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SXSW 2017: The Best Films and Performances — Critics Survey

Critics vote on the highlights from this year's Austin gathering.

“The Disaster Artist”

Like most successful American film festivals, SXSW has long appealed to a number of different audiences. The festival’s competition sections highlight work from established industry vets and up-and-comers. It’s also become a place for high-profile premieres of some anticipated spring favorites.

That holistic approach is sometimes reflected in the response from critics covering the festival. This year, 10 of them shared their favorite films from SXSW 2017, the results were quite diverse.

Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver,” the big studio premiere in this year’s slate, received the most support among the new titles, although Sundance hit “The Big Sick” was a tough more popular. Joining them in the top three was “Free Fire,” Ben Wheatley’s minimalist action movie that premiered in Toronto last fall.

We also asked critics to single out a few of their favorite performances. Those categories yielded a similar spread of diverse picks, but a few did rise above the fold. Noel Wells and James Franco (appearing in their own films “Mr. Roosevelt” and “The Disaster Artist,” respectively), Lola Kirke (“Gemini”), Harry Dean Stanton (“Lucky”) and Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”) all appeared on multiple ballots.

Here are the top 10 narrative features from SXSW 2017 according to 10 critics:

1. “The Big Sick”
2. “Baby Driver”
3. “Free Fire”
4. “Colossal”
5. “Atomic Blonde”
6. Lucky
7. Gemini
8. Win It All
9. Mr. Roosevelt
10. Prevenge

Here are the top 10 documentary features from SXSW 2017 from the same group:

1. The Work
2. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
3. Muppet Guys Talking
4. Becoming Bond
5. Rat Film
6. Disgraced
7. Mommy Dead and Dearest
8. Ramblin’ Freak
9. Unrest

The full list of respondents, their picks and some additional thoughts about this year’s festival are below.

“Win It All”

Jason Bailey
Flavorwire

Best Narrative Feature
1. Win It All
2. Atomic Blonde
3. Gemini
4. Most Beautiful Island
5. Colossal

Best Documentary
1. Disgraced
2. Mommy Dead and Dearest
3. David Lynch: The Art Life
4. California Dreams
5. Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall

Best Lead Performance
1. Lola Kirke, Gemini
2. Ana Asensio, Most Beautiful Island
3. Jake Johnson, Win It All
4. Wyatt Cenac, Fits and Starts
5. Francesca Eastwood, M.F.A.

Best Supporting Performance
1. Zoë Kravitz, Gemini
2. Dave Franco, The Disaster Artist
3. Joe Lo Truglio, Win It All
4. Greta Lee, Fits and Starts
5. Robert Forster, Small Town Crime

Best First Feature
1. Most Beautiful Island
2. DRIB
3. Fits and Starts
4. Lemon

Harry Dean Stanton Lucky

“Lucky”

Erik Childress
eFilmCritic/WGN Radio

Best Narrative Feature
1. Lucky
2. The Big Sick
3. Small Town Crime
4. Hot Summer Nights
5. Baby Driver

Best Documentary
1. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
2. Muppet Guys Talking

Best Lead Performance
1. James Franco, The Disaster Artist
2. Harry Dean Stanton, Lucky
3. John Hawkes, Small Town Crime
4. Bill Pullman, The Ballad of Lefty Brown
5. Anne Hathaway, Colossal

Best Supporting Performance
1. Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
2. Jason Sudeikis, Colossal
3. Ray Romano, The Big Sick
4. Maika Monroe, Hot Summer Nights

Best First Feature
1. Lucky
2. Hot Summer Nights
3. A Bad Idea Gone Wrong

Free Fire

“Free Fire”

Kerry Brown

Matt Donato
We Got This Covered

Best Narrative Feature
1. Free Fire
2. Prevenge
3. Colossal
4. The Disaster Artist
5. Mayhem

Best Lead Performance
1. James Franco, The Disaster Artist
2. Brianna Hildebrand, Tragedy Girls
3. Alexandra Shipp, Tragedy Girls
4. Addison Timlin, Like Me
5. Eric Ruffin, The Transfiguration

Best Supporting Performance
1. Dave Franco, The Disaster Artist
2. Jon Hamm, Baby Driver
3. Chloe Levine, The Transfiguration
4. Sharlto Copley, Free Fire
5. Josh Hutcherson, Tragedy Girls/The Disaster Artist

Best First Feature
1. Prevenge
2. Like Me
3. Most Beautiful Island
4. Lemon
5. Mr. Roosevelt

the work

“The Work”

SXSW

Eric Kohn
IndieWire

Best Narrative Feature
1. Bad Lucky Goat
2. Baby Driver
3. Gemini
4. The Disaster Artist
5. La Barracuda

Best Documentary
1. The Work
2. I Am Another You
3. Rat Film
4. Unrest
5. Barbecue

Best First Feature
1. Bad Lucky Goat
2. Rat Film
3. Unrest
4. Assholes
5. Lemon

“Ramblin’ Freak”

Sean Malin
Austin Chronicle/Filmmaker Magazine/Cinemalin

Best Narrative Feature
1. The Big Sick
2. Lemon
3. Free Fire
4. La Barracuda
5. The Strange Ones

Best Documentary
1. Ramblin’ Freak
2. The Work
3. The Secret Life of Lance Letscher
4. May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers
5. Walk With Me

