Monday, 4 February 2019

20 Best Films of 2018

It's been a tremendous year for film, one which resulted in me unintentionally keep making my top list longer and longer. I had to limit it to 20, but the fact that films like First Reformed, Leave No Trace, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, Cold War, U: July 22 and Bros: After The Screaming Stops were left off should indicate how strong a year for film 2018 was. I was unable to see some key films by now, such as Roma and Mary Poppins Returns, but I had put off making this list long enough, so let's see what I consider to be the best of 2018.


Honourable Mentions:
*Crazy Rich Asians, a gorgeously vibrant romantic comedy that gets one invested in the characters and their personal journeys.
*Widows, Steve McQueen's adaptation of the 80's ITV series which embraces pulpy routes, while never sacrificing tension or strong social commentary, all with a powerful ensemble cast on-hand.
*Whitney, an in-depth look into the life of Whitney Houston, which Kevin MacDonald approaches like an investigation, proving heartbreaking and informative.
*Love, Simon, a touching tale of love brought to screen in such a sweet manner.
*Halloween, a worthy follow-up to the horror classic which feels timely, lovingly told, and unsettling.

Free Solo.png20. Free Solo

It's always fascinating to see what drives a person to do what they love, but what about when the object of our affections is a great risk to our lives?  That idea is explored in this documentary, centred around rock climber Alex Honnold. His life is built around committing free solo climbs, which requires no wires or safety equipment, and his lifelong dream is to be the first person to free solo climb the El Capitan wall, which stands at 3,200 feet high. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin bring a tremendous sense of scope to this story, as well as the terror it brings, and how easily lives are lost through partaking in such a hobby. This is a heartstopping and breathtaking look into an engrossing story which magnificently wrings out the tension.


The Hate U Give poster.png19. The Hate U Give

Adapted from Angie Thomas' novel of the same name, director George Tillman Jr brings to screen a powerful tale of identity and finding ones voice, rooted in topics which hold great relevance and stunning social commentary. What this young adult tale wisely does is allow hard-hitting topics be made accessible to a younger crowd, while handling such aspects in a gripping and adult way, losing none of the passion or fire within. Front and centre of it all lies a magnificent performance from Amandla Stenberg, resulting in an unforgettable feature which deserves to be seen by more people.

A Quiet Place18. A Quiet Place

A feature film relying on silence could've been a mere gimmick, but John Krasinski makes the most of the exhilarating premise that it's entirely key to this story. Through the near-silent runtime, viewers are drawn under the films spell to make the quiet moments seem deafening, while items such as a stray nail can make the tension seem unbearable, and make the uses of sound startling, and feel earned. But the most effective aspect of the film is how it gets under ones skin, to the point they mirror the protagonists and dare not make a sound.


Mandy (2018 film).png17. Mandy

Considering his status as a living meme, it can be easy to forget how talented an actor Nicolas Cage truly is, but Panos Cosmatos' tale of love and loss is a stunning reminder of just that. Yes, Cage delivers on the wacky persona that's a great time to watch, but it isn't done just for the heck of it. His character has been to hell and back, and just wants his blood soaked pound of flesh, which results in the proceedings getting soaked in blood and fantastically done gore. But what's key is how the beating heart remains, for no matter how many involved parties are brutally murdered, the past cannot be undone, and what could've been a standard blood and guts action flick is one of the years most tragic romances.

Sorry to Bother You.png16. Sorry To Bother You

There are many things one can call Boots Riley's directorial debut, but safe would never be one of those words. A biting satire which takes aim at capitalism, this telemarketer comedy is a surreal treat bathed in a beautiful style, proving utterly hilarious, and downright unforgettable. I'm intentionally being vague because this is a film worth going into knowing as little as possible, for the routes it ventures down make for an unforgettable experience. The most I can say is how we follow Kash, our lead wonderfully played by LaKeith Stanfield, on a quest to rise up the ranks to become a fabled Power Caller. It's a feature full of unforgettable moments, such as the visual of Kash literally crashing into peoples rooms as he calls them, or Danny Glover saying that comparing telemarketers to power callers is like comparing Apples to Holocausts. For anyone who craves original cinema, this is a must see worth seeking out.

MI – Fallout.jpg15. Mission: Impossible - Fallout

It's rare that a franchise improves with each release, especially when it began over 20 years before, but against all odds, the sixth instalment of this Tom Cruise led series is the best of the lot. The first director to helm more than a single entry, Christopher McQuarrie fills the picture with breath-taking set-pieces, be it a brutal bathroom brawl, a motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris, or even duelling helicopters, each of which feels completely key to the unfolding plot. The forward motion these action beats provide resemble Mad Max: Fury Road, while containing equally compelling smaller moments in-between, and ensuring character is key.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018 poster).png14. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The latest feature from Joel and Ethan Coen manages to be the rare case of an anthology without a weak segment in sight, as each tale works on their own merits, while sitting alongside one-another exceptionally. There's no time for romanticism of the Wild West here, as each segment captures the perils of the harsh and unforgiving locale, where Death constantly stalks, and the magnificent cast are more than ready to match the material. A gorgeous film to look at, coupled with a tremendous soundtrack, this is possibly my favourite Netflix Original Film.


You Were Never Really Here.png13. You Were Never Really Here

Whenever Lynne Ramsay releases a new film, it always feels like too long since her previous work. This time, she's brought to screen a brutal and unflinching thriller that feels like Taken, if the focus was more on our leads tortured psyche rather than the action. At the centre of it all is Joaquin Phoenix's phenomenal performance, capturing the inner turmoil of Joe, a man scarred by the past actions of his father. When left to his own devices, he plays with knives and seems to contemplate suicide, so he regularly takes jobs to save children from abusive figures, while armed with a hammer. Here's hoping it doesn't take another 7 years to see a new release from Ramsay.

Five women, all armed, in a forested area
12. Annihilation

It's an utter shame this was released onto Netflix outside of the U.S, as the second listed film directed by Alex Garland is a confident and assured marvel, boasting big ideas and visual pieces of brilliance. A tremendous assembled cast power the gripping narrative, as they wonderfully portray such well defined and three dimensional characters. One hostage scene is especially nerve shredding, and has stuck with me nearly a year after initial viewing.



If Beale Street Could Talk film.png11. If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins adapts the James Baldwin novel of the same name to deliver a thoughtful tale about how love endures and perseveres, no matter what prejudices, societal struggles, or hardships may come their way. The story is told through the facial expressions of the phenomenal cast, best captured through close-up shots, which showcases every emotion that passes across their faces. At the heart of it all stands KiKi Layne and Stephan James, two brilliant actors whose wonderful chemistry makes it easy for audiences to get behind their relationship, and hope everything will turn out alright for these young lovers.

Searching10. Searching

A found footage thriller for the social media age, the directorial debut of Aneesh Chaganthy isn't the first film to take place entirely within computer screens, but it does the best work of utilising it. Beginning with an opening that perfectly captures the passage of years in a flurry of pictures and videos, it's a simple tactic which proves as emotional as the famous beginning to Up. It then leads into a father trying to reconnect with his daughter, as they both cope with a shared loss, before turning into every parents worst nightmare. A gripping thriller driven by strong characterisation and a magnificent central portrayal from John Cho, this is a fantastic debut that signals a terrific directing career on the horizon.

Burning.png9. Burning

"The world is a mystery". A quote recited by our lead in this feature, which carries truth, and proves to be very appropriate for this feature. We can look back upon memories, or gaze upon pieces which seemingly point to one clear outcome, but the nagging question remains in the back of the mind: What if that's wrong? There are no easy answers or tidy resolutions in Lee Chang-dong's film, which can either be looked at as a Gone Girl style mystery or a psycho-thriller, depending on ones point of view. The result is an utterly compelling experience whose 148 minute runtime flies by, but proves haunting as it sticks in the mind long after initial viewing.

A Star Is Born8. A Star Is Born

For his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper brings A Star Is Born to the 21st century with the third remake of the 1937 film. It's a confident feature that makes you feel for the burgeoning romance between the leads, as Cooper's grizzled musician helps Lady Gaga's aspiring singer to reach her dreams, with the pair doing phenomenal work in portrating their roles. An emotionally affecting story containing a great medley of original songs integral to the plot, this is one worth coming back to time and time again. Now, who's up for listening to "Shallow" again?


