It’s one of my favourite times of the year for films and one of my favourite pieces to write for my blog; this is all about remembering and praising some of the films that made some sort of impact on me throughout the year. It’s one of my favourite things to do: talk about films, and more importantly, talk about the aspects I loved about those films.
This isn’t a ‘Top 10 list’ (especially because I’m talking about more than 10 films this year – a first for me), nor am I saying these are the best films of the year. I’m simply pointing out the film that in one way or another, mattered to me and made some sort of impact. Whether it was in the moment of watching them or it was the effect they had on the old memory box, this is all about films that stood out to me and mattered to me.
Before I start, I’ll lay out some of the conditions: These are all films released in the UK, between January 1st and December 31st. They are also in no particular order, so one isn’t superior to another. This is all about talking about good films and perhaps making you aware of little gems you may have missed, or simply praising a film that despite being well-known is still deserving of being talked about. I will also be talking about my personal ‘Film of the Year’ in this piece as well, so look out for that.
But let’s bring this waffling to an end – enough of the ramblings – let’s get to the reason why you clicked onto this in the first place: ‘The Films That Stood Out to Me in 2017’:
Who would have thought that a standalone Wolverine film would not only achieve so much, but would also end up being one of the best superhero films to ever be released, but here we are. Delivering on a hugely satisfying conclusion to a character that Hugh Jackman had played for 17 years; Logan promised a powerful and potent end to the character and it did not disappoint.
This was a fulfilling end to a character that many people (including myself) had grown up with – it was the definition of ‘An end of an era.’ Many a manly tear was shed at the end and a character was wrapped up in a way that probably won’t be matched for some time (in the superhero genre).
This was without a doubt the best superhero film of the year (and for some time) and was more than a worthy film to kick off my list and the year. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the character going forward.
Headlined by an incredible performance from Isabelle Huppert, of a character – Michèle Leblanc – who at all times challenged my every pre-conception and had me fascinated by the way in which she tackled every hardship that came her way.
From its opening scene which shocks and disturbs you, to its closing moments, Elle was a film in which I could never predict its next move and was at all times on edge. Through its unwaveringly strong lead character, the film stands out and stands tall with a character who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and who despite being the victim of a horrific assault, at no point lets her trauma get the best of her.
I was continually wowed by much of what this film had to say and how it went about saying it. This film will have you gripped from beginning to end and is one that I knew would stay with me, long after I’d seen it; and here we are, with it taking up a deserving space on my list of standout films.
In my opinion, Silence is one of Martin Scorsese best films in some time. So I was disheartened when both audiences and the award season seemed to largely overlook it. Perhaps it was the 2-hours and 41-minute runtime that pushed people away, I’m not sure, but whatever it was, many people missed out on an encompassing, moving experience.
I was enveloped by this film and willingly let it consume my every thought. With its theological questions, its moral conundrums and its deliberate use of violence – all put upon the shoulders of a challenging lead character – played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield – Silence had so much to offer and think about.
It’s a film that is now wildly available on streaming services and VOD, so if you haven’t already; this is definitely a film from 2017 that is worth taking on and experiencing.
The Handmaiden: Director’s Cut
I like to be challenged by films; I like them to cause me to think and to participate in something that demands I use my thinking muscles. That is what The Handmaiden did throughout.
With multiple plot strands and characters whose personal alignments constantly shift, The Handmaiden keeps your mind on its toes; having to always re-access what you originally thought to be the case. The film is like an exercise; one that lulls you in, in the beginning, and tricks you, but soon you adapt (you have too, otherwise the film will dominate you) and once you do, the experience of watching the film is perhaps unlike anything you will have had before.
I sat there in the cinema, in awe of the narrative gymnastics I was seeing before me and I knew that I was watching something truly unforgettable. I knew this film would remain in my mind until it came to the point of writing this list and seeing as you’re reading this, I wasn’t wrong. You should see this film, but be prepared for something that will never hold your hand and will leave you questioning everything and everyone.
It Comes at Night
This was a film that certainly divided people; some expecting an out-and-out horror, while others (me) where expecting a more psychologically disturbing film (the latter ended up being the case). Again, I love a film that makes you think; one that goes beyond the conventional elements of your basic film, and that is what It Comes at night did for me.
A setting, a group of nuanced characters and an explosive situation all made for a film that had me forever guessing and attempting to route out the truths buried in the tension inducing scenes. It demanded that I interact mentally, and I did; making the experience all the more engaging.
Rather than lazy, cheap scares, the film relies on the psychological scares that come with its increasingly intensifying situation and it all culminated in a set of events that as I think about right now, still disturb me and cause me to run through everything that led up to them. I had my assumptions as to who was good and who wasn’t, and I was wrong, which only made me think about the film more. Now if that isn’t a successful execution of a film, then I don’t know what is. Turn off the lights, switch on your brain and enjoy this heart-racing experience.
