As I always say, if you think any year wasn’t a good year for cinema, you haven’t been looking hard enough. 2018 has drawn to a close and it’s time for the annual tradition of critics to rank their favourites of the year. This list is personal and totally based on my feelings alone so don’t feel like I’m telling you what to enjoy, but if you missed any of these I’d recommend trying to find them ASAP. So without further ado, here’s my quick round up of 25-11 before my more detailed Top 10.
24. Molly’s Game
23. Ready Player One
22. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
21. Pin Cushion
20. American Animals
18. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
17. The Guilty
14. Private Life
13. A Quiet Place
12. Bad Times at the El Royale
Spike Lee’s best in a long time. Following the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a black cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan on the phone whilst his white (and Jewish) partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) went undercover and did the face to faces. It’s a timely and relevant story for today’s world despite being set in the 70’s, tackling the disgusting racist attitudes that were prominent during the civil rights movement. The plot knows when to be light hearted at the rights times before showing the ugliness and horrors that occur, perfectly getting the balance and never diminishing the terrible actions. Washington and Driver both excel in the leads but it’s Lee’s trademark directorial style that helps the films succeed at playing by its own rules.
9. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Animation is currently at an all time high in terms of quality and Sony Animation have gone from releasing the worst animation of last year (The Emoji Movie) to the best of 2018. Into The Spider-Verse works on a number of levels. The gorgeous visuals do something no superhero film has ever pulled off as well, making it feel like a comic book has come to life. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to witness for almost two decades now, and to see it pulled off so beautifully is a sight to behold. Also by giving Miles Morales the spotlight he has deserved for years and fleshing out his character instead of rushing into the multiple Spider-Men, we get a origin story full of heart. With a voice cast to die for, everyone brings their respective character to life, but Shamiek Moore and Jake Johnson deserve the biggest shout out as Miles and Peter.
I adore this film so much more than the mixed response it received. However, I know that those who love this film really love it. Challenging almost every issue that plagues our society is a tall order, but due to its unapologetic theme, it succeeds almost perfectly. There are a few issues within the final third, but even they can’t detour from the overall genius of it all. How often does a film come along nowadays that really makes you go, “That’s something new.”? Almost never.
7. Lean on Pete
Charley (portrayed by the uterrlty captivating Charlie Plummer) befriends a horse named Lean on Pete at his summer job, starring up a friendship he is missing due to his content by unfulfilled life. Despite the poster and plot suggesting otherwise, this is far from just being a film about a boy and his horse. As we dive further in, Charley’s life begins to change around him faster than he can predict and the solace he’s found with Lean On Pete is all he can rely on. Quietly compelling throughout, on top of Plummer’s raw performance, you have a script that is so note perfect we get from one point before gradually building towards a scene you’d never expect in a film like this, and it works. To top it all off, there’s a whole host of haunting imagery of Charley and Lean On Pete wandering through the desert landscape. It’s such a stunning piece of art.
Thanks to the odd way awards season films get released in the UK compared to America, people tend to forget about recent Oscar contenders coming out this year. Three Billboards… was the first film I saw in the cinema in 2018 and the impression it left on me was not bettered by much. Martin Mcdonagh’s third feature almost tops In Bruges, a film I personally place in very high esteem. What he pulls off better than any other director is the balance between the funny and serious. There’s no question you will laugh out loud in this film, but you’ll also be hit by gut punching revelations or moved by characters actions. One scene in particular caused my screening room to stop mid laugh and change into a chorus of gasps. McDormand is perfect and gives the performance of her career, but we all know this. The supporting cast around her all bring their A-Game to help bring this tale to the level of quality it achieves.
It may seem like a age since this won Best Picture, but it’s still hasn’t been topped by much. Del Toro effortlessly mashes up a monster movie with an old school romance and even throws in a black and white musical number too. Sally Hawkins gives a performance note perfect as Elisa it’s a shame she was severely underappreciated because Frances McDormand’s was getting all the attention (albeit deservedly so). Doug Jones also won our hearts under prosthetic as the “monster”, the Amphibian Man, generating sympathy while being held captive from the real monster, Strickland (Michael Shannon). The relationship Elisa and the Amphibian Man embark on is one of the strongest, well written and down right beautiful to be displayed on the big screen for years. Both are outsiders and the parallels between her mute condition and his inability to talk gives a deeper connection between the two’s “conversation”. As we move towards the final third, you forget The Shape of Water stars a fish monster as it’s leading man, instead you sit back and let the beauty of it all unfold, cheering on love to prevail.
What else is there to say about Roma? The word beautiful gets thrown around a lot with critics but there’s no better way to describe Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece. On a technical scale, the film never puts a foot wrong, with the most stunning cinematography seen all year alongside Cuarón’s direction that has never being better. Roma effortlessly makes the mundane, ugly, day to day life look stunning. (Seriously, dog shit has never looked this good.) First time actor Yalitza Aparicio is our focal point and the eyes we see the ever changing world around her. Selling every emotion with the lightest of emotes on her face allow the story (that some have unfairly called overstuffed and long) time to really sink itself into you before unleashing a wave of emotion over you. She is simply fantastic and it’s appalling how much she’s being look over this awards season.
The Russo’s wanted to make The Empire Strikes Back for a new generation and they succeeded. Avengers: Infinity War engraved itself into pop culture lore overnight. Balancing 18 films and countless heroes into a coherent storyline makes this a perfect lesson is storytelling. You never lose focus or get confused about what’s happening (something many other blockbusters this year struggled with with a fraction of the characters). Best of all is how it manages to deliver on the Thanos tease from six years ago. Hype can help promote a film but also crumble the final product. On this instance, with the highest expectations and excitement I’d had since The Dark Knight Rises, it managed to exceed them. I adore the MCU, growing up with it has been a huge part of my life. While there have been some truly fantastic films from them before, this is the culmination of an idea that changed cinema forever and is a strong contender for the best blockbuster of the century.
I am a sucker when it comes to Coming of Age films. The idea of telling a story that millions can relate to despite not being about them is so interesting. However, when one is done to the quality of Lady Bird, it’s hard for me to find anything better than it all year. Giving one of the most honest portrayals of a seemingly mundane life, Greta Gerwig’s semi-auto-biographical flick is one of the most complete and perfect screenplays to come out of this decade. It talks to everyone, not just younger audience members who are the same age. Every character, no matter how minor, has a story to tell. Just like in reality, everyone has worth in this big game we call life. On top of this, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf portray the best Mother/Daughter dynamic seen on screen in years. When the credits rolled, I thought to myself, “nothing will top this all year for me”. I was almost right…
We’ve been blessed with some true masterpieces within the sci-fi genre recently and in years to come Annihilation will be talked about in the same light as Arrival & Blade Runner 2049. Bold, innovative, totally original, and uterrlty mesmerising. When Lena’s (Natalie Portman) husband returns from a mysterious mystery, she must enter “The Shimmer”, a location where the laws of physics and nature don’t apply. Joined by a team of scientists, the all female team must dive deeper into the mysterious zone to discover what is at the centre, and why no other teams have returned. Alex Garland’s follow up to the fantastic Ex Machina cements him as one of sci-fi’s leading visionaries. It’s also ridiculous that one of the key issues Paramount had with it was the final act, which is hands down one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I’ve seen for a long time. Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s mind bending score especially shines during the climax. Three watches later (once on the big screen) and it only gets better on each viewing. There no excuse to miss this one.