In formulating a list of my favourite films of 2018 it was rather difficult narrowing it down to just ten. Having seen close to 100 new releases this year there were no shortage of quality films, so before getting to my best picks I wanted to highlight a few Honourable Mentions that I either enjoyed or admired, but ultimately fell short of making the final cut.
Note: As mentioned with my previous lists I haven’t seen every film released in 2018. There are no objective criteria in determining the placement of each film – all that matters is that I loved each of these films and highly recommend you seek them out for yourself!
10. Bumblebee / Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
In a time where sequels and reboots have become ubiquitous, these two films found new life into stories that have been well worn. More than merely surpassing the low bar of the Transformers series, the direction of Travis Knight worked wonders for Bumblebee in telling a compelling and identifiable story revolving around giant fighting robots. Referencing the history of the storied character while being accessible for all audiences, the visual style and humour of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse made for an immensely enjoyable superhero film, arguably among the finest ever made.
Filled with tension and intrigue as to what went down in the past, the recoupled relationship between the two Rachel’s – Weisz and McAdams – sensually captures a vivid sense of place within London’s Orthodox Jewish community. Intimate in its setting and character interactions, Sebastian Lelio’s first English language feature, Disobedience, transports viewers into a world that appears foreign on the surface, only for very recognisable family conflict to emerge.
8. The Night Comes For Us
Many terrific American action films have been released in the 2010s, but most pale in comparison to the ultraviolent awesomeness coming out of Indonesia. Similar to Gareth Evans’ The Raid films, The Night Comes For Us is a master class in the artistry of killing. Relentless in transitioning between fight scenes, the story of an enforcer protecting a young girl amid gang warfare is largely secondary to Timo Tjahjanto’s mesmerising choreography and bloody effects.
7. Come Sunday
As someone who holds a strange interest in films made by and about Christianity (despite being agnostic), Come Sunday is nuanced in showing the importance of faith, while being willing to question the very thing that can shape someone’s entire identity. Based on the This American Life feature on real life evangelist Carlton Pearson, Chiwetel Ejiofor shines as the conflicted man of god whose outsider struggles are sure to resonate – irrespective of personal beliefs.
6. Sorry To Bother You
For as twisted as Boots Riley’s directorial debut becomes, there is a serious message presented in Sorry To Bother You with very real implication. Loaded with ideas about race, class and identity, the struggle for economic security rings true in a time where trickle down economics has become apart of mainstream political discourse; yet for as unwavering as the film is in its intentions, the style and humour remains entertainingly accessible.
From the opening scene of Widows I was enthralled by the latest from Steve McQueen. Much like his earlier films, especially Hunger, the British artist/director seemingly presents a particular type of film – in this case, a heist – only to deviate from the expected conventions. Boasting a stellar ensemble, including a spine-chilling turn from Daniel Kaluuya, the heist itself may lack the glossy sheen of Ocean’s 8, but makes up for it in substance and filmic craft.
4. Eighth Grade
Gut wrenching and incredibly empathetic all at once, Eighth Grade could easily be repurposed as a horror film given the way recognisable moments of teenage angst are depicted. There were multiple times throughout I wanted nothing more than for Kayla (Elsie Fisher) to be shown the slightest display of compassion by her peers – all too often her pain was achingly real, so to see another teenager finally act with kindness towards her filled my soul in the knowledge she would be ok.
3. Juliet, Naked
I came into the latest adaptation of Nick Hornby’s work with no expectations and left utterly delighted having experienced the most charming hidden gem of 2018. Starting out reminiscent of the English writer’s previous interests in 30-something males and their obsessions, Juliet, Naked remains familiar but from a different perspective. Featuring a trio of layered performances from Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and scene-stealer Chris O’Dowd, the film understands how people become stuck in their lives while treating its characters with empathy in spite of what they have (or haven’t) done.
2. Lean On Pete
Emotionally devastating in telling the story of a teenage boy needing to find his feet following family tragedy – “when you don’t have anywhere else to go you’re kind of stuck” – Charlie Plummer gives one of the best performances of the year in Lean On Pete. Based on a book by Willy Vlautin, director Andrew Haigh breathes in the beautiful American scenery, while James Edward Barker’s score heightens the uncertainty as young Charley plans for today in order to keep an aging racehorse from ‘heading down to Mexico’.
Set in the 1970s but unnervingly relevant in 2018, veteran director Spike Lee delivered his most accessible film in years with BlacKkKlansman. Walking a fine tonal line throughout, the ugliness of white supremacy is purposely presented to make audiences uncomfortable, while still being a film filled with humour, introspection and most memorably, joy. John David Washington echoes his legendary father in the leading role, Terence Blanchard contributes one of the best scores of the year, while Topher Grace and Ashlie Atkinson embody how hatred and division are masked behind affable veneers. Unapologetic in alluding to the current state of politics, the final sequence demands your attention by holding a mirror up to the world emboldened by ‘agent orange’ with unflinching urgency. There were many great films released over the past 12 months, but few brought about a response as strong as BlacKkKlansman.
Check out other instalments in my 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: