FROM the return of the ‘last Jedi’ to the long awaited sequel to Blade Runner it has been a good year for sci-fi at the cinema.

We’ve also had awards season favourites like Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea, Netflix getting in on the movie game with new productions like Okja and treasured children’s icon Paddington getting into more mishaps.

So with no further ado, Weekend editor David Morgan presents the top 10 countdown to his favourite films of 2017.

10. Get Out

Director: Jordan Peele

Leigh Journal:

With Donald Trump’s rise to power and the general swing to the right in the United States, filmmaker Jordan Peele’s debut feature is particularly timely.

Get Out puts white middle class America through the wringer and is part comedy and part horror in a way that plays out like an extended episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror.

That you cannot really tell when the movie switches from comedy to horror is what makes the story so compelling and uncomfortable.

The less you know about Get Out before seeing it the better but the story sees Rose (Allison Williams) bring her black boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her parents for the first time.

But not everything is as it seems when he appears to be the guest of honour at a garden party.

It is not perfect. Some early scenes in the film are a bit too heavy handed and British actor Daniel Kaluuya’s London accent jars a bit when he is playing an African American.

But as a metaphor for racial tensions that can lurk just below the surface of polite society, Get Out is genuinely chilling, shocking and unpredictable.

9. Baby Driver

Director: Edgar Wright

Leigh Journal:

We know him and love him for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz but Edgar Wright proved that his slick style of fast cuts and close-ups works just as well in Hollywood.

And it works even better when it is put to music.

There has never been a crime film quite like Baby Driver where the songs have been built into the fabric of the experience.

Ansel Elgort plays ‘Baby’, a young and ridiculously gifted getaway driver who is coerced into a life of crime as he is indebted to a mob boss.

By keeping the camera on Baby in almost every frame, Wright’s film feels incredibly intimate.

So you feel like you are being taken along on this joyride with him.

And as the tempo of the music shifts so does what you see on screen.

8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Director: Rian Johnson

Leigh Journal: Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Photograph: PA Photo/Lucasfilm Ltd/John Wilson

The one where Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker finally gets some lines.

After the success of Disney’s relaunch of Star Wars with The Force Awakens and that literal cliffhanger ending, there had been huge anticipation for The Last Jedi and Rian Johnson’s film does not disappoint. Porgs aside, it is a darker entry in the saga with General Organa’s (Carrie Fisher’s last role) Resistance in a desperate battle against The First Order.

It is a worthy swan song and Hamill and Adam Driver, as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, are also great as two conflicted souls who are almost two sides of the same coin.

The two Force users, both descendants of Darth Vader, question their place and the traditions of old in a movie which takes the brave step of demystifying the Jedi order, the Force and the concept of light versus dark.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Director: James Gunn

Leigh Journal:

Marvel’s misfits’ return to the big screen was one of the most joyous and outrageously funny cinema experiences of 2017.

Not bad for a film that features a baby tree, a wisecracking raccoon and a ridiculously over-the-top retro soundtrack.

Guardians of the Galaxy refuses to take itself seriously which gives it a different feel to most comic book movies – and it just works.

Even with a story that is arguably weaker than the first Guardians film, you cannot help but be charmed by Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Chris Pratt is a natural as leading man, Peter Quill/Star-Lord..

James Gunn, returning to the director’s chair, ramps up all the ingredients that made the original a hit including the quirky charm, humour, wild and convention breaking characters and a great eye for visuals.

6. Manchester By The Sea

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Leigh Journal:

Manchester By The Sea is a truly tragic tale that makes you want to cling to all the people you care about and hold onto them for dear life.

Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a brooding introvert, who is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

You would think that was sad enough but the true extent of Lee’s struggle slowly unravels throughout the film and will break your heart.

A flashback to a moment in Lee’s past will make you feel like you have been let in on a terrible secret.

There is a glimmer of hope by the end but Affleck’s portrayal of a broken, haunted soul will stay with you long after the film has finished.

Lonergan’s story explores both how a single mistake can change your whole life and the power of a second chance.

5. Paddington 2

Director: Paul King

Leigh Journal:

Most of us read Paddington when we were growing up and the subtext in the book about tolerance and compassion seem more relevant than ever considering the Brexit vote, the deep divides in our country and the way immigrants are sometimes viewed with suspicion.

Director Paul King takes that backdrop and then smothers it with innocence, charm and marmalade sandwiches.

With a cast who are clearly having a great time and with a story and silly humour that will appeal to all ages, Paddington 2 surpasses the original.

Not only that, after numerous cynical or naff movies it will also restore your faith in kids’ films in general.
A worthy salute to the late, great Michael Bond.

4. Okja

Director: Bong Joon Ho

Leigh Journal:

The jury is still out on Netflix’s controversial decision to skip cinema releases for the productions they fund in favour of allowing their subscribers to stream them from home straight away, at no extra cost. 

But while it may not be good for the industry it is certainly good for viewers.

And from Netflix’s recent slate of productions we got the wonderfully provocative Okja. 

At first glance, the South Korean film is a whimsical story, full of boundless imagination and warmth, about a girl and her relationship with a creature called a ‘superpig’, genetically engineered to help feed the world’s growing population.

But then Bong Joon Ho’s feature twists to become a thought-provoking attack on the meat industry and a call to arms for animal rights.

Is it vegetarian propaganda? Is it a little glimpse in the black mirror of how we really perceive animals?

That’s for you to decide but it’s a moving and thought-provoking watch.

3. The Handmaiden

Director: Chan-wook Park

Leigh Journal:

The Handmaiden saw celebrated director Chan-wook Park return to his native Korea – as well as Japan – for a typically dark and twisted tale.

But what makes it so clever is how it is packaged as a deceptively simple story. 

Sookee, a Korean woman from a family of thieves, is hired as a handmaiden to Japanese heiress Hideko. But secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her with smooth conman Fujiwara.

But when Sookee and Hideko begin to develop feelings for each other, they start putting together a plan of their own. 

The film becomes an exercise in concentration as you try to unravel what is going on.

But that is not such a problem when it is so beautifully shot and well paced.

2. Moonlight

Director: Barry Jenkins

Leigh Journal:

Chiron lives in a rough neighbourhood in Miami. 

He is bullied at school, neglected by his addict mum and is taken under the wing of the area’s drug lord. Moonlight is fiction but it is not a push to imagine Chiron as a real person and Barry Jenkins’ film makes us question how much our environment and circumstances shapes us.

Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes all play Chiron at different stages of his life from childhood to adulthood as he tackles his disadvantages and comes to terms with his homosexuality.

The film is anchored on Chiron’s confused relationship with his best friend Kevin.

More interesting still is drug lord Juan (House of Cards’ Mahershala Ali) who wrestles with a sense of guilt that he supplies drugs to Kevin’s emotionally absent mum.

Jenkins’ naturalistic style in the director’s chair and his fearless ability to explore the grey areas of a deprived neighbourhood is what makes this powerful film a success.

1. Blade Runner 2049

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Leigh Journal:

It has been 35 years since original Blade Runner, based on the Philip K. Dick story, was released.

Sequel ideas had been pitched over the years but always appeared ill advised given that they were going up against a seemingly standalone neo-noir classic on a staggering scale.

But then Canadian director Denis Villeneuve came along. 

He had already wowed audiences with the likes of Sicario and last year’s Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 cemented his place as one of Hollywood’s finest.

The film was, for me, the most immersive cinema experience of 2017 and was visually impeccable.

Set 30 years after the original, the film takes place in an oppressive, post-apocalyptic world where bioengineered humans called replicants have been integrated into society to ensure humanity’s continued survival. 

K (Ryan Gosling) a newer model replicant, works as a ‘blade runner’ for the LAPD, hunting down rogue replicants who have gone off the grid.

But a grim discovery threatens to plunge what is left of society into chaos.

Villeneuve’s sequel pays tribute to Ridley Scott’s original 1982 film while stamping his own identity on the atmospheric and existential picture, exploring themes like what it means to be human, prejudice and control.