Halligan is Screen International’s chief film critic and reviews editor.
Read more: More critics pick best films of 2017
1. The Shape Of Water
Dir: Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo Del Toro’s open heart and the sweet honesty of his creature fable provided a fluid refuge from the tension of the year. Del Toro has the craft and the storytelling genius, clearly, but he lights this one up with love for all his outsiders, drawing superb performances from Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins. So many elements impress but the fact that, in 123 minutes, every character gets a life, a soul and a moving trajectory gives The Shape Of Water an emotional surge that just can’t be stoppered. CONTACT: Fox Searchlight
Dir: Samuel Maoz
A masterful film from the director of Lebanon, which plays off subject and tone with an unexpected audacity and grows to become a powerful single statement about modern Israel.
CONTACT: The Match Factory
3. Sweet Country
Dir: Warwick Thornton
Warwick Thornton confronts Australia’s racist history with this ravishingly shot story set in the Northern Territory during the 1920s.
CONTACT: Memento Films International
4. Get Out
Dir: Jordan Peele
In this brilliantly sharp subversion wrapped in a genre piece, Daniel Kaluuya finds himself embedded in a nightmare of 21st-century white racism.
CONTACT: Universal Pictures
5. God’s Own Country
Dir: Francis Lee
Francis Lee’s raw and uplifting debut is a brutally honest love story about a Yorkshire farmboy and a Romanian immigrant worker.
CONTACT: Protagonist pictures
Dir: Emer Reynolds
Like the Voyager probe whose life it documents, Emer Reynolds’ ambitious doc takes on big themes, reminding us of who we are and the petty scale of our travails against the vastness of the universe.
CONTACT: Kew Media Group
Life And Nothing More
Dir: Antonio Mendez Esparza
It is to be hoped that its two Independent Spirit nominations may lift this low-key story of a working-class black family in Florida out of the ‘undiscovered gem’ section and help it into the international marketplace. Life is a brilliant essay that packs a subtle punch. CONTACT: Film Constellation