With over half of 2017 done and dusted, we at Empire decided to pause, contemplate, take stock, and consider the best films to be released in the last six-or-so months. Here's what we settled on.
Please note: as a British publication, we go by UK release dates. All films considered were released in the UK in 2017.
15. The Lego Batman Movie
Who is the best Batman? For those of a certain age, it’s Adam West’s camp Crusader; for Generation X-ers, it might be Michael Keaton’s eyebrow-raised turn – and for a generation of 21st-century children, it’s Will Arnett. With his gravelly well-deep tones, Lego Batman stole the show in The Lego Movie, and given his first spin-off movie, he doesn’t squander the opportunity. As much for adults as it is for kids, The Lego Batman Movie is a joke-heavy pisstake of the Dark Knight, pitching Robin as an overexcited child and the Joker as a jilted lover.
What we thought: “The best Batman film in years.” Read Empire’s review.
14. John Wick: Chapter 2
A three-piece suit that makes Bond look like a hobo. A body count that makes Rambo look lazy. A still-unfolding mythology that seems more mysterious and labyrinthine than a Stephen King novel. And an action movie star in his fifties looking more muscular and youthful than most whippersnapper wannabes working today. Yeah, we’re thinking he’s back – and thank god. Start saving your gold coins for Chapter 3.
What we thought: “A brutal, bruising bullet ballet of a sequel that builds upon the promise of the original.” Read Empire’s review.
13. The Handmaiden
Easily the best movie this year to feature octopus porn, Park Chan-Wook’s tenth feature is as sexually-charged as you might expect from the South Korean auteur – but The Handmaiden is more than just an erotic thriller. It’s a complex web of con and counter-con, elegantly transposing the Victorian England setting of Sarah Waters’ source novel to early 20th-century South Korea for a pitch-perfect exploration of class and gender. Sexual repression in a conservative clime is the fuel to this double-crossing fire, which manages the stir the heart and soul as much as (ahem) the loins.
What we thought: “It’s the intelligence, mordant wit and depth of characterisation that are the real turn-ons.” Read Empire’s review.
12. Toni Erdmann
Ignore the xenophobic skeptics who might claim that ‘German comedy’ is an oxymoron. Toni Erdmann could be the funniest film of the year – despite relying on deliberate dad jokes like fake teeth and silly wigs. The real power of Maren Ade's consistently surprising romp comes from the tender relationship between a goofy middle-aged father and his uptight workaholic daughter, drawing pathos and pantomimic farce in spades.
What we said: “A weird, thoughtful, affecting treat.” Read Empire’s review.
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
It’s taken six films, three Peter Parkers, two dead Uncle Bens and a metric tonne of cobwebs – but finally, Hollywood has made a genuinely great Spider-Man movie. It took the might of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and the mentorship of Tony Stark) to bring Marvel’s flagship superhero the adventure he deserved in Tom Holland, a truly likable, funny, looks-the-right-age Peter Parker.
What we thought: “The characters and scenarios are familiar, but this is a loose, cool, funny remix that makes them feel fresh again.” Read Empire’s review.
Another strong showing from a South Korean director that straddles genres, themes, ideas, and cultures. Okja is a strange beast riddled with delightful contradictions: a sweet family film with swearing and violence; a dystopian sci-fi that's devastatingly real; a Spielbergian adventure made about as far from Hollywood as possible.
What we thought: “Bong has rustled up a bubbling pork stew of wildly disparate elements to make a true cinematic original.” Read Empire’s review.
9. Wonder Woman
Now the world is ready for you... After a mere seven decades of waiting, Diana Prince finally had her big moment on the big screen, and by the Lasso of Hestia, it was worth the wait. In Patty Jenkins, we found a director not afraid of imbuing a superhero with some old-fashioned optimism, and in Gal Gadot, we found a new star. Everybody's been betting against the DC Extended Universe but with universal critical praise and massive commercial success, vindication, thy name is Diana.
What we thought: “After a few false starts, the DC Extended Universe has its first truly terrific entry under its belt. About damn time.” Read Empire’s review.
8. The Big Sick
You think you've seen every kind of romantic comedy. Then along comes The Big Sick, which adds a Meet The Parents wrinkle, an intelligently-handled cross-cultural mélange, and a heartbreaking medical tragedy – together concocting a romcom quite unlike the usual disposable date-night dross. Kumail Nanjiani's semi-autobiographical tale is a humble, low-key affair, but wrings big belly laughs and genuine pathos from his own life in impressive soul-baring fashion.
What we thought: “From the outset, this sparky culture-clashing romcom has a modern edge.” Read Empire’s review.
7. War For The Planet Of The Apes
It might not have the might of Marvel or the star power or Star Wars, but the Planet Of The Apes franchise has slowly but surely regained ground since being successfully rebooted in 2011 (ignore the Tim Burton 're-imagining', if you know what's good for you). Here, the prequel series gracefully completes the arc of alpha ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) in immensely satisfying fashion – and finally uses poo-slinging as a pivotal form of weaponry.
What we thought: “Thanks to an evocative story and the most realistic anthropoids you’ll find outside a zoo, this third Apes is the strongest yet.” Read Empire’s review.
6. Manchester By The Sea
A three-hour independent drama about mourning and death does not immediately sound like a barrel of laughs – and yet Manchester By The Sea is unexpectedly hilarious in places. It's also devastatingly sad, of course, largely testament to Casey Affleck's awards-hoovering performance as Lee, a grieving handyman struggling to comprehend his emotions or his new responsibilities as a guardian. Quiet and pensive on the surface, Manchester By The Sea rings loudly and powerfully in your ears after watching.
What we thought: “Masterfully told and beautifully acted, Manchester By The Sea is a shattering yet graceful elegy of loss and grief. ” Read Empire’s review.
After seventeen years, nine films, and a lot of sideburn trimming, Hugh Jackman finally hung up his Wolverine claws this year. And what a difference seventeen years makes. Though the adamantium skeleton of this film is undoubtedly 'superhero movie', the flesh is 'classical filmmaking': down-to-earth, gritty, more human than mutant. James Mangold delivers an unapologetic riposte to the "city-block-destroying CG fuckathons" that have dominated the genre; while Jackman saves his best performance in the role for last.
What we thought: “The best Wolverine movie yet: grown-up, ballsy, character-driven and grounded. ” Read Empire’s review.
4. Get Out
As far as timeliness goes, Get Out, could not be more 2017: offering a profound comment on race and culture in modern America at a time when such a national conversation had reached fever pitch. And for all its expedient smarts, it is also an unbelievably entertaining horror with lashings of comedy, one best watched in a noisy cinema with giant buckets of popcorn. Its 99% Rotten Tomatoes score and record-breaking box-office could not be more richly deserved.
What we thought: “One of the most exciting new directing voices we’ve seen in a while. ” Read Empire’s review.
3. Baby Driver
It's been half a decade since Edgar Wright last directed a film. What a relief to find the caffeine-fuelled wunderkind has not weakened his espresso order. Swapping Cornettos for car-chases, Baby Driver is part heist-movie, part Busby Berkeley musical, all hyper-kinetic cinematic acrobatics. It's not as purely funny as Wright's previous work but that's deliberate: this is a 1970s thriller for a 2010s audience.
What we thought: “An awe-inspiring piece of filmmaking from Edgar Wright. Sweet, funny and utterly original — you won’t see a film like it this year. ” Read Empire’s review.
2. La La Land
As with any film which earns an unprecedented tornado of praise, an inevitable backlash crept up around La La Land. Fear not: it'll take more than a few haughty thinkpieces to wipe the sunny smile off this film's face. The colour, music, dancing, sparkle and joy of Damien Chazelle's modern-day musical is infectious, and happily there is no cure. There's a reason it's the highest new entry in our recent 100 Greatest Movies poll.
What we thought: “Audacious, retro, funny and heartfelt, La La Land is the latest great musical for people who don’t like musicals – and will slap a mile-wide smile across the most miserable of faces.” Read Empire’s review.
Forget the Oscar kerfuffle. In years to come, we won't be talking about Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway's unfortunate envelope malfunction; we'll be talking about the impact and influence of Moonlight, an astonishing and deeply powerful piece of work, and a Best Picture winner truly worthy of that title. A staggering elegy on loneliness, masculinity, poverty, addiction, and race, it speaks volumes through spare, personal, generational storytelling, with faultless performances across the board. The symphonic cinematography will move you; the stark vulnerability of the three leads playing Chiron will haunt you.
What we thought: “The beauty of Moonlight is that it makes everything not only feel keenly relevant, but also somehow beautiful." Read Empire’s review.