The best movies of 2017

From sci-fi originals to kid-friendly fare, hard-hitting dramas to superlative horror, 2017 delivered a bumper crop of excellent flicks for film lovers. As we greet a brand new year full of blockbusters, let's take a look back at the best movies of 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie

Trying to follow up The LEGO Movie was a tough proposition, and spinning off Will Arnett's Batman could easily have backfired. The results could've faltered under the pressure of making this version of the character likable or interesting enough to carry a film, or buckled under the weight of all those DC Comics in-jokes and gags. Happily, The LEGO Batman Movie turned out to be one of the best family-friendly movies in ages, while packing in enough smart comic stuff to keep Batman geeks coming back for repeat viewings. Fun, wacky, and a rollicking adventure in the wild world of LEGO, the movie's been showered with praise from critics who are calling it one of the best animated offerings of the year—and one of the best Batman movies ever.

John Wick Chapter 2

More than 15 years after The Matrix saga began, Keanu Reeves has reinvented himself as an action hero for a whole new generation. This sequel to his surprise 2014 action hit John Wick is a bone-crushing, R-rated thrill ride that finds Reeves' namesake hitman pulled out of retirement to take on a shady international conspiracy. It might sound complicated, but it's mostly just a setup for Reeves to kick a bunch of bad-guy butt. Critics say the film feels like a throwback to the simpler days of action movies, focusing on practical effects instead of distracting CGI. It's also one of the most stylish films of the year, regardless of genre.

Patriots Day

Director Peter Berg's dramatic retelling of the real-life 2013 Boston Marathon bombing stars Mark Wahlberg—making his third fact-based thriller with Berg—as a police sergeant thrust into the middle of the chaos and the ensuing investigation. Critics have praised Patriots Day (which also opened in limited release late in 2016) for managing to tell a compelling story without straying into exploitive tropes, and while some reviews question whether it's too soon to bring this particular story to the cineplex, there's no denying it finds Berg and Wahlberg in their wheelhouse.

Split

Pretty much no one saw it coming, but M. Night Shyamalan's surprise hit Split is among the best films of the year. The taut thriller follows a group of young women abducted by a man (James McAvoy) with multiple personalities—whose struggle for dominance threaten to upend his plans…or make things even worse for his captives. Critics have hailed it as an unexpected return to form for Shyamalan, and a big part of the film's buzz comes from its surprise twist (spoiler alert!) connection to his acclaimed Unbreakable. And it isn't just the shocking final act that makes Split so much fun—McAvoy ties it all together with a tour de force performance.

The Founder

This true story tale follows Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) and the twisty real-life saga of how the McDonald's fast-food chain was born. For those who've never stopped to consider the Big Mac's origin story, it's a surprisingly timely tale that delves into the dark side of the American Dream. Critics have praised Keaton for his multifaceted performance, and while some have noted that the movie might have dug a little deeper into its questions of capitalism, it all goes down about as easy as one of those Golden Arches meals.

Get Out

Point to a February horror movie on your average release calendar, and you're probably singling out a pretty lame film—but there's always an exception, and this year, Get Out is it. Helmed by debuting feature director Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame), this horror/comedy hybrid follows the increasingly frightening misadventures of a young man (Daniel Kaluuya) venturing into the suburbs to meet his girlfriend's (Allison Williams) parents. They have no idea he's black, which feeds into the film's creeping tension…but of course, that's only the start. Thrilling as it is thought-provoking, this is one 2017 movie no film buff will want to miss.

Logan

Comics fans have loved Wolverine for decades, partly because the character has a dark, violent streak a mile wide—and although Hugh Jackman has played the X-Man just about perfectly, none of those outings have truly captured the grueling angst and berserker rage that help make his saga so poignant. That all changes with Logan, a loose adaptation of the Old Man Logan comics arc that finds our hero in a grim wasteland largely devoid of mutants, called upon to defend a mysterious girl (Dafne Keen) targeted by a passel of bloodthirsty villains. A brooding Western road trip with claws, Logan's been hailed by critics as a fitting farewell for Jackman—and perhaps the best entry in the X-Men franchise to date.

