This has been an exceptional year for film. I have really struggled over this top ten of weeks, changing it, swapping films around, removing films. It has been a real struggle. In fact, it was easier to do the worst films this year, as there seemed to be less of them.
The films that just missed out on being in the top ten are all excellent pieces of work and should not be ignored. So here are my roles of honour for this year:
Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, Lion, 20th Century Women, Kong: Skull Island, Free Fire, Their Finest, The Levelling, Wonder Woman, Moonlight, War for the Planet of the Apes, Lady Macbeth, It, Detroit, The Disaster Artist.
All have a rightful place in the top ten list but I had to draw the line somehow. Remember that this is purely personal.
10. Paddington 2/Captain Underpants: Their First Epic Adventure
I couldn’t separate these two as they both brought me so much joy and happiness. Paddington 2 was one of those rare films where the sequel is just as good, if not better than the original. The story is fun, the performances, especially from Hugh Grant, as terrific and you forget you are watching a CGI bear.
Captain Underpants was an utter surprise. I saw it on a very wet afternoon in Southhampton, in a very empty cinema and I laughed throughout. One very quick moment had me in tears for five minutes. It was sorely beating at the box office by the dire The Emoji Movie and yet this has class stamped throughout.
9. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright’s magnificent heist movie is based on the rhythms and beats of the music that the lead character is listening to. This isn’t a film that has just been thrown together, it’s had love and attention put into it. It also happens to be a cracking thriller with some of the best set pieces this year.
The final bow-out for Hugh Jackman’s comic book superhero is the complete opposite of all the other superhero movies this year. A western dealing with regrets of past actions, this was a tough watch in places while the performances, especially from Jackson, was terrific. The black and white version is even more spectacular.
7. The Young Offenders
This low-budget gem from Ireland is an absolute hoot and very reminiscent of the films of Bill Forsyth. Two dim-witted unemployed youngsters hatch a plan to get drugs from a sinking tankard on the coast to make their fortune. Unfortunately, they are their own worst enemy. Hilarious from start to finish.
6. The Florida Project
Of all the films that came out this year, this was the one that stuck in the memory the most and I felt I underscored it on my initial review. As downbeat as it comes across, this is a film brimming with hope and full of hidden delights. Director Sean Baker’s tale of a single mother struggling to survive in a motel close to Disneyland has some exceptional performances from the unknown cast and has magic in the least expected placed.
5. My Life as a Courgette
A French stop-motion animation that deals with some very dark and heavy issues in a manner that never once makes you feel uncomfortable. A young boy is forced into a children’s home where he has to face a series of emotions. Beautifully told with so much heart, it left me in tears. I loved it.
4. The Handmaiden
A stunning looking thriller from Korean director Chan-wook Park, in which a woman is hired to be the handmaiden for a wealthy Japanese woman, but secretly she is out to defraud her. A film full of twists and turns, it not only looks magnificent but will have you shocked and surprised. Beautiful.
Christopher Nolan’s startling and impressive war drama based on the evacuation of British troops from the beaches of Dunkirk plays with time as well as allowing a new generation to understand one of the tragic events of World War II. Seen on the biggest screen possible and with the best sound around, this is Nolan’s best film in years and proof he is a master of modern cinema.
2. Get Out
A low-budget tale of a black photographer taken to meet his girlfriend’s white parents is a strange mix of social commentary, satire and horror that came out of nowhere and surprised everyone. It’s a film that has stayed with me since seeing it near the beginning of the year and hasn’t lost any of its visual punch. The final act may stray into the kind of horror that audiences expect but this is intelligent, thought-provoking filmmaking of the finest kind.
1. Blade Runner 2049
How is it possible that a film shy of 3 hours could manage to stay true to the original and yet bring something different too. Denis Villeneuve has managed to do just that with this visually stunning and gripping film noir sci-fi thriller that never once talks down to its audience and yet is far more exciting and interesting than any other blockbuster this year. It may have flopped at the US box Office but don’t take that as a sign for a film that is magnificently staged and every inch of film is not wasted. A triumph.