Rather than do a Top 10 of the year, as I have done in the past, I wanted to do something a little bit different this year. And that was to pick 50 films that I saw in cinemas during 2017 and enjoyed, connected with, or loved in some way. To qualify the film had to be released in the UK during 2017, and I had to see them at the cinema (allowances would have been made for Netflix exclusive releases, but none of these made my list). These films are merely going to be in alphabetical order, and it isn’t every film that I enjoyed this year, just a fun selection of 50 of them. I have tried to stay away from spoilers for the films, but there are a couple of spoilers in here. Enjoy, and let me know your favourite films from 2017 in the comments.
20th Century Women – Mike Mills’ comedy-drama about the lives of people living in a boarding house in 1979 California is a sharply written and wonderfully acted film. Told from the perspective of a teenage boy, Jaime Fields, whose mother runs the house, the film focuses on the lives of the women around him including his mother, a tenant, and his best friend. Packed with acting talent such as Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning, it is Annette Bening as Dorothea Fields who steals the show. 20th Century Women definitely leans closer to a drama than a comedy, but it does have some truly brilliant laugh out loud moments, especially an awkward dinner sequence. If you missed 20th Century Women then it is definitely one to check out with its Oscar winning screenplay, and acting performances that should have received more recognition.
A Ghost Story – A Ghost Story is probably one of the most divisive films you’ll find this year. It’s easy to see why someone might hate it as it is an extremely arthouse film. The film focuses on grief, loss, and the aftermath of someone’s death, from a truly unique point of view and in a genuinely original way. By showing everything from the ghost point of view he is left unable to do anything as his wife grieves then leaves. Tackling some heavy themes A Ghost Story and playing with time in some incredibly interesting ways A Ghost Story is a film that deserves a chance. Some will declare David Lowery’s film a masterpiece, whilst others may well think of it as the worst film of the year. Personally I thought is was a brilliant and different take on some well worn ideas, but only you would be able to decide where you fall on A Ghost Story.
A Monster Calls – J. A. Bayona, who you will see helming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom next year, delivered one of the most emotional and heartbreaking films from 2017 with A Monster Calls. Lewis MacDougall as Conor a young teen whose mother, Felicity Jones, is suffering from cancer brings such a raw performance. Despite his young age he truly captures the anger and grief that someone could have in the position that he finds himself. The film really tackles the emotional turmoil that someone who has to go through such a horrible event may feel, and does so in a wonderful and accessible way. The use of the monster and his stories turn it from just being a heavy drama to something a little more fantastical. The design of the monster is great, and the way that Bayona frames the different stories is beautiful, showing his full talent as a director. A Monster Calls is certainly not the easiest film to get through; as I said it is a heartbreaking experience, but a rewarding one.
A Silent Voice – A Silent Voice is Naoko Yamada’s adaption of Yoshitoki Ōima manga telling the story of Shōya Ishida a boy who used to bully a deaf girl at his school, subsequently being ostracised as a result, and his attempt to make amends for this. Straying away from the more typical fantasy stories that you tend to see coming to western audiences from Japan, A Silent Voice is instead a wonderful drama focusing of bullying, depression, friendship, and redemption. A Silent Voice is a wonderful piece of work, with gorgeous animation and incredibly powerful themes. It’s fantastic to see that with this, and Your Name from Makoto Shinkai last year, that Japanese animation is still going strong and flourishing despite Studio Ghibli’s hiatus.
Atomic Blonde – Atomic Blonde isn’t going to be an award contender in way, but what John Wick co-director David Leitch did deliver with the film was a cool, fun, action packed, ride. An adaptation of the graphic novel The Coldest City the film stars Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 spy who is sent into Berlin just before the collapse of the wall to uncover a mole and recover a list of intelligence agents. Theron in the main role is superb, and the supporting cast, including James McAvoy, John Goodman, and Sofia Boutella all do a good job. Leitch proves he knows how to directed brilliant action with several gripping and brutal sequences, possibly the best of the year, including a fantastic stairway fight. If you’re looking a cool action film, akin to a cold war John Wick, then Atomic Blonde is one for you.
Baby Driver – It’s impossible not to address Kevin Spacey’s appearance in the film after the accusations that have come out surrounding several cases of sexual assault, but there was so much brilliant hard work put into Baby Driver by a lot of other people that I didn’t want to just ignore what was one of my absolute favourite films of the year. Whilst the plot may be a fairly generic crime drama about a getaway driver the film excels in Edgar Wright’s brilliant vision in setting the majority of the film to music. The incredible way that the scenes are fitted around the music is a genius idea, making almost like a musical at times, without any of the singing and dancing. This took incredibly tight and spot on editing, which should mean editors Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos taking home an award come Oscar time.
