This year has been largely defined by unrest, uncertainty, and revolt, with indifference and centrism looking like increasingly unpopular positions. The aftermath of 2016’s populist far-right political gains and 2017’s #MeToo movement have changed the media landscape and films that reflect this. This anxiety has dominated much of Western output, even Blockbusters, whereas frivolous films like the romantic comedy ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and joyous sing-along ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ are welcome respites. The standout theme throughout much of 2018’s output was one of deep felt injury and outrage, but also the need to soften our reactions with self-care and communal comfort as shown through films as diverse as ‘22 July’, ‘Halloween’ and ‘First Reformed.’ As a result, it was also a year of cautious optimism and empowerment, with many new directors, often female or from minority backgrounds making their voices heard in spectacular fashion. Resulting in powerful and progressive trendsetters like ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’, ‘Apostasy’ and ‘The Breadwinner.’
1. The Shape of Water by Eloise McCrohan
‘The Shape of Water’ is an extraordinary film. As one of Guillermo Del Toro’s more accessible films it appeals to a much larger audience than his fanatics. It follows the love affair between a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) and a humanoid sea creature (Doug Jones). The protagonist being a mute, we see the world the way she does, without a voice. This makes the relationship with the sea creature all the more profound, in that she finds a means of communications with it when she is unable to find one with the world we are so used to. The notion of love without words is beautifully depicted on screen. It deservedly won the Oscar for Best Picture earlier this year.
2. Avengers: Infinity War by Peggy Welch
The crowning instalment of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), the Russo brothers’ ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is accurately dubbed ‘the most ambitious crossover event in history.’ Featuring characters such as Iron Man and Captain America as well as more recent favourites like Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, the film brings together all of the plot lines from its predecessors in a highly satisfying way. Put this together with stunning visuals and CGI, a witty yet often heartfelt script, an all-star cast and you’ve certainly got one of the best films of the year. Not to mention the complete shocker of an ending that broke the hearts of many fans and left us desperate for the next instalment!
3. A Star is Born by Charlotte Delangle
A Star is Born is one of the greatest films of the year. It is one of the few musicals where the music works seamlessly within the story. With this film, Bradley Cooper has shown his talents not only as an actor but also as a director, musician and singer-songwriter. He plays the role of Jackson Maine, a hard-drinking musician whose career is headed for a downward spiral. The film is about how he helps a young singer named Ally (Lady Gaga) find fame. With an incredible original soundtrack, the movie shows how thriving in music can lead you either to succeed or to fall.
4. You Were Never Really Here by Matylda Makowska
Joe is a hitman, probably in his forties. He does everyone’s dirty work while in his spare time taking care of his elderly mother. Working from one job to another, one day he gets a new assignment. A senator’s young daughter Nina goes missing and the father suspects she was abducted by a sex trafficker. It seems pretty straightforward. Joe finds the missing girl but things take an unexpected twist and he finds himself in a dangerous situation. Although the film is quite dark and brutal there is still a kind of beauty behind it. It is thrilling, plot-driven yet deep and meaningful and Joaquin Phoenix gives a stunning performance that lends wings to the whole film.
5. Phantom Thread by Emmanuel Omodeinde
One of the most revered contemporary film directors, Paul Thomas Anderson returns to the big screen after his 2014 take on Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice was met with lukewarm reviews. Although I personally didn’t dislike ‘Inherent Vice’ (though I would admit it was one of his weaker films), I was pleased to see him return to his best with ‘Phantom Thread.’ The film follows the difficult relationship between pernickety couturier, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), and his muse, Alma, (Vicky Krieps). The film has many profound things to say about difficult artists, grief and love and features an unmissable final performance from one of the greatest actors ever, Daniel-Day Lewis.
6. Black Panther by Sopé Elegbede
Black Panther is the epitome of what could have been. The film portrays power, potential and purpose. Wakanda is a symbolic African utopia that is free from the fractures of colonialism, highlighting the prospects of a greater Africa. Simultaneously, Coogler addresses the dichotomy between Africans and African-Americans by engaging with ideas of belonging and dislocation. Earning over $1.3bn globally at the box office, this worldwide cultural phenomenon is not one you want to miss.
7. Lady Bird by Emmanuel Omodeinde
Set in the early 2000s, Lady Bird is a coming-of-age film which tells the story of Christine “Ladybird” (a nickname she gave herself) McPherson, a high school senior and the difficult relationship she has with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). After starring in several critically acclaimed films, including 2015’s Brooklyn for which she received her third Academy Award nomination, Saoirse Ronan shines as the snarky rebellious teen. Partly autobiographical, Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut is a confident and assured piece of work that proves that she’s the queen of more than just “mumblecore”.
8. Widows by Emmanuel Omodeinde
Steve McQueen returns to the big screen five years after his third feature film, ’12 Years a Slave’ the period drama based on a slave narrative received widespread critical acclaim, commercial success and launched McQueen as one of the best directors working today. This time around it’s a much different story. McQueen takes on the heist genre with ‘Widows’, co-adapting the screenplay, loosely based on the 1983 British series of the same name, with ‘Gone Girl’ writer Gillian Flynn. ‘Widows’ is sharp and exhilarating with many incredible performances from its talented ensemble cast notably from lead, Viola Davis. You can count on an Oscar nomination for Viola Davis and expect Elizabeth Debicki to also receive a nod.
9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri by Tyler Rigby
Martin McDonagh’s latest brings the perfect amounts of drama, comedy and tragedy into an eclectic mix that makes for an unforgettable film. Mildred (Frances McDormand) is a mother whose daughter was raped and murdered and is willing to take on her whole town including the police department in her search for justice. ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ has an air-tight script, strong direction and is anchored by some of the best performances of the last few years.
