Well, 2018 was pretty good! There were some absolute corkers in the cinema this year, as well as some total stinkers. Overall, the blockbuster has seen continued success with Disney and Marvel continuing to dominate the box office. As the year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on this year’s best films, as well as revealing my personal Top 10. For full reviews of all the films mentioned, simply click through on their title. And as always, these are only my opinions, and are judged as 2018 film’s by their UK release date.
Unfortunately, as with every year, there were films I’ve missed that may have made it into my top 10 list, and these include Lynne Ramsey’s ‘You Were Never Really Here’, Nicolas Cage going full Nicolas Cage in ‘Mandy’, and I still haven’t seen Daniel Day Lewis bow out in ‘Phantom Thread’. Soon hopefully, soon.
Accompanying this are films that I have seen, but wish I hadn’t. Some of the worst films of 2018 include (but aren’t limited to) ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me‘, ‘Tomb Raider‘, ‘The Predator‘, ‘Johnny English Strikes Again‘, ‘The Nutcracker and The Four Realms‘ and ‘Venom’. The worst, however, is late entry ‘Holmes & Watson’, which wasted an interesting premise and fantastic cast on an abysmal script written by Etan Cohen, who also directed the disaster.
Before I get into my Top 10, there were a number of films it pained me to not include, because I really enjoyed them but they just didn’t quite reach it to the main list. So just to mention, these are the ten films that missed out (and are instead my numbers 20-11 in my top 20 of the year, were I to make such a list…). They are: ‘Bad Times at the El Royale‘, ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’, ‘Isle of Dogs‘, ‘Coco‘, ‘Avengers Infinity War‘, ‘Red Sparrow‘, ‘Searching‘, ‘Sorry To Bother You‘, ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again‘ and ‘Sicario 2: Soldado‘
So, in at Number Ten is ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’. The Coen Brothers are known for their darkly comic and bizarre films, and in this Western Anthology we get 6 in one! With gratuitous violence, great performances from a huge cast and a wonderful mix of comedy and heart, this is a brilliant watch for all Netflix users. Personal highlights of the six stories are story number one, ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’, story number three ‘The Meal Ticket’ and story number four ‘All Gold Canyon’.
At Number Nine, it’s Spielberg, back on blockbuster form with ‘Ready Player One’. This film was such a visual treat. Well-designed CGI and fun Easter Eggs for hundreds of Pop-Culture references accompany an interesting plot with an important message about humanity’s reliance on technology and screens. Granted, there are plot holes and some issues in the simplistic characterisation, but with such a great fun premise and colourful imagery, this can all be excused as Spielberg presents another great piece of blockbuster entertainment.
At Number Eight is the nauseating ‘American Animals’. The best heist film of 2018, ‘American Animals’ is a fantastically well-crafted tale of guilt and attention seeking. The film is incredibly well made, with talking heads of the real-life characters detailing their thoughts and feelings of the events, and the sound design creating a genuinely uncomfortable atmosphere that makes you feel the nauseous guilt and fear the characters are experiencing. It’s a fascinating character study of an adolescence trying to get himself noticed and is well worth a watch.
At Number Seven, and surprisingly (considering I’m not a horror fan) it’s ‘A Quiet Place’, written and directed by John Krasinski who also stars opposite his real-life wife Emily Blunt. This film uses the modern horror film cliché to its advantage. Now, instead of jump scares being used as a lazy trick to scare (or wake up) audiences, they are used to reflect the very real danger the characters face if they make a noise in a world run by creatures that hunt by sound. It’s wonderfully effective and raised a great debate about whether popcorn should be allowed in cinemas.
At Number Six, it’s the powerful story of human achievement, ‘First Man’. ‘La La Land’ and ‘Whiplash’ director Damien Chazelle proves that Jazz films aren’t all he’s good at with this incredible biopic on how Neil Armstrong dealt with going to the moon. Ryan Gosling’s performance is wonderfully reserved, and the whole film, shot on Super 16mm cameras, has a gorgeous film grain quality to it, reminiscent of contemporary 1960’s documentaries. The practical effects are stunning and the lunar landing scene is utterly breathtaking (sorry, spoilers, but they do make it to the moon). At its heart however, it’s not a film about the moon landings, but a study of characters that have to deal with extreme grief, and their methods of dealing with it.
