Doom-mongers are in force as always when it comes to discussion of 2017 at the cinema. The summer blockbuster season was something of a disappointment all around, but this has been an utterly compelling year for cinema, delivering top quality popcorn movies and interesting independent films. Compiling a top ten list amidst such a great crop is a very tough job and many more brilliant films were always going to miss out.
Along with my co-hosts on The Popcorn Muncher Podcast – Luke and Patrick – I listed my top ten films of the year. We’ve awarded points for the rankings, crunched the numbers and here are, according to the three of us, the 20 best films that were released in the UK in 2017.
20=. The Greatest Showman (1 pt)
After the success of La La Land, this is the latest big Hollywood musical. Hugh Jackman is all-singing, all-dancing and all-charisma as circus impresario PT Barnum.
Luke said: “The songs are fantastic, the performances charismatic and the whole movie is directed with such a flair and energy you forget entirely what limitations the story might have. This movie is a whirlwind of unbridled joy, which will leave you smiling and humming for some time to come.”
20=. The Handmaiden (1 pt)
Korean director Park Chan-wook‘s lavish adaptation of a novel set in Victorian Britain is a unique, erotic mystery that traces a con-gone-strange and flips the entire story with a number of massive twists.
Tom said: “Park Chan-wook is a master filmmaker and The Handmaiden is a consistently surprising movie with an engrossing central romance. I never knew what to expect and was constantly left as baffled as I was enthralled.”
20=. Prevenge (1 pt)
Alice Lowe delivers something truly unique with a film that she wrote, directed and acted in while heavily pregnant. She plays a woman driven to carry out a killing spree by the malevolent unborn foetus growing within her.
Patrick said: “Lowe is one of the most interesting British voices in dark comedy and here she taps into something personal and downright mad. It’s not for everyone, but it tickles my interest in the weird and perverse in all the right ways.”
18=. Manchester by the Sea (2 pts)
Manchester by the Sea is not one of the year’s most showy releases, but it is a compelling study of a man struggling to deal with a new, in loco parentis family role while still unable to contain his own grief after a life-changing event.
Tom said: “Casey Affleck‘s richly deserved Oscar-winning performance sits at the heart of this potent, emotional drama. It’s a patient, meditative story about loss, heartbreak and the endless power of grief.”
18=. Logan Lucky (2 pts)
Steven Soderbergh returned from perhaps the shortest retirement in history to make Southern fried heist caper Logan Lucky, in which a Nascar track plays host to a redneck team of thieves captained by a typically on-song Channing Tatum.
Patrick said: “Harkening back to movies like Smokey and the Bandit, this southern robbery tale is just good fun. Daniel Craig is excellent as a jail-breaking demolition expert and the whole gang are a joy to watch. Not the most groundbreaking film of the year but definitely one of the most enjoyable.”
15=. Okja (3 pts)
It has been a strong year for Netflix exclusive movie releases and Okja stands out as the best of those films. Bong Joon-ho marries a kid-and-critter fable with a criticism of production line capitalism with his story of a cow grown for superfood.
Tom said: “Okja is a compelling and adorable film with an intriguing subtextual story that acknowledges the complexity of what could have been a very obvious anti-capitalist message.”
15=. The Florida Project (3 pts)
Sean Baker follows up his breakout hit Tangerine with a tale of life on the fringes of paradise as he tells a child’s-eye story of living in the dirt-poor motels of the less idyllic corners of Florida.
Luke said: “Baker chooses to present a depressing story through the eyes of children, which means you can’t help but smile and take joy with how their imagination makes the world work for them. There’s absolutely no chance you won’t feel something, whether it’s joy, anger or sadness.”
15=. Kong: Skull Island (3 pts)
The burgeoning giant monsters universe finds its groove with Kong: Skull Island, which delivers an interesting take on the eponymous ape and revels in some genuinely stunning visual effects.
