2018 was a year. Like all years, parts were good and parts were bad: but no matter what, it remained strange. Though if there is one thing 2018 did well, it was the movies: from the big-budget blockbusters to the little indies that could, it was a great year for cinema all around. And like every other critic/fan/person-with-a-keyboard at this time of year, I want to celebrate the movies I saw.
And in total, I saw 117 films in 2018: ranging from the great to not-so-great. No matter the quality: I don’t regret a single one. The ensuing list will be my top 25 films of the year, going off my personal opinion and enjoyment: not objective quality. I wish I could celebrate all 117 films this year to some extent in a detailed list, but that would be way too long and most people don’t care that much: I’ll be lucky if someone reads this entire piece.
One extra thing before I begin, this goes of UK release dates: so certain 2018 favourites(like The Favourite) won’t be included while certain 2017 favourites(like The Shape of Water) will. This is all just my opinion and so I hope you understand I am not forcing it onto you. Please, tell me your opinion down below: just be nice about it. I want to watch great movies and talk about them: so let’s have a discussion, but not an argument. Without further ado, these are my favourite movies of 2018.
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, I can say this is one of the best-directed action films of all time. Every type of action sequence you could ever desire is done here and done better than it could ever be done. Tom Cruise, a man in his fifties, broke his ankle during filming yet got up and ran like an Olympian: I get a cold and start writing a will. Fallout is the quintessential action movie: and I have no problem calling it the best action film of 2018. Just please, Tom – you’ve proved your worth… don’t kill yourself for our sake… please.
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Something within me simply felt empowered by Bohemian Rhapsody. Whether it be the astounding music, performances, style or entertainment value: Bohemian Rhapsody is all I wanted out of a Queen biopic. Many questioned its authenticity for not being depressingly dour. But to that I say, do you think Freddie would want that as his legacy? This film provided ‘escape from reality’ – so as far as I am concerned, his anguish can ‘get caught in a landslide’.
Directed by: Aneesh Chaganty
Searching was easily the most pleasant surprise of my 2018. What this underrated gem managed to do was take the ‘Missing Person’ film genre and reinvigorate it, expertly using an increasingly popular format, where the entire film takes place on a single screen, to turn the audience into makeshift detectives. Every frame is detailed and every moment suspenseful: it is truly one of the most unique thrillers in years.
#22 American Animals
Directed by: Bart Layton
American Animals also falls into that category of being a pleasant surprise. Expertly blending documentary with a narrative drama, this refreshing take on the heist genre opts to neglect hard truths in favour of what ‘could’ have happened: not necessarily what definitely did. With great finesse, Layton depicts this tale with a thoroughly engaging surrealness that is only improved by the stellar cast, unique structure and the simple fact it is, somehow, a true story.
Directed by: Alex Garland
Alex Garland made himself known to me through 2015’s Ex Machina – which is probably my favourite modern science-fiction film. And although I don’t think Annihilation surpasses it: it is still a pretty great movie. Backed by a powerfully sombre performance by Natalie Portman and visionary special effects, this film is a visceral experience, one I regret not seeing in the cinema. Also, that bear scene….. that bear scene.
#20 I, Tonya
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
I, Tonya was robbed of acclaim. Not only is Margot Robbie sensational as the eponymous Tonya Harding, but the marvellous structure wonderfully presents a tale where nothing is certain in the only way it should be told: without definitive answers. None of this is too dissimilar to American Animals, which also has an inherent uncertainty. What gives this film the edge is Margot Robbie: who makes one of the most loathed athletes of all time understandable and likeable, seemingly with ease.
Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Everything about Coco – from its stunning animation to its excellent characters to its delightful music – is worthy of its own applause; nay, its own Academy Award. Pixar remains Supreme-Leader of the animated world – and if this painfully adorable film reflects anything: it reflects their stubborn refusal to be imperfect.
#18 Molly’s Game
Directed by: Aaron Sorkin
This was the first film I saw in 2018 – and it stuck with me. Jessica Chastain is impeccable as Molly Bloom, with co-star Idris Elba providing a solid supporting performance on screen, while genius writer-turned-director Aaron Sorkin does what he does best and writes amazing dialogue, at a Shakespearean level of complexity, off-screen. Molly’s Game was everything I wanted it to be: smart, stylish and slick – and seeping with Aaron Sorkin‘s dense vocabulary.
