It’s that time of year again. The end of the year, specifically, when we make lists, and here are the sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies that had us talking in 2017. It’s been an exceptional year for the genre, as Wonder Woman stormed the box-office, Logan made us cry, Caesar hunted for vengeance and studios realised that audiences love horror films. But what’s made our list of the very best? To get these results we polled our contributors for their top 10s and crunched the numbers, and the amazing range of movies here shows just how good a year it’s been.
22. VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Luc Besson’s mega-budget space opera may have disappointed at the box-office, but the fact that the film’s financial issues were being so widely reported meant that a very important fact was being overlooked: it’s a really fun film. It’s visually stunning, it’s incredibly inventive and the prologue alone, one of the most striking in recent memory, would earn it a place on this list. It’s also packed with brilliant aliens, mad tech and Ethan Hawke and Rihanna as a space pimp and a kindly shape-shifter respectively. Look past the miscasting of Dane DeHaan and embrace the sheer joy of Valerian.
21. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
From “sheer joy” to the darkest dark comedy of the year, as The Lobster and Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos returned with this compelling, odd and pitch-black horror. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman are excellent as the husband and wife who find themselves at the mercy of a determined young man from his past, but it’s Barry Keoghan’s performance as the devious yet deadpan Martin that will stay with you. We’re never forgetting the way he eats spaghetti (the rest of the film is brilliant too).
20. KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Jordan Vogt-Roberts made a monster movie and a Vietnam film fight each other and the result is this action-packed monster mash. The crowd-pleasing moments score big, as the film’s truly gigantic king of the apes faces off against a seemingly never-ending stream of helicopters, a giant squid, “skull-crawlers” and an increasingly insane Samuel L Jackson. Riddled with pop culture references but somehow still very much its own thing, Kong: Skull Island was an action-packed yet determinedly weird blockbuster. And John C Reilly’s performance deserves its own award.
19. A GHOST STORY
David Lowery’s Sundance smash was a beautiful and heartfelt meditation on love, loss and time, as Casey Affleck’s bedsheet-covered spirit can’t, won’t and doesn’t want to move on from the house he shared with his wife (a brilliant Rooney Mara). It takes some big swings into the mystic but it finds just as much profundity in the quiet moments, like the confusion shared between two neighbouring spirits who are no longer sure who they’re waiting for. Contributions to pop culture at large include that Dark Rooms song and Rooney Mara grief-eating a pie.
18. A MONSTER CALLS
Speaking of grief, JA Bayona’s film of Patrick Ness’ novel about loss plunged its hand into our chest and pulled out our heart. Featuring a superb performance from Lewis MacDougall as young Conor as a boy struggling to find an outlet for his rage at the imminent tragedy facing his family, A Monster Calls was almost overwhelming in its determination to provoke floods of tears but it was also honest, and all the more devastating for it.
17. IT COMES AT NIGHT
Audiences may have been misled by the marketing for Trey Edward Shults’ gripping, claustrophobic horror, but the fact is that the monsters the trailers promised aren’t important. It’s the monster inside all of us that we should be afraid of, as paranoia, mistrust, selfishness and panic push two families surviving in the aftermath of a viral outbreak to their limits. The set-up is familiar but it’s brilliantly directed with an excellent cast (Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keogh and Kelvin Harrison Jr all impress), and you’ll be talking about it for days.
16. THE TRANSFIGURATION
Writer-director Michael O’Shea’s debut may not have had the noisiest theatrical release, but it’s definitely going to find a cult following of dedicated fans (as evidenced by it topping a couple of our writers’ polls). It’s a low-key drama about a young boy named Milo (Eric Ruffin) who believes he is a vampire, and it’s pretty unflinching in its depiction of his attempts to live as a creature of the night. The Transfiguration draws heavily on similar films like Martin and Let The Right One In, but its New York setting, strong performances and strong sense of its own identity make it stand out.
