When considering the best and worst films of the year, it’s easy to draw some form of “state of cinema” judgments when taking stock. Truthfully, 2017 was a bizarre year full of chaos and scandal – both in Hollywood and the world at large. We saw the continued reign of the comic book film, the triumph of the indies, the fall of the unwanted reboots and the horror genre reach new heights. In comparison to 2016 (here’s last year’s list), 2017 was a surprisingly strong year for film.
N.B. Again, before you gather your pitchforks and sign out your picket boards for protest, it is important to remember that top lists are always subjective. The following picks were MY PERSONAL favourite films of the year. Also, it’s important to note that many films released in the U.S.A. late last year were only released early in 2017 in South Africa. It also means films like The Shape of Water, Phantom Thread, Lady Bird, The Post, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing haven’t reached our shores yet.
Director James Mangold cooks up something special for Hugh Jackman’s final performance as the unbowed and grizzled Wolverine. His bloodied and sensational Western-esque send-off, Logan, is not only the greatest X-Men film ever made, but it just might be one of the greatest superhero films ever made.
Logan feels like a completely new direction for FOX. It genuinely feels like a real movie with a sense of purpose rather than a blockbuster filling a gap in a cinematic universe. It’s deeply satisfying and earns its praise with every single frame. If you’re looking for a sci-fi action film, you might walk away slightly disappointed. Logan is far more than that. It’s a character study.
12. Wonder Woman
Inspired by Richard Donner’s Superman, Patty Jenkins female-led superhero movie, Wonder Woman, carries its strong themes of hope and love proudly. In a world filled with gritty comic book heroes, Gal Gadot shines as Wonder Woman, a heroine who taught us how to stand strong in the midst of adversity and to always fight for justice. No other comic book film released this year made us feel so alive.
11. Wind River
The writer of Hell or High Water and Sicario, Taylor Sheridan, has made a beautiful and haunting modern Western (complete with bullet-ridden showdowns) set in the snowy mountain tops of Wyoming. On the surface, Wind River is a sombre investigation piece, but underneath it’s a brutal and tense thriller. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen offer great, heartfelt performances that drive the story along to its surprising reveals.
Director Christopher Nolan’s intense and deeply moving World War II epic, Dunkirk, showed us the meaning of pure cinema by offering viewers full immersion into the catastrophe. Thanks to the strong ensemble performances and stunning visuals, each one of the intertwined stories are riveting and real.
Infused with moments of true spiritual upliftment and almost unbearable heartbreak, Denzel Washington’s Fences does justice to one of the greatest American plays of the 20th century. And damn, it’s well acted. Washington and Davis deserve the highest praise for their performances. Like the play, it’s a very talky production, but the rich dialogue only adds to the strength of the film. You’ll laugh as Maxson tells stories about meeting the Devil and you’ll shed a tear as he confesses his failures as a husband and a father.
8. La La Land
For some, the opening moments in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land will be a case of love at first sight. For others, however, the L.A.-set musical narrative will be a difficult pill to swallow. Either way, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t one of the most important films of the last ten years. It gets a lot of its flavour from classic films like Singin’ In The Rain and New York, New York and introduces them to a whole new audience by paying homage to the old. Nobody could be better suited to guide us through this magical world than the film’s leads. If Emma is the heart of La La Land, Ryan is certainly its soul. Both deserve so much credit for their outstanding performances.
7. Brawl In Cell Block 99
It probably goes without saying that Vince Vaughn isn’t known for playing terrifying badasses. In fact, he is seen as quite the opposite. In Brawl In Cell Block 99, easily one of the most violent films out this year, Vaughn sets aside his familiar persona from countless comedies, like Wedding Crashers and Dodgeball, and finds renewed energy as a limb-bending, bone-crunching, bare-knuckle fighting convict that’s so menacing that even the back of his head is intimidating. Vaughn’s mid-to-late acting career is changing. He is moving towards darkness. And you’ll love him in Brawl In Cell Block 99.
Moonlight, the winner of this year’s Best Picture Oscar, focuses on many issues that plague the African American community today. Dubbed the “black LGBT” movie, it tells the painfully honest narrative of a boy growing into a man and coming to terms with his sexuality. Despite your feelings on the subjects discussed here, the film is masterfully made and is surprisingly tender.
5. War For The Planet Of The Apes
War For The Planet Of The Apes, the third and final film in the trilogy that began with the stellar Rise and followed by the epic Dawn, resonates with emotion, a deep, captivating story, well-crafted characters and spectacle without sacrificing entertainment value. It’s a film that rises far above summer blockbuster sequel conventions to deliver a tremendous film that should be the template for all action sci-fi drama films to follow. Matt Reeves has crafted a personal blockbuster that we will remember long beyond its box-office run.
4. It Comes At Night
It Comes At Night is an intense post-apocalyptic story thriller about trust and mistrust. A man has managed to carve out a peaceful living space for his family, only for their lives to be thrown into chaos by a young family who stumbles upon their hideout. Edgerton gives another masterly minimalist performance and really carries most of the low-budget supernatural film. The fear is palpable. The score is unnerving. And, most of all, the film genuinely evokes terror. It’s downright haunting.
3. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
It’s incredibly difficult to make a horror without any supernatural elements or any ghostly figures. Yet, that’s exactly what The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is, a discomforting and mesmerising film that deals with manners and responsibility. It’s heartbreaking, humorous, terrifying, mystifying, tense and disturbing all at the same time. Very few titles managed to evoke so many different emotions in one film this year.
2. Get Out
With a 99% Rotten Tomatoes score, Jordan Peele’s psychological indie-horror is easily one of the most celebrated films of the year. And rightfully so. Get Out is intelligent, surprising, unpretentious and strong. Not just content with being scary, it’s satirical commentary on racism, slavery, perception and politics. Most of all, it’s really well directed. As far as horror movies go, Get Out is the cream of the crop.
1. Manchester By The Sea
Sometimes films are made as an escape from our painful reality – like Thor: Ragnarok or Justice League. Other times, films are handmade to show us the beauty of that devastating and painful reality. Manchester by the Sea is such a deft film. It masterfully presents a soul-satisfying and overwhelming portrait of grief and tragedy. If you’re looking for an escape from a harsh world, you won’t find it here. Manchester by the Sea is not fast food. There is an unbearable and unspeakable sadness about it.
A few worthy and unworthy mentions…
Biggest Disappointment… The Snowman
Biggest Disappointment still worth seeing… The Dark Tower
Best Sequel… War For The Planet Of The Apes
Worst Sequel… Jeepers Creepers 3
Feel Good Movie of the Year… Gifted / Wonder
Worst CGI… Justice League
Best CGI… Blade Runner 2049
Best Visuals… Blade Runner 2049
Best Reboot… IT
Worst Reboot… Flatliners
Best Documentary… I Am Heath Ledger
Best Horror… Get Out
Worst Horror… Rings
Best Visuals… Blade Runner 2049 / Dunkirk
Worst Screenwriting… Naked
Best Comedy… The Big Sick
Worst Comedy… Fist Fight
Best Kids Movie… The Lego Batman Movie
Worst Kids Movie… The Emoji Movie
Best Romantic Movie… A Ghost Story
Worst Romantic Movie… The Space Between Us
Best Science Fiction… War for the Planet of the Apes
Worst Science Fiction… Geostorm
Best Hero… Wonder Woman
Worst Hero… King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Worst Movie Cash In: Monster Trucks
Most Entertaining… Thor: Ragnarok / Baby Driver
Weirdest Movie… mother!
Most Over-hyped… Beauty and the Beast
Best Twist… Better Watch Out
Most surprisingly decent film… Better Watch Out
Best Comeback: Split
Biggest Waste of Time… A Cure for Wellness
Biggest Flop… Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Best Action Movie… Baby Driver
Worst Action Movie… The Dark Tower
Worst Movie… Birth of the Dragon
Best Superhero Movie… Wonder Woman
Worst Superhero Movie… Power Rangers
Biggest waste of talent… Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde
Saddest Film… Logan / War For The Planet Of The Apes / Manchester By The Sea