This has been a pretty stacked year for me when it comes to movies, with lots of big releases and long-awaited sequels. I’ve been to see about fourteen movies this year, at my last count; I didn’t see everything, though, and generally only go to see movies I know I’m going to like so anything I wasn’t interested in I simply chose not to see.
With that said, here are ten of the best movies I saw this year and a brief explanation as to what I liked about them.
Yeah, that’s right, I’m putting The Last Jedi at number ten. So far, the Sequel Trilogy of Star Wars movies has been fraught with just as many negatives as it has positives; for every improvement on the characterisations and dialogue there are some strange narrative choices at work. I think The Last Jedi deserves to be on a list of the best movies of 2017 but I wouldn’t agree that it deserves to be at the top, or even number one. For its action and spectacle alone, though, it can have the number ten spot if only because The Dark Tower (Arcel, 2017) disappointed a bit more and wasn’t long enough.
I really wish I could have put this higher; honestly, it was a choice between this and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (Gunn, 2017) but, because I found Guardians Vol. 2 to be a pretty lacklustre sequel, Covenant makes it onto the list if only because it was able to make up for many of the failings that soured Prometheus (Scott, 2012). Unfortunately, Covenant relied a bit too heavily on the presence of David (Michael Fassbender), effectively wiping away the influence of the Engineers on the creation of the Xenomorphs and, instead, having them be the bastard children of the human race. However, for bringing Xenomorphs back to the screen in gruesome fashion, I’ll give this spot to Covenant and hope that the recent purchase of 20th Century Fox by Disney will help steer the Alien franchise back on track.
Wow, was this film a surprise! Going into this, I hadn’t even gotten around to seeing the first xXx (Cohen, 2002) and didn’t really expect it to be anything more than a mediocre action film. Instead, it was a massively fun over-the-top action romp returning Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) to action in a chase across some of the sweatiest, most glamorous worldwide locations and featuring some of the most ridiculous but incredibly fun action set pieces I’ve ever seen.
Alright, so, honest talk? Ragnarok also disappointed in some areas: the plot threads left over from Thor: The Dark World (Taylor, 2013) were either not capitalised on or simply waved away, there was maybe a bit too much time spent of Sakaar, the characterisation of Hela (Cate Blanchett) was as lacking as any other Marvel villain, and the eventual fate of the Asgardians ended up falling a little flat but, at the same time, the light-hearted nature of the film worked really well, the action was fun and engaging, and it was a visual treat to behold and it definitely deserves a place on any “best of” list for fleshing Thor (Chris Hemsworth) out as a more interesting and fun character.
We’re turning the corner now into full on, unashamed enjoyment; after Godzilla (Edwards, 2014) ended up being disappointingly light on its giant monster action, Skull Island went a long way towards making up for that by showcasing the titular ape within a relatively short space of time. Not only that but the film also gets extra points for doing something a little different with Kong; no longer is he simply a misunderstood, love-sick beast; now, he is a protector and a formidable opponent, defending his island from numerous threats and not seeking to kill or destroy out of malice. Furthermore, Kong is bigger and far more durable than ever which should serve him well for his upcoming rematch against Godzilla.
Similar to xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, I only watched John Wick (Stahelski, 2014) about a week before the sequel and had to honestly ask myself why the hell I waited so long. Not since Taken (Morel, 2008) has an action film come seemingly out of nowhere to be a sleeper success but, unlike Taken 2 (Megaton, 2012), John Wick: Chapter 2 was a bigger and better affair. Expanding upon the world flirted with in the original. Chapter 2 follows John (Keanu Reeves) as he is once again forced out of retirement and has to disobey the strict rules of the fraternity of assassins he once belonged to in order to get revenge. Slick and brutal in its execution, John Wick is a film series that gets better with each instalment and has really helped to change the public perception of Reeves.
Specifically marketed as Hugh Jackman’s swansong, Logan finally delivered a brutal, violent depiction of the titular X-Man after years of flirting with the idea. After the success of the ultra violent Deadpool (Miller, 2016), it was more than refreshing to see film studios take a chance on violent, profanity-laden action movies but, more than that, Logan is a heart-wrenchingly tragic final chapter in Wolverine’s story. Broken and beaten, Logan (Jackman) is ready to die but is forced on a cross-country trip to bring his clone-daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen), to a Mutant sanctuary in Canada. Along the way, he is forced to confront his demons and his legacy and, ultimately, face his own mortality to bring his long and arduous life to a satisfying close.
Yeah, that’s right, I am putting Justice League higher than The Last Jedi and do you know why? Star Wars doesn’t need any further accolades heaped upon it at this point; Star Wars is a globally successful franchise more than capable of flourishing no matter what missteps the films may make along the way. Justice League, however, has been painted with an undue coat of negativity and has been cruelly overlooked; sure, it wasn’t perfect, but we finally got to see the Justice League realised in live-action for the first time. Ben Affleck continues to impress and surprise as Batman, Jason Momoa was a kick-ass Aquaman, the action was thick and fast and the resurrected Superman (Henry Cavill) was a more positive and admirable portrayal of the character than we have seen in decades. Yes, it was rushed at certain points but what do you expect? DC and Warner Bros. are playing catch-up to Marvel Studios but, as this film showcased, they can still produce a visually-impressive and action packed movie to stake their claim in the superhero genre.
How can this not be here? After Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy (2002 to 2007) first established the character as a money-making commodity and then eventually ran him into the ground and the Amazing Spider-Man films (Webb, 2012 to 2014) were unfairly and unfortunately halted from continuing the narrative they had established, the rights to Spider-Man finally fell back into the hands of Marvel Studios and their first course of action was to get the character back on track with a version all their own. Portraying Spider-Man (Tom Holland) as a plucky teenager and focusing on his desperate need to be seen as a legitimate superhero and an Avenger rather than dwelling on his origins, Homecoming also gave us one of the best and most fleshed out Marvel villains ever in the Vulture (Michael Keaton). Supported by a likeable and (ironically, controversially) diverse cast of characters, Homecoming gave us a fun and exciting chatter-mouth Spider-Man for the very first time and finally returned the web-slinger to mainstream prominence despite the daunting nature of rebooting the character for the second time in five years.
Honestly, this was a toss up between It and Spider-Man: Homecoming given how they were both in the same kind of boat; both films were retelling stories that had previously been successful but had, in different ways, failed to fully realise the potential of their source material. While It had some failings due to realising the events of Stephen King’s novel in different ways, it cannot be denied that it’s been one of the most successful horror films in recent memory and for good reason. The child protagonists were fun and likeable and Bill Skarsgård’s unique depiction of Pennywise made for a truly enjoyable and despicable villain; married with a sizeable budget and fully utilising its 15 rating, It was far from the enjoyable but tame, watered down made-for-television adaptation we got in the nineties and was, instead, a fully-realised piece of horror cinema.