The Battle Of The Sexes – Battle of the Sexes tells the real life story of Billie Jean King, and the “Battle of the Sexes” match that she played against Bobby Riggs in 1973. The film also tackles the battle that the female players had to fight against the uneven pay between the men and women in the sport, as well as King’s first relationship with another women. It’s the great strength of The Battle of the Sexes that it manages to tackle issues that are still important in today’s culture like gender inequality in pay and LGBT relationships, in a fun and crowd pleasing way. Emma Stone as King is exceptional, truly inhabiting such a well-known figure. It might not be the world’s biggest leap to say that this is best film about tennis, but this probably is.
The Big Sick – The Big Sick is one of the great Rom-Coms of the 21st Century. Written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V, Gordon, the film tells a version of the real first few months of their relationship. Staring Nanjiani as himself and Zoe Kazan as Emily Gardner. The Big Sick is a delightful, funny, and moving comedy. The two leads are wonderful and likeable, with Kazan making such an impression in the first act of the film that you really care about her when she falls into a coma early on. The comedic moments are absolutely hilarious, with Nanjiani managing to work stand up into the story extremely well. But most importantly the film doesn’t pull its punches. It never shies away from the really emotional dramatic moments. It also shows romance between people from different ethnic background, a completely different side of romantic life than you would normally see in Hollywood films, something that we need more of.
Blade Runner 2049 – A follow up to 1982’s Sci-Fi classic Blade Runner was a daunting task, but Denis Villeneuve delivered a great sequel. Focusing on Ryan Gosling’s K Blade Runner 2049 brought some unique and interesting ideas to the AI genre, particularly around the idea of the replicant’s relationships and reproduction. Not only did it tackle the idea of replicants reproducing, but it also delivered a genuinely beautiful relationship between replicant K and Artificial Intelligence Joi, brilliantly played Ana de Armis. Not only did it manage to bring new and interesting elements to the conversation, but it also managed to bring back Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard and delivers a good conclusion to his story, and without ruining the debate caused by the original film around whether or not he’s a replicant. The film is long, and goes at a similar slow pace to the original so it is easy to see why it didn’t resonate with audiences and underperformed financially. But that doesn’t change the fact that Blade Runner 2049 is a brilliant powerful piece of science fiction.
Call Me By Your Name – Call Me By Your Name is going to be a big Oscar contender, and rightly so. Luca Guadagnino delivers a truly wonderful film about 17 year old Elio and his first love as he undertakes a relationship with his father’s assistant Oliver. The lead performance from Timothée Chalamet is a beautiful, powerful portrayal of first love, and the supporting the performances from Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg are also fantastic. When supported by James Ivory’s screenplay and Guadagnino direction it all adds up to one hell of cinema experience. And one that could almost be a companion piece to this 2017’s Academy Award winner Moonlight instead of showing a man coming of age repressing these feelings, Call Me By Your Name shows you Elio opening himself up to these feelings.
Certain Women – Certain Women was a really different style of film from director Kelly Reichardt. It is essentially an anthology film that explores 3 different stories of women’s lives in Montana. Starring an impressive cast including Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, and Lily Gladstone, Reichardt’s film is a wonderful slice of real life. The stories are a little uneven, with the middle story dragging a touch, but on the whole Certain Women is delightful indie gem from early in the year. The first story about a disgruntled client of lawyer Laura Wells (Dern) who takes a hostage and Wells tries to talk down, the second features Gina Lewis (Williams) and her husband who are trying to build their own home, and the final features a ranch hand Jamie (Gladstone) who sits in on a law class taught by Beth (Stewart). Featuring brilliant performances, and Reichardt’s incredibly authentic script, Certain Women is a delightful indie.
Colossal – Colossal was constantly marketed as a comedy, or even a romantic comedy, which happened to have a monster movie in it as well. In fact Colossal is a far more interesting and unusual look at depression and alcoholism. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis are both at their very best in the film portraying genuinely damaged characters. I think that the poor marketing gave people the completely wrong expectations for the film, and that was definitely responsible for its general underperformance. Instead what we got from Colossal is a film that is incredibly hard to pin into one genre, it’s funny, moving, and even horrifying at times. Sometimes these very different genres can be a little hard to mesh together, but when it works it’s really great, and Colossal is definitely a film to watch with some distance from the misleading marketing.
The Death of Stalin – The Death of Stalin is the latest satirical political comedy from The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci. It looks at the power vacuum that was left following the death of Stalin as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of Russia. Featuring a brilliant cast, and Iannucci’s typically sharp writing The Death of Stalin manages to turn what was a period of huge turmoil in a country where some horrible atrocities were at that time being committed into one of the funniest films of the year. The all-star cast features Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Jeffrey Tambor, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friends, Andrea Riseborough, and Paul Whitehouse. However the star of the show is Simon Russell Beale as Lavrentiy Beria the chief of the Soviet security and secret police. Even though this isn’t a period of history that has always captured me, Iannucci manages to bring a huge amount entertainment to it, and more importantly sharp and relevant political ideas.
