Another twelve months of film (or so) have whizzed by, and with that turn of the Earth’s cycle has come another plethora of exciting films. The culmination of the MCU, a fascinatingly beautiful love story, a black and white masterpiece, some incredible true stories, the sixth entry of a franchise that continues to deliver the thrills and excitement, a remake done good, and another Pixar masterpiece. It was quite the year for cinema in 2018, and it is time for me to give you my opinion as to what was the best of the best. Much as I would want to, I have not seen every film that came out this year, so if your favourite isn’t on here, I might not have seen it.
Now, to explain my somewhat unusual method of ranking these films. Rather than going by UK release date, I try to rank these films per their IMDB date. So if a film is marketed as a 2018 release, I strive to include it here. This gives me the chance to catch some 2018 films that are released in the early weeks of the year, so that they can be eligible for this list. However, some 2017 films were not released in the UK till later on in the year, hence why some films that are listed as 2017 films on IMDB are included here, as they came to UK cinemas well into 2018. Similarly, the UK doesn’t get some films that are marketed as 2018 releases until well into 2019. Hence, anything that is released and reviewed after this post, will be deferred for the best of 2019.
Second, the grade that these films received does not dictate where they will rank. One film may get a higher grade or the perfect grade, it will not necessarily mean that film will be the best film of the year. This is, as is the case for all of us who review films, our one chance to be completely biased about the films that we enjoyed the most, and these are the films that I will remember from 2018. Before I get into the main list, some honourable mentions need to have their time to shine. These films were very enjoyable that didn’t quite make the list, but were still very good that you should check out. First up…
The Favourite [review] Yorgos Lanthimos makes peculiar films, and he continues that trend with his latest film that fuses a period piece drama with some very black comedy about a frail Queen and the two women who are competing for her affection. The trio of mesmerising performances from the leading ladies, namely Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, makes for some fascinating dialogue and a vast of amount of conniving and backstabbing.
First Man [review] First came Whiplash, then La La Land, and now this superb film telling the true story of how Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, Damien Chazelle completed his hat-trick in quite some style. On a technical film, the work that Chazelle accomplishes with the space scenes, especially the all important moon landing scene is simply breath-taking. Ryan Gosling is on excellent form as Armstrong, but it’s Claire Foy who steals the show as his wife Janet.
Creed II [review], After Ryan Coogler came in and produced an absolute belter with the first Creed film, following in the wake of that was always going to be tough. But new director Steven Caple Jr does a sterling job to deliver a worthy sequel that focuses on Adonis’s deeply personal battle with Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan, the man who killed his father. For sure, it is a little by-the-numbers in terms of its plot, but the trio of performances from Sly Stallone, Michael B Jordan and Tessa Thompson ensure that it retains the heart of its predecessor.
Bumblebee [review] After five films directed by Michael Bay, things were starting to get a bit stale (or should that be rusty?) for this franchise. An injection of new blood and metal was needed, and that’s what we got with this film courtesy of Travis Knight, and in so doing gave us the best film of the series. Knight significantly dialled back the action, instead going for more emotion and 80s nostalgia, and combined that with an excellent performance from Hailee Steinfield.
Roma [review] As I mentioned, though I gave this film the highest grade I can give it, it just doesn’t quite get a spot on this list. Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film is a very personal one, that in part examines the director’s early years growing up in the Roma district of Mexico City. Though it is shot in black and white, Cuaron’s cinematography just feels so colourful and his direction is nothing short of exquisite. This film did pretty much everything it could have done perfectly, but (for me at least) it has a lack of rewatchability that just holds it back. But this is a wonderful, technically magnificent piece of cinema that I encourage you to visit if you haven’t already.
Honourable mentions have been honoured, time to crack on with the main list and we begin with…
When you combine the talents of Academy Award winners Steve McQueen and Viola Davis, the chances of producing something pretty special are pretty much nailed on. When a heist goes awry, a group of women are left widowed and in a precarious predicament and must carry out their own heist to secure their own futures. In what is perhaps the best ensemble cast of the year, Viola Davis is unsurprisingly excellent but the performances of Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki deserve special mention. In this era of Me Too and Time’s Up, this story of some powerful women taking control of their own destinies is timely, and absolutely thrilling to watch, just as a heist film should be.
