My Favourite Films of 2017

Another year, another favourite films post! I’ve done one on Letterboxd, but that’s just my top 25 of films that were actually released in the UK in 2017, so it includes films that were on my favourite 2016 films list. Over there I’ve also got a list of all the 2017 films I’ve seen, which are the ones with a 2017 production date, and that list will keep changing and growing. Below is a list of my favourite new films that I saw in 2017, including ones that don’t have a UK release yet. As ever, it means it’s missing some that only got festival screenings which I haven’t yet seen (most notably Agnès Varda’s Faces Places, which I’m very much looking forward to), so expect those next year.

But to the statistics, because I love the statistics! In total, I saw fewer films in 2017: 340 medium- or full-length feature films (almost a hundred fewer than in 2016), 143 of which were in the cinema (which at 42% is exactly the same percentage, though still represents a drop from a high of 62% of films seen in the cinema back in 2013).

However the big news is that I achieved my resolution to see 50% of films directed by women and 50% of films directed by people of colour. I saw exactly 170 women-directed films and 170 PoC-directed films, which particularly in the latter case represents a huge year-on-year increase (last year I saw 43% films directed by women, and 26% directed by non-white directors). In total, I saw exactly the same number of films directed by women of colour as by white men (95 films, i.e. 28% of my total). Now that I’ve hit that, I probably won’t try to achieve it again in 2018, as it did mean I actively avoided a lot of films, especially when it got to December, and I want to focus on filling in some film history gaps, which is going to mean more (old) films directed by white men, but I will certainly try to keep watching a diverse range of new filmmaking.

In terms of quality, there were lots of brilliant films, and plenty that I loved which I haven’t been able to include here… I mean, somewhere below the 25 listed there’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (flawed, yet sensitive, with a brilliant performance from Rebecca Hall, maybe my favourite acting performance of the year), On Body and Soul (a strange, odd Hungarian film), Félicité (an African film with another brilliant central performance), Angels Wear White, Jeune femme, The Death of Stalin, Step, I Am Not a Witch, Good Time (a critical favourite, and with an undeniably brilliant Robert Pattinson), not to mention 2016 films only released in the UK in 2017 like Hidden Figures, 20th Century Women, Toni Erdmann, the list goes on… So yes, I’m a big fan of 2017.

25 Girls Trip

Girls Trip (2017)It’s not perfect but this comedy is great fun, not least for Tiffany Haddish’s great performance. It also makes a stark contrast to Rough Night, which would be my least favourite film this year if I made a list of those (but generally I avoid films that look terrible).

24 Lady Macbeth (2016)

Lady Macbeth (2016)British cinema (and television) is littered with dull, worthy, handsomely-mounted period films, but this one is very far from being either dull or worthy. It is, however, very beautiful, and Florence Pugh is brilliant in it (after impressing in a small role a few years ago in The Falling).

23 Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope)

Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope, 2017)There have been plenty of films about refugees and immigrants over the last few years, for sadly obvious reasons, but this one from Kaurismäki has his usual glacial deadpan cinematic gaze but with a beautifully moving underlying empathy. Should probably have ranked it higher.

22 Human Flow

Human Flow (2017)Another film about refugees, and one with both grand, complex images of masses of desperate people, but also the filmmaker/artist (Ai Weiwei) moving among them. It’s not so much about their individual stories, as about the overall story, and it’s heartbreaking.

21 Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky (2017)Steven Soderbergh’s return to feature filmmaking this year may have had all his usual hallmarks, but its story of poor people marginalised by capitalism yet desperate for something better has all the hallmarks of that classic American theme wrapped up in its heist plot mechanics.

20 All This Panic (2016)

All This Panic (2016)A coming-of-age documentary in NYC with stark characters, alternately awful and yet growing into themselves, framed by a beautiful aesthetic from director Jenny Gage and her DoP.

19 Colossal (2016)

Colossal (2016)Surely the oddest film of the year, a strange hybrid of monster movie and small-town allegory. It’s pretty wayward at times, but at its best, it’s brilliant, not so much about the destructiveness of alcoholism as (in a late film twist) about toxic masculinity.