Kong: Skull Island

It's been a long time coming, but Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures knocked it out of the park with the new-look version of King Kong in Skull Island. The story follows a team of explorers and soldiers as they head off to a mysterious island that turns out to be the home of giant monsters. Critics have been raving about the film, which stars an A-list cast led by Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, and John C. Reilly, praising the aesthetics of the 1970s setting and saying it strikes the perfect balance of big stakes, dumb fun, and wildly enjoyable action. It also looks to set the stage for an eventual crossover with Godzilla that'll set up the studio's MonsterVerse. Skull Island is only the beginning.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy sent the MCU soaring into the Marvel Comics cosmos in 2014—and racked up some suitably sky-high box office grosses along the way, along with a slew of positive reviews. It was obviously only a matter of time before the gang returned for another outer space adventure, and while the reviews haven't been quite as kind for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it's still a solid follow-up—and a wildly entertaining ride in its own right. The original cast is back in action for a storyline that sees Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) faced for the first time with his absentee dad…who just turns out to be the godlike Celestial known as Ego, the Living Planet (Kurt Russell). As he did with the first installment, writer-director James Gunn has fashioned a perfect delivery mechanism for blockbuster thrills balanced against belly laughs and genuine emotion. Bring on Vol. 3 already.

Beauty and the Beast

Disney's winning streak with live-action spins on their beloved animated classics continues with Beauty and the Beast. Everyone loves the tale as old as time, but everyone's also already seen it—posing a challenge for director Bill Condon's update, which uses a lot of the same music and is even, in some spots, essentially a shot-for-shot remake of its predecessor. How did this Beauty overcome its beast of a stumbling block? Partly by rounding up an incredible cast, with a live-action contingent led by Emma Watson and a crew of stellar voice actors that included Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, and Ewan McGregor. And then there are the resplendent visuals, which add a layer of painterly detail to a timeless love story that captured filmgoers all over again—and shattered box office records along the way.

Fate of the Furious

The Fast and Furious franchise lost a major star when Paul Walker passed away during the filming of Furious 7. And while Walker's death added a poignant note to that film's final act, it also left a major question mark hovering over the future of the series—one partially addressed by Fate of the Furious, which sends the saga hurtling into the post-Walker era. Continuing the series' pivot away from street-racing action and toward heist capers fueled by thrilling (and ever more marvelously absurd) set pieces, Fate amps up the blockbuster destruction—as well as the soapy melodrama tying the ensemble cast together—with a story that sees the gang scrambling to understand a bizarre betrayal by leader Dom (Vin Diesel). Rumor has it the franchise could be nearing the finish line, but don't worry: it looks like there's a spinoff in the works, built around Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham's characters.

Wonder Woman

After 75-odd years of whooping bad guy butt in the comics pages (and one supporting appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), Wonder Woman finally got her shot at solo blockbuster glory with 2017's Wonder Woman—just in time to either make or break the emerging DC Extended Universe. No pressure, right? Happily, Wonder Woman did everything it needed to and then some, serving as an effective origin story as well as a superhero adventure that stood on its own as a standalone experience while continuing to lay the groundwork for the DCEU's big team-up Justice League picture later this year. The reviews have been almost universally positive, and audiences have turned out in droves. Could we have a real battle for superhero supremacy at the box office between Marvel and DC?

Colossal

Directed by Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes), Colossal is one of the strangest giant monster movies ever made, and boy, is that really saying something. In this off-the-walls sci-fi flick, Anne Hathaway plays an alcoholic named Gloria who finally goes on one bender too many. Her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) kicks her out of their apartment, and she winds up back in her hometown, reconnecting with her bar-owning childhood friend (Jason Sudeikis).

So far so normal, but things get weird when Gloria drunkenly stumbles across a playground early one morning. The moment she steps into the tiny park, a gigantic creature materializes in Seoul, South Korea—a creature that mimics Gloria's every move. Initially enamored with her new power, Gloria soon realizes her inebriated antics are going to get people killed, so she resolves to get her act together…and that's when Colossal takes a hard left turn into unexpected territory, sending Gloria towards a final showdown with all the kaiju-sized demons in her life.

We don't want to say much more about the plot—you'll thank us later—but seriously, the film is worth watching for Anne Hathaway alone. Gloria is one of her finest performances, a role that allows her to run a range of emotions from insecure self-loathing to confident rage, with a bit of everything in between. Plus, the plot is so insane there's no way you can sit this one out. Original, emotional, and surprisingly poignant, Colossal is the kind of movie that will leave you whispering to yourself, "Oh my God…zilla."

Alien: Covenant

Ridley Scott's Prometheus was a pretty divisive movie when it hit theaters in 2012, and while the follow-up, Alien: Covenant, has its own detractors, we can say this about Scott's third installment in the xenomorph franchise: it plays up the franchise's horror element, there's a ton of gore, and we get two Michael Fassbenders for the price of one. Seriously, what more does a sci-fi fan need?

Set in 2104, just a few years before the original Alien, this sequel-prequel follows the crew of the Covenant, a spaceship carrying 2,000 sleeping passengers, all waiting to wake up in a new world. Unfortunately, an accident along the way kills the captain, and when the new commander (Billy Crudup) picks up a strange transmission coming from a mysterious planet, he decides to change course.