9. Black Panther
Black Panther review
The first (and not the last) MCU entry to make this list, and a landmark moment for the MCU and for superhero films in general as this was the first superhero film to feature a predominantly Black cast. Director Ryan Coogler brought the world of Wakanda to life in incredible fashion. From the costumes, to the production design, it all made Wakanda feel like a place that exists on this planet. Coogler stamps his own style firmly on this story, with themes of family, country, pride beating at the core of this emotional and personal journey for our titular hero.
Chadwick Boseman continued where he left off from Civil War, excelling once again as the titular hero. It is though the supporting cast, especially the ladies that end up stealing the show. Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Guira as the whizzkid Shuri, the fearless Nakia and Okoye, the absolute badass General of the Dora Milaje respectively. And once again, Michael B Jordan delivering an excellent performance as Killmonger, a villain you can really sympathise with.
8. A Star is Born
A Star is Born review
A remake, of a remake, of a remake. One would wonder if this latest edition of this story had anything new to really say, but Bradley Cooper’s work with this latest adaptation wonderfully hits all the right notes, and makes it extremely relevant for modern audiences. Telling the story of Cooper’s rock star whose career is winding down, while he meets Lady Gaga’s up and coming singer, whose career is rapidly on the rise.
How Cooper writes, directs, produces, stars in and sings all in one film is quite remarkable, but he does all so well that you just have got to take your hat off to him. The chemistry between these two is excellent, and both give extremely emotional and powerful performances, and yes the music involved is absolutely wonderful with arguably the best soundtrack of the year, and maybe, just maybe (read probably) the next Best Original Song winner in “Shallow.”
7. A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place review
A world in which if you make even the slightest peep, and you’re more than likely doomed is the fascinating premise of this directorial debut from John Krasinski. The film zeroes in on the lives of the Abbott family with Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt as his on screen wife and mother to their children, who must live in absolute silence in order not to become food for the terrifying creatures that have caused society to collapse.
Much like Cooper, Krasinski’s direction for his debut film is excellent. There’s barely a line of dialogue in the first half of the film, and there’s not much more in the second half too. Within the first ten minutes, the audience is immersed in the harshness and brutality of this world. Furthermore, to say this is tense would be something of an understatement, as this family desperately try to stay alive whilst these ruthless creatures are hunting them. If ever there was a film that compelled you to keep your mouth shut while the film was playing, this would be that film.
6. Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs review
No one really makes films like Wes Anderson. After he made Fantastic Mr Fox back in 2009, the eccentric director goes back into the world of stop motion animation to tell a story about man’s best friend(s). In a futuristic Japan, the anti-dog mayor has banished our canine friends to a remote island. However, until a boy rocks up looking for his beloved mutt, and an intriguing adventure unfolds.
Packed with an excellent voice cast including some of Anderson’s regular collaborators, the story is smart and humorous, and the animation is just exquisite in its detail. For all those who love our canine friends, this is one to definitely get your paws into, and even if you’re not a dog person, you will fall in love with this particular group of canines.
With these next five, they all could honestly be #1, but as this is a top 10 list, there must be an order and so, on we go with…
It is hard to get away from the fact that right now in the USA, there is something of a problem with race, which is no small part due to the current White House incumbent. That fact makes this astonishingly true story about a black police officer infiltrating the KKK in the 1970s feel so relevant to today’s society, and all the more frightening. But that’s exactly what the latest film from Spike Lee is, a man who is not afraid to let the world know what he really thinks of the current US President. With this film he unleashes that anger, which when you see some of the stuff we have seen in the USA, is understandable rage.
Anchored by a remarkable lead performance from John David Washington, with an equally terrific turn from Adam Driver as the duo who make up the combined policeman who bravely infiltrates the KKK. It seems unlikely that a film like this would find room for any humour, but Lee manages to weave it into this powerful drama tremendously well. This is until what is undoubtedly the most powerful ending of 2018, that holds nothing back drawing a comparison between the events depicted in the film, and some of the horrific events of recent times.