Detroit – Detroit is Kathryn Bigelow’s film telling the story of the Algiers Motel Killings during the 1967 Detroit riots where three black teenagers were killed and several other people were badly beaten by members of several different Michigan police departments. It is an incredibly powerful and extremely hard to watch film, that is sadly still far too relevant in today’s society as it tackles institutional racism and police brutality. Bigelow’s direction puts you right in there and makes you feel the incredible tension and pain of the whole evening. The cast is great, but none more than Will Poulter as the main officer who leads the brutality, Philip Krauss, he completely embodies this horrible, racist, person. Detroit is certainly an important film that needed to be made, as this is a story I knew virtually nothing about. I’m sure if you do know more about the riots then the early part of the film could be too drawn out, but once it gets into the Algiers incident then there’s no denying how gripping and harrowing Detroit is.
The Disaster Artist – Based on Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book about the making of the cult classic film The Room (really not to be confused with Room) The Disaster Artist is celebrates just how terrible one of the worst films ever made, and the friendship that it created between Greg and The Room’s writer, director, producer, and star Tommy Wiseau. James Franco takes on the role of Wiseau, a figure who has been something of an enigma to fans of The Room with no one quite knowing where he’s from or how old he is. Franco’s portrayal of Wiseau is superb. He is one of the film figure that so many people attempt impressions of, but not only does Franco do an incredibly good one, but also delivers one hell of an acting performance. The film is hilarious, but also quite moving, and does a great job of showing how someone can achieve their dreams, even if it is not quite in the way that was expected. It also helped that right after I got the chance to go to a screening of The Room and had one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had. SPOONS!
Dunkirk – Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s latest film and it moves away from the Science Fiction and Superhero films that he has been making recently. Dunkirk focuses on the evacuation of allied forces from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. Telling the story from three different perspectives, the soldiers stuck in France, a boat manned by civilians sailing to France to help evacuate them, and spitfire fighter pilots who engage the German’s in dogfights. Nolan uses very little dialogue in Dunkirk instead telling the story through the visuals, and allowing Hans Zimmer’s brilliant score to create the atmosphere. The ticking clock motif that then score uses throughout to signify the time running out for the allied soldiers is incredibly effective, and really stayed with me after the film. I will say that Dunkirk should be seen in the best quality possible, because even the drop off from IMAX to a regular screening was a little disappointing.
Free Fire – With Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire you get exactly what it says on the tin. A 90-minute action packed shootout in a warehouse starring some brilliant actors, and packed full of hilarious dialogue. The main stars are Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, and Armie Hammer, but the majority of the cast get their moments to shine. The actual plot really isn’t much more complicated than a gun deal does wrong and descends into a huge shootout between everyone involved, something that was inspired by a genuine shootout that Wheatley had heard about. There was clearly a huge amount of thought that went into where everyone should be located at any moment during the shootout, and Wheatley plays with different levels cleverly, rather than just having everyone standing for the entire film. But one of the reasons I really enjoyed Free Fire is that I got to watch it with a talk from Wheatley afterwards.
Get Out – Get Out is one of the absolute best films of the year. A horror/thriller following Chris Washington, a black photographer who visits his white girlfriend’s family for a weekend. The feeling of unease that grows throughout the film, and the elements that Jordan Peele manages to seed throughout the film build up to a brilliant and shocking finale. Not only did Peele create a genuinely brilliant, and incredibly tense, horror/thriller, but he also managed to use the medium to tackle important issues around race relations. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance in the lead role has made him to one of the most promising stars working today, having done some brilliant work in British shows such as Skins, Psychoville, Black Mirror, and The Fades. It’s great to see a horror film that doesn’t just rest on dull jump scares, but instead is all about atmosphere and incredible direction. I think it’s fair to say that Get Out could be a big shock at the major awards.
Goodbye Christopher Robin – Goodbye Christopher Robin is a biographical film about A. A. Milne the creator of the Winnie-the-Pooh books and his son Christopher Robin. Going into the film I was expecting it to be mostly about the creation of the books, however where Goodbye Christopher Robin really succeeds is the latter half of the film where it actually becomes a film about the dangers of success, and how C. R. Robin was forced into the spotlight. I’m not sure how much of the film was actually the truth, particularly surrounding C. R. Robin’s relationship with his parents and later army service, but there’s no question how emotional the film gets. The turn from childlike wonder to the darker, far more emotional second half of the film turns it from being a fairly nice, what I’d call ‘Sunday afternoon film’ to a far more interesting one, which had me crying in the cinema.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 – Marvel had an excellent year in 2017, and even their weakest effort in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel was a pretty great film. It suffered a little from being a sequel, and the first third of the film felt rushed and choppy, but once we arrived at the home planet of Ego, wonderfully played by Kurt Russell, the film takes off. Featuring mostly pairings Guardians 2 has some brilliant and moving stories. The father and son relationship between Star Lord and Ego is brilliant, and absolutely delivered on the set up from the first film. What I didn’t expect to be so strong in Guardians 2 was the Gamora and Nebula sister relationship. Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan are fantastic, and the scene where they actually talk on Ego is really moving. Sure some of the jokes aren’t great (looking at you Hasselhoff) but the majority of them do land, the emotional journeys of the characters absolutely work, and it is a brilliantly fun experience.