#17 A Quiet Place
Directed by: John Krasinski
There is endless praise I could give A Quiet Place(such as the gorgeous cinematography, excellent sound design, impressive performances, compelling concept and unbearable tension) but the best, and most thankful, praise I can ever give it is that it made an entire audience, full of people, be quiet for two glorious hours.
#16 Game Night
Directed by: John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein
Game Night was my favourite ‘pure comedy’ of the year. Not only did it succeed on its premise plus-plus, but it assembled the Avengers of great comedic performances and smoothed it all off with a legitimately compelling visual style. A special shoutout to Blockers and Tag, which were two other surprisingly funny films that didn’t quite make my list. But while they’re good, Game Night was everything I wanted out of it, and surprisingly a little bit more.
#15 Deadpool 2
Directed by: David Leitch
Many people were disappointed by this film and I personally couldn’t agree less. Ryan Reynolds still shines as the eponymous Red Spandex and the comedy is pitch-perfect: moreover, I’d also argue that the action is vastly improved now that David Leitch is at the wheel. But what I appreciate most about this film is that it attempted to have emotional substance, and wasn’t ‘just’ jokes. Whether or not that substance worked for you is subjective, but it worked for me.
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
The only reason The Shape of Water isn’t much higher is that I have not watched it in a long time, unfortunately. It won Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars and – out of the nominees listed – rightfully so, with gorgeous cinematography, an impeccable score and Sally Hawkins giving it her all: being so compelling and emotional without ever really saying a word. One of my best friends diminished it to just ‘The Fish Banging Movie’ – and he got a ‘lengthy’ lecture about how he was wrong.
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Competing against The Shape of Water in the 2018 Oscar race, this film was what many consider to be the runner-up. And while I agree The Shape of Water is the better overall film – this enthralled me. Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson all give some of their finest performances on camera, while McDonagh gives one of his best off – in both his superb direction and hugely entertaining screenplay. For once in my life, I support the use of billboards.
#12 Black Panther
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Before you double-check, yes I have put Black Panther ahead of Infinity War. But no, I am not doing it to seem ‘cool’ or ‘inclusive’. Black Panther is by far the most thematically rich, culturally significant and emotionally potent film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though it suffers from ‘third-act-climax-syndrome’ – the villain, Killmonger, is among Marvel’s best and the story is perhaps Marvel’s best. Now excuse me, please, while I accept my Disney cheque.
#11 First Man
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
This gripping ballad of grief, disguised as a biopic for Neil Armstrong, was among the best showcases of technical wizardry all year. Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy are both Oscar-worthy in their gut-wrenching portrayals of Neil and Janet Armstrong respectively, while Damien Chazelle‘s stellar direction and cinematography are to be commended. Some maligned the film for not featuring a flag-planting scene: but First Man is as much a movie about American Patriotism as Gone Girl is about relationship advice. It’s a compelling film that transcended the surface-level patriotism expected of it; blissfully so.
THE TOP TEN
#10 Incredibles 2
Directed by: Brad Bird
Given that Brad Bird is amazing, The Incredibles is amazing and that I have a split-personality when it comes to excitement/caution – I both hotly anticipated and utterly dreaded Incredibles 2‘s release. But destiny always arrives. And to be quite honest, I do not care that this film isn’t as good as the first one: it couldn’t have been. What it is, is a gorgeous looking, incredibly funny and absolutely endearing animated feature that is a delight. Furthermore, gimme a Jack-Jack movie now, now, now!
#09 A Star is Born
Directed by: Bradley Cooper
Considering that this was not only Bradley Cooper‘s directorial debut but was also Lady Gaga‘s first major acting role, it is astounding that they are both frontrunners in their respective Oscar categories. And though I don’t believe either should win, the acclaim is deserved. A Star is Born is a heartbreaking tale of loss and addiction, that chronicles the rise and fall of two ‘stars’; and how they meet at the middle. Coupled with up to three Oscar calibre performances, stunning cinematography and a song – Shallow – destined to win every award that comes its way, A Star is Born is one of the few remakes I would legitimately deem to be great.
