Why are some films blockbusters and others flops? Is it lackluster marketing? Is it a poorly-timed premiere? Is it an uninspired trailer? Or is it merely misfortune?
2017, like countless years before it, saw the highest box office grosses go to big-budget superheroes, sequels, and franchise reboots, while critical favourites slipped through the cracks to be seen by only the most astute cinemagoers.
A growing number of Hollywood A-listers are appearing in independent films and smaller projects, providing starpower to flicks that would otherwise be overlooked. These hidden gems bring much-needed originality in the saturated entertainment industry, and as we head into awards season, it’s time to revist the year’s most slept-on cinematic experiences.
Try one of these underrated films of 2017 next time you need a night in.
Official Synopsis: Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an out-of-work girl who, after getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend, is forced to leave her life in New York and move back to her hometown. When news reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul in South Korea, Gloria gradually comes to the realisation that she is somehow connected to his far-off phenomenon. As events begin to spin out of control, Gloria must determine why her seemingly insignificant existence has such a colossal effect on the fate of the world.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
What Critics Said: “Made on a budget that would just about cover Kong’s left bicep, Colossal is cool, smart filmmaking, with plot developments that will be talked about for a long time to come.” (Empire)
A Ghost Story
Official Synopsis: Acclaimed director David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) returns with a singular exploration of legacy, loss, and the essential human longing for meaning and connection. Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost (Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. An unforgettable meditation on love and grief, A Ghost Story emerges ecstatic and surreal—a wholly-unique experience that lingers long after the credits roll.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
What Critics Said: “This very special movie casts a fine, delicate spell; many may resist it, but those who go along with it may find themselves profoundly moved, transported to a soul-stirring, poetically cosmic place.” (Common Sense Media)
Official Synopsis: The Logans are a hardscrabble family from the hills of West Virginia, and their clan has been famous for its bad luck for nearly 90 years. But the conniving Jimmy Logan decides it’s time to turn the family’s luck around, and with a little help from his friends, the Redneck Robbers, he plans to steal $14 million from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Logan Lucky is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, Katherine Waterson, and Hillary Swank.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
What Critics Said: “Logan Lucky is an entertaining romp powered by a smart script, strong performances across the board, and great direction.” (Screen Rant)
Official Synopsis: Stronger is the inspiring true story of Jeff Bauman, an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become the symbol of hope following the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Jeff, a 27-year-old, working-class Boston man who was at the marathon to try and win back his ex-girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Waiting for her at the finish line when the blast occurs, he loses both his legs in the attack. After regaining consciousness in the hospital, Jeff is able to help law enforcement identify one of the bombers, but his own battle has just begun.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
What Critics Said: “…the movie shouldn’t be dismissed as just another true-life drama to catch on cable TV someday; Stronger is a profound, sensitively made gem.” (The Atlantic)
Ingrid Goes West
Official Synopsis: Following the death of her mother and a series of self-inflicted setbacks, young Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) escapes a humdrum existence by moving out West to befriend her Instagram obsession and LA socialite Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). After a quick bond is forged between these unlikeliest of friends, the façade begins to crack in both women’s lives — with comically malicious results.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
What Critics Said: “A very smart take on the stalker movie, which resists easy laughs for harder truths, and might make you think twice the next time you’re lining up a photo for social media.” (Empire)
Official Synopsis: After a botched bank robbery lands his younger brother in prison, Constantine “Connie” Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a twisted odyssey through the city’s underworld in an increasingly desperate—and dangerous—attempt to get his brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out of jail. Over the course of one adrenalised night, Connie finds himself on a mad descent into violence and mayhem as he races against the clock to save his brother and himself, knowing their lives hang in the balance.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
What Critics Said: “Containing as much forward motion as any film in recent memory, Good Time is as heartbreaking as it is exhilarating.” (Wall Street Journal)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Official Synopsis: Steven (Colin Farrell), an eminent cardiothoracic surgeon is married to Anna (Nicole Kidman), a respected ophthalmologist. They are well off and live a happy and healthy family life with their two children. Steven has formed a friendship with Martin, a fatherless 16-year-old boy whom he has taken under his wing. Things take a sinister turn when Steven introduces Martin to his family, gradually throwing their world into turmoil and forcing Steven to make a shocking sacrifice or run the risk of losing everything.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
What Critics Said: “Working as a profound meditation on karma, predestination and guilt and a proper scary movie, this is near career-best work from all involved. Be warned: this is tough stuff.” (Empire)
Official Synopsis: In a coming-of-age story straight out of Jersey, an unlikely rapper finds her voice as a one-of-a-kind hip-hop legend in the making in Patti Cake$, the first feature film from acclaimed commercial and music-video director Geremy Jasper. Set in gritty strip-mall suburbia, Patti Cake$ chronicles an underdog’s quest for fame and glory with humour, raw energy and some unforgettable beats.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
What Critics Said: “Geremy Jasper’s dynamic debut crackles with energy and grassroots authenticity.” (Hollywood Reporter)
The Florida Project
Official Synopsis: Set on a stretch of highway just outside the imagined utopia of Disney World, The Florida Project follows six-year-old Moonee and her rebellious mother Halley over the course of a single summer. The two live week to week at “The Magic Castle,” a budget motel managed by Bobby (Willem Dafoe), whose stern exterior hides a deep reservoir of kindness and compassion. Despite her harsh surroundings, the precocious and ebullient Moonee has no trouble making each day a celebration of life – unbeknownst to her, however, her delicate fantasy is supported by the toil and sacrifice of Halley, who is forced to explore increasingly dangerous possibilities in order to provide for her daughter. The Florida Project gives life and a voice to a community rarely seen on screen, creating a spellbinding portrait of contemporary lives lived in the margins.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
What Critics Said: “This is a near-perfect film, and a heightening in every way of everything that was great about Baker’s last movie.” (Vulture)
Official Synopsis: Superfan James is obsessed with the clever if quaintly goofy kids’ show Brigsby Bear Adventures to the point of religiosity. A bright, sensitive young adult still living at home, he has grown up with this fantasy series, and the program has grown with him as well, getting more complex over the years. When the show abruptly ends, James’s life changes forever. He becomes Brigsby Bear‘s new creator instead of just a viewer in the dark, and sets out to finish the story. Along the way, he finally accesses the meaningful connections his life has lacked, and produces an inventively offbeat and profoundly uplifting love letter to the redemptive power of creativity.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
What Critics Said: “Brigsby Bear… is an endlessly surprising little charmer of a film that makes sincerity and sweetness into a cinematic virtue again.” (The Verge)