As we are a month away from casting our Blade Runner flying car in the same trashcan of failed dreams we hurled our Back to the Future 2 hoverboards, we cast our eye back over the year that was, to at least appreciate the great films that graced our screens. From London bears to American Animals, superheroes to superstars, 2018 has been a pretty diverse year. Here are our top 20 for 2018 as seen by Film & TV Editor DAVID O’CONNELL and the team of DAVID MORGAN-BROWN, NATALIE GILES, LLOYD MARKEN, ANNE PAVY, Q, HARVEY RAE and ZACK YUSOF.
20. Paddington 2
DOC: Easily the tightest and most well constructed script of the year, Paddington 2 has not a wasted word or action within its run. Yet somehow it manages to combine this discipline with a sense of whimsy and gentle magic, that makes this kids’ film about a good natured bear so much more than it initially appears. The result is a thing of sheer beauty, and warms the cockles of even the most jaded reviewers heart.
19. American Animals
DOC: A visually creative take on the ‘true-crime’ story, American Animals blurs the line between fiction and documentary, as the fallibility of memory comes into conflict with our own personal myth making. For us as an audience it is an inventive, entertaining and occasionally confronting look into how intelligent people can convince themselves to do something obviously stupid.
18. The Shape of Water
DOC: A love letter from director Guillermo Del Toro to the classic monster films of his youth. He uses it to shape something that is both a sharp commentary on our current political environment, and a magical fable about acceptance and love. Buoyed by three amazing central performances (Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon and Doug Jones) The Shape of Water is an immaculately executed slice of fantasy, that is witty and engrossing.
17. Deadpool 2
NG: Exploding through the fourth wall with a lascivious wink and subversive filth cradled in his arms, Deadpool’s return improved on the formula with a surprising emotional depth and curious character arcs, albeit hidden behind that playful irreverence fans adore. Gleeful gore and snarky sass helped ensure that this was one of the most enjoyable films of the year, with the greatest laughs per minute.
DMB: Claire Foy has been getting praise for her roles in First Man and The Girl in the Spider’s Web, but her greatest, strongest, and most intelligent performance this year was in this psychological thriller set in a mental care facility (which can now be safely categorised as a slept-on film for 2018). A story that’s always on its feet with twists and turns throughout, always keeping the right sense of ambiguity and unsettling mystery, and along with the unusual cinematography (shot with an iPhone), this is one of the most riveting and thrilling films of the year.
AP: Alexander McQueen was a fashion iconoclast whose dark rebellious spirit combined perfectly with technical mastery. This biographical documentary gives us a personal look at his extraordinary life and work. Through exclusive interviews with his closest friends and family, recovered archives, exquisite visuals and music, McQueen is an authentic celebration and thrilling portrait of an inspired yet tortured fashion visionary. The artistry and beauty of this biographical documentary matches that of the iconic designer it celebrates.
14. Lady Bird
DOC: Lady Bird is a perfect souffle. A dish that looks light and airy, made with only a few simple ingredients, but that simplicity hides the skill and artistry that went into it, and the joy that is there in the partaking. First time director Greta Gerwig’s earnest storytelling matches with Saoirse Ronan’s sardonic grace, to bring this tale of teenage trails to life.
13. A Star is Born
HR: Who would have thought the year’s most devastating film would be a musical-not-musical starring Bradley Cooper and, err, Lady Gaga? But this remake of a remake of a remake thrives on the performances of its two leads, and Cooper’s deft directorial touch in his debut. Then there’s the impressive original soundtrack that includes the wonderful Jason Isbell-penned Maybe It’s Time – and without such assured songwriting A Star is Born wouldn’t work. Look out for this one come Oscar time.
12. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
DOC: A nigh perfect example of the superhero genre, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a stunning animated achievement, bringing a bright kinetic look to the world of Marvel. Its tightly scripted razor sharp balance of comedy and genuine emotional resonance sets an example that many of its live action counterparts could certainly learn from.
DMB: Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev once again demonstrated why he’s one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of world cinema, yet Loveless is set apart from his other masterpieces because of how much less clinical and more emotional it is. He continues with his social critiques, but then infuses it with a high sense of drama, familial conflict, and what seems like a never-ending bottomless pit of doom. Its acting, writing, and cinematography are more powerful and emotional than most of the American contemporaries that scoop up all the Oscars and Golden Globes.
10. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
LM: A 2017 film released earlier this year, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool told the May/ December romance of movie star Gloria Grahame with Liverpudlian Peter Turner, a local actor. More than just a romance, the film captures a time and place effortlessly, and how family can inform your morality and be relied upon in stress. The love story of Turner’s family is almost as important as his one with the former Oscar winner. At the centre of the film are two great performances by Jaimie Bell and Annette Bening, who has reached Meryl Streep status in her ability to always deliver.
9. Black Panther
NG: Definitively one of the most exhilarating rides through super heroism in recent years, Black Panther’s massive leaps forward for representation in cinema makes it an exciting pick for the year. Featuring an extravagant visual spectacle, phenomenal performances, direction, set design and costuming throughout, with a plethora of strong women of colour to boot.
HR: Those missing their dose of Stranger Things this year could do worse than Mandy. The hyper-stylish breakthrough from second time director Panos Cosmatos can best be described as psychedelic horror, with moments of sci-fi and fantasy most likely the results of excessive LSD use. With Nicolas Cage on the trail for revenge, a perfect 80s synthesiser soundtrack and stylised violence straight from a Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) film, Cosmatos’ visually stunning masterpiece is horror you can’t take your eyes off.
7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
AP: The unapologetically angry heroine Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) perfectly captures the #metoo movement and global social debates of the moment. One of the most critically acclaimed films of the year with four Oscars under its belt, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deftly balances black comedy against searing drama.
6. Sweet Country
DOC: A masterful gut punch from director Warwick Thornton, Sweet Country codifies the Australian western while giving us a tale that reminds us of the issues in our past that resonate into our present. A film of desolate beauty, Sweet Country manages to balance the drama and comedy in its portrayal of Australian colonial life, bringing with it a remarkable empathy for its characters.
5. A Quiet Place
ZY: Based on an intriguing premise, director John Krasinski gives us an accomplished, sci-fi-horror-thriller hybrid that lures viewers into its web of gripping tension in intelligent, edge-of-the-seat fashion. Beautifully crafted and highly inventive, A Quiet Place artfully raises the bar without having to rely on cheap scares or cheesy theatrics to heighten the terror and makes for compelling viewing from the get go. A must watch for any fan of the genre.
4. Phantom Thread
Q: As one of the most quietly captivating films of the year, this is a lavish tale of control, manipulation and obsession set against a backdrop of 1950s high society London. Daniel Day-Lewis (in perhaps his final role) plays the arrogant and misogynistic courtier Reynolds all too well, at least until his beautiful and implacable muse, Alma (Vicky Krieps) gives him something to think about. At times a little challenging to watch – especially in the post #metoo era – Phantom Thread is nonetheless gloriously gratifying, in an almost perverted way. You’ll never look at an omelette the same again.
3. You Were Never Really Here
DMB: The vigilante sub-genre got a complete reworking with this new masterpiece from master filmmaker Lynne Ramsay. It’s been endlessly compared to Taxi Driver, but this is a different beast: a mentally disturbed and damaged man (Joaquin Phoenix) sets out to rescue a young girl from a sex ring, though the similarities stop there. You Were Never Really Here has been crafted with a strong sense of mood as first priority, immensely created by Phoenix’s searing and intense performance and Jonny Greenwood’s overpowering music score that so suitably tap into the film’s portrayal of brutality and humanity.
DOC: A slow burn horror film with a heck of a pay-off, Hereditary reaches back to horror of the 60s and 70s for its stylistic inspiration (notably Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist). The result is a film that gradually ratchets up the tension till it reaches unbearable levels, as Toni Collette’s driven mother unravels the mystery behind her children. Filmed with an immaculate eye, Hereditary combines precision film making with an intricate plot structure for terrifying results.
NG: Spike Lee’s beautifully crafted rendition of the true story of Ron Stallworth’s infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s is some of the most exquisite dark comedy of recent years, and undoubtedly some of Lee’s finest work. Intentionally alarming, the provocative comparisons to the horrifying resurgence of open white supremacy in Trump’s America still manages to be as absurd as racism in itself.