Obviously, this guy has never seen a horror movie before, and despite the protestations of our Ripley-like protagonist (Katherine Waterston), the captain lands the ship—and soon, the crew finds themselves besieged by angry aliens. Admittedly, it's nice to see the xenomorph back in action, but pretty much everyone agrees that this is Michael Fassbender's movie. The actor is playing two androids here—one subservient, one Luciferian—and he steals the screen every time he gets into a debate with himself. Couple Fassbender's presence with the facehuggers and the chestbursters, and it's easy to see why critics are saying Alien: Covenant is the third-best film of the franchise.

Okja

From the brilliantly bizarre mind that brought us The Host and Snowpiercer comes a South Korean fable featuring a bubbly Tilda Swinton, a mustachioed Jake Gyllenhaal, and a giant CGI pig. This is the wild world of Okja, a film that starts off feeling like a G-rated kid's adventure and ends up inside an R-rated slaughterhouse. It's funny, shocking, and darkly cynical—exactly what you'd expect from director Bong Joon-ho.

Released through Netflix, Okja tells the story of a young girl named Mija (An Seo-hyun) who's friends with a hippo-like "super pig" named, well, Okja. Together, the duo run, play, and love life together until the porker is captured and taken to New York City. Unbeknownst to Mija, her best friend actually belongs to the all-powerful Mirando Corporation, a business run by evil twins (both played by Swinton). Okja is their genetically modified creation, and they plan on turning the poor pig into the tastiest, most eco-friendly pork chops on the planet.

Of course, when Mija finds out what's really going on, she sets out to rescue her buddy with the help of some bumbling animal rights activists (led by Paul Dano). Written by journalist Jon Ronson, Okja also features names like Giancarlo Esposito, Lily Collins, and as we've already mentioned, a wildly over-the-top Jake Gyllenhaal. And in true Bong Joon-ho fashion, the film has quite a lot to say about the dark side of capitalism. Plus, it's such a powerful film that by the time it's over, even Ron Swanson would reconsider ordering a steak.

Baby Driver

With its eclectic soundtrack and insanely impressive stunts, Edgar Wright's Baby Driver is one of the most exciting films of 2017. This souped-up action flick stars Ansel Elgort as a young crook named Baby, a kid who works as a getaway driver for a smarmy crime boss named Doc (Kevin Spacey). Suffering from tinnitus, Baby drowns out the constant droning with an incredible collection of iPods, and while he's grooving to the tunes, Baby weaves in and out of traffic, dodging cars and avoiding cops by doing 180s in alleyways.

But Baby's life gets a little more complicated when he falls head over heels for a beautiful waitress named Debora (Lily James). He wants to go straight, but Doc wants him for another job, one that involves working with a who's who of psycho killers (played by Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Hamm, and a wonderfully deranged Jamie Foxx). Needless to say, the robbery doesn't go as planned, and Baby is forced to take a stand to save everything he loves.

Thanks to the movie's emphasis on music, the action scenes are choreographed to the tunes on Baby's iPod, with Edgar Wright using songs like "Tequila," "Bellbottoms," and "Hocus Pocus" to great effect. Crazier still, almost every stunt you see is real. With its dance-like action and its super cool characters, Wright's sixth feature film is like a mashup between Singin' in the Rain and Walter Hill's The Driver, which means it's got a little something special for everyone.

War for the Planet of the Apes

The conclusion to one of the best trilogies ever made, War for the Planet of the Apes expertly blends the book of Exodus with Apocalypse Now, resulting in a brutal Old Testament-POW story. In the fiery aftermath of the previous film, Caesar (Andy Serkis) has led his followers into the mountains, hoping to escape the wrath of man. But Caesar knows his apes can't hide in the hills for long, so this primate Moses plans on leading his people to a new promised land, where they can avoid any future conflicts.

Unfortunately, humans aren't quite as humane as apes. Led by a mad colonel (Woody Harrelson) on a mission, a group of soldiers attack Caesar's colony, killing several of his loved ones. With his trusted allies by his side, Caesar sets out to get revenge, but instead, he finds himself on a quest to free his troop from a fortress-like prison. This sets up a Bridge on the River Kwai-style showdown between Caesar and the Colonel, escalating in an escape attempt and brutal battle that might end with the world becoming a planet of…well…you know.