15. A CURE FOR WELLNESS
While Dane DeHaan may have been miscast as an intergalactic badass in Valerian, he was perfectly suited for the lead role in Gore Verbinski’s gorgeous and wonderfully over the top Gothic horror. He plays a weaselly NY trader who’s sent to a health spa in Europe to retrieve the CEO, only to end up at the mercy of Jason Isaacs’ sinister doctor and all the madness lurking in the cavernous clinic. Few directors enjoyed themselves as obviously as Verbinski, who pays tribute to nearly every era of horror cinema and leaves genre fans stuffed and happy. Watch out for the eels…
It seems hard to believe that the fate of IT was ever in doubt. Now, Pennywise is bona-fide box-office gold and the stuff of memes and nightmares for a whole new generation. Andy Mushietti’s film of King’s classic was a fun, spooky crowd-pleaser that earned its R-rating and delivered all the big moments fans of the book demand, but most importantly it got the casting right to achieve a blend of A Nightmare On Elm Street and Stand By Me. Bill Skarsgård’s gleefully deranged turn as Pennywise managed to stand apart from Tim Curry, and each member of the Losers’ Club was absolutely perfect. Bring on Chapter 2.
13. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
James Gunn could have just played us the hits with his follow-up to 2014’s 70’s soundtracked joy. Instead, we got a family drama in space opera clothing, as Peter Quill met his dear old dad (Kurt Russell bringing the swagger as Ego The Living Planet) and was forced to ask himself which family was more important. With each character benefitting from more emotional exploration, from Rocket and Yondu to Gamora and Nebula, it may not have been the treat you were expecting, but it was a treat nonetheless. And there was Baby Groot, dancing his way into our hearts.
When alcoholic, recently dumped writer Gloria (Anne Hathaway) goes home to sort her life out, she finds that nothing has changed. The same people (Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell), the same places, the same bad habits…then she discovers that when she gets black-out drunk she summons a giant kajiu that devastates Seoul. Nacho Vigalondo’s film was sold as a wacky comedy but it’s much darker and sharper than the trailers let on, as toxic masculinity rears its ugly head and the small-town battleground becomes just as crucial as the fight between a giant robot and a giant monster.
Alice Lowe’s directorial debut was an absolute delight, with the comedy favourite delivering a hilarious and unpredictable dark comedy horror. In addition to writing and directing, Lowe stars as Ruth, a heavily pregnant woman driven by the voice of her baby to kill all those responsible for her partner’s death. The supporting cast is as great as you’d expect (Dan Skinner, Kate Dickie, Kayvan Novak, Jo Hartley, Gemma Whelan…) and the fact that Lowe is able to pivot from giggles to gasps with incredible skill comes as no surprise to those familiar with her work. What’s more, there’s real empathy and a strong directorial voice. We can’t wait to see what she does next.
10. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
Peter Parker swung into high school and the MCU, and we’re very glad that the character is back home where he belongs. Director Jon Watts channels the spirit of John Hughes, Tom Holland shows that he was the perfect choice for the part, Michael Keaton delivers chuckles and chills as The Vulture, but arguably the biggest contributing factor to the film’s success is that it remembers that Peter is a kid. He’s still learning how to be Spider-Man and his determination, excitement and clumsiness make his mistakes and triumphs all the more thrilling.
9. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
Caesar’s trilogy came to an end in Matt Reeves’ epic revenge Western. The performance capture is so stunning that you don’t even question the fact that the first two thirds of the film are almost entirely devoid of human characters, as Andy Serkis delivers yet another brilliant performance as the wounded, lost leader. War is a technical achievement, a fiercely political allegory, and a heartfelt (and heartbreaking) drama, and it’s hard to believe a major studio put so much money into something so uncompromising. The perfect end to one of modern blockbuster cinema’s most powerful series.
8. THOR: RAGNAROK
We were sold on this from the moment they hired Taika Waititi to direct, but it was such a joy to see that Thor: Ragnarok was indeed a hilarious and visually splendid ride. The filmmaker’s idiosyncratic sensibility shone through as the cast clearly enjoyed the freedom to improvise and to just have fun with it. The buddy movie business with Thor and Hulk was delightful, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is a great new addition to the MCU, Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster was (obviously) brilliant, and Cate Blanchett’s Hela was one of the best Marvel baddies in ages. From the bickering to the Jack Kirby-inspired spectacle, this was just a treat.
