12 films to look out for in 2017

Did you set yourself a new year’s resolution to watch more movies? If so, you’re in luck.
12 films to look out for in 2017

Still from Annihalation 

Every year is a great year to head to the cinema. Every year has its highlights. 2017 won’t be an exception.

As tends to be the case every January, many audiences are still waiting to see a few of the films we were keen on this time last year: The Unknown Girl, The Commune and Free Fire have played a select number of local festivals, but haven’t shown up elsewhere yet; The Bad Batch is yet to grace an Australian screen and no doubt some readers will still be catching up on last year's highlights.


Read: The best films of 2016

But there is a new batch on its way.  Recognisable names are still in vogue throughout 2017, courtesy of the likes of T2: TrainspottingThe LEGO Batman MovieBlade Runner 2049Thor: RagnarokThe Fate of the FuriousAlien: CovenantThe Trip to SpainWar for the Planet of the ApesJohn Wick: Chapter 2, the Cloverfield-related God Particle and Paddington 2.

Lovers of earlier editions of these will already be lining up for these sequels but add the next twelve to your list as well. In a year destined to be filled with plenty of cinema, consider these our must-see tips.

The Nightingale

After crafting one of the best Australian horror films not only of recent years, but in the country’s history, The Babadook’s Jennifer Kent takes the dramatic route for her next directorial effort. The Nightingale will see the second-time feature filmmaker jump back to 1829 as she dives into the story of a young female convict, an Indigenous tracker and their quest for both revenge and survival in a time of violence.


First, Alex Garland was best known for writing backpacker novel The Beach. Then, he was the screenwriter behind Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later… and Sunshine. With 2015’s Ex Machina, he became an exciting filmmaker in his own right — and he continues his fascination with science fiction with Annihilation. Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson and Oscar Isaac star in an adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, which explores a team venturing into an area abandoned by the rest of civilisation.


Two Todd Haynes’ film in two years? If Australian release dates align, we might be so lucky. Carol was one of 2016’s most affecting viewing experiences. Wonderstruck signals a change of pace,  narratively speaking, though Haynes’ lush visuals and vivid emotions are sure to remain. Based on the book by Hugo author Brian Selznick, it connects the plights of children living fifty years apart, with Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and Pete’s Dragon’s Oakes Fegley among the cast.


Ismaël’s Ghosts

 Come for the excellent acting talent, stay for the intriguing filmmaker, with Ismaël’s Ghosts boasting both. Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrel, Mathieu Amalric and Alba Rohrwacher fall into the former group, while the latter category spans two figures. Off screen, Arnaud Desplechin helms his ninth feature, with My Sex Life… or How I Got into an Argument, prequel My Golden Days and Jimmy P also on his resume. On screen, the film centres on a director making a movie that shares the same title as Desplechin’s effort, while also coping with his own ghosts.



Last time Bong Joon-ho directed an English-language feature, Snowpiercer was the end result. For his second film outside of South Korea, he re-teams with Tilda Swinton and enlists Jake Gyllenhaal, Lilly Colins, Paul Dano, Giancarlo Esposito, Shirley Henderson and Australia’s own Daniel Henshall in an movie about a young girl battling a multinational corporation to save her best friend, who happens to be the titular creature. And, for added interest, Okja is co-scripted by The Host filmmaker with writen and Frank scribe Jon Ronson.

The Thousand Miles

If anyone could take audiences on an animated journey inspired by and paying tribute to a filmmaking great, it’s Sylvain Chomet. And if anyone can do it twice, it’s the same person. In 2010, he already achieved that feat once with The Illusionist’s charming and heart-warming love letter to Jaques Tati — and with The Thousand Miles, he’ll do so again. This time, as setting the animated effort in 1950s Italy might give away, it’s Federico Fellini that’s in the spotlight.

Still from Casting JonBenet

Casting JonBenet

Screening at Sundance and destined for Netflix, although also likely to get a local festival run, Casting JonBenet sees Australian documentarian Kitty Green make her second full-length effort after 2013’s Ukraine is Not A Brothel. The film’s subject might be apparent; however don’t expect the latest to plunge into the well-known crime to simply cover the same territory or perspectives. Instead, it blends nonfiction, fiction, objectivity and subjectivity, as well as voices cast from the slain six-year-old’s own community.

Dark River

On paper, 2013’s The Selfish Giant seemed like the kind of film everyone has already seen before. Clio Barnard’s coming-of-age drama definitely wasn’t. Stepping into thriller territory in a tale about a daughter’s (Ruth Wilson) long-awaited return home following the death of her father, here’s hoping that her next movie won’t be either. Sean Bean also features — and yes, that means there’ll be plenty of guessing whether his character can stay alive.

The Shape of Water

Not content with finishing 2016 with the great all-ages small screen animation that is Netflix’s Trollhunters, Pacific Rim’s Guillermo del Toro heads back to cinemas with something that might sound familiar, but is certain to prove otherwise. Once again, the director of Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak plays with period settings and the supernatural, this time telling a tale that unravels during the Cold War. Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins star.


Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut Mustang was one of the hits of the 2015 festival circuit, as well as an Oscar nominee in 2016, making her follow-up effort eagerly anticipated. Kings is currently filming, and mightn’t make it to cinemas in 2017, but we’ll keep hoping. The 1992-set drama features Daniel Craig and Halle Berry, and charts the lives of a foster family living in South Central Los Angeles in the weeks before the violence sparked by the Rodney King trial.

The Modern Ocean

Another film that we’re hoping reaches screens in 2017, The Modern Ocean endeavours what might appear to be a tricky task, particularly to those uninterested in shipping routes: turn competition over ocean trade into compelling viewing. The film will make the third feature from Upstream Color writer/director Shane Carruth, who recently leant his composing skills to stellar 2015 television series The Girlfriend Experience. As for those taking the voyage, the cast includes Anne Hathaway, Keanu Reeves, Daniel Radcliffe, Chloe Grace Moretz, Tom Holland, Asa Butterfield, Jeff Goldblum and Beasts of No Nation’s Abraham Attah.


Because cinema is an industry that’s all about timing, Luxembourg might also slip onto 2018’s calendar, with the film currently in production. After the gripping cinematic experience that was The Tribe, Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi’s latest movie will be worth the wait, whenever it makes it to screens. The Ukranian director ventures into Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone — an area that’s around the same sizes as the titular European country — for his next powerful tale.

Sarah Ward

Thursday 5 January, 2017

About the author

Sarah Ward is a freelance film critic, arts and culture writer, and film festival organiser. She is the Australia-based critic for Screen International, a film reviewer and writer for ArtsHub, the weekend editor and a senior writer for Concrete Playground, a writer for the Goethe-Institut Australien’s Kino in Oz, and a contributor to SBS, SBS Movies and Flicks Australia. Her work has been published by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Junkee, FilmInk, Birth.Movies.Death, Lumina, Senses of Cinema, Broadsheet, Televised Revolution, Metro Magazine, Screen Education and the World Film Locations book series. She is also the editor of Trespass Magazine, a film and TV critic for ABC radio Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, and has worked with the Brisbane International Film Festival, Queensland Film Festival, Sydney Underground Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival. Follow her on Twitter: @swardplay