It’s January and we’re a film review blog, so there’s only one thing for it – films of the year lists! Because we pretty much solely focus on home entertainment releases these days, I decided to add a few lists taking in my favourite re-releases and Blu-Ray/DVD packages of the year. So excuse the length of my segment in this post!
If you’re interested in what I saw in 2017 and beyond, I keep tabs of everything I watch, new or otherwise, at Letterboxd. It’s a cool site if you’re not aware of it, offering a social network for film geeks and a place to track the films you’ve seen or want to see.
Below are the top 10’s and other lists of the year from a handful of our contributors. As always let us know your thoughts in the comments section and feel free to include your own top 10.
Top 10 New Releases
10. Headshot – I saw a few decent action films this year, but this just pipped The Villainess and John Wick 2 into my top ten list. It’s not a perfect film, with several cliched aspects to its story, but the set pieces are stunning with some brutal choreography and energetic direction. There’s enough emotional complexity to the narrative to keep things interesting too. Review: https://blueprintreview.co.uk/2017/06/headshot/
9. Blade Runner 2049 – This belated sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic isn’t perfect. It feels a little too bereft of emotion at times and an unusual sex scene seems poorly placed, but in terms of craft it’s hard to fault. The film looks and sounds absolutely stunning and there are some interesting concepts to chew over afterwards.
8. Logan Lucky – Totally different to the other choices here, Logan Lucky is light and breezy, but in the best possible way. It was a breath of fresh air after a lot of the heavier stuff I’ve seen this year and has a curious tone and sharp writing that set it apart from similar crime capers. Review: https://blueprintreview.co.uk/2017/12/logan-lucky/
7. The Salesman – Asghar Farhadi impressed me and many others with his 2011 film A Separation and this is further proof of his skill at telling powerful, thought-provoking stories without bombast. Quietly thrilling and morally complex, it’s mature filmmaking at its best. Review: https://blueprintreview.co.uk/2017/05/the-salesman/
6. Certain Women – On the surface, Certain Women seems so minimalist that you could say nothing is happening and I wouldn’t be surprised if many find it incredibly tedious. However, I was strangely drawn to the film from start to finish, aided by director Kelly Reichardt’s subtly beautiful mis-en-scene and the quietly simmering tensions beneath the surface. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but if you’ve got the patience, you’re in for a treat. Review: https://blueprintreview.co.uk/2017/09/certain-women-criterion-collection/
5. Gleason – Between this and The Work, the best documentaries I saw this year really knew how to tap into my emotions. I was a wreck whilst watching Gleason, which follows Steve Gleason, a former professional American football player, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS – a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease) shortly before his wife learnt she was pregnant with their first child. Being a fairly new parent myself I found much of the film heartbreaking, but also often uplifting and inspirational. In terms of craftsmanship, the documentary doesn’t do anything special, but it’s the most touching film I’ve seen for a long time, let alone this year. Review: https://blueprintreview.co.uk/2017/03/gleason/
4. Dunkirk – I don’t always rate Christopher Nolan as highly as most film lovers. I rarely dislike his work, but don’t place it on a pedestal like many do. I thought Dunkirk was excellent though and I think it might be Nolan’s finest hour. I very much appreciated its stripped-down approach to the war movie, throwing you into the action without getting bogged down in side stories or soldiers’ backgrounds. Instead it lets you experience the sheer terror of having to survive such an ordeal from various perspectives.
3. The Red Turtle – Like The Work, The Red Turtle is simple in form and narrative, but it’s also incredibly beautiful and offers numerous interpretations as to what to make of its unusual, occasionally fantastical story. Stunningly well crafted, it was easily my favourite animated film of the year and I watched quite a lot with my girls. Review: https://blueprintreview.co.uk/2017/09/the-red-turtle/
2. The Work – Simple in presentation, this documentary merely observes group therapy sessions in Folsom Prison, but remains devastatingly powerful and incredibly engrossing. Watching these stereotypically ‘tough’ men open up about their histories and feelings is an emotionally draining experience, but helped me learn more about myself at the same time.
1. Moonlight – This just teetered on the edge of 2017 in the UK and I caught it a little late into its cinematic run. Even after the hype I found it lived up to its reputation though and I’m thrilled that it won the best picture Oscar as it’s far more subtle and controlled than most winners of that coveted award. Touching and beautiful without ever overplaying anything, it’s an astonishingly sensitive portrayal of a boy/man coming of age and coming to terms with his identity and sexuality.
Honourable mentions – Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Lure, It, Toni Erdmann, The Big Sick
Notable films missed or not released in the UK yet – Call Me By Your Name, The Florida Project, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, A Ghost Story, The Post, Logan, Wonder Woman, The Shape of Water, Good Time, The Disaster Artist, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Misouri, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Paddington 2, The Death of Stalin, Mother!
