The Best and Worst Films of 2017 (Updated)
Well, folks. The end is near, the time has come, the day has arrived. As 2017 draws to a close, there is — as always — one significant bit of business to attend to before battening down for Christmas. I am, of course, referring to the crown jewel of my Review of the Year content: my Best and Worst Films of 2017.
2017 has been a relatively strong year for film — the best since 2014 I’d argue — and I’m satisfied with the features that sit atop this ranking.
Typically, I introduce my Best and Worst Films with the Men and Women of the Year. This time I’ve saved that business for my Performers of 2017 feature. Also, be sure to check out my Best TV of 2017, as some of the finest cinema produced in the last 12 months was definitely on the small screen.
Alright, let’s begin…
(THE WORST) 67. KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
The days of me defending Guy Ritchie films are over. King Arthur is vile and vapid: two hours of aggressive, humourless dredge with nary a woman nor a personality in sight. Charlie Hunnam should never, ever be given leading roles. Jude Law undoes most of his Young Pope goodwill as an evil wizard who, for genuinely no reason, transforms into a CGI fire-demon for the final battle. Spare a thought for Daniel Pemberton, who crafted one of the year’s best scores only for it to be wasted on this spineless, pandering rubbish.
66. HACKSAW RIDGE
There are a lot of people who say Hacksaw Ridge is their favourite film of the year, a response I will never understand. This is pure Director Mel Gibson: evangelical, immodest, crude and incredibly ugly. From the Lifetime Original Movie opening act to the laughable attempts as ‘visceral violence’ on the battlefield, Gibson’s film is an insult to the men who died in the real battle… and to contemporary cinema audiences. Donald Trump probably loves this film.
65. TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT
In case there was anyone Michael Bay had yet to offend, The Last Knight rewrites history, Baysplaining that the abolitionists and WW2 allies were — in fact — focused on protecting autobots, rather than getting rid of slavery or preventing Nazi takeover. Yet the worst of this film’s crimes is that it butchers a potentially brilliant Barton Fink reunion: John Turturro, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi all — shamefully — make appearances. Anthony Hopkins had no integrity left to lose. Stanley Tucci’s drunk Merlin is almost ridiculous enough to be funny. Almost.
64. SONG TO SONG
Only someone as intensely arrogant as Terrence Malick could put Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender in a film together and yet have it be totally unwatchable. Rather than indulging in the presence of these outrageously sexy men, Malick indulges in his own fetishes, and we’re forced to endure more than 2 hours (the first cut was 8 hours) of wistful voiceover about time and space, Rooney Mara hiding in curtains, Natalie Portman hiding in curtains, Cate Blanchett hiding in curtains, Patti Smith… doing something. It isn’t new, it isn’t thought-provoking, it’s a very stupid film from a man who should’ve retired a decade ago.
“Oh nice, a film lovingly named after the town from It’s A Wonderful Life”. Yeah, about that… Pottersville is a strange, strange comedy starring Michael Shannon as a grocer who dresses as Bigfoot to scare some furries. Thomas Lennon is profoundly annoying as an Australian monster hunter. THe f
62. JUSTICE LEAGUE
Justice League almost seems like too easy a target, but it’s just… so… bad. After the relatively enjoyable Batman v Superman, Zack Snyder abandons all creative convictions to make a bland-as-biscuits team-up movie, bastardised further by replacement director Joss Whedon and his phoney feminism: Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman (who will appear again much higher on this list) is objectified and Superman’s moustache is digitally removed using iMovie. A profoundly cynical and lifeless creation.
61. THE MUMMY
Y’like Tom Cruise? Y’like MUMMIES? Well you’ll love The Mummy, in which Cruise rides a camel and Russell Crowe instantly murders his acting credibility as Dr Jekyll and “yer old friend Eddie Hyde”. Moronic.
60. GHOST IN THE SHELL
Racially insensitive casting aside, there’s nothing memorable about this Scarlett Johansson-led anime remake, which I completely forgot to include on this list until the last minute. A film with no place in the contemporary blockbuster landscape.
59. RULES DON’T APPLY
The Oscar fuck-up was only the second worst mistake Warren Beatty made in 2017. This unfathomably pointless Howard Hughes movie (like… The Aviator exists) is a vain project and a total waste of time. Lowlight is a cameo by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
58. THE DINNER
I had high hopes for Oren Moverman after his superb 2015 film Time Out of Mind, but this reunion with star Richard Gere is a cruel disappointment; an indulgent depiction of the whitest of white people problems, spending 2 hours with four deeply unpleasant characters with absolutely nothing interesting to say.
