2017: A Year in Film

Film 2017

by Joanna Orland

‘Best of’ film lists for 2017 seem to vary quite vastly from one critic to another. Many focus on either UK or US release dates, making some feel hugely out of date if something was released in the UK say in January, yet in the US earlier in 2016… So, to simplify we go with films that have been in the spotlight in 2017 – either had its UK or US release, its premiere, or a prominent film festival screening. Because of the way we compile this list, yes, there may be some films notably absent as we probably saw them in 2016 (ie Toni Erdmann). But rightly so I say!

Anyway, down to business – here is our best of 2017 film list, ranked in order from the best to the rest:

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – One of the finest, most artistic psychological horrors I’ve seen – The Killing of a Sacred Deer sits nicely as a tonal companion to the fantastic The Lobster.

The Florida Project – Naturalistic and poignant. The performance of the year is by this brilliant little girl!

A Ghost Story – A truly unique and beautiful film!

Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut lives up to its hype. It’s such a relatable, naturalistic story with excellent performances from a stellar cast led by Saoirse Ronan.

A Fantastic Woman – Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (Gloria) creates another fantastic female-fronted story.

Coco – I loved this Pixar film so much, I was fighting back tears of both sadness and joy!

The Shape of Water – A timeless, beautiful fairytale. Guillermo del Toro has made a piece of classic cinema.

Ingrid Goes West – Simple, smart and funny, this dark satire on the Instagram generation is on the nose.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – I’m a huge Martin McDonagh fan anyway, but this is his best, most ‘mature’ film yet.

Call Me By Your Name – A beautiful story of first love / summer romance.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 – It may be throwaway subject matter, but director S. Craig Zahler takes his films very seriously… as he should. They are phenomenal – an exercise in masterful tension-building.

The Big Sick – I love a good indie film, and the star and writer of this one! The true story of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily is touching and funny in all the right non-sentimental ways.

Okja – Never before seen an international live action film that’s felt so anime like this one. Also, Jake Gyllenhaal – What is he doing? Whatever it is, I dig it.

Blade of the Immortal – Takashi Miike + Manga = <3

Atomic Blonde – A kick ass fun spy movie, albeit with a convoluted final act. Love the 80’s style, fight scenes, Charlize Theron & James McAvoy! Style with some actual substance!

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Not only did I have very low expectations for this film, but it would have exceeded any high ones as well. It is a well-written, well-acted, actually coherent and funny modern blockbuster! I loved it!

Logan – A western more than a superhero movie, Logan bids a fond farewell to Wolverine.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Noah Baumbach has made a very wonderful family drama, with heavy inspiration from Woody Allen.

The Salesman – Oscar-winning tragedy by the great Asghar Farhadi.

Thor: Ragnarok – I actually genuinely liked a Marvel film! And it was legitimately funny, one of the best comedies of the year! Amazing!

Paddington 2 – Not quite as good as the first, but damn close… and Hugh Grant makes a most excellent villain! <3

Baby Driver – Edgar Wright is on form again. A throwaway but masterfully fun film!

120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) – A very intense film about 1990’s ACT UP Aids activism in Paris.

First They Killed My Father – A compassionately made film by Angelina Jolie about the Cambodian genocide. Heartbreaking, yet tenderly told.

Dunkirk – Visual masterpiece, audio nightmare: But it left me wowed one way or another!

The Lovers – Nearly a perfect film: A wonderful script, fantastic performances, but an AWFUL dated score that pisses all over the film’s brilliance.

Borg vs McEnroe – A surprisingly compelling biopic of Bjorn Borg, with a hint of his nemesis John McEnroe. An effective portrayal of what it takes to be a great.

The Disaster Artist – James Franco always thrives in comedy. This film, based on the novel by The Room star Greg Sestero, isn’t as wildly absurdist as some of Franco’s other films with Seth Rogen – there is an actual relationship story being told her, that of Greg and The Room director Tommy Wiseau. Not quite a biopic of Wiseau as we learn nothing new about the man, only reinforce his oddity and mystery, The Disaster Artist has some hilarious moments, most of all James Franco’s portrayal / impression of Wiseau himself.

I, Tonya – Margo Robbie is excellent as Tony Harding!

Blade Runner 2049 – A visual masterpiece, but emotionally flat with a tiny bit of lift at the end.

Lean on Pete – A bit boring to watch at times until you realize what the film is truly about… and then it hits you like a ton of bricks.