Best Lead Performance
1. Sophie Reid, La Barracuda
2. James Freedson-Jackson, The Strange Ones
3. Brett Gelman, Lemon
4. Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
5. Allison Tolman, La Barracuda

Best Supporting Performance
1. Ray Romano, The Big Sick
2. Sharlto Copley, Free Fire
3. Michael Cera, Lemon
4. Michael Fassbender, Song to Song
5. Cat, Ramblin’ Freak

Best First Feature
1. Lemon
2. Ramblin’ Freak
3. The Secret Life of Lance Letscher
4. Hounds of Love
5. The Work

“Baby Driver”

Neil Miller
Film School Rejects

Best Narrative Feature
1. Baby Driver
2. The Big Sick
3. Free Fire
4. Colossal
5. Tragedy Girls

Best Documentary
1. Muppet Guys Talking
2. Trophy
3. Becoming Bond
4. Chasing Coral
5. The Work

Best Lead Peformance
1. Ansel Englort, Baby Driver
2. Alexandra Shipp, Tragedy Girls
3. Noel Wells, Mr. Roosevelt
4. Armie Hammer, Free Fire
5. Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick

Best Supporting Performance
1. Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
2. Sharlto Copley, Free Fire
3. Sofia Boutella, Atomic Blonde
4. Daniella Pineda, Mr. Roosevelt
5. Brie Larson, Free Fire

Best First Feature
1. Mr. Roosevelt
2. Lemon
3. Most Beautiful Island
4. The Relationtrip
5. Easy Living

Kenneth R. Morefield
1More Film Blog

Best Documentary
1. The Work
2. Served Like a Girl
3. Unrest
4. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
5. Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo

“Colossal”

Kristy Puchko
CBR / The Playlist

Best Narrative Feature
1. Colossal
2. Atomic Blonde
3. Tragedy Girls
4. Baby Driver
5. Prevenge

Best Lead Performances
1. Anne Hathaway, Colossal
2. Charlize Theron, Atomic Blonde
3. Alice Lowe, Prevenge
4. Jake Johnson, Win It All
5. Alexandra Shipp, Tragedy Girls

Best Supporting Performance
1. Jason Sudeikis, Colossal
2. James McAvoy, Atomic Blonde
3. Jon Hamm, Baby Driver
4. Josh Hutcherson, Tragedy Girls
5. James Franco, The Disaster Artist

Nobody Speak

“Nobody Speak”

Courtesy of Sundance

Christopher Llewellyn Reed
Hammer to Nail

I was very impressed with the production quality of much of what I saw, both in the documentary and narrative categories. The DPs are all doing an amazing job.

Best Narrative Feature
1. Easy Living
2. The Transfiguration
3. Hounds of Love
4. The Big Sick
5. Fits and Starts
I also liked “Flesh and Blood,” “Free Fire,” “Gemini,” “Strange Ones”… and 2/3 of “Baby Driver.” The above five are definitely my Top 5, however.

Best Documentary
1. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
2. Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web
3. Rat Film
4. Maineland
5. Mommy Dead and Dearest
I also really liked “Barbecue,” “California Dreams,” “Dealt,” “Pornocracy,” “Trophy,” “Unrest,” “The Work.” The difference between how I feel about one film vs. another are negligible. A very strong documentary program, overall.

Best Lead Performance
1. Caroline Dhavernas, Easy Living
2. Ashleigh Cummings, Hounds of Love
3. Lola Kirke, Gemini
4. James Freedson-Jackson, The Strange Ones
5. Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick

Best Supporting Performance
1. Zoe Kazan, The Big Sick
2. Alex Pettyfer, The Strange Ones
3. John Cho, Gemini
4. Jon Hamm, Baby Driver
5. Armie Hammer, Free Fire

Best First Feature
1. Easy Living
2. Hounds of Love
3. Fits and Starts
4. Rat Film
5. The Blood is at the Doorstep
“Barbecue,” “Unrest” – 6 and 7

Mr. Roosevelt

“Mr. Roosevelt”

Dagmar Weaver-Madsen

Jason Whyte
Jason Whyte Media, efilmcritic.com

Noel Wells gives one of the best comedic performances ever in the movies in “Mr. Roosevelt.” This was the one movie I was wishing I could see twice at the festival but was unable to.

A very solid year for movies at the festival this year and I am looking forward to SxSW 2018!

Best Narrative Feature
1. Mr. Roosevelt
2. Small Town Crime
3. Person to Person
4. Lucky
5. Lemon

Best Documentary
1. Becoming Bond
2. Dealt
3. Long Strange Trip
4. Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live… and More
5. Let There Be Light

Best Lead Performance
1. Noel Wells, Mr. Roosevelt
2. Harry Dean Stanton, Lucky
3. Melissa Leo, The Most Hated Woman in America
4. Josh Lawson, Becoming Bond
5. James Franco, The Disaster Artist

Best Supporting Performance
1. Zoe Kazan, The Big Sick
2. David Lynch, Lucky
3. Philip Baker Hall, Person To Person
4. Brett Gelman, Lemon
5. Tavi Gevinson, Person To Person

Best First Feature
1. Mr. Roosevelt
2. Lucky
3. Lemon
4. Fits and Starts
5. Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo

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