Black Panther film poster.jpg7. Black Panther

With three cinematic features under his belt, Ryan Coogler has shown that no matter how large his budget or scope, there's never a sacrifice of character, themes, or plot. This is especially true for his entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a feature which makes the Afro-futuristic landscape of Wakanda feel bursting with life, ensures we understand the villainous figure of Killmonger as much as we do the hero that is T'Challa, and makes sure we never lose sight of what each character is fighting for, no matter how large the battles are. The 18th MCU feature pushes the boundaries of blockbuster films, elegantly blending relevant social commentary with engaging superheroics to glorious effect.

The Favourite.png6. The Favourite

Easily the most accessible work of Yorgos Lanthimos' filmography, what he's delivered is the antithesis to the traditional period piece one may have expected, and it's all the more glorious for it. At the heart of this tale lies a compelling power struggle played out between the phenomenal trio that is Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. Each one could've been played as a mere caricature, but we're made to fully understand their motivations and what has led them to need the comfort of being in such a position. The unfolding madness of Queen Anne is matched by the disorientating camera angles and fish eye lens, while the humorous moments work exquisitely, and the character beats hit their mark.

Blackkklansman5. BlacKkKlansman

A tale so crazy it's true, Spike Lee adapts a 2014 memoir about Ron Stallworth, the first Black detective in the Colorado Springs police department who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. Moments of humour are dotted throughout, but it never undermines the hard-hitting moments of human horror, as this 70's set tale is made to feel contemporary, and have clear resonance with present day issues relating to race. A standout moment sees the recounting of a horrific tale about a young boy being lynched, intercut with the Klan cheering at footage from The Birth of The Nation, which underlines the difference between Black Power and White Power. It all closes on footage from the 2017 Charlottesville Rally, a decision which doesn't fall into an often seen trap where racism is highlighted just as a horrendous thing that's in the past, but brings forth the saddening reality of how prominent it remains.

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse (2018 poster).png4. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

A love-letter to one of the most popular characters in popular culture, Sony's animated feature is the best translation of comic book to screen. A multiverse spanning adventure which unites various webslingers in such a gorgeously animated fashion, packed with great amounts of witty and knowing humour, and oodles of heart found throughout. This is best exemplified in a stand-out scene, showing how tragedy is a uniting factor in these Spider-peoples line of work. The fact this is balanced so perfectly alongside Nicolas Cage as a Noir inspired hero, and the Chuck Jones wackiness of Spider-Ham, is a testament to the creative forces behind this feature.


Avengers Infinity War poster.jpg3. Avengers: Infinity War

The culmination of 10 years worth of storytelling, uniting a massive cast spanning a variety of franchises, it could've been easy for this to fall short of expectations. By framing the antagonistic Thanos as the lead character, devoting time to understanding his motivations for undertaking such a quest, any fears of him being a one-note madman are unfounded, which makes sense for the numerous franchise stalwarts to cross his path. The result sees a compelling 149 feature which deftly handles genres, subverts expectations, and takes an audacious path which makes Avengers: Endgame a follow-up worth clamouring for.

Blindspotting (2018)
2. Blindspotting

A powerful and absorbing piece of work, Carlos López Estrada brings a vibrant direction to his absolutely fierce directorial debut. With three days left on his probation, Collin's plans for a new beginning are troubled by him being left haunted, after witnessing a black man being gunned down by a white police officer. He expresses himself through freestyle rap, an entertaining method which becomes a genius way of allowing Collin to vent his frustrations, while ratcheting up the tension before leading to an explosion of pent up rage, culminating in a final rap that proves utterly captivating, and downright tense. With an eye on topics such as identity, gentrification, perceptions, and police violence, this film has a lot to say, and puts it all across in a gripping and unforgettable manner which deserves to be seen.

Hereditary.png1. Hereditary

Time is often a necessary factor in helping a film to be recognised as a high benchmark in the genre, just look at The Shining. Ari Aster's feature film debut doesn't need years, just the 127 minutes devoted to viewing it, and whatever follows that's necessary to process what you've witnessed. The key focus is on developing the characters and setting up the scenario, while allowing a feel of unease to linger throughout, leaving viewers on edge as to what may occur next. Fronted by a phenomenal portrayal by Toni Collette, this unnerving slow-burn about coping with grief with be burned into your mind long after viewing it. Over half a year after viewing it, it remains burnt into mind, and is without a doubt, my best film of 2018.


Agree/Disagree with my decisions? Sound off below.

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