At Number Five, its ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’, the best superhero film of 2018. A fascinating plot, fantastically blending emotion and humour, all brought together by a great voice cast and stunning design made the film a wonderfully entertaining watch. Unfortunately, the film was mixed with the tragic passing of Stan Lee just a month before it’s release which meant it had a sorrowful undertone to it. However, it also proved that Lee’s favourite character, and his whole legacy, will continue on far beyond what he could ever have dreamed.
At Number Four, its ‘Call Me By Your Name’. A soft and beautifully created romance film, ‘Call Me By Your Name’ sports two of the greatest performances of this year from Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet. Their raw emotion is palpable throughout, and I’ll be damned if that ending shot isn’t one of the most emotional endings to a film ever. Surprisingly, a sequel is currently in the works with all the main people involved returning. It will be fascinating to see whether this beautiful piece will work as a mini franchise, but if the second film is half as good as this instalment, we’re in for a real treat.
At Number Three, it’s ‘A Star is Born’, and what a film this was! For Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, he has brought a stunningly powerful emotion to a story as old as cinema. He and Lady Gaga give Oscar worthy performances, and the soundtrack is an amazingly addictive listen. It creates a heartbreaking insight into fame, addiction, love and loss, and has proven to be the only great remake of recent years. Bring on the Oscar season so this film can receive the praise it so rightly deserves.
At Number Two, and just missing out on the top spot, it’s ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. As a long-time fan of Martin McDonagh’s black comedies, this is another phenomenal addition to his filmography. Though ‘In Bruges’ is still my favourite of his (and indeed one of my all-time favourite films), Three Billboards comes incredibly close. It’s a beautiful balance of comedy and tragedy, with stellar performances and a gripping plot. He is unrivalled as a screenwriter of original tragi-comedies, and one particular line has to be a stand out of cinema history: When writing a suicide note to their partner, a character writes “maybe I’ll see you again if there’s another place. And if their ain’t…well, it’s been heaven knowing you”. Pure poetry.
And finally, in at Number One and coming as absolutely no surprise to my regular readers, the best film of this year (in my opinion) was ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’. If there was one film that just screamed CINEMA this year, it was M:I-6. A perfect blend of excitement and emotion with a compelling story, amazing performances and stunning practical stunts, Fallout had it all. It proved the reason why the cinema experience is worth time and money, as the sound and huge picture this film deserves simply cannot be replicated on the small screen. The best instalment in my favourite franchise, Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise have created an action film to sit among the greats and, should the franchise (hopefully) continue, is an almightily difficult film to follow.
So, there are my picks for the best films of 2018. Did I miss one of your favourites?
Looking ahead into next year, there appears to be a lot more to look forward to.
While I wasn’t as enamoured as everyone else with Infinity War, I think Avengers: Endgame is still my most anticipated film of 2019. I cannot wait to see how they solve the huge cliffhanger left after ‘Infinity War’, and more importantly, how they wrap up a Cinematic Universe eleven years in the making.
Among many others, I am also looking forward to seeing original films like ‘Stan and Ollie’, Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’, Elton John bio-pic ‘Rocketman’, Jordan Peele’s next project ‘Us’, Taika Waititi’s ‘JoJo Rabbit’ and Adam McKays ‘Vice’, as well as franchise films like ‘John Wick 3: Parabellum’, ‘Godzilla: King of The Monsters’, ‘Joker’, ‘Toy Story 4’ and ‘Kingsman: The Great Game’.
Unfortunately, there are MANY remakes coming next year, with live-action adaptations of ‘Dumbo’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Lion King’ all giving me major trepidation.
All that I can say for now is thanks for reading, thanks for all your support and see you for the next post in 2019!