Well, it’s December 31st and it’s my absolute favourite time of the year. Not because it’s New Year’s Eve – oh Lord no, I don’t care about that at all. No, it’s the very end of the year so that means I get to reveal my favourite films of the year!
Last year, I took a look at both my top and bottom ten films of the year but there have been SO many excellent films this year, so many I want to talk about, that I will make a change by only doing a single end of year film list: a top 20. Let’s do away with all the negativity, eh?
OK, no more preamble, let’s dive into my favourite cinematic offerings that 2018 has brought!
All were released in the UK this year.
20. A Simple Favor
Hi moms! This is a stylish, chic and entertaining film with a good balance between dark humour and intriguing mystery drama (though many seemed to disagree on that part); Paul Feig’s latest has a wonderfully winning combo in Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, as well as the absolute coolest opening/closing credits of 2018.
19. Love, Simon
An outstanding and very genuine coming-of-age film, Love, Simon has an excellent cast (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are the coolest movie parents), lovely characters, an immersive, well written story, and a finale that will bring a tear to your eye.
A real surprise, this one! Despite being as far from a Whitney Houston fan as you could get, I gained a newfound appreciation for the popular singer because Kevin MacDonald’s documentary masterfully charts the meteoric rise and fall of the talented singer and all the interview segments and the parts in between boast some surprisingly crisp and beautiful cinematography. It’s a powerful, coherent, educational and imaginatively crafted documentary that made a believer out of me!
Plus, the opening sequence (which takes an unexpectedly dark turn) and the montage that illustrates her rise to fame, using a hauntingly echo-y, acapella version of “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, are incredible Film moments indeed.
17. Isle of Dogs
Continuing to showcase the power of stop-motion animation, Wes Anderson’s latest is one of the greatest animated films of the year. The animation itself is flawless and in addition, the voice cast is excellent, the score by the genius Alexandre Desplat is perfect, and the story is imaginative and filled with clever humour.
16. Ready Player One
A thoroughly entertaining and visually spectacular love letter to pop culture and geekdom, the latest film from the maestro Steven Spielberg is an insanely wild ride indeed. It has infinite imagination, the cast is great, there’s clearly so much to take in, and the whole Shining sequence (as well as the Bee Gees dance-off scene) is the most brilliant, nerdgasmic film moment of the year.
15. They Shall Not Grow Old
A serious contender for best documentary of the year, as well as an ideal commemoration of the end of the First World War, Peter Jackson’s painstakingly crafted film is a clear labour of love and it wonderfully honours all those who fought and died in the war. The colourisation is superbly accomplished, the inclusion of brand new audio tracks is remarkable, and there’s a great balance of jarring horror as well as sincere joviality – when we see the soldiers having a laugh with each other, not actually wanting to go home at the end of it all.
14. A Star is Born
Staying true to the original formula while also modernising it effectively, this critically acclaimed film is a brilliant directorial debut from Bradley Cooper and it sees Lady Gaga impress greatly with both her acting and, of course, her mightily impressive singing voice. The romantic parts of the film are honest and genuine, Cooper and Gaga having ideal chemistry, the story is strong, and the soundtrack is the best of 2018 (“Shallow” is obviously the favourite but personally, I think “Always Remember Us This Way” is the standout. So moving.)
13. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Although infectiously fun and energetic, the first Mamma Mia! film had plenty of problems but the sequel is superior in every way: the story is far more interesting, the songs have been more carefully selected, the direction is better, it’s less “stage-y”, the choreography is better, the “young” cast is great, and they’ve very wisely left the singing to the professionals – including Lily James who takes on so much in this and is an absolute star. I unapologetically saw it twice, I’ve listened to the soundtrack over and over, and it’s the film that has brought me the most elation this year. FUN!
“Why Did it Have to be Me?”, “Dancing Queen”, “My Love, My Life” and “Super Trouper” are just the best.
12. The Hate U Give
Far from the preachy, predictable lecture of a film I feared this would be, The Hate U Give turned out to be an incredibly powerful film with a meaningful message which featured a central character going through an intriguing dilemma. The direction from George Tillman Jr. is spot on, it successfully illicits anger and emotion from the audience, and Amandla Stenberg is absolutely sensational in the leading role – more films with her in, please!
11. Crazy Rich Asians
In amongst all the mediocre cinematic offerings, this was such a breath of fresh air! In many ways, it’s a traditional romantic comedy with few surprises but at the same time, it also feels fresh and modern – how’d they do that? The film looks incredibly beautiful, the story is fun and, perhaps most importantly, cast and characters are the absolute best – Constance Wu and Henry Golding are so charming and Awkwafina is one of the year’s biggest scene stealers.
I’m currently reading the book – that’s how obsessed I’ve become by it!
10. Avengers: Infinity War
One of the biggest, if not THE biggest, films of the year, the culmination of ten years of Marvel films was a spectacular, must-see event that brought (mostly) all of our favourite characters together in a grand, reality shattering, superhero extravaganza. We got to see such wonderful combinations like Thor and The Guardians of the Galaxy as well as Iron Man and Doctor Strange and, of course, we were given one of the most memorable, fully developed and intimidating MCU villains yet with Thanos – brought to life brilliantly by Josh Brolin. The Russo Brothers have yet again proved themselves invaluable as Infinity War is the thrilling mega adventure we’ve been waiting for and it has a superb plot with that unforgettable ending that rocks you to your core.
