Now that we are in full swing of the 2018 films, it’s time to reflect on 2017 and here I share my Top 20 Films of the year. I know that I am very late in the game but there were quite a few films I didn’t get to watch in time and felt that it would be a disservice to generate a list that wasn’t truly reflective of the year. Although perhaps not as strong as 2015 or 2016, 2017 was still an interesting year in film. A lot of the films that I expected to be great were disappointing and a number of films that were unheard of or those that I initially had little faith in were excellent. I am pretty confident that I can now share my best films of last year which has been particularly hard to compile this year.
Although my Mid-Year Report only included ten films, this list will include 20 films with some honourable mentions as I couldn’t find the heart to neglect so many of these films. The rank order has changed a little from the Mid-Year Report on account of rewatching a lot of these films multiple times and some I have found to be more rewatchable than others. So just because a film ranked higher earlier on last year doesn’t necessarily mean this will be the case now – that’s just the beauty of the art of film I guess.
Here I rank numbers 20 to 11. The Top Ten will be detailed in a separate post.
I am following the UK release date calendar from January 1st to December 31st hence why a lot of the Awards films do not feature here and why there are some from what may seem like last year.
Here are my honourable mentions, films that didn’t quite make it into the Top Twenty but I feel that they should still deserve a mention. Please note I have listed them in alphabetical order – this is not a ranking of them.
Although it floundered in its Awards campaign it was targeting, The Founder is a very interesting biopic on the rise of McDonalds, with some captivating performances from its cast all round. Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, a businessman who turns one McDonalds fast food restaurant into a nationwide and ultimately global franchise. Keaton’s performance is one of his best in a rather extensive back catalogue, an individual who has no care for others but only himself and business. The Founder loses its footing a little in places, but it’s mostly a very solid film that is frequently gripping, particularly down to the performances and ripe subject matter.
It Comes At Night
I found a lot to like in Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night and Shults for much of the film, sustains a very intense, depressing, dour and volatile atmosphere. The performances across the board are great, with the standout being Joel Edgerton. It leaves a lot of plot points to audience imagination (possibly too much) but I was gripped pretty much throughout. I can see why the audience reception has been decidedly mixed – this film has been marketed very differently to the film that we actually get and it’s a very similar situation to what happened with 2016’s The Witch which was similarly marketed as an out-and-out horror film but ended up being more of an atmospheric burn. The film is complimented by an equally moody score and cinematogaphy. It’s not without fault though – it doesn’t quite manage to sustain its energy throughout its entire run time and without spoilers, I thought Shults left a little too much narrative to audience interpretation. (My original review here)
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a surprise treat in the crowded Christmas market of films and a very solid sequel to the Joe Johnston-directed, Robin Williams-led 1995 original. Four teenagers find themselves sucked into the videogame when they try to liven up detention which they have been placed into for breaking the school rules. They have to play as the avatars that they have selected in order to make it out of the jungle alive and not get stuck in the game forever. On paper, this sequel shouldn’t work, as it has a hit-and-miss cast and a director responsible for atrocities such as Bad Teacher and Sex Tape. However, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a film that obeys its own rules and the central concept of evolving the Jumanji board game into a modern videogame is a masterstroke of genius. The ways in which director Jake Kasdan interweaves the game into the film narrative is expertly handled, with characters having to tackle different levels, having a certain amount of lives and expositionary flashbacks and characters synthesised into the story. The film always feels fresh, has a lot of heart and even more surprisingly, questions its characters morals and teaches them some important life lessons. It’s consistently funny as well, with a wide range of humour to suit different audiences. (My original review here)
A total surprise and a film I never expected to reach this list, Paddington 2 is the rare sequel that improves on its original in every possible way. I was initially very trepidatious before watching this film – I didn’t love the first film even though reviews for it were charming and I suspected this to be the same case again. Director Paul King has exponentially grown as a filmmaker and the film is expertly paced and laden with humour and heart. The performances all round are brilliant, with Hugh Grant excelling in particular as the villain and the film even makes an interesting commentary on a Brexit-era Britain and the prison system. Paddington 2 is a film that delivers heavily for both children and adults.
