As we get closer to the end of the year, it’s time to look back on 2017’s cinematic releases and count down the best movies of the year. There’s plenty to choose from with Logan and Wonder Woman breathing new life into the superhero genre, Blade Runner 2049 and John Wick: Chapter 2 proving some sequels are worth waiting for, and horror hits like Get Out and the It movie thrilling audiences the world over. Below is our definitive list of the top 20 films you shouldn't have missed this year but, fair warning, it’s based on the first release date for each movie, which is why Oscar favourites Moonlight and La La Land didn’t even get a look in (both came out in 2016 in the US), and it is GR’s list so you won’t find too many indie films, like Lady Bird and Call Me by Your Name here (even though they’re very good films). Read on for our definitive list of the best movies of 2017 and if you disagree, feel free to let us know in the comments below.
20. Murder on the Orient Express
What is it? 100+ minutes of Kenneth Branagh twiddling his moustache. Oh, and there’s something about a murder on a famous train based on the story by Agatha Christie. But mainly: ‘tache.
Why should you watch it? Because Branagh’s moustache is really, really good. I hear it’s actually up for an Academy Award on its own, while Henry Cavill’s facial hair is quietly furious all its scenes were cut from Justice League. Ok, I’ll be sensible now. Murder on the Orient Express is exactly what it should be - a lavish take on one of the finest, smartest whodunnits ever written. The cinematography is excellent, and the all-star cast hand in some lovely performances. Branagh himself is a convincing Poirot, while Josh Gad and Judi Dench also impress. Even if you know the twist, there’s a real urgency and watchability to the movie, with few extraneous or slow scenes hampering the overall pace. It’s a movie to aspire to - whether that be to see the beautiful scenery, to revel in the smarts of the plot, or to sit in awe of the lustrousness of the facial hair on offer. Andy Hartup
What is it? Darren Aronofsky’s initially confounding, ultimately stunning, jaw-rattling arthouse allegory, built on some of the best crafted, most intense performances of the year.
Why should you watch it? You know how some films fall into that ‘Not for everybody, but beloved forever by those who get them?’ category? Mother! feels like an attempt to crystalise the definition into kryptonite. Ostensibly, initially, a strange, domestic drama with uneasy horror overtones, delivered with the focus of well-polished, two-hander stage play, Mother! steadily, seductively peels off its skin to reveal something far stranger, smarter, uglier, and entirely more potent underneath. Taken on its surface level, Mother! makes no logical sense at all, but it doesn’t care. This film’s meaning comes through pure allegory, and allegory alone. That twisting, winding, escalating, belligerently bamboozling facade of a story is actually talking about something else entirely, and while it might infuriate you before you crack the code - and possibly afterward as well - the film’s relentless commitment to its aim, and abject refusal to provide an easy on-ramp, make it one of the bravest and more arrestingly constructed films of the year. Be warned though: it’s viscerally and emotionally uncompromising like a hammer to the skull. David Houghton
What is it? Christopher Nolan's take on the dramatic evacuation of Dunkirk beach in WW2, told across three stories on land, sea, and air, each following a different timeframe. And yes, it's the one with Harry Styles in.
Why should you watch it? If the layers of time and narrative sound confusing in print, they're not in practice. Dunkirk allows each story to breath, whether it's Tom Hardy's fighter pilot flying with limited fuel or the civilian boat, the Moonstone, heading towards Dunkirk to try and help the stranded soldiers, or Kenneth Branagh as Commander Bolton desperately trying to manage the evacuation as the beach is bombarded by the enemy. There's tension here, and desolation - the shots of the men quietly huddled on the beach are more affecting than any explosion - but also a nobility and human decency that pull you through the darker moments. There's limited dialogue, and none of the sentimentality that so often rose-tints war movies. This is a master storyteller taking on one of the most unbelievable events in human history, and Nolan delivers a triumph. Rachel Weber
17. Pitch Perfect 3
What is it? The third (and supposedly final) movie in the Pitch Perfect franchise sees the Bellas reunite for one last singing gig, which turns into a competition to see who will open for DJ Khaled on his world tour.
Why should you watch it? Because it’s aca-amazing! Let me get this straight, if you’re not a Pitch Perfect fan, you definitely shouldn’t watch this movie. If you’re a mild Pitch Perfect fan, you’ll probably enjoy it, but it might seem a bit tired the third time around. But, if you’re a full-on, 100% obsessed Pitch Perfect fan, then this third outing is everything you’ve been dreaming of. Full to the brim with laugh out loud moments, meta-commentary, and incredible acapella covers, it’s ridiculous and hilarious in equal measure and just… works. Pitch Perfect 3 knows not to take itself too seriously and that’s why it’s higher on this list than some Oscar-contenders because there’s nothing wrong with just being a really good feel good comedy… with singing. Lauren O’Callaghan
16. Baby Driver
What is it? Edgar Wright’s latest movie is a stunningly choreographed flick about a getaway driver with a conscience.