Directed by Matt Reeves, War for the Planet of the Apes is the perfect ending to an amazing trilogy, one that features yet another show-stopping performance from Andy Serkis. The English actor has created a character of Shakespearean proportions, and some believe he should get an Oscar nod for his motion capture performance. Really, the only bad thing about War for the Planet of the Apes is saying goodbye to Caesar.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

If you were to visit Rotten Tomatoes, you'd probably notice that, critically speaking, Spider-Man: Homecoming is tied with The Avengers. Both films share a whopping 92 percent approval rating—an impressive feat, but it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. After all, Homecoming is one of the most charming and entertaining films to ever swing its way into the MCU.

Starring Tom Holland as Peter Parker, Spider-Man: Homecoming follows the wannabe Avenger as he tries to fight crime and navigate high school at the same time. Even with the help of his good friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), he's still having a hard time impressing the girl of his dreams (Liz Allan). Of course, things get even more complicated when an honest-to-goodness supervillain shows up. Known as the Vulture (Michael Keaton), this winged baddie is the ultimate thief, and if Peter can bring him to justice, it could be his ultimate ticket into the Avengers.

Directed by Jon Watts, Homecoming even won over Marvel haters thanks to its John Hughes-high school vibe. And all that upbeat energy was largely thanks to Tom Holland, who's kind of the perfect Peter Parker. Playing across from Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, and Robert Downey Jr., Holland more than proved he deserves to be a member of the world's mightiest heroes, and we can't wait to see him catching bad guys like flies in 2018.

Dunkirk

Without a doubt, Dunkirk is one of Christopher Nolan's greatest achievements, right up there with Inception and The Dark Knight. In fact, you could make an argument that Dunkirk is his greatest film—some have—which is a testament to the nail-biting power of this World War II thriller.

Shot mostly with 65mm film on IMAX camerasDunkirk tells the story of a real-life retreat in 1940. Roughly 400,000 Allied troops were trapped on a French beach, completely surrounded by the Nazis, and the only thing keeping our heroes from home was the English Channel. Unfortunately, the beach was too shallow to accommodate military-sized vessels, so English civilians sprang into action, sailing to Dunkirk in their yachts and fishing boats.

It was an incredible historical moment, and Nolan does a masterful job of capturing the suspense. In true Nolan fashion, the story is divided into three interwoven narratives, all of which have their own unusual run times. Story number one takes place on the beach and lasts a week. Story two takes a day and follows a civilian (Mark Rylance) as he sails for Dunkirk. Finally, story three takes place over the course of an hour and follows the RAF pilots (led by Tom Hardy) as they defend the men trapped on the beach below.

Despite the time differences, the stories are all connected and even shed new light on the same events. And like a master, Nolan uses these three interlocking tales to put audiences in the middle of the battlefield. We feel like we're actually there, trapped on the beach, desperately waiting for a boat to show up and take us home.

Atomic Blonde

What would happen if you combined Imperator Furiosa with John Wick? You'd probably get Lorraine Broughton, British superspy and badass hero of Atomic Blonde. Directed by David Leitch—who not coincidentally co-directed John Wick—this neon thriller takes place in the final days of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall is about to go down, but that doesn't mean the cloak-and-dagger business is all done.

To the contrary, Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Germany to retrieve a stolen list that contains the names of undercover spies. The list has fallen into the hands of the Soviets, and Broughton will have to bash a few skulls in her quest to discover the document. Along the way, she butts heads with an out-of-control James McAvoy and makes love to a sexy Sofia Boutella, all while "Cat People," "Father Figure," and "99 Luftballons" play in the background.

But really, the plot isn't important. In fact, as the film goes on, it just gets more and more complicated. What is important is the crazy fight choreography: Broughton beats up dudes using everything from ropes to cooking pots, all while wearing the most stylish clothes imaginable. More impressive still, that's really Theron throwing those haymakers. The actress did her own stunts for the film, adding a touch of realism to the brutal battle scenes.

In short, don't expect something with the intellect of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Instead, prepare to watch Charlize Theron bash somebody in the face with a baton, which is the reason movies were invented in the first place.

It

Andy Muschietti's It isn't the first adaptation of Stephen King's weighty novel. In 1990, Tim Curry made horror history by playing Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the Derry demon with a fondness for floating. But Curry's version played on the TV network ABC, and now that Bill Skarsgård is wearing the makeup, are a lot darker and bloodier.

The first of a two-part tale, It tells the story of "The Losers' Club," a group of outcast kids who are beaten by bullies and plagued by horrible home lives. But when they're together, these kids are pretty powerful—and they need as much strength as possible when they find themselves facing a flesh-eating clown. Led by Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), a boy who lost his little brother to Pennywise's evil appetites, the Losers eventually head into the sewers to end the evil that's been plaguing their town for years.