Thor: Ragnarok is a Taika Waititi film through and through – it retains his signature humour and really inverts expectations on what a Thor film should be. This feels refreshingly different from the first two films, more vibrantly coloured and more comical. The film is extremely entertaining and puts the characters that we have grown to like over the course of the films in rather vulnerable positions throughout the film and there is a real sense of danger prevalent. Unlike recent comic book films which have a great, big (and boring) action climax at the end of the film to save the world, Thor: Ragnarok actually earns its finale. The marketing for this film has also been extremely impressive upon viewing the final product – there’s a lot that Marvel have managed to withold from its audiences which is very satisfying. (My original review here)
Now onto the Top Twenty:
20) War for the Planet of the Apes
War for the Planet of the Apes is a welcome surprise – it’s grim, heartfelt, revenge-filled and most of all, questions its intelligent audience with multiple morality questions. It is perhaps the strongest of the series, a film with genre hybridity of the Western and the War film, infused with sci-fi. Dialogue is rather scarce in this film and there are many prolonged sequence where the film is almost like a silent film and it is just stunning to behold. Dunkirk, another Summer release also tries to do this but this film succeeds better in this respect due to its stronger characters and more powerful overarching message. ‘War’ is at its best when it is uncompromisingly grim, the pain and loss felt by Caesar and the various nods to the Western and War genre. (My original review here)
19) Spider-Man: Homecoming
Spider-Man: Homecoming, to my surprise, was a breath of fresh air in what has been quite a convoluted genre of late. I thought it struck just the right tone between seriousness and humour and it is a very realistic and grounded film in the Marvel canon. It also features one of the best villains we’ve had in Michael Keaton’s Vulture who is extremely sinister and narcissitic. The whole cast are generally excellent and I was really invested in the narrative that Watts portrays. Watts also does well to not aim too high in terms of visual effects and although there are a couple of impressive action sequences, they never reach the heights of some of the other Marvel films which further helps to keep this film very grounded. (My original review here)
18) Wind River
‘Wind River’ is another cracker by writer Taylor Sheridan who ably steps up to the task of directing as well as writing. Like his previous projects, it is very poetic in parts and deeply haunting and melancholic and his script intelligently written with memorable lines. The unpredictable outbursts violence are extremely raw and brutal, portraying the utter nastiness that this conflict between cultures has resorted to. There are clear juxtapositions between the cold, harsh lanscape surrounding this civilization and the warmth of the inside. There is a constant presence of the cold wind breathing on the necks of these characters which makes ‘Wind River’ deeply sensory for its audiences. At times, I got tingles from the cold, piercing feeling of walking barefoot on snow – Sheridan really has succeeded in crafting a believable world for this narrative to inhabit within. (My original review here)
17) Only The Brave
Only The Brave is easily the best film of Kosinki’s career and a gripping account of the subject material. It is clear that the cast have the utmost respect for these heroes, resplendent in the modest, genuine performances. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Kosinski is more of a visionary director than a narrative one and his previous filmography is visually pleasing to look at. Why Only The Brave works so well is because it combines Kosinki’s visual talents with a very solid script, allowing a strong equilibrium between the visual and the story. Kosinski captures the forest fires extremely faithfully – they felt genuinely threatening on the screen, the images of smoke and burning woodlands. The characters are also really well developed and I felt empathy particularly for Josh Brolin and Miles Tellers’ characters, the latter being our insight into the forest firefighter industry, a character trying everything he can to turn his life around from his dark past. (My original review here)
Split is frequently entertaining, very competently directed and features some powerhouse sequences. It is one of Shyamalan’s best works. I will not be going into spoilers but Shyamalan’s signature twist is one of his best and one of the best twists of the decade so far – it is so, so clever. Shyamalan’s twists of late haven’t been able to shock compared to some of his earlier work but this might potentially be his best one he’s ever done. However, when one focuses on how Split functions purely as a film, it is not perfect. It is overlong and way too exposition heavy which derails the film a little. There is a near-perfect 100 minute film in here if a lot of this exposition was omitted and this would make the run time more economical. (My original review here)
One has to be tread very carefully when discussing this film and it took me a while to fully form my genuine opinion of the film as the film requires multiple rewatches. My opinion at first was mixed and now that I have rewatched it three further times, it is still a film that enamours at times but I also still have reservations. The film is a paranoid, nightmarish rush from beginning to end and is set in a world that is desolate, unforgiving and cruel. Lawrence’s character goes through all manners of physical and psychological torture and time and time again, we are made to witness this degradation. It may not be one of director Darren Aronofsky‘s work, but you’ve got to admire the ambition and the ideas behind it, even if the film is flawed. (My original review here)
14) In A Valley Of Violence
In A Valley Of Violence may be a little simplistic in the plot department but it is a supremely entertaining romp that features some great performances and is suitably graphic at times. It is competently directed by Ti West who has written a memorable script and everyone who is in this film both in front of and behind the camera seems to be having a really great time. Although it doesn’t try and reinvent the genre, from the opening moments when I got on board with it, I had a big smile on my face the whole way through and it’s one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year so far. The performances, across the board, are all excellent and it’s particularly nice to see John Travolta have fun in his role. (My original review here)
I watched Brimstone pretty close to compiling this list, so there is every possibility its position may move in the future. Dutch director Martin Koolhoven’s English language debut, Brimstone is an ambitious, aggressive and violent assault on the senses, fully earning its 18 certificate and then some. This is a dark, twisted Western horror with a gripping narrative and full of brilliant performances, a career best from Dakota Fanning in particular and Guy Pearce, as usual, does a reliable job with the villainous Reverend. The film has proven to be controversial in its response, but I would urge you to go and watch this straightaway and watch a master at work.
12) The Killing of a Sacred Deer
As with his previous filmography, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a genuinely unnerving and memorable experience, rich with strong themes and disturbing imagery. It is a film that requires multiple rewatches, particularly as Lanthimos has rooted this narrative in a Euripidian Ancient Greek myth. I felt genuinely unclean after watching it and was left thinking about it for quite a while. (My original review here)
11) Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures is an extremely easy film to like and barely puts a foot wrong; I was utterly charmed by it the whole way through. It is competently directed by Melfi and has just the right blend of comedy and factual drama in it to prevent it from being too laborious or too comedic. Not only are the performances are great in this film, but the characters are all really well-developed and the screenplay by Melfi and Allison Schroeder is wonderfully written. What stops this film from being perfect is it is fairly conventional in parts and there are a couple of story arcs that are a little underwritten. But these are very small nitpicks in an otherwise near-perfect film. (My original review here)
So there we go, numbers 20 down to 11. Stay tuned for the Top Ten in a separate post…
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister