Staff Vote: The Best Films Of 2017

The best films of 2017 as voted by staff.

John-Paul Pierrot

20 Dec 17

As social media feeds, newspaper inches and email inboxes clog up with end-of-year lists, it's our turn to have our say. Later this week Picturehouse Spotlight will publish the findings of our Members' Vote to decide our audience's favourite film of 2017, but as an aperitif, we've conducted our annual staff poll and the results are in.

Last year Denis Villenueve's sci-fi opus Arrival was crowned winner. If you're in a nostalgic mood, why not take a look at the lists of years gone by? Quite often these lists represent the sign of the times, and as Brexit negotiations play out in Brussels it is perhaps fitting that our top film, a profoundly international production, revels in the warmth of its European setting and its multilingual characters. 

Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name offers pure escapism. It's a beautiful, sun-soaked coming-of-age tale that rekindles the excitement, awkwardness and the sheer bliss of first love.

Jordan Peele's genre-defying sleeper hit Get Out claims second spot – a film that perhaps belongs to 2017 more than any other. In a year defined by the posturing of Trump and soaring race tensions in the United States, here's a movie that dares to cut through the crap. Peele masterfully straddles his satire of liberal racism while making a hugely entertaining horror that stoked shrieks of shock and laughter in packed auditoria. 

It's been a positive year for LGBTQ cinema, with same-sex relationships at the heart of some of the year's very best films. Besides Call Me By Your Name, Best Picture winner at the Oscars Moonlight continues to linger long in the memory. Park Chan-wook's erotically charged and exquisitely designed The Handmaiden also struck a chord with our staff, while Francis Lee's brooding drama God's Own Country narrowly missed out on the Top 10 listed below.

For the poll, we asked staff to rank their favourite 5 films released theatrically this calendar year. 128 members of staff voted with a grand total of 108 different films receiving at least one vote. 10% were documentaries, with the favourite being Ezra Edelman's eight-hour true crime epic O.J.: Made In America (which ranked in the overall Top 20). 17% of the long list qualify as a foreign-language title, with a singular representative for silent cinema in the wonderful form of The Red Turtle. The Studio Ghibli co-production was also our joint favourite animation of the year, tied with My Life As A Courgette. Both films are marked by their simplicity and immense charm.

Maren Ade is the sole female director to make it into the Top 10 for her very funny father-daughter comedy Toni Erdmann. Of the 108 films with at least one vote, 21% are directed or co-directed by a woman, which is a considerable increase from the previous year (a miserable 10%). With acclaimed films from established auteurs such as Sally Potter (The Party), Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit), Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women) and Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled) making the long-list – alongside exciting new voices such as Julia Ducournau (Raw) and Rungano Nyoni (I Am Not A Witch) – this is a cause for celebration. After all, this is the year that critics and audiences hailed the female empowerment of Wonder Woman – helmed supremely by Patty Jenkins – over its DC Universe rivals. Following the Weinstein revelations, public interest is firmly on the industry to change. We wait with intrigue to see if next year's poll continues this upward trajectory.

With the current film landscape dominated by reboots and sequels, it's heartening that original stories dominate the list. Only one film in the Top 10 can be considered a part of an existing cinematic universe, and only loosely so: Blade Runner 2049 was a visual feast that lived up to sky-high expectations. All in all, 17% of the films on the long list can be considered a franchise movie. James Mangold's Logan gritty and inventive take on the X-Men mythology was the most applauded "comic book film" and was another just to miss out on the Top 10.

Perhaps the common thought that binds our list together is that original storytelling shines through in the end. Whether it be the epic scale of Christopher Nolan's
Dunkirk or Damien Chazelle's spectacular La La Land or the more low-key human stories of Manchester By The Sea or The Florida Project, 2017 has provided us with variety and many memorable films to treasure.

10. Toni Erdmann

If this is German comedy, I want more! Toni Erdmann is a beautifully touching and at times toe-curlingly awkward account of a father's best efforts to reconnect with his career-driven daughter.

Like alot of my favourite films, Toni Erdmann takes you on a roller coaster of emotions, capturing the often hilarious lengths a dad will go to to be in his daughter's life. Peter Simonischek's depiction of a desperate man with a big heart with a multitude of disguises keeps you guessing throughout. Sandra Hüller's performance as daughter Ines is utterly compelling, underscored by a super spontaneous rendition of Whitney's Greatest Love of All.

- Richard Stow, Designer

9. Dunkirk

I was immediately drawn to the trailer for Dunkirk when I first saw it because my family and I thought we recognised my grandpa's boat. After contacting the producer it was confirmed that Revlis was indeed Moonstone. This made an impeccably shot film even more tense and emotional as memories of long summers on the deck with Grandpa flashed back. Nolan delivered what I now see as one of the definitive war films and all in less than 2 hours. Note to other directors!

- Colin Alexander, General Manager of Picturehouse at FACT

8. La La Land

La La Land burst onto screens in a riot of colour and tapping feet that instantly became iconic. A loving tribute to the big studio musicals of the '50s, the film found a way to update and subvert the genre with an unexpectedly emotional ending. Lead performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone added to the charm and vulnerability beating at the heart of this film.

- Alicia McBride, Assistant Manager at East Dulwich Picturehouse & Café

7. The Handmaiden

Park Chan-Wook's The Handmaiden is a sumptuous piece of work. It's a proper twisty-turner thriller, the likes of which we don't see very often. Especially created by such a master craftsman as Director Park. I really admired the way it plays with the audience's perspective, teasing out details as the film rolls on, keeping you guessing until the very final frame.

- Sam Clements, Head of Marketing

6. The Florida Project

Set among bizarre knock-off motels on the fringes of Disney World resort (itself an idealised conception of a strange country located in one of the more "artificial" states), Sean Baker's The Florida Project dances a line between fairy-tale summer vacation and desperate life below the poverty line. Nuanced naturalistic performances blended with fantasy to create a filmgoing experience that was charming, harrowing and always utterly invigorating. The final scene was 2017's most astonishing cinematic moment.

- George Crosthwait, Crouch End Picturehouse

5. Manchester by the Sea

Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan had already showcased his storytelling finesse over his sparse but essential film career in You Can Count On Me and Margaret, but with Manchester By The Sea he delivered a truly airtight movie which was simultaneously poetic and painfully realistic in its depiction of grief, guilt and sheer-and-utter emotional loss. The characters and themes here are raw and genuine, and Lonergan weaves them together in a way that evokes grand, timeless storytelling. No other film this year sat with me and lingered in such a way after the credits rolled.

- Toby King, Marketing and Sales Executive at Picturehouse Entertainment

4. Moonlight

Powerful, devastating and arresting, Moonlight is a film that sticks to your bones. Barry Jenkins' riveting romance became an instant classic with its tender depiction of unsuspecting love, family and identity. Gorgeously shot and superbly performed, Moonlight illuminates the many prisms of black lives and placed Jenkins as one of the most important and brilliant filmmakers of the year.

- Corrina Antrobus, Communications Manager

3. Blade Runner 2049

When a sequel picks up the essence of a beloved idea and moves it to new ground while being respectful of its source material, you're off to a good start. When it looks this sublime, recaptures your excitement and wonder, and blows your socks off with cinematic magic, you know you're onto a winner!

- Ben Rothwell, Marketing Manager at Exeter Picturehouse

2. Get Out

Jordan Peele broke boundaries and records when he released the terrifying Get OutThe tense and taut movie tackled racism in America through a twisted plot and compelling horrific imagery (the Sunken Place is toe-curling). Boasting a stellar lead performance from the brilliant Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out stunned, shocked and subverted.

- Sarah Cook, Marketing Manager at The Ritzy

1. Call Me By Your Name

Luca Guadagnino melted our hearts here at Picturehouse with the hazy warmth of his third feature film. Blissfully romantic, lightly joyful and emotionally devastating, Call Me By Your Name beautifully captures the nostalgic pangs of first love, topping off a monumental year for LGBTQ cinema.

- Tom Dwyer, Marketing and Sponsorship Executive