The Edge’s Top 20 Films of 2017

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After a mercurial 2016, film in 2017 bit back and pushed itself once again. Aside from the Oscar’s debacle, numerous celebrities being rightfully taken down by sexual assault allegations and the whole ‘Fans vs Critics’ narrative, Hollywood has had a smoother ride this year and in the process has produced a number of excellent films which are both familiar and different to what we expect. A movie about a killer clown took over the worldwide box office, a man from New Zealand put Jeff Goldblum and Cate Blanchett in a superhero movie, and Dwayne Johnson kicked a missile into a bad guy, in no other medium can we be treated to such innovation. Anyway, bonkers movie moments aside, The Edge writers have come together to vote on their favourite films of the year and here are the top 20…

20. Hidden Figures, dir. by Theodore Melfi

Hidden Figures follows the story of three African-American women, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, who work at NASA. The film tells a triumphant tale of overcoming racism in the 1960s and each woman has their own story with the same goal: to do the impossible, and putting a man into space isn’t even the start of it.

Taraji P Henson steals the show with her stand out performance. The moment she raises her voice at the top engineers makes you hold your breath as you anticipate their reaction. Henson’s story is the main focus with her evolving love life and struggle as a single mum, raising her three young girls. Kevin Costner joins Henson’s fight for what’s right, the moment he smashes down the segregated bathroom sign will stick in your memory as you remember that this point in history was not that long ago.

Hidden Figures tells a history that you never knew existed. It shows how three women from Virginia pushed the boundaries of race to accomplish what was then seen as impossible by those around them. Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson are now receiving the recognition they deserve as the ones who first put an American man into space.

Words by Rebecca Withers – read our original review here.

19. The Florida Project, dir. by Sean Baker

It rather aptly sums up 2017 that a film like The Florida Project can sneak its way into our top 20. A wholly unique and unconventional gem, The Florida Project is the most human and realistic film of the year. With little in the way of a plot, the story of The Florida Project is simply a glimpse into a certain area of life; American poverty, a form of poverty which is largely forgotten at that.

Through the use of non-professional actors, with the exception of the outstanding Willem Dafoe, Sean Baker crafts a touching film, filled with both joy and humour on the one hand, and despair and devastation on the other. It’s all in the acting, coupled with the film’s incredible cinematography and editing, that Baker so vividly depicts this world and its insignificant place in this moment in time. The work of the aforementioned Dafoe, as well as Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite, allows us a further emotional connection and access point for the film, their touching performances are not showy or exaggerated, they are steeped in such realness that The Florida Project almost becomes too real to watch.

In spite of its unconventional approach, The Florida Project fought its way into The Edge‘s Top 20, and had it come to more people’s attention, I have no doubts that it would place significantly higher. For now though, it remains a fantastic film.

Words by David Mitchell-Baker – read our original review here.

18. The Big Sick, dir. by Michael Showalter

Undoubtedly the year’s top comedy, The Big Sick demonstrates a fine balance in humour, emotion and realism. Written by its leading man Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick tells the story of how Kumail and Emily met (Emily being played by Zoe Kazan), fell in love and saw their relationship faces unimaginably trying times, all whilst under pressure from their families and their culture.

Nanjiani and Kazan are fantastic together, the supporting cast which includes Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents also help to bolster what is one of 2017’s stronger ensemble casts. When the jokes come, they are laugh out loud (“You’ve never talked to people about 9/11?”), but it’s the moments in between that The Big Sick works its charm; the dialogue is authentic, the characters are richly drawn and portrayed, Showalter’s direction balances everything to perfection and ties it into the neatest of packages.

Out of the Sundance Film Festival, the film was sold to Amazon in a distribution deal worth $12 million and went on to gross over $55 million, becoming one of 2017’s highest grossing independent films. Critics fell in love too and The Big Sick is one of 2017’s most acclaimed films, it would be a travesty for this film to not make our list.

Words by David Mitchell-Baker – read our original review here.

17. War for the Planet of the Apes, dir. by Matt Reeves

War for the Planet of the Apes, released in July, was the final instalment of the rebooted Planet of the Apes trilogy, the culmination of the story that everyone had been eagerly waiting for since the trilogy started in 2011. Receiving great reviews across the world and being praised for its amazing visual effects, War for the Planet of the Apes is a great end to the trilogy.

