Some people have asked me how I can stand to watch so many terrible films. How I can trundle to the cinema to watch things like The Emoji Movie and Transformers: The Last Knight?
It’s because despite my hatred for those movies and the rest that were on my top ten list are dwarfed by the love I have for cinema. A deep seated love that cannot be defeated by viewings of Fist Fight and Fifty Shades Darker. And sometimes movies you think are going to be terrible end up really surprising you. I dreaded seeing Power Rangers and it ended up being a surprisingly heartfelt blockbuster. But this is about the truly great movies, the best of the best and ranking them crudely in order to provoke discussion and even more juicy hits.
There have been a lot of fantastic films this year that I wish I could have included. Miss Sloane was one of the most interesting political films I’ve seen this year because it wasn’t just designed to attack one side, Split was a genuinely brilliant movie from M Night. Shyamalan with a fantastic twist and Wonder Woman showed DC can make good films.
Those movies though were not good enough to make my list which should tell you how good these are below.
10. The Big Sick
I’ve been quite mean to romantic comedies over the years, often dismissing them out of hand. But after years of being the same movie over and over again, there’s now actual effort being put into them. How To Be Single was a fun subversion of the genre and here is The Big Sick, a truly brilliant film. Basically a self-biopic of how Kumail Nanjiani got together with his wife, this is everything you want from a romantic comedy. You have a couple you want to see together, it is really funny and it pulls at your heartstrings in just the right way. It’s also a brilliant look at an American-Pakistani adjusting the world around him when his parents expect one thing and he wants something else. A brilliantly funny movie which shows the rom com is back.
9. Baby Driver
I wrestled with this one. The movie has been very close to a lock in my top ten for a while because it is indeed brilliant. It has a lot of exciting car chases which are done brilliantly, mainly because unlike Fast & Furious features actual cars doing actual stunts. Then there is the combination of the music and the action, which takes it all to another level. Director Edgar Wright said he wanted this movie to be like the Blues Brothers and while it doesn’t reach that level, nothing much ever will, and it definitely has that same spirit of fun madness. But then there’s Kevin Spacey. I don’t really want to drag down this list with the stuff he did, but you can read about it here. This retroactively damages the movie as I do feel awful enjoying his very good performance in this movie. In the end, I didn’t think the rest of the film should be downgraded just because of the awful things Spacey did. Still a bit uncomfortable about this though.
You’ll notice that a lot of this list is from the start of 2017. That’s because this was a year that started off with a bang and never really matched it as we motored towards December. Lion was one of those movies. Based on real life, or a Google advert if you are feeling snarky, this tale about an adopted Indian boy trying to find his birth mother and brother who he lost as a child. It has a brilliant opening half with young Saroo wandering around India desperately trying to find his mother despite being thousands of miles apart. It’s heartbreaking and seeing that transfer to a brilliant Dev Patel performance where this is obviously still torturing him is something special. I worry it might get forgotten because it was released at the same time of a lot of great films, so here I am reminding you all of it’s brilliance.
7. Blade Runner 2049
How!? I remember when the rumours emerged we were going to get a Blade Runner sequel and everyone had that same fear that a classic was going to be butchered. No way was it going to be good. Blade Runner was a one off, this superb sci-fi picture which just floored you right from the opening with its musings on humanity. And yet here we are with a sequel in 2017 which comes incredibly close to matching the original, some would even argue this is the better film. It has the same power, the same brilliant soundtrack, the same stunning visuals. The new thing is the story, something which is a great continuation of the original and shows further aspects of this world which produces the human-like replicants. A special film because it just shouldn’t have happened.
6. A Monster Calls
There have been a lot of films about grief this year and the one that attracted all the attention and love was Manchester by the Sea. I get why, but I wasn’t a huge fan. The movie I loved about grief was A Monster Calls. It is a truly brilliant movie because it does something I love so much, use a wide concept to explain a simple idea. Having this giant tree be essentially a counselor to Conor who is suffering while his mother slowly dies from terminal cancer is a genius move. It’s a movie that is packed with shades of grey, showing that the world is not perfect but we have to accept it and work to make it the best we can. It is a fantastic movie that I think children as well as adults should watch.
