At last, we’ve made it to the cream of the crop, the very best movies to come out and delight us all in the year of 2018.
There were plenty of gems to rummage around in, and it’s resulted in quite a number of strong films just missing the final cut. So (once again, in no particular order), here’s a sample of the films that didn’t make it on to this list…
- Crazy Rich Asians
- They Shall Not Grow Old
- Isle of Dogs
- Creed II
- Mary Poppins Returns
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
- Sorry To Bother You
- Incredibles 2
- A Simple Favour
- The Endless
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
- Deadpool 2
- Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
And now, we start the countdown off with…
15 – HEREDITARY
When I first saw this movie back in June, I was quick to praise the unholy hell out this debut horror from filmmaker Ari Aster, even ending the review by saying that it would be tricky to find another film in 2018 that would have been more effective and brilliantly constructed – but some months later, while I do still really think this is a very good horror movie, I now realise that I was jumping the gun a little bit by effectively calling it the film to beat, hence why it’s only at #15 on this list.
But take it as a good sign that a film could have such a powerful effect on me in the moment that I immediately call it worthy of the top spot, and with Hereditary it earns that kind of reputation through masterful filmmaking (again, from someone making their feature debut), powerful acting, and one hell of a knack for scaring the absolute crap out of you. Aster directs the movie like it’s a chilling companion piece to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, one that’s full of frightening and disturbing imagery that will give you endless nightmares, and goes in completely unexpected directions that will truly leave a mark (the early fate of a main character is one of the most shocking twists in a horror movie for quite some time).
On top of everything, it’s a phenomenally well-acted film with veterans like Gabriel Byrne and Ann Dowd being given a run for their money by astonishing young performers Milly Shapiro and especially Alex Wolff. But this is Toni Collette’s show through and through, as she gives a seriously amazing horror movie performance that is already starting to generate a little bit of awards buzz (though none of it suggests she’ll be up for the Oscar this year, sadly), and is among the actress’s very best work in a career full of outstanding roles. If anything else, see the movie for how emotionally deep she takes her character as she endures one horrible thing after another, or even how she laments about her pretty chilling life up to this point, which all comes to a head during an intense and utterly chilling climax where things truly go off the rails.
It’s certainly one of the best horror movies of the year, and while time has caused me to realise I shouldn’t be too quick to declare something as the best way before the year is even out, I still consider Hereditary to be a horror classic in the making. Yes, it didn’t do gangbusters at the box office, nor did it wow everyone – critics and audiences seemed pretty split on it – but, just like my own opinions on the film, give it a bit of time…
14 – MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
Tom Cruise’s sick thrill for doing the most death-defying stunts all for the sake of art has brought us some memorable set-pieces across the Mission: Impossible franchise, from climbing up the Burj Khalifa to clinging onto the side of a plane, but for the sixth such film he and director Christopher McQuarrie have managed to pull off the most incredible feat yet: making the best major action blockbuster since Mad Max: Fury Road, and going into it all with the mindset of an actual madman.
Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is physically tested like never before as he heads around the world from Paris to Kashmir, with old friends like Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames and Rebecca Ferguson, and along the way encountering new acquaintances like Henry Cavill’s moustached CIA agent and Vanessa Kirby’s sultry arms broker, all while giving the audience exactly what they’ve come to expect from this series and so much more. Containing some of the best action set-pieces not just of this franchise but of most action movies in general over the past few years, you are left utterly breathless during every single stunt that gets more and more astonishing when you know for a fact that Cruise did this stuff for real in front of a camera.
But the movie is also smart enough to not just be a collection of really impressive stunts; McQuarrie has a knack for writing snappy dialogue, compelling characters and a solid story, and as a director executes them like a real action movie giant at the peak of their power, all of which are things he brings to this movie more than even his previous entry into the series. Here, the stakes feel more real than ever, and even though you’re almost certain that Cruise and co will save the day, there is so much happening that you start to think their mission might not be so successful this time round, which is something that constantly keeps you on edge all throughout.
It’s an incredible action movie that’s relatively straightforward and holds your attention firmly in place due to some of the greatest stuntwork you’ll see all year, but can Cruise’s next mission just be him going on holiday? Because after everything he goes through in this one, he’s more than earned it at this point…
13 – WIDOWS
His first film since scoring the Best Picture Oscar for 12 Years A Slave is far more accessible than anything else he’s done up to now, but at the same time Steve McQueen doesn’t make his adaptation of the TV miniseries Widows a total crowd-pleaser either.
