Rating films is always going to open the floodgates for disagreement and difference of opinions. But one of the best things about doing a list like this is to remind yourself how many brilliant films we’ve been blessed with in just 6 months and how much variety there is. So without further ado, here are my top 13 films of 2018 so far. (sadly, as I’m not yet paid to watch films for a living, I haven’t seen everything but have only missed a few notably well reviewed film)
13: Happy Anniversary
Kicking off with a film it seems I’ll have to fly the flag for due to pretty sniffy reviews, ‘Happy Anniversary’ is one you can go watch right now on Netflix. It follows a couple celebrating their third anniversary but instead of celebrating it like normal, they spend the day deciding whether or not they should break up. For me, Nöel Wells and Ben Schwartz’s chemistry completely sells the idea of this. The film understandably spends most of the run time with them and seeing their relationship at different stages always feels natural and most importantly, believable. Rom-Coms rarely work this well as this for me, so maybe it’s standing out more, but even if that’s the case, who cares? I loved it, and I think a lot of others will too.
As dark as dark comedies comes. Two school friends and a drug dealer join forces in a plot to murder one of their step fathers because he’s a real prick. Corey Finley’s full feature debut is a slow burner, full of unnerving moments that shouldn’t be unnerving. It excels in a lot of stunning long takes, brilliant central performances and a story with which you have no idea how it’s going to end. It’s a stunningly strong debut and I’m sure more people will watch this once Finley’s become more of a household name. Also, it’s a perfect final film for the late Anton Yelchin who gives another superbly diverse performance.
It might be annoying to some that Disney get most of the attention when it comes to animation, but when they keep making bonafide hits as good as this, you can’t blame them. ‘Coco’ is one of the most visually pleasing films ever made and also one of the best animations ever. It’s full of heart, tears, laughter and joyous music that makes you want to jump into the screen. Following Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) as he travels through the land of the dead to try and return home is an absolute treat from start to finish. Proof animation is going through a golden age at the moment.
10: Molly’s Game
I actually caught this before Christmas last year thanks to Cineworld and what’s most impressive is how it has stuck with me for this long. The (frankly) crazy true story of how Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) rose through the underworld of poker is such a rush that it could have only worked if Alan Sorkin wrote it. The constant barrage of dialogue adds to how chaotic this world was and makes 140 minutes fly by. Chastain proves why she’s one of the the best actors working in film today and Sorkin shows he’s more than capable of directing as well as writing. It’s a winning combination and I can’t wait to watch it again soon.
9: The Breadwinner
A really smart and beautiful animation. By not shying away from the horrors inflicted in Afghanistan, but at the same time not making the film harrowing, ‘The Breadwinner’ makes itself suitable for most ages and sends a heartfelt message to all. It also proves that animation in different forms still looks and feels as tremendous as the modern day digital animation. Try and find someone not gripped by the final act. If ‘Coco’ proves we are in a golden age of animation , ‘The Breadwinner’ only cements this fact further.
8: Ready Player One
A film that reminded me not all summer blockbusters have to be overlong trash. Spielberg’s latest gently nudges everyone to prove why he’s the biggest name in directing. ‘Ready Player One’ could’ve easily become overblown and relied too heavily on pop culture references. But what it was, was not only the most enjoyable film of 2018, but also an incredible adventure with a real story you want to see all the way to the end, something sadly missing from most blockbusters today. It also has the best sequence in any film from this year. You know the one if you’ve seen it.
7: A Quiet Place
Proof that there is still life within the horror genre. Unlike the previous film, ‘A Quiet Place’ is a brief 90 odd minutes but manages to keep you on edge for almost every second. There is next to no dialogue and it genuinely makes you scared to even move in your seat for fear of disturbing the audience (assuming your someone who follows the code). Something as mundane as dropping a lantern causes a huge intake of breath and give you a genuine feeling of dread.
Another strength of the film is despite seeing the trailer on almost every cinema outing leading towards its release, there were still plenty of surprises and the tension was never broken. Seriously, that scene will definitely stick in my mind as masterclass in tension forever. A film for even the scarediest of scaredy cats as the film is so spectacular, you don’t mind what it’s putting you through. If my Nan could handle it, so can you.
I absolutely adored this film. I went in with a rough idea of what to expect and came out blown away. Charlize Theron is absolutely perfect as Marlo who hires a night nanny to help with the sleepless nights after having a third child. Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis) who is young and vibrant and full of positivity. She reminds Marlo of how she used to see the world. The two embark on a friendship that takes them on nights out as well as many deep conversations throughout into the early hours of the morning.
What is so brilliant about ‘Tully’ is how unforgivingly honest it is. The montage near the start is a more accurate representation of being a parent than most films are prepared to show. The relationship the two leads form feels natural and every conversation holds your attention regardless of the subject. ‘Tully’ is as much of a journey as an adventure film, just without any explosions, except an explosion of reality.
5: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh’s third film rivals my love for his first (‘In Bruges’). Never has the description dramedy fitted a film as perfectly as this. Within the same scene, you go from howling with laughing to being stunned silent. Many films claim to do both genres, but none pull it off to the strength McDonagh can. He manages to get the best out of all of his cast. Woody Harrelson is as brilliant as ever, Sam Rockwell deserved his Oscar and Frances McDormand was as perfect as everyone made out, possibly even better.