Six years on from Rise of the Planet of the Apes we finally see the whole story leading to the original 1968 movie with Charleston Heston. Caesar (Andy Serkis), after the death of his wife Cornelia (Judy Geer) and son, is lead through rage for revenge against the charismatic and evil Colonel (Woody Harrelson). Although, Caesar will have to face his responsibilities and choose who to become in order to make the apes survive. Mixing tragedy with wit, the movie is flawless and full of suspense which leads the trilogy to end on a high note. War for the Planet of the Apes was definitely one of the best films released this year and caps off a great trilogy.

Words by Lisa Veiber – read our original review here.

16. A Ghost Story, dir. by David Lowery

Among the giants, A Ghost Story was released at the peak of summer blockbuster season. Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets were still filling theatres, leaving David Lowery’s provocative think-piece to peep through the eye-holes of a sheet made of money and multiplex ticket stubs. But perhaps that was the perfect place for it to be. In its incredibly slow moving pace, almost non-existent budget and its minimalist meditation on life, humanity and the cosmos, A Ghost Story offered the perfect antithesis to a commercially saturated cinematic landscape.

It is easily one of 2017’s most glorious cinematic achievements. Boasting some of the year’s most beautiful visuals, its sense of melancholy softly haunts through its unforgettable imagery and emotionally affecting soundscape. Many films have tried and failed to capture the existential dread which comes naturally to A Ghost Story, showing simultaneously that our place as individuals in the world means both everything and nothing in the grand scheme of time itself. No other film will make you feel quite so meaningful and meaningless, and somehow, have you realise that to be both is just part of who we are. It is a film which will make you feel a lot of things, not all of them nice but each one of them needed.

Words by Liam Beazley – read our original review here.

15. Hacksaw Ridge, dir. by Mel Gibson

Another war film directed by the controversial Mel Gibson? Even if it has two Oscars to its name, it doesn’t sound like the next film on your watchlist. I have no idea how I stumbled upon it this January but boy, am I grateful. Led by eternal mancrush and now Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge was nothing short of a revelation. The real story of the World War II hero Demond Doss who refused to carry a weapon on the battlefield is exceptional, and Mel Gibson’s film delivered it spectacularly and vividly, emphasising one aspect of war that is not celebrated enough by the frequent war movies: the humanity and humility of the heroes who don’t wear capes.

Hacksaw Ridge has it all: from stellar performances to Game of Thrones-esque visual effects and bloodiness, romance, drama, suspense, and a well-sustained pace that keeps it entertaining throughout. Maybe it’s not as unique in its storytelling technique as Dunkirk, but it made me clap for at least a quarter of an hour alone in my room – and that’s something.

Words by Thea Hartman – read our original review here.

14. Beauty and the Beast, dir. by Bill Condon

From a young age, many children grew up with Beauty and the Beast; with Belle as a role model, the songs of the film as a soundtrack to our childhood and the castle servants as friends.  This live-action remake of the 1991 Disney classic had the potential to be terrible but instead was a fantastic homage to the original with its own fantastic twists.

The star-studded cast delivered everything wanted in a fantasy film in such a way that it can be enjoyed by adults whilst also inspiring the next generation of children.  It’s little wonder then that it topped all time domestic, worldwide and international box offices for a remake, whilst placing 8th in the all time domestic chart.  All in all, Beauty and the Beast has won 11 awards whilst being nominated for a further 29 accolades.  These include Movie of the Year and Best Actor in a Movie (Emma Watson) at the MTV Movie and TV Awards; several awards at the Teen Choice Awards and awards for Costume Design, and Make-Up & Hair Styling at the Hollywood Film Awards. In summary, Beauty and the Beast could have disappointed, but ultimately is a brilliantly executed take on the tale as old as time.

Words by Katja Stout – read our original review here.

13. Spider-Man: Homecoming, dir. by Jon Watts

Since the wildly successful onscreen debut of Marvel’s iconic friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man in 2002, Tobey Maguire has been the poster boy for  Peter Parker’s adventures. The reboot saga, The Amazing Spiderman released in 2012 & 2014 with Andrew Garfield, was directed by the Marc Webb but prompted heavily mixed reviews. So how did youthful Tom Holland’s interpretation of Spidey in Spiderman: Homecoming this year compare? Did his Mary Jane, played by Zendaya, evoke the same feelings as ruby red-haired Kirsten Dunst? Did they share the same chemistry between Garfield and his Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone?

Critics and fans have noted the lighter, more jubilant tone to this third reboot of the Spider-Man series. There is a larger focus on the trials and tribulations of high school and the human side of Parker in Homecoming, and there has been minimal studio meddling with story arc development. With a generous 92% rating on Rotten Tomato, the latest instalment of Peter Parker’s friendly neighbourhood escapades has not failed to please viewers across the board. The film won three awards at the Teen Choice Awards and was nominated for a further two, and received a nomination for The Joe Barber Award for Best Portrayal of Washington, D.C. at the Washington D.C. Film Critics Awards.

Fortunately for us Spiderman: Homecoming fans, a sequel is already in the pipeline. Expect to see future instalments with this Spider-Man crop up on our ‘Top Films’ list again…

Words by Farihah Choudhury – read our original review here.

12. Thor Ragnarok, dir. by Taika Waititi

The third instalment of the Thor franchise saw a change of tone, a whole host of new characters, and one of the best Marvel sequels to date. Thor Ragnarok brought the Norse god back to screens, feeling more like Guardians of the Galaxy than its predecessors, with a team romp through a collection of vivid planets – filled with jokes not out of place in the adventures of Star Lord. Gone was the bleaker, regal feel that had set Thor apart from the adventures of the other Avengers, director Taika Waititi bending the Norse ‘canon’ to fit their film.

Colourful and engaging, this change of pace was much appreciated by fans. Fan favourite Loki didn’t fail to disappoint, and neither did returning actors Chris Hemsworth and Idris Elba. Cate Blanchett played Hela with a chilling touch that made her incredibly believable, and newcomer Tessa Thompson sky-rocketed character Valkyrie into the vivid world. Wrap this up with a complex storyline and beautiful soundtrack, and it’s not surprising that Thor Ragnarok is already nominated in the Washington D.C. Film Critics Awards, and likely has many more awards to come.

Words by Ali Treanor – read our original review here.

11. Wonder Woman, dir. by Patty Jenkins

With Marvel still a year away from releasing its first female superhero film, DC releasing a female-directed film on perhaps the most iconic female superhero of all time was almost enough to earn Wonder Woman‘s place on this list by itself.  However, with the film’s much needed, albeit cheesy, message of love and compassion, coupled with its near-useful female armour and its avoidance of the Born Sexy Yesterday trope that it so easily could have fallen into, it truly deserves the commendation.

Wonder Woman became the highest grossing film directed by a woman worldwide, as well as the highest grossing origin story of any superhero, and also holds a 92% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  The film is full of colour, hope, and fun, making its mark on the otherwise greyscale DCEU, while also providing a satisfying character arc and some fantastic set fight pieces.  We can only hope that the sequel, which Jenkins is also set to direct, will continue in much the same way, and walk through the man’s land of superhero films with bullet-proof bracelets and a determination to do the right thing.

Words by Sophie Jones – read our original review here.

10. Manchester by the Sea, dir. by Kenneth Lonergan

Picking up the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role at this year’s Oscars, Casey Affleck delivers an outstanding performance in Manchester by the Sea as a grief-numbed introvert brought back to his past and his hometown by the death of his brother. Set over a biting winter, Lee Chandler (Affleck) is left with custody of his nephew, who despite clashing with Lee, reveals himself to have characteristics in common with his uncle – and  to be quietly vulnerable. Flashbacks to moments in Chandler’s past intersperse the events following his brother’s death, and gradually build an image of a life wrought with pain.

Avoiding the trope of an unlikely duo becoming best friends in the face of hardship, Manchester by the Sea is a study of humans dealing with loss and, in a softer focus, the effects of the emotional repression tied in with growing up as an American man. The simple but deliberate cinematography is complemented by an excellent soundtrack comprising orchestral music and choral singing, making the film a work of creative beauty. Standout acting and perceptive writing complete Kenneth Lonergan’s masterpiece, which collected 2 Oscars, a Golden Globe and 2 BAFTAs in all.

Words by Louis Tyler – read our original review here.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, dir. by James Gunn

In a world filled with superhero films left, right and centre, it’s a wonder that anyone enjoys them anymore. However, when a film is as fun as the Guardians of the Galaxy films are, it’s pretty hard to not come out the cinema smiling. Where the first film was a pure fun fest, Vol. 2 doesn’t necessarily prioritise the most brilliant narrative, but does take the time to explore and develop its characters well.

In this film we get to explore Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) identity alongside him, as well as see moments of reflection and revelation for characters who didn’t get so much of it in its predecessor, such as Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Yondu (Michael Rooker). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 also retains its trademark retro soundtrack which makes for some suitably epic scenes and an overwhelming heap of nostalgia. The combination of funny quips, high-action sequences and more tender heartfelt moments make for a film that is easy to watch again and again. Although by no means perfect, the latest Guardians film captured our hearts. Mary Poppins y’all: That’s all that needs to be said.

