21 films from 2017 you need to watch before the year's out
The best of the blockbusters and undiscovered gems
Movies, eh? Watching them and looking at them and all that? Putting them on, winding them back, pressing pause - a lark if I’ve ever heard one! Love a good movie, me, a lovely hour and a half of moving images and literal sound - gimme more gimme more gimme more.
And what a year 2017 was, for those things only those in the know term ‘films’. Lots of top quality output - comedies, horrors, actioners - all genres were present and well represented, loads to choose from. A warehouse of sweet treats, but instead of marshmallows, films.
But which ones were the best ones? Which movies should you immediately watch - seriously, cancel everything and do what I say - if you haven’t already? Well, the ShortList team is here to help, with a list of our favourites over the past 12 months, so get comfy and wham these hefty gobstoppers under your eyelids:
Who’d have actually thought it? Everyone’s once-favourite twist-loving wunderkind, since relegated to dismissive ridicule, actually came out with a really decent film this year. I mean, there were hints of a comeback with 2015’s excellent The Visit, but Split really hammered it home: M. Night Shyamalan is back.
Split, a movie about a man with 23 different personalities, is anchored by a fascinatingly terrifying performance by James McAvoy - an extremely impressive catwalk of versatility that makes the film, but could have just as easily derailed it. Top stuff all round though, all the way through to the obviously-yes-there-will-be-a-twist ending. You’d have thought he’d have grown tired by now, but fuck it, Shyamalan is riding that twist train all the way to the depot.
2.'John Wick 2'
There was absolutely no need for John Wick to be as good as it was. A fightsploitation film about a man who is murderously angry because Alfie Allen killed his dog (understandable), the first film was elevated above whatever the 2014 equivalent of the bargain bin is, by sly humour, sharp-as-fuck visuals, and near-The Raid level fight choreography, as well as being set in a gleefully silly world where dead body disposal costs one big shiny coin and a cold beer costs one big shiny coin.
The sequel had even less need to be so good: coasting by on will won by the first, Keanu could’ve rocked up in a M&S onesie and slept-walked through the film and it would’ve been a hit… and yet we were treated to a visually sumptuous, exhaustively violent love letter to one man and his small grievances with memorably viscous death after memorably viscous death. The word ‘badass’ gets thrown around a lot but, genuinely, John Wick is a badass.
The ninth movie about a bloke with metal claws that shoot out of his hands - you’re telling me that’s one of the best films of the year? That’s what you’re going with? Oh and it’s also one of the most emotionally draining? You cried? YOU ARE TELLING ME YOU CRIED AT THE SUPER DUPER KNIFE-HANDS MOVIE?
Yes, that is exactly what I’m telling you. The film about the man with a metal skeleton who is named after the skunk bear, is absolutely damn fantastic, make no mistake. Any previous Wolverine-related mishap is forgiven - this is the definitive Logan movie, a surprisingly grown-up (and shockingly violent) take on a character that is ostensibly a man with swords in his knuckles. Not sure how that happened.
Of course this was going to end up on the list, of course. You’ve been living under a rock, positioned under another even bigger rock, covered in a thick layer of turf, with five more rocks planted on top, if you haven’t heard of Get Out and the rabid fanfare it received upon release. So I’m here with a bunch of rogue landscape gardeners, ready to unearth your hovel and drag you screaming to the nearest screen to watch it.
Get Out is a top-class exercise in wrapping searing social commentary inside an easily-digestible horror movie package, and it is 100% worth your time. In fact, it’s worth two of your times. Maybe even three.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Alien: Covenant is not on this list. That is because it was not very good. It was *alright, I suppose* but on the whole, a disappointment. Thankfully, another killer alien in space movie was released this year, and it was infinitely better. It was called Life, and it was the Alien sequel we all wanted, really.
It stripped everything back to the basics - a bunch of people in a space station getting hunted by an intelligent creature; the end. No time for needless exposition, no backstory, no mythology - just a terrifying body-horror chase movie set in the bleak vastness of space, just like the very first Alien was. Really enjoyable stuff - keeps it simple, keeps it scary, keeps it good.
Chances are you didn’t see this film this year. In fact, chances are it bypassed you completely, not even glancing your cheek - you didn’t so little as hear about The Void. But that’s OK, and that’s what I’m here for - I’m here to uncover some of the little-seen gems, load them into a trebuchet and fire them into your oblivious head.
This extremely entertaining, spooky and most importantly, absolutely vile horror throwback is 2017’s The Thing. It follows a rag-tag (this a horror film, remember) bunch of characters holed up in a deserted hospital, while all manner of wild stuff goes on outside, and eventually, inside. It’s gory, funny and yeah, stupid, but I loved every second of it. Super sexy soundtrack too, synth fans.
Films about cannibals are notoriously bad, and though that sad fact will never stop me watching them, it’s something that I’m grown-up enough (!) to admit. Still, now and again a good cannibal movie will appear (The Silence of the Lambs, We are What We Are) and that exact thing happened this year, with Raw. The French-Belgian film acts half like a coming-of-age college movie, and half like a truly disgusting flesh-munching horror flick.
Both sides are good, but when put together the result is way more than the sum of its parts. It’s top quality euro-horror, and one of the best fright films to come out this year. Also, there’s a very good chance at least one scene will make you retch the entire contents of your Co-Op meal deal into your lap. Just a warning.
8.'Fast and Furious 8'
CAPS LOCK ON: OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS BECAUSE WHAT IS A CALENDAR YEAR WITHOUT A FAST AND FURIOUS MOVIE? IT IS A WASTE OF A CALENDAR YEAR, THAT IS WHAT IT IS.
What do you get when the Visionary Director™ of Korean cult classic Oldboy (you know, the one with the incest and hammers) makes a psychosexual thriller that’s part exploration of sub-dom relationships between master and servant, part exploration of literature’s fascination with boning, and part exploration of Korea under Japanese colonial rule? You get a bloody good movie, that’s what. The ending will interrupt your sleeping patterns, just saying.
Justice League hasn’t gone down too well, has it? Not everyone’s favourite, really; won’t be appearing on too many best-of lists, probs. Shame really, because Wonder Woman was so damn good, and went a long way towards making everyone forget about Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. As a result, a lot of her hard work has been undone, much to DC’s chagrin.
Still, at least we have the original - nothing’s going to take away from how good that is. Wonder Woman shows you exactly how a superhero origin story should work - it’s spectacular, funny and it doesn’t get bogged down in its own invention. It’s super, you could say, couldn’t you, if you were a journalist or something.
This Netflix Original film about a little girl and her mutant super pig was so powerful it made me give up meat for a month. I was raving about it everywhere I went: “Have you seen Okja?! I’M A VEGETARIAN NOW!!!”
Admittedly, I eventually went back to my evil meat-eating ways but still, this film is really, really good. With strong performances by Tilda Swinton and South Korean child actor Ahn Seo-hyun, it’s the perfect balance of tense action-thriller and emotional vegan propaganda. The film, which seems to be heavily inspired by Terry Gilliam’s 1995 movie 12 Monkeys, also makes excellent use of CGI. And because it’s already on Netflix, it’s well worth a watch.
Poor old DC - only one good superhero movie this year. Lucky old Marvel - four absolute superhero belters this year. Not that it wasn’t to be expected - Marvel’s output is consistently great, and Tom Holland’s first appearance as Spidey was in the really-rather-sodding-great Captain America: Civil War, so hype for his first solo outing was through the roof.
Thankfully, he lived up to it, with a whizz-snap, gag-bang, web-swish adventure movie that somehow managed to make the neighbourhood protector interesting again, even though his last outing was only in 2014. Reasons being: Tom Holland is an excellent Spider-Man, Michael Keaton was an excellent villain and most importantly: now he’s got fucking spider-wings, yo.
13.'The Big Sick'
The Big Sick is everything you’d expect from an indie romantic drama, in that it takes a set of pristine medical tools to your chest, carefully and expertly removes your heart, and then rips it into thousands of pieces of limp, bloody flesh with a rusty chainsaw.
Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan’s on-screen chemistry is excellent and the source of a lot of the film’s early humour, and that humour doesn’t let up even as the story takes dark and treacherous turns. This is what I’d call a perfect Sunday afternoon film - it’s somehow heavy and gentle all at once, the acting is brilliant, and the relatability at its core makes it the perfect antidote to the big superhero blockbuster trends of modern-day cinema.
Actually this was decent, wasn’t it. Wasn’t guaranteed to be, either, what with Harry Styles given a big-ticket acting gig and the whole ‘not-that-much-happening’ premise, so yeah, well done Chris Nolan.