Patrick said: “This is not just a great B-movie blown up to a huge scale, it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. The Apocalypse Now inspired setting drapes the film in gorgeous splashes of orange behind deep silhouettes. It’s a whole lot of fun and I really hope the next Godzilla movies take more influence from this.”
14. It (4 pts)
Pennywise the Dancing Clown is set to haunt a whole new generation of nightmares following It. The new film has left its made-for-TV predecessor in the dust en route to a genre record of almost $700m at the global box office.
Luke said: “A modern horror masterpiece, which showed the world this often-maligned genre can make blockbusters, and brilliant ones. The scares are genuine as Bill Skarsgård plays Pennywise with such a malicious sense of fun that you never feel comfortable with him on screen.”
11=. God’s Own Country (5 pts)
In a strong year for LGBT cinema, of which there will be more later, Francis Lee‘s romantic drama set on and around a Yorkshire farm stands out as something very special. God’s Own Country follows a farm boy and a Romanian immigrant who discover real affection for each other.
Tom said: “This is a simply beautiful film, with a rough around the edges feel that only enhances its emotional power. The two performances are perfect and the characters feel totally complete.”
11=. Patti Cake$ (5 pts)
In a year of strong musicals, Patti Cake$ is the one with the most rough and ready charm. Its hip-hop soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to its central character’s unlikely attempt to achieve her lofty musical ambitions.
Luke said: “This small movie is a surprise in many ways. Its funny, dramatic and emotional, but most of all it is a stunning music movie up there with the genre’s best. The stunning rap set pieces are what elevates this movie’s rather simplistic coming of age tale into an emotional, thrilling powerhouse.”
11=. Atomic Blonde (5 pts)
Charlize Theron proves she can kick arse with the best of them in Atomic Blonde, which sees her deep undercover in divided Berlin, immediately prior to the fall of the Wall. It’s a blitz of fights, punky style and manic plot twists.
Patrick said: “Theron is fearless in the main role, with a third act fight where you feel every punch, slice and break her body takes. Besides the great action, it’s also got a solid throwback espionage story and a central homosexual relationship that is treated in a refreshingly unshowy fashion.”
9=. Wonder Woman (9 pts)
After many false starts, the DC Extended Universe finally attracted solid reviews and strong audience notices with Wonder Woman, in which Gal Gadot is fabulous as the Amazonian warrior who travels into the “world of men” during the First World War. The film is an earnest and straightforward superhero movie, but one that has considerable charm and real, uplifting thrills.
Luke said: “Was there a better year for an empowering, woman-focused superhero movie to come out? Wonder Woman brought us a female director, a female hero and a uniquely female superhero story. It’s naive to say Wonder Woman was part of the balancing of representation, as there’s still a long way to go, but it was an important step for young girls and women everywhere, delivering some of the most dynamic action in a superhero movie since The Winter Soldier.”
9=. Dunkirk (9 pts)
A new film by Christopher Nolan is always a cause for excitement and Dunkirk is already being talked about as the film that might win him his first Oscar. It’s a daring take on one of Britain’s most famous military defeats, using three intersecting timelines to enter the conflict at three different points, creating a tense and thrillingly immersive cinema experience.
Patrick said: “The inherent emotional resonance of the story allows Nolan to focus on his core strengths of mechanical filmmaking precision, with an edit that sees him and his team stretch out the multiple time frames of Inception and use it as a format for an entire movie. It really is one of the most outstanding cinematic constructions of the year and possibly even the decade.”
8. La La Land (10 pts)
It is now likely to be remembered most clearly as the focal point for the most controversial moment in Oscars history but, before that, La La Land marked itself out as a return for the grand, lavish musical that was common in Hollywood’s Golden Age. Its depiction of two performers reaching for fame, artistic success and love at the same time remains a deeply affecting story, even a year after it first arrived on the scene.
Luke said: “This movie’s place in one of the most dramatic and memorable moments in Oscars history should not let you forget it is a stunning musical by one of the industry’s most exciting directors. Damien Chazelle follows up Whiplash with another masterpiece in this sun-drenched musical. With memorable performances, lovely songs and all of it presented through Chazelle’s masterful lens, this movie has been too quickly dismissed by many, when in fact it is one that should linger for years to come.”
6=. Baby Driver (11 pts)
Years after the Cornetto Trilogy came to an end and following the messy production of a certain Marvel movie, Edgar Wright made his return to the big screen this year at the helm of Baby Driver. It’s a precision-tooled medley of movement and music, with an ingenious combination of the protagonist’s constant soundtrack and the kinetic action on the screen. Throw in some great villainous characters and a nice central romance and you have a great recipe.
Tom said: “Edgar Wright is a filmmaker who understands the visual grammar of movies more than most, and Baby Driver is another prime example of that. It’s a film no one else could have made and nothing this year has felt as elegantly crafted as this.”
Patrick said: “Rhythmic is the best way to describe the movie, with its beautiful soundtrack keeping a tempo to the action and performances that is just a joy to watch. Great action and a great cast make this a real winner and prove how versatile a director Wright can be.”
6=. mother! (11 pts)
One of the most divisive movies of 2017 and certainly not for everyone, mother! is a singular beast from the warped mind of Darren Aronofsky. The film follows Jennifer Lawrence as a woman who sees her life and home crumbling around her when her husband assembles a bizarre legion of fans for his poetry work. No plot summary can do justice to what happens next.
Tom said: “I can’t recall a cinema experience this year more unusual than mother!, which is one of the strangest things I have ever seen. It’s a brutal, physical onslaught of a movie that has real depth lurking beneath its cacophonous, opaque surface.”
Patrick said: “Despite causing my auto-correct indefinite strife, mother! remains one of the most memorable cinema experiences of the year. How this got a wide cinema release is beyond me. While the symbolism is very on the nose, as an experience in the cinema it’s something to behold. Here’s some advice. I took my mother to see mother! Don’t take your mother to see mother!“
4=. Blade Runner 2049 (12 pts)
The nightmarish futurescape of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? returned to the big screen this year with the long-awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049. It’s a methodical, intriguing dystopian tale in which Harrison Ford returns to the role of Deckard for a story that explores the world of the Blade Runner universe from a completely different angle to the 1980s sci-fi classic.
Patrick said: “I’ve never been a fan of the original Blade Runner despite its near cult like fandom, but Blade Runner 2049 gave me a version of that world that’s truly excellent. It’s a beautiful slice of neo-noir with a really interesting and methodical narrative, where all the elements mesh perfectly to make a thematic work of art.”
Luke said: “How do you follow up one of the most revered sci-fi epics of all time? This film is so good it can make someone who has never stayed awake through the original remain enthralled for its entire runtime. It doesn’t stray far from the original Blade Runner in terms of its themes, but it handles them more poignantly, packing emotion into every moment where the original felt cold. This is a rare beast – a sequel that operates in the same circles as the original, but is superior to it in every way.”
4=. Logan (12 pts)
When he wasn’t singing this year, Hugh Jackman bid farewell to the role of Wolverine in Logan. Director James Mangold delivered a uniquely melancholic superhero movie, with tinges of the Western genre and an R-rated hard edge that hasn’t ever been seen in the genre before. It follows a grizzled, weary Logan as he goes on the road with Dafne Keen‘s young mutant on the run, protecting her from authorities keen to track her down.
Tom said: “I said it when we first reviewed Logan on the podcast and I’ll say it again – this is the best superhero movie ever made. Jackman’s performance is wonderfully nuanced and Mangold has a command of his throat-slashing, curse-spouting R rating that the makers of Deadpool can only look at with sweary envy.”
Patrick said: “A well-crafted, mature superhero offering that looks at the toll a life like Wolverine’s would have on a man. The film uses Western motifs to tell a simple but powerful story that really is far better than I think any of us had anticipated. If the whole superhero genre ended on this movie, I would not mourn it. What a fantastic send-off.”
