2017 wasn't exactly the best year and its summer was considered one of the worst seasons for the box office ever. However, last year did give us some fantastic films, many of which will be remembered for decades to come. At the beginning of 2017, we saw the likes of Beauty and the Beast and A Monster Calls, which both blew audiences away, and at the end of the year we had the acclaimed Wonder and The Greatest Showman. I watched so many great films in 2017, so it's hard to narrow it down to my favourites - but there were 12 films that really stood out.
1. Beauty and the Beast
Remaking a Disney classic is always risky, but the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast was a dazzling film that managed to succeed many people's expectations. It grossed $504 million at the box office, making it the most successful musical of all time in the UK. While the plot is very much like that of the original film, which was released over 20 years ago, the 2017 retelling of Beauty and the Beast has additional songs, including 'Evermore' and 'How Does a Moment Last Forever', and Belle (Emma Watson) is more forward-thinking, inventing a device that is akin to a washing machine. Visually, Beauty and the Beast is spectacular, and Emma Watson's performance is deserving of many awards.
2. Baby Driver
There's been a lot of hype surrounding Baby Driver since it was released back in June, and it's not surprising. In what was one of the best action films of 2017, Ansel Elgort (best known for his roles in teen flicks such as Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars) is Baby, a getaway driver for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey). What makes Baby stand out is his passion for music: throughout the film Baby can be seen wearing headphones, which he claims help him block out the ringing in his ears (he suffers from tinnitus as the result of a childhood accident). Baby Driver is primarily a crime film, full of car chases that do feel a bit too violent and repetitive at times. Nevertheless, Baby Driver's superb soundtrack and all-star cast will make it appeal to everyone.
3. A Monster Calls
While it may seem like a typical kid's monster film, A Monster Calls is far from that. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, A Monster Calls is a thought-provoking tearjerker that deals with grief and facing your fears. Without revealing too much of the plot, Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is just coming to terms with his mother's illness when he is visited by a tree monster (voiced by Liam Neeson). The monster appears at Conor's bedroom window every night, telling the boy stories in return for one of his own. Despite receiving mostly positive reviews from critics and audiences alike, A Monster Calls seemed to fall under the radar, which is a shame since there is so much to love about it. The acting from Lewis MacDougall and Felicity Jones is impressive, while Liam Neeson is convincing and terrifying as the monster.
4. What Happened to Monday
What Happened to Monday is a post-apocalyptic Netflix original that takes us to the year 2073, where the government is clamping down on overpopulation by introducing a one-child policy. Terrence Settman breaks this new law by raising septuplets. In order to protect their identities, the girls remain in hiding and only go out on the day of the week that coincides with their name, under the alias of Karen Settman. When one of the sisters doesn't return from work one day, the remaining siblings risk their lives to find her.
While What Happened to Monday may not be for everyone, it is still worth watching. Noomi Rapace gives a standout performance as the septuplets, ensuring that they each have their own personalities. The story itself is captivating and seamlessly blends action and suspense to create a film that will have you hooked from start to finish.
Okja is further proof that Netflix has produced some fantastic original films in the last couple of years. Directed by Joon-ho Bong and starring Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Shirley Henderson and Lily Collins, Okja is a powerful film that will make you think twice about eating meat and buying from massive corporations. Okja is quite graphic and at times hard to watch, but it is also a beautiful story about a young Korean girl called Mija and her pet super-pig. Mija's idyllic life is shattered when her beloved pet is taken to America by Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton). Mija is at first oblivious to the creature's fate, but as soon as she realises what is going on, she teams up with The Animal Liberation Front, an organisation that aims to expose what really happens to the super-pigs who are captured by the Mirando Corporation. Okja is undeniably one of the best films of 2017, and its breathtaking setting in South Korea and flawless CGI effects make it even more brilliant.
6. The Greatest Showman
We started off the year with La La Land – the musical that won over audiences from all over the world – and ended the year with another fantastic musical: The Greatest Showman. Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zac Efron and Zendaya star in this feel-good film about P.T. Barnum, a showman who wanted to spread uniqueness across America and the rest of the world. As with La La Land, whose score was written by the same guys behind the tunes of The Greatest Showman, this film is ideal for those who aren't usually keen on musicals. Despite what the critics say, The Greatest Showman is a thoroughly entertaining and energetic musical with stunning visuals and memorable songs that will have you singing along.