Foxtrot – Jeez, this is a beautiful but depressing film. Too arthouse for mainstream likability, but so stunning in every way.

T2 Trainspotting – A maturely fitting sequel to the iconic era-defining 90’s film.

Downsizing – Alexander Payne’s film is a bit of a mess feeling like 3 films in 1, but there are just SO many great and funny elements to it, it’s hard not to love it anyway!

Our Souls at Night – The best part of this Netflix film is seeing Robert Redford and Jane Fonda reunited on screen. A hopeful and bittersweet tale of the last act of life.

Mountains May Depart – A film with ambitious scope: A tender relationship drama, as well as an examination of China’s capitalism boom, all spanning decades.

War for the Planet of the Apes – This has been a solid trilogy with an equally solid finale. The political allegory and underwhelming aspects make it one of the most intelligent blockbusters of modern day, while its visuals and score give it a nostalgic feel in homage to the original films. This is essentially a perfect film, but it’s missing that special something I can’t quite explain.

Mudbound – A film so difficult to watch, it took me 3 sittings to get through. Harrowing, important but difficult.

Aquarius – A depressing but poignant film about an ageing Brazilian woman being bullied out of her own home.

Good Time – Robert Pattinson shows off his acting chops in this lo-fi American thriller.

The Lego Batman Movie – Not as good as the original Lego Movie, but a fun take on the well-trodden superhero genre.

Split – I swear, only James McAvoy could convincingly and engagingly pull off a role like this! Anya Taylor-Joy is fascinating as well. A performance piece through and through.

Thoroughbreds – A nice noirish teen film with great central performances. And sadly, Anton Yelchin’s last.

Stronger – This Boston Marathon bombing survivor story could easily be cliche melodrama but, it’s just not. It’s surprisingly quite good!

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds – The HBO documentary about the late greats.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Quite low down on my list, I didn’t like Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s not destroying the Star Wars canon I’m upset about, it’s that it’s not a well made movie. I found it boring, shoddily edited, too many plot ideas with no follow through, a bloated cast of characters, and anti-climactic. While The Force Awakens had me excited about this trilogy, The Last Jedi has made me hugely indifferent. J.J. Abrams’ return to the third, however, does spark a bit of interest as I know he’ll pull it all back together after Rian Johnson’s missteps. Also, why is no one talking about Poe Dameron’s misogony!? The man does not respect his female superiors.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore – Sundance-winning indie gem on Netflix.

Frank & Lola – A very compelling noir romance film with a wonderful brooding performance by Michael Shannon and a captivating one by Imogen Poots.

Golden Exits – Alex Ross Perry is back with a mundane exploration of a group of everyday New Yorkers. Jason Schwartzman is hilarious as always.

The Lost City of Z – A would-be old-fashioned classic which never quite reaches its full potential.

Patriot’s Day – This film about the Boston Marathon bombing is surprisingly classy.

The White Helmets – This Oscar winning short documentary is profound.

13th – This is a powerful and broadly informative documentary by Ava DuVernay.

On Body and Soul – An interesting exploration of love, humanity, and what it is to have a body and soul – human or animal.

Sleeping Giant – A very predictable yet beautifully done Canadian debut feature.

Oh Lucy! – An interesting character study of an underrepresented, lonely woman.

After the Storm – Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda’s film is an empathetically contemplative examination of life and its regrets.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Daft but entertaining sequel.

The Young Offenders – Oh, that Irish charm!

The Party – A rather entertaining British farce.

Colossal – What an interesting concept!

Breathe – Andy Serkis directs Claire Foy and Andrew Garfield in this sentimental film.

Handsome Devil – An Irish film confronting homophobia.

Gifted – A tame but watchable Chris Evans / Octavia Spencer film about a smart kid.

The Leisure Seeker – There is something missing from this film…. certainly not top tier fine performances from its saving grace dream team Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.

The Bad Batch – Highly stylized visual and aural extravaganza, regrettable narrative.

Certain Women – Slow-burning, pensive and empathetic. But SO SLOW.

Logan Lucky – Steven Soderbergh is back… meh.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson – a documentary on the LGBTQ activist who was found dead in the early 1990’s.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – I had no idea the making of Man on the Moon was so bonkers… Jim Carrey is quite the character.

Gaga: Five Foot Two – This Netflix documentary on Lady Gaga is never truly revealing and feels manufactured by the star herself. But, it’s beautifully shot and really does humanize the intriguing woman.

