2017 has been a strong year for cinema. We’ve had unexpected indies, a storming awards season at the start of the year, several incredible tentpoles and some very classy breakout horror movies.
We look back at some of the best in show.
A deliberately harrowing “children’s film” which will make grown people cry, this adap of Patrick Ness’s novel, directed by Juan Antonia Bayona, is a beautiful fable of loss, grief, art and imagination as a young boy deals with the death of his mother using the help of a monstrous tree. Beautiful, but you’d better bring the tissues.
Forget the Oscars controversy, the hype and the backlash, La La Land is a wonderful film. A modern musical love letter to the golden era of Hollywood about the price of following your dreams, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are a charisma explosion. Plus the songs are great.
Manchester By The Sea
Kenneth Lonergan’s grief-steeped drama bagged Casey Affleck a best actor Oscar. It’s a highly emotional tale of a depressed man who has to take care of his nephew after his father dies. Touching – depressing even – but never less than deftly handled.
Amazing, moving true-life story about a five-year-old Indian boy who gets separated from his family on a train and lost on the streets of Calcutta, where he’s eventually found and adopted by an Australian family. Dev Patel plays the boy, now grown up, attempting to reunite with his family via Google Earth.
M Night Shyamalan’s return to form features James McAvoy as a man with 23 different personalities battling against each other. Anya Taylor-Joy is one of three young women he has abducted. Twisty and tense with a killer ending tying it into… well if you don’t already know, we’re not going to tell you.
It’s more than three hours long and it’s in German, but if that hasn’t put you off, you’ll be in for a great time with this warm, eccentric comedy about a father who creates a crazy alter-ego and poses as the life coach of his stressed-out daughter’s boss.
Pregnancy horror written, directed by and starring Alice Lowe, who was herself seven months pregnant while making the film. It’s a slasher-comedy where the killer is a vengeful mother-to-be spurred on by the voice of her monstrous unborn baby. Highly original.
The best DC superhero movie yet happens to star Batman and a bunch of bricks in this excellent and very funny follow-up to Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s LEGO Movie. Packed with comic-book characters and in-jokes for fans, it’s similarly good natured, and just as funny.
The rightful winner of this year’s Best Picture Oscar, Barry Jenkins’ three-act arc of an African-American boy growing into a man and coming to terms with his sexuality is bleak but tender, and stunningly performed. It’s also the lowest-budget movie to win Best Picture in 50 years.
Wolverine’s swan song absolutely broke the superhero mould with its Western aesthetic, R-rated ultra violence and the unconventional turns it takes with its hero. And it’s all the stronger for it. A moving, grown-up thriller which happens to feature mutants, it’s comfortably one of the best movies of the year regardless of genre.
The Love Witch
Extraordinarily detailed horror/melodrama which looks like it was shot in the ’70s, it’s the baby of auteur Anna Biller and focuses on a woman who loves men so much that they keep ending up dead. A fascinating, feminist period piece set in the modern day with production design to die for.
It’s already grossed more than $1.2 billion worldwide, surpassing the original, and while it seems almost cynically perfect in its casting and marketing, there’s no denying that Beauty and the Beast is also actually good.
Incredibly faithful to the original while adding in a handful of new songs and a couple of feminist twists, it’s romantic, uplifting and stunning to look at, while Emma Watson is spot on.
Sharp, funny political horror, it’s the directorial debut of Jordan Peele. Get Out has already proved an enormous success, pleasing horror fans with its knowledge and understanding of the genre, comedy fans with its wry wit, and everyone else with its intelligent commentary on post-Obama racism. Peele is now one of the hottest properties in Hollywood – watch out for more from him.
Tense, stylised single-location thriller from Ben Wheatley which channels Reservoir Dogs and deftly juggles multiple characters and a simple but frequently shifting plot of a gun deal gone wrong. The all-star cast is great too.
Blistering debut from French director Julia Ducournau which is ostensibly a horror film about cannibalism but delves deep into the dark female psyche. It’s a coming of age story about a young, strict vegetarian girl going to a prestigious veterinary college who is hazed in her first week, awaking a new feeling in her. Utterly brilliant.
Raucous sequel to the superhero space opera directed by James Gunn. This time the gang annoy some celestial beings, find a new gang member in Mantis and get down with some serious family issues. Funny, warm, energetic and just *possibly* even better than the first one.
The follow-up to Prometheus which drags us ever closer to the events of Alien, Covenant is a properly gory horror movie with philosophical overtones. The colony ship Covenant has found a seemingly hospitable planet, drawn in by a human-sounding signal – of course, when they land, things aren’t so peaceful. Filling in crucial alien mythology, with a crew we can empathise with, it makes a great addition to the canon and leaves us hungry for the next instalment.
Bizarre but brilliant offbeat comedy about a young woman (Anne Hathaway) with a drinking problem who discovers she can control the movements of a giant Kaiju in central Seoul. Funny and odd but tackling big issues, it’s incredibly original – an absolute must-see.
Patty Jenkins female led superhero movie finally lifted the DC Universe out of the doldrums with a softer colour palette, a highly charismatic turn from Gal Gadot and a message of love. The sequel is already underway.
My Cousin Rachel
The adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s tale of paranoia and obsession is gorgeous to look at and carried by a seductive Rachel Weisz and a seething tortured Sam Claflin. A great story expertly told.
Sony got its flagging Spider-Man license back on track with a bit of Marvel magic. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker brought a dash of John Hughes teen comedy to the mix, with Michael Keaton’s nuanced and sympathetic Vulture a big step up from the MCU’s often lacklustre villains.
It Comes at Night
Get past the misleading trailer an you’ll find an itchy tense single location thriller where two families are brought together under one roof an unspecified epidemic. A horrible coming of age tale with an ambiguous ending, you’ve never seen a front door look as scary.
The final part of the rebooted trilogy does the series proud. War for is a western, a road movie, a thriller and a decent into hell as peace between man and ape becomes impossible and benevolent ape leader Caesar is driven to revenge by cruel army man The Colonel.
Lush, languorous thriller set during the American Civil war which won Sofia Coppola a Palme D’or for best director. Nicole Kidman plays the school mistresses holed up in the school house with a group of young girls when they discover an injured unionist solider (Colin Farrell). His manly presence raises tensions and conflicts which quickly escalate into violence.
Christopher Nolan’s intense World War II epic tells intertwined stories of the men trapped on Dunkirk beach, the British civilians coming to take them home and the pilots desperately trying to stop them from being shot at an killed. Amazing ensemble performances in a deeply moving and exceptionally realised piece of cinema.
The Big Sick
Autobiographical indie romantic comedy written by Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh from Silicon Valley) following a culture-clash relationship and what happens when the girl contracts a serious illness. Includes our favourite joke of the year ‘a giraffe walks into a bar and says “The Highballs are on me!”‘
Frantic heist comedy set around a Nascar race, with an all star cast including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Daniel Craig. It’s from director Steven Soderberg and plays like Ocean’s 11 if it were directed by the Coen brothers (when they were in a O Brother Where Art Thou? mood)
Rags to riches music business story which feels like 8 Mile meets Pitch Perfect. It’s completely conventional in structure but utterly unconventional in content, with the entire movie hinging on the charismatic performance of Danielle MacDonald as hard-up wannabe rapper Patti. Impossible not to fall in love with.
Highly successful and very faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s clown classic. The ’80s setting works perfectly, the kids are great and Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is a fresh new take that really works. Warm, nostalgic and only a little bit scary.
One of the most divisive films of the year, whether it floats your boat or not it’s clear Darren Aronofsky’s horror parable certainly has flair and ambition. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem star as a couple whose idyllic remote home is interrupted by uninvited guests. One to watch just so you can have an opinion on it.
So far it, the box office for this 35 years later sequel hasn’t been great but the critical response has been rapturous. Despite some iffy gender politics and the reams of questions it left us with, it’s an undeniable impressive and ambitious movie from a director (Denis Villeneuve) going from strength to strength. Blade Runner 2049 is brilliant, beautiful and surprisingly – given its 163-minute running time – not too long. But it’s also sprawling and difficult, don’t expect an easy ride.
Well made monster in the woods movie based on a novel by Adam Neville about a group of guys who go on a hike to honour their dead friend. Simple but very effective, with an amazing creature and funny, likeable and believable characters, it works as a straight forward horror but contains hidden depths relating to male depression and how hard it is to confront.
Happy Death Day
A rare example of a horror that lives up to its fun concept of Groundhog Day as a slasher movie. Jessica Rothe delivers a star-making turn as a college student forced to relive the day of her murder over and over again until she discovers her killer. Genuinely funny and one of the most effective teen horrors in some time.
Marvel’s funniest movie yet is a multi-million dollar epic with an indie heart. New Zealander Taika Waititi brings the funnies with a host of great new characters (Tessa Thompson’s Vakyrie and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster stand out) and a grand scale plot that encompasses the destruction of Asgard and the reunion of brothers Thor and Loki. Highly re-watchable.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos horror of manners where a surgeon (Colin Farrell) must make a horrendous choice when a strange young man (Barry Keoghan) apparently puts a curse on him. It’s horror but despite the plot doesn’t feel in anyway supernatural, more this is a Michael Haneke-esque morality tale of middle class arrogance and a failure to take responsibility for your actions. Nicole Kidman co-stars.
Sci-fi/horror/fantasy about a young woman from a religious family who spreads her wings at college and falls in love only to discover she has special powers triggered by her strong desires and emotions. Like Carrie meets X-Men with an arthouse Scandi backdrop.
Standing as an equal to the delightful original, Paddington 2 is pure open-hearted joy that makes you want to be a better person. Its plot may be simple – Paddington needs to find a 100th birthday present for Aunt Lucy – but the delivery is inventive, emotional and consistently funny. You’ll cry happy tears, you’ll cry sad tears and you’ll want to do it all over again straightaway.
The Florida Project
Deft slice of live drama starring Willem Dafoe as the proprietor of a run down motel in Florida housing long time residents on the poverty line. Told from the view of a funny and resilient seven-year-old girl it’s playful but ultimately devastating.
Battle of the Sexes
True life story starring Emma Stone as champion tennis player Billie-Jean King challenged to a match by former player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) in a publicity stunt built around gender rivalry. It’s an amazing story, expertly told, with strong resonances today in relation to gender pay equality. Plus, the tennis is great.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR UK