2017 has now crossed the halfway mark, so it’s time to take a look back at the first six months and round up our favorite titles thus far. While the end of this year will bring personal favorites from all of our writers, think of the below 28 entries as a comprehensive rundown of what should be seen before heading into a promising fall line-up.

Do note that this feature is based solely on U.S. theatrical releases from 2017, with many currently widely available on streaming platforms or theatrically. Check them out below, as organized alphabetically, followed by honorable mentions and films to keep on your radar for the remaining summer months. One can also see the list on Letterboxd.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Steve James)


Steve James’ filmography has long been about finding entry into larger conversations through intimate portraits. The director’s landmark debut, Hoop Dreams, and latter-day efforts like 2014’s monument to critic Roger Ebert, Life Itself, don’t have much in common on the surface, but they both use their central characters to tell larger stories about big picture topics like structural dysfunction and the purpose of film criticism. That double purpose is the quiet genius of James’ latest documentary, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. – Michael S. (full review)

After the Storm (Hirokazu Kore-eda)

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Can our children pick and choose the personality traits they inherit, or are they doomed to obtain our lesser qualities? These are the hard questions being meditated on in After the Storm, a sobering, transcendent tale of a divorced man’s efforts to nudge back into his son’s life. Beautifully shot by regular cinematographer Yutaka Yamasaki, it marks a welcome and quite brilliant return to serious fare for writer-editor-director Hirokazu Kore-eda following last year’s Our Little Sister, widely regarded as one of the slightest works of his career thus far. – Rory O. (full review)

All These Sleepless Nights (Michal Marczak)

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Blurring the line between documentary and fiction like few films before it, Michal Marczak‘s All These Sleepless Nights is a music-filled ode to the ever-shifting bliss and angst of youth set mostly in the wee hours of the day in Warsaw, Poland. Marczak himself, who also plays cinematographer, is wary to delineate the line between narrative and nonfiction, and part of the film’s joy is forgoing one’s grasp on this altering perspective, rather simply getting wrapped up in the immaculately-shot allure of its location. – Jordan R. (full review)

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright)


Whether or not he is, in fact, the first person who thought to create rhythm between non-diegetic music cues and diegetic gunshots, the gesture is but a plethora of instances throughout his newest film, Baby Driver, wherein Edgar Wright eats his cake while having it, too. Impressive yet par for the course: his run from 2004’s Shaun of the Dead to our current moment has been modern comedic cinema’s best, full stop, because Wright doesn’t simply apply technical precision and innovation to genre-smart storytelling — he also makes what must be exhausting work look like so much fun. – Nick N. (full review)

The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola)


Cannon fire rumbles menacingly in the distance, but it’s human desire that might prove to be the greater threat after all in The Beguiled. Set to the backdrop of the American Civil War, Sofia Coppola‘s film is a sumptuous and often campy erotic horror, one that marks a confident debut genre outing for a director better-known for contemporary and often quite personal filmmaking (Lost in Translation, Somewhere, etc.). Although primarily based on the 1966 book by Thomas Cullinan, it appears, at first glance, to be a remake of Don Siegel’s 1971 film adaptation rather than any sort of new reading of the original text. Coppola, of course, is far too clever for that. – Rory O. (full review)

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter)


From start to finish, The Big Sick, directed by Michael Showalter, works as a lovingly-rendered, cinematic answer to the dinner party question: “So how did you two meet?” Based on comedian Kumail Nanjiani‘s real life (he co-wrote the screenplay with his wife Emily V. Gordon), we meet Kumail (Nanjiani) as he finishes a stand-up set in Chicago. He becomes fast friends with a wooting heckler named Emily (Zoe Kazan, lovely), and a relationship begins to blossom. – Dan M. (full review)

Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo)


Whether the existence of time travel or an alien invasion, writer/director Nacho Vigalondo has proven king at dealing with large-scale concepts affecting small-scale characters. Always looking to portray how genre catastrophes are handled by nobodies on the ground without government credentials or scientific degrees, he continues this trend again with his latest monster movie Colossal … for the most part. After certain truths are revealed, it’s easy to discover how two former classmates in a sleepy city with one watering hole may have more to do with the chaos wrought by a giant Godzilla-sized humanoid creature in Seoul, South Korea than anyone would believe. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) have unfinished business together that’s ready to be unleashed and not even they know it’s there. – Jared M. (full review)

Dawson City: Frozen Time (Bill Morrison)