10. A Quiet Place by Yoan Dzhugdanov
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in utter silence whilst hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing. Director-writer-star John Krasinski delivers a belter of a monster movie which never lets up and creates tension with barely a word being said and also boasts impressive performances from the whole family.
10 Most Disappointing:
1. Venom by Josh West
The worst movie of the year, Venom was teased for years and when it finally arrived it was a huge disappointment. Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock, the helpless host of a parasitic extra-terrestrial known as Venom, who must, with the aid of his stereotypically boring girlfriend, stop the evil genius Carlton Drake from possessing the entire world! I know, how original. The movie returned us to the days of tacky superheroes and archaic, bland storylines. It posed no talking points, save how rubbish it was, nor did it address any contemporary issues as other hero movies are doing. It was, I quote, the ‘worst cliché ever!’.
2. Illang: The Wolf Brigade by Hal Kitchen
Kim Jee-woon is a director with an incredible track record, even for remakes, having helmed the vibrant, outrageously entertaining action reimagining of ‘The Good the Bad and the Ugly’, ‘The Good the Bad the Weird.’ And having just released the gripping resistance thriller ‘The Age of Shadows’, he seemed the perfect choice to re-adapt Mamoru Oshii’s masterwork manga Jin-Roh to live action. But the original’s subtlety and bleak, disturbing atmosphere were rejected in favour of flavourless, flashy action bombast and the most insultingly revised ending imaginable.
3. Mute by Hal Kitchen
Duncan Jones’s soft sequel to modern sci-fi classic Moon had a lot of anticipation around it to measure up to the expectations of the earlier movie’s cult following. However, the film, released through Netflix, was a disaster on nearly every level, combining dissonant tones, disparate meaningless plot threads and the most generic sci-fi tropes to produce a thoroughly boring, vacuous, and self-important product.
4. Sierra Burgess is a Loser by Tyler Rigby
Sierra Burgess is a manipulative psychopath seems a more fitting title for this ignorantly made teen comedy. Sierra (Shannon Purser) is the biggest ‘loser’ in school. After resident mean girl Veronica (Kristine Froseth) gives football player Jamey (Noah Centineo) Sierra’s number saying it’s her own, he and Sierra begin to talk through text and bond, although he believes it’s Veronica. Beyond that point the film becomes borderline offensive, condoning catfishing to the point where the film seems to be actively encouraging it, especially to those that may feel they aren’t good enough for others. Purser is perpetually dreadful in the title role but the bungled screenplay here makes everyone look inept. I truly hope young people won’t see this and take the message it’s putting across to heart.
5. A Wrinkle in Time by Peggy Welch
With its long-running advertising campaign, star-studded cast and backing from Disney studios, Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle’s classic novel was expected to be one of the standout family films of the year. Unfortunately, it did not manage to live up to any of these high expectations. The plot was difficult to follow, despite having such a slow build-up to the climax of siblings Meg and Charles Wallace finding their father, which is predictable and somewhat underplayed. The performances in the film are also a big let-down, even from big names like Chris Pine and Mindy Kaling which makes the film especially tedious. Overall, a highly disappointing watch despite its aesthetic appeal – far from being one of Disney’s best decisions.
6. Downsizing by Josh West
Probably the most boring film of the year, ‘Downsizing’ is an apt metaphor for Matt Damon’s career. Promoted as a comedy with funny stars like Kirsten Wiig, it was instead 150 minutes of boring, unchanging and pathetic trash about a five-inch tall man trying to adjust to his new life and then going on an ‘incredible’ adventure of human discovery. Hong Chau plays perhaps the most annoying supporting character of the year whilst Damon is clearly scraping the barrel’s bottom. Ultimately, it’s a boring movie with an overused message and poor acting.
7. Truth or Dare by Tyler Bates
This may be one of the most unintentionally funny movies I’ve ever seen, but the fact it’s unintentional is why it’s in this category. After a group of friends decide to spend their spring break in Mexico, they are easily encouraged to play a game of truth or dare with a complete stranger in an abandoned church. As inconspicuous as that must sound, they are surprisingly cursed and must continue to play the game until the game itself forces them to die in ludicrously laughable ways. It’s a ridiculous premise and surprisingly convolutes itself with the addition of several rules, a ritual involving the removal of a tongue and a demon than manifests itself as the warped face Snapchat filter. This is a profusely terrible film…but a surprisingly humorous experience.
8. Ready Player One by Eloise McCrohan
‘Ready Player One’ is a bad film. Period. It’s infidelities to the book on which it is based in no way help the plot and by the end, it feels like nothing more an endless list of characters from various different video games. Throughout the film, Spielberg attempts to instil a sense of melancholy to proceedings, which might have introduced an interesting new factor but it gets tiresome fast. The representation of women is also flawed since they are represented as trophies to be won (and by that I mean danced with) or saved.
9. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom by Hal Kitchen
Juan Antonio Bayona is a hugely talented director, who leaves the first stain on his previously impeccable track record with another crushingly mediocre entry on a franchise that has once again been resurrected with as little circumspection as went into its stock villains’ resurrections of prehistoric predators. Even a director of his skill struggles to bring to life a script comprised entirely of moments, storylines and characters that we had already seen in the other sequels and we already hated them then.
10. Johnny English Strikes Again by Yoan Dzhugdanov
When Britain is faced with a devastating cyber-attack, Johnny English is forced out of retirement with the mission to find the mastermind. This entry is by far the weakest in the franchise, possessing the fewest laughs and an absolutely predictable and cringy plot. Maybe it’s time to retire this character for good.