I haven’t yet seen a film written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, that I haven’t in some way loved. There is such an honesty to his films. He is able to tap into the reality of everyday people and create gripping, compelling stories from their lives.
Much like his earlier films, The Salesman takes interesting people and puts them in a challenging situation and then simply lets life play-out. It’s so simple but so well done. Farhadi’s films challenge you, as the moral questions that are put before his characters are also put before the audience; allowing us to make our own judgements.
I for example: found myself on the opposing side of one of the main characters and his actions, but for me, I found that to be all the more engaging, as I was intrigued to see how it would play out and if I was the one in the wrong. This is often the case with Farhadi’s work; his characters are challenged and so are we. It’s one of the reasons – but in no way the only one – that makes his films so memorable. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend watching any of his films.
A Ghost Story
I went on such a journey with this one: In the beginning, I was loving the intimacy of the story, but as things progressed, I found myself beginning to detach emotionally from the experience and instead look at it from a more analytical frame of mind, but that then transitioned into disliking the path it was then going down, and then by the end I was fully back on-board and in awe of what the film had tackled over its relatively short runtime.
This is in no way an easy film to approach or engage with – it is extremely obtuse in how it presents itself, but it is one that, despite how you end up feeling about it, will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on you.
I remember as the film finished and the credits rolled, that a wave of disbelief and amazement came over me, but I stepped outside of that for a moment because I had to experience the visceral reaction of the audience around me – to say it was mixed would be an understatement – but being there in that moment, after experiencing something like this film was such a powerfully memorable moment in my time at the cinema in 2017. Open your mind, don’t turn away from this film because of how different it is, and experience something truly unique.
A Monster Calls
Undoubtedly one of the most emotionally resonant experiences I had watching a film this year, A Monster Calls emotionally broke me in two. Beyond the fact that I can personally relate too, and empathise with the films lead character, Conor – played by Lewis MacDougall – who delivers an astoundingly powerful performance – this is a film that speaks to the inner child in all of us and delights them, but also shows them the hardships that any of us could possibly face.
There is so much creativity and life on show in A Monster Calls. Director, J.A. Bayona delivers a fully rounded experience; one where the magic of imagination and the brutality of reality collide and create something that will leave your emotional state in a tattered state, but it also rewards you with an experience that feels worthy of the hardships that both the characters and you face.
I won’t deny that this film will hurt, but it is absolutely worth it when you see what J.A. Bayona and the team behind this film put together. I won’t forget this film anytime soon and you should absolutely make the time to share in all that it has to offer.
I didn’t believe that this horror classic could be redone in a way that would see it being one of the best horror films of the year – especially when you look at the most financially successful films and the state of the genre right now. I was sceptical, but not only did I grin with joy throughout, but I also came out of the cinema having loved the adventure I had been taken on.
Harkening back to a more classic tone and execution; It feels as much a love letter to the adventures films that dominated the 80’s, as it does to a genre that sees very few actual memorable horror films these days. Despite it falling into some of the tropes that dominate a repetitive, unimaginative genre, right now, the film was still able to overcome its shortcomings to deliver a genuinely satisfying, creepy film that had me fixed to its every moment.
If you are somehow one of the few people who haven’t yet seen this standout film from 2017, I highly suggest you rectify that; and see what types of horror experiences, big-budget studios should be aiming to produce more of – while the indie scene continues to put out unforgettably brilliant horrors that stand the test of time. I can’t wait for more of Pennywise and his interesting interpretation of dancing.
Jackie was a film that seemed to almost assault my every sense and completely dominate my attention – and I mean that as a positive. With a lead performance from Natalie Portman – who was robbed of the ‘Best Actress Award’ at the 2017 Academy Awards, and an all-consuming atmosphere that takes over and controls your every ounce of focus; Jackie is a film that wows in every way a film possibly can.
Each frame of this film is like a hauntingly exquisite painting; every moment that Natalie Portman is on-screen, is an example of acting at its most flawless purity. It’s almost like falling into someone’s nightmare, watching this film and it is hypnotic in how it does it. I felt as though I was forming an addiction to this film, that’s how powerful I found it.
It’s one of those films that takes a hold of you through imagery and actions that unsettle you, but still somehow pull you in deeper. Sadly, this was a film that seemed overlooked and it very much shouldn’t have been, so do yourself a favour and watch what is a truly remarkable piece of cinema from 2017.
This was a film that I randomly decided to watch and knew nothing about it – other than who was the lead actor in it: Kristen Stewart – an actress who doesn’t get the credit she deserves because of a single franchise.
There was something sinisterly hypnotic about this film; it lured me in with certain elements that intrigued me and then flipped everything on its head and started down paths I never saw coming but very much wanted to see more of. It was constantly evolving; introducing new, unexpected twists that would build the film out into something seemingly new and enticing.
In my review, I really struggled to communicate the visceral response I had to Personal Shopper, it caused reactions from me that I couldn’t explain, and it left me thinking about it for long after it had finished – almost like it was haunting me – insisting that I remember it. It did not need to insist, however, because I wanted to keep thinking about it and now I want to share the film on this list. You yourself, should experience this oddly satisfying film and only then may you understand what I felt when watching it.
The Death of Stalin
There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Armando Iannucci’s, The Death of Stalin would be a hilariously memorable film that is also perhaps the funniest film I saw in 2017. But what I was not expecting, was for it to also be one of the most sub-textually darkest films I saw in 2017.
Armando Iannucci has a great ability to cut to the core of the absurd elements of politics (‘The Thick of It’ and ‘Veep’ being prime examples) and so tackling the communist regime of Soviet Russia was of course going to result in some genuinely hilarious moments. But Iannucci also tapped into the dark cruelty of a regime that was unbending, and what came from that was a film that while being genuinely hilarious, was also genuinely stomach churning.
If you’re a fan of Armando Iannucci other work, then this is a must see, but if you’re looking for a comedy film that is so much more than the bottom-of-the-barrel slop that is primarily served up in the comedy genre, then this is one you have to see. It tackles much, and it tackles it in an unflinchingly upfront way.
God’s Own Country
This might be one of the most sincerely beautiful films that I saw in 2017. I knew very little going in and I came out feeling emotionally transformed. Tackling a topic that is rarely seen in film and doing it in the lovingly honest way in which it does, makes for a film that challenges you and rewards you.
One of the things I look for most in a film: are well handled and developed characters, and in God’s Own Country, I got that and so much more. Both I and the characters went on a transformative journey. I went from being standoff-ish about the people I was watching, to being completely infatuated with their every movement – and they went from lonely, damaged people to ones with a glimmer of hope and a possible future of happiness.
It gave me what I want most from a film and it left me full of a rewarding joy. Please seek out this wonderful little British film, open your arms to it and welcome it in – even with how impossible that may seem in the beginning.
The Florida Project
Driven by a powerful commentary upon people who are glaringly overlooked, all while being neighbours to one of the most decadent showings of wealth in all of America. Through the lens of innocence, we are shown a part of America that, while full of life, is completely without support or hope.
What began as a difficult watch, soon turned into one of the best examples of communicating a message through the medium of film. The film’s storytellers are children – which is perhaps the film’s most genius move, as it is the loudest and strongest message that the film tells us, despite saying nothing overtly obvious. It is children trapped in poverty, looking on at the ‘Happiest place on Earth’ (Disney World) and not letting that affect them, even though it is, they just don’t realise it yet.
This is one of those films where it does a much better and more eloquent job of communicating its message, than I ever could. All that I can do is urge you to seek the film out; to hear it out, and to take in all that it has to say. For me, it was a powerfully pure experience.
In the last two years, Taylor Sheridan has written two of the strongest and most memorable films to grace cinema – Hell or High Water and Sicario – both were also films that made it onto my standout films of 2016 and 2015. And so here is Mr Sheridan again, only this time he’s not only written the script of this film, he also directed it, so there was no doubt in my mind that this wouldn’t be a standout piece of cinema in 2017.
Offering a career best performance from Jeremy Renner and also one of the most atmospherically resonant films of the year. Everything in Wind River works together, supporting and building upon the other elements, to then produce an experience that holds you firmly in its grasp. A murder-mystery that becomes more haunting and disturbing as it goes on, and two central characters who are handled with such attention and care – all result in a film that you don’t ever want to turn away from and then can’t stop thinking about, once it has finished.
To not see Wind River would be a mistake. You are truly missing out on a film that was passed over by many, because at the time the horror juggernaut that was ‘It’ was in cinemas. While it will certainly unsettle you, it will be completely worth it, as you will have seen one of 2017’s best film offerings.
The Meyerowitz Stories
For me, there was no film in 2017 that better displayed the dysfunctional but endearing madness of family life, than The Meyerowitz Stories. Director Noah Baumbach always brings such interesting and unique characters to his films and this one might offer the best.
This was one of those films where I quickly settled in and let the rhythmic madness of the characters and their stories consume me. The dialogue fly’s fast and often hurts when it lands; the characters are brimming with individuality that makes each of them a joy to watch, and the genuine sincerity that courses throughout the film, makes it a relatable, substantial experience – one that I felt fulfilled by, after it had finished.
Not only is this a great introduction to Noah Baumbach’s work and particular style, but it’s also just a genuinely good film. And it also boasts, Adam Sandler’s best performance since, Punch-Drunk Love. That alone should compel you to want to watch it.