Let’s think about the two Wolverine films. There was the Origins one which was a huge mistake by everyone involved and then there was The Wolverine which I think was in Japan. I don’t know, it was very forgettable. But it turns out the secret was bumping it up from PG13 to an R rating. Because that turned a series of mediocre action films into something truly special. Most film makers would have just had Logan be an especially bloody Wolverine film. Instead, we get this incredibly touching film about a man who just wants death but is pushed to do one last good film. It’s basically the latest great Western where the sheriff has to make his final stand. It’s another film that shouldn’t be as good as it was but yet here we are with a brilliant Wolverine movie.
If you are going to make someone sit through a three hour movie, you better make it worth it. Martin Scorsese makes it worth it. Silence is definitely the better Christian Andrew Garfield in Japan movie of the year, sorry Hacksaw Ridge, mostly because of the atmosphere. It’s just so intense from the moment that Rodrigues and Garupe get to feudal Japan you have this sense of unease. And in a world where there are a lot of Christian movies which are just victim complexes in celluloid, it’s great to see a movie which looks at religion in such a powerful way and also shows actual oppression. Yes, the fact some people say Happy Holidays is not oppression of the Christian faith. You want to see some, see this movie and realise that seeing faith power through that is truly powerful.
I am a white straight person. There are a lot of us and we’re pretty boring for the most part, mostly because we have made our interests into everyone’s interests. That means any look into an alternate world, one in which we barely understand is always an interesting one. And a movie that can bring that to the screen and make it incredibly powerful deserves all the praise it can get.
Moonlight deserves all the praise it got and should not be overshadowed by the way it got the Best Picture award at the Oscars. For me, this movie transported me into a completely alien environment as we see a young black man as he goes through his life looking for a father figure and then his sexuality. But for some, this movie will be very familiar and I can’t imagine the effect this had on them. I would argue this movie is more of an experience than a narrative film simply because of the way it’s designed, but it’s an experience worth having.
Christopher Nolan is a truly brilliant director. But he’s been on a bit of a downer for me. I respected Interstellar far more than I liked it and The Dark Knight Rises gets worse every single time I watch it. I mean, how did he get back to Gotham. Anyway, Nolan needed a film to truly re-establish himself at the top of the directorial game, one that we could all love and not have any meaningful divisiveness to it. Then we might listen to him on why Netflix is the devil.
He had that film with Dunkirk. This, much like Moonlight but the only similarity it has with that movie, is an experience and one that is so incredibly intense. I will get into more detail in a future review but it feels like we are counting down to armageddon, mostly because there is a constant drum which means that you are on edge for even the calmest of scenes. And it manages to pack several very personal stories into its run time without ever being convoluted. It’s truly a remarkable film and it shows the world this truly marvelous historical event in the best way it can.
1. La La Land
Sometimes you just fall in love with a film. You can’t help it, but you do. It might have flaws, more flaws than some of the others in a Top Ten for example, but that doesn’t matter in the end. Actually, the flaws make you love it even more. When you aren’t watching the movie, you are wondering why you aren’t watching the movie. And when you see it on Netflix, you do a little dance and then watch it five times in a row before falling to sleep on the 6th attempt.
That was La La Land for me. I knew I’d like it, I always enjoyed the style of musicals this was a throw back to and the trailers were beautiful both in sound and visuals, but I didn’t realise I’d love it so much. I didn’t realise that I would love the songs so much they would end up on rotation in my car, alongside the likes of AC/DC and the Arctic Monkeys. That’s a weird contrast by the way when you hop from rock to jaunty musical number. I didn’t realise that every shot would be an art piece, with the movie deciding that beauty was better than realism. Heck, the movie won me over making a traffic jam into a musical, something that would have made me sigh back in 2016 because of how cheesy it would be.
This a movie I adore and I get it has issues. The dancing is not great and I know the ending is divisive. And yet I love those parts of the film too, because they make it into the unique movie it is. It’s the best movie of 2017 and one that I have to go watch again. See you for 2018.