Tuesday, 27 February 2018

20 Best Films of 2017

It's unbelievable how strong of a year 2017 was for cinema. To whittle this list down to just these choices was difficult enough, as it still feels as though I'm excluding some phenomenal films, and that's without seeing some key films (unfortunately, this includes the recently limited UK release of Lady Bird). Any film in my top 10, at least, would be a worthy choice for the years best film. But enough about this, let's see what films I consider to be the best of 2017.

Special mention for In A Heartbeat, four minute short which delivers some of 2017's most heartwarming and heartbreaking moments, all without uttering a single word.

Honourable Mentions:
* Thor: Ragnarok, where Taika Waititi breathes life into Marvel's Asgardian franchise with hilarious moments and a great dose of character development.
* The Transfiguration, a compelling and tense take on the vampire mythology.
* Mudbound, Dee Rees' gripping and heartbreaking tale about racism and PTSD, brought alive thanks to confident direction and a fantastic ensemble cast.
* Thelma, an engrossing film where a girls telekinetic abilities as an allegory for sexual repression, complicated by religious beliefs.
* Prevenge, an impressive product made by a heavily pregnant Alice Lowe, as grief takes a blackly comedic, and very murderous, form.

Film poster showing a bald man in his underwear with a cape on his neck, standing on top of a building. A moon showing a silhouette of an underwear.
20. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

In adapting Dav Pilkey's books, Rob Letterman and David Soren have put the utmost care into one of the most joyous surprises of 2017. Brought to life with visual inventiveness, which manages to even include sock puppets, and a throwback in the "flip-o-rama" section, while the laugh out loud humour mixes wittiness with potty humour. Fronted by characters who are easy to love, with an end theme which will get stuck in ones head, the lack of a "Best Animated Feature" nomination is incredibly baffling. Tra-La-Laaaaaaaaaaa!!!


Brigsby Bear.png
19. Brigsby Bear

Coming off as a mixture of Room and Be Kind Rewind, the directorial debut of Dave McCary tackles the effects of abuse on James, our lead whose life is turned upside down with revelations. His coping mechanism is the titular Brigsby Bear, a TV series whose abrupt ending compels James to finish off the story, through making a feature film. It's a tale handled in a touching and heartfelt manner, making for one of 2017's better surprises, and deserved to be seen by a wider audience.


The Death of Stalin.png18. The Death of Stalin

It's strange how Armando Iannucci's latest film was advertised as an outright comedy, with laughs coming from every direction. While the film does deliver on comedic farce, it also manages to be a dark history lesson, a compelling power play, and a stranger than fiction tale about dictatorship, and how it affects those under its thumb, all wrapped into one package. (The last especially proves unfortunately relevant in these troubled times). At the centre of it lies a stellar cast, putting masterful performances into incompetent political figures. Simon Russell Beale is the standout, proving nothing short of utterly chilling, while Steve Buscemi is more than a match for him, as the two race to outsmart one another.

17. Free Fire

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Bringing together a multitude of characters into one warehouse, Ben Wheatley does an outstanding job maintaining tension between these characters, leaving viewers uncomfortable as to what will serve as the tipping point. And then, a gun is fired. The remainder of the runtime then becomes one long shootout, but far from the traditional Hollywood fare. Every character takes a bullet somewhere on their person, and aren't shy about making it known how painful it is, even when it leaves them shuffling to another destination, or crawling in pursuit. A deftly handled mixture of action and comedy, as tense and engaging as any high speed chase scene. To put it simply, Free Fire is an absolute blast.


16. Good Time

A film that'll leave you on edge more than a number of todays horror films, this feature by Ben & Joshua Safdie equates to 101 minutes of unrelenting tension, rarely letting up throughout the gripping storyline. It's an experience which proves haunting, enhanced by the dual efforts of Daniel Loptin's phenomenal score, and Sean Price Williams' stunning cinematography. At the centre of it all lies one tremendous aspect, and that's Robert Pattinson. His best performance yet, Pattinson proves utterly compelling, selling the necessity to do what he believes is best for him and his brother, no matter how ill informed his actions actually are.

The Big Sick.jpg15. The Big Sick

A heartfelt and hilarious tale based on the real life story of star, Kumail Nanjiani, and his wife, Emily V. Gordon (who both wrote the screenplay). No matter how many trials and tribulations they go through, this is an engaging romance centred around lovable characters you can't help but root for, brought alive thanks to great performances and a natural chemistry, shared by Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan (in the role of V. Gordon). The supporting cast are equally deserving of praise, turning what could've been one note roles into believable characters, complete with understandable actions, doing what they believe is best for Kumail and Emily.

Caesar, with a rifle and Nova behind his back, on a horse with the film's logo and "Witness the End July 14" at the bottom.
14. War for the Planet of the Apes

When it comes to the Andy Serkis starring Planet of the Apes trilogy, it's underselling things to call it a fantastic surprise, and this third entry is no exception. A feature which is set minded in telling a mature story with strong character work, never compromising on either for the sake of spectacle. Led by the aforementioned Serkis, he once again puts exemplary work into Caesar, as the character is captured through strong facial work, and state of the art effects from WETA, as he goes toe to toe with Woody Harrelson's menacing Colonel. This is a wondrous example of a strong blockbuster film.



13. My Life As A Courgette

It may only run for 66 minutes, but Claude Barras' gorgeous stop motion feature accomplishes so much more than films which run for double its length, and with much better quality to boot. Many adult topics are tackled through the child protagonists, in a solemn and heartfelt manner that's more than appropriate for young ones. There's also a willingness to leave audiences laughing, with a highlight being the children's discussion as to what they believe sex is. A heartfelt story full of well rounded and wonderfully developed characters, this deserves to be seen by the masses.


Wonder Woman (2017 film).jpg12. Wonder Woman

No matter what becomes of the DCEU, at least they managed to do justice to Diana Prince, the last of DC's Trinity to reach the big screen. Patty Jenkins brings to the table a clearly defined and spirited vision, which translates well onto the screen, especially with the "No Man's Land" scene, which is destined to be a classic moment among comic book films. At the centre of it all is Gal Gadot, who perfectly gets across the optimistic and noble nature of her character, as she navigates through a world not as clear cut and virtuous as she wishes it to be. She also delivers the comedic "fish out of water" moments with ease, turning the first taste of ice cream into a moment of pure joy. Over 75 years in the making, this is a film worthy of its titular hero.

Coco (2017 film) poster.jpg11. Coco

Trust Pixar to deliver such a gorgeously imaginative and wonderfully realised tale, full of life, vitality, and infectious musical numbers. Central to it is the importance of music, how it's a passion through which young Miguel can best express himself, and a bridge between generations, which endures the passage of time, and can connect people. This is best shown through a tender musical number entitled "Remember Me", a song passed down which holds great importance throughout the films journey, leading to emotional resonance which will leave your eyes firmly moistened. It serves as a wonderful little double bill with 2014's exceptional The Book of Life.

CallMeByYourName2017.png10. Call Me By Your Name

A tale about first love which is captured in such a heartfelt and tender way, Luca Guadagnino has delivered one of 2017's most beautiful films (both in terms of visual style, and the romance). It helps that Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer do such phenomenal work in portraying their roles, capturing a shared attraction which is so believable, making for one of the most engrossing couples of the past few years. Coupled with some phenomenal songs from Sufjan Stevens, and a finale which will stick in ones mind, this is a wonderful piece of work.


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9. Dunkirk

While it seems quite a few directors want to place a romance at the centre of a horrific historical event, Christopher Nolan isn't interested in doing that. He disregards expository dialogue about who the characters are to thrust viewers into the middle of the eponymous event, making sure it serves as the focal point for this film. What he brings to screen captures the horrors of war without being gratuitous, something nerve-shreddingly tense exacerbated by the phenomenal score. Telling stories across three differing timelines, it's a phenomenal piece of cinema which is more than worth a watch.


Paddington 2 poster.jpg8. Paddington 2

Not only does Paul King's sequel manage to improve upon its predecessor, but it makes a strong case for being considered an outright classic in the near future. At the centre is a wonderful message about not understating the importance of a kind deed, how even the smallest kind acts done to one wonder can do larger wonders than you realise. This is a warm bear hug of a film that will leave you feeling better about the world. Plus, it's downright hilarious.

Get Out7. Get Out

For his directorial debut, Jordan Peele delivered something truly impressive with this razor sharp satire that's woven into a tense tale of horror, with effective bouts of humour included. From the unsettling way some characters speak, to the most menacing game of bingo one will see, this is phenomenal work which unfolds in magnificent ways, and proves rewarding upon repeat viewings. Evident all throughout is sense of foreboding, and simmering tension, which both continue building, until it all bursts forth, and Daniel Kaluuya is more than capable of handling where the story takes him, delivering a star making turn which is more than worthy of its Oscar nomination.

The Florida Project.jpg6. The Florida Project

Between this and 2015's Tangerine, Sean Baker has made himself known as one of the most interesting voices currently working in cinema. The innocence of youth is wonderfully captured, as we're guided through the film from a child's point of view, treating run down structures as some of the most fascinating places in the world. We see Moonee, played by the phenomenal Brookynn Prince, hold onto the wonderful memories and moments shared with those she loves, while unable to grasp the tragic realities and consequences of it all. A deft balance of childlike innocence with the darker realities of life, this is an unforgettable and unique story.

The Shape of Water (film).png5. The Shape of Water

A unique romance that's a quintessential work from Guillermo Del Toro, drawing inspiration from fairy tales, while touching ones hearts. At the centre is the love between Sally Hawkins' mute cleaner, and Doug Jones' amphibian creature, where so much is expressed between them without saying a word, where these lonely souls make each other feel a little less alone in a world that's unforgiving to those who are different. It may bring memories of other films, but the journey we're taken on makes it more than worthwhile, as the gorgeous aesthetic, masterful prosthetics, and stunning performances make up for one of Del Toro's best films.

Phantom Thread.png4. Phantom Thread

The latest from Paul Thomas Anderson may be known as the supposed farewell performance of Daniel Day Lewis, but it's far from just his film. Don't get me wrong, he does phenomenal work as the routine orientated Reynolds Woodcock, whose coiling anger can be sensed whenever said routine is upended, no matter how well meaning the actions are. But Vicky Krieps more than proves herself as his equal, as scenes where the two exchange words feels like you're in the presence of two expert swordwielders, parrying each others blows with the utmost precision. A sumptuously composed dark romance which proves engrossing throughout its running time.

Baby Driver poster.jpg3. Baby Driver

Choreography has always been an important part of Edgar Wrights filmography, just look at Shaun of the Dead where he timed Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" to the leads attacking a zombie. He applies that sensibility to an entire film that can be described as a musical, but with the singing and dancing replaced with gunfire and slick car handling. It's masterful craftsmanship, done with utter precision, and effective timing, to a soundtrack where every song feels integral to their selected scene. Outside of that lies a tremendous cast breathing life into their characters, lending heart and an engaging romance to this kinetic joyride of original cinema.

Star Wars The Last Jedi.jpg2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

In what's sure to be the most divisive entry into my list, Rian Johnson took one of the most popular franchises to some unfamiliar places which make it a far cry from its nostalgic predecessor. There's no interest in treating franchise faces as revered heroes who can no wrong, instead deconstructing them, to be shown as flawed and human as the rest of us. The importance of characters is abundantly true here, with a willingness to subvert expectations and not take the most obvious route, while allowing for moments to showcase the terrific abilities of the assembled cast. This is all done with breathtaking action sequences, wonderfully brought alive by a visionary eye, which all pale in comparison to a solitary moment of silence, which is one of the very best moments of 2017. Rian Johnson's own trilogy is highly anticipated.

Blade Runner 2049 poster.png1. Blade Runner 2049

The weight of this project must not have felt easy for Denis Villeneuve, to make a sequel to what's considered to be a classic piece of cinema, but he thankfully more than rises to the occasion. This a slow burn of a film, which deliver enough compelling material to hold audiences attention throughout the 164 minute running time. Thought provoking musings go hand in hand with the few quick and brutal moments of action, all set to the stunning cinematography of Roger Deakins, and an exceptional score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. At the centre of it is Harrison Ford returning to one of his many iconic roles, coming off as somebody who's been through the same hell as Rick Deckard over the lost 30 years, while Ryan Gosling is more than capable of leading the film as Officer K. The standout cast member is Sylvia Hoeks, who's mesmerising on-screen as the cruelly efficient Luv. Breathe a sigh of relief, this is a worthy follow-up made with the utmost care and respect, and the best film I saw from 2017.


Agree/Disagree with my decisions? Sound off below.

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