The Best Films of 2017

From beach escapes to cannibal parables, I list the best films of 2017.


People around the internet have enjoyed lamenting about how bad 2017 was. I’m not a fan of this kind of homogenisation of negativity. Besides, how much of ‘the bad’ affected them individually? I suspect very little. And none of it is relevant to the ‘best films of 2017’ list. These events are yet to reverberate into films that have been released. I’m sure in the next few years there will be an influx of movies about #metoo, the Trump administration, and probably an adaptation of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s courtship.

For now, 2017 has been a great year for movies and one that marks an exciting time in the industry. There’s never been a better time to be a talented filmmaker. With so many channels outside standard cinematic releases available, more and more small films are garnering critical and public attention — as recent as the release of The Cloverfield Particle on Netflix. These VOD releases could never replace the cinema for me, but they might come close if people don’t stop watching movies with their shoes off while balancing entire Mexican feasts in their laps.

Below is a list of what I think are the 15 best movies that were released in Australian cinemas in 2017.

1/ Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Nolan strapped IMAX cameras to aeroplanes. Aeroplanes! But technical feats matter little without an effective film. What other film can make you cry through sound alone? The MG42 tearing through British soldiers, the vicious howl of swooping Stukas, the silence of an army awaiting death. A film that simultaneously reminds you how unimaginably terrible war is while showing human resilience in the face of insurmountable odds.

2/ The Florida Project (dir. Sean Baker)

A near-perfect depiction of destitute children and their families living in cheap motels on the outskirts of Disneyland. Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinniate are stunning, while Willem Defoe gives his best performance in years. Baker must be regarded as one of the most important filmmakers in modern cinema — who else is shining such a bright light on America’s rotten core?

3/ Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

Villeneuve not only continues the themes of the original film, he expands and reworks them to create something new. Rare in modern cinema, Blade Runner 2049 is a film that takes its time. Shots linger, the story unravels in a relaxed yet absorbing pace; like a dream you don’t want to wake up from. Beautiful, haunting, philosophically complex: one of the best sequels ever made.

4/ Good Time (Josh and Benny Safdie)

Dystopian in its depiction of New York, it’s a film that encompasses you fully in its grimy underworld. The pulsating synthetic score is like an adrenaline shot to the heart, and Robert Pattinson’s performance as the erratic, morally bankrupt Connie Nikos ensures that he, and the film with him, enter the pantheon of great “city” crime movies.

5/ Personal Shopper (dir. Olivier Assayas) 

A haunting film about the known and unknown, the earthly and the spectral. Kristen Stewart delivers her career-best performance as the personal shopper to a Parisian celebrity. In a world where horror films are built on jump-scares and loud bangs, Assayas gives a masterclass in the creation of suspense through atmosphere and insinuation. One text-messaging sequence is the best horror scene in recent memory.

6/Raw (dir. Julia Ducournau)

Deceptive marketing positioned this as a gruesome genre flick. Sure — there are bitten fingers and devoured flesh — but Ducournau’s debut is so much more. A coming-of-age parable about a student’s evolving cannibalism; a symbol of femininity, sisterhood and sexual awakening. Justine descends through pulsing raves, horrific hazings and even a Cronenbergian rash on her journey from innocent vegetarian to ravenous cannibal.

7/ Lady Macbeth (dir. William Oldroyd)

Women in the 19th-Century were glorified prisoners in their husband’s home. It does so for Katherine, who is sold to a loveless and cruel man. Both her husband and Oldroyd’s frame imprison her. Initial rebellion can be taken as the actions of a feminist heroine, but its soon apparent that her motivations are far more morally repugnant. Pugh’s menacing performance as Katherine is amongst the best of the year, in this macabre masterpiece.

8/ Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)

Blending race-satire, psychological thriller and allegorical horror, Peele’s social critique will be looked back upon as revolutionary moment in cinema. While it can be visually bland, and the narrative takes some Evil Knievel-esque leaps of logic, any misgivings are overshadowed by its colossal importance. Worth viewing for ‘the keys’ and ‘the hypnosis’ sequences alone. Brewing a cup of tea will never be the same again.

9/ Mudbound (dir. Dee Rees)

Two families live off the same land, their experiences connected, yet wildly different. Colour is the wide ravine that separates them. Mudbound is a rare film that surprises in its scope, distresses in its compassion, and haunts in its resonance. Teeming with gorgeous visuals and performances that hark back to cinematic epics of the past, it is a film that needs to be seen.