You know the plot, obviously, because you’ve got grandparents or took a history class at school. Maybe both, if you’re lucky. So you know how overblown war epics can be, especially those which include Winston Churchill speeches. This struck the balance between overly preachy and overly boring expertly, and made you actually care, which is no mean feat.
If Ocean’s Eleven (one of the best action movies ever made) taught us anything, it was that ensemble heist films are absolutely great. Take the same director – Steven Soderbergh, who came out of retirement just for this – and add in a bunch of Rust Belt weirdo characters played by genuine A-Listers (Adam from Girls, the handsome beefcake from Step Up, James Bond, and Peter fucking Griffin) and bombs made from screwball concoctions of shit like bleach and gummy bears and you get a patchy-but-eminently-watchable popcorn-guzzler of a movie. Haven’t seen it yet? Get a few beers in. Lucky you.
While the reviews for this psychological horror were, shall we say… mixed (translation = one critic called it the worst movie of the year, maybe even the century), I can confidently say I was intellectually, emotionally and physically shaken by mother! If a film could punch you in the face, it would be this movie; the boundaries it pushes are revolutionary in mainstream movie making.
Watch it for the stellar performance by J-Law (who’s incredible in everything, basically) and to get an insight into the mindset of director Darren Aronofsky. But make sure you’ve got a strong stomach and are not easily offended.
As I have always said: just because a film didn’t come out in the cinema, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. This is a steadfast rule, set in stone, encased in concrete, never to be broken, and I will defend it until the end. As such, Savage Dog, starring potentially my favourite actor of all time, Scott Adkins, rightfully belongs on this list alongside all the other cool-club movies, with their fancy ‘budgets’ and ‘acclaim’.
Yes, this ridiculously entertaining revenge film about a one-man-army cutting a giant swathe through Indochina in 1959 would feel peculiar on a big screen, but in a dingy bedroom, covered in crisps, it is Heaven. It’s entirely implausible, utterly outrageous and stupidly violent, but guess what? That’s my kinda coolhouse, buster.
18.'God's Own Country'
God’s Own Country is a heart-wrenching queer masterpiece about two men from different cultures who fall in love on the harsh Yorkshire moors – plus it has the muddiest sex scene in cinema history. Director Francis Lee, like Robert Eggers in The Witch, is clearly in love with his setting, which makes for a stunning visual experience. And, filmed during the EU referendum, God’s Own Country accidentally became a powerful political film about Brexit Britain.
I developed a minor obsession with the lead actors Alec Secareanu and Josh O’Connor while watching this film but *spoilers* prepare to have your heart broken.
19.'Blade Runner 2049'
The original Blade Runner is top-drawer stuff - a cult classic, almost untouchable, you may say. So news of a sequel wasn’t exactly met with open arms - people are precious about their sci-fi, you see.
So imagine everyone’s surprise when Blade Runner 2049 ended up being a stonking banger, a dazzling sequel that both respected and expanded on the revered originator. Gosling was, as per, amazing in his CILF (Coat I’d Like to Fuck), and Denis Villeneuve pulled off the tough balancing act of giving the Blade Runner world a new spin while also honouring Ridley Scott’s fingerprints. Also: loudest film I’ve ever seen, if that means anything to anyone.
20.'Call Me by Your Name'
Call Me by Your Name is a beautiful, wistful film about how wondrous gay love can be and how it so often ends in tragic disappointment because of messed up, homophobic societal pressure. And it’s a real Oscar contender this year - it was picked as film of the year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
They should give the film’s star Timothée Chalamet all the awards already. He’s only 21 but he puts in an incredibly mature, sexual performance and out-acts everyone else in the film. The scene between Elio (played by Chalamet) and his father at the end of the film where they discuss sexuality, masculinity and fatherhood is one of the most touching I’ve ever seen.
While Get Out was probably the ‘best’ film of 2017, Paddington 2 was definitely my favourite. “Oh, but it’s for children!” you shout, correctly. Yes, it is, but there’s something to be said for movies that are able to delight to an eight-year-old girl and a 28-year-old man in equal measure.
Paddington’s animation and Ben Wishaw’s excellent voice acting make the little bear as charismatic and adorable as ever, while Hugh Grant’s villainous turn is outstanding - I’d go as far as to say he’s never been so good. Paddington 2 has just the right amount peril, and when combined with the messages of family, friendship and the desire to always look for the best in people that exist at Paddington’s core, Paddington 2 is the perfect sequel. Five stars.