57. THE SNOWMAN
It’s hard to spite The Snowman, which provided Twitter with months to fun thanks to its “Mister Police” poster, but is really is very poor. Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson and a seemingly lost Val Kilmer stumble through a barely-coherent serial killer narrative with zero thrills.
56. THE DARK TOWER
The Dark Tower is a more likeable disaster than the blockbusters I’ve ranked below it — I admire any film that starts with a child being sent to a mental institution — but it’s a disastrous hybrid of genres with the worst Matthew McConaughey performance in at least a decade.
Even Alec Baldwin’s charisma cannot alone carry a film this shallow. Baldwin plays a cantankerous professor who has essays read to him by Demi Moore, doing community service after her husband is jailed for Wall Street motherfuckery. It’s a strange, silly concept, and the film is a lot of schmaltzy nonsense, but at least Baldwin gets a starring role.
54. THOR: RAGNAROK
Thor: Ragnarok ruins the goodwill of its campy energy with endless jokes about punching and an underlying nastiness carried over from Taiki Waititi’s previous films. Cate Blanchett is truly awful as the antlered villain; Tessa Thompson is worse as an alcoholic Spice Girl called Valkyrie. Largely incoherent, with occasional sprinkles of clever comedy.
53. KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Apocalypse Now remade with a monkey in Marlon Brando’s place is not something anyone requested, but Warner Bros. decided to fund Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s weird passion project anyway. It’s very weak, with a flat Kong and a flatter ensemble (Tom Hiddleston was apparently the star, I don’t recall him being in the film) par a game John C. Reilly, giving as eclectic a performance as always.
52. DARKEST HOUR
In addition to canonising the fairly horrid Winston Churchill, Joe Wright’s WW2 drama is a heavyhanded clunker of a film, featuring Gary Oldman on pure pantomime form, spluttering through the Tory PM’s speeches with the subtlety of a poached egg. The makeup isn’t even consistent.
51. THE CIRCLE
Emma Watson Shouldn’t Star In Movies: Part 1. The Circle tries to tell a ‘very important story’ about internet policing and invasion of privacy and the dangers of oversharing, and is almost comically patronising in its tone. Tom Hanks and Ellar Coltrane try their best, but there’s little they can do with the charisma vacuum that is Watson front and centre.
50. SANDY WEXLER
Only Adam Sandler could make a film this ludicrously dated. Sandy Wexler is lost in a vortex of nostalgia, but it has — in its own puerile way — an endearing optimism about Hollywood dreams. Let’s just say, post-Weinstein, this film will not have aged well.
49. THE BOOK OF HENRY
The Book of Henry sees Naomi Watts avenge her dead son by organising the assassination of the child molester next door. It’s dreadful on many levels, but I found it oddly moving. Colin Trevorrow’s film is almost aggressively sincere, which seems to have put off the majority of viewers, but actually warmed me to the director (fired from Star Wars Episode X because of this) and his flawed but well-intentioned creation.
48. BEAUTY & THE BEAST
Emma Watson Shouldn’t Star In Movies: Part 2. Beauty and the Beast is probably the best Disney animated film of the 80s/90s cycle; it did not need this glossy, gaudy remake. Dan Stevens’ Beast is as dull as Watson’s Belle. There are some good musical numbers, but this ultimately smells like a film made to sell dresses to little girls.
47. I, TONYA
A derivative, exhibitionist biopic of figure-skater Tonya Harding (portrayed by “Actress” Margot Robbie) that relies largely on a cliched 70s rock playlist for any storytelling momentum. Allison Janney has a bird on her shoulder and that’s literally the most interesting thing about this film.
46. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
I can’t remember anything about this film, except Groot dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky” and a big funeral scene at the end. This is more like a TV episode than any other Marvel movie — pretty inessential viewing in the grand scheme of the franchise — but James Gunn has a likeable sensibility and his cast are roundly very pleasurable to watch.
45. NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER
Richard Gere again, this time in a very Jewish character drama… or maybe character comedy. I honestly don’t know. I found Norman very boring.
44. CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE
The most gleefully scatological adaptation of a children’s book since the Wimpy Kid movies, there’s a scattershot visual energy to Captain Underpants that’s enormously endearing.
43. KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
Matthew Vaughn’s worst film is an overcrowded, overambitious and insufficiently inventive sequel that takes everything I loved about The Secret Service and makes it longer, louder and less interesting. Sophie Cookson’s Roxy is treated with contempt, but none so much as the female gender at large when Vaughn employs his puerile ‘vagina shot’. Julianne Moore is a tiresome antagonist; Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges phone in half-assed performances; Elton John is mildly distracting in a humiliating cameo; Colin Firth does very little altogether as the once-almighty Harry Hart; Mark Strong gets one fantastic singing scene. It’s all over the place, which means it’s occasionally very enjoyable. But mostly not.
42. A GHOST STORY
A Ghost Story could’ve been the best short film of the year, but David Lowery had to make it a feature. Casey Affleck dons a white sheet and spooks the neighbourhood while widow Rooney Mara scoffs pie. There are compelling ideas thrown about every few minutes, and some of the best cinematography of 2017. But A Ghost Story goes on far too long, loses focus and left me cold.
41. WONDER WOMAN
Wonder Woman is not The Greatest Feminist Film of Our Time by any means, but it’s a thoroughly engaging period adventure that disentangles itself from superhero mythology for the sake of good coherent storytelling; Patty Jenkins’s directing is a masterclass in not objectifying a female character, and Gal Gadot is an incredibly watchable central figure throughout.
It was James McAvoy’s multifaceted performance that caught viewers’ attention in M. Night Shyamalan’s smartly-scripted Unbreakable spin-off, but the film’s strongest asset is the pairing of Anya Taylor-Joy and Haley Lu Richardson, two of the most talented young actresses around (one of whom appears very high up this list in a starring role). Flawed, but entertainingly so.
39. BATTLE OF THE SEXES
Emma Stone and Steve Carell’s collective charm can’t quite carry this broad, dated and forgettable tennis drama. It’s a thoroughly well-intentioned project with a lovely Nicholas Britell score, but one feels there was something of a ‘Battle of the Sexes’ between directing pair Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris over the film’s tone, that led to a fairly characterless final cut.
38. THE DISCOVERY
Someone at Netflix saw an audience for a watered-down feature Leftovers knock-off, and while it’s hard to go wrong with Robert Redford, Rooney Mara and Jason Segel in your film, The Discovery is little more than what I just said. And it’s very depressing.
37. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES
I am strangely forgiving of the Pirates movies. Despite my general antipathy for Johnny Depp, something about Jack Sparrow still charms the 10-year old in me, and there are moments in Dead Men Tell No Tales that delighted that child to no end. Still, it’s a mess, and a cynical merchandising exercise in spirit, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to actively dislike one of these movies.
36. STRANGE WEATHER
Even with a distinctly uninteresting premise and poor script, the duo of Holly Hunter and Carrie Coon make this independent drama sufficiently arresting. They’re both just… so damn good at what they do. I want more Carrie Coon in my movies. Thanks.
35. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
In 2017 it became clear that Marvel Studios are firmly in the comedy business. That’s fine. Guardians Vol. 2 and Thor Ragnarok aren’t my type of comedies. Spider-Man: Homecoming is much more up my street: this is Community: comic-book edition, with an excellently-chosen suburban high school setting, Michael Keaton at his best since Birdman as a genuinely sympathetic villain and a bunch of weird comedy with Jon Favreau, Donald Glover and Martin Starr that I found very comforting. Tom Holland and Zendaya are thoroughly likeable young folk. The action doesn’t try too hard. The warmest comic-book movie in quite some time.
34. THE BIG SICK
Charming people doing charming things. It’s worked for Judd Apatow-produced content for a long time, but The Big Sick is — other than the vaguely progressive idea of Pakistan-born Kumail Nanjiani as romantic lead — absolutely nothing new. A cool hang, and that’s all.
33. ALIEN COVENANT
Ridley Scott makes a lot of bad movies, but sometimes he hits genius. Kind of. Covenant features the freakiest romantic subplot of the year, as Michael Fassbender seduced his robot twin. To my great surprise, it spawned my scene of the year. Otherwise this is a derivative but never boring mixbag of Alien canon with a terrifically-employed twist ending.
32. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Andy Serkis is a master of his craft, and the Apes trilogy are marvellous technical achievements, but there’s only so many hours of ape-based political drama I can take. War sent me briefly to sleep, to my dismay, with its overwrought depiction of human/ape warfare and a pretty terrible Woody Harrelson performance. Yet its merits cannot be denied, and if nothing else it’s a solid reminder of what pleasant surprises Rise and Dawn were for this bored film-watcher in the summers of 2011 and 2014.