There is a scholarly theory that proposes films are always telling the story of their creation, singing an endless song about their own history. That seemed to have been literally the case in 1978 when Frank Barrett, a construction worker in Dawson City in the northern Yukon, discovered strips of nitrate film poking out of the earth in the site of a new recreation center — like stubborn blossoms trying to defeat the harshness of winter. Children had taken to lighting the visible strips on fire unaware that in the joy of the pyrotechnic display they were erasing history. Barrett’s unique discovery led to the unearthing of over 500 reels containing films made in the 1910s and 1920s, and considering that it is believed that 75% of all silent films were lost, this might have been the most important finding in the archaeology of film. Taking clips from these reels and solving the mystery of how they ended up buried in the Yukon, director Bill Morrison made Dawson City: Frozen Time which might just be the ultimate found footage film. – Jose S. (full review)

The Death of Louis XIV (Albert Serra)


A fair question to ask: why The Sun King now? Perhaps American icons are always ripe for deconstruction as, after all, we have the world’s greatest (or rather dwindling) superpower shoved down our throats seemingly everyday. Yet, on the subject of Louis XIV, having to ascribe any current European crisis to the need to resurrect one of France’s greatest kings seems foolhardy. But The Death of Louis XIV succeeds just enough on the pure terms of a formalist exercise, with mostly static shots in a series of rooms lit by candlelight as historical context seems to somewhat recede into the dark. – Ethan V. (full review)

Get Out (Jordan Peele)


Resisting a deep racial analysis in the vein of I Am Not Your Negro, master satirist Jordan Peele’s horror comedy Get Out requires an audience ready to hoot, holler, yell, and laugh along. In large part, his directorial debut is a success, a rare studio comedy/thriller with a surface-level social agenda. The true test of a film like this is rather simple: are we with it or do we resist? The answer is largely the former and Get Out has a great of fun satirizing our “post-racial” society in a horror comedy of manners, though it never actually tackles the depressing realities of the issue. – John F. (full review)

Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro)

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For beginning with a dedication to Setsuko Hara, recently departed muse of Ozu and Naruse, Hermia & Helena — the new film by Viola and The Princess of France director Matías Piñeiro — perhaps aligns us to be especially attuned to the Argentinian auteur’s use of female collaborators. One to already emphasize the charisma and big-screen friendly faces of frequent stars Agustina Munoz and Maria Villar, he still seems to have an ability to make them points of representation, not fetish. – Ethan V. (full review)

The Hero (Brett Haley)


It’s commonplace for a fan to say of an actor or actress they like: “I would watch him or her in anything.” The Hero, written and directed by Brett Haley, makes the case that one could watch Sam Elliott do most anything and be enraptured. Mind you, this is in no way a backhanded compliment. There’s plenty to grab on to here. – Dan M. (full review)

In Transit (Albert Maysles, Lynn True, David Usui, Nelson Walker III, and Benjamin Wu)


Ripe with rich source material each worthy of their own feature films, In Transit provides a glance into various lives and narratives. Some intersect and interact with each other, if only for a brief moment, others are singular: they opt to tell their story to us directly as we share an aural overview of a whole life, relationships, connections, missed opportunities and narratives yet to be written, each in transit. The final film by master vérité filmmaker Albert Maysles, the filmmaker and team (including co-directors Lynn True, Nelson Walker, David Usui, and Ben Wu) spend a few days aboard the Empire Builder, Amtrak’s long-distance line carrying passengers from the Midwest to the Northwest en route to Portland. – John F. (full review)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski)


Closer to an expansion of its predecessor than a true follow-up all its own, John Wick: Chapter 2 offers a fair share of what already worked while ironing out a few rough spots. Which isn’t to say the formula’s been perfected just yet. The basic set-up might hint at this: some unfinished business from John Wick’s last crusade rears its head in an explosive, fiery way. Before you ask, worry not: his new dog makes it through all right, as revealed in one of this movie’s simpler and, tellingly, more clever images, a quiet subversion of where you think things are headed. The reluctant killer now finds himself carrying out an assassination plot, caught in a double-cross, the subject of a big-game bounty hunt, and some other scenarios that, who are we kidding, are the threads stringing us from one action sequence to another and one killing to the next. So, so many killings. – Nick N. (full review)

Kedi (Ceyda Torun)


