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2017 was kind of a bum year for film adaptations. So many much-hyped adaptations ended up being panned by the critics–The Dark Tower and The Mountain Between Us (how can TWO Idris Elba movies in a row be panned?!). Then there were The Dinner and The Circle, both of which were fairly horrendous. Then there was Tulip Fever, which looked promising…until it didn’t.
Instead of fleshing out a long list of movies I liked but didn’t love, I’m going to highlight the four films I really LOVED. There are stylistically brilliant movies (Atomic Blonde, Silence) that are not on this list because they didn’t “get” me emotionally. And I’ve left out a few highly acclaimed movies that I really enjoyed but didn’t quite live up to my ridiculously high expectations (like Logan and My Cousin Rachel).
The following movies feature great acting and amazing production values, but they also moved me on a personal level.
Based on the 2007 book by Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife is the true story of the Żabińskis, the couple who directed the Warsaw Zoo during its most tumultuous era. When the Nazis invaded Poland, the zoo was shut down, but the Żabińskis used the empty cages and pens to hide hundreds of Jews on their way to safety after escaping the Warsaw Ghetto.
Jessica Chastain gives a luminescent performance as Antonina Żabiński and her connection with the animal members of the cast feels so natural in a way that just can’t be manufactured.
Based on the 2000 memoir by Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father tells the story of the author’s experiences during the Cambodian genocide. Born into a city-dwelling middle-class family, Loung’s life was happy and comfortable until the Khmer Rouge rolled in and upended everything she ever knew. Surviving years as a farm laborer, then child soldier, Loung’s story is a powerful testament to the resilience and strength of the Cambodian people.
Angelina Jolie did an amazing job directing this film. The pace of the story is perfect and the filmography is visceral and stunning. Sareum Srey Moch, who plays Loung, gives an Oscar-worthy performance.The Best Film Adaptations of 2017Click To Tweet
2. Wonder Woman
Based on the popular comic books, this incarnation of Wonder Woman is the best. I remember when I first heard that Gal Gadot was cast in the role, I was pretty skeptical, but boy did she prove to be the right choice.
There is some ridiculousness in this film with the overuse of CGI and strange choice to cast David Thewlis as the villain, but these minor quibbles are vastly overshadowed by the acting, production values, and script. And yes, seeing a female superhero get her own major feature film (Catwoman and Electra definitely do not count.) was a very emotional experience for me.
Based on the 2016 book by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures is the true story of three African American women–Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson–who worked as human calculators in NASA’s space program. These brilliant women faced down racism and sexism while simultaneously making history.
Everything about this movie was amazing, from the acting (Janelle Monáe!) to the script to the cinematography. If you haven’t seen it yet, get your butt to a Redbox this weekend!
It was only after I finished compiling this list that I realized three out of four of the movies were directed by women. I think women are finally starting to break through the barriers holding them back from directing in Hollywood. It’s about time!
What were your favorite film adaptations this year?