Gifted is a moving drama about Mary Adler (McKenna Grace), a young girl with extraordinary mathematical abilities. Mary lives with her uncle Frank (Chris Evans), who wants to send her to a regular school so that she has a chance at a normal childhood, unlike her mother (who was also a genius). However, after Mary's talents are revealed during a maths class at school, the estranged grandma intervenes, keen for Mary to live with her and attend a special school for 'gifted' children. This results in a complicated court case, during which Mary finds out where she truly belongs. While Chris Evans proves that he is not only capable of playing superheroes, and Octavia Spencer and Jenny Slate are excellent in their supporting roles, it is McKenna Grace who steals the show. Not only is McKenna adorable, but she is also likeable, cheeky and has great chemistry with Chris Evans. One may draw parallels between Gifted and Matilda, but Gifted is a unique family film that will stay with you for a long time.
Having recently read R.J. Palacio's novel Wonder, I was unsure of what to expect when I sat down to watch the film adaptation last December. However, Wonder proved to be a pleasant surprise. Jacob Tremblay plays Auggie, a boy who was born with a facial deformity. Auggie's parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) decide to send their son to school for the first time, so that he can socialise with other children. Unsurprisingly, Auggie has a hard time adjusting to this new environment as the kids bully him and treat him like a disease. Luckily, some of the children are more accepting of Auggie and he begins to realise that school isn't so bad after all. Wonder is an important film for all families to watch due to its underlying messages about bullying and not judging people by the way in which they look.
9. All This Panic
Realistic portrayals of teenage girls are hard to come by in films, but Jenny Gage manages to capture it so perfectly in her documentary All This Panic. Filmed over the course of three years, All This Panic follows a group of teenage girls in Brooklyn as they go about their daily lives and deal with the problems common to people their age, including crushes and applying to university. They all have their own insecurities, for example figuring out what they want to do in life (in the case of Ginger), and spend their time gossiping, drinking and exploring their city. All This Panic is different to other coming of age films in that it focuses on how the girls are really feeling and it presents girls as sophisticated and intelligent rather than shallow.
Creepy, chilling and unsettling – the three words that I'd use to describe a horror movie and that perfectly encapsulate February. Written and directed by Osgood Perkins, February (or The Blackcoat's Daughter, as it is otherwise known as) is set at a boarding school and focuses on two girls who are left to fend for themselves over the holidays. While Rose (Lucy Boynton) decides to stay at the school so that she can visit her boyfriend, Kat's parents fail to pick their daughter up. Over time, Kat becomes more and more worried about her parents, fearing that they will never collect her. It soon becomes clear that something sinister is going on at the school, and this connects to a strange woman (Emma Roberts) who is on the run from a mental institution. February is a haunting film that will satisfy fans of the more dark and atmospheric horror flicks.
Feed is an exceptional debut from Troian Bellisario, who most people will associate with her role as Spencer Hastings in Pretty Little Liars. Bellisario proves once again that she is one to watch in this realistic psychological drama about a young woman who is overcome with grief and descends into anorexia. Unlike many other films about eating disorders, Troian Bellisario manages to depict anorexia without glamorising or sensationalising it and enables you to get into the mind of the sufferer and understand what they are going through. As with To the Bone, the film about anorexia that sparked much controversy last year, Feed is bound to be criticised for its triggering subject matter. However, Feed gives an invaluable insight into the life with someone with anorexia and shows that even though people can get better, recovery doesn't happen overnight.
12. The Disaster Artist
The Disaster Artist is a hilarious comedy about the worst film ever: The Room. James Franco portrays Tommy Wiseau, the mysterious director of The Room, while his brother Dave plays Greg Sestero, an aspiring actor who moved to Los Angeles with Wiseau to help him make his film. James Franco does an outstanding job as Wiseau, who is determined to make it in Hollywood even though he can't act. Franco is spot-on with his depiction of Wiseau's passion and eccentric behaviour and turns him into someone we can empathise with. If you're a fan of The Room (or, like me, you just love the Franco brothers), be sure to see The Disaster Artist.
Other noteworthy films that deserve a mention include Wonder Woman, The Beguiled, Ingrid Goes West, La La Land and A Silent Voice.