While you've got to give Tim Curry credit, Skarsgård takes the nightmare fuel to a whole new level. Of course, you can have the world's most evil monster, but if you don't have sympathetic heroes, then audiences just won't care. Fortunately, the Losers are likable characters played by solid actors, and according to the critics, they truly have a bond with one another. Under all the gore and grime, behind the monstrous apparitions and evil sinks, there's an actual heart beating in this movie…one that a creepy clown wants to tear out and eat.

All the Money in the World

The waning months of 2017 brought a lot of buzz to All the Money in the World—particularly Kevin Spacey's performance as J. Paul Getty III, an oil tycoon with too much money and not enough empathy. There was even talk of a potential Oscar nomination. But when the actor was hit with allegations of sexual misconduct, it seemed there wasn't enough money in the world to save Ridley Scott's latest thriller.

Unlike the ruthlessly pragmatic Getty—who resisted paying to save his grandson from a gang of violent kidnappers—Scott was willing to spend $10 million to replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer (his original choice for the part) and reshoot 22 scenes…just six weeks before the film was set to hit theaters. It was a crazy move, unprecedented in Hollywood history, and it totally paid off. Critics praised Plummer's misanthropic performance, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone writing that the veteran actor played the part with "acid humor, stunted emotion and magisterial skill." Michelle Williams also won her fair share of critical accolades as Gail Harris, the desperate but determined mother hoping to convince Getty to save her son.

And then, of course, there was Ridley Scott, the master filmmaker who crafted a movie that is, according Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, "especially good at re-creating the frenzy and chaos the Italian press whipped up around the kidnapping, and it never loses sight of the pain Getty's inflexibility about his fortune causes his family." Of course, if you had trouble with a certain scene from Reservoir Dogs, then you should probably prepare to shield your eyes and cover your ears…or should we say ear.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Who could have guessed that Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle would end up being Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes? This reboot/sequel far exceeded everybody's expectation. Sure, it doesn't have the smartest screenplay, and yeah, it's full of clichés, but thanks to its incredibly charming cast, the movie scores big when it comes to charisma and comedy.

Updating the 1995 original, Welcome to the Jungle follows four high schoolers (Alex Wolff, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, and Madison Iseman) who are sucked into an adventure game where they morph into grownup avatars (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black). Teaming up with a fifth player (Nick Jonas) who's been stuck in Jumanji for years, our heroes have to outrun everything from rhinos to ninjas in a quest to restore a magical emerald to a mystical jaguar statue.

Working with director Jake Kasdan (son of legend Lawrence Kasdan), the four stars absolutely shine as teens trapped inside adult bodies. Johnson is hilarious when he channels his inner weakling, cowering from punches thrown by ultra-jock Hart, and Gillan kills it in the scene where she learns to flirt. But Jack Black steals the show as a high school girl in the body of a middle-aged fat man. Whether he's crushing on Nick Jonas or discovering the secrets of male anatomy, Black absolutely owns every scene he's in. As film critic Matt Zoller Seitz put it, thanks to this ensemble cast, what should've been "a two-and-a-half star movie" has been "bumped up a notch," and we can't wait to see what happens next in the Jumanji franchise.

Wonder

After watching the trailer for Wonder, you'd be forgiven if you were expecting something sappy and saccharine. But 2017 was full of cinematic surprises, and Wonder was no exception. Sure, the movie jerked as many tears and pulled as many heartstrings as possible, but as pointed out by Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post, "Wonder is complex, funny and—of course—a real cry-fest that looks at the very real burdens of being a kid."

Based on the novel by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the story of a little boy named Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) who suffers from a genetic disorder that's left his face horribly disfigured. After several years of homeschooling, Auggie's parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) send the fifth grader to public school where he has to navigate his way through the real world, a place where he can no longer hide his scars.

Needless to say, Tremblay is brilliant here, emoting through a mound of prosthetics and giving his best performance since Room. But while the movie is primarily about Auggie, it takes the time to focus on several side characters, showing us why people like his mom, sister (Izabela Vidovic), and friend (Noah Jupe) react to Auggie the way they do. Thanks to director Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), we get to experience the emotions and viewpoints of everyone in the movie, giving us a beautifully layered story surrounding one incredible kid.

Battle of the Sexes

Inspired by the legendary 1973 tennis match, Battle of the Sexes tells the story of two athletic titans: Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) and Billie Jean King (Emma Stone). One's a chauvinist pig with a flair for self-promotion, while the other is a pioneering feminist, hoping to level the playing field. But King's dream of equality for female tennis players is challenged when Riggs massacres the world's top-ranked female player, so she grabs her racket and steps onto the court, ready to teach this old man a thing or two about equal rights.