When it comes to making animated movies that really pull hard on your heartstrings, there isn’t really anyone who does it better than Pixar. And with their 19th feature, they produced yet another animated masterpiece. Telling the story of an aspiring musician, who, in spite of his family banning music, desperately wants to pursue it. This desire takes him to the Land of the Dead, in search of his ancestor who was himself a musician. This film ventures into territory that could very easily be just a bit too macabre for kids, but as they so often do, Pixar just make it work an absolute treat.
Pixar so often fill their films with wonderful animation, however the detail in the animation is quite simply extraordinary particularly when it comes to the Land of the Dead. Themes of family, pursuing of one’s dreams, and the sheer power that music has on our lives are themes we can all relate to. The characters, whether they’re living or dead, are wonderfully brought to life. If by the time all that emotion comes to the fore in the closing moments of this wonderful work of art, you are not sobbing your eyes out, please check to see if you still have a pulse/soul.
3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Mission: Impossible – Fallout review
Tom Cruise at the age of 56, is somehow still working wonders in a franchise that with its sixth entry now is finding new ways to blow audiences away with some truly breath-taking stunts and action scenes. With the severe threat of global nuclear devastation hanging over the world, the IMF must stop the impending catastrophe. That plot is familiar yes but Christopher McQuarrie once again directs this film to absolute perfection with absolutely brilliant work done on the numerous action scenes that just leave the audience breathless.
Of course the action is just one facet of what makes this film, and indeed this franchise so great, it marries that up with intriguing political and social subtext, and agendas flying back and forth. Cruise once again leads the way in an excellent cast, with able support from the usual crew of Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, with Rebecca Ferguson once again on top form as Ilsa. It is however Henry Cavill and his well publicised moustache that generated the most headlines. ‘Tache and all, Cavill’s performance alongside Cruise is just one of the many aspects that make this exhilarating mission one that you should definitely accept. One of the best action films ever made.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War review
10 years in the making, it was all building towards this. The expectations were sky high, and the Russo brothers definitely did not disappoint in delivering a grand spectacle that features just about every MCU hero we have met so far go up against the formidable Thanos and to stop him getting his hands on the Infinity Stones. There were fears before hand that with so many characters that it would just be too crowded. Fortunately all those fears were put to rest once the film finally arrived, and the fact that it does all flow together pretty seamlessly is something of a miracle. However, the film does a tremendous job of giving everyone a stand out moment, though some of those moments are more epic than others (looking at you God of Thunder.)
However the real revelation of this film was Josh Brolin’s brilliant work as Thanos. Though the MCU has certainly suffered from its fair share of poor villains, Thanos was anything but. You understood where he was coming from, and he proved to be a truly formidable foe, with one or two moments in particular that fleshed out his character perfectly. And yes, that ending, oh that ending that left audiences stunned into just utter shock at what just happened. Fans of the MCU couldn’t have asked for much more, and yes as Dr Strange said, we are most definitely in the endgame now.
And so my #1 film of 2018 is
1. The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water review
The Best Picture winner at last year’s 90th Academy Awards, and fully deserving of the accolade, which also saw Guillermo del Toro nab the Best Director gong (also very well deserved). He dips back into the realm of fantasy with this gorgeous tale of a mute woman who falls in love with an Amphibian God being held at a covert US facility. The word beautiful really doesn’t quite do it justice but it with absolutely wonderful cinematography, the film is just awash with gorgeous visuals that just leap off the screen, combined with a moving screenplay that goes deep with its social commentary on a number of different subjects, there is so much more to the film than just “woman falls in love with a fish.”
Led by an astonishing performance from Sally Hawkins who, without saying a word, captures such raw emotion with her performance. She leads an impeccably acted cast including the likes of Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg, as well as Doug Jones as the mysterious creature, all of whom are equally magnificent in their performances. Alexandre Desplat’s Oscar winning score only adds to the sheer beauty and romance of the story. A very different kind of fairytale, but one that just as majestic and magical as anything that the fine folks at the Mouse House have produced in recent years. A worthy film to claim the title of my favourite film of 2018.
Well there you have it my picks for the best films of 2018. Thank you for reading, especially if you read all the way through! What were your favourite films of 2018. Let me know in the comments below or you can find me on the following platforms: Twitter, Facebook or Letterbox’d.