I’m not going to mince words: Kedi will go down as the most unabashedly adorable film of the year. While there are self-proclaimed “dog people” out there, it is difficult to deny the power of a gorgeously composed, blissful image of a cat loving life. Nor can it be understated how infectious their playful and sleuthy energy is. This is the sweet spot in which Kedi resides. However, it has more on its mind than a cute YouTube compilation. Instead, the film is focused on the fascinating existence of our feline friends, and how they interact with — and occasionally guide — us humans. – Mike M. (full review)

Logan (James Mangold)


It will be a little worrying for some readers to consider that it’s been 17 years since Hugh Jackman first broke out the adamantium claws. Since then, the affable Aussie megastar has enjoyed nine outings as the mutant Wolverine to varying degrees of success. He bows out of the series with a considerable amount of class in James Mangold’s Logan — a rather brilliant mesh of dystopian and superhero tropes that proves to be as entertaining as it is timely. – Rory O. (full review)

The Lost City of Z (James Gray)


It is the little-stated, undeniable truth that critics are surrounded by nearly innumerable factors when experiencing the work they’ve been assigned to review. Presentation is rarely treated as a basic on the level of form, theme, or auteurist interest, and most mentions will come only if something had gone terribly wrong. This issue sometimes being rather important, I feel compelled to say James Gray’s The Lost City of Z is a rather forceful thing when projected on 35mm, as befits the writer-director’s wishes and with which the New York Film Festival, premiering this picture as the closing title of their 54th year, complied. I can and will compliment the movie for a number of reasons not necessarily pertaining to what material it was printed on and what machine it came out of, so let it be stated upfront that this is most likely the best (only?) way to experience what Gray and cinematographer Darius Khondji, reuniting from The Immigrant, have achieved: a film that will often truly and totally appear to have been made in decades past and just discovered today. – Nick N. (full review)

Lovesong (So Yong Kim)

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Tender and haunting, So Yong Kim’s Lovesong is a carefully observed, nuanced character study beautifully written, directed and edited. Much of the action, like in her pervious features In Between Days, Treeless Mountain and For Ellen occurs at the edge of the frame. Exploring the bounds of motherhood, childhood and maturity, Lovesong is an impressive and observant feature in which Kim allows the relationships the breathing room they require for authenticity. – John F. (full review)

Mimosas (Oliver Laxe)

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A “religious western” is how Moroccan-based Spanish director Oliver Laxe describes his second film, Mimosas, winner of the top prize at Cannes’ Critics’ Week. It’s a spiritual, ambiguously plotted journey through the Atlas Mountains, and those willing to give in to its mystical embrace and gorgeous visuals should find it a sensual, engrossing watch. – Ed F. (full review)

Okja (Bong Joon-ho)


A dystopian story about a genetically engineered beast with overt anti-capitalist connotations, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja represents a synthesis and an upgrade – in scale as well as quality – of the director’s previous outings The Host and Snowpiercer, confirming him as one of the finest contemporary craftsmen of intelligent, ambitious blockbusters. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

The Ornithologist (João Pedro Rodrigues)


Publicly stated by its director to concern Saint Anthony, the Portuguese priest and friar who legend calls the most supernatural of saints, The Ornithologist luckily manages to see the profane outweigh the sacred — no white elephantine “spirituality,” but rather a progression of set-pieces. We have something of a return for João Pedro Rodrigues to his debut feature Fantasma, a nocturnal “erotic thriller” of sorts that moved by the logic of its own images, this in opposition to more character-driven films such as Two Drifters and To Die Like a Man or his most recent The Last Time I Saw Macao, a tad too much an academic exercise in mirroring post-colonialism through a deadpan “non-mystery.” – Ethan V. (full review)

Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)


After Clouds of Sils Maria, Personal Shopper confirms Olivier Assayas as the director most adept at drawing the best out of Kristen Stewart. Here she follows in the footsteps of Maggie Cheung and Asia Argento, actors whose exceptional central performances prevented fundamentally flawed films by Assayas – Clean and Boarding Gate, respectively – from foundering altogether. Stewart’s achievement is arguably even more remarkable considering that for the bulk of Personal Shopper’s running time, her only co-actor is an iPhone. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies)

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“You are alone you your revolution, Ms. Dickinson,” spouts a stoic headmistress in the opening sequence of A Quiet Passion, a biopic of 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson and the latest work from proud Liverpudlian auteur Terence Davies. In the scene, young Emily has apparently rejected both a life in the seminary and the option to be a practicing catholic, a decision the famously atheistic director clearly vibes with. That sense of empathy and understanding with his subject is rife throughout this quietly cleansing and exquisitely considered film, which shows the writer from her late teens (portrayed by Emma Bell) through to adulthood (Cynthia Nixon) and old age. – Rory O. (full review)

The Son of Joseph (Eugéne Green)


The Son of Joseph, my introduction to the films of Eugéne Green, displays an impressive formal approach and playful sense of comedy. In this story of a teenager attempting to track down his real father — and the aftermath of what that entails — Green’s Bressonian style melds nicely with his colorful palette, creating one of 2017’s more distinct features thus far. – Jordan R.