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (the couple behind Little Miss Sunshine), Battle of the Sexes earned praise from critics largely thanks to its two leads. Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper said that Stone and Carell are "creating full-fledged, complex characters—each flawed, each making missteps that hurt others, but both quite sympathetic and endlessly fascinating." The critic then went on to single out Stone's performance, saying her Billie Jean King is "the best work of her career."

True, if you know anything about sports history, then you're probably aware of how the match ends. But the film's real strengths come off the court, as we follow the two athletes in their personal lives. We watch as they're caught up in the politics of the 1970s, as Riggs struggles with gambling debts and King campaigns for fair treatment while falling in love with her hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough). And in this 21st century world where stories like the #MeToo campaign are still playing out in the news, this 1970s tale feels incredibly relevant today.

The Post

What's a surefire recipe for one of the best films of the year? Put Steven Spielberg in a director's chair, stick Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in front of a camera, and you're almost there. Finish things off with a screenplay by first-timer Liz Hannah and Oscar winner Josh Singer (Spotlight), and you've got a tight, crackling thriller that Time magazine's Stephanie Zacharek describes as "a superhero movie for real grownups."

Based on a true story, The Post follows Washington Post owner Katharine Graham (Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) as they debate whether to publish the Pentagon Papers, leaked documents that expose the U.S. government's lies about the Vietnam War. With pressure coming down hard from the White House, the two must grapple with concepts like the value of a free press, knowing full well their decision could wreck the paper and send a lot of people to jail.

An old-school movie from an old-school master, The Post brilliantly jumps back and forth from historical epic to Spielbergian comedy to crackling thriller. And needless to say, the A-list stars are on the top of their game. Plus, we've got to give props to Bob Odenkirk as the tireless reporter hunting down the documents. In an era when "fake news" and divisive politics rule the day, The Post is a timely reminder of the importance of journalism, a movie that—as Rolling Stone's Peter Travers put it—"celebrates the passionate bond between a free press and every thinking human being."

American Made

Based on a true story (believe it or not), American Made finds Tom Cruise playing Barry Seal, a frustrated TWA pilot who gets in over his head when he's recruited by the CIA to run top secret missions in South America. Soon, Barry uses his frequent trips across the border to his advantage, smuggling drugs for the Medellín cartel and making a bundle, but things quickly spiral out of control when he's caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal. It's a whirlwind of a movie, running high on coke and crashing hard with some pretty cynical commentary on the American Dream.

At the center of it all is Cruise, riffing on the gung-ho patriotic persona that made him a star in Top Gun. In fact, Bilge Ebiri of the Village Voice went so far as to say that American Made is "the real, secret sequel to Top Gun: the one where Maverick enters the private sector and pursues the capitalist dream of selling drugs and guns to murderers and calling it  Freedom™." It's a black comedy aimed straight at the heart of U.S. exceptionalism and American hypocrisy, and it's proof that, even if he hasn't yet acknowledged his age, Cruise is totally willing to tear down his own action star image.

Blade Runner 2049

While it's become one of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made, when Blade Runner hit theaters in 1982, it divided critics and flopped at the box office. Now, 35 years later, Denis Villeneuve's sequel almost followed a similar path. Domestically, Blade Runner 2049 grossed a mere $91 million against a $150 million production budget. But unlike the original, 2049 was a critical smash, with people lauding the film's visuals, its philosophy, and its mysteries.

Similar to the 1982 film, the 2017 version has conjured up a stunning landscape that feels equal parts fabulous and completely lived-in. Critics like Christopher Orr of The Atlantic praised cinematographer Roger Deakins and production designer Dennis Gassner for creating "a future world breathtaking in its decrepitude, a gorgeous ruin," and critics like Alison Willmore of Buzzfeed hailed this fleshed-out universe as "strenuously dazzling to look at."

But if you push past the gorgeous imagery, you'll find a movie grappling with and building on the same meaty themes from the first film—namely, the nature of humanity. With Ryan Gosling as K, a blade runner hunting for answers about his past and the truth about the android race known as "replicants," the story explores the depths of the human soul, resulting in a film that critic Brian Tallerico described as "one of the most deeply philosophical and challenging sci-fi films of all time." Not bad for a sequel to one of the greatest movies in cinematic history.

I, Tonya

Directed by Craig Gillespie, I, Tonya is basically an American version of Rashomon, with tabloid journalists and sequined outfits. It's an examination of what really happened in 1994 when ice skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked before the US Figure Skating Championship in Detroit and how one woman was at the center of it all: Tonya Harding.