Words by Rehana Nurmahi – read our original review here.

8. Get Out, dir. by Jordan Peele

At the beginning of the year we were graced with the directorial debut of comedian Jordan Peele, Get Out. The film follows a young black photographer, Chris Washington, who goes on a trip to meet his girlfriend’s white family in the suburbs. Despite the occasional interjection of comic relief Get Out is certainly not a typical Key and Peele comedy sketch, despite being categorised in the ‘Musical or Comedy’ section for Golden Globe nominations. Get Out is certainly more inclined to tick the horror or thriller box due to the fantastic soundtrack and use of a sinister setting near a forest in a secluded part of the suburbs. In addition to this, dark subjects such as racism and slavery are strong themes, creating an intense watch, emphasised by the fantastic Daniel Kaluuya (who you might know from Skins or Black Mirror).

Get Out provides the viewer with an interesting take on racism where decrepit white people place bids and attempt to ‘harvest’ a black person’s body in order to continue living on for years in a stronger and more powerful body. The message of the movie is extremely pertinent due to the Black Lives Matter movement being ever preeminent throughout the past couple of years and inevitably into years ahead.

Words by Abigail Wood – read our original review here.

7. Moonlight, dir. by Barry Jenkins

One of the two films involved with that famous Academy Awards moment, the Oscars mishap only distracts from how truly unique a film Moonlight is. Dealing with issues of race, sexuality and identity, Moonlight is the story of Chiron, a boy growing up in a rough Miami neighbourhood who struggles with the conflict between his identity and his harsh environment. Although the film tells the story of a specific individual, a black gay man from a poor area, the story of the search for one’s identity can be related to by all audiences.

So many elements of the film are striking, its narrative structure, abundance of symbolism, stand out performances and heartfelt direction, all of which accumulate to make it one of the most memorable and emotional films of the year. Performances of particular note include Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, Ali’s performance as the drug dealing father figure to Chiron made history as Ali became the first Muslim actor ever to win an Oscar. Harris, a fellow Oscars nominee, plays the drug addicted mother and delivers such intensity and palpable guilt to the character. However the true standout here is Jenkins, the director, who brings us into the world of Chiron with great empathy and beauty. Moonlight more than earns its place on our list.

Words by Sam Oliver – read our original review here.

6. Logan, dir. by James Mangold

The final part of the Wolverine trilogy, Logan take a very different approach to the X-Men movies before it. James Howlett, widely known as Logan (Hugh Jackman), works in Texas and lives with an ailing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and a mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) in an abandoned facility in Mexico. Wolverine’s powers are more limited now and he is not the invincible X-Man he once was. His only dream is to accumulate enough money to buy a yacht and live with the Professor on the ocean for the end of their days. However, his plans change when he meets Laura (Dafne Keen), a young girl fleeing from persecution.

Logan is violent and bloody, but it also contains serious drama and is highly emotional. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are phenomenal, giving performances that you want to stand and applaud, easily the best performances both have ever given, and neither has been more emotionally alive than in Logan. Credit should also go to Dafne Keen who was a great choice: she portrays Laura with such confidence and ferocity in the eyes that she manages to make audiences fear her. Logan received a lot of positive critical reviews and thus was acknowledged as one of the best-reviewed films of the X-Men franchise, it was also a huge box office success earning over $616 million worldwide, and its place on our list was never in question.

Words by Szymon Brewinski – read our original review here.

5. Blade Runner 2049, dir. by Denis Villeneuve

Making a sequel is never easy, especially when that sequel happens to follow one of the most influential science-fiction films of all time. Set 30 years after cult classic Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s dystopian vision of Los Angeles is channelled in the aptly titled Blade Runner 2049 by Denis Villeneuve. It’s the director’s riskiest project to date but a real triumph. Original protagonist Deckard (Harrison Ford) takes a backseat, with this pessimistic, postmodern vision of the future navigated through the fresh eyes of young Blade Runner Officer K (Ryan Gosling). He’s equally as endearing as Deckard, and the performances from Gosling and Ford can alone justify the film’s position as one of 2017’s best.

The real beauty of Blade Runner 2049, however, lies in its cinematography, every single image could be framed and put in a gallery and this is a film sure to be considered for the artistic gongs this awards season – you really have to feel sorry for the cinematographers going up against Roger Deakins. It’s never going to have the same impact as the original, but Blade Runner 2049 is certainly a film that we’ll return to over the years as an example of cinema utilised to its true potential.

