In 2017, Hollywood used the past to take on our scary present and uncertain future. Whether a film came from a veteran (Denis Villeneuve) or a newbie (Jordan Peele), you felt the energy of an artist spoiling to be heard. The themes were many and varied: the simmering heat of racial politics (Get Out, Detroit), the strength of love (Call Me By Your Name, A Ghost Story) and the essential question of how to live in a world heading for global disaster (Dunkirk, War For the Planet of the Apes). The year's best movies sent a message that a lot of us are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Is anyone listening? #OscarsNoTrump
By Peter Travers and David Michael Brown.
Adapted from Saroo Brierley's autobiography A Long Way Home, Garth Davis' Lion, starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, tugs at the heartstrings. Telling the extraordinary story of a little boy – played by Sunny Pawar – who gets stuck on a train and travels thousands of kilometres across India, his decades-long search for his family, from his new found home in Australia, is one of the year's most emotional journeys.
David Lowery's supernatural tale of timeless devotion involves a woman (Rooney Mara) haunted by her dead lover (Casey Affleck). Here's an ardent, ambitious, challenging experiment that restores our faith in film as an art form.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal take an incendiary look at the 1967 Detroit race riots still alive and toxic in the police brutality and systemic racism of today. Audiences stayed away. Big mistake. Detroit is hard to take. It's also impossible to forget.
Three wonderful actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) play the same boy at different stages of growing up black, gay and alienated in the Miami projects. Director Barry Jenkins handles every aspect of filmmaking, from dialogue to visuals, like the young master he is.
Andy Serkis did it again in Matt Reeves' audacious finale to the rebooted Apes trilogy, which started with Rise and witnessed the Dawn. Bringing more dignity to the role of renegade ape Caesar than the entire human race he is at war with, the actor's mo-cap performance has been the making of the simian cinematic trio. A powerful, poetic and brutal end to a brilliant series.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World director Edgar Wright puts pedal to the metal in the most exciting and invigorating road trip of the year. Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) plays Baby, a music obsessed getaway driver trying to escape the clutches of the mob. With a cast including Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Lily James and Kevin Spacey, Wright shot and edited his film in time to the music in Baby's ears. Where else can you hear the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Damned and Dutch prog rockers Focus soundtrack the best car chases this side of The French Connection?
Denis Villeneuve's hotly anticipated sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic certainly split audiences with its glacial pacing and epic running time. However, the Arrival director's eye for stunning visuals and brilliant performances from Ryan Gosling as an LAPD blade runner and Harrison Ford as the man he is hunting ensure that Blade Runner 2049 is a breathtaking and immersive glimpse into a terrifying future.
Homophobia has no place in Luca Guadagnino's erotic romance, set in Italy in 1983, when a musical prodigy (Timothée Chalamet) and his father's handsome assistant (Armie Hammer) experience the thrill of first love and the gutting pain of its loss. An artistic triumph that insists empathy is the best antidote to intolerance.
Can a horror film get in the Oscar race for Best Picture? Bet your ass. Daniel Kaluuya doesn't know what he's in for when his girlfriend (Allison Williams) takes him home to white suburbia, but black culture isn't the only thing being co-opted. In the year's most exciting directing debut, Jordan Peele juggles scares and laughs to skewer racial hypocrisy in an America that refuses to get woke.
In the year's best film, Christopher Nolan shows us the meaning of pure cinema, depicting the 1940 evacuation of British soldiers from the French beaches of Dunkirk as Hitler's forces attempt to crush them by land, sea and air. Instead of telling us what to think, Nolan offers full immersion in the life-or-death experience of being there, prey to the whims of a dictator and still fired up with the will to resist.