Top 10 Older First Time Watches
* Click on the titles to see my reviews where available
Honourable mentions – The Cremator, Tampopo, Westfront 1918, Kameradschaft, Carnival of Souls, Animal Kingdom, Le Plaisir, Swiss Army Man, The Awful Truth, The Last Picture Show, The Life of Oharu, Housekeeping, Escape From New York, The Sorrow and the Pity, Don’t Torture a Duckling, Little Children, The Tree of Wooden Clogs, Le Trou, Mustang, The Act of Killing, Short Cuts, The Big Combo, On Any Sunday
Top 20 Blu-Rays of the Year
20. Swiss Army Man – Lionsgate
19. Drunken Master – Masters of Cinema
18. The Fisher King – The Criterion Collection
17. The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T – Indicator
16. Lord of the Flies – The Criterion Collection
15. The Deadly Affair – Indicator
14. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – The Criterion Collection
13. Fat City – Indicator
12. The Big Heat – Indicator
11. 12 Angry Men – The Criterion Collection
10. Don’t Torture a Duckling – Arrow Video
9. The Music Room – The Criterion Collection
8. Miracle Mile – Arrow Video
7. Buster Keaton: 3 Films – Masters of Cinema
6. The Thing – Arrow Video
5. The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen, Vol 1 & 2, and The Sinbad Trilogy – Indicator
4. A Brighter Summer Day – The Criterion Collection
3. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen – Second Run
2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia – Arrow Video
1. The Complete Monterey Pop Festival – The Criterion Collection
10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
8. The Dark Tower
7. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
6. War for the planet of the Apes
4. Thor Ragnarok
3. Paddington 2
1. Get Out
“History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us.” James Baldwin’s words, featured in the documentary I am not your Negro, resonate as heavily in the context of this year’s cinematic offering as they do in the year at large.
With news dominated by sexual assault, terrorism, war, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and other horrors, it’s sadly fitting that the best films this year have reflected these themes.
Seeing a film like Moonlight deservedly triumph at the Oscars over the joyless and hollow disappointment of La La Land was the ideal symbol to start 2017.
From historical dramas and documentaries that loom large over today’s world, to stories of grief and vanquishing ghosts, it’s been a great step forward since last year’s #Oscarsowhite, and a good opportunity to celebrate what has been accomplished.
And, for what it’s worth, here my effort to do just that with by 10 favourite films this year:
Films I’ve not seen that might have made the list: Toni Erdmann, The Disaster Artist, The Florida Project, Call me by your Name
Honourable mentions: 20th Century Women, The Fits, Raw, I Am Not Your Negro, Baby Driver, Get Out
A brief mention on television:
This year Bojack Horseman provided one of the best seasons of television I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. Yet somehow, that wasn’t even the best of the year.
Ken Burns’ Vietnam was every bit as outstanding as you’d expect a Ken Burns documentary to be, and is essential viewing, but even that wasn’t it.
With Twin Peaks: The Return, David Lynch, Mark Frost et al produced something which was at once familiar and new, and which exceeded and blew away any expectations and trepidations I might have had. It’s hardly fair comparing Twin Peaks to other television shows. It’s hardly fair comparing it to anything. Twin Peaks is a gift.
9. The Big Sick
8. Their Finest
7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
6. Baby Driver
5. Get Out
4. Free Fire
2. Thor: Ragnarok
1. The Lego Batman Movie
10. John Wick: Chapter 2 – One of those rarities where the sequel improves on the original. Let’s hope chapter 3 doesn’t disappoint.
9. Shot Caller – This one flew below the radar. An excellent prison drama starring Game Of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as an everyday family man who, after a twist of fate, finds himself rising through the ranks of a white supremacist prison gang.
8. Logan – Hugh Jackman says goodbye to Marvel’s most popular movie superhero in a gritty neo-western.
6. Brigsby Bear – The very last film I watched in 2017, so almost didn’t make this list. A beautiful feel good movie with a fantastic central performance from Kyle Mooney. Guaranteed to make even the most cold hearted shed a tear.
5. Lego Batman Movie – The stand out character from The Lego Movie gets his own film. Will Arnett proves himself the best Batman since Michael Keaton.
4. Colossal – The less you know about this film going in the better. Anne Hathaway stars in this quirky mix of indie comedy-drama and Godzilla worship.
3. Mother! – Darren Aronofsky’s absolutely bonkers work of genius. Jennifer Lawrence shines in a film that defies categorisation.
2. Blade Runner 2049 – The original Blade Runner is one of my all-time favourite films, so I went into Denis Villeneuve’s sequel with no small amount of trepidation. I didn’t need to worry as this is more than worthy as a follow up to Ridley Scott’s original. So beautifully shot that you could display any scene in an art gallery.
1. A Dark Song – Low budget Irish horror that left a lasting impression on me. A grieving mother employs an occultist to help her perform an ancient ritual. Not your usual black magic film, this is an intelligent slow burn, which authentically portrays the use of Magick (or so I’m told!).
2017 was a good year for movie watching for me; I calculated I watched 185 films during the course of the year, plus 30 TV series. It’s going to be too hard to rank them so in no particular order here are my favourites:
At the Cinema
T2 – Trainspotting – This materialised early on during the year and remains a favourite of mine, with strong performances and a continuation of Renton, Spud et al’s story that doesn’t shame the original.