Song to Song (Terrence Malick)


Let’s start this with an inquiry, one that hopefully engenders some consideration and an honest response: what are you seeking when watching a Terrence Malick film released in 2017? I take the unusual tack of beginning like so because it sometimes feels as if questions are the most that his recent work can ultimately encourage, and in particular because the latest, Song to Song — his fifth feature completed this decade, or the sixth if one counts the IMAX version of Voyage of Time, and preceding a sixth (or seventh) narrative film that’s rumored to premiere this fall — seems, no matter its very immediate and obvious pleasures, unlikely to change the current dialogue in any significant way. There are stronger-than-usual whiffs of narrative and a star-studded / -crossed-lovers cast to be found, yes — note how its poster puts those faces front and center while making no note of the auteur in question — but we are once again deep in Malick country, and they may only exacerbate the fact that the director has made one of his most emotionally dense films, and perhaps the most outright restless. – Nick N. (full review)

Staying Vertical (Alain Guiraudie)

Staying Vertical

Those only familiar with Alain Guiraudie’s sublime Stranger By the Lake, which finally brought the gifted French director to a (relatively) wider audience following a laureled Un Certain Regard premiere in 2013, will likely find themselves confounded by its follow-up, Staying Vertical. With his first entry in Cannes’ main competition, Guiraudie returns to the psychoanalytic mode of the features preceding Stranger, where he gradually and stealthily eroded the boundary between reality and fantasy to probe the complexities of human desire — particularly of the sexual kind — exposing the stifling effects of social norms and conventions to thoroughly bewildering results. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

The Woman Who Left (Lav Diaz)

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Lav Diaz’s Golden Lion winner from this year’s Venice Film Festival feels like something of a surprise because, for all its extended shots, luminous black-and-white photography, and socio-historical weight, The Woman Who Left is ultimately an unostentatious work. Compared to, say, Norte, The End of History’s remarkably grim ending, with its reaches into fantasy / metaphysics (don’t forget that Tarkovsky-esque levitation), there doesn’t seem to be quite the same need to impress or belabor the point. – Ethan V. (full review)

Your Name (Makoto Shinkai)


I had no idea what to expect upon sitting down to Your Name and the first few minutes definitely had my head spinning. We’re ushered in via the voiceover narration of two high schoolers we’ve yet to properly meet in Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) and Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki). They speak about dreams as a rare comet shoots across the blue sky. It’s cryptic, beautiful, and utterly fascinating—a subdued tone easing us in before a kinetic collage of vignettes without context replaces it, a Radwimps rock anthem blaring about love. This shift to music video interlude proves jarringly abrupt; its culmination marked by Mitsuha awakening from slumber a wonderful splash into the deep-end of this anime’s high concept romantic fantasy. – Jared M. (full review)

Honorable Mentions

Since Twin Peaks isn’t even halfway over, we’ll wait to mention that come September. Otherwise, a number of festival favorites we admired (or were split on as a team) deserve a mention, including Slack Bay, Berlin Syndrome, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Dean, The Discovery, The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Mäki, Graduation, Tramps, Dark Night, The Human Surge, Behemoth, The Lure, Contemporary Color, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, David Lynch: The Art Life, Norman, Afterimage, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, and Hounds of Love. As far as studio fare, SplitA Cure for Wellness, and The LEGO Batman Movie also nearly made the cut.

Lastly, films such as I Am Not Your Negro, The Salesman, My Life as a Zucchini, I, Daniel Blake, and The Red Turtle finally got proper releases this year, but considering they had qualifying runs last year, we left them off.

Looking Ahead

The must-see films arriving in the last half of the summer season that we’ve already reviewed.


A Ghost Story (July 7)
City of Ghosts (July 7)
Landline (July 21)
The Untamed (July 21)
Escapes (July 26)
Columbus (August 4)
Step (August 4)
Good Time (August 11)
Whose Streets? (August 11)
Nocturama (August 11)
The Trip to Spain (August 11)
Marjorie Prime (August 18)
Beach Rats (August 25)

What are your favorite films of the year so far?

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