Here’s a creepy fun fact: Thrillers are killing at the cinema in 2017.
The first half of this year has unleashed cinematic social movements (thanks, Wonder Woman!), another Disney uber-hit in Beauty and the Beastthat’s making sure Scrooge McDuck has plenty of gold coins to swim in, and a remarkably deep bench of indie films where stuff goes bump in the night, including the post-apocalyptic It Comes at Night, cannibal-crazy French film Raw and Kristen Stewart ghost movie Personal Shopper.
Movies with giant monsters have a high bar to meet now with Nacho Vigalondo’s inarguably original comedy-drama about a struggling young woman (Anne Hathaway) who discovers one hangover-filled morning that she controls a huge creature stomping all over Seoul. The film lovingly tweaks disaster-movie conventions, yet it’s also very much a thoughtful character study about addiction, bullying and throwing down, Godzilla-style, for what’s right.
Little Hedwig is one of the many personas of Kevin (James McAvoy) in ‘Split.’ (Photo: Universal Pictures)
For those who’ve been waiting for M. Night Shyamalan to get back to his old form, hallelujah for this twisty delight. An intriguing semi-sequel to his hit Unbreakable, the psychological drama about a man with 23 (wait, make that 24) very different personalities is an unexpected tour de force for James McAvoy, who has to play the many parts of former soldier Kevin Crumb, from 10-year-old child to superhuman beast.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) feels the music when chased by the cops in ‘Baby Driver.’ (Photo: Wilson Webb)
Melanie Lynskey plays a woman beset by life on all sides in ‘I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore.’ (Photo: Allyson Riggs)
7. ‘I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore’
This comedy thriller is both empowering adventure and cautionary tale: A woman (Melanie Lynskey) beset by life finally snaps after her home is burglarized. She and her wacky neighbor (Elijah Wood) embark on a vigilante mission that goes hilariously and violently wrong because neither of them is exactly Batman. Of all the good original movies on Netflix (including Okja and Shimmer Lake), World sticks with you the most.
Star-Lord (Chris Pratt, left) meets his dad Ego (Kurt Russell) in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.’ (Photo: Marvel Studios)
Come for the talking raccoon, stay for the study in parenthood. The return of Marvel’s cosmic misfit heroes is a lovely combo of depth and goofiness: Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) meets his real dad (Kurt Russell), the whole team needs to take care of Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), but it’s space outlaw Yondu (Michael Rooker) who most embraces his mantle as a father figure during a heartfelt redemptive arc.
An occultist (Steve Oram) performs black magic on a grieving mother (Catherine Walker) in ‘A Dark Song.’ (Photo: IFC Films)
5. ‘A Dark Song’
It’s a slow-burn story of a woman (Catherine Walker) renting a Welsh house for a black magic ritual to summon a guardian angel and speak with her murdered son, but when the crazy stuff kicks in, this British horror flick becomes deeply affecting. The mom struggles with an oddball occultist (Steve Oram) and goes through all manner of weirdness on a mission more of revenge than love, leading to a climax that is beautiful, thoughtful and surprising.
Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan star as the central lovebirds of the romantic comedy ‘The Big Sick.’ (Photo: Sarah Shatz)
4. ‘The Big Sick’
This year has been full of comedic duds (you’re not forgiven for Baywatch yet, Rock). The lone standout is Kumail Nanjiani’s quasi-autobiographical tale about a stand-up comedian who falls for a young grad student (Zoe Kazan), breaks up with her because of his Pakistani family, then figures out his real feelings when she’s in a coma. At a time when Hollywood has a dearth of comedic leading men, Nanjiani proves himself a true superstar.
Batman (voiced by Will Arnett) has to overcome his loner tendencies in ‘The Lego Batman Movie.’ (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
3. ‘The Lego Batman Movie’
How do you make the best Batman movie since The Dark Knight? By crafting a kid-friendly, joyously insane comedy that upends the Gotham City vigilante’s inherent gritty bro-ness and loner reputation. Voiced by Will Arnett, this Caped Crusader has the sickest abs and the coolest toys, yet it’s not The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) attacking his city that makes him who he needs to be but instead the family that has been around him the whole time.
Laura (Dafne Keen, left) and Logan (Hugh Jackman) hit the road in ‘Logan.’ (Photo: Ben Rothstein)
Hugh Jackman’s grand finale as Wolverine is part Western, part family drama and all business with the old retired antihero dusting off the metal claws one last time. Jackman’s character is more brutal than ever as he struggles with his mortality, but the highlight is the relationship with his equally primal little-girl counterpart (Dafne Keen). They fight, bicker and ultimately love each other with an unequaled grace in the superpowered genre.
Daniel Kaluuya stars as a young black man who finds out the sinister reason he was invited to meet his girlfriend’s family in ‘Get Out.’ (Photo: Universal Pictures)
1. ‘Get Out’
Director Jordan Peele’s psychological horror movie has become a socially conscious phenomenon — and for good reason. Get Out is supremely impressive in the clever and biting manner it looks at racism, culture and humanity with the story of a young African-American man’s weekend in hell at his white girlfriend’s family manor. Most key, though, it makes us question how we treat one another at a time when common decency seems to be most needed.