Once all the hubbub about Netflix and Cannes booing had died down, Bong Joon-ho’s adventure movie/creature feature/social satire was able to stand alone and be recognised as another example of The Host and Snowpiercer director’s peerless ability to blend tones and genres to deliver a thrilling cinematic experience. As young Mija chased her beloved superpig from Korea to New York, we had thrilling action set-pieces, stomach-churning shocks, hilarious performances and a monster-sized beating heart. No one makes films like Bong Joon-ho and we hope he continues to be given the platform to do so.
The hype machine for Julia Ducournau’s feature debut was all about shock and gore, but there’s far more to this coming-of-age cannibal tale than the blood. Admittedly, the sequence with the waxing and the finger was a triumph, but Raw‘s power comes from watching Garance Marillier’s precocious vegetarian Justine struggle for her own identity in her first year at university as her body goes through disturbing changes and her relationship with her older sister (Ella Rumpf) becomes increasingly ferocious. Combining Cronenbergian body horror with Ginger Snaps‘ agonising adolescence, Raw is a thrilling, visceral triumph.
5. WONDER WOMAN
The Justice League may have disappointed but Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman took no prisoners. All our gloomy DC movie universe concerns were put to one side as Patty Jenkins sensibly went the origin story route and focused on the character’s power to inspire. It was warm, it was well-cast (Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright and Lucy Davis were all excellent) and it was very funny (the back and forth between Gadot and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor was hilarious), but it was the hope and heroism that carried the film through a couple of third act speedbumps. Watching Diana climb the ladder and walk into No Man’s Land has to be one of the most iconic cinematic images of the year.
4. BLADE RUNNER 2049
Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to one of the most important science fiction films of all time was always going to be a gamble. As genre fans we’re pleased that, even if it floundered at the box office, Blade Runner 2049 soared on the big screen. The performances are strong, the story feels like a valid and important further exploration of the Blade Runner universe, and it lives in the same world as the original without simply copying it. With all that being said, Roger Deakins’ cinematography is clearly the film’s most important asset, plunging us into the world of cold smog and red haze as Ryan Gosling’s K hunts for the truth and his humanity.
We knew this would be a heartbreaker from the moment the first strings of Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ stirred across the first trailer. The Wolverine stand-alone films previously struggled, but there’s such a clear sense of purpose in Logan. Freed by the R-rating, James Mangold and Hugh Jackman create a triumphant Western swansong for a tired, broken hero with one last job to do. It’s violent, it’s bleak, but the central family of Logan, Xavier (a brilliant Patrick Stewart) and Laura (Dafne Keen, making a bold attempt to steal the film from Jackman) give it a sweetness and optimism too. If this really is the end for Jackman’s Wolverine, it couldn’t be a better goodbye.
2. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
At the time of writing, Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII continues to provoke…shall we say…spirited debate online, as fans argue about whether or not he’s taken a bold new step for the trilogy or has lit a match and burned the house down. We very much fall into the former camp. The Last Jedi could have continued down the same road that The Force Awakens set out on, but instead we saw a film carving out a new path for the saga. It doesn’t let the past die but it shows that we can’t, and shouldn’t, try to go back there. As all the characters, old and new, are forced to reevaluate what they think they know about their allegiances and themselves, Johnson delivers a visual spectacle with real emotional intelligence. It’s thrilling, it’s heartbreaking, it’s inspiring, and it’s still very much a Star Wars film.
1. GET OUT
If you’ve been keeping an eye on other “best movies of the year” polls, it can’t be too much of a surprise to see Jordan Peele’s wickedly sharp horror end up at number one. Skin-crawling, tremendously tense and beautifully observed, Get Out deserves every bit of its extraordinary success. It’s just so well constructed, as Chris (the magnificent Daniel Kaluuya) begins to suspect that something is very wrong with his white girlfriend’s family. We’re given clues from very early on but there’s just enough there to keep our hero where he is before the rug is pulled out from under him and we see just how bad his situation is. It’s a tremendously confident directorial debut from Peele with a superb supporting cast (Lakeith Stanfield, Betty Gabriel and Bradley Whitford are particularly good), and it’s no surprise that it’s resonated so strongly with audiences. It’s a horror (or social thriller, to use Peele’s preferred term) for our times.