Summer 2017’s best movies: from Scarlett Johansson’s hen night to Morrissey’s teen years

June 17,  2017

By Andrew Pulver, Gwilym Mumford and Peter Bradwhaw


The first of the year’s two biopics about Sir Winston. The autumn will see Gary Oldman offering blood, sweat, tears and toil in Darkest Hour, but this take on the great man focuses on a less glorious period in his life: the run-up to D-day, when his misgivings about the invasion of Normandy were swept aside. Brian Coxmakes for an impressively fragile, self-doubting Churchill, approaching his own political Waterloo at the 1945 general election.

Whitney: Can I Be Me

Nick Broomfield gives Whitney Houston the Amy treatment in a documentary that traces the singer’s remarkable rise and premature demise. Knitting together archive and home video footage with testimony from figures close to Houston, Broomfield interrogates the circumstances that contributed to her troubled life, from her alleged bisexuality to her drug and alcohol addictions and difficult marriage to Bobby Brown. It’s likely to make for stark, sobering viewing.

The Graduate: 50th Anniversary 4k Restoration

Half a century on, Mike Nichols’ fable of suburban angst and inter-generational alienation looks just as relevant in its anatomy of a directionless, self-involved twentysomething baffled by life. It was a film that made a huge star of Dustin Hoffman and showcased some soon-to-be-classic Simon and Garfunkel; what perhaps gets lost at this distance is what a monster commercial hit this was in 1967. It really hit a nerve.

Edith Walks

The British artist and film-maker Andrew Kötting is probably best known for his 1996 coastal trip Gallivant, or the 2012 Iain Sinclair collaboration Swandown, in which the pair rode a swan pedalo from Hastings to Hackney. This latest work travels from Waltham Abbey to St Leonards-on-Sea for a spectral reunion of Harold Godwinson, defeated by William the Conqueror at Hastings, and his wife, Edith Swanneck, commemorated by a statue in St Leonards.


It’s a shame that most audiences won’t get to see Bong Joon-ho’s extravaganza on the big screen. It has a limited cinema release, but otherwise it’s Netflix only. It is the kind of exciting, sweet-natured but distinctly raucous children’s adventure that Roald Dahl could have imagined. Mija is a little girl who has grown up looking after Okja, a hippo-sized pig, in the Korean mountains. Then the evil US food tech corporation run by Tilda Swinton that owns Okja’s DNA patent wants to take it away to New York. Mija has other ideas. Spectacular fun.

Baby Driver

After the early successes of Spaced and his Cornetto trilogy with messrs Pegg and Frost, Edgar Wright’s career hit a speed bump, with audiences proving immune to the charms of Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and the director exiting Marvel’s Ant-Man before photography commenced. Let’s hope Wright can turn things around with this exuberant action comedy, which stars Divergent’s Ansel Elgort as a gifted getaway driver who races around to a soundtrack of pop classics. Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx are part of a strong cast.


What a difference a year makes: when Laura Poitras’s documentary profile of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange premiered at Cannes last year it was reported as being similarly sympathetic in tone to her Edward Snowden doc, Citizenfour. But then came WikiLeaks’ murky involvement in the 2016 US election. Now, for the film’s proper release, Risk has been re-edited to include the goings-on across the pond. What will remain is the sense of clarity and urgency that colours much of Poitras’s work.

Despicable Me 3

The animated supervillain with Steve Carell’s wacky “Ryussian” accent and all his little yellow minions have become a hugely successful franchise – and Pharrell Williams’s Happy on the previous film’s soundtrack was a huge feelgood boost. Here’s the third in the series and, perhaps inevitably, the plot now brings in a twin and rival for Gru – called Dru (also Carell). Now they must settle their sibling-rivalry difference and face off against a new villain, former TV child star Balthazar Bratt, voiced by Trey Parker.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (3D)

Does the world need another Spider-Man reboot? Probably not, but there are at least encouraging signs that this latest revival, starring Tom Holland, will bring back some of the youthful vigour that the web-slinger lost in the more muted Andrew Garfield outing. Crucially, for the financial future of the franchise, the character has finally been knitted into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Homecoming seeing Peter Parker being mentored by Tony “Iron Man” Stark as he prepares to face a new foe: the Vulture.

Song to Song

Once enigmatically infrequent, Terrence Malick’s films now seem to arrive as regularly as those of any other film-maker. He’s in danger of becoming that most banal of things: prolific. His last, Knight of Cups, seemed almost self-parodic, so this new work will be anxiously awaited. It is the perhaps rather Linklaterish story of overlapping love triangles in the music scene of Austin, Texas. The cast includes Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling and Cate Blanchett, but quite possibly a few more actors who have been lost in the edit – a compositional quirk of the great director.

