2017's 50 best movies: A tough year to choose

This was such a stellar year for movies that narrowing down our annual list of the 50 best proved extraordinarily more difficult than in years past. There were superhero movies in top form (Wonder Woman, Thor: Ragnarok), highly anticipated sequels that exceeded expectations (Blade Runner 2049, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), and, as it currently stands, several films so beloved that they have a reasonable shot at winning Best Picture at next year’s Academy Awards ceremony (including The Post, Get Out, Lady Bird, Dunkirk, Call Me by Your Name, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). Click through to see how Yahoo Entertainment scored 2017’s best cinematic achievements.

50. ‘It’

Stephen King said it best to us earlier this year: “Clowns are scary. There’s just no way around that.” And, apologies to Tim Curry, Bill Skarsgård’s take on It‘s demon clown elevates the scary to a whole new level with his twitchy-dancing, children-chomping, nightmare-inducing Pennywise. (Just ask poor Georgie.) He meets his match in the Losers Club, a terrific collection of kids who bring surprising humor and emotional depth to the summer chiller that became the highest-grossing horror movie ever. — Marcus Errico (Photo: New Line Cinema)

49. ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’

Colin Farrell and director Yorgos Lanthimos’s second straight collaboration (after last year’s The Lobster) is an equally strange, if far more sinister, drama, one that derives both suspense and laughter from its bizarre extremeness. The story of a surgeon (Farrell) whose life, and family (including wife Nicole Kidman), are forever altered by the appearance of a strange teenager (a creepy Barry Keoghan), it’s a dark, delirious, deliberately allegorical morality play. — Nick Schager (Photo: Everett Collection)

48. ‘The Incredible Jessica James’

It’s hard to tell how much this one resonated with viewers, or even how many people saw it: That’s one downside to hot Sundance titles selling to Netflix, where metrics go unreported. But hopefully there are enough of you out there who know what we’re talking about when we say this hilarious Jim Strouse-directed rom-com about two lovelorn New Yorkers (Jessica Williams and Chris O’Dowd) finding each other should launch The Daily Show alum Williams as a movie star. — Kevin Polowy (Photo: Everett Collection)

47. ‘It Comes at Night’

For his second act, Krisha writer-director Trey Edward Shults moves from the horrors of a family holiday get-together to … actual horror, albeit in the most slow-burn and psychological forms of the genre. Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo are parents attempting to protect their desolate home from unknown outside terrors in the post-apocalyptic tale, and the film’s shocking ending gives new meaning to the concept of the call coming from inside the house. — K.P. (Photo: Everett Collection)

46. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2’

Marvel’s ragtag intergalactic hero squad returns for family reunion-style adventure in this amusing sequel from writer-director James Gunn, which involves the Guardians grappling with a variety of personal issues — including, crucially, Star Lord’s (Chris Pratt) discovery that his dad, Ego (Kurt Russell), is a living, breathing planet. Even when short on narrative momentum, it provides a wealth of banter-heavy humor — as well as the year’s most adorable do-gooder in Baby Groot. — N.S. (Photo: Everett Collection)

45. ‘Molly’s Game’

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, inspired by the true story of Molly Bloom’s multimillion-dollar underground poker game, is an adrenaline rush for fans of Sorkin’s fast-talking, one-upping characters. Jessica Chastain is dazzling as the brilliant, ultra-competitive antiheroine, who goes to great lengths to dominate a man’s world without utterly losing herself in the process. — Gwynne Watkins (Photo: Everett Collection)

44. ‘Personal Shopper’

Kristen Stewart reunites with French auteur Olivier Assayas for a heady ghost story that’ll haunt you after the credits roll. When she’s not ferrying clothes for Parisian celebrities, Stewart’s personal shopper reaches out to the spirit world, which comes in handy when she’s caught up in a murder mystery. Defying easy categorization at every turn, it’s also the first movie to make text messaging edge-of-your-seat exciting. — Ethan Alter (Photo: CG Cinéma)

43. ‘Downsizing’

It’s the most audacious effort yet from Alexander Payne, writer-director of Election and Sideways, and it has drawn some love-it-or-hate-it reactions from critics. But just give yourself over to Payne’s clever satire about a future where humans (including Matt Damon’s Exceptionally Average Joe) can shrink down to the size of insects to live like kings in miniature suburban developments and you’ll be rewarded with big laughs, sharp insight about greed versus the greater good, and a star-making turn from newcomer Hong Chau. — K.P. (Photo: Everett Collection)

42. ‘Lady Macbeth’

One of the year’s finest big-screen performances was delivered by 21-year-old newcomer Florence Pugh in William Oldroyd’s period drama, in which the actress stars as a young 19th-century woman who bristles at her arranged-marriage life with an older man. As its title suggests, what ensues is feminine fury most foul, energized by Oldroyd’s assured, foreboding direction and Pugh’s mesmerizing turn as a figure of ferocious independence and defiance. — N.S. (Photo: Everett Collection)