31. LAST FLAG FLYING
Few directors hit and miss with such alternating fluidity as Richard Linklater, and Last Flag Flying is primarily in the latter camp: a largely flat veteran drama which indulges too much in the writer/director’s trademark banter with insufficiently complex characters. Steve Carell’s performance is tediously sad, and the film ends on a weirdly right-wing note.
30. TRESPASS AGAINST US
Adam Smith’s English traveller drama has a lot of pathos, as father/son Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender fight the cops, the government and everyone else to maintain their lifestyles. Sean Harris is genuinely terrifying as a man called Worzel, who’s basically a hybrid of Spud from Trainspotting and Tobias from Arrested Development. Nothing amazing, but deserving of more viewers than it got.
29. BABY DRIVER
That Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver was the most overrated release of 2017 shouldn’t undermine the fact that it’s incredible effective for what it is (car chase movie with groovy soundtrack, and little more) and has proven massively popular with a certain generation of iPod nostalgists seeking action movies that speak to their sensory curiosities. It’s perfectly serviceable on every level: Ansel Elgort and Lily James are perfectly cast, as is — perhaps tellingly — Kevin Spacey. But it’s way way way way too long, and in hindsight it just isn’t a particularly remarkable film.
28. THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE
Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki is second only to Ken Loach in the strong, pure compassion of his output. The Other Side of Hope tells a simple story of an ambitious refugee, and while it doesn’t quite compare to his most powerful films, Kaurismäki’s refusal to pander to sentiment is mightily admirable.
27. THE SHAPE OF WATER
The Shape of Water has the ingredients to be great, which makes it all the more upsetting when it fails to hit the mark. A frustrating jumble of genres and tones, Guillermo Del Toro’s period fairytale has some terrific performances — Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg — but also some really poor miscasting — Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon playing their most stereotypical roles are totally out of place. It causes fairly regular eye-rolling; a film about fish-person sex needs a subtle touch that Del Toro doesn’t possess.
26. THE DISASTER ARTIST
If you enjoy laughing at a blatantly crazy person, and think The Room is really as funny as 16-year old Reddit bros do, then The Disaster Artist will probably be your new favourite film. For me, this film is just too mean to be as delightful as its central performance allows. James Franco is pretty amazing as Tommy Wiseau, channelling the director/writer/star of The Room with terrifying accuracy, but the film constructed around the performance has little to offer except alternating cruelty and sentimentality.
mother! is as pretentious and pointless as Darren Aronofsky’s other films, but has a strange propulsive energy — somewhere between Children of Men and an episode of Spongebob — that makes for an interesting viewing experience. The comedic aspects are well-executed, and Jennifer Lawrence gives a pretty flawless performance in spite of everything.
24. THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS
The eighth — and possibly the best — Fast and Furious adventure is so enjoyable because everyone involved par Vin Diesel has finally caught up with the joke. This is almost self-parody; a deconstruction of what a Fast and Furious film is perceived to be: former terrorist Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) turns hero, The Rock fights a submarine and Charlize Theron takes control of every self-driving car in New York. It’s bonkers, it’s overwhelmingly sexist, and it’s really a really fun watch for the adolescent in us all.
23. THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
Someone finally made Arrested Development for kids. The second LEGO movie is a blast: a relentless joke machine that incorporates Warner Brothers properties into its half-baked plot with the light touch of a true (heavy pot user) master of the medium.
22. BRIGSBY BEAR
Brigsby Bear features several of my favourite tropes: escape from cult entrapment, amateur moviemaking, obsessive dissection of kids’ TV. It’s weaker than the sum of these parts, but as a kinder, more earnest companion to The Disaster Artist it broadly succeeds. Witness me burst into despairing laughter as I watch Kyle Mooney’s character go to a high school party and tell uninterested teens about his favourite show — Brigsby Bear hit a little too close to home for this guy.
James Mangold’s reclamation of Wolverine as a hard-edged western hero proved to create a strong legacy for Hugh Jackman’s genre-defining depiction of the character. Though it inevitably falls into cliches in its third act, Logan is as mature a superhero movie as it’s possible to make in 2017, and it’s highly admirable that somebody made it.