‘Three Billboards…’ prides itself on keeping the audience guessing where it’s heading to. Even when I thought I had an idea, a curve ball was thrown and I was completely stunned. Characters go on journeys you don’t expect and the plot moves along but never skips over seemingly unimportant moments. No matter where the film veers towards, it never losses its humour, even in the darkest of scenes. It also never sugarcoats anything that transpires, meaning you sometimes feel uncomfortable for laughing so much, but that’s totally intentional.
It says a lot that this is only 5th on my list as I think this is a pretty perfect film. During the awards seasons, most of the attention went toward Frances McDormand and while it’s undeniable it’s easily the best performance of the entire year so far, every aspect of this film is also near perfection. The score, the script, the cinematography, everything comes together so stunningly. Unlike the other Best Picture nominees, I’ve yet to come across anyone who didn’t love this film.
4: The Shape of Water
This year’s Academy Award winner was a worthy winner. To be honest, over half the list this year were (and there were even others who didn’t get nominated) but Guillermo Del Toro’s latest is a thing of beauty. It’s visually breathtaking, but its biggest strength is making a love story between a mute woman and an amphibian man one of the best love stories to grace our screen this century.
Sally Hawkins is absolutely stunning and delivers some of her career best work. Michael Shannon is superb as the villainous Strikland and Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Doug Jones all round off one of the best ensembles of the year. Del Toro not only shaped together an immersive world, he also shaped together a cast to die for.
Of course, like any truly spectacular film, there’s so many aspects making it gel. The score is a thing of beauty and will be remembered for years to come and the visuals from the opening scene manage to transfix you into a trance. Del Toro’s fascination with creatures and mythology have always made him stand out, but by creating this film, he’s made it stand out on his breathtakingly good filmography list, no easy task.
I’m still mad at Paramount for how they handled ‘Annihilation’. When I caught it on one of the few cinematic releases over here, I was blown away again despite only watching the film a few days earlier. This film reminded me how good sci-fi can be. Alex Garland’s masterpiece is one you have to give your full, undivided attention too, but it’s well worth it.
‘Annihilation’ grabs you from the opening scene and doesn’t let go. It even tells you things that are going to happen, but as the film unfold, it all becomes stranger and stranger. The Shimmer manipulates reality and creates abominations as well as causing unforseen consequences to Natalie Portman and company. What happens in The Shimmer is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the big screen before. It’s a bold and ambitious project that, realistically, shouldn’t have been possible. But thanks to a killer cast, truly spectacular visuals and the most mind bending score you’ll hear all year, ‘Annihilation’ cements itself as the one of the best sci-fi films this century. It’s literally just a click away on Netflix, go and watch it if you haven’t already.
2: Lady Bird
A film that I didn’t think could be topped when I originally saw it, ‘Lady Bird’ was my favourite film of the year and for good reason. It’s hard to single out which aspect is my favourite as they’re all perfect and blend together so naturally. Soarsie Ronan’s central performance is further proof she’s one of the finest young actors around and Laurie Metcalf’s turn as her mother reminds you why she has always been one of the best actors period. They portray arguably the most realistic mother-daughter relationship ever seen in film.
Of course as well as them, Greta Gerwig’s script brings everything together and her direction is so superb you genuinely don’t realise how well everything is working. It’s not flashy or groundbreaking, it’s just allowing the story to do all the work. Rounding it all together is also a score that transports you into Sacramento, not an easy task considering it’s just a small town.
What this film manages to do is portray growing up to near perfection. There are many coming of age film that add in unrealistic drama which only has the opposite affect. Yes, having issues with best friends, boyfriends and parents at a young age usually aren’t life threatening, but at that age they feel like it, and that’s what ‘Lady Bird’ manages to capture effortlessly.
1: Avengers: Infinity War
Maybe this is a bit biased as I’m an MCU fanboy and I grew up on these films, but the fact ‘…Infinity War’ managed to bring 18 films together and make every single second feel perfect is a testament to why this was so great. I’ve seen it four times now and not once has any aspect of this film fallen apart. With easily the most expectations I’ve ever given a film, even something really good could’ve let me down. Alas, my insanely high expectations were not only met, they were (Hulk) smashed.
‘… Infinity War’ joins an elite group I have of films that literally left me lost for words as the credits rolled. I recall walking home at 3am not knowing what to say. Everything that happened was pretty much perfect and, best of all, genuinely shocking. I went to work the next day still not over everything and even as I saw it again, (less than 24 hours after originally seeing it) I realised Marvel had done the impossible: they took a concept (cinematic universe) that nobody had done before and set up a film for about ten years. Then, knowing anything less than perfect could be considered a dissapointment, they delivered it and even put a cherry on the top.
Yes, you have to watch all the other films before this to understand and appreciate it, but the fact that none of the prior films are bad means it isn’t that big a challenge. What ‘…Infinity War’ has achieved will be remembered in cinema forever. Just as people remember where they were when Vader told Luke he was his father, in years to come, people will remember where they were when the credits rolled on this film.
So there it is, my top 13 films so of 2017 so far. I’d love to hear from you and know what you’ve loved the most so far this year and what you think of my list in the comments below.