The 5 Best Summer Blockbusters of 2017

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Really and truly, 2017 is an extraordinary year for movies. We’re just over halfway through, and we’ve already gotten so many wonderful films from all over the world that at times it’s been hard to keep up! This summer movie season at the multiplex has also been unusually strong, and even though they can’t all be winners (The Emoji Movie, anyone?), it’s been a joy to see how many big-budget, mainstream summer crowd-pleasers have knocked it out of the park.

In ascending order, here are the five best blockbusters of summer 2017, the movies that surprised us, thrilled us, made us laugh and filled us with wonder.

Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and Tiffany Haddish in GIRLS TRIP
Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and Tiffany Haddish in GIRLS TRIP (Universal Pictures)

5. Girls Trip 

The breakout comedy smash of the season, and maybe the year. Michael Showalter‘s superb and hilarious The Big Sick has been critically acclaimed and performed quite well on the indie circuit, but with an astonishing $31.2 million opening weekend and tremendous word-of-mouth, Girls Trip is nothing short of a revelation. It’s hard to overstate how much fun it is to hang out with these absurdly talented and effortlessly appealing leads: Regina HallQueen LatifahJada Pinkett and, of course, Tiffany Haddish, whose fearless and head-turning work here has made her a star. Girls Trip runs over two hours long, which may seem a bit epic for a comedy, but being in the company of the Flossy Posse is such a pleasure that as soon as the credits rolled, most of us were just antsy for Girls Trip 2.

Spider-Man climbs the Washington Monument in Columbia Pictures' SPIDER-MAN: ™: HOMECOMING.
Spider-Man climbs the Washington Monument in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: ™: HOMECOMING. (Sony)

4. Spider-Man: Homecoming 

Another one of the most wickedly funny films of the year isn’t technically a comedy. Hands-down one of the most humorous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and also one of the best), Spider-Man: Homecoming throws jokes at you non-stop for two hours, and they all land. Though Sam Raimi‘s Oscar-winning Spider-Man 2 (arguably the apex of the superhero genre) is a greater film overall, most Spidey fans agree that Homecoming is the most faithful screen representation of the web-slinger’s spirit in the comics to date. This is the second reboot of the franchise in just five years, and it only feels about a million and a half times fresher than you’d expect, thanks to a gleefully self-aware script co-written by director Jon Watts. Vivacious Tom Holland, who can be all at once goofy and graceful, is just perfect in the lead role, and the supporting cast is uniformly excellent and high-energy. Spider-Man: Homecoming is a pure delight.

Related: Check out our ranking of all of the Spider-Man films

Christopher Nolan's DUNKIRK
Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK (Warner Bros.)

3. Dunkirk

OK, in many ways Christopher Nolan‘s nerve-shattering war epic feels more like an awards season prestige piece than a summer blockbuster—but still, we need to talk about how terrific it is. What makes Dunkirk truly unique and unprecedented as a war film is its scope. One criticism some have of the film is that we never really get to know the characters all that well. Some great contemporary World War II films like Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Hacksaw Ridge (2016) have excelled emotionally by narrowing their focus to see war through the eyes of a few lead characters, but that’s not what Nolan is going for here. More than any war film in history, the overwhelming yet concise (108 minutes) Dunkirk shows a contemporary audience how hundreds, thousands, millions of people worked together as a community for victory during our darkest hour; and that is quite powerful. Dunkirk benefits greatly from being seen in Nolan’s preferred 70mm IMAX projection, but only a handful of theaters in the country offer this.

Honest Answers to All Your Summer Movie Burning Questions!

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox)

2. War for the Planet of the Apes 

This is one of the weirdest, smartest, most idiosyncratic and thoroughly impressive summer movies to come around in quite some time. It’s for good reason that director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) is one of the hottest names in Hollywood. He has pure love for the filmmaking craft and for storytelling, and it’s infectious when you watch his films. War for the Planet of the Apes pays homage to great cinema of the past; Reeves and co-writer Mark Bomback cite Biblical epics like Ben Hur (1959) and The Ten Commandments (1956) as influences, along with war films like The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and The Great Escape (1963) as well as Westerns. War for the Planet of the Apes stands on its own as something unique and narratively ambitious, not to mention darkly provocative. Andy Serkis‘s motion-capture performance as Caesar is absolutely worthy of awards season recognition, a union of thespian skill and the most groundbreaking and seamless visual effects of the year. Reeves’s next project is a Batman trilogy, and he says it will be a Hitchcock-inspired noir detective story. For cinephiles and fanboys alike, this sounds like a dream come true.

(l-r) SAÏD TAGHMAOUI as Sameer, CHRIS PINE as Steve Trevor, GAL GADOT as Diana, EUGENE BRAVE ROCK as The Chief and EWEN BREMNER as Charlie in the action adventure "WONDER WOMAN."  ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/Ratpac Dune Entertainment. CR: Clay Enos.
(l-r) SAÏD TAGHMAOUI as Sameer, CHRIS PINE as Steve Trevor, GAL GADOT as Diana, EUGENE BRAVE ROCK as The Chief and EWEN BREMNER as Charlie in the action adventure “WONDER WOMAN.” ©Warner Bros. Entertainment/Ratpac Dune Entertainment. CR: Clay Enos. (Warner Bros.)

1. Wonder Woman 

This was a pleasant surprise and a half, to completely understate it. We weren’t quite sure what to expect from the fourth installment in the DC Extended Universe. We were all hoping this would be fun and entertaining, and then director Patty Jenkins gave us one of the most stirring and dramatically satisfying adventure films of the past decade, a film that puts story and character first at every turn.

Breakout superstar Gal Gadot exuded charisma and impressive action chops in the Fast and Furious franchise, and she was a highlight of 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Still, nothing could have prepared us for her first starring role. She is unstoppable, and this is a wide-eyed, earnestly empathetic, screen-commanding performance worthy of comparison to Christopher Reeve in Superman (1978). Yes, Diana is an indelible physical presence and you wouldn’t want to cross her in a fight, but it’s her child-like sense of the world and the way she wears her compassion on her sleeve that make her a screen presence for the history books. Chris Pine is also invaluable to this movie, and it’s hard to imagine it without him. By remaining one half-step behind Gadot yet delivering a touching and full-bodied performance, it’s one of the most appealing onscreen depictions of masculinity in recent memory.

Wonder Woman has captured the imagination of the public like no other film so far this year. It’s a creative triumph for everyone involved, and a watershed moment in the ever-unpredictable and evolving history of Hollywood.

Do you agree with our list? What was your favorite movie of summer 2017? Let us know in the comments!

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