It Comes at Night

The huge success of Get Out suggests an appetite among audiences for a new mode of horror film – smart, socially conscious and largely free of the jump-scares and torture porn that have characterised the genre in recent times. This indie effort looks likely to tick all those new boxes. Concerning a violent rift between two families brought together during the spread of a dangerous virus, it offers up the sort of psychological scares that linger in the mind far longer than gratuitous gore.

War for the Planet of the Apes

More dystopian drama from the insurgent simian world. Here is the third in the impressive Apes reboot series, a long way now from Charlton Heston’s original astronaut crash-landing in 1968 on the planet where apes rule humans. Andy Serkis again provides the human performance template for Caesar, the genetically enhanced chimp raised by humans who leads a Spartacist revolt. Now he embarks on a new mission to avenge the suffering of his fellow chimps.

The Beguiled

Sofia Coppola won the director’s prize for this at Cannes: a more feminine and feminist retelling of the American civil war drama that Don Siegel filmed in 1971. It’s far less lurid, but robust, enjoyable and humorous storytelling, nonetheless. Colin Farrell plays a wounded Union deserter who finds himself begging for help at a girls’ school in Confederate territory, which is run by Nicole Kidman, and where there are no other menfolk. Sexual tension is the inevitable result.


Here it is, once again on the big screen: the military catastrophe that Britain’s wartime alchemy of propaganda somehow transformed into our almost-finest hour. The evacuation of British troops in 1940 from the beaches of Dunkirk gets an epic dramatisation from Christopher Nolan, with Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance. Joe Wright did Dunkirk very impressively in his version of Ian McEwan’s Atonement in 2007, and Leslie Norman’s 1958 version with Richard Attenborough and John Mills is fondly remembered. But Nolan is sure to bring the grandeur and the logistics.

City of Ghosts

Matthew Heineman’s 2015 drug war film Cartel Land was a documentary with the urgency of a thriller. Embedded with anti-cartel vigilante groups on both sides of the border, Heineman put himself directly in the line of fire, and captured some remarkable drama as a result. For his follow-up, he profiles another set of individuals risking life and limb in the pursuit of journalism, the Syrian organisation Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. It will be interesting to see how the director approaches RBSS’s more controversial aspects; the group has been accused of creating pro-Islamic State propaganda.


Basil Dearden’s gripping 1961 movie now gets a rerelease to coincide with the anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Dirk Bogarde is the brilliant barrister who is agonised about his gay (though unconsummated) yearnings in an age when gay men lived in a world of menacingly tense hints and implications, which were an influence on Pinter’s writing. It was a pioneering movie in its day, a vivid portrait of a certain clenched, self-hating English hypocrisy. Janet Green, who wrote the screenplay with John McCormick, crafts a lean, mean drama-thriller with a neat twist in the tail.

The Big Sick

The subject of a studio bidding war when it premiered at Sundance, Michael Showalter’s understated comedy looks set to be this year’s breakout indie hit. Written by comedian Emily Gordon and Silicon Valley actor Kumail Nanjiani, who also stars in the film, The Big Sick tells the story of the pair’s real-life relationship, Nanjiani’s Muslim parents’ opposition to it, and the mystery illness contracted by Gordon that eventually brought the two families together. Early word suggests a superior romcom full of pathos and sly humour.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

If you want subtlety, you are fresh out of luck. Here is the master of Gallic gung-ho, Luc Besson, with a sci-fi action adventure – based on the French comic series Valérian et Laureline – which may have a little of his earlier film The Fifth Elementabout it. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne play the two space cops on an intergalactic mission to tackle a dark force that threatens to destroy a colossal metropolis called Alpha, the nexus of almost every human culture.

The Emoji Movie

Every now and then, along comes a film that redefines what raw material can successfully be reconfigured as a blockbuster movie. Theme-park rides, toy robots, plastic building blocks: all have served. Now, arguably the flimsiest of all: those little Japanese pictures people stick in their texts. There’s a chance it could be genius, like The Lego Movie; the trailer shows clear borrowings from Pixar’s brilliant Inside Out. Smileyface. .

England Is Mine

… And it owes me a living. Steven Morrissey, erstwhile frontman of 80s indie darlings the Smiths and latterly Brexit apologist, gets his own biopic, which will zero in on Morrissey’s alienated teen years rather than daffodil-slinging glory days. Jack Lowden is Morrissey; Jessica Brown Findlay his experimental artist pal Linder Sterling. Its producers will be hoping for a similar result to their previous Ian Curtis biopic Control; it has been picked for the closing gala at the Edinburgh film festival on 2 July.

