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The Top Films of 2018

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Did I blink? 2018 is now almost over and it has flown by. So much seems to have happened and I keep thinking they happened in 2017!

Luckily there have been many incredible films this year and once again I realise there are still so many I have yet to see. There is never enough time.

I recently asked all the Live for Films followers over on Twitter and Facebook what their favourite films of the year had been. I put them all together and here are the Top 20 films as voted by all of you.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War
  2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  3. Mandy
  4. A Quiet Place
  5. Annihilation
  6. Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse
  7. Roma
  8. BlacKkKlansman
  9. Hereditary
  10. You Were Never Really Here
  11. Black Panther
  12. A Star Is Born
  13. First Man
  14. Upgrade
  15. Bohemian Rhapsody
  16. Shoplifters
  17. First Reformed
  18. Leave No Trace
  19. Ready Player One
  20. Widows

A great mix of films and who would have thought that a Nicolas Cage film would have been in the Top 5 (he’s got 2 in the Top 6 as he voiced a character in Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse)!

Below you can see the Top 5 films of some of the Live for Films writers. I am still working on my list and will be talking about it on the After The Ending Podcast in the New Year. Many of the writers are based in the UK so, due to release dates, there may be some films included that came out near the end of 2017 in other countries. Some of the films may also have been seen at the various Film Festivals that take place during the year.

Trevor Hogg

Shoplifters

1. Shoplifters – A potent exploration of what defines a family. Is it through genetics or the emotional connections that we share with one another?

2. Roma – A personal epic carefully crafted from the childhood memories of filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón which leaves a lasting impression upon the viewer.

3. First Man – A production as ambitious as the historic moon landing which demonstrates that Damien Chazelle is a full-fledged filmmaker who can go beyond music-oriented storytelling.

4. Widows – A heist movie that rises about the genre conventions as filmmaker Steve McQueen instills a social conscious that packs an emotional wallop with an added bonus being the stellar performance of Viola Davis.

5. Tito and the Birds – A clever combination of oil painting, digital drawing and graphic animation which has the dark undertones of a faerie tale that enhances the message about how people can conquer their fears.

Underwhelming:

Solo: A Star Wars Story – I expected more with original trilogy screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan being involved and was disappointed when he decided to play it safe (as was the case with The Force Awakens) which is ironic considering taking risks is a defining trait of the title character.

Alan Simmons

Upgrade

In no particular order:

Suspiria – Had a touch of The Fear about this one being an enormous fan of Dario Argento and his masterpiece original, but the 2018 version borrows its bones, breaks them and creates something all its own that is terrifying trippy and touching.

Halloween – Another Big Personal One for me – I live for the Halloween movies and have been dying for a decent one since H20. Luckily, so had Blumhouse and they knocked it out of the park with a seqboot that gives us back Laurie, honours the original and makes Michael truly scary again.

Hereditary – A lot of people moaned that this was overhyped and felt let down but they watched a different movie. Hereditary is a true original that made me feel sick with fear for the first time since The VVitch.

Mandy – By turns meditative mad and mind-melting, Mandy is Cage’s best film in a very long time – Mom and Dad was good but throwaway – and Cosmatos used him extremely wisely. The first half is a reminder of how good he can be, the toilet vodka scene is a straight shot of pure Cage Rage and then from the Cheddar Goblin (honestly) on it is the craziest and coolest revenge mission ever, full of bananas baddies and metal animation breaks.

Upgrade – Predominantly action, but with fights and what the BBFC like to call “injury detail” that is nearly gory enough to qualify it as horror, Upgrade is Leigh Whannell’s Robocop: a brutal biomechanical blockbuster with a distinctive fighting style that is truly game-changing to see.

And obviously:

Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War (But it’s boring giving up two spots to Marvel every year. We all know.)

