And now, the end is near for 2017. In many respects we might say good riddance; however, we might also be thankful for what most of us seem to agree was a stellar year for film, in the multiplexes and the art houses, at the festivals, and on the home streaming platforms. The face of cinema is going through changes, no doubt, but some of the quality output this year should serve to reassure that such changes are not necessarily cause for concern.
After nine-odd years of writing these end of year top ten things, perhaps I should by now dispense with the usual disclaimer, but here it comes anyway: the following list covers my ten personal favourites of the year, as opposed to the year’s ten best, for as ever there are vast swathes of highly acclaimed films making the end of year lists that I didn’t get around to seeing; two of those that Keri lists among her 2017 favourites are ones I’ve missed as of yet, whilst I’ve only seen four of Nia’s top fifteen, and between the three of us we all still managed to miss plenty.
So, I offer up the following list not as evidence of my authoritative overview of all cinema, but merely as an honest reflection of the ten films I most enjoyed this past year. Do as you will with that information. Films are listed not in order of preference, but roughly in the order I saw them, if memory serves (no guarantees; this brain’s not as sharp as it once was, and it’s debatable as to how sharp it was then).
The Lego Batman Movie
The first film I saw on the big screen in 2017, and I knew almost immediately it would wind up one of my favourites of the year. It certainly became my favourite Batman movie straight away. Building on the good work done by 2014’s The Lego Movie (one of the most disarmingly sophisticated and philosophical kids films of recent years), this animated romp gives the Dark Knight a much-needed nudge down from his high horse in the wake of the Christopher Nolan years. Still, it isn’t just a bald-faced lampoon of the DC icon; while it may be overflowing with snarky references to his previous live action outings, it also explores the character and his world in some very interesting ways, which should please all but the most stony-faced of Bat-fans. Shame the subsequent Lego Ninjago Movie was such a damp squib, keeping the Lego franchise from scoring a solid hat trick.
Another of the year’s earliest major releases, which justly became one of the most widely praised films of the year – and, not for nothing, a significant commercial success too. Hand in hand with It, Get Out played a big part in 2017 being widely hailed as a renaissance year for horror, even if its director Jordan Peele opted to publicly refer to it as a ‘social thriller.’ Indeed, finding a convenient label for the film has proved tricky, and many were displeased when it showed in the Musical or Comedy category in the 2018 Golden Globes nominations. The main thing is, however you chose to label Get Out, it’s plainly and simply a great film that works both as straightforward entertainment, and as a meditation on complex race relations issues.
Read the discussion on the film between Keri and myself.
Given the sheer number of comic book superhero movies released this past year, we can be forgiven for thinking the bubble’s in danger of bursting. However, 2017’s first major comic book movie demonstrated that there’s still plenty of scope left for the genre to do new and exciting things. With a considerably more grounded, grittier tone than anything that came before in the X-Men series, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart give career-best performances in what seems certain to be the final franchise entry for both actors. Not content with being gorier and swearier, Logan is by far the most genuinely mature comic book movie in years.
Read my review.
Kong: Skull Island
Sometimes, all a movie has to do is deliver the basic pleasures as joyously as possible, and it’s easy to forgive a multitude of sins. This is without a doubt the case on Kong: Skull Island. Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ film has a list of flaws longer than my arm: to name but a few there’s the generic plotting, an oversized ensemble, talented actors squandered on underwritten roles. And yet, it embraces the over the top theatrics of the jungle adventure and the giant monster action so passionately, it’s hard not to be swept up in it all. Beautifully brought to life with gorgeous production design and creature work, it’s as close to a Frank Franzetta painting in motion as we’re ever likely to see. It’s also one of the most astonishingly gruesome films to ever get away with a 12A/PG-13, packing in some smirk-inducing references to a variety of non-family friendly movies along the way.
Read my review.
Space Babes From Outer Space
Okay, so thus far my list has included literally nothing but major studio theatrical releases; do I include this ultra-low budget indie B-movie purely to redress the balance? Yes, and no. While it may be lightyears removed in terms of budget and content, Brian K Williams’ film in many ways ticks similar boxes to Kong: Skull Island for me; it loads in enough of the simple pleasures that I’m happy to overlook its obvious flaws. Of course, for a movie like this, the flaws are all part of the pleasure. Space Babes From Outer Space beautifully evokes the mood of those DTV sex comedy fantasies of the 80s and 90s, piling on the gratuitous flesh and innuendo-ridden dialogue. Naturally it’s all very puerile and juvenile, but that’s the fun of it – and there are some interesting observations made on gender relations and sexuality along the way.
Read my review.
Few films intrigued me quite so much in 2017 as this (technically a 2015 production, but released in the UK by Eureka this year, hitting a few festivals prior to its DVD/Blu-ray release). After an unforgettable opening sequence, this strange tale of a young woman’s fight to survive in an increasingly surreal landscape only gets weirder as it goes on, and while for the most part it may come off as a voyeuristic male fantasy, the final act turns the tables in an unexpected fashion. In a curious way, it seems to hit on similar thematic territory as this year’s mother! – but it’s considerably more fun to watch. Indeed, it’s the only Sion Sono film I’ve seen to date that I anticipate watching more than once.
Read Keri’s review.
2017 has of course been a big year for Stephen King movies – It, The Dark Tower, 1922 – but to my mind Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Gerald’s Game was the most effective of them all, and certainly the best Netflix original film of the year that I’ve seen. Sure, it could have done without the final five minutes or so, but otherwise it’s a remarkably tense, intelligent and moving take on material which, in less capable hands, could have come off extremely sleazy. And it boasts one of the most incredibly wince-inducing scenes of this year or any other.
Read my review.
This, obviously, is a bit of an odd inclusion amongst all this comparatively low-brow genre fare. However, this year the Oscar voters definitely got it right. Barry Jenkins’ remarkably intimate and atmospheric film speaks volumes whilst leaving a great deal unsaid. While some might dismiss it offhand as a topical issue-based drama, it’s ultimately a very human tale that should resonate with anyone who’s ever felt themselves an outsider; and while it does not shy away from the darkness, there’s an uplifting sense of hope underneath it all. If, like me, you tend to be put off by awards season hype (hence I didn’t see the film until it came to Amazon Prime), don’t be: in this case, it’s very much justified.
Blade Runner 2049
It’s refreshing indeed that two of the boldest, most surprising and moving films of 2017 were mega-budget sci-fi sequels. The first of these, of course, was Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic, and it’s perhaps only fitting that it didn’t meet a universally positive response on release given that the original didn’t either. Brilliantly developing the world established by the first film, yet also working perfectly as a standalone film in its own right, this is a remarkably thoughtful, philosophical drama playing with fascinating ideas in amongst the futuristic action. Stunning, thrilling, haunting work.
Read my review.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
That other 2017 megabudget sci-fi sequel that subverted expectation in so many respects – yet, regardless of what many bullheaded Star Wars devotees have claimed, it does not in any way betray the spirit of the franchise. Having seen Rian Johnson’s film twice at the time of writing, I am resolute in my opinion that this is the finest Star Wars film of the past 36 years; and as much as it’s a positive step forward for the series, it’s a fantastic film in its own right, which really tackles the key themes of Star Wars in a more direct, thought-provoking manner than arguably any other entry in the franchise.
Read my review.
Honourable mentions: Colossal, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Atomic Blonde, It, Thor: Ragnarok, The Endless, Tragedy Girls, Adult Life Skills, A Dark Song, Wheelman, The Babysitter, The Disaster Artist, and mother!