Words by Alice O’Hare – read our original review here.

4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi, dir. by Rian Johnson

Although one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2017, The Last Jedi has proven to be one of the most divisive. A film in which letting go of the past and moving on is a central theme, some hardcore fans expressed dissatisfaction, even going so far as to call on Disney to remove The Last Jedi from the franchise in favour of a J.J. Abrams remake. Upset fans have criticised Rian Johnson’s treatment of Luke Skywalker and the disappointing revelation of Rey’s true identity.

And yet, there are many (myself included) that have praised Johnson for taking the saga in a fresh direction. Luke’s development is one of the most organic within the saga, transforming him into one of the most satisfyingly complex characters. And whilst Rey’s origins weren’t what many were expecting, it’s a big step forward for a franchise built on privilege and ultimately puts power into the hands of everyone. The most bittersweet element of this film is Carrie Fisher’s last performance, she shines as the sassy General Leia and it’s a stark reminder of just how much she will be missed.

Darker and more unexpected than it’s predecessor, The Last Jedi is exactly the film the saga needed and more than deserves its spot in our Top 10.

Words by Laura Woodhouse – read our original review here.

3. Baby Driver, dir. by Edgar Wright

Baby Driver is undeniably a different beast to director Edgar Wright’s famous Cornetto Trilogy. However, they share one thing in common: a likability to keep you smiling from opening scene to closing shot. Its incredibly complex writing and direction hinges around an infectious soundtrack, each beat choreographed with breathtaking stunts and alluring performances from its all-star cast.

Ansel Elgort is perfectly cast as the titular Baby, a likeable yet understated protagonist that gets caught up in a heist organised by a volatile gang of misfits. Around him, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm are menacing yet humorous presences, and Lily James is equally lovable as Baby’s love Debora. The ensemble is marred only by Kevin Spacey’s sexual assault charges (revealed post-release), but it would be unforgivable to judge this film on his misdeeds. For its fun and action-packed nature alone, Baby Driver is the most charming release of 2017, but the ingenious fashion with which Wright threads music into the plot will be remembered for years to come.

Words by James Barker – read our original review here.

2. Dunkirk, dir. by Christopher Nolan

400,000 British troops stranded on the beaches of France. A family of British sailors making a perilous journey across the channel to rescue them. And above them all, a pair of spitfire pilots, running out of fuel as they protect the homecoming soldiers. Christopher Nolan strings these three plotlines together expertly, bringing us Dunkirk, a war film with a non-linear concept of time. With a specific time limit established for all of these plotlines, we get a sense of time running out for the protagonists; time is the real enemy for the evacuation, which lends the story a real sense of tension.

Elsewhere Nolan’s script allows for the narrative to progress at the appropriate pace, without needing to include ham-fisted attempts to explain character motivation or exposition (one of the main problems with his last film, Interstellar). While the characters may not be the most developed, the cast bring their A-game to their respective roles, from Nolan regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy, to newcomers Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles. Beautiful cinematography, glorious action scenes, and a spectacular score from Hans Zimmer, Dunkirk is destined to be a future classic.

Words by Christian Wise – read our original review here.

1. La La Land, dir. by Damien Chazelle

I usually like to describe La La Land as an incredibly similar version of Whiplash, just a lot less angry. Both are about the struggles of artistry and dreams at odds with being human, but La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s directorial successor to Whiplash, swaps the bloodied drum sticks and worrying neuroticism for swelling orchestral numbers and a sun-drenched visual spectacular. Still, differences aside, endings stay equally ambiguous and J.K Simmons remains just as angry.

Taking the number one spot by a landslide, La La Land also took the world by storm when it hit UK cinemas back in January. Alongside the lush Los Angeles backdrop (the film’s title refers to both the city itself and the state of disconnection from reality), it follows aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they meet and fall in love whilst simultaneously trying to pursue the dreams which will eventually cause the downfall of their relationship. Heralded as many a critic’s best film of 2017, the musical won every Golden Globe category it was nominated for (taking home a record-breaking seven globes) and won six of its nominated fourteen Oscars, making it the joint-highest-nominated film at any Academy Awards. A heartwrenching, guttural melodrama, yet also an electrifying love letter to the razzle-dazzle of Hollywood’s glory days, La La Land set a benchmark for the cinema of 2017 that nothing succeeding it could quite live up to, and cements itself rightfully in the top spot of The Edge’s best films of the year.

Words by Sophie Trenear – read our original review here.

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