41. ‘Battle of the Sexes’

Cinema’s first great tennis movie doesn’t just score points for its top-notch on-court action. Like the best sports films, Battle of the Sexes puts its characters first — all the better to enhance the drama of the climactic big game. Equally dramatic is the movie’s all-too-timely re-creation of an era when even the most accomplished women struggled to be heard and believed by society at large. — E.A. (Photo: Everett Collection)

40. ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

Winter Soldier was the political thriller. Ant-Man, the heist movie. Jon Watts’s rebooted Spider-Man gives the Marvel Cinematic Universe its John Hughes-esque high school dramedy. Tom Holland is perfect as the teenaged Peter Parker, fronting a formidable ensemble that includes the scenery-chomping Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Keaton and the scene-stealing Zendaya and Jacob Batalon. A superhero film bound to get your Spidey senses tingling. — M.E. (Photo: Everett Collection)

39. ‘Gerald’s Game’

Carla Gugino absolutely slays this one-woman showcase, adapted from Stephen King’s 1992 novel, which is more of a taut survival story than a clown-infested horror show like It. Gerald’s Game director Mike Flanagan uses the book’s limited setting and intensely interior point of view to his advantage. We’re trapped alongside Gugino and experience her exquisitely performed physical and emotional breakdown in almost real time. Handcuffs not included. — E.A. (Photo: Everett Collection)

38. ‘The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)’

A family tries to reconcile their actual lives with the stories they tell one another in Noah Baumbach’s funny, deeply moving ensemble piece. Dustin Hoffman gives his best performance in years as Harold Meyerowitz, an aging artist in denial about his legacy (or lack thereof), while Adam Sandler, as the oldest of Harold’s three children, puts his other recent films in depressing perspective by reminding audiences that he can actually act. — G.W. (Photo: Everett Collection)

37. ‘Mother!’

Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! is by far the most polarizing movie of the year. Is it a horror film? A biblical allegory? A parable about climate change? Ask three different people and you’ll get three different answers, and that’s what makes Mother! such a memorably ambitious work of art. The film’s third act is so out of control, it’s guaranteed to elicit an emotional response, whether you loved it or hated it. — Brett Arnold (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

36. ‘Columbus’

A Korean-American man (John Cho) and a Caucasian woman (Haley Lu Richardson) strike up an unlikely friendship — developed through their conversations while visiting some of Columbus, Ind.’s many striking architectural marvels — in this contemplative drama about ambition, obligation, and the unexpected beauty lying beneath familiar surfaces. Making his feature debut, director Kogonada proves, with every gorgeously arranged visual composition, that he’s a formidable new talent to watch. — N.S. (Photo: Everett Collection)

35. ‘Dawson City: Frozen Time’

Bill Morrison’s latest nonfiction gem is constructed from hundreds of reels of silent movies — discovered buried in a swimming pool in the Yukon River outpost of Dawson City — that were thought to have been lost forever. Combined with rare archival footage and photos, and set to Alex Somers’s melancholic score, this unforgettable documentary proves a sweeping history lesson, a sorrowful meditation on memory and time, and a stirring act of cinematic resurrection. — N.S. (Photo: Everett Collection)

34. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

Thor hasn’t exactly brought the thunder in his solo adventures, with his standalone Marvel movies failing to reach the loftier heights of fellow Avengers Iron Man and Captain America. All that changed with this Taika Waititi-helmed installment, which adds the considerable talents of Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, and Tessa Thompson to the mix along with a liberal dose of meta humor and Hulk-on-Thor violence. Forget the plot and enjoy the spacey ride; Ragnarok truly rocks. — M.E (Photo: Everett Collection)

33. ‘I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore’

In this fantastically entertaining crime film, Ruth, the fed-up nursing assistant played by Melanie Lynskey, enlists her reclusive, martial-arts-obsessed neighbor (Elijah Wood) to help her track down the thieves who stole a family heirloom. Her goal isn’t revenge; rather, she’s seeking evidence that a shred of human decency is left in the world. In 2017, who can’t relate? Inevitably, events spiral out of control, and first-time director Macon Blair self-assuredly steers his characters into a bloody, absurd journey that brings them something like redemption. — G.W. (Photo: Netflix)

32. ‘The Breadwinner’

For her follow-up to 2009’s The Secret of Kells (which she co-helmed), director Nora Twomey tackles Islamic misogyny with this poignant animated tale about a young Afghanistan girl who, after her father is arrested and imprisoned by the Taliban, must dress as a boy to provide for her family. It’s a powerful saga of intolerant oppression and feminist rebellion, rendered via vibrant, evocative visuals that bring its adult material to full-bodied life. — N.S. (Photo: Everett Collection)

31. ‘The Beguiled’

Sofia Coppola’s bewitching chamber piece is deceptively simple, a drama about an isolated boarding school in the Civil War-era South (the headmistress is played by Nicole Kidman), where the all-female residents’ lives are upended by the arrival of a wounded soldier (a fabulous, sneaky Colin Farrell). The film’s Southern Gothic story is threaded with a subversive feminist narrative about how women secretly build their own worlds apart from men, and how easily male violence can threaten those protected spaces. It’s a sumptuous, elegant film with a deadly bite. — G.W. (Photo: Everett Collection)

30. ‘Girls Trip’

It may stick to the typical “women behaving badly” formula of its premise, but Girls Trip is ultimately a story about female empowerment, where finding love isn’t the goal and happy endings can mean finding true friendship instead. As you may have heard, Tiffany Haddish steals the film as the funemployed Dina, who would do anything — literally anything — for her friends, and in turn would make anyone want to join “the flossy posse.” — Jen Kucsak (Photo: Everett Collection)

29. ‘Loveless’

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev vivisects his native land in a searing social critique wrapped in the guise of a devastating missing child story. When a young boy vanishes, his estranged parents halfheartedly attempt to put their broken family first… but it may already be too late. Loveless presents a brutally stark vision of contemporary Russia, a place where public and private lives appear to be crumbling from within. — E.A. (Photo: Everett Collection)

28. ‘I, Tonya’

In the ’90s it became fodder for made-for-TV movies, so who would’ve ever thought the Tonya Harding story would someday make for an Oscar contender? Margot Robbie (as Harding with barely there makeup and frizzy hair) and Allison Janney (as her deliciously foul-mouthed mother) are one of the best mother-daughter screen duos in ages. As for who’s telling the truth, as Harding says in the film: “There’s no such thing as truth… it’s all bulls***.” Couldn’t have summed up this year any better. — J.K. (Photo: Everett Collection)

27. ‘Your Name’

Your Name wasn’t just great anime, it was a great movie, full stop. Director Makoto Shinkai crafts a beautifully told and inventive story about two high schoolers from different walks of life, connected only through dreams, that includes not only several unexpected twists but also surprisingly funny moments. Seriously, there was no movie quite like this one this year. — Will Lerner (Photo: Everett Collection)

26. ‘Logan Lucky’

Expect Steven Soderbergh’s hillbilly heist movie to become a cable staple for years to come, right alongside easy-breezy capers like The Italian Job and the director’s three Ocean’s adventures. It’s almost criminal how much fun Soderbergh and his cast — including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and some newcomer named Daniel Craig — are having, and their obvious enthusiasm ensures that audiences at home won’t feel ripped off. — E.A. (Photo: Everett Collection)

25. ‘Wonder Woman’

The first film in our superhero-glutted decade to star a female comic-book crusader, Patty Jenkins’s movie was greeted with superhuman expectations. The director exceeded them, not by reinventing the genre but returning it to form. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is the purest definition of a superhero: an idealist who’s stronger, kinder, smarter, and, well, better than the rest of us. The No Man’s Land sequence, in which our heroine singlehandedly liberates an occupied village, was one of the most thrilling theatrical moments of 2017. — G.W. (Photo: Everett Collection)

24. ‘Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond’

Chris Smith’s superb documentary reveals that there really was a method to Jim Carrey’s Method-actor madness on the set of the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic Man in the Moon. At the same time, Jim & Andy also exposes how that level of crazy commitment took a toll on Carrey and everyone around him. Far more than just a glorified Blu-ray bonus feature, the film both celebrates and punctures the mystique of the Method. — E.A. (Photo: Netflix)

23. ‘Darkest Hour’

A startlingly unrecognizable Gary Oldman gives the performance of a lifetime — and the best performance of the year, period — as a curmudgeonly, volatile Winston Churchill desperately attempting to avoid surrendering to the Nazis in his first few days as prime minister of England. Joe Wright’s stirring behind-the-scenes docudrama (a perfect companion piece for Christopher Nolan’s WWII battleground pic Dunkirk) drives home how the efforts of a single man can alter the course of history for billions of others. — K.P. (Photo: Everett Collection)

22. ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’

Every great superhero comes equipped with an equally great origin story. In her unfairly neglected third feature, writer-director Angela Robinson explores the fascinating real-world circumstances that led a former college professor and the two women in his life to create DC Comics’ Amazon warrior and reigning box-office champ. Robinson’s movie is just like the early Wonder Woman comics: proudly feminist and playfully erotic. — E.A. (Photo: Everett Collection)

21. ‘The Shape of Water’