Shout outs to:

Climax, A Quiet Place, Isle of Dogs, Overlord, The Meg, Solo, The Night Comes For Us, Fallout, The First Purge, Summer of 84, Climax, The Strangers: Prey at Night, Assassination Nation, Bumblebee, Mary Poppins Returns

Haven’t seen yet but hoping for awesomeness:

Vox Lux, Creed 2, Aquaman, Widows, Sorry To Bother You, The House That Jack Built, Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, Lords of Chaos

Piers McCarthy

You Were Never Really Here

First Reformed – Love how eclectic Ethan Hawke’s filmography is, and here is another very different role for him – a priest battling with past torment, and the worries of a local couple. It’s Paul “Raging Bull/Taxi Driver” Schrader’s best film in a long time, and one ripe for discussion. Thought about it long after, and looking forward to revisiting it.

You Were Never Really Here – A terrific shot of film adrenaline from Lynne Ramsay. Joaquin Phoenix is typically great, and the score from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is out of this world amazing. Only an hour and a half, but it certainly packs a wealth of story, style and substance into that timeframe.

The Shape Of Water – Lovely, pure cinema from Guillermo Del Toro. A film that feels classical yet contains some modern twists that sets it apart it nicely in amongst the awards fare. Deserving of its success; the direction, incredible ensemble cast, and visual effects and production design elevate it to another level.

Phantom Thread – Nothing about this film, bar the director, had me interested but I was completely in awe of its contemplative eye, extraordinary acting and – popping up again in my Top 5 – a beautiful score by Jonny Greenwood.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – For the ease in which McDonagh writes dialogue, and the effortless way his cast (mainly Frances McDormand) delivers it, Three Billboards was simply a well-written film that was enjoyable and thought-provoking throughout. I don’t see it as striking as the other 4 titles, but I can see myself watching this one more than the others – it has that rewatchable element in its favour.

Amanda Keats

A Star Is Born

1. A Star is Born

2. The Shape of Water

3. Three Billboards

4. Black Panther

5. A Quiet Place

Adam Truscott

Hostiles

Hostiles – I’m yet to see ‘Vice’ – but I flat out believe Christian Bale will give a better performance than here. The hospital scene, where he breaks down, is one of my favourite bits of acting in 2018. Maybe ever.

You Were Never Really Here – My toes are curling at the lack of award recognition, here. Phoenix has never been better. Grimy and beautiful – all at the same time.

A Quiet Place – I’m currently binging ‘US Office’ and didn’t think I could love John Krasinski any more. What a towering debut. Can’t wait for his next move. The signing at the very end made me burst into tears in the cinema… like a real man.

Hereditary – On the basis of my jaw dropping in the cinema. And the fact the very last scene has grown on me.

Mandy – I expected a Mad Max revenge story, but got so much more. A nightmare vision of lost love.

Disclaimers: Three Billboards, Shape of the Water are victims of the 2017/2018 phasing. And the fact Phil only lets us have 5. The Greatest Showman is my most watched film of 2018. And probably will be in 2019, too. Glorious. Mission: Impossible: Fallout should’ve been in my top 5. And I haven’t seen Aquaman, yet. And I’m 37 so can’t have Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse.

Paul Draper

1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Everything works here – from Frances McDormand’s incendiary, ground-breaking portrait of a grieving mother with nothing to lose, to the rich supporting cast and tender, funny script. Martin McDonagh’s most mature (and less-blokey) thriller is the prime fillet steak in a year of rich meats. Sam Rockwell deserves great plaudits for his portrayal as a dumb racist cop – a part that demands far more complexity than it first appears.

2. Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson’s forensically careful study of an establishment tailor battling his own control proclivities is magnetic and fascinating. Daniel Day-Lewis is as stellar as ever (and will be sorely missed if his retirement pledge is fulfilled), but Vicky Krieps’ turn as an intrigued, fawn-like waitress drawn deliberately into a world that clearly doesn’t welcome her – manifested by Lesley Manville’s guard-dog Cyril Woodcock – makes the film.

3. Hereditary – This was a horror academic’s joy. Ari Aster’s old-school atmospheric chiller brought back glorious memories of Rosemary’s Baby and Don’t Look Now for the more patient horror fans out there. Toni Collette shows that she has absolutely everything in her skills toolbox as a generations-old evil comes to a shattering head within her family. Also, she’s probably very nice, but I never want to meet Milly Shapiro.