Hidden Figures – Hidden Figures is the uplifting real life stories of three black women working for NASA in the 1960s. It takes a little artistic licence with the actual stories of the three, particularly as these people’s stories didn’t happen at the same time. But that doesn’t take away from how brilliantly uplifting and crowd pleasing the film is. This isn’t also a film where the it’s black people fighting against the white people, as Kevin Costner’s boss is never an obstacle to Taraji P. Henson’s Katherine Goble Johnson, but it’s the struggle against the system that kept people who weren’t white men back. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe are all superb, and whilst Spencer did get some award recognition, Henson and Monáe were sadly overlooked by most.
It – If you want a really good horror film elevated by an amazing coming of age story then It is the film for you. Sure some of the scares are lessened if you’re not afraid of clowns, but that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of It. I will say that I did watch It with the worst crowd I’ve been with at a cinema, and I know it slightly spoiled the experience for some of my friends, and probably made me think a little less of the film. But it is testament to how much I loved particularly the coming of age elements that I still came out of there thinking the film itself was good. All the kids are fantastic, but even better than them was Bill Skarsgård as It/Pennywise. Tim Curry is the one element of the 1990 miniseries that I’ve heard people talk about, so he was the one with a lot of pressure to live up to, and he really distinguishes himself playing It as an inhuman presence who tries to be human. I’m honestly really looking forward to seeing the second part of the story and having Skarsgård back in the titular villainous role.
It Comes At Night – I’ve already talked about one film that suffered from poor marketing in Colossal, and here was another one in It Comes At Night. Set in some kind of post-apocalyptic country or world where there is a highly contagious disease or virus. It focuses on a family who are surviving in a secluded house in the woods, and agree to allow another family with a young child to stay there. I think most people assumed the film would be about trying to survive what was outside the house, and the trailers and marketing did play this up. However what It Comes At Night is really about is far more internal horrors, particularly paranoia. The film is only an hour long, but the tension throughout the film never abates, and just keeps ratcheting up. I don’t often leave the screen during a film, but I had to for a short break during this one, just for a moment of relief from the tension. It only features a small cast of actors, but they are great, especially Joel Edgerton, and again this is one that I would strongly recommend revisiting with some distance from the marketing.
John Wick Chapter 2 – The first John Wick came out of nowhere and delivered one of the best action films of recent years, and created such a rich and interesting world that I, and many others, could not wait to dive back into it. The story of Chapter 2 is a little more fleshed out that a simple revenge plot, with John being forced into paying a debt under the laws of that assassin world. It’s rare for an action film sequel to be able to live up to the original, normally it just retreads similar ground, or it goes so far away from the first it becomes hard to compare them, but John Wick Chapter 2 remarkably manages to stay true to the first film, whilst also feeling fresh. Yes the action sequences are brilliantly directed, crisply executed, and beautifully shot, but it is the expansion of the world of the continental that truly makes John Wick Chapter 2 one of the best action sequels ever. And it doesn’t hurt that the finale sets up Chapter 3 perfectly.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is sort of the second adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg’s novel, following the 1995 film starring the great Robin Williams, not to mention its spiritual sequel Zathura: A Space Adventure. This new version is updated for the modern age because; as one character says “no one plays board games anymore”. This version sees 4 kids in detention sucked into the game and inhabiting the bodies of their avatars, played by Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and Jack Black. I honestly expected this to be a big disappointment, but despite lacking some of the darker elements of the original film Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is a really funny, entertain action/adventure film. Jack Black in particular is hilarious playing the avatar of Bethany Walker, the self-cantered popular girl who is always on her phone. I was worried that this shtick would get old quickly, but Black absolutely owns it and is hilarious throughout. But what really stands out is that the main characters get really good arcs and all develop throughout the film, as they are inhabiting the bodies of characters that are complete opposite of what they are actually like.
Justice League – Justice League may not be the greatest film on this list, but as a huge fan of DC Comics I cannot put into words how exciting it was for me to see the Justice League coming together on the big screen. Some of these are amongst my favourite characters of all time, and if Justice League gets one thing right it is the characters. The plot is paper-thin, the villain two dimensional and dull, the effects definitely incomplete, but every one of the main characters was superbly brought to screen. Coming into the film I expected Batman and Wonder Woman to be great, but I was surprised how much I loved Cyborg and The Flash’s arcs in this film. Aquaman may be brought in mostly as a comic relief, but Jason Momoa is great in the role. And spoilers, but after his return to life Henry Cavill’s Superman is far closer to the more traditional version of Superman that people are used to from the Richard Donner films. There is a degree that I am more willing to forgive Justice League’s faults because of the behind the scenes trouble the film had with Zach Snyder’s personal tragedy, not to mention my personal love of these characters, but the character’s stories in the film are great, and it has to leave you excited for their stand alone films.
The Killing Of A Sacred Deer – When I came out of The Killing of a Sacred Deer I really didn’t know what to think of it. In fact I think a week after I still didn’t really know what I thought of it, but I was still thinking about it, and if something can get into your head like that it’s worthwhile art to me. The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos last film from 2015, was brilliant, incredibly dryly funny and moving. The Killing of a Sacred Deer however is so incredibly disturbing, and bizarre that for me I’ll remember it long after The Lobster. Barry Keoghan in this film gives such a creepy and disturbing performance that I wish was getting more talk about with award recognition, because he manages to stand out above the likes of Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a different, interesting, and disturbing film that deserves to be seen.
King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword – Most people did not like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and I get it. Meshing the classic fantastical elements of the King Arthur story with a modern day Guy Ritchie gangster film is odd. But I kind of really enjoyed it. I found Charlie Hunnam to be an incredibly likeable, if a little roguish and very unconventional King Arthur, but it was this incredibly different interpretation of the British myth that I enjoyed. I thought the more gangster elements of the film were a lot of fun, and when it moved into the fantasy elements it went completely off the wall bats**t insane, with one scene in particular with a giant snake being just so cool and so weird. Daniel Pemberton music for the film took on the same ancient folky feeling with more modern vibes, and it creates such an awesome score. I’m not going to try and tell you that King Arthur is a great film, but it’s a lot of fun.
Kong: Skull Island – Kong: Skull Island is basically a big dumb action film take on King Kong as Legendary tries to set up its MonsterVerse following 2014’s Godzilla. And after seeing it in the cinema I enjoyed the film, but it probably wouldn’t have made it onto my 50 favourite films of the year list. That was until I watched the film with a bunch of my friends after my birthday, and we just had a ton of fun watching a silly film where a giant ape beats up some giant lizards. We tore parts of the film apart, and spotted how much of the film Samuel L. Jackson spent staring at things in the film. For me in 2017 Kong represents good times with friends, and sometimes that can overshadow how good a film may be.
La La Land – I’ve said it numerous times so far this year, but La La Land is my favourite film from 2017. Damien Chazelle’s romantic musical comedy drama is such a wonderful cinema experience that just brings me joy. And for all the great dramas that have come out this year, nothing can beat a film just making you feel happy, and La La Land does that for me. Much like Chazelle’s last film, Whiplash, La La Land tackles the theme of what you have to sacrifice to achieve your dream. We spend the entire film becoming invested in the relationship between Seb and Mia, and because of meeting one another they manage to achieve their dreams, but at the cost of losing one another. It all comes to a head in that wonderful what if sequence that leaves you having run through joy, heartbreaking, and half a dozen other emotions, but ultimately both know that the other has achieved what they dreamed of, and it’s beautiful.
Lady Macbeth – It may sound Shakespearean, but Lady Macbeth is actually based on an 1865 Russian novella, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Following a young woman who is in a loveless marriage with a much older man, Lady Macbeth is a film I went into with virtually no knowledge, and was not expecting the dark turns and places that the film went to. Considering the age of the original novella that the film is based on I was surprised at how much the film has to say about the role of women in the time, and how much Katherine, the lead Lady Macbeth esq character, fights against the role she is expected to had. Florence Pugh really shines in the lead role; the growth that Katherine goes through during the film is masterfully brought to the screen. I really hope that her performance in Lady Macbeth can be a catalyst for Pugh to go on to even greater heights, because based on this she deserves it.
The Limehouse Golem – A Victorian era mystery thriller based on Peter Ackroyd’s 1994 novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, Juan Carlos Medina’s film is an effective and tense thriller lead by several very good performances. The investigation of the film is lead by Bill Nighy and Daniel Mays, two staples of British entertainment, and who’s dynamic in the film keeps the investigation interesting. But the bulk of the film is actually based around Nighy’s Inspector Kildare and his interviews with Olivia Cooke’s Elizabeth Cree, and her telling Kildare her story and interactions with the people suspected of being The Golem, a Jack the Ripper esq figure operating in the Limehouse district of London. Principle amongst these Elizabeth’s husband John Cree, who she is accused of murdering, as well as her old acting friend Dan Leno, sumptuously played by Douglas Booth. The Limehouse Golem is gripping to the end, despite a slower pace than you’d expect from a thriller, with plenty of twists and turns. But most interestingly the film has a lot to say about the nature of fame, I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil the film, but it’s a period thriller that is well worth watching.
Lost in London – Lost in London is Woody Harrelson’s experimental film about a drunken night that he had in London after a fight with his wife in 2002 that ended with him spending a night in jail. What made it such an interesting project is that the film was initially shot and broadcast into cinemas live. Now the version that I saw wasn’t the live one, but one that I believe used almost entirely footage from that live broadcast with some pickups filmed after to make it a little tighter. It was a ridiculous idea for Harrelson to attempt as a first time director, and despite not being perfect it worked. The film is funny, entertaining, and because of the experimental nature of the filmmaking you’re more willing to forgive the film its faults. My screening of the film also had a Q and A with Harrelson afterwards, something that was an awesome experience, because he was such an honest, charming, and likeable person.
Logan – It was Hugh Jackman’s swan song as Wolverine, but I don’t think that any thought Logan would be just as brilliant as it is. James Mangold’s last attempt with the character in 2013’s The Wolverine is ok, but in Logan you get the feeling that the constraints were off, they didn’t have to try and fit into any X-Men continuity, and could just make a great film. And man what a film. Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart are as you would expect incredible in these much older, damaged versions of their characters. But it’s Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23 who truly blew me away. The family dynamic the three get is amazing, and as it falls apart in the later part of the film every single one of them manages to break your heart with incredible performances. When you add some incredible direction from Mangold, and some beautiful cinematography this isn’t just a great superhero film, but an amazing film. That’s not to say they’ve forgotten where the character comes from, the action is brutal and right up there with the X2 mansion attack as the best Wolverine action from the franchise. Simply a masterpiece.
Logan Lucky – When Steven Soderbergh, the man behind the rebooted Oceans franchise, returned to the heist film genre with Logan Lucky I had to get excited, particularly when he was working with Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, and Riley Keough. And when I go into a heist film I’m not expecting huge amounts of great depth I want fun, and I want a heist that keeps me guessing right up until the end. And boy does Logan Lucky deliver exactly that. The heist involves robbing Charlotte Motor Speedway, and that’s a lot fun, but the characters are as far from the Oceans crew as you could want. Rather than being suave gamblers, Tatum, Driver, and Keough’s Logan siblings are working class West Virginians. The real star though is Daniel Craig who’s over the top performance as Joe Bang could have gone either way, but ends up being the best part of the film.
Moonlight – Moonlight won the most recent Oscar for Best Picture in the most bizarre and memorable way possible, and despite La La Land being my favourite film from 2017 I have argued that Moonlight absolutely deserved it. Telling the story of a young closeted black man named Chiron in three parts, from his childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood Moonlight shines a light on people who are far too underrepresented in Hollywood. I genuinely believe that Moonlight is a modern day classic that will be celebrated for years to come. Director Barry Jenkins does a brilliant job, the cinematography is beautiful, all three actors who play Chiron throughout his life are exceptional, and the supporting cast with Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, André Holland, and Janelle Monáe are all incredible. Moonlight is genuinely a special film, not only an important one.
My Life As A Courgette – Ma vie de Courgette, or My Life As A Courgette is a wonderful Swiss-French stop motion animation film by Claude Barras. The film follows a young orphaned boy, Icare, but who goes by the name Courgette, after he comes to live at an orphanage. My Life As A Courgette gives an insight into the lives of the children who live there, particularly Courgette’s relationship with initial bully Simon, and a new girl Camille. The relationship between the characters is brilliant, and it truly explores the depths of these damaged characters. The stop motion work on the film is gorgeous, and the vibrant bold colours really making the film pop visually. My Life As A Courgette might initially seem like a film aimed at children, but I would warn caution with younger children, because it really does get dark at times.
Paddington 2 – The first Paddington was a big surprise, the trailers looked terrible, but it managed to catch us all of guard with it’s wonderful charm. The second film was always going to be tougher because now there were big expectations on it. But thankfully director Paul King, and Simon Farnaby who joined him as a writer, delivered yet another brilliant, joyful, and all round superb family adventure. This sequel adds Hugh Grant to the cast as the villainous Phoenix Buchanan, a washed up actor who has now been reduced to dog food commercials, and this proves to be a stroke of genius. Grant give a deliciously over the top performance, and his character within the film plays a whole host of other characters as well. Some of the set pieces are delightful, especially the prison sequences with Brendan Gleeson. And on top of all the hilarity and charm Paddington 2 also has real heart, and is able to be as moving as any drama. So grab your marmalade sandwiches and go out to see it already.
Personal Shopper – Olivier Assayas’ film has been described as a supernatural psychological thriller, however it is actually a hard film to categorise. In fact it is an almost impossible to categorise, as there is so much more to it than just a supernatural psychological thriller. At times the film is chillingly scary, but not often, certainly not to categorise Personal Shopper as a horror/thriller film. What made the film so special though was Kristen Stewart’s career best performance as the lead, Maureen a personal fashion shopper for a celebrity who is still recovering from the recent death of her brother Lewis. The film’s constant shifting tone can be a little tough to get into at times, but Stewart’s central performance is never anything less than brilliant. She is the figure that manages to keep the film going through the genre bending changes. Personal Shopper is definitely one of the stranger films I saw this year, but a rewarding experience for those who throw themselves into it.
Raw – Raw is a difficult film to recommend. It’s so shocking and brutal, but also beautiful and fascinating. Julia Ducournau’s coming of age cannibal horror film will definitely leave some people feeling completely disgusted, particularly as Ducournau really doesn’t pull any punches with the visual gore. But underneath that horror exterior is a delightful coming of age tail about Justine, a lifelong vegetarian who in her first semester at veterinary college is forced to eat raw rabbit kidney as part of hazing ritual. What really stood out to me in the film is the relationship between Justine’s slow steps towards cannibalism and her burgeoning sexuality. It’s interesting how almost all of her early cannibalistic experiences coincide with some of her first sexual ones, waxing an intimate area or a make out session. As well as Ducournau’s brilliant direction the film is brought to life by Garance Marillier’s incredible, and hopefully star making, performance as Justine. Raw isn’t a film that everyone will love, but if you can get beyond the gore then there is so much to unpack.
The Red Turtle – The Red Turtle is Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit’s first animated feature film, and with Studio Ghibli as one of the main producers and an Academy Award nomination last year I was excited for it to finally arrive in Britain. The film is incredibly minimalist, with no dialogue, instead being carried by Laurent Perez del Mar’s beautiful score, and some incredibly gorgeous animation. The plot too is rather minimal and open featuring a man trapped on a deserted island, and kept there by a giant turtle who destroys his raft every time he tries to escape. There are definitely a lot of layers to be unpacked in The Red Turtle, and different interpretations to be drawn from the film, one of the most common being about man’s relationship with nature. But there are others, and you should see the film yourself to draw your own.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – Spider-Man: Homecoming was definitely going for a mixture of a classic Marvel film and one of those 80s John Hughes coming of age flicks. For the most part Jon Watts’ did a really good job bringing everyone’s favourite web head to the big screen with that high school vibe. It really helped that Tom Holland is a sensible age to play the character unlike Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield. And this was the first time in six stand alone Spider-Man movies that I feel like I got most people’s connection to the character, and why he has been Marvel’s flagship superhero for so long. Funny, relatable, but flawed Holland’s Spider-Man is a character that so many of us can relate to from our teenage years. His desperate attempts to prove himself to Tony Stark, whilst also trying to juggle his social life. And one thing that Spider-Man: Homecoming got right that so many other Marvel films haven’t is the villain. Michael Keaton’s Vulture is relatable, scary, and thankfully not trying to take over the world, just to provide for his family, and it is good to see Marvel taking advantage of Spider-Man’s brilliant rogues gallery. The scene between Keaton and Holland in the car was one of the best of the year.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – I came out of The Last Jedi and I knew it would be divisive, but I’ve been shocked at how big the backlash is. For me The Last Jedi is easily one of the best Star Wars films, right up there with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I know a lot of people had expectation for how The Last Jedi would go, but I’m honestly glad that Rian Johnson didn’t follow these, and instead dived into the characters of Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, and Luke and gave them all genuinely interesting, strong character arcs through the film. I’m all for Star Wars tackling themes such as war profiteering or what it means to be a leader. I think that the acting in a Star Wars film has never been better. Driver is incredible, but Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and the rest all bring their game to match him. The film is long, and not perfect, but for me I’ll take it over the safe rehashing that The Force Awakens gave us.
T2 Trainspotting – It had been over 20 years since Danny Boyle’s original adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel, and it is so rare for a sequel so long after to be successful, but Boyle, and writer John Hodge managed it. T2 is a film that is so much about growing older, nostalgia, and facing your past, so for once it made sense to wait for the sequel. The principal cast all return with Ewan McGregor, Ewan Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle all seamlessly slipping back into the roles of Rent Boy, Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie, and you completely believe that this is exactly where all the characters would have found themselves. The way that T2 Trainspotting tackled nostalgia, especially with the updated version of the ‘choose life’ monologue from the opening of Trainspotting, is very well handled by Boyle, and it provides closure on these iconic characters.
Thor: Ragnarok – The Thor films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have probably not been anyone’s favourites before now, but for me Thor: Ragnarok is my favourite MCU film. It’s a comedy sci-fi road trip film and it’s glorious. Taika Waititi has created one of the freshest, colourful, and funniest Marvel films to date. And impressively he has also managed to add more stakes to his film than most other Marvel films to date, key characters die and all of Asgard gets destroyed, and you can’t get many bigger consequences than those. Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson are all great. As villains Cate Blanchett’s Hela and Karl Urban’s Skurge might not be the richest, but they are having the most fun possible, and Jeff Goldblum appears in full 10/10 Goldblum mode. But the biggest surprise star of the film is Waititi himself as Korg. He’s consistently hilarious. As you will see when I talkabout Wonder Woman I’m a classicist so anything that embraces the sheer insanity of these ancient mythologies I’m fully in on.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – I got to catch a preview of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri on boxing day, meaning rather than featuring on my 2018 list it flew right in as one of my favourite films of 2017. And that is because Martin McDonagh managed to outdo his two brilliant dark comedies (In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths) and deliver his best film to date. Three Billboards stars the always fantastic Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, the mother to a murdered girl who puts up three billboards near her house asking why the local Sheriff Bill Willoughby still hasn’t made any arrests after 7 months. From here McDonagh’s usual blend of incredibly dark drama, and even darker humour takes over. Three Billboards is hilarious, although you will feel horrible for laughing at times, because the drama is so gripping and heartbreaking at times. The performance from McDormand is rightly going to be in a lot of the Best Actress conversations come awards time, but there are also brilliant turns from Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Caleb Landry Jones. When Three Billboards goes wide next year I absolutely recommend that you go out and see it, particularly if you have loved McDonagh’s previous work.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Luc Besson’s newest science fiction adventure Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets really didn’t connect with too many people as it flopped both critically and commercially. But I came out the film having enjoyed it tremendously. Besson is an incredibly inventive director and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the beautiful Sci-Fi world that he had created. The species designs were outstanding, and different dimensional market they go was one of the coolest designs I had seen in years. I do have to admit that the main two roles were completely miscast, neither Dane DeHaan nor Cara Delevingne fitted the roles they were undertaking and their chemistry wasn’t great, but that was easily ignored for me as I got swept up in the insanely fun adventure we got taken on.
War for the Planet of the Apes – The modern day Planet of the Apes trilogy focusing on Andy Serkis’s Caesar, has been fantastic, with each film being truly original and great in it’s own way. In my opinion Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a genuine modern masterpiece, and whilst War for the Planet of the Apes didn’t quite reach those heights for me, it is still a film that didn’t get enough love. I understand why it didn’t, the trailers once again promised an action packed all out war film, instead it was a far more stripped back affair, mainly focusing on the struggle between Caesar as the leader of the intelligent apes and Woody Harrelson’s Colonel. Packed full of incredible acting performances, most from the motion capture CGI apes, who have such richness and depth to them, War for the Planet of the Apes delivered a powerful ending to one of the most thought provoking and interesting trilogies of all time.
Wind River – With Wind River Taylor Sheridan delivered a wonderful final part to his loosely connected trilogy with Sicario and Hell Or High Water. Sheridan proved he is more than just a talented screenwriter as he managed to step up to the role of director with such assurance, and delivered some of the most wonderfully tense scenes of the year, including the raid on the house and standoff sequences. Whilst Wind River may not have the most complex plot ever, the acting performances, and the emotion they bring to the story is sensational. For me this is Jeremy Renner’s best work, and his scenes with Gil Birmingham made me weep. Elizabeth Olsen is also fantastic as the rookie FBI Agent slightly out of her depth, and the supporting cast featuring the likes of Jon Bernthal and Graham Greene all do good work. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis deliver yet another brilliant score, they’ve become nearly synonymous with the modern day Western over the last few years, and bring that same brilliance to the Wind River score.
Wonder Woman – There haven’t really been a huge amount good female led superhero films and the DCEU has struggled to universally connect with audiences and critics. But Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman blew all of that away. A lot of people like Gal Gadot’s appearance in Batman v Superman as Diana Prince, but it is when she steps into her own leading role that she has truly captured the world. One of the most powerful, and inspirational films for a long time Wonder Woman is an incredibly important moment in the history of superhero films. The No Man’s Land scene is one of my favourite sequences in film history, as Diana refuses to be told that she is unable to help people, and in one of the most heroic and moving moments manages to cross No Man’s Land and free a village. All of the principle characters are brilliant, and even more minor ones have such depth to them. And the final act of the film has come under some criticism, but I as a classics student I love the insane, mythology embracing finale of the film.