Sight & Sound’s
best films of 2017
188 international critics and curators choose the five new releases that made the biggest impression on them in 2017. Rising to the top are some exciting new voices, new visions and new forms...
1. Get Out
Dir. Jordan Peele | USA-Japan
Jordan Peele’s debut film is a brilliantly inventive horror that skewers the insecurities and injustices of modern America.
“Jordan Peele’s vicious and much-needed satire of sham white liberalism, Get Out is a genuine cultural phenomenon.”
Read our review Film of the week: Get Out, a surreal satire of racial tension
Read Kelli Weston’s new essay That Sinking Feeling in the Sight & Sound January 2018 issue
2. Twin Peaks: The Return
Television | Creators Mark Frost and David Lynch | USA
David Lynch’s epic, mind-altering anti-detective TV series gave us exactly what we expected, by giving us nothing that we expected.
“It blows up TV, creatively, and puts pop culture on a new wavelength. And it has so much to say about the legacy of ‘the American century’ that of course it’s the most resonant, relevant 18-hour movie at this time of meltdown and crisis.”
3. Call Me by Your Name
Dir. Luca Guadagnino | Brazil-Italy-France-USA
In Luca Guadagnino’s intimate romance, Armie Hammer and
Timothée Chalamet play young lovers who fall into each other’s arms during a sun-baked summer in rural Italy.
“Guadagnino’s superb Call Me by Your Name, a sumptuous holiday of a film steeped in romance and near-perfectly conceived and performed – I needed that this year.”
Dir. Lucrecia Martel | Argentina-Brazil-Spain-The Netherlands-Mexico-Portugal-USA
Lucrecia Martel’s adaptation of Antonio de Benedetto’s existential 1956 novel is a rich work of visual tapestry, of 18th-century Latin American colonial life as self-mythologising fable. A haunting work that gets into your bones.
“Zama was my film of the year... The film’s saturated – almost rotting – colour palette, its exquisite layered sound design and its extraordinary performances, moving from the lean to the grotesque, confirm Martel as one of the most distinctive filmmakers at work today.”
Read our feature Breaking time’s arrow: Lucrecia Martel and Zama at the 2017 LFF
Dir. Valeska Grisebach | Germany
Valeska Grisebach’s stunning existential study of masculinity tips its hat to classic genre cinema even as it casts an extraordinary troupe of non-professional actors as its grizzled migrant construction workers in a foreign land.
“Grisebach proves you can honour one classical tradition for two hours without just imitating it, feeling constrained by it, or privileging allusion over storytelling.”
Read our review Western: once upon a time in modern-day eastern Europe
6. Faces Places
Dir. Agnès Varda | France
Serendipities fly as cinema’s greatest gleaner goes rambling in the cine-van of Magnum muralist JR, and pits her memories against her thirst for new faces.
“A warm and uplifting documentary on the way that images (photography / cinema) pay tribute to ordinary experiences and ‘common people’.”
Read our review Faces Places: Agnès Varda and JR big up the country byways
Read Philip Concannon on late works by veteran filmmakers in the Sight & Sound January 2018 issue
7. Good Time
Dir. Josh and Benny Safdie | USA
Robert Pattinson’s lone sibling desperado rampages nocturnal New York in Benny and Josh Safdie’s streetish 70s-throwback bungled-heist thriller.
“The most brazenly kinetic film of 2017.”
Dir. Andriy Zvyagintsov | Russia-France-Belgium-Germany
The Russian director’s fifth feature is an enigmatic, and very rewarding, film about a missing child, a dissolving marriage and a country in crisis. At its best, it’s cinematic poetry.
“Honest in its bleakness, this film offers no truce.”
Dir. Christopher Nolan | USA-UK
Breathtaking realism, sterling performances and distinctly restrained direction combine to make Christopher Nolan’s World War II drama a wrenching spectacle.
“An extraordinary sensory tour de force that manages to be remarkably claustrophobic in portraying an event usually thought to be played out in all-too-open spaces.”
=9. The Florida Project
Dir. Sean Baker | USA
A mischievous mother and daughter run merry rings around Willem Dafoe’s weary motel manager in Sean Baker’s effervescent chronicle of a summer in the strip malls and swamps that skirt Disney’s empire.
“Full of compassion and curiosity about its characters’ fragile lives, this memorable drama establishes Sean Baker as among cinema’s most original chroniclers of childhood.”
11. A Ghost Story
Dir. David Lowery | USA
Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and a crisp white sheet haunt the screen in David Lowery’s beautifully crafted, risk-taking film about deadly loss and deep sadness.
“A Ghost Story unexpectedly enthralled me by taking a simple idea, exploring it fully, then taking it to a new level.”
Read our review Film of the week: A Ghost Story explores the delirium of grief
=12. Lady Macbeth
Dir. William Oldroyd | UK
In William Oldroyd’s compelling psychological drama, Florence Pugh delivers an unforgettable performance as a chattel bride seeking revenge and sovereignty at all costs.
“A magnetically vindictive and authoritative treat.”
Read our review Film of the week: Lady Macbeth pares the period film back to its bones
Read Nick James on the year in British cinema in the Sight & Sound January 2018 issue
=12. 120 BPM
Dir. Robin Campillo | France
Robin Campillo’s drama gives life, joy and distinction to the struggles of France’s ACT UP AIDS activists of the early 1990s.
“The definitive AIDS crisis drama, a sprawling, sexy, kinetic, unflinching portrait of the ACT UP movement in Paris.”
Read our review 120 Beats per Minute (BPM): queer lives honoured
=12. You Were Never Really Here
Dir. Lynne Ramsay | UK-USA-France
A bulked-up Joa Phoenix carries the weight of the world into nightmarish terrain in Ramsay’s hardboiled, sharp-edged, audacious adaptation of Jonathan Ames’s novella.