His bleak and harsh vision of the story of three bereaved women completing the heist that their criminal husbands started is filled with intense violence, unnerving villains, and a raw, unforgiving attitude that makes it hard to stomach at times. However, McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn have crafted such an intricate and finely detailed narrative which, coupled with McQueen’s masterful direction as well as cinematography that gives it the grainy look of a 70s film in the vein of The French Connection, makes it among the most fascinating realised crime thrillers of recent years, with both the heroes and villains given their fair share of flaws and redeeming qualities without ever coming across as two-dimensional or bland.
The ensemble cast, led by Viola Davis at her most commandeering, is entirely fantastic, with further highlights including Elizabeth Debicki as one of the titular widows who goes through her own empowering arc in the film, and Daniel Kaluuya who puts a bow on his fantastic year – that has included an Oscar nomination for Get Out and being part of the Black Panther cast – by playing one of the most terrifying bad guys in a movie all year. All these actors are perfectly chosen, and brilliantly bring to life characters you really want to see either get their comeuppance or make it out of everything in one piece.
This is a thrilling and provocative thriller that doesn’t dare play things safe, and is also further indication that Steve McQueen is setting out to leave his own unique mark on the film world…
12 – AMERICAN ANIMALS
Within the span of a couple of weeks in early September, we had two major heist movies that were both based on real-life heists – but while more people went to see the Michael Caine-headlining King of Thieves (most likely due to its starrier cast more than anything), those left disappointed by that film will have found solace in writer-director Bart Layton’s far superior genre thriller.
Layton takes his previous experience as a documentarian and uses it to bring a very unique vision of the classic heist movie mould, this one being based on the attempt by four young men to rob a priceless collection of books from a university library. Throughout the film, we see interviews with the real-life criminals spliced into the dramatized re-enactments, sometimes blending into each other near seamlessly – there are even parts where the real-life subject is conversing with their filmic version – which really adds a level of insight into these people than most crime dramas I have yet seen. These guys all feel like real people (largely because they are), and even more so when Layton allows us to understand exactly who each and every one of them is, which is something that not even some of the bigger-budgeted crime movies of this type tend to do.
It’s executed very well by Layton, who directs his actors to some remarkable performances, and writes an intelligent script that dives deep into themes such as youthful rebellion and angst about the world that they do not fully understand. There are plenty of times in the film where you’re unsympathetic with these characters, especially Evan Peters’s portrayal of ringleader Warren Lipka, as their burning passion for pulling this heist off perfectly comes across more as a temper tantrum than a masterfully thought-out plan, but that’s the point that I believe Layton was trying to make; because they no matter how much they talk about doing this robbery, they are still young men trying to find their feet in this world, and are angry about what they assume life has in store for them.
It’s stuff like that which makes American Animals one of the most unique and memorable heist movies in quite a number of years…
11 – A QUIET PLACE
Michael Bay made two very smart decisions this year: 1) to let someone else direct Transformers spin-off Bumblebee, and 2) deciding to produce John Krasinski’s stunning debut feature, which has ended up being one of the very best projects that he and his production company Platinum Dunes has ever been involved with.
Krasinski, who directed and co-wrote the horror hit, also starred alongside real-life wife Emily Blunt and extraordinary young talents Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe in a terrifying and disturbingly realised world where creatures hunt anything that makes a sound, which means that for this family it’s a severe game of survival where the slightest wave of noise could doom them all. It’s an incredibly creepy idea that’s brilliantly executed by Krasinski, especially in how the film is 90% dialogue-free (outside of sign language) yet it tells a clear story and gives us all the information we need about these characters without uttering a single word.
I also liked how this movie and concept caught on so much with audiences that it suddenly became popular to not make any kind of sound whilst watching it, from eating loud crunchy snacks to having muted conversations with the person next to you, most of which are things you really shouldn’t be doing in a cinema anyway, but at least this movie finally made being utterly silent cool again. In the film’s defence, there was plenty of material in this script and through Krasinski’s world-building that was captivating and worthy enough of your attention that made it okay to stay as quiet as you possibly could so all its detail, including some extremely intense sequences and some great understated performances by this very small amount of on-screen actors.
I hear that this movie is getting a follow-up at some point, which I don’t mind because I would certainly like to see how the rest of the world is coping with staying silent all the time – and as long as Krasinski and even Michael Bay is involved in some way, then this is a horror sequel I would actually be looking forward to…