military during the 1967 Detroit riots is populated with a diverse cast of up and comers who are impossible to take their eyes off of, even as unspeakable atrocities play out on screen. — Ben Barna

Their Finest

A screwball comedy set in World War II Britain? What’s not to like? Their Finest, a tweely marketed feature directed by An Education’s Lone Scherfig, seemed to take most critics and audience members by surprise when it hit cinemas. By turns charming and riotously funny, it told the story of a married scriptwriter (played by a note-perfect Gemma Arterton) forgoing her husband’s snotty opinions to write a wartime propaganda film, meeting her well-humored co-writer along the way. — Douglas Greenwood