10 best films of 2017

David Gritten / 19 December 2017

Film critic David Gritten's top picks from 2017. Is your favourite there too?

1. Dunkirk 

One of the most impressive, accomplished war films ever, it comes from British-born director Christopher Nolan - and it feels British - no American swagger or macho posturing on view here.  Zeroing in on the attempts of our troops to outwit the Germans and reach Dunkirk’s beach to be ferried home by an army of small boats, it’s tense, gut-wrenching – and viewed in IMAX, awe-inspiring.

Read David’s original review of Dunkirk

2. Detroit 

An extraordinary account of a 1967 race riot in the American city, centred on a violent stand-off in a motel between white police and three young black Americans, one of them suspected of being a sniper. Tense, compelling, sometimes uneasy viewing, with director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) at the top of her form. British actor John Boyega shines as a young security guard trying to cool tensions on both sides.

Read David’s original review of Detroit

3. Their Finest

The year’s best all-British production, a fascinating top-notch story about screenwriters in the London Blitz, churning out corny patriotic film scripts to cheer up wartime cinema audiences. Remarkably, it manages to be funny, romantic and heartbreaking at different points. Subtly directed by Lone Scherfig, it features star turns by Gemma Arterton as its strong-willed heroine and Bill Nighy - in great form as a vain, elderly actor.

Read David’s original review of Their Finest

4. Wind River

For me, the year’s most underrated film - a superior thriller set near an Indian reservation in Wyoming’s snowy high country, where the body of a young native American woman is found. Jeremy Renner plays a taciturn huntsman and tracker who helps the FBI solve the crime. It feels like a modern western, with good guys, bad guys, a violent climax - and a hero searching for truths hidden in snow.

Read David’s original review of Wind River

5. Moonlight

This year’s Oscar winner for best film, and a hugely distinctive one: a three-part story, tracking the progress of a sensitive young African-American boy from a tough neighbourhood, who goes through a troubled adolescence, then finally settles into a promisingly content and peaceful adult life. Directed with real assurance by Barry Jenkins, it’s moving and distinctive, with memorable performances all round. 

Read David’s original review of Moonlight

6. The Red Turtle

Enchanting and dream-like, this is an animated ‘circle of life’ story – told without a word of dialogue - about a shipwrecked man on a tropical desert island. He meets a woman who magically emerges from the shell of a red turtle. They become lovers, raise a son together and watch him become a young adult. A work of exquisite beauty, it has the feel of a classic fable.   

Read David’s original review of The Red Turtle

7. The Sense of an Ending

An elegant, literate film, adapted from Julian Barnes’s novel, with Jim Broadbent as a retired divorced man who becomes beneficiary of a will from someone he knew long ago; its contents lead him to re-appraise his entire past life. A delicate, nuanced story, beautifully acted - not only by Broadbent but also by Harriet Walter, who is terrific as his ex-wife.

Read David’s original review of The Sense of an Ending

8. Blade Runner 2049

This updating of Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic is the film year’s most remarkable visual event; on a giant screen, the landscapes of the future feel overwhelming. Ryan Gosling plays the replicant K, duty bound to a murderous mission. Yet he comes to seem a blank presence when Harrison Ford, reprising his role as the now elderly replicant-hunter Deckard, makes his entrance and dominates the film right up to the end. Now that’s star quality. 

9. The Party

This darkly witty British state-of-the-nation comedy may be short at 71 minutes, but it certainly packs a punch.  It almost feels like a one-act play, set in the stylish London home of a politician (Kristin Scott Thomas), newly appointed shadow minister of health. Her guests are a bitchy, hypocritical bunch, mouthing high-minded attitudes. Great cast, including Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson and Emily Mortimer.

Read David’s original review of The Party

10. Final Portrait

An oddly engaging little film that on the surface appears to be about nothing much. The great artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), in his twilight years in Paris, asks an American friend (Arnie Hammer) to sit for a portrait. But he’s such a perfectionist he cannot complete the painting to his satisfaction. A delightful stake on the obsessive side of great artistic talent, skilfully directed by Stanley Tucci.

Read David’s original review of Final Portrait

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