Guillermo del Toro’s latest film has no business working as well as it does. It’s a sexually charged romance starring a fish-person that looks straight out of Creature From the Black Lagoon and a mute Sally Hawkins, which sounds insane on paper but turns out to be quite lovely. Hawkins registers an incredibly affecting performance, rendered all the more impressive considering she does it all wordlessly. — B.A. (Photo: Everett Collection)

20. ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

Frances McDormand gives a ferocious, burn-down-the-screen performance in this Midwestern noir, about a mother determined at all costs to solve her daughter’s murder. Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s film is set up like a whodunit, but it’s something much more surprising and complex: a profane, darkly funny fable about how anger and grief can drive us to self-destruction if we can’t see past our rage to find each other. — G.W. (Photo: Everett Collection)

19. ‘Logan’

If Logan was truly Hugh Jackman’s final appearance as Wolverine, it was a masterful exit. Every bit of Jackman’s 17 years as the hero came through in the claws-down best movie in the X-Men franchise. Writer-director James Mangold not only captured an award-worthy showcase from Jackman, he got the very best from Patrick Stewart in his final appearance as Professor X, plus an exciting breakout performance from newcomer Dafne Keen. — W.L. (Photo: Everett Collection)

18. ‘Okja’

This is what the future of global moviemaking looks like. Updating Old Yeller for the Fast Food Nation age, South Korean hit-maker Bong Joon-ho confidently blends Western spectacle and movie stars with Far East themes and tonal shifts. Okja is the kind of thrilling cross-cultural extravaganza where a giant CGI pig rampages through a department store in Seoul while Colorado’s own John Denver croons on the soundtrack and it seems entirely normal. — E.A. (Photo: Everett Collection)

17. ‘Baby Driver’

Never before have we seen a filmmaker simultaneously direct and DJ a movie the way Edgar Wright does in Baby Driver. One part adrenaline-rushing heist movie, one part charming love story, all parts set (and carefully choreographed) to a killer soundtrack, Wright’s best movie yet (which is a saying a lot, considering Shaun of the Dead) draws up an impossible concoction of sweet badassery. — K.P. (Photo: Everett Collection)

16. ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Director Denis Villeneuve’s visually breathtaking return to Ridley Scott’s dystopian Los Angeles delivered an atmospheric, enigmatic, enthralling story of an android-hunting cop (Ryan Gosling) tracking down his on-the-lam predecessor (Harrison Ford) to puzzle out an existential mystery. Multilayered and worthy of multiple viewings, 2049, like the original, is destined to become a cult classic. — M.E. (Photo: Everett Collection)

15. ‘Dunkirk’

With larger-than-life artistry, Christopher Nolan fractures time and space to depict the evacuation of Allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, in this thrillingly unconventional WWII epic. Split between land, sea, and aerial perspectives, Nolan presents a harrowing micro-and-macro vision of heroism, cowardice, and sacrifice, told with a wide-canvas splendor that — especially when experienced on a 70mm Imax screen — is nothing short of breathtaking. — N.S. (Photo: Everett Collection)

14. ‘The Lost City of Z’

We’ll just have to hope that like its subject, Col. Percy Fawcett, the underseen Lost City of Z is ahead of its time and will gain more fans as the years go by. Star Charlie Hunnam put in the best work of his career in capturing Fawcett’s obsession with the ancient civilizations of the Amazon. Also featuring wonderful turns from Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, and Angus Macfadyen, this movie deserved a wider audience. — W.L. (Photo: Everett Collection)

13. ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

Director Matt Reeves managed to tell one of the most earnest, compelling stories of a complicated leader fighting for survival in 2017. It just so happened that that leader is an ape named Caesar. Andy Serkis continues to be overlooked during awards season for his motion capture work, and it’s unfortunate because his performance was so visceral and lived-in that it made for heart-pounding scenes between his ape and costar Woody Harrelson. — W.L. (Photo: Everett Collection)

12. ‘Good Time’

The latest film from the Safdie brothers may not be the most pleasant movie-watching experience, but it’s a thrilling, visually stunning assault on the senses that features a hell of a performance from former Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson. With its bevy of kooky characters and unforgettably uncomfortable scenarios, it’s destined to become a contemporary crime classic. — B.A. (Photo: Everett Collection)

11. ‘Phantom Thread’

If Daniel Day-Lewis is, as he claims, retiring from acting after Phantom Thread, then he goes out on top, delivering an expertly nuanced portrait of consuming desire and fastidious neediness as a celebrated dressmaker who falls into a relationship with a waitress (newcomer Vicky Krieps). Paul Thomas Anderson’s silky direction only enhances the graceful refinement, and twisted passion, of this unconventional romance, which is as sumptuous as it is spiky. — N.S. (Photo: Focus Film)