Logan – The best Wolverine film by miles, is more of a Western than traditional superhero film, and the scenes referencing Shane had me trying not to blub!
Kong: Skull Island – A fun monster movie with an awesome 70s soundtrack. The first encounter in helicopters with Kong is what the big screen was invented for…
Wonder Woman – So much better than anyone was expecting, and the film just proves that you don’t have to have a penis to be a great super hero!
Baby Driver – A quirky crime thriller with comic tropes and an uber-cool soundtrack. My only criticism of this when I saw it at the cinema was that the music became too loud on a few occasions, but maybe I’m just showing my age!
Spiderman: Homecoming – A film no one (including me) really saw the need for, that turned out to be one of the most entertaining films of the year; who’d have thought! One of the best super hero films, ever…
Dunkirk – A spectacular cinematic representation of a period in British history that we should never forget. The final decent of Tom Hardy’s plane as it glides to earth made the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention – wonderful.
IT – One of the best horror films of recent years with some great performances from a game young cast; roll on their second encounter with Pennywise!
American Assassin – I had very low expectations for this film to deliver, but deliver it did as part and parcel of an action film very much of our times.
Blade Runner 2049 – This should probably should get this year’s prize for most beautifully shot film, replete with an eerie, moving, and, at times, menacing soundtrack. I thought I’d hate it, but it rose to the occasion like attack ships off the belt of Orion (or whatever the quote is – don’t hate me if it’s wrong!).
Happy Death Day – a great combination of Groundhog Day and Scream, this is such a fun meta movie that horror fans can enjoy with their non-horror-loving partners, if they can drag them to see it in the first place that is!
Thor: Ragnarok – Great fun through and through, and probably funnier than most alleged comedies…
My cinematic moment of the year?
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – The opening title sequence, with ELO’s Mr Blue Sky underlaying the cool visuals – I was in seventh cinema-going heaven!
On disc or download
I’m not a Serial Killer – An interesting take on both the psychological and alien horror subgenres with a cool twist and a killer role (in more ways than one) for Christopher Lloyd.
The Void – A great, disturbing and at times baffling Lovecraftian horror flick.
Blood Father – Mel Gibson is back, kicking arse and looking heroic, if only in a fairly elderly way!
The Autopsy of Jane Doe – Another creepy horror that sees the return of Brian Cox to a genre he should really do more in.
A Good Day to Die – A thought-provoking and moving documentary about a war correspondent; I’m still reflecting on it months later…
Berlin Syndrome – A nicely realised psychological horror that keeps you on the edge of whatever surface you’re sitting on.
Security – Another action-dad film that sees Antonio Banderas playing an ex-special services veteran saving a desperate girl from hijackers at a run-down mall he’s working security at. Much better than it sounds – give it a whirl.
The Accountant – Ben Affleck plays an autistic accountant who’s also a bad-ass assassin! It sounds like it should be a rubbish film, but is well-written and well realised. Worth a watch.
The Neon Demon – Nicolas Winding Refn delivers a horror film for the art-house set, one which will fascinate and disturb in equal measure.
Honourable mentions must be given to some older, retro films, which impressed me, I saw during the year, including: The Killing of America, Willie Dynamite, Carve her Name with Pride, Soylent Green, Dunkirk (the original version), and Ex_Machina.
Oh, and I can’t go without giving a nod to some great TV box-sets I consumed during 2017. My favourites being Lucifer, Banshee, Daredevil, Grimm, Hammer House of Horror, Monk, and the extremely rare Strange, from 2002/3, featuring Richard Coyle as a de-frocked priest fighting off demons. It’s a shame they cancelled it after just one all too short season.
In no particular order
Get out – genuinely frightening and fresh
Logan – all the tears, at last a superhero movie to respect
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – the empire strikes back!
The Big Sick – funny, moving with the great Holly Hunter
Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 – just for the opening alone
City of Ghosts – viscerally terrifying what cruelties people will inflict upon one another but how hope never dies
Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond – fascinating insight into what it means to be an actor, a celebrated actor and a person who is vulnerable and has no idea what the fuck it’s all about
Casting JonBenet – a new take on how to make a documentary this is beautifully shot and compelling
Whose Streets – the power of protest
Lego Batman Movie – because I’ve had a tough year and I don’t care what you think
(Calculated by placement, so 10 points for 1st, 9 for 2nd etc. Plus ‘no particular order’ top 10 listings got 5 per film)
9 – Mother!/Manchester by the Sea/Baby Driver (joint with 10)
8 – It (11)
7 – Logan (13)
6 – Moonlight (14)
5 – Blade Runner 2049 (16)
2 – Lego Batman/Get Out/Thor: Ragnarok (joint with 21)
1 – Dunkirk (29)
Congratulations to Dunkirk for being named Blueprint: Review’s film of the year!
So that’s it for another year. Keep visiting the site for our thoughts on the latest home entertainment releases (and the rare cinematic releases that we get around to). Let us know your thoughts about the best and worst of the year below.
Happy New Year!