Atomic Blonde

One half of the team behind the bloodthirsty Keanu Reeves revenge thriller John Wick, David Leitch, has managed to parlay that film’s success into directing Deadpool 2. First, though, comes Atomic Blonde, which stars Charlize Theron as a ruthless MI6 superspy taking down Soviet operatives just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The trailer suggests another stylised burst of ultraviolence, with Theron on charismatic, kick-ass form. Just don’t call it “Jane Wick”.

A Ghost Story

David Lowery’s follow-up to Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has attracted admiring notices for its unusual take on the afterlife: ghosts in bed-sheets, long, patience-testing sequences, and some extended pie-eating (Rooney Mara devours one while overcome with grief for dead husband, Casey Affleck). Since Saints, Lowery has completed the kids fantasy Pete’s Dragon; this new film represents another abrupt about-turn in an interesting career.

The Dark Tower

In a year well stocked for Stephen King adaptations – a remake of It creeps into cinemas this autumn and a TV version of the Mist is on the way – this big-screen take on the author’s sprawling fantasy epic looks the most intriguing. The Dark Tower stars Idris Elba as The Gunslinger, a mysterious figure on a quest to stop Matthew McConaughey’s The Man in Black from destroying both his and our realities.


The gruesome Algiers Motel incident, in which three African-American men were murdered, apparently by law enforcement officials, during the 1967 Detroit riots, forms the core of the latest collaboration between director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal. Their previous work – The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty – was headline-grabbing and award-winning, so hopes are high for this restaging of a dark moment in the US’s fraught history of ethnic relations. Star Wars’ John Boyega leads the cast as Melvin Dismukes, a security guard charged but acquitted of the crime.

Logan Lucky

Like Ken Loach, Steven Soderbergh is a director whose self-proclaimed retirement was, thankfully, shortlived. Now he is at the helm of a heist comedy caper from first-time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt. It stars Adam Driver, Channing Tatum and Riley Keough as three siblings from a down-on-their-luck blue-collar family who plan to pull off a $14m robbery during a Nascar road race in North Carolina. Daniel Craig makes his first non-Bond or post-Bond appearance in cameo.

Rough Night

This bawdy black comedy from first-time director Lucia Aniello sees a hen do go horribly awry when the stripper ends up dead. (It’s weird how often that happens!) That Bridesmaids meets Very Bad Things set-up sounds derivative, but the cast looks promising enough to sell it: Scarlett Johansson, in her first truly comic role since Ghost World, 22 Jump Street’s Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer – one half of of Broad City – and Kate McKinnon, fresh from appearing as Hillary Clinton in Saturday Night Live.

The Square

Swedish film-maker Ruben Östlund had a stunning success at Cannes this year, carrying off the Palme d’Or for this art-world satire. It stars Claes Bang (from TV’s The Bridge) as a gallery director who becomes subtly unhinged when his mobile phone is stolen by pickpockets in a cunning theatrical scam. His malaise spreads through the museum, culminating in a gobsmacking sequence in which a situationist ape impersonator menaces wealthy patrons at a black-tie dinner. Freaky stuff.

American Made

Tom Cruise will be looking to bounce back from The Mummy, with what appears to be much more like the straight-ahead thriller he’s comfortable in. American Made is based on the attractive-rogue memoirs of Barry Seal, a pilot turned drug smuggler who ended up working for the US Drug Enforcement Administration and getting caught up in the Iran-Contra affair. It should also benefit from the action chops of Bourne Identity director Doug Liman.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Like Laura Poitras’s Risk, this sequel to Al Gore’s 2005 environmental exposé has been subject to some last-minute edits following the decision by Donald Trump to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement. Of course, Trump’s foolhardiness makes Gore’s new documentary even more essential viewing, as he identifies the global damage already done by climate change and the steps required to prevent things getting worse. Almost certainly the most terrifying film you’re likely to see this year.

God’s Own Country

“A Yorkshire Brokeback” is how this drama – from first-time director Francis Lee – is being touted: it’s about a frustrated and unhappy young man forced to work on the family farm after his father becomes ill. The arrival of a seasonal worker from Romania triggers an unsentimental romance, played out under harsh rural skies. God’s Own Country made a splash on its debut at Sundance in January; UK audiences will get their first chance to see it at the Edinburgh film festival on 21 June.


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