Thankfully, Hollywood upped its game as well. Last year, my list of the top 10 best movies had a few entries that, in retrospect, crawled onto that list thanks to an utter lack of competition. But this year is different. There’s no lucky “also rans” punching above their weight, or flawed movies that got their place due to some sense of loyalty - these are 10 stone cold stunners.
- Justice League - It wasn’t bad, and that in itself is an achievement considering the surrounding chaos, but it certainly wasn’t good.
- Beauty and the Beast - I’m admittedly not someone brought up exclusively on Disney cartoons, but even I know this is a poor imitation of the animated original. I thought nothing could be more boring than this movie. . .
- Jigsaw - . . . Then I watched Jigsaw. Coming to the Saw party so late wasn’t ideal, but this just confirmed every fear I ever had about the series. Dull, cheap, and utterly pointless.
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle - Kingsman was my biggest disappointment of the year. It’s the best of these dishonourable mentions, but it hurt more than any of them.
The Worst Film of 2017 - Assassins Creed
Any hype for Far Cry, Splinter Cell, Rayman or Watch Dogs movies is gone. How could it not be? I’m hoping against hope that in 10 years time, we’ll look back over a decade of great video game movies and see Assassin’s Creed as the Batman & Robin of the piece.
10 - IT
Reasons - I was not expecting to like this. Horror is not my bag, but word of mouth surrounding IT was overwhelmingly positive, plus I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I owed it one after its original at least partially inspired Stranger Things. I was so pleasantly surprised to find the movie not only had a great bunch of kid actors, but also was genuinely engrossing. It’s not really what it does differently story wise to other horror movies - it’s more about its 10 out of 10 delivery.
Best Bit - It doesn’t get much better than the opening sewer scene. You could just hear a whole other generation of kids becoming scared of clowns.
9 - Kong: Skull Island
Reasons - Though it didn’t break the mold in any significant way, Kong: Skull Island did manage to avoid the same pitfalls its sibling Godzilla fell into - specifically by putting Kong front and centre, while at the same time allowing him to show off his best assets. Kong starts off as the antagonist, before smartly morphing into the underdog protagonist, and the human characters have the good grace not to overshadow the real star of the film.
Best Bit – The opening helicopter attack is the point the lightbulb went off in my head that “hey, this might be alright!”.
8 - Power Rangers
Reasons – OK, when I said that this list as all killer, no filler, that doesn’t actually hold true. If I was being honest, Power Rangers wouldn’t make this list, based on my subsequent viewings. The CGI is awful. Some of the design choices don’t work. And they spend far too long not being the Power Rangers. But I couldn’t not include this on the list, not after my first viewing was probably the giddiest I’ve felt all year. The film has an X-Factor that keeps it above similar movies, with a genuine heart and a nostalgia fueled love for the 90s series. However unlikely it is now unfortunately, I truly believe a sequel would deliver even more thanks to the solid foundations laid here. Oh it’s schlock for sure. But it’s 24 karat schlock.
Best Bit – “Go, go!”. Cinematic moment of the year. No competition.
7 - Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Reasons - I might come to regret this in the future. I admittedly was quite angry about The Last Jedi when I came out of the movie, but that was mainly aimed at some small but incredibly aggravating parts (read: porgs). But no doubt it delivered on spectacle when it was time. Some of the scenes in this are mind blowing, and I for one thought Mark Hamill did an awe inspiring job as a jaded Luke Skywalker. It’s a lesser Star Wars movie that simultaneous could have ranked as a disappointment of the year, but what’s good is great and it does improve upon a second viewing.
That said, I could have just put this generations Phantom on a Top 10.
Best Bit - A cameo to bring tears to your little heart. And a fire to any nearby trees.
6 - Wonder Woman
Reasons – The one character everyone latched onto coming out of Batman v Superman, for no other reason other than she wasn’t an utter train wreck, thankfully proved three things in her debut film - it wasn’t all a fluke, not everyone working on DC movies for WB is incompetent, and of course women can lead superhero movies you idiot. Being proven wrong about Gal Gadot’s acting abilities was genuinely uplifting for me, and while it does sometimes become Wonder Woman: The First World War Avenger, that’s no bad thing, especially when WW’s action scenes may even eclipse those in Cap’s debut film. It would have been higher too, had the final showdown not botched the landing.
Best Bit – A tough choice between the first three action scenes, but I think Wonder Woman storming the little village and shoulder tackling a building wins out.
5 - War For The Planet Of The Apes
Reasons – I will say out front that I was just a little disappointed that the movie with “War” in the title has perhaps the least amount of fighting of all three rebooted Apes movies. But that’s beside the point. This isn’t an all-out war action movie, it’s a character study framed by war. Cesar isn’t Rambo, he’s Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan - conflicted, flawed, but ultimately a brave leader. There’s little “fun” to be had here, but it never stops being fascinating, and a worthy trilogy closer.
Best Bit – Murderous rage Cesar is a hell of a thing to see when he first locks eyes on Woody Harrelson.
4 - Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2
Reasons – It seems odd to list “more of the same” as both a pro and a con for Guardians 2, but its true. On the one hand, it contains all of the good stuff from the first movie that made it such a successes. The comedy is great, the action scenes deliver, and it manages to give us a villain upgrade with Russell’s Ego, who now has to be in the conversation about who the best villain in the MCU is. There's very little to dislike. But on the other hand, the reason it doesn’t rise above the original, or into the top 3 on this list, is that nothing truly feels new. To stick to the music tie-ins like the film does, the two other MCU movies in 2017 felt like new albums built on great foundations but with musical identities wholly their own. Guardians 2 however more closely resembled a greatest hits album.
Best Bit – THE BEST STAN LEE CAMEO OF ALL TIME.
3 - Logan
Reasons – I’m not one to advocate for grimness. Life’s too short. But who knew that underneath a mountain of angst, pain and misery would be where Wolverine solo movies would work the best? After one faceplant and one long, glorious ode to “meh”, Hugh Jackman finally hit a solo film out of the park with his 9th and final outing as Wolvie. “Low key western” is a first for the superhero genre, and I doubt it will ever need to be revisited because this movie is simply put too perfect, thanks not just to Jackman but also Patrick Stewart as the painful to watch (in a good way) Professor X and newcomer Dafne Keen as X23. Just as Cesar got his rightful send-off, Wolverine bows out in the best way possible.
Best Bit – One more berserker rage for the road, giving us those sweet sweet X-Men 2 vibes. That or the final thing X23 does. THE FEELS.
2 - Thor: Ragnarok
Reasons – As much as I can be “worried” for a movie I had nothing to do with, Thor: Ragnarok was 2017’s “This could go either way” film when we looked ahead in 2016. A zany comedy director taking control of Marvel’s previously stoic God clash franchise was a left field choice that could have worked great or brought the whole thing down in an awkward, ill-advised heap. Fortunately, Taika Waititi and his particular style of filmmaking was exactly what this franchise needed, to the point that you wonder why we were ever so enamoured with the previous Thor films in the first place (or more accurately the first one, because we all knew The Dark World was crap on arrival). After such an epic, vibrant clash which you really have no choice but to fall in love with, the fear no turns outwards - can other directors nail this new version of Thor? Because anything less than this will be a massive let down.
Best Bit – I want to name any number of Jeff Goldblum moments because it’s so great to see him just abandon playing any character other than “Jeff Goldblum in this situation” (in this case, “Jeff Goldblum in space”). But nothing speaks to the fun-at-all-costs nature of the movie like the slow-mo shot of the rainbow bridge fight during the finale. One of the best singular shots in the whole MCU to date.
1 - Spider-Man: Homecoming
Reasons – A dream realised. From a pitch perfect Peter Parker in Tom Holland, to an unexpectedly great villain turn from Michael Keaton, who made the freaking Vulture compelling, this is the rare case of being all things to all fans. It took the best aspects of the two previous attempts at the web-head, cut the weak points, threw in some things they both missed from the comics, and balanced it all perfectly. We all pondered on what Spidey would do if he were in the MCU, and it turns out he would star in the best debut movie of them all. Yep, I’m going there. Keep your first Iron Man, Captain America, Guardians, Ant-Man and Dr Strange movies, this is the new gold standard for anyone entering the MCU to beat.
Best Bit – Spidey finding his inner strength to escape the rubble he’s trapped under. It’s a scene that captures everything you’ve ever loved about the character.