Our 20 favourite films from 2017
This Diana Prince solo show bucked the trend of mediocre DC movies and offered renewed (though misplaced) hope that ‘Justice League’ might be a winner. Gal Gadot dazzled, while director Patty Jenkins offered a devastating rebuttal of the crazy notion that only men should direct blockbusters.
Adrenalising and grungy, Josh and Benny Safdie’s latest indie already feels like a New York crime classic, in spitting distance of ‘Dog Day Afternoon’. It’s anchored by a transformed Rob Pattinson, doing his best wiry Al Pacino as a two-bit hustler hoping to break his brother out of custody.
Hugh Jackman bid farewell to Wolverine with a thrilling, hugely violent final instalment. Newcomer Dafne Keen earned plaudits as a junior mutant with her own gnarly skillset, and Stephen Merchant was a surprising good fit for Caliban, but this was the Jackman show. So long, Logan. We’ll miss you.
Lovely, mysterious and cosmic, David Lowery’s eerie horror film – starring some dude under a sheet – cast a love-it-or-hate-it spell. (The correct people were in the ‘love it’ camp.) Interrupted by death, a couple’s love found a weird way forward, in a one-of-a-kind slice of supernatural risk-taking.
Florence Pugh caught the eye in Carol Morley’s ‘The Falling’ in 2014, but this brilliant, brooding character study was a true star-making turn. Guided skilfully by first-time director William Oldroyd, her 17th-century firebrand was hero and villain at the same time.
Genius director Kathryn Bigelow (‘The Hurt Locker’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’) returned with another movie about Americans at war, this time amid the title city’s violent, racially charged riots of 1967. No mere period piece, ‘Detroit’ summoned an expertly calibrated chaos that’s depressingly familiar.
It was your classic story: boy meets girl, girl falls into a coma, boy upsets girl’s parents with on-the-nose jokes about 9/11, boy and girl confront the strangeness of their situation. It was also an entirely true one. Thanks to that couple, screenwriter Emily V Gordon and screenwriter/star Kumail Nanjiani, it made for one of the funniest movies of the year.
A sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterful sci-fi after 35 years was bound to be terrible, right? Not so much. While definitely a risky venture, it paid off. Director Denis Villeneuve and DoP Roger Deakins created the kind of dazzling visual landscape that was basically Christmas for your eyeballs. It was a buzz to see Harrison Ford’s Deckard back, too, even more jaded but still with killer cool.
A depiction of sexual discovery and inner pain that was as rugged as the windswept Yorkshire landscape it’s set against, Francis Lee’s drama was one of the best British films of recent years. The ‘Brokeback Mountain’ comparisons, though a bit glib, had definite merit.
Britain’s favourite Peruvian returned for a sequel that somehow managed to be even funnier, more charming and loveable than the original. We loved it because it was the best London movie of the year, but we’d have loved it if it had been set on the moon.
As devastating as movies get, this grief drama was both intimately familiar – a coastal New England community of distracted parents and bitterly cold winters – and revelatory for not sparing us the hard truth of loss.
A dazzlingly original, heartbreaking musical pulsing with the spirit of the immortal Jacques Demy, Damien Chazelle’s swirling masterpiece gave us a career-best performance from Emma Stone – and the soundtrack of early 2017.
Following ‘Tangerine’, indie wunderkind Sean Baker continued his celebration of life on the margins. This time his gaze fell on the unsupervised children who live in a ratty motel on the outskirts of Disney World. Willem Dafoe stole the show.
This year saw Armando Iannucci reinforce his position as Britain’s sharpest satirist. With the help of a cast of comedy greats, he managed to make Stalinist tyranny, brutal purges and communist doublespeak hilarious, without forgetting to also make them truly horrifying.
Sarah Waters’s Dickensian yarn got the full Park Chan-wook treatment. Devilish, intricate and featuring a surprising array of sex toys, the director’s stunningly crafted mystery would be worth the ride, even without its absolute zinger of a payoff.
Great comedies are supposed to be short, right? Not this one. Writer-director Maren Ade’s slowburning gem is two-and-a-half hours of big laughs, gulpworthy awkwardness and dysfunctional dad-daughter dynamics. Part love letter, part whoopee cushion, and all heart.
Luca Guadagnino’s voluptuous coming-of-age gay romance transports you not only to northern Italy, but to a lazy summer and an exchange of books, fruit, glances and power. With this one, the filmmaker has leapt into the company of the likes of Bernardo Bertolucci.
Director Jordan Peele took everyone by surprise with this razor-edged satire of racism that masqueraded as a Wes Craven-like suburban horror. Londoner Daniel Kaluuya is exceptional as a young photographer invited into a Stepford-ish world where black lives really don’t matter.
If Christopher Nolan had directed the actual WWII, everyone would have run out of money by about 1941. Giant-canvas filmmaking of the kind no one else even tries to rival these days, his beachside epic – ‘Saving Private Styles’? – was worth twice whatever it cost.
The Academy anointed it Best Film – well, once they’d got the right envelope – and who could argue? ‘Moonlight’ is a deeply humane, heartfelt drama about growing up, with immaculate performances throughout. The ocean baptism scene might just be the cinematic image of the year, too.