10/ The Lost City of Z (dir. James Gray)

Discovery and mystery; ambition and sacrifice. Mesmeric and melancholic, Gray crafted a languorous epic that envelops you in its immense scope and refuses to release you for the duration of its lingering runtime. A perfect combination of an Indiana Jones adventure and the moral examination of Heart of Darkness, with spectacular performances from Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson. Who knew Charlie Hunnam could act?

Honourable Mentions

Wind River, Mother!, The Disaster Artist, Gifted, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), The Big Sick.

Thanks for reading! Agree? Disagree? What were your favourite films of 2017? Let me know in the comments below, via email, or on twitter @jaydelwrites. 

‘Good Time’ Review

The Safdie brothers pay homage to NY crime movies of the ’70s in this edge-of-your-seat thriller.

Certain cinematic landscapes stay with you long after viewing. Recently, the Cyberpunk wasteland of Blade Runner 2049 and Technicolor wonderland of La La Land. But there are none more evocative than the “city” movies of the ’70s, the grimy and corrupt streets of Gotham depicted in films like Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Lumet’s Serpico. With Good Time — Josh and Benny Safdie’s third co-directorial feature — they have given us a modern reimagining. Its New York setting is a nightmarish milieu where the incessant traffic deafens, buildings bleed neon, and streets are polluted with the kind of scum that would make Travis Bickle pull the tarp off his taxi and dust off the revolver.

In it, Robert Pattinson plays Connie, a petty criminal that has made it his mission to ‘rescue’ his mentally disabled brother Nick (played by Benny Safdie) who was imprisoned after an ill-concocted bank heist. Here the movie begins proper and barely relents for its swift 101-minute runtime. Predictably, Connie’s rescue attempts are thwarted by chaos and misfortune as he scurries through Brooklyn’s Stygian streets over one frosty night. It is the ingenuity with which events proceed that are harder to predict. Pit stops in a desolate amusement park, a stranger’s apartment and moments of mistaken identity blend menace and farce on a gleaming knife-edge.

While there are moments of black humour, its impossible to mistake farce for funny. The film has you so deeply wrapped in its web of anxiety and paranoia that when something comical happens you can’t untangle yourself in time to utter more than a hollow bark. There is a trippy flashback sequence involving Buddy Duress’ Ray that would be hilarious were it not for the act of senseless violence that directly proceeds it. This endless sense of paranoia is courtesy of cinematographer Sean Price Williams‘ claustrophobic hand-held camera, which frames characters in intense close-ups under artificial lights, and Daniel Lopatin‘s throbbing synthetic score that owes much to Tangerine Dream‘s work on William Friedkin’s Sorcerer.

But in his career-best role, Robert Pattinson’s performance is with what makes Good Time so enthralling. His screen presence is intoxicating. Connie is as unsympathetic a protagonist as they come; an impulsive slimeball whose broken moral compass points somewhere between selfish and malicious. His powers of manipulation are evident early in the film when he demands that his girlfriend (played by Jennifer-Jason Leigh) pay for his brother’s bail bond — with her mother’s credit card. He is the type that digs himself deeper and deeper into trouble and then blames someone else for not bringing a ladder.

Pattinson is a bundle of nerves — glancing over his shoulder, around corners, out of windows. He’s rarely able to stay still. We never quite know what he will do next, and one supposes, neither does he. He’s not so much running from the police as he is his own series of stupid decisions, yet he manages to never outstay his welcome. Much of the performance comes down to the eyes, the way they burst from his gaunt face, and the edgy unpredictability of his body language which channels the enigmatic flair displayed by actors like De Niro and Pacino in their most lauded roles.

I saw Good Time on Netflix due to an odd Australian cinematic release. Its theatrical release must be gorgeous. At home on a Friday night, the Safdie brothers’ managed to tear me from my comfortable environment and drop me into an urban cesspool so tactile that I felt as tense as their protagonists. Those ’70s New York crime movies and their memorable anti-heroes remain in the public consciousness 40 years after their release because of vivid environments and compelling characters. In one of the best films of 2017, Connie Nikas joins their ranks.

You can watch Good Time now on and iTunes. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you thought of the film in the comment section below, or on twitter @jayd3l.