We all like a good movie to have good actors and an interesting story, but often films are defined by their visual excellence, as is the case with so many releases this year. So, here are my picks for the top 10 most beautiful films of 2017.
10. Mary And The Witch’s Flower
Although the film itself may not quite have lived up to expectations, the one thing Mary And The Witch’s Flower really excelled in was bringing back the visual magic of Studio Ghibli, which we haven’t seen on the big screen since 2015.
With absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn animation that harkens back to the king of all anime studios, the film is a visually delightful experience, whisking you away to a land of wizards and witches with its vibrant and beautifully imaginative animation from start to finish, making a somewhat less-than-stellar story into a heartwarming and consistently uplifting experience.
9. Beauty And The Beast
Beauty And The Beast absolutely dominated the box office earlier this year, and although the film may not have been so dominant in our minds for the rest of the year, its visual extravagance certainly has.
A beautifully-crafted fairytale from the hands of Disney, the film is full of exquisite and dazzling sets, costumes and colours from beginning to end, all of which bring even more of a heartwarming and delightful fairytale vibe to it, and in tandem with exceptional visual effects to create the Beast, as well as the film’s wonderful soundtrack, it all makes for a truly wonderful and visually remarkable watch.
8. Thor: Ragnarok
Prior to this third edition in the series, Thor was the dullest and most boring side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the horribly bleak and grey finale to the intensely underwhelming The Dark World proving the franchise’s low point.
However, Thor: Ragnarok flips the series completely on its head, and explodes in a dazzling array of colours and action, with Marvel’s endlessly brilliant visual effects combining with director Taika Watiti’s passionate and energetic delivery of an 80s comic book-style adventure movie, leaving you sitting wide-eyed as you watch two hours of pure joy unfold before you.
7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Yes, its story and twists may remain intensely controversial amongst the Star Wars fan community, but there’s no denying that The Last Jedi is an absolute visual masterpiece.
From beginning to end, the film combines the epic elegance of the space opera series with a new, dark atmosphere, eccentuated by the extreme use of the colour red in some of the film’s most visually exhilarating scenes. The Last Jedi retains all of the epic excitement that makes this sci-fi series so legendary, but it goes one step beyond with its visuals, at times (particularly in its final act) looking more like a piece of art than a typical Hollywood blockbuster, something that will undoubtedly leave you jaw-dropped.
6. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
Much like Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is another big hitter from Marvel that went insane with the colour palette this year.
Although there are very occasionally moments when the kaleidoscope of hues is a little bit over the top, this film is a visual extravaganza wherever you look. The poster above alone is enough to tell you that this film is one of the most colourful blockbusters ever made, but the film itself is teeming with life and beautiful energy thanks to its exceptional visuals, and in conjuction with some brilliant visual effects throughout, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is a film that you will not want to take your eyes off at any moment.
You wouldn’t expect the most intense war film in years to fit the label ‘beautiful’, but Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece Dunkirk really does.
Alongside the film’s exceptional pacing and heart-racing metronome backing score, Nolan directs the film incredibly elegantly, bringing the huge scale of the Dunkirk evacuation to life, as well as brilliantly portraying the claustrophobia and intensity of true battle. Above all, however, the film features some truly beautiful aerial dogfights set over the English Channel, culminating in the iconic finale as a Spitfire glides in to land on the beaches of Northern France. Yes, Dunkirk is a very intense film, but it also has some of the year’s most beautiful and moving scenes, making it an equally visually exhilarating watch.
4. War For The Planet Of The Apes
War For The Planet Of The Apes is arguably the most unique and elegant blockbuster in years. Not only does it work as a touching and riveting character piece, but also as a deeply moving and visually enthralling watch thanks to its truly beautiful cinematography.
Set in the continuing warzone between apes and humans, the film follows Caesar as he treks across the landscape of the United States on horseback, traversing thick forests, deep caverns, expansive beaches, and snowy regions, a variety of settings that not only emphasises the scale of his voyage at the end of this trilogy, but also provides a visually splendorous look to the film, which further matches the uniquely elegant and poignant atmosphere of the story. This isn’t a film that shows off with big colour explosions and graphics, but instead uses simple but beautifully graceful real-world settings to make for a visually enthralling and truly moving watch.
3. Loving Vincent
It’s not all that often that we see world firsts in the movies nowadays, but Loving Vincent accomplishes just that by being the first-ever fully hand-painted feature film.
On the face of things, that may sound like a gimmick, but the true brilliance of this film is that it accomplishes that seemingly impossible task of having every single frame painted by hand, and still doesn’t detract from the story at hand. It still baffles me to think how such a feat could have been achieved, but to see an entire film on the big screen painted for you, in the style of Vincent van Gogh no less, makes for a truly unique experience, and heightens the powerfully dreamlike and pleasant atmosphere that makes Loving Vincent itself a truly beautiful film.
Pixar have always been masters at delivering some of the most visually dazzling animations in recent years, and they may have just made their most beautiful in Coco.
Apart from the story’s own moving emotional power, Coco is a movie that’s absolutely teeming with life and energy in every corner. Its biggest hallmark is the dazzling orange glow that it gives to every scene, something that works brilliantly to warm your heart while still working well in the film’s Day Of The Dead setting, however it also succeeds in providing a wonderfully vibrant and consistently exhilarating portrayal of the Mexican festival. Combining delightful animation of the skeletons in the Land of the Dead with the typically energetic and endlessly entertaining Pixar style, it all comes together to make a film that will not only move you deep down, but will have your eyes wide open as you dazzle at an hour and a half of truly wonderful animation.
1. Blade Runner 2049
In the end, while there have been so many visually wonderful and thrilling films over the course of 2017, there’s only one that still blows my mind when it comes to its ambition in creating an entirely new world: Blade Runner 2049.
Capturing the unique essence of the original Blade Runner, this sequel is a deeply eerie and atmospheric dystopian sci-fi drama, in which there are hundreds of thrilling and visually intriguing little details hidden in every single scene. It’s a film that’s directed exceptionally by Denis Villeneuve, who retains the dark and almost biblical atmosphere of the original, while its cinematography from the legendary Roger Deakins is a constant wonder to behold, as it leaves you in awe of some of the most ambitious, vibrant and imaginative depictions of a near future, ranging from the iconic mega-holograma pointing towards Ryan Gosling, to the sandy and bleak wastelands and everything in between.
Even if you weren’t a fan of the original Blade Runner, I would thoroughly recommend this just on the back of its visual brilliance, and you’ll be able to see what is undoubtedly the most beautiful film of 2017.