Hey Internet. So, I may have had a little bit of a break from this blog over the last few months. But I’m back for 2018, and I have a couple of blogs coming right off the back. Check in later for my spoiler filled analysis of the somewhat divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Here I’ll be discussing my top 10 films of 2017 – once again an eclectic mix covering a multitude of genres, like last year’s list.
Before I start, I’d like to point out that I found this year’s crop of movies to be more enjoyable than last year’s. To the point where there’s a lot of films that may have cracked last year’s top 10 that miss out this year. So, honorable mentions, in no particular order, to:
- Get Out
- Spider-Man: Homecoming
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Wonder Woman
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Only the Brave
- The Disaster Artist
With that out of the way, a quick disclaimer: this list applies to movies from 2017 as per the Australian Release Schedule. So any Americans wondering why some older films are on this list, and upset at the lack of The Shape of Water or Lady Bird, there’s your answer.
Anyway, without any further ado, let’s get on with it.
NUMBER 10: Dunkirk
Christopher Nolan returned for his first film since the high-concept Interstellar with a bleak but fascinating look at the realities of war, in what might be the most compelling war film since Saving Private Ryan (that said, I think I said the same thing about Hacksaw Ridge).
Nolan put together a highly capable ensemble, with young actors such as Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney and Jack Lowden surrounded by experienced performers like Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Jack D’Arcy and Cillian Murphy. Most intriguing, in the cast, was the addition of Harry Styles – a member of a popular boy band called “One Direction”. Personally, I’d struggle to pick any One Direction member out in a crowd, so I had to look up which actor Styles was after watching this film. Encouragingly, that meant that he fit well with the cast, so thumbs up to the lad for that one.
The main draw of this film though was the atmosphere. Dunkirk perhaps highlighted the worst of the war – young men trapped, whilst being bombed and attacked on all fronts – with slim chances of returning home, let alone winning the war. Nolan presents it in a highly cinematic form that just batters the emotions of the viewer. A highly worthy film, and an important one.
NUMBER 9: Blade Runner 2049
At number 9 is another big budget blockbuster, and part of the recent “Greatest Hits” tour that Harrison Ford appears to have undertaken – a journey that began with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and seems set to end with Indiana Jones 5 (unless they announce the long-awaited sequel to Working Girl….). But for now, we have Blade Runner 2049.
The original Blade Runner was renowned for its heavy, philosophic themes and moody atmosphere, and the long awaited sequel held true to that vision. With the visionary director Denis Villenueve, who’d previously experienced success with films such as Sicario and Arrival, at the helm, and with Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto and Robin Wright amongst those who joined the cast, this was a visually stunning film that didn’t hesitate to ask the big questions.
Many were put off by what was called a lacklustre third act, but while it is weaker than the set up, it was not enough to dislodge Blade Runner 2049 from it’s perch.
NUMBER 8: The Edge of Seventeen
In eighth place is, ironically, the first of the year’s new releases that I went to see at the cinema, with the result being a definite high note to start 2017 (at least from a film standpoint).
The Edge of Seventeen was made as a homage to the classic John Hughes films of the 1980’s – The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink. And on all fronts the film is a massive success, focusing in on all the trials and tribulations of an average 17 year old girl.
Hailee Steinfeld, who many years ago impressed me so much with her performance in True Grit that I cheered hard for her to win an Oscar, is in fine form here, and plays off costar Woody Harrelson (playing her long suffering English teacher) with outstanding chemistry. The film is equal parts funny and heartfelt and it got a response out of me – someone who’d never even been a 17 year old girl! It was refreshing to see a teen drama done so well in an age where they seem to be almost expendable.
NUMBER 7: Baby Driver
In the number seven spot is a film that could, in another year, have earned the number one spot, meaning we have reached the true cream of the crop in 2017.
Baby Driver is instantly an Edgar Wright film, filled with the same quirky intensity that created cult hits such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This time, Wright turns his eye to the world of getaway driving and bank heists in a high octane comedy-thriller. The cast is outstanding – young leads Ansel Elgort and Lily James are instantly likeable, and they are joined by Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez and Flea in a ripping ensemble. Also present is Kevin Spacey, who impressed me at the time by very convincingly playing a soulless asshole (related reading: my essay on the sexual abuse scandals that continue to rock Hollywood and the rest of the world).
With a killer soundtrack, an outstanding fun plot and colourful characters, this film is definitely worth checking out.
NUMBER 6: Wind River
Wind River, at number 6, is the passion project of Taylor Sheridan, the writer behind recent hits Sicario and Hell or High Water. Wind River is a sometimes confronting film, but a highly fulfilling one.
The film follows the investigation into the death of a teenaged girl on a Native American plantation in Wyoming. The FBI, unwilling to use too many resources on what they see as a minor case, assign an inexperienced officer (Elizabeth Olsen) to the scene. There, she enlists the help of a troubled local tracker (Jeremy Renner) to help navigate the unwelcoming terrain of the plantation and to get answers.