Played to perfection by Margot Robbie, Harding comes off as a tragic anti-hero, caught between an abusive mother (Allison Janney), a violent husband (Sebastian Stan), and her desperate need to succeed in a snobby sport that treats her like dirt. Surrounded by creeps and idiots, she claws her way to the top, only to see everything come tumbling down fast, and with a screenplay by Steve Rogers, I, Tonya does its best to figure out whyyyyyyy everything went so wrong and how much Harding is to blame.

But while you might already have an opinion on the notorious ice queen, thanks to Robbie's powerhouse performance we actually come to sympathize with this woman—who's so often reduced to a simple, trashy villain—and we're also blown away by Allison Janney's chain-smoking mom from hell. I, Tonya is equal parts satire, crime thriller, and freak show, but one that never loses sight of Harding's humanity. As film critic Christy Lemire summed it up, this movie is "GoodFellas on ice—darkly comic and often just plain dark, but always breathtakingly alive."

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

While it's incredibly controversial among fans, Star Wars: The Last Jedi cleaned house at the box office and used its Force powers to win over most every critic in the galaxy. Some even went so far as to say that Rian Johnson's eighth installment was the best entry in the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back. And while it's generated a lot of anger online, The Last Jedi really delivers when it comes to finding the hope and humanity of the Star Wars universe.

Picking up pretty much immediately after The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi finds Rey (Daisy Ridley) desperately trying to convince a world-weary Luke Skywalker (an amazing Mark Hamill) that the Resistance needs his help. But the old Jedi is holding on to some secrets and refuses to leave his deserted planet, frustrating Rey and causing her to seek answers from her old enemy, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). And as the mystic knights prepare to face Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), the rest of our heroes—including new faces like Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and old friends like Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)—set out on their own adventures to defeat the First Order.

In addition to the main plot, Last Jedi takes us to some incredible new worlds, including an alien casino and a salt planet where the soil runs blood red. As pointed out by critic Matt Zoller Seitz, Snoke's throne room evokes memories of a Dario Argento movie, and Luke's island getaway is reminiscent of a Guillermo del Toro fantasy. Of course, the movie really shines when it comes to the characters, and it even gives little moments of grace to Resistance fighters we only see for a few moments. Thanks to writer-director Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi does more than enough to erase the bitter taste of the prequels, pay homage to the originals, and set up an exciting new future for the franchise.

Thor: Ragnarok

For the most part, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has delivered solid, entertaining films…with the exception being the Thor franchise. While the character always had potential, neither Kenneth Branagh nor Alan Taylor could do justice to the God of Thunder. So thank Odin for Taika Waititi, whose Ragnarok is an apocalyptic good time featuring a giant wolf, gladiator battles, and Jeff Goldblum at his Goldblum-y best.

The plot follows Thor (Chris Hemsworth, rippling with muscles and killing it with comedy) as he's trying to stop Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, from taking over Asgard. Unfortunately, his superhero plans don't pan out, and after his hammer is crushed into tiny pieces, he finds himself imprisoned on a planet where he's forced to do battle with the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Thanks to Taika Waititi's genius for improv, the scenes between Hemsworth and Ruffalo are comedy gold; plus, Tessa Thompson is an amazingly badass Valkyrie, and Tom Hiddleston gets to ham things up as a slightly goofier Loki, god of mischief.

Accompanied by a memorable score from Mark Mothersbaugh (a true first in the MCU), Thor: Ragnarok is possibly the funniest movie in the entire Marvel franchise and one with a surprising amount of heart. Unlike the previous two films, Ragnarok actually has something to say about the destructive influence of colonialism and how great nations often hide their bloody pasts. And most importantly, Thor is no longer a Shakespearean straight man. Instead, he's a good-natured goof who's forced to truly reckon with his own godhood, all while battling skeletons, aliens, and fiery demons. Because that's what heroes do.

Phantom Thread

Ten years after they found Oscar glory with There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson reunited with Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread, a period drama that critic Priscilla Page described as a "dark comedy, a gothic horror film, and a powerful love story." And since this is supposedly the last time Day-Lewis will ever step in front of a movie camera, then Phantom Thread is a proper sendoff for the Oscars' favorite actor.

The story follows Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis), a powerful and obsessive couturier who goes through women like they're spools of thread. As soon as he's done unraveling them, he just simply grabs another. But Woodcock meets his match when he runs into a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps), a woman who turns the artist's life upside down. Soon, the relationship goes from sweet to toxic, allowing Day-Lewis to unleash all his thespian powers along the way.

