Venice Film Festival 2017: Top films worth seeing

New movies by George Clooney, Ai Weiwei and Guillermo del Toro are creating a buzz

George Clooney
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Venice Film Festival opens today, marking for many the real start of the Oscars race given the event's track record for turning out future Academy Award winners.

This year's festival runs from 30 August - 9 September and has summoned Hollywood heavyweights George Clooney, Darren Aronofsky and Alexander Payne, along with arthouse luminaries Ai Weiwei and Abdellatif Kechiche.

It's the world's oldest film festival and is seen as the launch pad for films that have gone onto Academy Awards success, including Spotlight Gravity and La La Land.

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Here are the films to look out for at this year's festival:


George Clooney directed this crime comedy, based on a Coen brothers script and starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac. Suburbicon is a peaceful, suburban community where the Lodge family live happily until the summer of 1959 when they discover the dark underbelly of their seemingly idyllic town. Gardner Lodge (Damon) must confront mobsters, threats, death and strange happenings. "It's like the world of Pleasantville was suddenly invaded by criminals," says Slashfilm.


Alexander Payne, known for Sideways and Nebraska, directs this sci-fi comedy drama with Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin and Neil Patrick Harris. It tells the story of a married couple who decide that shrinking themselves will solve their financial problems. But the wife (Wiig) backs out at the last minute. Variety calls it a "ticklish and resonant crowd pleaser for grown-ups".

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro wrote and directed this fantasy drama, starring Sally Hawkins. Set during the Cold War, it sees Hawkins as a mute janitor who discovers a curious amphibious creature in a government laboratory water tank and forms an unlikely friendship with it. Slashfilm calls it a "bewitching love story" and a "macabre fairy tale".


Writer and director Darren Aronofsky is known for his dark, emotionally gruelling tales. Jennifer Lawrence stars in this psychological horror film in which the tranquil life of a young couple (Lawrence and Javier Bardem) is disturbed by the arrival of some creepy uninvited visitors (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer). "Mother! might be the most alarming entry in Aronofsky's two-decade career," says Vulture.

Human Flow

Ai Weiwei's new documentary tackles the issue of global migration and movement prompted by the refugee crisis. Ai Weiwei has previously created artworks based on the refugee crisis, including a performance in which he posed as a dead infant washed ashore in Turkey, but this is his first feature-length work. It was shot in 23 countries.

Loving Pablo

Penelope Cruz plays a journalist who falls for the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, played by Javier Bardem, in this film based on the best-selling Spanish-language memoir Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar. While the story of Escobar may be well known, thanks to Narcos, this film expands a lesser-known chapter of his life and is also a chance to see this talented, real-life couple on screen.

The Phantom Thread

The new film from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice, The Master) sees the return of Daniel Day-Lewis to the big screen. The story is set in the fashion world of 1950s London, with Day-Lewis as Charles James, a designer for high society and the royal family. It may be the last chance to see the multi-Academy Award winning actor as he retired earlier this year.

Victoria and Abdul

Stephen Frears directs Judi Dench as Queen Victoria in this historic drama about the friendship between the aging monarch and her Indian clerk Abdul Karim (played by Ali Fazal). Abdul travels from India for the Queen's Golden Jubilee and finds a surprising connection with the Queen, who has begun to question the constrictions of her long-held position. Meanwhile, her inner circle attempt to destroy the friendship.

Angels Wear White

Vivian Qu becomes China's first female director to compete in Venice for more than 20 years. Qu, a well-known figure in Chinese independent cinema, has produced the gritty thriller Night Train and the Golden Bear-winner Black Coal, Thin Ice. Her new feature, Angels Wear White, tells the story of a teenage girl who witnesses two girls being assaulted at a hotel, but says nothing for fear of losing her job as a receptionist. Meanwhile, one of the victims discovers her problems have only just started.

Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno

Abdellatif Kechiche gained notoriety for his erotic lesbian love story Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2013. He later sold his Cannes trophy to help fund his follow-up project, Mektoub, after it ran into financial difficulties, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Mektoub is based on Francois Begaudeau's novel La Blessure and follows a young screenwriter, Amin, as he returns to his Mediterranean home town over the summer, falls in love and faces tough choices.

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