Best of 2017: Top 15 Movies

Here we go – Last one of 2017!

This year I hardly hid the fact that I went a little crazy with my movie-watching. With enough 2017 cinema visits under my belt to do a top ten three times over, I figured this was as good a year as ever to expand the list to fifteen. I may have lacked the time to write up full reviews over the last twelve months with enough consistency to make it worthwhile, trying a new approach instead, but right now is the time to get into my favourite films of the year with some actual detail. I happen to think this is a very strong list worth recommending to a wide range of movie fans, with only one or two spicy picks that I seemed to like more than most people. Thank you for reading.



This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Intriguing, but strange. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.



15. Power Rangers

Yes. I know 2017’s Power Rangers isn’t going to win any awards for earth-shaking acting or plotting, but I just had to have it on this list. The original Power Rangers show was one of my absolute favourite things as a kid – I was obsessed with it. I watched this movie with a stupid grin from ear to ear for almost its entire run time, because Dean Israelite manages to nail the important parts of what I loved about the show back in the day, cheesiness well and truly intact. I particularly enjoyed the slow burn of getting to know the main cast Breakfast Club style before the real action kicks off late in the piece. RJ Cyler as a new interpretation of social outcast Billy steals the show in every scene not featuring Elizabeth Banks’ hammy Rita Repulsa, who just seems to be having the time of her life acting opposite Bryan Cranston’s gruff Zordon.


14. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Yet another great year for Marvel Studios got started with Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. While not quite as audaciously fresh as the first film, the James Gunn-helmed sequel recaptures the giddy spirit of Hollywood’s most unlikely gang of roguish heroes as they fight against a tide of threats from all sides. Kurt Russell’s turn as Ego clears the low bar for MCU villains by a big margin, Pom Klementieff’s Mantis pairs extremely well with fan-favourite Drax and Karren Gillan gets much more to chew on this time around as Gamora’s wayward sister (and Thanos’ daughter) Nebula. Meanwhile the original cast and their mostly impressive accompanying CG provide just as many laughs as they did in the first movie while dispatching foes to another sensational soundtrack and selling believable relationships that lead to perhaps the year’s most unexpected tear-jerker moment. Admit it, you got a bit emotional at the end.

13. War for the Planet of the Apes

The conclusion to one of the best sci-fi movie trilogies of the century (maybe ever), War for the Planet of the Apes follows in the footsteps of its two predecessors by weirdly failing to live up to its title. War strips away a lot of the actual warmongering that was in the last film and replaces it with long, contemplative sequences that shine a light on the exceptional motion capture technology and associated performances on show. Caesar’s plight as leader of the apes and opposition to an enigmatic, violent human colonel brings the latent duality of his nature to the fore, as the silver-streaked ape faces a side of himself that puts his kind in more danger than they’ve ever encountered before. This is a universally relevant story about tough choices and sacrifice that is well worth watching as long as you pretend the ridiculously misleading trailers don’t exist.

12. Baby Driver

Baby Driver is Edgar Wright unshackled, for better or worse. Without the self-installed conventions of the Cornetto trilogy, the beloved source material of Scott Pilgrim or the watchful eye of Disney / Marvel Studios, the inimitable Englishman has crafted a relentless movie where style is substance – where every frame tells half a dozen stories and every song choice is as literally relevant as possible. Assisted by a strong lead performance from Ansel Elgort and fun supporting turns from Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm, Wright turns in another movie with a strange ending but several standout individual scenes worth the price of admission. The car chases, the people chases, the gun fights, the impromptu dances, even the expositional sequences are staged and edited like nothing else in 2017. Baby Driver is its own beast and you should definitely see it.

11. Wonder Woman

The collective audience realisation that a cinematic DC expanded universe movie could be capable of quality – and with a long-awaited female lead to boot – caused a fair bit of over-zealous praise back when Wonder Woman first hit cinemas this year. Said praise led to over-hype, which is never fun for the second and third waves of moviegoers. But if you haven’t seen this movie, don’t let that discourage you. Wonder Woman is a really good superhero film that, despite a somewhat lagging final act, is more than just better than the last five years of live-action DC movies. Gal Gadot is an incredible Diana Prince and she is ably supported by a cast including highlights Chris Pine, Robin Wright and Danny Huston. The soundtrack is magnificent, the script offers plenty of funny moments and the Snyder-esque action beats (especially the no-man’s land push) are absolutely gorgeous.

10. Logan

It seemed back in March like everyone was raving about this new challenger to The Dark Knight in the world of grim superhero movies, but I happened to be in the wrong mood to fully appreciate it at the time. On reflection and a bit of a re-watch, however, I grew to appreciate it much more. Logan is a deeply morose film – A tale of desperation in the twilight years of a legendary life – and if you feel like watching a fun movie, you won’t find it here. James Mangold – director of 2013’s Japan-centric The Wolverine – does his best Sam Mendes impression in helming two back-to-back popular franchise entries that look and feel utterly different from one another, in the process taking a fistful of steel claws to the cinematic X-Men continuity and its beloved characters. But the result is an emotionally satisfying story about finding hope in the most desolate of places. And yeah, the fight scenes are brutally impressive.