The film is gut-wrenching at times, and is the sort of film that leaves you with a deep seated hatred of the human race and what we, as a collective, allow to happen. But it is superbly acted and shot, and is a must watch film – at least one.
NUMBER 5: The LEGO Batman Movie
Upon release, everyone was in agreeance – The LEGO Movie had no right being as good as it was when Warner Bros. released it in 2014. So when The LEGO Batman Movie came out, I was curious to see if WB had managed to catch lightning in a bottle twice.
Turns out, they had, and had also somehow created the best DC movie since Nolan’s The Dark Knight. While certainly an unchallenging film – unlike Wind River above – The LEGO Batman Movie had one incredible thing going for it – it was very fun. Like, ridiculously fun. And it’s actually very rare to have that much fun from a movie.
With a colourful set of characters led by Will Arnett’s Batman (who somehow manages to better encompass who the Dark Knight is than Ben Affleck’s considerably less bricky version) you’d be a fool to write off this LEGO kidpic at face value.
NUMBER 4: Hidden Figures
I’m a complete sucker for films about space. Not necessarily sci-fi, though I do love that too, but a film about space. Apollo 13, Contact, Gravity – I absolutely love them.
So Hidden Figures is right up my alley and I really, really enjoyed this movie. Telling the true story of 3 highly influential NASA workers who helped the Americans win the space race – despite their contributions being overlooked due to their gender and race – this is heartfelt and gripping.
The three leads, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer were outstanding in their portrayals, and the supporting cast was strong with excellent performances by Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Mahershala Ali. Less impressive, sadly, was Jim Parsons, who seemed to be rehashing his famous Sheldon Cooper character with some ramped up racism.
But overall, this is a gripping true story and well worth a watch.
NUMBER 3: Coco
Cinema can often wait until the final hour to deliver some of it’s best work for the year, and that was the case with Coco, the new release from Pixar. While it’s been a mere 24 hours since I saw this film, and I can’t possibly place it in a Pixar ranking just yet, it definitely fits in with the best of the famed animated studio.
I am a massive admirer of Pixar – I think they just make great movies, no matter who the audience, and it’s the reason I hold all animated movies to an incredibly high standard, never satisfied with a movie made only to entertain small children.
Coco tells the story of a boy, Miguel, who wishes to be a musician despite his strict family insisting he is to become a shoe-maker. Angering his family, Miguel is cursed to the world of the dead, and must obtain his ancestors blessing to return to the world of the living. It’s a cute tale, about family and regret and forgiveness – and it brings a lump to the throat without ever becoming overtly saccharine.
NUMBER 2: Logan
All year there’s been talk of it being a great year for superhero films. And it’s true, of the 6 major superhero films this year, only one (DC’s Justice League) could in any way be described as a flop.
But that said, in my mind there is a clear and obvious answer when naming the best superhero film of 2017. While Thor, Spider-Man and Wonder Woman all had remarkably fun outings, Logan turned out to be a really good film, period. Forget superhero, it’s just a great film.
The final outing for Hugh Jackman in the role of Logan, or The Wolverine (a role he took up in 2000’s X-Men), director James Mangold turned it into an independent Western movie, eschewing the traditions of the superhero genre to just tell a great story. Jackman and Patrick Stewart give their all as their ageing classic characters, and we were introduced to young Dafne Keen as X-23 – a performance so good that I’ve been clamoring for more ever since.
This is definitely the best superhero film since The Dark Knight (which is getting name dropped a lot here), and a fitting swansong for Jackman – at least until Disney finalize the purchase of Fox and back the money truck into his driveway.
NUMBER 1: War for the Planet of the Apes
In 2011, the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes was released. Oh how I scoffed. I understood the legacy of the original film, of course, though I never thought it had aged that well. Then of course, there were a thousand sequels, all hokier than the last. And that Tim Burton reboot catastrophe. As I saw the film approach, I thought to myself that they should let sleeping dogs lie. The franchise was dead. Also, that title was way too long.
Fast forward to 2017 – if you were to ask me my favourite trilogy, I would have 4 answers depending on my mood – the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Toy Story trilogy, the original Star Wars trilogy if I was in the mood to forgive the Ewoks, and, finally, the new Planet of the Apes trilogy. While I think I preferred Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to this entry, it was still easily good enough to steal top spot in a competitive year at the cinema for me. Director Matt Reeves essentially created a western cum prisoner of war drama, with the relationship between chimp Cesear (Andy Serkis) and the human Colonel (Woody Harrelson) reminiscent of The Bridge Over the River Kwai or a Kurosawa tale. The film was breathtaking, emotional and exciting and a fitting end to a wonderful, nearly flawless trilogy. Even though it was based on a series of silly films about men in ape masks.
So there it is. The best of 2017. I wonder what 2018 has in store for us….