Little Boxes – Lovely indie gem, and one of Nelsan Ellis’ last performances. 🙁

Beauty & the Beast – This live action remake is an exercise in mediocrity. They got some of the casting spot on (Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen), but what they did with the songs, the sound mix and the soullessness is dumbfounding.

Win It All – Joe Swanberg seems to have found a great platform for his work with Netflix. And Jake Johnson has found a great collaborator in Swanberg. Johnson is always great in indie films (ie Drinking Buddies) and just AWFUL in blockbusters (ie The Mummy).

Viceroy’s House – An epic historical political drama softened for easy digestion.

Ghost in the Shell – Not THAT bad, aside from the white washing.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool – An ok re-telling of the last love and days of Gloria Grahame’s life.

Chasing Coral – This environmental documentary will really open your eyes to climate change, even if you think you’re already informed!

Good Manners – A crazy werewolf movie!

Brigsby Bear – Surprisingly heartfelt for such an absurdist premise.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer – Richard Gere plays his age in a drama with only deplorable characters.

Crown Heights – Another bleak story about how the American justice system fails the poor – a la The Night Of and 13th. And of course, it’s a true story!

Battle of the Sexes – If you’re only going to see one tennis movie this year, make it Borg vs McEnroe.

Window Horses – A very strange animated film about poetry.

The Discovery – Charlie McDowell’s follow up to the AMAZING The One I Love is a sombre disappointment, but with some interesting ideas.

Morris from America – Another Sundance hype-machine letdown, this coming-of-age tale is very sweet, but not sensational.

Alien Covenant – A completely unnecessary film adding a useless backstory to the Alien franchise.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – The dip in quality from the first GotG to this one is immense. This felt stale and try-hard.

Bright – I spent the whole film in disbelief that this is Joel Edgerton dressed up as an orc!

Wonderstruck – Somehow Todd Haynes balances visual and musical intrigue with mind-numbing narrative boredom.

The Mercy – Colin Firth is a great actor, this is a great story, but something falls flat in The Mercy.

Gemini – A stylish noir starring the captivating Lola Kirke, let down by it’s STUPID ending.

Abu – A nice personal documentary of growing up gay in a family culture that doesn’t allow for it.

Personal Shopper – This “award-winning” movie is pure trash – and not in the good way.

Person to Person – A meandearing but sometimes amusing mess.

Suburbicon – George Clooney does slick but shallow in this directorial feature written by the Coen brothers… It’s clearly a film they never had any intention of making themselves.

Marjorie Prime – I imagine the stage play is much better!

The Incredible Jessica James – A Jessica Williams vehicle that doesn’t live up to its potential, but it’s great to see her star on the rise.

A Quiet Passion – Objectively well made, this very boring portrayal of Emily Dickinson’s life could have had a bit more to it.

Weirdos – Perhaps Bruce McDonald is better left to a cult following?

To the Bone – Netflix + Keanu Reeves + Eating disorders + a tasteless love story = Bizarre.

Casting JonBenet – Netlix nabbed this Sundance documentary which examines the mystery and characters surrounding the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. More of a character, societal and small town study than a documentary about its literal subject matter.

Death Note – Netflix, what have you done!? Surely your money could’ve made this adaptation much less cheap!

You’re Killing Me Susana – Gael Garcia Bernal is so much better than the material.

Nico, 1988 – A boring biopic of “Nico”, who collaborated with the Velvet Underground. Good lead performance by Trine Dyrholm!

Power Rangers – Such an unnecessary tonally wrong film.

Last Flag Flying – I expect better from Richard Linklater, but at least we have 3 decent performances from Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell.

6 Days – How could such a thrilling story feel so flat in movie form?

Snatched – With Amy Schumer & Goldie Hawn, this really should have been better!

The Circle – This film is an embarrassment to cinema.

Trespass Against Us – Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson carry this Irish film, but there is not much else but a mess

The Cured – Sucks all of the fun out of ZOMBIES!

Lego Ninajago – Well, that’s Lego movies done.

Pickups – Too meta to make sense.

I’m Not Here – Sadly amateurish in feel, in spite of a stellar cast.

Hello Again – This film could’ve been something, but it’s not.

Love is Thicker Than Water – Well-intentioned but SO dull.

Antibirth – A body horror that is neither scary nor funny. Why!?

War Machine – Unwatchable.

mother! – I hated Darren Aronofsky’s pretentious film almost as much as his The Fountain – and I’ve had 11 year’s to fester on that one… and my hatred hasn’t lessened one bit! Awful trite.


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