9. Spider-Man Homecoming

When yet another Spider-Man reboot was announced, the fact that it would be backed by Marvel Studios did little to quell fans’ fears that it might feel even less necessary than Sony’s “Amazing” twins from the first half of the decade. Tom Holland’s cameo as a very teenage Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War helped, but Spider-Man: Homecoming still had a great deal to prove. Could it really make a focus on high school drama the main subplot? Would Tony Stark’s appearance as Parker’s primary father figure work without distracting too much from Parker himself? Could a high-tech Stark-engineered suit play out in a full Spider-Man movie? Would there be a decent villain? As it turns out, yes, yes, yes and YES. Homecoming ticks both the major boxes of distinguishing itself from any on-screen Spider-Man movie before it and slotting into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe with ease. It’s also quite funny.

8. Blade Runner 2049

There wasn’t a more impressive visual achievement I saw in cinemas this year than Blade Runner 2049. Though I’m nowhere near as enamoured of the first film as most of the people I talk to are, I can appreciate it as a touchstone of celluloid sci-fi aesthetics, so just about every lingering establishing shot – of which there are many – in Blade Runner 2049 is all the more impressive for how stunningly it fits into the shoes of Ridley Scott’s vision (and maybe exceeds it?). Every film nerd’s new favourite director Denis Villeneuve takes the philosophical questions about human nature that this world seems so set up to explore and runs with them, throwing multiple synthetic characters at the screen and loading each one with a tinted mirror to hold up to the audience. Much like LoganBlade Runner 2049 isn’t a movie for every mood, but it’s a meaty watch. Who knew Hans Zimmer could do synth so well?

7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The most intensely-debated movie of the year by a country mile, to me The Last Jedi represents the fulfilment of a promise I didn’t quite think Disney was capable of fulfilling. 2015’s The Force Awakens was my movie of the year, but my appreciation for it came with an expectant asterisk. I was able to dismiss the film’s well-documented deliberate similarities with the original Star Wars because to me, the decision to follow homage specialist JJ Abrams with risk-taker Rian Johnson in the director’s chair meant the people in charge were serious about shaking things up once they had fans back in their corner. I didn’t need another carbon copy Star Wars trilogy. And boy howdy, Rian Johnson really does shake up Star Wars with The Last Jedi. This is a flawed movie – the pacing and plot contrivances in the middle of the film aren’t fantastic – but Johnson makes a point of taking the saga’s characters into uncharted territory with surprise after surprise, in doing so tearing down what we can expect from blockbuster character arcs. The Last Jedi is impeccably well-crafted in the visual department, with some truly stunning individual set pieces, and I enjoyed John Williams’ score more than in the previous movie. Ultimately I’m a big fan of The Last Jedi as a result. The question now is if Disney was cool with all these gigantic twists, why did they kick Colin Trevorrow off Episode IX? What does JJ Abrams have in store for the final film in the trilogy? I genuinely have no idea. And I love that. Mission complete.


6. Logan Lucky

A rather limited cinematic run stopped a fair few people from seeing it, but if you’re one of those and you’ve ever enjoyed Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven and friends, you owe it to yourself to watch Logan Lucky. Soderbergh’s return to the heist movie subgenre keeps the fun twists and planning shenanigans of that prior series but adds in more than a spoonful of Little Miss Sunshine vibes, slowing down the pace to focus on the culture surrounding traditional American South touchstones like beauty pageants, unassuming labour jobs and NASCAR mega-events. Not only does the film avoid the typical Hollywood condescension you might see whenever redneck types are on the big screen, it uses such preconceptions against both the story’s villains and the audience itself to bombastic results. Adam Driver and Channing Tatum excel almost as much as Riley Keough and Daniel Craig, and every cameo is a delight. Logan Lucky is a firecracker of a directorial return for Soderbergh and his crew.

5. Dunkirk

The idea of one of modern cinema’s most revered and recognisable technical directors tackling a true story from World War II could have gone one of two ways following the controversial Interstellar, wherein Christopher Nolan found himself unable to quite nail a sentimental script initially meant for Stephen Spielberg. Thankfully, Dunkirk affords Nolan ample opportunity to focus on the mechanics of a historical operation that was just as remarkable for the fact that it worked as for the people who made it work. By splitting the story into three timelines that advance at different speeds, Nolan is able to sync up moments of dramatic tension in a way that no other major director has really tried. Combined with great performances from everyone involved, masterful shot composition and an absolutely fantastic clockwork-and-engine-based Hans Zimmer score (that guy came back in a big way this year), Dunkirk just works. Welcome back, Christopher.