18 Wo bu shi Pan Jinlian (I Am Not Madame Bovary, 2016)

Wo bu shi Pan Jinlian (I Am Not Madame Bovary, 2016)The title character is a well-known femme fatale figure of Chinese literature, and this film is about a woman shunned. It’s also, pretty easily, the most beautiful film of the year I’ve seen, and the distinctive cameo-like picture framing is used to great effect.

17 The Big Sick

Film Review The Big SickI think in many ways this romantic comedy is best viewed as a film about being an immigrant and fitting in (it somewhat sidelines its female lead for understandable based-on-real-life plot reasons), but it’s also about finding empathy and being a better person, so I rate it highly for that.

16 London Symphony

London Symphony (2017)I live in London and I helped with the Kickstarter for this project years ago, so it’s great to finally see it. What could be an arch and rather affected conceit (hommaging the silent ‘city symphony’ films of the 1920s) is actually beautifully achieved, and makes London look a lot more beautiful than on my grumpier days I sometimes feel it deserves, but it makes me happy to live here.

15 Fences (2016)

Fences (2016)It came out in the UK this year hence its inclusion in my 2017 list (ditto the other 2016 films here), but Viola Davis is easily the MVP in this acting line-up, though Denzel is of course no slouch. Filmed theatre can be a tough ask and won’t work for everyone, but I thought this film was beautifully rendered, and it’s truly elevated by the acting above all.

14 Personal Shopper (2016)

Personal Shopper (2016)It wouldn’t be an end-of-year best-of list without a standout Kristen Stewart performance, and though I found this film somewhat more wayward than Olivier Assayas’ previous collab with Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria), it’s still a wonderful piece channelling grief and longing via some peculiarly 21st century mediation.

13 You Were Never Really Here

You Were Never Really Here (2017)When I read the précis in the festival brochure, I expected to hate this (a sort of ripped-from-a-Daily-Mail-headline revenge type fantasy), but Lynne Ramsay manages to achieve something with her beautiful, elliptical editing: a profound sense of moral ambiguity. [festival screening]

12 Ava

Ava (2017)At times with a hint of the surreal, this coming-of-age is another fine film about people on the margins of society. [Festival screening; released direct to VoD in UK]

11 Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (2017)Something I too often take for granted, but libraries are great. Frederick Wiseman returns with another of his sensitive, multi-layered films about a public institution, this one showing the huge range of important things a library does for its community. [Festival screening]

10 The Beguiled

The Beguiled (2017)It received some pretty mixed feedback when released, but I loved Sofia Coppola’s latest film. Sure it’s very white in many ways, but it’s a film that seems to capture something about the traumas of adolescence as refracted via the Civil War. Also, it looks great.

9 The Fits (2015)

The Fits (2015)A film that took its time getting a UK release, and another film about adolescence, but it has a wonderfully understated atmosphere, a slow, quiet build, that completely hooked me.

8 Grave (Raw, 2016)

Grave (Raw, 2016)A pretty intense film, and yet another coming-of-age (of sorts), but it does what the best horror films do, which is to make literal something very primal.

7 The Florida Project

The Florida Project (2017)This could easily be an exploitative film about poor white people living on the edges of the American Dream, abandoned (if not screwed over) by capitalism. I mean, it is a film about that, but it’s not an exploitative one: the love between mother and daughter seems profound, and it has real empathy for its characters.

6 Pop Aye

Pop Aye - Still 3Like Colossal above, this is an unusual film, but at its heart it’s a road trip movie about lives lost in the acquisitive forward thrust of modern city-bound society. Maybe it’s because it was one of the first films I saw at the London Film Festival and I just really wanted to love something, but I think this film is great. [Festival screening]

5 Estiu 1993 (Summer 1993)

Estiu 1993 (Summer 1993, 2017)Films about the experiences of childhood aren’t always great, but this Spanish one really takes an extra effort to centre its narrative (and its empathy) on the child at the film’s heart and that pays off. [Festival screening]

4 God’s Own Country

God's Own Country (2017)As a London-based city-dweller, I didn’t expect to like this film as much as I did (northern England, gay love story, set on a farm) but the interplay between the two lead characters is beautifully balanced by the cinematography and editing. It returns to the year’s favourite theme of being an immigrant, and it makes this outsider narrative compelling.

