Best Lesser-known Movies from 2017

The Best of 2017! Check out these great lesser-known films, and forgive me for the inclusion of a small number of bigger indie releases.

#1 Landline


Witty, genuine and authentic.
Landline is set in the 90s. The filmmakers definitely make that point clear, but at the same time the references are mostly kept in the background. The film is so much more than outdated fashion and culture jokes. It’s a very enjoyable treatise on love – family love and commitment to yourself and commitment to another you’ve professed to love. It hits that remarkable balance between witty silliness and relatable drama of real life. 2017

Directed by: Gillian Robespierre

Screenplay by: Elisabeth Holm, Gillian Robespierre

Starring: Jenny Slate, Abby Quinn, Edie Falco, John Turturro and Jay Duplass
See full review of Landline

#2 Speech & Debate

Conquering intolerance with hilarity and amusement.

Stand up and sing, or say something, or just do anything. Speech & Debate does an excellent job in helping its lead characters find their voice. This is about the injustice in high schools: an aspiring journalist being told exactly what to write and not being helped to get into a good school, an aspiring singer denied the lead role in the school musical because she’s too theatrical, outspoken and not pretty enough, and a gay kid not allowed to really be himself because the community is just not progressive enough. 2017

Directed by: Dan Harris

Screenplay by: Stephen Karam
Based on the play by Stephen Karam

Starring: Sarah Steele, Liam James and Austin P. McKenzie
See full review of Speech & Debate

#3 1 Night

Teenagers and adults converge in short and sweet romantic drama.

What 1 Night does well, really well, is examine love as a thirty-something adult and as a teenager. Four main characters: Bea and Andy are attending their high school prom, and Liz and Drew are at a turning point in their marriage. It’s about the similarities and differences as people age and grow up, and then finding something to relate to in all of these characters. 2016

Directed by: Minhal Baig

Screenplay by: Minhal Baig

Starring: Anna Camp, Justin Chatwin
See full review of 1 Night

#4 Handsome Devil


A well-told entertaining and inspiring coming-of-age story for our times.
Handsome Devil is a great film because it effortlessly combines characters both relatable and vital to the well-being of society, important themes of acceptance and self-confidence, and grandiose statements on the nature of growing-up, and put them all in an entertaining story. It brings to mind similar films that have come before it, notably Dead Poets Society and School Ties, but still draws a favourable comparison. This is a film for now, for this generation of school kids, and is good enough to make a difference. 2016

Directed by: John Butler

Screenplay by: John Butler

Starring: Fionn O'Shea, Nicholas Galitzine, and Andrew Scott
See full review of Handsome Devil

#5 Almost Adults


Funny, relatable and enjoyable.
On one hand, Almost Adults is a drama about accepting and voicing your sexuality. On the other hand, it’s a comedy about college-aged girls moving on in their life. The co-mingling of the two genres can bog down the film when it becomes too grand for itself, but it is still a sweet, funny drama about two best friends - one a novice lesbian, one heart-broken over her ex - and how that plays into their friendship. 2016

Directed by: Sarah Rotella

Screenplay by: Adrianna DiLonardo

Starring: Natasha Negovanlis, Elise Bauman
See full review of Almost Adults

#6 Lady Macbeth


A dark and twisted tale of love and murder.
Lady Macbeth is a film deserving of its namesake, in that there are no likable characters. This is a film filled with sociopathic people completely devoid of empathy – and yet there is something compelling about the murderess protagonist. The film itself is based on the Russian novella "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District" (which of course borrows its title from the Shakespearean character), although veers significantly from the original material. 2016

Directed by: William Oldroyd

Screenplay by: Alice Birch
Based on the novel by Nikolai Leskov

Starring: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis
See full review of Lady Macbeth

#7 Opening Night


Delightfully funny, chaotically real.
What a blast. There are a number of things that films can do to overcome weak stories and characters, namely, have a quick pace with popular songs and funny lines, and that’s exactly what Opening Night does. Set in approximately real time backstage at a Broadway musical on opening night, the characters aren’t particularly innovative. There are a lot of gay men and drama queens, helpful hands who aren’t exactly helpful, and Nick (Topher Grace) – the stage manager trying to pull everything together. 2017

Directed by: Isaac Rentz

Screenplay by: Gerry de Leon, Greg Lisi

Starring: Topher Grace, JC Chasez, Taye Diggs, and Alona Tal
See full review of Opening Night

#8 The Most Hated Woman in America

Draws an interesting line between victim and villain.

The Most Hated Woman in America is a good movie, but they made a fundamental error which stops it from being a great movie: they focused on the least interesting aspect. There are actually many interesting and compelling aspects to the movie which should keep most viewers mildly interested throughout at the very least. The story is about American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair – the most hated woman in America. Granted, I hadn’t actually heard of her prior to this movie, but given the daily extreme death threats she received every day of her life, her moniker fits. 2017

Directed by: Tommy O'Haver

Screenplay by: Tommy O'Haver

Starring: Melissa Leo, and Josh Lucas
See full review of The Most Hated Woman in America

#9 Win It All

Gritty and messy, cute and sweet, journey through a gambler's life.

A duffel bag full of cash and a gambling addict - what could go wrong? There’s something very sweet about combining the makings of dark comedy with a much simpler, more accessible, comedy-drama of a damaged man growing up. Win It All is more about Eddie (Jake Johnson) than it is gambling. Eddie is without-a-doubt a gambling addict and much of the comedy of the film derives from what is obvious to us but Eddie is oblivious about. 2017

Directed by: Joe Swanberg

Screenplay by: Jake Johnson, Joe Swanberg

Starring: Jake Johnson, Joe Lo Truglio
See full review of Win It All

#10 Shimmer Lake

Atmosphere and comedy hold together backwards crime drama.

Shimmer Lake has a great atmosphere and an intriguing sense that an interesting mystery is unfolding. It starts on Friday only giving hints as to what happened. Then progressing backwards through the week, providing further clues, and a few dead bodies, to show how it all went down. It takes most of that time to produce a coherent crime drama and the comedic casting makes it difficult to strike the right tone; however, by the end, you have watched a funny, interesting crime drama best told in reverse. 2017

Directed by: Oren Uziel

Screenplay by: Oren Uziel

Starring: Benjamin Walker, Rainn Wilson
See full review of Shimmer Lake