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
As much as it shames me, Roma was the only foreign language film I saw in 2018. Luckily, it was phenomenal: but the point still stands. Alfonso Cuarón‘s deeply personal and sentimental tale is well worthy of the countless accolades it will likely acquire. Ranging from the gorgeous cinematography to a one-of-a-kind performance by first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio, Roma is filmmaking at its purest: art. It was one of the most touching films of the year, and will hopefully give me the kick I need to see more foreign films.
Directed by: Ari Aster
2018 should go down as the ‘Year of the Director’. So many great directors expressed their voice this year: whether it be big-budget blockbusters a la Mission Impossible: Fallout, deeply personal journeys a la Roma or this: an absolutely spectacular display of craft in the form of Hereditary. Toni Collette‘s performance here will go down as the Academy Award’s biggest loss of 2018 because it is as deviously compelling as it is demonically terrifying. Though it polarised general audiences, this is how horror should be made.
Directed by: Drew Goddard
After The Cabin in the Woods blew everyone away in 2011, Drew Goddard had a tough act to follow. But for me, he far surpassed it with Bad Times at the El Royale, ironically one of the best times I had in the cinema this year. Every member of the cast was thoroughly engaging and convincing – especially Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman and Chris Hemsworth – and Goddard‘s script was so cleverly written and so joyfully conniving in its structure that from the moment this film started, I didn’t want it to end.
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Viola Davis is great in this film. Liam Neeson is great in this film. Daniel Kaluuya is great in this film. Widows is a stellar display of acting at its most basic: with its more advanced dissections yielding a compelling story of desperation and reform, a slick but visceral cinematographic style and a, put simply, magnificent score by Hans Zimmer. If not for its ending, Widows could have been my favourite film of the year. If only for that less than pitch-perfect ending…
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Simply from a craft perspective, what Peter Jackson achieved with this film is, quite literally, unparalleled. He modernises footage from WW1 with sound, colour, extra frames etc: making this is a technical marvel. But that doesn’t make a film great on its own: and why this film is so great is that it transcends technical achievement into an emotionally resonant experience. I was lucky enough to see this on the big screen with a packed theatre: and I have no shame in admitting it almost made me cry.
Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best superhero movie of 2018, and I have zero doubt about that. The animation is breathtaking. The voice cast is phenomenal. The comedy is hilarious. The emotion is real. Spider-Verse is a beautiful film both in animation and meaning. Like only a few superhero movies before it, it transcends the genre and becomes a great film outright. Support this film and demand quality entertainment, because blockbusters do not get much better than this.
Directed by: Spike Lee
Though it is not my favourite film of 2018; BlackKklansman is what I would personally consider to be the best. On every conceivable level – whether it be the multitude of Oscar-worthy performances or Spike Lee‘s nigh irreproachable directorial style – this film succeeds. In addition, the final few minutes of this film could be the most daring yet powerful couple minutes of a film in 2018: and no, the *Snap* does not make the Top 10. For me, this film is nothing short of a masterpiece.
AND NUMBER ONE…
#01 Love, Simon
Directed by: Greg Berlanti
By no means is Love, Simon the best movie of 2018: but it made me full on cry. For each of the three times I saw it in the cinema, it made me cry. On a cultural level, this film matters to me perhaps more than any other film in years, as just having this film in existence means so much to me on a personal level that it makes the non-critic side of me ignore all flaws within. The critic half of my brain acknowledges these flaws: but I think no matter what, the good outweighs the bad. This is not the best film of 2018: but considering it has the potential to – in the long-run – bleed into my all time favourites, I think I have to put at this spot.
That is my Top 25 favourite films of 2018. Please do not expect a Worst Films list – I refuse to actively spread negativity. If you care enough about the films I hated, I will post a full ranking that has no details, only titles – but I will not actively tear another film down.
If you disagree with my list, agree with it or haven’t even seen 3/4 of the films on it – please feel free to tell me. Let’s have a discussion about the past year in film: just let’s do so with respect and human dignity.
2018 has been a great year for movies – here’s to hoping 2019 will be even better.