3 Wajib

Wajib (2017)The stand-out of this year’s film festival was this Palestinian film. It engages with the political situation there without being preachy, and in its story of a father and son hand delivering wedding invitations around their community, has something of the feel of an Abbas Kiarostami film. The best kind of humanist filmmaking in a conflicted world. [Festival screening]

2 Get Out

Get Out (2017)It’s fair to say this film has already been very widely discussed and lauded, but I just wanted to add my voice to that. The comic elements only underline the central — and very American — horror at its core.

1 Cameraperson (2016)

Cameraperson (2016)A film about the world we live in, and about the sometimes fractured and fractious ethics of documenting that world, it’s also a film about a person and a life and making a life within that world. It feels like a film about so many things, that could so easily fall apart, but instead it’s the strongest film I’ve seen this year.

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My Favourite Films of 2016

I like to start these posts with statistics. Extending my 2015 New Year’s Resolution with the #52 Films By Women pledge that a number of people were doing online (here’s a link to my Letterboxd list of all the films I saw under that pledge, which amounted to far more than the required 52), I saw ever more films in 2016 than I did in 2015.

In total, I saw 436 medium- or full-length films (I consider a medium-length film one that’s between 30-60 minutes in length, though there’s no fixed standard for that), 183 of which were in the cinema — which means that, although I saw many more films, fewer of them were at the cinema than in 2015. I have an account on Letterboxd, where I’ve ranked all 2016’s films (this will continue to be updated as I see more of them into 2017) and another of my favourite films released in the UK in 2016 (which is slightly different as many of them were 2015 films). The list below is sort of a combination of these two.

While I’m on the stats, 43% of the films I saw were directed (or co-directed) by women, where I saw 37% in 2015 and 13% in 2014, which is a pretty clear result of my resolutions mentioned above. I also increased the number of films directed by people of colour (this seems to be the accepted online term at the moment). This year 26% of the films I saw were by POC, as opposed to 16% in 2015, and 13% in 2013. It also means the number of films I saw directed by white men finally dropped beneath 50% (from 53% last year to 45% this year). It’s likely that this will be more of a focus for my resolutions going forward.

In terms of quality, 2015 may not have been a brilliant year compared to 2014, but I thought there were plenty of fine films in 2016. It’s just that, as ever, many of my favourites haven’t actually been released in the UK and I even held off seeing some films at the London Film Festival because I was assured they’d be back, so I’ve yet to see many critical favourites (La La Land, Aquarius, Personal Shopper; there are plenty of others). I’m not going to do a least favourite films list, though, because as with last year any such list would be dominated by women filmmakers, which hardly seems fair to all the terrible dreck made by men, whose work I would have avoided.

I also caught up with one or two films which would assuredly have made my favourite 2015 films list last year, if I’d only seen them in time (but which I can’t in all good faith include below). I have another Letterboxd list here of my favourite new-to-me films I saw in 2016. Therefore honourable mentions go to Magic Mike XXL and Taxi, both definite top 10 contenders.

25 Lovesong

Lovesong (2016)
A tender love story between two women, which has a coyness to it, but also a lot of genuine feeling [festival screening].

24 Queen of Earth (2015)

Queen of Earth (2015)
Corruscating Bergmanesque drama which sort of does the opposite to the film above, as it’s about two friends tearing each other apart.

23 Speed Sisters (2015)

Speed Sisters (2015)
Enjoyable documentary about a Palestinian team of racing car drivers, with some socio-political context.

22 Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water (2016)
As good a modern western as any in recent years, it has a great sense of space and wistfulness.

21 The Childhood of a Leader (2015)

The Childhood of a Leader (2015)
Increasingly prophetic tale of a boy whose upbringing has gone awry, resulting in an origin story for a fascist dictator.

20 Réparer les vivants (Heal the Living)

Réparer les vivants (Heal the Living, 2016)
It never quite lives up to its brilliant pre-credits sequence, but it’s beautifully made and moving [festival screening].

19 Where You’re Meant to Be

Where You're Meant to Be (2016)
On the road with dour Scottish singer Aidan Moffat, but finds plenty of pathos in Scottish folk music.

18 Weiner

Weiner (2016)
Shouldn’t work, and subsequent revelations about its subject make sympathy ever more difficult, but this film attempts to do so; also very funny.

17 LoveTrue

LoveTrue (2016)
Tracking the lives of several people living in remote areas, finding and losing love, with a solid directorial style [festival screening].

16 La Permanence (On Call)

La Permanence (On Call, 2016)
A film about a hospital in Paris treating refugees, filled with empathy [festival screening].

15 American Honey

American Honey (2016)
Excessive in every sense, but somehow it all works.

14 The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Coming of age films can be bad, they can be very bad, but this one has genuine humour amongst a better-than-average engagement with teenage angst in a bourgie milieu.

13 Baden Baden

Baden Baden (2016)
A Belgian-French co-production which took me by surprise, for its deadpan humour and winning protagonist.

12 Umimachi Diary (Our Little Sister, 2015)

Umimachi Diary (Our Little Sister, 2015)
I underrated this a lot when I first saw it, being the director’s familiar blend of sweetness and low-key storytelling about family relationships, but it’s only grown in my estimation since.

11 Mustang (2015)

Mustang (2015)
Another coming-of-age story, which tries to get at something of what it means to be a teenager and find oneself, via the device of setting it within an orthodox, repressive family.

10 Nie yin niang (The Assassin, 2015)

Nie yin niang (The Assassin, 2015)
Glorious and beautiful and confusing, I know only that I need to see this again on the big screen.

9 Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship (2016)
One of the year’s funniest films, a comedy of etiquette and misbehaviour.

8 L’Avenir (Things to Come)

L'Avenir (Things to Come, 2016)
It’s very difficult to encapsulate what I love about this sensitive film, but Huppert helps.

7 Paterson

Paterson (2016)
The way that Jarmusch goes big is at a conceptual level — Adam Driver plays a bus driver called Paterson in a town called Paterson in a film called Paterson — but it’s consistently sweet and amusing.

6 Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea)

Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea, 2016)
Another documentary dealing with refugees, and again filled with empathy, always needed, especially now.

5 Creed (2015)

Creed (2015)
Critics in the US had this on their lists last year, but it only got a UK release earlier in 2016, and it is fantastic. I never expected to like a Rocky movie so much, or a boxing film, but there you go.

4 Moonlight

Moonlight (2016)
Not properly released here until 2017, but this is an exciting, beautiful, tonally-perfect story of black coming-of-age that subtly gets at a lot of the undertow of American society [one-off screening]

3 Hail, Caesar!

Hail, Caesar! (2016)
I know a lot of people that hated this film, but I did not; I laughed at it (never always out loud, but I was consistently amused), and I’d never have predicted five years ago I’d put the Coen Brothers so consistently in my top-10 lists.

2 Lemonade

Lemonade (2016)
Barely over an hour, and yes it’s not had any cinematic screenings (it deserves them), this is more than simply a collection of music videos (Beyoncé did that for her last few albums), but more of an avant-garde mood piece that examines American society, race relations, love in extremis, self-identity, and Black visual history [online release].

1 Certain Women

Certain Women (2016)
Easily tops this list. Loved it [festival screening].

My Favourite Films of 2015

I shall start, as I always do, with the statistics. Thanks in part to my New Year’s Resolution, I saw far more films in 2015. In total 358 films (I’m counting some compilations of short films as a single feature-length programme), 203 of which were in the cinema (including a number of repeat viewings), so a big increase on 2014. As ever, there are caveats to my list, and what’s on it is very much dependent on what was released in the UK, or what festival films I made it along to (and I do hope some of these make people’s lists next year!). So these are my favourite new films I saw for the first time in 2015. I have an account on Letterboxd, where I’ve ranked all 2015’s films (as well as 2014‘s and 2013‘s, as some films from those years were also new to me in 2015) from favourite to least favourite so you can see all of what I’ve watched.