It’s hard to identify what exactly was missing from Danny Boyle’s long-awaited Trainspotting sequel, but something just didn’t click. There’s a banging soundtrack, solid cast chemistry and some good physical comedy, but — as the film acknowledges — when you’re trying to recapture the pleasures of twenty years ago, you’re guaranteed to be disappointed. T2 deals with ideas of nostalgia and loss in undeniably interesting ways, but it lacks greatness in any real regard.
Adam Sandler is fabulous when he’s given a good script, and Noah Baumbach pushes him the necessary distance. Elsewhere, Meyerowitz is a fairly average Baumbachian bohemian-realist drama that shows little new about the New York arts scene. But the one scene of Sandler and his teenager daughter performing at a piano together is wonderful enough to justify the subsequent two hours.
Two of Hollywood’s greatest stars complete their unofficial trilogy of Barefoot in the Park and The Electric Horseman with this warm, virtuous drama. When they were young, Jane Fonda and Robert Redford were the sexiest pair around. Now they carry decades of stories and esteem, and it’s a genuine pleasure to watch them play against one another. Young Sheldon star Iain Armitage lends surprisingly strong support, and the use of “The Highwayman” twice made this a guaranteed gold star in my eyes.
Dir: Rian Johnson | US | 2h 33m
Disney’s control of the Star Wars brand starts to gain visibility, with the inclusion of Marvel-style ‘witty banter’ in this deeply-flawed mythology expansion. Mark Hamill’s return as Luke Skywalker boasts some gleefully iconic moments, but Rian Johnson’s overlong script lacks cohesion and clarity, and there’s an overall repetitiveness which suggests universal Wars fatigue may be on the horizon.
Nobody bureaucratises vague concepts like Pixar, and Coco does for the afterlife (specifically the notion of Mexico’s Day Of The Dead celebration) what Inside Out did for human emotion. It’s a bright, beaming joy laden with existential weight. But it’s hard to be upset about death when you’re watching goofy skeletons and witnessing an incredibly positive Hollywood depiction of an international culture.
Get Out is probably what American film in 2017 will be most remembered for. Despite being wrapped before last year’s election, it manages to capture the social panic of the current America like little other cinema to date: Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a racial spin on Hitchcockian suspense with sensational, terrifying performances by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Kenner. The comedy subplot involving Lil Rel Howery’s character is a crucial error, but the significance — and wit — of everything else makes Get Out worthy of ‘must-see’ status.
Anyone would struggle to make poker seem interesting, and even Aaron Sorkin — directing for the first time — almost runs out of juice during a two-and-a-half-hour indoor thriller elevated by the electric talent of Jessica Chastain and some fun exchanges in Sorkin’s typically frenetic style.
In many ways, The Greatest Showman is indefensible: it whitewashes a story of abuse and manipulation as a celebration of entertainment, and its treatment of female characters belongs in another century. Yet there’s something so inherently shortsighted, so ridiculously out of touch about this big, bright, fast-paced musical, that it’s fundamentally a total treat to witness. Zac Efron returns to his rightful place as a top-tier song-and-dance man, and the songs are dangerously catchy.
I wish every summer action movie was more like Atomic Blonde. Flashy, fetishistic and uniquely feminine, this is an estrogen-fueled thrill ride through neon-soaked 80s Berlin. Charlize Theron is Debbie Harry with a pistol. James McAvoy, John Goodman and Eddie Marsan lend some watchable support. The soundtrack is as killer as the costumes and the action is endlessly imaginative in its staging: from a fight set to a Tarkovsky projection backdrop to a 10-minute single take and an escape through a sea of raised umbrellas. Fabulous fun.
Christopher Nolan’s most frenetically-paced film is also one of his most unremarkable. Dunkirk distracts with tireless threat and ticking but by all consideration is a film with absolutely nothing to say, merely an awful lot to show. Nolan’s filmmaking techniques remain at the peak of sophistication, but they are applied to little effect in a war thriller that — while never less than gripping — couldn’t be any more risk-averse if it tried.
Dir: Denis Villeneuve | US | 2h 43m
Denis Villeneuve is a far more creative director than Ridley Scott, so of course his Blade Runner sequel would be a more eloquent, nuanced and — most importantly — entertaining sci-fi thriller. Ryan Gosling is as charismatic a star as they come, and he leads the audience through Villeneuve’s futurescape with an energy that remains engaging throughout the trying 3-hour running time. Even an overacting Jared Leto can’t spoil this tightly-scripted existential adventure. Haunting poetry in blockbuster packaging.
