Now that we’ve made it through the absolute worst that the past twelve months had to offer, it’s finally time to count down the absolute best.
2017 was a fairly strong year for movies, and there were honestly so many potential contenders for this list that we couldn’t even include all of them in the runners-up bit.
Speaking of which (once again, in no particular order)…
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- The Big Sick
- A Ghost Story
- The Beguiled
- Annabelle: Creation
- The Florida Project
- Wind River
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Battle of the Sexes
- The Belko Experiment
- Good Time
- Viceroy’s House
- John Wick: Chapter 2
And off we go…
15 – IT
The horror blockbuster of the year was undoubtedly the first part in an ambitious two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s most famous book (the second part isn’t due out until 2019), and for good reason; it wasn’t just an effective update on the source material (by changing it from a 50s setting to the 80s it resonated a lot more with those that also grew up in that time period), but it was also a damn great ride of a movie.
Though it’s debateable whether or not much of it was really, truly scary, director Andy Muschietti still gave each scene an intense and often powerful emotional balance, leaving audiences simultaneously freaked out while also feeling genuinely happy when things work in the heroes’ favour. Speaking of whom, every single child actor they got to portray the Losers’ Club was nothing short of spectacular, every single one of them sharing a believable and strong chemistry with each other, and being so likeable that you’re really rooting for these kids to overcome the terrors they each are facing not just from Pennywise the Clown, but in their normal lives such as their neglectful and creepily lustful parents, or the psychopathic bullies they keep running into.
As for that clown, Bill Skarsgård really made it his own, taking the character to far creepier and spine-chilling areas than even Tim Curry did when he inhabited the role in the 1990 miniseries. The design was perfect, even spawning many Halloween costumes to the dismay of anyone with a severe phobia of clowns, and the way he was written, directed, and indeed acted made this freaky clown one of the most memorable villains of the year.
All at once frightening, funny, sad, happy and optimistic, It was the kind of horror blockbuster not seen in many years, and thankfully it was more than deserving of its success. Here’s hoping that the wait for the next one isn’t too long…
14 – PADDINGTON 2
Michael Bond’s passing earlier this year gave a little bit of bittersweet tenderness to the long-awaited sequel to the first film starring his most famous creation, that of the little bear from Darkest Peru whose fondness for marmalade was as big as his heart, but the late writer’s legacy remains intact with this absolutely wonderful sequel, which managed to equal its excellent predecessor in almost every way possible.
The majority of the cast and crew returned for this film, including writer-director Paul King, actors Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins etc, along with newcomers like Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson, all of whom managed to tell a fun and delightful story that took the character to some interesting new places that they took full advantage of. The comedy is just spot on, whether it’s in the writing or the inspired slapstick involving the little bear himself (who remains a CGI wonder in all his photorealistic glory), or in Grant’s delightfully self-parodying turn as the villain of the piece. The action is a lot bigger this time round, but it never feels too forced or crammed in; like everything else about the film, from its Wes Anderson-like cinematography to the timeless anecdotes like the constant use of steam trains, it’s done just about right.
But no matter how grand it can get, it always manages to keep itself focused on spreading the love and kindness that Paddington himself just exhales on a constant loop. Part of the reason that he’s stuck around for so long is because he has an enormous heart that’s just too filled with love and appreciation to resist, and this film takes full advantage of the character’s powerful and simple message of sharing that kind of positivity wherever we may go, making it one of the most joyous and nicest films you could possibly take your loved ones to go and see.
It’s a family film that hits all the right notes, and leaves you with a great big smile on your face, as the best family movies always tend to do. Michael Bond may be gone, but his legacy continues to live on…
13 – WONDER WOMAN
Well, here’s something that was once thought to be impossible: a good DC Universe movie!
Despite more than one setback in its lead-up to the Justice League (with even that film not entirely hitting the bullseye it needed to), the first solo movie for Wonder Woman was the first time since The Dark Knight that a DC character could inspire a movie that’s a seriously good way to spend more than a couple of hours. It was also the first time since Christopher Reeve debuted as Superman that a hero of any kind could pop out of the screen and feel like they’re truly real, because as great as Marvel and its endless line of characters are, none of them are as truly iconic as DC’s roster of heroes, and Wonder Woman is no exception.
