Despite the steady decline of Western civilisation, 2017 has been a surprisingly good year for films. Here’s my top ten.

But first, a couple of

Honourable Mentions

madmaxfuryroadblack&chrome

Mad Max: Fury Road Black and Chrome Edition

This monochromatic version of George Miller’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece saw a one-night-only cinema release earlier this year, so I’m totally justified in including it here. Plus, I’ll take any old excuse to talk about Mad Max: Fury Road, because I bloody love it. This primal, elemental edition of the revved-up action film more resembles a piece of German Expressionism than a summer blockbuster. So shiny. So (black and) chrome.

Read the full review here.


wonderwoman2

 

Wonder Woman

Many critics (myself included) engaged in a spot of hyperbole upon Wonder Woman‘s release, but I stand by everything I said. Patty Jenkins’ film is a cultural milestone, the moment a which superhero cinema realised that women are just as super as men, and the No Man’s Land sequence stands as one of the genre finest. That this isn’t in the top ten proper is less a criticism of Wonder Woman, and more a testament to the quality of 2017’s cinematic output.

Read the full review here.


Without further ado, let’s get on with the top ten.

A MONSTER CALLS

 

  1. A Monster Calls

A year later, and I’m still floored by A Monster Calls‘ devastatingly precise portrait of the emotional turmoil wrought by the death of a loved one. Buoyed by an incredibly sensitive performance by young Lewis MacDougall, and a wonderful collaboration between Liam Neeson’s voice and motion capture and the terrific special/visual effects team, J. A. Bayona’s film is proof positive that fantasy can be just as true as true life.

Read the full review here.


mostanticipated

  1. Blade Runner 2049

Back in January I pleaded with the universe for the sequel to the greatest science film of all time to be good. Clearly, someone up there likes me. Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy successor to Ridley Scott’s genre-busting opus. Not content to merely rehash what’s come before, 2049 offers surprising and satisfying twists on the original’s themes and iconography, while expanding the story and world in unexpected ways while remaining true to Scott’s immeasurably influential vision. Denis Villeneuve didn’t just make a great Blade Runner sequel – he made a great film.

Read the full review here.


moonlight

  1. Moonlight

Barry Jenkins’ coming of age tale is a pensive and poetic exploration of the intersection between race, masculinity, and sexuality. Nicholas Britell’s haunting score combines with James Laxton’s dreamlike visuals to show us a life that, though full of hardship and sorrow, is impossible to look away from. The story, made up of three periods in the life of a young black man growing up in poverty, is about how it is not the big events, but the small moments, accumulated, that make us who we are; that turn us into someone unrecognisable, or someone who resembles all too much who we were. That Oscar was well deserved.


tonierdmann

  1. Toni Erdmann

Maden Ade’s film isn’t really a comedy. Rather, it’s a film about comedy, about the power of comedy to hide our true feelings, and how it’s sometimes the only way we can reveal those feelings. Peter Simonischek and Sandra Huller are painfully good as estranged father and daughter in a film that is sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and sometimes skin-crawlingly cringey. Who said the Germans can’t do comedy?


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  1. War for the Planet of the Ape

The saga of Caesar, lab chimp turned messiah, is brought to a brilliant close in the last of the surprisingly great Planet of the Apes reboots. Matt Reeves has crafted an epic in the classical style, moving effortlessly from titular war, to Western, to prison break, with Michael Giacchino’s perfect score drumming along before ascending to religious paroxysms. The visual effects are phenomenal, as is Andy “Give Him the Damn Oscar Already” Serkis, who puts in perhaps his best performance. Seriously, just give him the damn Oscar already.

Read the full review here.


thefloridaproject

  1. The Florida Project

Sean Baker has a talent for finding the beauty in the harshest of environments. He shows us the economically impoverished communities surrounding Orlando’s Disney World resort through the eyes of a child, and it is truly a wondrous place. Willem Dafoe excels as Bobby, the motel manager with the patience of a saint, but its the unknowns, especially Bria Vinaite as a struggling mother, and especially Brooklynn Prince as her impish daughter Moonee, who steal the show. Baker isn’t afraid to show the darker side of his subject; the Florida projects might be a gaudy wonderland, but their inhabitants are engaged in a daily struggle to keep their heads above water. Still, come that final frenetic escape to the real Magic Kingdom, we’re convinced: Moonee’s world is just as magical as Disney World.

Read the full review here.


dunkirk

  1. Dunkirk

There are many reasons Christopher Nolan’s terrific reconstruction of the evacuation of Dunkirk is being hailed as one of the director’s best films, and even one of the best war films. There’s the practical effects, lending immersive realism to the dogfights and sinking ships. There’s the focus on the men on the ground (and the sea, and the sky), not generals and war rooms, which lends a believability and immediacy to the film. There’s Nolan’s stratification of time, with three separate countdowns intercutting and then converging. But most of all there’s Hans Zimmer’s superlative score, which uses the unrelenting ticking of a clock, and grand variations thereof, to transform Dunkirk into a staggering study in the desperation, desolation, and despair of war.

Read the full review here.


thehandmaiden

  1. The Handmaiden

Park Chan-wook’s erotic thriller is many things. It’s a delightful puzzle-box, with a narrative that yanks the rug out from under us at least three times. It’s a dark comedy, with Park’s trademark perversity and startling violence rearing their heads whenever we least expect them. It’s a gothic thriller, in the sinister vein of Hitchcock’s Rebecca and others. What is most unexpected, however (and, indeed, this list’s top three is all about the unexpected), is that The Handmaiden is, ultimately, a heart-meltingly sweet love story. Park’s real achievement is in revealing, hidden inside his Rubik’s Cube of a film, a genuinely beautiful romance.

Read the full review here.


mother!

  1. mother!

Darren Aronosky’s downright bonkers fever dream failed to find an audience at the cinema, because it was advertised as a horror film when it is so much more. Mundane domestic invasions cumulate until reality is shattered and disaster, post-apocalypse, and cannibalism merge together and rush towards a screaming, insane climax that finally ends in a hilarious/despairing nihilistic punchline. Aronofsky’s religious/environmental/something-else-entirely analogy feels more like a disgusting practical joke than a feature film. mother! is the film for which the phrase “has to be seen to be believed” was coined.

Read the full review here.


thekillingofasacreddeer

  1. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist revenge thriller is perhaps the funniest film of the year, but the humour here is of an entirely different variety to that found in The Big Sick or Girls Trip. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is hysterical in something resembling the now defunct meaning of that word. Laughter is an uncontrollable response to a daughter’s menstruation being so casually mentioned in polite conversation, or to a stupendously inappropriate monologue on ejaculation. It all culminates in a deliciously, childishly appalling piece of tragic slapstick at which we cannot help but laugh, as unseemly as that may be. Stripped of all emotion (which is Lanthimos’ modus operandi), The Killing of a Sacred Deer resembles nothing so much as a revenge thriller made by aliens, cosmic beings with no understanding of the human condition. It may not be to everyone tastes (some might even call it tasteless), but for those of us with the stomach for it, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an absurd, subversive piece of madness, and the best film of 2017.

Read the full review here.


And there you have it: That Film Site’s top ten films of 2017. Feel free to loudly disagree in the comments.

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