4. Annihilation – The first of two Netflix productions on my list. Annihilation is a brightly coloured, oil-on-water, dreamlike story of a DNA-bending alien invasion. Natalie Portman is stoic as a scientist searching for answers, but the environment is the star. Horrifically beautiful mutations of nature litter the landscape and, as Portman’s Lena travels further down the rabbit-hole, humanity is whittled away in the best folk horror traditions. And there’s THAT bear scene…

5. The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs – After No Country for Old Men and True Grit, the Coen brothers’ star has been a little dimmer in recent years. Inside Llewyn Davis was ok and Hail Caesar was frankly a mess, but here they deliver a stunning portmanteau love letter to the Old West. Six films touch on strength, loss and survival as a world-class cast delights in manifesting as rich a set of characters as the Coens have yet produced. Some may feel frustrated by the brevity of some segments, which clearly had larger stories outside the frame of this film, but for me each film was as perfect as a welcome sip of water after a day in the desert saddle. Yippee-kay-yay.

Wyndham Hackett Pain

Shoplifters

1. Shoplifters – At a time when our attention is being diverted and stretched in all directions, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda finds inspiration and meaning in the seemingly overlooked and abandoned. Through his quiet and thoughtful graze, Kore-eda is able to turn a tale of petty robbery and low-class struggle into the most profound and affecting film of the year. Few filmmakers have ever examined the possibilities, contradictions, and limitations of family so deeply before.

2. Loveless – Originally intended as a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, Loveless takes the story of a child’s disappearance and turns it into a stark and haunting look at modern Russian society. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s latest film may be less directly political than his previous work Leviathan but the moral and spiritual rot on display does not occur in a vacuum and is indicative of the wider nation at large. Loveless is the film that confirms Andrey Zvyagintsev’s place as Europe’s leading filmmaker.

3. Roma – Aside from being a technical marvel full of beautiful long takes and stunning black and white cinematography, Roma is a painfully personal and poignant look at a middle-class family living in 1970s Mexico City. Somehow Alfonso Cuarón manages to merge an epic scale and presentation with a quiet family drama to create something truly sublime.

4. Cold War – Paweł Pawlikowski’s intimate account of a couple falling in and out of love on either side of the Iron Curtain is full of bittersweet emotions and a melancholic beauty. Its title refers as much to the emotional state of its lead characters as to the divide between East and West Europe. The tragedy of Cold War is that the love affair at its centre is as out of place in Paris as it is within communist Poland.

5. Faces Places – More than 60 years after producing her debut film, Agnes Varda joins forces with the photographer and visual artist JR to create one of cinema’s most charming double acts. Their film Faces Places might have a deceptively simple premise – they travel to small French towns and photograph the people they find – but through their journeys and their infectious sense of discovery they are able to delve into the personal stories that make up our lives.

Francesco Cerniglia

First Reformed – Master storyteller Paul Schrader eerily captures the anguished state of the human condition in these uncertain times with a magnificent Ethan Hawke in the controversial and multifaceted lead role, which is sure to make your head explode before the screen fades to black.

You Were Never Really Here – This unsettling thriller is way more than meets the eye, using a premise that may sound like an average Hollywood actioner but actually delivers a gritty, dark drama aimed to find hope amidst bleakness and violence which cements Lynne Ramsay as one of the most exciting filmmakers working today.

Wildlife – Talented (and underrated) actor Paul Dano of Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood fame makes his directorial debut with this intense coming of age tale of a family unit collapsing. A riveting adaptation of Richard Ford’s beautiful novel of the same name, this gorgeously shot family drama marks Carey Mulligan’s best performance to date and announces Dano as a promising filmmaking talent to watch.

First Man – Not the astronaut biopic you’d expect from Hollywood, this extremely moving character study will turn you into a sobbing mess, if you let it grab you. Damien Chazelle is a filmmaker at the top of his craft delivering, along with the spectacle, an intense portrait of a man who, due to his nature and the era, bottled up his feelings and dived into a potentially suicidal life-mission in order to cope with his inner darkness.

Sicilian Ghost Story – A real-life crime drama blended with the horror and fantasy elements of the supernatural and wrapped up in an elegiac ode to the healing power of nature’s beauty. Italian filmmakers Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza pay an overdue loving homage to an innocent young soul whose life was broken in the cruellest and unfair of ways. Have tissues at the ready whilst watching.