Gal Gadot proved herself to be a true force of nature in the role, winning over the hearts of audiences everywhere for her courage and selfless determination to just do the right thing, and she also showed the world that she was also a strong and dedicated performer who was never afraid to let her character go to darker and more upsetting places without making it feel too forced, unlike certain other past DC movies. She led the way on an exciting and endlessly inspiring journey, complete with memorable side-characters like Chris Pine’s fun romantic interest, bad-ass action sequences, and some gripping direction by Patty Jenkins who, just like Gadot, has truly taken the industry by storm with this film.
Though the future of DC’s attempt at their own cinematic universe is still a bit iffy (Justice League was pretty divisive, while Ben Affleck is reportedly seeking a way out of his contracted time as Batman), this gave it a much-needed spark of hope that, as long as they got the right people involved, they could genuinely compete with Marvel and possibly even surpass it. Hopefully, this is a trick that James Wan has picked up with his Aquaman solo movie, due out next year; if he has, then we could be in for yet another good time in this universe…
12 – THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE
While we’re on the subject of everything DC, let’s take a moment to appreciate how a small LEGO figurine of the Caped Crusader managed to be not just the best Batman movie of the year, but also the best movie about the character in a long, long time.
Spun-off from his memorable supporting turn in The LEGO Movie, this one sees Will Arnett’s Bruce Wayne going on a personal journey to just lighten the hell up and play with others, and it worked in almost every barmy but brilliant way. This continues the strong comedic streak begun by The LEGO Movie, filling itself with knowing meta humour that takes into account every single incarnation of the hero – even the old serials from the 1940s – as well as every single villain from The Joker to Bane to the Condiment King (and yes, that was a real Batman villain), all of which made for some absolutely hilarious jokes and character moments that really lampooned as well as homage the most popular character DC has ever offered.
The laughs come thick with every passing call back to an old costume, an obscure villain, or even old movies (Batman calls the idea of villains teaming up to defeat other villains “stupid”, a direct and much-appreciated blow to Suicide Squad), and the fact that it’s all done with these characters in LEGO form, via some stellar computer animation, makes it even funnier that these tiny, fiddly figurines can do so much despite their own limitations in movement. Whether or not you’re a Batman fan, you can find something within this movie to appreciate about the character whilst also laughing along at his many flaws, like his depressing loneliness and the seemingly-permanent scowl across his face.
Even though this year hasn’t been all that great for the still-blossoming LEGO movie franchise – The LEGO Ninjago Movie didn’t really land as well as both previous movies did – The LEGO Batman Movie was still a hilarious and all-around fun ride that praised and mocked the character in equal amounts, all of them with sincere love.
Also, it has the greatest use of the Bat Shark Repellent ever, so that’s pretty neat…
11 – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
The rebooted Planet of the Apes saga has only gotten better and better with every movie, and as we reach the conclusion of the trilogy it’s only fitting that this one be the absolute best out of all of them.
War for the Planet of the Apes tested Andy Serkis’ ape revolutionary Caesar more than ever, and gave him as well as us an emotional, complex and bleak journey through to the darkest depths of humanity and what people – or in this case, apes – will do in order to gain the upper hand in a raging war. It was deep, dramatic, sometimes even funny, and it was always marvellous to watch as director Matt Reeves closes out Caesar’s story with grace and powerful storytelling.
In his greatest performance yet as Caesar, Serkis truly reminds us that he is just more than an actor who wears a silly-looking motion-capture outfit; he is a performer first and foremost, and a damn great one at that as every single bit of emotion on his quietly expressive face shines through the CGI, which has reached its peak in looking so amazingly lifelike it would be wrong if the effects weren’t at the very least awarded with a nomination at this year’s Oscars. The effects in this movie are so good, in fact, that half the time you actually forget that they’re created partially by computers, and that they somehow trained actual apes to speak and act the way they do here.
A powerful piece of climactic storytelling that hits all the right notes, War for the Planet of the Apes is a perfect movie to end this trilogy on…