In addition to Day-Lewis and Krieps, the third star is Anderson, who sat behind the camera and created a movie that critics have compared to the films of Hitchcock and Kubrick. While it's lacking the fire and brimstone of There Will Be Blood, it's just as powerful in its suave and simmering, mild-mannered English way. And while we're all sorry to see Day-Lewis go, at least he left on his terms with a role that proudly stands alongside his other great performances.

The Disaster Artist

Widely considered one of the best bad movies ever made, The Room has left audiences howling for years with its bizarro scenes and nonsensical dialogue, courtesy of Tommy Wiseau. An oddball auteur who wrote, directed, and starred in this epically awful film, Wiseau has long been one of cinema's craziest and most mysterious characters. He's been treated as a laughingstock and a villain, but according to The Disaster Artist, maybe he's just the ultimate embodiment of the Hollywood dream.

Directed by James Franco—who's also playing Tommy in all his long-haired, slurred-speech glory—The Disaster Artist depicts the relationship between wannabe actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) and Wiseau, an out-of-control egomaniac with incredible amounts of cash and zero ability to memorize lines. Wiseau hopes to become an A-list star, but when he's rejected time and again, he decides to make his own movie, sucking Greg into the world's weirdest film shoot.

While it would be really easy to make Wiseau look completely foolish, Franco gives a much more layered performance that's being called one of his all-time best. According to film critic David Sims, "Franco is magnetic in the role, so committed to precisely replicating Wiseau's unique presence, that you understand why so many people went along for the ride with him." And as a result, we get a movie that critic Adam Graham described as "a sweet, emotionally engaging tribute to friendship, to movies and the importance of dreams."

In other words, this movie gets…high marks.

Stronger

Directed by David Gordon Green, Stronger stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany—two of the greatest actors working today—and really, what more do you need to know? If those bona fides aren't enough to get you intrigued, the plot is based on the memoir by Jeff Bauman, a man who lost both his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing.

As you've probably guessed, Gyllenhaal plays the emotionally and physically scarred Bauman, while Maslany plays his girlfriend Erin, a woman struggling to make their relationship work. But instead of playing out like sappy tearjerker, Stronger genuinely delves into Bauman's plight as an amputee and national icon, a man suffering from PTSD and a darkness that patriotic mottos will never heal. He suffers from depression and self-pity, which makes things difficult for Erin, who's trying to support him but sometimes finds it difficult to deal with a boyfriend lost in his own anger. In other words, this isn't a simple red-and-white-blue movie where love and American values conquer all. Instead, it's about a real relationship, with all its flaws, and how two people who love each other fight and grow stronger together in the face of both incredible and everyday odds.

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is a master at telling fairytales. In some other time, he would've been a village elder, enchanting everyone around the campfire with stories of ghosts and goblins. In the age of cinema, del Toro is the genius behind movies like Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone, and Crimson Peak, otherworldly films about love, war, innocence, death, and of course, monsters. And now the director has crafted what might be his magnum opus with The Shape of Water, a film that looks like Creature from the Black Lagoon but feels more like Beauty and the Beast.

This R-rated love story follows a mute janitor named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who works at a government lab and discovers an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones, beautifully disguised with prosthetics and CGI) locked away in the bowels of the building. Despite their very apparent differences, the two form a bond, and soon there's a romance brewing, one threatened by Cold War intrigue and a vicious military officer (Michael Shannon). The result is a truly magical movie, one that film critic Michael Phillips described as "a sexy, violent, preposterous, beautiful fantasy." Thanks to del Toro's gorgeous direction, coupled with moving performances from Hawkins and Jones, this tale as old as time will live on for decades to come.

Coco

The year 2017 was a mixed bag for animated films. On one hand, you've got absolute garbage like The Emoji Movie. On the other, you've got Coco, a delightful and colorful film from Pixar about the power of music, chasing your dreams, and the importance of family, especially members long lost to time.

The story follows a 12-year-old named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) who dreams of becoming a famous guitarist. Unfortunately, his family disapproves for mysterious reasons, but despite their best efforts, this boy has music in his veins—and when he walks into the tomb of his musical hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and finds his idol's guitar, he can't help but give it a few strums.

Big mistake. This is El Dia de Muertos, after all, and after playing the guitar, Miguel finds himself lost in the Land of the Dead. Luckily, this is no Dantean hellscape (although there is a goofy little dog named Dante). Instead, it's a vibrant world of blues and oranges and friendly skeletons. However, if Miguel doesn't return to the real world soon, he'll stay in the underworld for good.

Admittedly, Coco doesn't compare with The Incredibles or Finding Nemo, but it's still a grand animated adventure and an absolute feast for the eyes…when you can see through your tears, anyway. This is a Pixar movie, after all, so there are going to be waterworks along with your laughs, and some pretty profound lessons about life and death.