Top 10 Films takes a look at the best British films of 2017 including box office winners such as Paddington 2 and Dunkirk as well as future classics from independent cinema like God’s Own Country, Lady Macbeth and Prevenge.
In addition to our best British films of 2017 list below, there are many others worth checking out. Danny Boyle’s T2: Trainspotting was one of British cinema’s most hotly anticipated films of the year and it largely works albeit without reaching the heights of the original film. Mindhorn, which was praised for its performances by Top 10 Films critic Martin Carr, is another stand out of 2017, as is Sally Potter’s darkly comic The Party and Armando Iannucci’s political satire The Death of Stalin.
We found things to like in Ben Parker’s taut underwater thriller The Chamber, while classically toned horror Don’t Knock Twice offered some well-oiled scares for those that like their jump-out-of-your-seat moments. We also enjoyed Churchill, a film “carved from granite and defined by terms thankfully impossible to replicate” it’s “understated, memorable and more than a match for the forthcoming Gary Oldman interpretation.”
10. The Ghoul (Tunley)
The Ghoul is a confident and unique psycho-drama from first time writer-director Gareth Tunley. The film keeps its audience at arms-length, suggestive of its enigmatic protagonist’s state of mind. Detached and strangely emotionally impenetrable, Tunley’s foreboding film meditates on mental illness through the guise of the psychological thriller while reeling us into a plot stained by mystery and immersive ambiguity.
9. Trespass Against Us (Smith)
There’s a cloying sense of murky dread permeating director Adam Smith’s feature film debut Trespass Against Us. It’s a darkly appealing asset of this affecting, if tonally imbalanced, crime-family drama set against the backdrop of a travelling community in Gloucestershire.
8. Stockholm My Love (Cousins)
This is a film of stark beauty, peppered with striking imagery and grounded by the captivating performance of an Eighties pop star. Focusing on a fictionalised figure embodied by Neneh Cherry we follow in close up, long shot, first person and third person her journey around Stockholm. Languid, emotive and intimate, Cherry presents a riveting on screen presence which elicits a deceptively effective silent movie performance.
7. Dunkirk (Nolan)
Christopher Nolan hasn’t put a foot wrong since he wowed audiences with Batman Begins and Dunkirk continues his startling body of work with a technically majestic dramatisation of the allied evacuation of France during the early part of World War II. With its grandiose IMAX cinematography, Dunkirk is best seen on the biggest screen possible with huge speakers surrounding your viewing position, but such is the talent of the filmmaker, there’s still plenty to marvel at home.
6. Moon Dogs (John)
This low budget rites of passage road trip movie from director Philip John is simplistically penned by Derek Boyle and Raymond Friel, using minimal locations to maximum effect. Jack Parry-Jones, Christy O’Donnell and Tara Lee form an unlikely trio of protagonists as we journey across The Shetlands onto Oakney before landing in mainland Scotland. Using the isolated lifestyle of these characters to create drama, comedy and pathos raises Moon Dogs above the herd.
5. Lady MacBeth (Oldroyd)
Windswept scrubland, flesh pressing flesh and austere isolation combine to convey the buttoned down oppression of this caustic costume drama. Pregnant pauses and animalistic coupling serve as literal release in a film verging on art house whilst keeping one eye on the mainstream. Feeling more like a sequence of events witnessed from a distance, Lady Macbeth is at once supremely voyeuristic, intimately complicit yet intentionally aloof.
4. Free Fire (Wheatley)Perhaps Free Fire is the film Quentin Tarantino would make with the aid of a script editor and some self-control. Ben Wheatley’s kinetic, hyperreal celebration of action cinema is distinguished by the writer-director’s trademark acerbic humour alongside a subversive appreciation of generic convention. The ending might be predictable, the premise open to nitpicking, and the initial incendiary plot device forgotten amongst the chaos but Wheatley’s streamlined action thriller is a richly satisfying affair. It’s surely his most accessible film to date without losing any of the characteristics that make his creative niche tick.
3. Prevenge (Lowe)Filmed during writer-director Alice Lowe’s real life pregnancy, Prevenge gives new meaning to the term prepartum anxiety. It’s a quirky celebration of mother-child bonds steeped in pitch black comic irony. Lowe’s humour is the standout factor, her delivery suited to a script brimming with sarcasm and wit, but as a director she also concocts moments of genuinely chilling suspense.
2. God’s Own Country (Lee)
You won’t see many directorial debuts better than this and certainly none in 2017. A film that uplifts amidst a pervading bleakness, that transforms for the better despite the anxieties of life pulling at efforts to find one’s calling, Francis Lee’s film has catapulted the filmmaker to the “one to watch” crowd with its array of awards and critical adulation.
1. Paddington 2 (King)
The sequel to the brilliant Paddington that’s arguably better than the lovable bear’s first outing has to be the best British film of 2017. Writer-director Paul King has weaved a little magic with these films based on Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear stories. The sequel features all the things that made the first film so wonderful – the humour, the humanity, the adventure. What perhaps makes Paddington 2 even better is Hugh Grant chewing the scenery as the film’s chief villain; he’s rarely been funnier than this.
Compiled by Rory Fish. Written by Dan Stephens, Martin Carr & Rory Fish.
Over to you: what, in your opinion, were the best British films of 2017?
*Top 10 Films’ best British films of 2017 are based on UK theatrical release dates.