Although a little thin in its characterisation, Alex Garland’s smart sci-fi thriller/horror is a patient, cerebral and impeccably designed film that thankfully brings something new to the table with its unique and ambitious tale that doesn’t provide many easy answers but it’s one that’s intriguing nonetheless. Natalie Portman carries the film very well, the mutated animals (that bear!!) are incredibly creepy, and the film has a mesmerising, remarkable and jaw-dropping finale – all set to a magnificent score.
8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Confession: when I saw Three Billboards for the first time, I didn’t particularly care for it and was convinced that, come the end of the year, there would be NO WAY that it would make the top ten. So how did it end up at #8? Well, upon seeing it two more times, I gained a greater understanding of just what the film is about and its themes of redemption and forgiveness went on to have a massive impact on me. Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson are terrific, the humour is effective, the music is beautiful and ultimately, this is a film with a solid plot and a central character who goes on an important and engaging journey.
7. Lady Bird
One of the most critically acclaimed and highly respected coming of age films of recent years, Lady Bird is a winner thanks to Greta Gerwig’s excellent script that’s full of great characters and funny dialogue that just seems to flow effortlessly and hits the ear perfectly. Gerwig shows great promise in her debut directorial feature, the film looks beautiful, there’s plenty of warmth and heart, and Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf have never been better.
6. The Shape of Water
Master of fantasy Guillermo del Toro’s Best Picture winner is one of the most beautiful films of the year and on the surface, it boasts glorious cinematography and a sublime score from the genius Alexandre Desplat while also having an excellent fairy tale inspired story about love and monsters, full of colourful characters who are brought to life wonderfully by the film’s ace cast. Sally Hawkins does so much with no dialogue, Michael Shannon is suitably nasty, and Richard Jenkins puts in one of my favourite supporting performances as the kindly Giles. A labour of love from all involved and pure cinematic magic.
5. A Quiet Place
The finest, most original and most entertaining horror film of the year in my opinion, John Krasinski’s directorial debut keeps you hooked and fully attentive with every second that passes (because of all the silence) and it makes an excellent film out of a potentially gimmicky premise. His direction is masterful, the jump scares actually work, Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds are excellent performers, the story is refreshingly original, and Marco Beltrami’s score is one of the insanely beautiful compositions of the film year.
And the “Harvest Moon” scene is one of my favourite movie scenes of the year.
4. Black Panther
After making a memorably kick-ass debut in Civil War, T’Challa returns in one of Marvel’s finest, most critically acclaimed films. Black Panther is exciting, cool, fun, colourful, imaginative, the Bond-inspired setpiece in South Korea is just the absolute best, Ryan Coogler’s direction is excellent and the cast is terrific, giving us SO many memorable characters such as the fierce Okoye, the brilliantly developed Killmonger (one of the MCU’s greatest villains) and, my favourite by far, the amazingly memorable Shuri – Letitia Wright taking the crown of “scene stealer of the year”.
3. Phantom Thread
Easily my favourite Paul Thomas Anderson film, this is a stunningly beautiful film that has a thoughtful and unique story about a very particular kind of relationship. The three leads are at the top of their game, the dialogue is spot on and, above everything else, emerging maestro Johnny Greenwood’s score is nothing short of phenomenal. This is an exquisite piece of art that is a constant joy to soak up.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Just when you thought that superhero/comic book films had done it all, with nothing really original left to offer, they come up with this sensational masterpiece that just gets everything right. A love letter to Spider-Man and comic books, Into the Spider-Verse blends hand drawn designs and computer animation to give us a film that’s the very definition of a comic book come to life and alongside the stunning, infinitely colourful animation, the cast is wonderful and the story is mature, funny and smart – masterfully balancing its numerous story elements and giving us a film with plenty of fun adventure while also completely nailing the more emotional moments. Near faultless.
And from one spectacular animation to another, my #1 film of 2018 is another gem from the unstoppable team at Pixar. Alongside its expectedly grand and mindblowing animation, Coco creates a whole new imaginative world for us to get lost in and fills it with colourful characters and magnificent music, with a story that lets us get to know all about Mexican culture and one that thoroughly entertains and makes us laugh, cheer and cry. Because THAT ending is undebiably something else and it’s one of the few films that has come dangerously close to making me cry – even after seeing it three times.
So there you have it. Pixar’s beloved latest entry takes the gold this year but 2018 has been an excellent year for film (I’ve given out loads more five star reviews than any other year – 6 to be exact) and all the films in this top 20 are worthy contenders – films that I liked so much that I couldn’t limit myself to a simple top 10!
And there were, of course, films just outside my top 20 that were really good as well. Feel free to take a look at my full 93 film list HERE. 93. A new record! But alas, so close to 100 and yet so far!
Thank you all very much for reading, for all of your support, and I wish you a Happy New Year and happy film watching for 2019! If you’ve seen what’s coming soon, you’ll know that we’re in for some real treats!
Live Long and Prosper,
Plain, Simple Tom