Well, all of the Awards’ favourites of 2018 have played in UK cinemas now, and two months into 2019 I think it is time to make my Top 10 films of 2018 list. These are my critical Top 10, and not necessarily a reflection of the 2018 films that I enjoyed the most. It was a hard list to make, as I would have loved to have included Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, A Star is Born, BlacKkKlansman, Incredibles 2 and the overlooked indie film Leave No Trace on this list, but alas not. That can only be a good thing though, as they were great films, but there are 10 that are even better, so here we go…
10) Hereditary (Dir. Ari Aster)
In an era where genuinely outstanding horror films are a rarity, it is with great delight that I can include Hereditary on this list. In his thoroughly impressive debut feature, Ari Aster proves himself to be a master at crafting tension, and presents a narrative which powerfully depicts the horrors of grief and trauma. The film also features a career-best performance from Toni Colette (the fact that it did not get an Oscar nod being a travesty), and I look forward to seeing what Aster does next.
9) Avengers: Infinity War (Dirs. Anthony Russo/Joe Russo)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe had built to this for 10 years and 18 films, but I did not expect this superhero epic to be as great as it was. All of the characters have a part to play, without which the film would not have been so good, it was a technically excellent piece of filmmaking with some real emotional weight at the end that built up anticipation beautifully for Avengers: Endgame (which is out in two months time).
8) Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Dir. Christopher McQuarrie)
For a sixth film in a franchise to be this good is a true rarity. Fallout is a technical masterpiece where the choreography, filming and editing of action sequences are concerned, and boasts some of the finest practical effects and stunt work since Mad Max: Fury Road. Plus it boasts a very clever narrative that builds upon what happened in the previous films very nicely and raises the bar for the franchise’s future.
7) A Quiet Place (Dir. John Krasinski)
Two genuinely outstanding horror films in one year is a true rarity, but that is precisely what A Quiet Place ensured, and director/co-writer/co-lead John Krasinski proves himself to be a genius at crafting suspense, opting very much for the less is more approach to filmmaking. Boasting excellent performances and playing terrifically on fear of the unknown, this is one of the tensest films you will ever sit through. I remember when I saw it at the cinema nearly a year ago that the screening was in total silence and you could feel the tension and the bated breath of every single audience member.
6) If Beale Street Could Talk (Dir. Barry Jenkins)
Director/screenwriter Barry Jenkins presents here a very mature, sensitive and nuanced approach to a story that is as relevant today as it was in the 1970s, with regards to race-relations. The characters are magnificently realised, the young leads KiKi Layne and Stephan James are natural talents, and Jenkins grapples with tough subject matter, showing his intelligence as a filmmaker by knowing when to make something blatant and when to insinuate, trusting that his viewers can read between the lines. Add into the mix gorgeous cinematography by James Laxton and a haunting jazz score by Nicholas Britell and you easily have one of the most emotionally weighty films of the year.
5) The Favourite (Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
The historical accuracy can be debated until the cows come home (sorry for throwing in that overused cliché), but the brilliance and emotional weight of this film cannot be denied. Director Yorgos Lanthimos shows himself to be the master of slow-burn comedy-drama here, his direction being nuanced and rich in style, the humour being subtle. The production design and costume design is spectacular, as is the use of fish eye lenses to frame the grandeur and scale of 18th Century aristocracy. The three central performances from Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are outstanding, but it is the former of these three performances that gives The Favourite the most emotional weight and complexity.
4) Annihilation (Dir. Alex Garland)
Director/screenwriter Alex Garland creates a perfect balance between tense horror and slow-burn science-fiction, surpassing the quality of his excellent directorial debut film Ex Machina, and showing the clarity of his vision while handling serious themes such as grief, depression and man’s ability to be self-destructive. Garland shows great intelligence and maturity further by creating a degree of ambiguity, trusting the audience to put the pieces together and draw conclusions. It is a visually breathtaking film carried by an outstanding ensemble cast, whose characters each have a sensitive and weighty emotional arc, but ultimately is led by a spectacular leading turn from Natalie Portman, that is rich in nuance and emotional maturity.
3) McQueen (Dir. Ian Bonhôte)
Going into this film I had scarcely any knowledge of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, other than the fact that his creations always drew serious attention from the fashion industry. Coming out of this documentary, I had a well-informed, rounded knowledge of his life and career, from his optimistic efforts to get his big break to his struggles with depression. McQueen is an emotional gut-punch, a poignant look at the fashion industry that shows that even having big success in it does not mean you will be happy, while the documentary’s tone is perfect as it goes from upbeat to deadly sombre, reflecting the real-life emotional journey of McQueen himself.
2) Roma (Dir. Alfonso Cuarón)
Set in the early 1970s, director/co-producer/screenwriter/cinematographer/co-editor Alfonso Cuarón’s latest masterpiece is a heartfelt tribute to the women who raised him. Beautifully framed, perfectly paced, reflective and intimate in its storytelling and nuanced in its direction, Roma is a masterpiece which boasts rich performances and a true sense of authenticity as it looks at family, discussing what makes somebody family, emphasising that family is not simply defined by who you share genetic make-up with. This is Cuarón’s ultimate passion project and one that will not be forgotten in a hurry, that is for sure.
1) They Shall Not Grow Old (Dir. Peter Jackson)
Nobody could have foreseen just how truly outstanding They Shall Not Grow Old was going to be. The restoration of actual footage from training bases and the front line of World War I was done painstakingly, but every technical decision was clearly deliberate and thought through and the end results are a genuine masterpiece, with brushed-up quality, excellent colourisation and dialogue added based on lip-reading of what the men were saying while being filmed. If I had just stumbled upon a random scene I could easily have mistaken it for footage shot during the Korean War or the Vietnam War, not World War I. It is not just a technical masterpiece, as Peter Jackson presents a harrowing discussion and overview of the conflict, depicting the horrors of trench warfare, the emotional impact of conflict and ultimately just how futile soldiers from both sides had come to realise it all was by November 1918. No look at war has left me in stunned silence quite like this one did.
2018 was quite a hit-and-miss year for cinema, but by Jove did the hits hit. Let us see now what the rest of 2019 has in store for us, and I look forward to making my Top 10 Films of 2019 list this time next year.