I was reading someone moaning online (as people are wont to do) about how there were fewer good films in 2015, the aggrieved tone of which annoyed me instinctively, and yet I must concede looking over my previous years’ lists, there may be some truth to that. There were certainly some good films released to cinemas this year, but when you look at just what was made in 2015, my current top 10 is dominated by films I saw at the film festival or in limited one-off screenings, and I don’t think there’s quite the length of quality as in 2014, not so many films which really captured my imagination. Still, there are more than enough films for a list (there always are).

The Top Ten

Beyond the Lights (2014)

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My Favourite Films of 2014

First up, the stats: I saw 205 films in 2014, 125 of which were in the cinema (including about four repeat viewings), so a slight increase on 2013. Last year I did matched posts for my favourite and least favourite films, but I was less enthusiastic this year in trying to see everything, meaning I didn’t really *hate* any films I saw this past year.

In making such a list, I feel there should always be caveats, but I think we all understand this. Maybe a contender was omitted because it wasn’t properly released here in the UK; there are certainly films here that were in other peoples’ lists last year for the same reason. So these are my favourite new releases I saw for the first time in 2014. If you are concerned at something being omitted, check my A-Z of reviews page, because maybe I didn’t like it or didn’t see it…

EDIT [5 Jan]: I managed to miss out Obvious Child so have awkwardly added that in to what is now a top 11 (without doing any renumbering).

A picture of me writing up my best films list for 2014. (Or else it's from Winter Sleep.)
A picture of me writing up my best films list for 2014. (‘Winter Sleep’)

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Overlooked and Favourite Films of 1997

It’s been almost two decades now that I’ve been regularly going to the cinema, attending film festivals and watching videos and DVDs, and I’ve seen a lot of films, some of which I’ve never even heard of since. Therefore, in the first of an irregular series (which, like the others I’ve tried, I’ll probably abandon fairly soon), I thought I’d try to recall various films that I liked at the time, but which it feels to me have disappeared off the cultural radar since. I’ll pick one of my first major years of cinemagoing, 1997, for my first instalment. And again, do be aware my tastes run to arthouse over exploitation… ;)


© Sony Pictures Classics

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (Errol Morris, USA)

I’m going to kick off with a film from a filmmaker who’s hardly languishing in obscurity. Errol Morris continues to make persuasive documentaries, since first gaining prominence with his pet cemetery debut Gates of Heaven (1978) and breaking through to a wider audience with the true crime investigation The Thin Blue Line (1988). However, I wanted to highlight this particular film because not only was it was one of my favourites of that year, it is also a film that I think gets unjustly overlooked in his oeuvre. It takes as its subject a number of people whose work stories all intersect in some way with the creation and control of life, whether a topiary gardener shaping beasts from hedges, or a mole rat specialist, or a robotics engineer. It’s a fascinating and beautiful film which for me ranks as Morris’s greatest, not least because it tries to grapple with the grandest of themes, the meaning (or at least, an understanding) of life itself.

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My Favourite Films of 2013


I’ve covered my least favourites, so now for the matched post about my favourite films of 2013. Before I get into it, I’d just like to thank all my readers and commenters this year — of which I know I have at least five or six, more than I expected when I started this blog in March. I know I probably need to have more features and lists, rather than just reviews, and maybe that will be a project for 2014, when I move into my second full year of film blogging. But for now, I’m pleased to have made it this far.

My favourite film of 2013.
“So hey, what film was your favourite film in 2013?” No seriously, by all means, please comment with your own picks! (Or rip mine to shreds, I don’t mind ;)

At the start of my last review, I waffled on about the films I haven’t seen yet in 2013 (whether because they weren’t released over here in the UK during 2013, or only had limited festival screenings, or just because I didn’t make it to them), so all the usual caveats apply. I saw 116 films in the cinema, and 73 films at home during this past year. I’d mention which ones I haven’t seen, but as I’ve reviewed everything I’ve seen since about February, you can just check my A-Z of reviews page if you are concerned at something’s non-inclusion. Here then is a list of my favourite films of those officially released in the UK (though one or two are from festival screenings).

EDIT: I inexplicably left To the Wonder (2012) off the list, a film I saw in 2013, so in the list below, imagine it falls somewhere around equal with Blue Is the Warmest Colour.

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