After some tough deliberations with myself in the mirror, I have at last settled on my top ten movies of 2017. This year’s list is comprised largely of films that tried something different, even if they weren’t entirely successful in some cases.
Darren Aronofsky’s biblical re-imagining was without a doubt the most uncomfortable viewing experience of the year. His clever use of uninterrupted close-up shots and eerie sound design makes Mother! a truly immersive experience which will stay burned in your brain long after the credits start rolling.
Jennifer Lawrence was criminally shut-out of this year’s awards season for what is her best performance since Silver Linings Playbook, utterly heart-wrenching from start to finish. Michelle Pfeiffer also impresses in a small yet very memorable supporting role. Although by no means perfect, Mother! deserves recognition for its bold creative choices and unconventional scares.
9. Alien: Covenant
Faced with the unenviable task of making sense of Prometheus, Ridley Scott delivered a film which satisfyingly answers most of its precursor’s mysteries while confidently forging its own path forward. Not to mention that it contains some of the most visceral horror sequences of the year.
The standout is of course Michael Fassbender who gives an astounding dual performance as the androids Walter and David. The latter is one of the most exciting science-fiction characters to come out of the last decade, and has the potential to give the entire Alien franchise a whole new lease of life.
8. Baby Driver
Baby Driver is hard to confine neatly into one genre. Edgar Wright’s joyful feature borrows aspects from action, romance, thriller, musical and comedy, and blends them together to make a truly irresistible concoction. Brimming with the smooth visual style and painstaking attention to detail that we’ve come to expect from Wright, Baby Driver also boasts one of the most charming performances of the year courtesy of Ansel Elgort.
7. John Wick: Chapter 2
Proving that the 2014 original was no fluke, John Wick: Chapter 2 was another hugely entertaining action offering from Chad Stahelksi. The former stuntman delivers some of the most exciting fight sequences in recent memory, but that isn’t all this movie has to offer.
Chapter 2 broadens the scope of the small-scale first installment, fleshing out the murky underworld which Wick has tried desperately to escape. While many of the supporting characters remain shrouded in varying degrees of mystery, they are nonetheless endlessly watchable thanks to the talent enlisted to play them, with Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick being particularly noteworthy.
But of course this is the Keanu Reeves show first and foremost, and he’s doing a fantastic job. The stoic and subtly comedic hitman is the perfect role for Reeves, and the enthusiasm with which he throws himself into such grueling fight choreography is always admirable. Here’s hoping that the upcoming third installment can stick the landing and close out the trilogy on a high note.
6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Although it fell victim to a toxic fanbase, The Last Jedi is a very well made sci-fi adventure which breathes new life into what is frankly a highly fatigued franchise. Where The Force Awakens was criticised for following A New Hope almost to the letter, this eighth episode should be applauded for destroying what came before and setting off into uncharted territory.
That isn’t to say the film is flawless. Certainly, the much-discussed space casino subplot could have been trimmed and the new characters introduced leave a lot to be desired. But these flaws do not outweigh all the superb work the film accomplishes in other areas.
The main plot is hugely compelling thanks in large part to the fantastic performances from Mark Hamill, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley. The film is at its strongest when exploring the complex relationships between their characters, culminating in the hugely satisfying final act. Not to mention the film is a touching tribute to the late Carrie Fisher, whose absence will be sorely felt in this series moving forward.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2
Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 is an excellent sequel which improves on the original in almost every way. James Gunn places the emphasis on his returning characters, finding meaningful ways to develop each and every one of them, which prove particularly beneficial for those who were short-changed the first time round.
As you would expect, the script is crammed full of jokes and thankfully the vast majority of them are actually funny. But jokes aren’t all that’s on offer here. Gunn is able to effortlessly break into a more serious tone where the plot demands it, unexpectedly delivering some genuinely emotional moments at numerous points in the movie.
The ensemble cast remains just as endearing as before, with newcomer Pom Klementieff an outstanding addition. The film is also notable for breaking the MCU’s lame villain curse, introducing two memorable antagonists in the form of Ego and Ayesha (played brilliantly by Kurt Russell and Elizabeth Debicki respectively).
Bong Joon-Ho’s fantasy satire was one of the best things to hit Netflix all year. Telling the story of a young girl as she tries desperately to rescue her beloved “super pig”, the film delivered on laughs and thrills while never losing sight of its sobering social commentary.
Newcomer Ahn Seo-Hyun is superb in the lead, holding her own against more experienced performers and rising to the challenge of acting opposite CGI. Tilda Swinton is a pleasure to watch as always, and quirky supporting roles filled by Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano help further define the film’s zany personality.
3. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Since Valerian first hit cinemas I have watched it four times, written several articles about it, and experienced one vivid dream about Dane DeHaan. Make of that what you will.
Luc Besson’s passion project was an ambitious and creative sci-fi epic which deserved more attention than it ultimately got. Bursting with imaginative action sequences and breathtaking visual effects, it’s a crying shame that its box office takings were nothing short of disastrous.
Sure, the script is wobbly in places and a couple of performances are questionable, but all these minor flaws actually contribute to Valerian‘s oddball charm. There is no doubt in my mind that in the not-too-distant future this movie will be regarded a bona fide cult classic.
2. Get Out
Jordan Peele made his directorial debut with a chilling tale that functions as not only one of the most compelling horror movies in recent memory, but also as an interesting (and concerning) examination of modern-day race relations. Peele’s vision is remarkably stylish and distinct, and he isn’t the only star on the rise here.
Daniel Kaluuya gives a stunning performance in the lead and the supporting cast is equally strong. Even as the plot veers off into more outlandish territory, they successfully keep the movie grounded and morbidly believable.
Few films last year sparked as much conversation as Get Out, and it’s a testament to what the horror genre is capable of when the filmmakers involved are interested in more than making a quick buck.
Hugh Jackman’s (supposedly) final performance in the role of Wolverine proved against-the-odds to be one of the most emotional cinematic experiences of the year. Logan completely redeems the character’s embarrassing past appearances, while serving as a bold reminder that super-hero movies need not be formulaic.
Arguably, this movie will hit hardest among those who have seen the previous entries in the X-Men franchise, with its heartbreaking depiction of a broken Logan and a deteriorating Professor X. But even those unfamiliar will surely find themselves drawn into the gripping human drama, thanks in large part to the fantastic performances from Jackman, Patrick Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen.
Though it is undeniably bleak, Logan is able to avoid becoming too oppressive with well-placed moments of subtle humour. Meanwhile, the brutal action sequences are utterly exhilirating, and accomplished with refreshingly little CGI when compared with its blockbuster peers.
Logan is not just the best swansong fans could have hoped for, it’s also a beautiful movie that can stand firmly on its own.