Dir: Todd Haynes | US | 1h 57m
Todd Haynes adapts Brian Selznick’s Hugo Cabret follow-up as a children’s adventure few modern-day children would have the patience for. A girl in 1927 and a boy in 1977 travel to New York City seeking answers their families won’t give them, and as our two mostly-silent threads converge, Wonderstruck becomes a glorious celebration of kindness and awe. Unlike any other film made this year.
Dir: John Carroll Lynch | US | 1h 28m
It’s hard to recall a more perfect bookend to an iconic actor’s career and life than this richly rewarding drama that marked Harry Dean Stanton’s final role. As Lucky, an old cynic wandering around a desert town, he’s magnanimous and charming, breaking into song as a Fiesta and helping David Lynch search for his missing tortoise. A beautiful tribute to an extraordinary talent.
Dir: Kogonada | US | 1h 44m
Columbus is a tiny treat. Haley Lu Richardson and John Cho are elevated from “Oh That Guy” status to terrific leading roles in an intelligent romantic drama about the spaces in between and how to fill them, exploring the shockingly impressive selection of modernist architecture in the titular city while confronting their own internal lacks. The best tourism ad for Columbus, Indiana you will ever see.
Dir: Tom McGrath| US | 1h 37m
The Boss Baby took the funniest title of the year, and turned it into the funniest film of the year. The DreamWorks comedy is at once an all-ages Trump takedown, a biting satire on cynical corporatism and a genuinely charming story about brotherly comradery. Alec Baldwin voicing a baby in a suit is, objectively, the most amusing idea ever conceived, and the film built around it does not disappoint. There’s an underlying theme of dogs being a questionable replacement for children which I approve of. Hans Zimmer delivers his best score of the year, incorporating the melody of “Blackbird” beautifully. And The Boss Baby is just a thoroughly funny comedy; one that doesn’t patronise children or adults.
Dir: Martin McDonagh| US/UK | 1h 55m
Is there anything more cathartic than watching Frances McDormand set things on fire? Three Billboards is a fabulous postmodern revenge western , enhanced by biblical undertones, with stellar performances by McDormand and Sam Rockwell, a kicking Carter Burwell score and a script that’s deeply sad but incredibly rousing. An important and complicated film, the divisiveness of which is evidence of its integrity.
Dir: Steven Spielberg | US | 1h 55m
As visceral and vibrant as it is virtuous, Spielberg’s impassioned First Amendment celebration is a throwback to the plot-driven dramas of the the 70s, and rips through its true narrative with an outstanding ensemble, perfect tonal balance and an anti-Trump sentiment that’s sure to resonate with anyone half sensible.
Dir: Sean Baker| US | 1h 49m
Films about childhood have the potential to be incredibly powerful, and Sean Baker’s The Florida Project cashes in its tokens with flying colours. It’s a film about the struggles of the most impoverished in America, but one that remains charmingly apolitical and focused on its young protagonist’s adventures in and around the premises of an Orlando motel, just beyond the hyperconsumerist reach of Walt Disney World. Not since Richard Linkater’s Boyhood has a state of childhood been captured so sincerely in an American drama, Call this an alt-Disney film, if you will.
Dir: Greta Gerwig | US | 1h 31m
A spirited female perspective on the tribulations depicted in the final hour of Boyhood, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut puts a 21st century spin on the traditions of the ‘coming of age story’ and is warm, surprising and crushingly relatable in the process. Saoirse Ronan gives the best performance of her career as the fully-rounded titular high-schooler, but it’s Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts — as her working class parents — who contextualise her struggle for what is it, and make Lady Bird such a very special film.
Dir: Luca Guadagnino | US/Italy/Brazil/France | 2h 12m
Call Me By Your Name takes a vividly romantic approach to an underrepresented kind of romance. Luca Guadagnino’s film is a spellbinding, heartbreaking depiction of love and the pain it causes, led by the radiant Timothée Chalamet and the biblically beautiful Armie Hammer. It’s set in 1980s rural Italy, but the story of Call Me By Your Name totally transcends its setting; this is as universal as cinema gets, and if the closing shot — set to one of three haunting Sufjan Stevens songs — doesn’t leave you a weeping wreck, you may need to check if your heart is still there.
There you have it, my Best & Worst Films of 2017. If you’d like a more visual version of the countdown, check out the video below: