I was lying, heavy with fever, in the overheated dark of a Spanish night a few days ago, trying to write this list in my head to distract from the clawed nightmares that seemed to reach for me in the blackness beyond my bed. And from that blackness, a voice emerged: “Do it, Lou. Put Geostorm on your best of the year list. That’s a great idea.”
Look, I am weirdly protective of Geostorm. It was fun, crisp, and bloody entertaining, and it didn’t deserve the easy piles of scorn that were dumped on it after it’s release. It’s not some groundbreaking masterwork but it does the job – films should, first and foremost, entertain, and that’s precisely what Geostorm did.
Bleak, brutal, and brilliant, the first superhero movie to bring a close to the story of one of it’s main characters did so with Hugh Jackman, Wolverine, and a whole lot of style. Logan was an imperfect movie but a boldly different one in an era when superhero movies increasingly vanish down the same problematic rabbitholes, and for me, the standout blockbuster of the year.
8. Jim & Andy
A Netflix original, this documentary stood out to me as one of the most compelling looks at mental illness, art, and identity I saw all year. Intercutting footage from the shooting of the Jim Carrey-led biopic Man on the Moon and interviews with a present-day Carrey commenting on the effect the role had on him at the time, Jim & Andy is equal parts frustrating, satisfying, confounding, and compelling.
There’s something about the twisted blankness of this movie that has clawed away at the back of my mind since I saw it a few months ago: the deliberate and controlled lack of emotion gives way to these striking, unsettling flashes of violence and passion. Slippery, strident, and striking, director Yorgos Lanthimos applies his ice-cold eye with awesome effect.
6. Get Out
There’s no getting away from just how superb Get Out was. An innovative and cerebral take on horror that didn’t try to distance itself from the camp at the genre’s center and propelled by a fantastic set of performances by Daniel Kaluuya, Alison Williams, and Caleb Landry Jones, it’s scary, memorable, and pushes the boundaries of my favourite movie genre.
Now, I’m no fan of Christopher Nolan, but Dunkirk is almost pointedly up my street. A war film that’s not really about war, I fell in love with it’s bleakness and it’s deft handling of interlocking story and timelines. A phenomenal soundtrack and a fantastic ensemble that not even Harry Styles could bring down are icing on the cake, and frankly if Cillian Murphy doesn’t get an Oscar nod for his small but unforgettable performance, I’ll start World War Three over it.
4. Lady Macbeth
You want a movie that’s going to fuck you up right-good? Lady Macbeth is over here, languishing in the lavishly-shot British countryside and featuring a couple of the best performances of the year from Florence Pugh and Cosmo Jarvis, just waiting for you to get stuck in. A lingering, simmering film that careers towards it’s sickening climax with a grim but unputdownable inevitability, Lady Macbeth is one of those films I’ll never watch again but that I’m glad I’ve already seen.
Ah, look, IT was just a pure shot of cinematic joy for me: I sat through the entire thing with a big-ass grin on my face and it instantly carved out this warm, fuzzy place in my heart that it will have to work hard to make me forget about (don’t fail me now, Part Two). Scary, funny, rollicking, and warm, IT wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t care.
2. The Death of Stalin
The Death of Stalin is, no doubt, the best comedy of this year: as I wrote when we started this site, it’s perfect marriage of the unrelenting misery and sadism under the Stalinist regime lends the comedy an almost relieving nature by comparison. Brilliantly performed, particularly thanks to a chilling Simon Russel Beale, and inspired in it’s frenetic execution, Death of Stalin is a reminder of how sharp and how taut the comedy can be if we’re willing to ask for more.
This was the first film I saw this year and it’s still my favourite. A sweeping religious epic set in Medieval Japan, it’s a hard sell, even for someone who adores history and loves director Martin Scorcese’s other work – but it’s hard to remember the last time I was so hypnotized by a movie, by every aspect of it – the writing, direction, performances, the teasing out of the broad and yet intensely specific themes. It’s perhaps Scorcese’s most ambitious work, and for me, his most successful. This film hacked out a place in my head that I have come back to often since I first walked out of that cinema, and that’s the best compliment I can give it.