3. Call Me By Your Name (15 pts)
At this stage, Call Me By Your Name looks like a potential frontrunner for the Oscars and it’s easy to see why. Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino captures a seemingly endless summer and the paradoxically fleeting romance contained within it, between the Oscar-tipped Timothée Chalamet and dashing American student Armie Hammer, who is visiting idyllic Italy as part of a summer internship with Chalamet’s professor father.
Tom said: “With a handful of fantastic performances at its heart and direction that evokes every degree of summer intensity, Call Me By Your Name is a brilliant romance drama. The 35mm film stock creates the feel of a grainy, nostalgic daydream that perfectly fits its tale of doomed first love.”
Luke said: “This marvellous movie is a wonderful ode to summer love, life-changing romance and heartbreak. Coming a year after Moonlight, people may try to pigeon-hole this movie as a similar story and it may wrong-foot audiences to see how this is a movie about love rather than coming out in the face of adversity, but Call Me By Your Name is a sun-soaked masterpiece that will make you smile and cry in equal measure.”
2. Paddington 2 (16 pts)
The most charming and lovable bear in modern cinema returned this year in Paddington 2. Faced with the sheer joy of its predecessor, the film had a hard act to follow. This time around, Paddington is trying to find a present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday and gets caught up in the theft of a pop-up book and ends up in prison, while Hugh Grant camps around as an actor, villain and master of disguise.
Tom said: “This movie is charm personified and clearly the best film of 2017. Ben Whishaw‘s central performance could not be more adorable and it’s refreshing lack of cynicism is exactly what the world needed during one of the most depressing years in living memory. It’s funny, delightful and I cried like a grandmother at a wedding when the final emotional reveal came around.”
Luke said: “If this was a loveliest movies list, Paddington 2 would be number one this year and every other year until the end of time. This brilliant film could possibly be regarded as the greatest sequel of all time, but those discussions are for the future. For the present, it’s just lovely to exist in the same world as this film that brought joy, laughter and happy crying to a year that didn’t deserve it.”
1. Get Out (25 pts)
It’s fitting that the top film of 2017, according to the three of us, is the only one that appeared on all of our lists. Get Out is Jordan Peele‘s incendiary, racially-charged horror movie and a film that has consistently played on the minds of everyone who has seen it since it arrived in cinemas right at the beginning of the year. Daniel Kaluuya is rightly receiving awards attention for his work as a black man who stumbles across something very sinister when meeting his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time.
Tom said: “This isn’t my favourite film of the year, but it’s certainly the most important one. For a first-time filmmaker to conjure an absolute masterpiece is deeply impressive and this is horror at its most daring. No other genre can assassinate society in the way that the unbridled horror of Get Out does – and that is what gives it its power.”
Patrick said: “A razor sharp takedown of institutionalised racism and the first successful attempt at attacking liberal racism rather than focusing on the easy targets and stereotypes normally attacked in America. Not only this, but it is a downright chilling piece of horror and Daniel Kaluuya continues to prove he is one of the best young British actors working today.”
Luke said: “This film’s genius is in its script, which foregoes old stereotypes of redneck racists and puts its unflinching gaze on white, liberal people and how their attitudes can still embed racism. It’s timely, but beyond that it is an excellently crafted thriller that cements Blumhouse’s takeover of horror movies and should put Jordan Peele’s name at the top of every studio wishlist.”
And here are our full lists. For our weekly reviews and chat, check out the podcast. If you want to yell at us for what we have chosen or indeed what we haven’t chosen, feel free to pop down to the comments section and scream your heart out.
Call Me By Your Name
God’s Own Country
Manchester by the Sea
La La Land
Call Me By Your Name
The Florida Project
Blade Runner 2049
The Greatest Showman
Blade Runner 2049
Kong: Skull Island