“At once the pulpiest and most psychologically pressured work of her career.”
15. God’s Own Country
Dir. Francis Lee | UK
Both post-gay and pre-Brexit, Francis Lee’s debut feature is anything but a straightforward coming-out tale. Instead it’s an eerily beautiful love story between two men, and the wild Yorkshire landscape.
“An immersive piece of filmmaking that marks Lee out as one of Britain’s finest new talents.”
Read our review Film of the week: God’s Own Country unites males in the Dales
=16. Personal Shopper
Dir. Olivier Assayas | France
A medium-cool Kristen Stewart shops and drops in with the dead in Olivier Assayas’s modern mystical Paris.
“Kristen Stewart is the star of 2017.”
Read our review Personal Shopper – first look
=16. The Shape of Water
Dir. Guillermo del Toro | USA
Guillermo del Toro conjures a cinematic extravaganza teeming with high notes, from Sally Hawkins’ mute, dreamy musical-loving cleaner to the B-movie creature from the deep she sides with against the worst of 1960s US military-industrial iniquity.
“That del Toro can house a plea for acceptance, tolerance and understanding inside a shimmeringly designed 50s Americana, one wracked with anger and illiberal persecution (ring any bells?), is something to behold. Give The Shape of Water all the prizes come Oscar-time.”
=16. Strong Island
Dir. Yance Ford | USA-Denmark
Yance Ford’s documentary feature is an intimate investigation into the death of his brother, and the legal injustice that followed, as both a family tragedy and an index of wider American malaise.
“Yance Ford’s ten-year labour of grief and grievance with the systematic racism of America.”
=19. I Am Not Your Negro
Dir. Raoul Peck | Belgium-Switzerland-France-USA
Raoul Peck’s fluid documentary uses the timeless anger of James Baldwin to animate his history of the black experience in America, from Hollywood stereotypes to police brutality.
“An alarmingly pertinent commentary on modern America.”
Read our review I Am Not Your Negro: race, rage and the American Dream
=19. Lady Bird
Dir. Greta Gerwig | USA
Saoirse Ronan gives as good as she gets as the rebel heroine of Greta Gerwig’s first film as solo writer-director: an honest, surprising and screwball-funny coming-of-age portrait that encompasses a snipey mother-daughter relationship and a faltering female friendship.
“Lady Bird shows how precarious the life of a young woman without a financial safety net can be. It also makes you want to dye your hair pink.”
=19. Let the Sunshine In
Dir. Claire Denis | France
In Claire Denis’ low-key rondo, archetypal romantic situations elicit subtle yet surprising transformations in the character of Juliette Binoche’s newly divorced painter as she returns to the romantic fray.
“The romantic travails of a middle-aged woman back on the trail of true love after divorce are told fragmentally with an emphasis on love’s destabilising effects.”
Read our review Let the Sunshine In: Juliette Binoche rings love’s changes
Dir. Barry Jenkins | USA
Barry Jenkins’ three-ages portrait of a queer black youth comes bearing a weight of significance, but its nuanced ensemble performances and agile formalism give it a rare beauty and tenderness.
“Moonlight’s power is in Barry Jenkins’ perfect judgement; not being afraid of less in its visual stylishness and in how he uses actors. Proof of its great heart: how you watch the young would-be lovers, and yearn for them to reach out for that first kiss.”
Dir. Darren Aronofsky | USA
Brash and bombastic it may be, but the Black Swan director’s latest, starring Jennifer Lawrence as a poet’s wife beset by escalating horrors, has a berserk bravura it might be too easy to mock.
“I squirmed under the oppressive weight of almost every minute of Mother! but must admit that it was the most conceptually pure and powerfully cinematic and audacious film experience I had this past year.”
Read our review Mother!: Darren Aronofsky’s symphony of domestic disquiet
Dir. Dee Rees | USA
In Dee Rees’s mythic and superbly acted family saga set in the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s, two young men return from the front only to find bigotry and poverty tearing their community apart.
“If Mudbound is historical prestige drama, it’s among the very finest of its kind. It’s so poignantly considered, willing to humanise even the most appalling attitudes, and not keen on easy answers.”
Read our review Mudbound: families at war on home soil
=25. The Other Side of Hope
Dir. Aki Kaurismäki | Finland-Germany
The latest from Finland’s deadpan morose-romantic master is a Chaplinesque fable of two disparate strivers commingling in Helsinki.
“The eternally soft-hearted but politically hard-edged Aki Kaurismäki.”
Dir. Martin Scorsese | USA-Mexico-UK-Taiwan
With an interiority even stronger than its historical sweep, Scorsese’s epic portrait of the trials and temptations of a Jesuit missionary in seventeenth-century Japan gives us one of the director’s most tortured accounts of spiritual exile.
Christina Newland Sight & Sound’s coverage of this year’s best films
“A thoroughly old-fashioned and unfashionable work, it’s also one of astounding philosophical and religious enquiry. I have no hesitation in calling it a masterpiece.”
THE INTERNATIONAL FILM MAGAZINE
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More on the best films of 2017
188 critics and curators have voted. Find out more about their favourite movies of the year – from recent and current releases to forthcoming films.
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Our current issue
Read select contributors’ votes and comments; Nick James’s introduction to our poll; and essays on Get Out, Twin Peaks: The Return and the year in American independent cinema, British cinema, blockbusters and franchises, and late works by veteran filmmakers in the Sight & Sound January 2017 issue. Plus Frances McDormand, Gary Oldman, Miike Takashi, The Disaster Artist, The Deuce and much more.