Why should you watch it? Wright has always been fantastic at using action to define characters, and Baby Driver might be the best example of this yet. The Shaun of the Dead filmmaker uses music and beautifully shot cinematography to tell the story of Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, a reluctant getaway driver with some serious skills behind the wheel. He’s also got issues with his ears, and so goes the whole movie with earphones in - hence the need for every element of this film to be perfectly choreographed to its utterly fantastic soundtrack. Delirious car stunts, great bad guy performances from Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm, and an excellent love interest in Lily James all add up to make this a movie that’s a whole lot of fun to watch. Sam Loveridge
15. War for the Planet of the Apes
What is it? The final part of the current Apes trilogy, following the man vs monkey battle as it escalates into all out war.
Why you should watch it: Not only does this final (for now) installment bring the movies to a resolution, it does so in a very morally chewy way. The worst of humanity represents our side - fronted by Woody Harrelson’s Colonel on a ‘holy war’ to eradicate the apes, and humans devolving into a mute state from the simian virus. While on the other side there’s the ape leader Ceaser, still trying to broker peace despite having plenty of reasons to jump feet first into a genocidal war. Narratively, this plays hugely on the frayed edges of its ideas of good and bad. Ceaser and the Colonel are clearly polar opposites, but in-between are apes and human alike, betraying each other or forming relationships that don’t fit into the delineated ideals of their respective leaders. It’s all helped along by simply some of the best motion capture seen to date, with Andy Serkis and Weta continuing to push the boundaries of what digital effects can do. Leon Hurley
14. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
What is it? The sequel to the bonkers joy-ride through space where Peter Quill and his team of Guardians try to find out more about Quill’s father.
Why should you watch it? It feels like it’s powered by neon-coloured space dust, the kind you see sprinkled behind jagged ‘80s words. The Guardians are now taking on another threat to the galaxy, this time in the form of Ayesha who’s more gold than a Russian oligarch’s toilet. Each unforgettable character has been refined into what makes them great: Drax is brutally, endearingly honest, Gamora’s deadpan humour has never been better, and of course Rocket and the much tinier Groot have the same chaotic delight in… well, chaos. Newcomer Mantis is a great change of gear for the group too. She doesn’t do sarcasm or wisecracking: instead her kind, open nature ends up bringing out the best in the Guardians. If you’re looking for a feel-good movie with enough action and frankly ridiculous comedy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 should be your first port of call. Zoe Delahunty-Light
13. Wind River
What is it? A (literally) chilling thriller about the murder of a teenager, found frozen on an American Indian reservation in Wyoming. A young FBI agent and a weary wildlife officer work together to find out what happened.
Why you should watch it: The cruelty of the crime and the harsh beauty of snowy Wyoming combine with a twisting story that will have you cranking up the heating and glued to the screen. Elizabeth Olsen is the perfect choice to play the FBI agent trying to prove herself, and Jeremy Renner's slightly limited acting range actually works well when it comes to his role as a stoic sad dad. Even the landscape puts in an award-worthy performance, adding its own obstacles to the investigation. Writer and director Taylor Sheridan has previously penned the screenplays for Sicario and Hell and High Water, so he knows how to put together a modern crime drama. The movies get bonus points as well for calling in Nick Cave and Warren Ellis to do the score, the dark lords of haunting melodies. Rachel Weber
12. The Lego Batman Movie
What is it? The hilarious, witty, and strangely touching, Gotham-set follow-up to The Lego Movie, in which Batman must wrangle a host of villains, interpersonal woes, and most of all, himself.
Why you should watch it: On one level, The Lego Batman Movie is a brilliant comic parody of Batman, very much in the vein expected of a semi-sequel to The Lego Movie. And on that level, it is very, very good and very, very funny. But there's more going on here. Using Will Arnett's brilliant, self-aggrandising, shallow, desperately insecure Batman as a starting point, The Lego Batman Movie then spirals out into an all-encompassing deconstruction of the character, his world, and all the inherent joys and flaws therein. Brilliant on the level of pure entertainment, and smart - and still consistently funny - in terms of the treatment of its source material, by lampooning with such insightful wit, The Lego Batman Movie, ironically, also ends up being a great Batman movie in its own right. David Houghton
What is it? A modern day sci-fi about a bunch of scientists who discover a new lifeform and bring it aboard their space-station... which turns out to be an error.
Why should you watch it? Do you see Alien: Covenant on this list? Go on, take a look. Nope - that’s because Life is the best Alien movie of 2017 (that isn’t actually an Alien movie). It borrows heavily from Ridley Scott’s classic, starting with the wonder of discovery of a new lifeform, followed by the horror as it changes and begins to evolve, culminating in the panic as the creature - named Calvin - runs amok and begins to murder the crew. The way the story evolves, as Calvin changes shape and finds ever more creative ways to destroy the humans, is a masterclass in narrative escalation, and the way celebration and the noble pursuit of discovery quickly turns to revulsion and survival is really well handled. Go into the movie cold, and you’ll be genuinely surprised at how it shifts tone as it goes on. Throw in some decent performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson, and a satisfyingly (if somewhat predictable) ending, and you’ve got one of the best sci-fi movies of 2017. Andy Hartup
Click below for page 2 for our top 10, and find out what #1 is!