4. Colossal

Colossal is one of those movies you’ll see once in a blue moon with such a sensational premise that it should be attracting hordes of viewers, but such a low budget that it invariably doesn’t. Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, an abusive alcoholic with the habit of forgetting the details of her drunken rampages, who one day finds that her behaviour has gone too far and loses her ideal life. She returns to her hometown to work things out from the bottom up but instead, she finds out that she may be indirectly causing a giant monster to show up in Seoul, South Korea, which has been causing widespread havoc by moving exactly like she moves. A fun idea for a movie, sure, but Colossal‘s brilliance comes from how it first uses that strange connection as a metaphor for destructive behaviour and then expands the central premise in more ways than one to make an entirely different point. This might be my favourite Anne Hathaway performance, it is definitely my favourite Jason Sudeikis performance, and Colossal is one of my absolute favourite films of the year.

3. Get Out

I don’t do horror movies as a general rule, but horror movies with one or two publicised un-horror twists or gimmicks and the hype to go with them are a different kettle of fish. So I went to see Get Out in the cinema. That was a bit of a mistake, because the movie is absolutely terrifying and my fingernails did not come out of the experience in good shape. The fact that top-tier comedian Jordan Peele directed this movie is barely believable, because the guy doesn’t have any other film credits to his name, let alone genuinely effective horror stories. Peele’s command of the camera belies his lack of experience as he uses and misuses his sense of comedic timing to punctuate a story that grows increasingly uncomfortable. Protagonist Chris laughs politely and awkwardly as his girlfriend’s parents and their friends insist that they aren’t racist, but strange observations about the characters he meets continue to build tension underneath this pleasant veneer until the plot reaches breaking point and things get hyper-real. Get Out is one of the year’s biggest cinematic surprises and a must-see for horror fans and movie fans alike.

2. Thor: Ragnarok

I cannot tell you how happy I am to see Taika Waititi’s Hollywood blockbuster debut go over so well, as Thor: Ragnarok not only ended up as my favourite superhero movie of the year, but in a similar position for many other people as well. All the major elements of the indie comedy specialist’s directorial personality survive the omniscient Marvel Studios hand intact – his clear affinity for the 1980s, his uproariously awkward humour, his tendency to promote improvised dialogue, even his unabashed patriotism for his native New Zealand. Waititi is supported by some truly amazing talent, of course, as Cate Blanchett goes grandiose for her villainous turn and Jeff Goldblum goes, well, Jeff Goldblum, in the least restricted way maybe ever. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki once again proves his worth as a presence in the MCU, the Hulk has his largest role in the saga yet, the film’s action sequences are first-rate and the most impactful changes to the Marvel status quo since Captain America: The Winter Soldier go down. Overall Ragnarok is one of the most consistently entertaining comic book movies I have ever seen, it’s easily the best Thor movie, and it goes firmly into my top five (maybe three) Marvel Studios efforts thus far.

1. The Big Sick

The Big Sick is a comedy that’s funny in a very authentic way. It’s also tragic in an authentic way, sweet in an authentic way, good in an authentic way. The fact that it happens to be based off a true story is only partly to blame for this. Kumail Nanjiani’s script, based on how he met his real-life wife Emily and then her parents, is a winner. The story, which follows Nanjiani as he plays himself negotiating Emily’s freak infection and subsequent medically-induced coma, thankfully won’t hit home for the vast majority of people. However, The Big Sick also delves deep into family dynamics in a way that is very likely to resonate with viewers – It certainly did for me. Prejudice, tradition, and power dynamics are all visited with grace and good humour – which is perhaps best encapsulated by the fact that Nanjiani casts himself as the least likeable character in the film. Ray Romano is a frequent scene thief as Emily’s passive dad Terry, Holly Hunter gets to let loose as her fiery no-nonsense mother, and Bollywood legend Anupam Kher leads a comically gifted bunch of actors playing Nanjiani’s sarcastic family members. I definitely teared up something savage watching this movie and I don’t mind admitting it. The Big Sick easily joins the ranks of my favourite romantic comedies and wouldn’t you know it, tops the list of my favourite movies of 2017.





Honorable Mentions



Killer clowns aren’t the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase “feel-good coming-of-age movie”, but take out that terrifying cosmic beast – played to chilling effect by Bill Skarsgard – and that’s exactly what It is. The cast is extremely likeable and the best bits from the book survive the screen transition.

John Wick Chapter 2

Though it cannot hope to recapture the freshness and power of the first film without its unique revenge angle, chapter two of John Wick’s story succeeds in expanding the ever-intriguing assassin lore bubbling beneath the surface of the 2014 hit.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Another action sequel missing an element that made its predecessor so much fun (In this case the Harry Potter-ish training stuff), The Golden Circle still improves in the action stakes and adds a half-dozen larger-than-life characters worth watching.

The LEGO Batman Movie

Until Wonder Woman, this was arguably the best DC movie of the last half-decade. After showing just how far it’s willing to go in the name of comic fanservice, it somehow manages to go even further into crazy cross-over territory than The LEGO Movie did and tells a heartfelt Batman story to boot.

Beauty & the Beast

There’s a pretty small spectrum of reactions to the new live-action Beauty & the Beast – You either really enjoy it or don’t see the point of it existing at all. I went from the latter position to the former pretty quickly after watching the new opening set piece, which is a precursor to a surprising amount of new character backstory for chewing on.

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