Ian Schultz

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

1. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

2. First Reformed

3. Mandy

4. Sorry To Bother You

5. Climax!

Joe Gordon

Saving Brinton

It’s never easy picking just a handful of favourites when looking back at the year’s releases – there are always a number of films you enjoyed or admired very much that won’t make your list simply because you only have space for five movies. Meaning some films I really enjoyed I 2018, like BlackKKlansman, Black Panther, Bad Times at El Royale, A Quiet Place, The Most Assassinated Woman in the World, C’est La Vie, Kangaroo: a Love-Hate Story, Incredibles 2 and a bunch of others that kept me hooked in the glowing dark of the cinema had to be ruthlessly pruned. So much for what I couldn’t squeeze into my Best of the Year list, let’s have a look at what did:

The Shape of Water – I’ve loved the fantastical, wonderfully weird worlds of Guillermo Del Toro ever since I first saw Cronos years ago, his stories are often like fairy tales – the older versions of those tales before they were tidied up for children, the type that contains wonders and fantasy but also dark and disturbing elements. The Shape of Water includes all of those Del Toro staples, but it also plays quite delightfully with genres from the movie’s period setting, such as the big Hollywood musical and delivers a warm but never slushy romance, brilliantly brought to life by the wonderful Sally Hawkins and the always-astonishing Doug Jones. Just beautiful.

Ghost Stories – I love a good horror film, but I struggle to find many these days which actually chill my bones and scare me. Nyman and Dyson take the old anthology approach made famous (or infamous!) by the likes of Amicus back in the day, several stories linked by an investigator, a professional debunker of the supernatural. Great care is taken with atmosphere, breeding a sense of growing unease and fear, often through the most simple of methods – one scene manages to make the most mundane location, a bedroom in a boring, 1970s home on a housing estate unbearably frightening, you really, really don’t want that door to the dark staircase outside to open…

Anna and the Apocalypse – More horror. But also Romance! Comedy! Zombies! A Musical!!! Yes, this wee Indy Scottish film is all of those things. A parody of the American high-school teen musical (complete with dancing British dinner ladies in the canteen), the zombie apocalypse breaks out as a bunch of high-schoolers in their final year prepare for the Christmas concert and fret about their next step in life (university, taking a gap year), with a group of Usual Suspects (the gorgeous but conflicted one, the best friend who is clearly really in love with her, the ditzy but loveable ones). It’s all handled with a nod and a wink, the audience is in on the jokes here, and at its Edinburgh Film Festival screening the audience were cheering and dancing and singing along to it, which is a pretty damned good sign! Huge fun.

Charlie and Hannah’s Grand Night Out – This was another Edinburgh Film Festival screening for me, I knew little of it other than the short blurb in the programme, just that it was a Belgian film about two best friends having a big night out, but sometimes you just get a vibe about something, and I’ve learned to trust that instinct. I’m glad I did as this turned out to be visually fabulous, warm, emotional in places, delightfully silly and even surreal in other places (hints of early Jean-Pierre Jeunet crossed with mid-70s Woody Allen, perhaps) and often very funny. A charming delight that left me with a big smile on my face.

Saving Brinton – My favourite of my favourites though is yet another one I caught at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, a documentary about Mike Zahs, a charming man who with twinkling eyes and long beard looks like he may be the brother of Santa Claus. Mike has for many decades preserved a collection of works from the Brintons, a husband and wife, turn of the 20th century team who put on travelling shows with magic lantern slides, phonographs then the new-fangled invention of the Moving Pictures. Their collection goes right back to the very earliest days of cinema, the local movie house in Mike’s tiny Iowa farming town where they were based is officially the oldest continually operating cinema in the world. Mike has preserved and shown works experts had thought lost for all time, including rare gems by Georges Méliès. Mike was at the festival chatting with the audience afterwards and as he pointed out, Clara Bow, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, all of those names we think of as the stars of silent cinema were children when some of the films in his collection were made, they are that old, from the very first days of cinema. It’s a wonderful, life-affirming film, an ode to dreamers and an absolute must-see for all of us who are forever in love with film.

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