by / December 22nd, 2017 /

Lists: State’s Films of 2017

2017 was a better-than-average year for cinema – but, just about.

It’s fair to say that, across the board, genre films exceeded expectations. The oft-eulogised romantic comedy was reinvigorated by The Big Sick; the MCU was refreshed by the new talent behind Spider-Man Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok; It managed to be both a successful horror movie and a successful remake; while Dunkirk and Their Finest offered two remarkable, but very different, representations of the same wartime event. Yet while there was a four-star movie for everyone, arguably very few films rose above this to the status of something truly exceptional. But those that did, when you seek them out, are often subversive, challenging, and deeply poetic. Our film team have put their heads together and listed 20 of our favourites for your reading/catch-up viewing pleasure. Please tell us all about yours in the comments.

20. Ingrid Goes West

Darkly funny with a career best performance from Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West is a satirical take on social media and the impact that it has on our lives. Ingrid (Plaza) moves to LA after being released from a psychiatric facility and insinuates herself into the life of influencer Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen). Taylor’s life isn’t as perfect as she makes it out to be online however, and what follows is a sharp and witty takedown of Instagram culture. O’Shea Jackson Jr provides a scene-stealing turn as Ingrid’s landlord, while Billy Magnussen balances menace with light-hearted narcissism as Taylor’s brother Nick. Though not flawless, it is a unique film that examines social media culture with wry humour and genuine emotion. Plaza’s performance creates Ingrid as an equally empathetic and problematic character, and raises the issues of social media and social interaction – and how modern society links the two – an important and timely theme to consider. Uncomfortably enjoyable, Ingrid Goes West is a powerful film that crawls under your skin and is sure to inspire many other films to tackle this concept, though it will be hard to compete. (Amy Clarkin)

19. Logan Lucky

After a 3-year hiatus, ​Stephen Soderbergh returned to cinema with what is, for him, the well-trodden territory ​of a heist movie. But by replacing the sleek, sophisticated conmen of Ocean’s Eleven with a bunch of disenfranchised, working-class Virginians, he puts a fresh and timely twist on proceedings by presenting a good-humoured David vs Goliath tale in Logan Lucky. Jimmy Logan, a recently-laid off construction foreman, sees an opportunity to rob a NASCAR track during the busiest race of the year, enlisting his siblings and a family of small-time criminals – one of whom they’ll need to break out of prison – to help. While Tatum gives a quietly excellent and fully-realised lead performance, the ensemble cast are all on top form, Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang being a particularly compelling comic creation. Stylish, fun and occasionally poignant, Logan Lucky was perfect popcorn fare, while the film features the best Game of Thrones gag I’ve yet seen in popular culture. (Stacy Grouden)

18. Lady Macbeth

Appearances can be deceptive. This can not only be described to Katherine, the anti-heroine of William Oldroyd’s directorial debut Lady Macbeth and played with steely rigor by Florence Pugh, but to the film itself. From the outside, Lady Macbeth appears to resemble a typical Victorian adaptation with its rural setting, aristocratic leads and doomed, gothic romance. Look closer however, and what you would find is not only something more darker, but twisted and nasty, a sort of Victorian noir. Adapted from a mid-19th century novella by Russian author Nikolai Leskov, Oldroyd and screenwriter Alice Birch have created possibly the most complex and unpredictable film of the year, one that consistently subverts expectations. Katherine is introduced as a sort of damsel in distress character, one searching for some kind of sexual gratification to offset the banality of her existence, which she finds in a boorish land worker. The comparison of Katherine to the Lady Macbeth of the title indicates that everyone is not who they seem and to reveal more would spoil much of the film’s impact. Throughout all these shocking turns is a stunning central performance by Pugh, balancing both the sympathetic and repulsive aspects of Katherine with aplomb, further showcasing the range of her talents that were all too briefly seen in Carol Morley’s The Falling. By turns minimalist and thrilling, bleak and sensual, Lady Macbeth stands out as one of the most unique and subversive films of the year. (Patrick Townsend)

17. Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok was the film we needed by the end of 2017. Exploding onto the screen with Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song playing, Ragnarok was a welcome burst of humour and energy to distract from political despair and an atmosphere of constant doom. Director Taika Waititi, most commonly associated with indie cult classics such as What We Do In the Shadows and Hunt For the Wilderpeople, brings his trademark eccentric humour to the Marvel Universe. Thor: Ragnarok takes two Avengers who have been arguably overshadowed in previous films – Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Steve Banner/The Hulk (an endearing Mark Ruffalo) – and sends them on a space adventure, while adding layers of depth and characterisation that have been lacking in previous films.  Hemsworth’s comedic talents shine while the on screen chemistry with brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is developed. The supporting cast, particularly Tessa Thompson as The Valkyrie, Cate Blanchett as Hela and Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster, are all scene stealing in their own way, while Waititi’s Korg is one of the funniest characters in the MCU to date. It is a beautifully-shot film, and an exciting, emotional, feel good addition to the Marvel canon. (Amy Clarkin)

16. The Red Turtle

In The Red Turtle, Dutch born/UK based animator Michaël Dudok de Wit has created the most profound and effecting film of the year by far. Told without dialogue, save for a few grunts here and there, it tells the story of an unnamed man washed up on a deserted island. His attempts to escape on a bamboo raft are thwarted by an unseen force below him in the debts of the ocean. He soon discovers that this force is the titular red turtle and in a fit of rage turns the turtle on it back. Feeling remorse, the man attempts to save the turtle but is too late. However a transformation soon chances the man’s life entirely. It is form this simple premise that de Wit brings together a fable that examines the aspects of our lives that are of such importance to us. Love, companionship, family, and the eventual passing of time are rendered here with such beauty it would be difficult not to be swept away by it. Stunningly animated and rich in detail, it certainty deserves a place alongside the greats of its co-producer Studio Ghibli, which is surely a testament to the greatness that the film achieves. (Patrick Townsend)

15. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy caught audiences off-guard in 2014, its charm grounded in the novelty and surprise at its oddball humour and groovy tunes in what had become a stale and formulaic superhero universe. So we might have known what to expect this time around, and found it lacking. Thankfully, GOTG2 took everything that made its predecessor successful and dialled it up, fostering poignant and conflicting relationships between characters as much as it pushed its lively soundtrack and incredibly funny set pieces. Internal rifts between the Guardians work to the advantage of both character and plot, allowing for the central emotive plotline about Peter ‘Star Lord’ Quill reuniting with his charismatic father Ego (Kurt Russell), to alternate with the fun space escapades of the team – Gamora, Rocket, baby Groot, Dax, charming new arrival Mantis, and a sensational Michael Rooker, having an incredible time as Quill’s erstwhile foster father, the Ravager Yondu. Charming, poignant, and a hell of a lot of fun, it feels like the galaxy is in good hands.  (Stacy Grouden)

14. The Death of Stalin 

Watching his political comedy career over the past decade, from the stuffy DoSAC offices to the vast halls of the Kremlin, Armando Iannucci has always maintained one truth about the careerist machinations of schemers, no one has a clue what they’re doing. In The Death of Stalin, his brand of bumbling bickering takes a darker turn, existing in the power vacuum after the Soviet Premier passes. And while atrocities are dealt with, a light-on-its-feet script that fleets between caustic and farcical along with a triumphant ensemble that shares the mic equally – although a moment, please, for Jason Isaac as Nazi-smasher Georgy Zhukov who speaks like he’s just stepped off Emmerdale farm – made it the standout comedy of the year. (Dave Higgins)

13. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer retains the idea of personal sacrifice as a consequence of irresponsibility which is key to the Greek myth from which it takes its name. Colin Farrell stars as Stephen, a man forced to make an impossible decision about his family’s future after making a fateful mistake. The camerawork, score, and stilted performance style of the actors conspire to build an unrelentingly tense and utterly unpredictable magical realist drama, braced with moments of seriously dark humour and all-out horror. An astonishingly creepy performance by Barry Keoghan confirms his arrival as one of our most interesting young actors, and I’ll be watching anything he and Lanthimos do next – through slitted fingers over my eyes. (Stacy Grouden)

12. T2: Trainspotting

Trainspotting was the story of people who couldn’t fathom how to operate in a world transforming in front of them, let alone excel in it. T2 continues that theme and then observes itself through the cultural lens of the original: Cool Britannia, Blair’s middle way, and the single-longest period of increasing domestic and economic prosperity Europe has ever witnessed. Our antiheroes were there at the start, the spoils theirs for the taking and yet somehow, like so many others, it slipped through their fingers. This is a film for those who lived through those years and now find that what was promised, perhaps wasn’t delivered. It’s also a film that nods to those of us who were just behind the Trainspotting generation. Those of us who came of age, just as the whole house came tumbling down. When future generations come to watch these films, they’ll also need to insert a twenty-year gap. It’s also worth watching to see just how much Danny Boyle has progressed from an exciting prospect to one of the greats. Who else could sandwich in a reference to Plato’s cave in a film about reformed junkies in Edinburgh? (David Cadwallader)

11. The Lost City of Z

They don’t make ’em like The Lost City of Z anymore, and that’s really quite a shame. James Gray’s account of the life and times of British explorer Percy Fawcett feels like a 70s passion project for everyone in front of and behind the camera. Golden hues light the way for authentic captures of time and place, as the much-maligned Charlie Hunnam gives the performance of his career, inhabiting Fawcett’s dangerous obsession and terrifying ambition without losing sight of his soul. He’s supported quite excellently by Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and Tom Holland, as his director goes every possible extra mile in search of his own unique vision. (Dave Hanratty)

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