Call Me by Your Name
This is an utterly intoxicating film that on nearly every level delighted me with beauty and a touching sense of love and honesty. Awards season is only just beginning (at the time of writing this) and Call Me by Your Name is a clear frontrunner, and I imagine that won’t slow, in the lead up to the Oscars.
I was completely enamoured with every second of Call Me by Your Name. I felt like I floated into the most luxurious, indulgent film experience and never found myself wanting to leave. It’s one where characters are lovingly handled; where they are afforded as much time and patience as they need, to flourish. The Italian backdrop intensifies the romantic atmosphere that seems to live within everything, and generally there is just this welcoming, comforting tone to everything that is on-screen. It is pure indulgence of the mind and I loved it.
You must find the time – preferably when it’s quiet and you’re in your most comfortable state – and settle into the beautiful joy of this film. Don’t try and rush it; don’t demand anything from it, just let it be, and you will enjoy everything that it is.
I couldn’t possibly talk about the standout films of 2017 and not talk about Christopher Nolan’s new film. As an almost obsessive lover of his work, Nolan continues to deliver the best blockbuster experience, while also never compromising the unmatched quality of what he creates.
There might be no better example of what can be achieved at the blockbuster level of filmmaking, than what Nolan is doing, and Dunkirk further strengthens that point. With it’s visceral sound design, it’s heart-pounding score that pulls you into the intensifying rhythm; the scale and spectacle of his set-pieces, and the delicate, meaningful handling of the characters, make for an almost overwhelming experience, that by the end, had me traversing many emotions at once. It is the perfect example of what film can achieve and why the cinema can at times be like a life-affirming experience.
If you didn’t see this film in IMAX, then I’m afraid you missed out on something truly special, but that still doesn’t mean that watching the film would be a lesser experience. Simply having the luxury to watch a filmmaker like Nolan and his work – in a time when blockbuster cinema churns out repetitive, meaningless products – is a gift that must be cherished and celebrated. This film will not disappoint – that I guarantee!
After reading the horror stories of how viscerally and physically intensive Raw was, I knew I had to see it. But what I wasn’t expecting: was that not only was Raw an incredibly deep, intelligent film, but that it would leave such an impact on me, that I would be considering it as one of the best film I saw in all of 2017. In fact, before the next film on the list came along, this was my personal favourite film of 2017.
Because of my gleefully masochistic side when it comes to watching films, I knew that I would get a weird amount of satisfaction from how physically and mentally disturbing, Raw is. But it wasn’t just a film that was gory for the sake of it; there’s purpose and motivation that guides the film. All of it comes together to form an experience that I found to be both tantalising and profound. It took qualities that on their own are pretty simple, and mixed them up with ideas that are perverse or exciting. I was wowed by what the film accomplished and the unique way that it approached what it had to say.
I knew when I left the cinema, that I had watched something truly different, and I loved it for that – plus so much more. This is a film that to watch, you’ll need to step outside your comfort zone, but I assure you, it is really worth doing, because the reward for doing so, will result in a film and an experience that will stay with you.
Blade Runner 2049
Denis Villeneuve is without a doubt one of the best directors currently working in the filmmaking business. Each film he makes is completely different from the last, and each stand out in ways that sets them apart from everything else around them. I have been a lover of his work for a long time, yet despite that, I still had my reservations about Blade Runner 2049, before seeing it.
But I sit here now, more than happy to type that, Blade Runner 2049 is my favourite film of 2017! Not only is this sci-fi at its purest, but it is filmmaking on a level that is perhaps unrivalled. Every single frame is meticulously detailed and unbelievably gorgeous. Every sound you hear is an orchestra of offerings. Each philosophical and theological musing of the film builds it into something grander than it was before. Every aspect of this film comes together to produce one of the most complete experiences that I had in the cinema in 2017. It is why film is so special and why I love it so much. I willingly fall to my knees and bow before how magnificent it is.
Much like my (very long) review, I could go on and on, praising each and every aspect of this masterpiece. But rather than waffle on about it, I will simply implore you… beg you to watch it! Out of everything I saw this year (which was a lot) there was nothing that resonated more within me, than Blade Runner 2049. It is sublime.
There you have it, those are all the films that made an impact on me in 2017. It was a long list, I know, but I wanted to indulge myself and take the time to talk about each of them for a little bit. It really is one of my favourite things to do; to talk lovingly about films that in one way or another were important to me.
Also, feel free check out my list from 2016:
But now I turn the attention over to you. What were some of your favourite films on 2017? What did you think of my list? Do you agree, or do you disagree with my choices? Let me know all that and more in the comments section down below.
But I’ll bring my ramblings to a close now, by asking that you consider following both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. But other than that, I will say a massive thank you to you for taking the time to read this – especially if you read it all the way through, and I hope that you liked what you saw here enough, that you’ll think about popping back and checking out my reviews, etc. Have a fantastic day; you wonderful lover of film!