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10 Wide Releases in 2017 That Exceeded Expectations

Written by on December 14, 2017 


While wide releases like Star Wars: The Last JediDunkirk, Baby Driver, John Wick: Chapter 2, and Logan Lucky either met or fulfilled expectations this year, we had to dig deep for the studio films that caught us pleasantly off-guard. While much of our year-end coverage will be focusing on the overlooked gems, today we’re highlighting the few major releases that left us surprised.

Note that the below ten features are strictly films that received a wide release on their opening weekend and not ones that eventually expanded with a roll-out. Some, for various reasons, arrived with virtually little-to-no anticipation around these parts, while others wildly exceeded our standard expectations, and a few managed to be among our favorites of the year.

Check out our selections below and let us know what surprised you most in 2017.

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve)


It is hard to say where exactly expectations were for this movie at the outset. On the one hand, decades-later sequels to classic films have never been a solid bet in terms of quality. On the other, the talent lined up to bring this film to life was staggering. Denis Villeneuve has a nearly unblemished track record for creating smart, tense movies on a large scale, and his work with Roger Deakins has been unimpeachable. But even with a strong cast—including a returning Harrison Ford—nothing was certain walking into this film. Luckily, Blade Runner 2049 turned out to be one of the smartest, most visually stunning films of the year. Not only that, but with a story that focuses on the exploitation of an underclass primarily personified by women, the film turned out to be extremely timely as well. – Brian R.

Get Out (Jordan Peele)


Jordan Peele—who was best known for his work on the sketch comedy show Key and Peele—made waves when it was announced that he was moving into the world of feature films, and those waves only got bigger when it turned out that his first film would be a horror film. Expectations for Get Out were high, especially after its first incendiary trailer, and yet somehow the film managed to surpass them. Between the strong performances of Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, and LilRey Howery and the enviable direction from Peele, the film runs like a well-oiled machine from start to finish. That’s even before you get into the fact that the film is one of the most adroit pieces of social commentary to have been crafted in recent years regarding racism in America, especially in those places where people assume racism has been “solved.” Between the clockwork plotting, heady ideas, and brilliant execution, Get Out was one of the few films this year begin with high expectations and clear them with space to spare. – Brian R.

Girls Trip (Malcolm D. Lee)


This raucous tale of black female friendship is like The Odyssey, but with absinthe-fueled dance-offs and grapefruit blowjobs — call it The Flossiad. Tracy Oliver and Kenya Barris’ manic but heartfelt script goes from smart to brilliant through a quartet of god-level comic actors.Tiffany Haddish has (deservedly) gained the lion’s share of popular attention for her breakout role as party animal Dina, but all of the leads rank among the best performances of the year. In particular, Jada Pinkett Smith (never in enough things) shines as the beautifully awkward and desperately needing a lay Lisa. Even the industry’s typical underestimation of the strength of black and female stories couldn’t stop the funniest movie of the year from triumphing with critics and at the box office. – Dan S.

It (Andrés Muschietti)


With a more ceremonious unveiling than the other Hollywood adaptation of a Stephen King property this year, It is slickly calibrated to please its spook-hungry audience. Functioning more as a roller coaster ride of frights and humor than a dread-inducing exercise in terror, Andy Muschietti’s Mama follow-up doesn’t have the inspired vision or thematic complexity to join Brian De Palma and Stanley Kubrick in the pantheon of the (very few) masterful cinematic retellings of the celebrated author. However, for a Halloween precursor, there is a respectable amount of carnivalesque mischief to be found in this cinematic equivalent of a deranged jack-in-the-box. Read my full review. – Jordan R.

Logan (James Mangold)


“Whatever Disney would do, do the exact opposite.” It’s unlikely that James Mangold and crew took this as a conscious creed in the production of western/thriller/sci-fi superhero adaptation Logan, but they might as well have done so. Lean, gruesome, bleak, tragic, and possessing an air of morbid finality — supposedly Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s final performances as beloved superheroes Wolverine and Professor Charles Xavier after 17 years — the decisively R-rated film is antithetical in nearly every single aesthetic choice to the tangled, homogeneous mass of blockbuster Marvel Comics adaptations with which Disney has saturated the market. Even more antithetical, and more significant: the film is clearly the work Mangold and company wanted to make, and Fox — perhaps eager to prove a point before the House of Mouse as they struggle to retain their few remaining Marvel licenses — gave them seemingly unreserved freedom to do so. Using the conventions of the superhero genre and the established continuity of prior films as creative springboards rather than ends unto themselves, the film dares to tell a self-contained, character-driven story with a beginning, middle and end; one that, for better or worse, borrows as much from the elegiac postmodern western as Marvel’s heroic pulp fantasy. – Eli F.

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