For me, 2018 was a fantastic year for film. I was surprised by a great number of films, and surprised even more by how many of them turned out to be my all time personal favourites. Here are just 10 of my favourite films of the year, released in UK cinemas:
- Ghost Stories (Andy Nyman, Jeremy Dyson)
I am not a self-confessed lover of horror cinema, but if there is one thing that 2018 brought, it was some fantastic horror films. Although the likes of Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake may be the examples many go to, for me, it was the British horror tale Ghost Stories that really made an impact.
The film starts as a tale following a sceptic, played by Nyman, who is tasked with debunking three stories that supposedly cannot be explained by anything other than the supernatural. Quickly however, as things start appearing in the corner of your eye, the story turns into something much deeper than that. Originally written for the stage by Dyson (of The League of Gentleman fame) and Nyman, the pair expertly bring the play to the big screen, and the film is equal parts terrifying, hilarious and unnerving. I was even lucky enough to attend a special screening of this film earlier in the year and got to meet the directors, which was a welcome, cinematic treat for me.
- Journeyman (Paddy Considine)
I had been anticipating Paddy Considine’s return to directing ever since his debut Tyrannosaur, a dour and dark film about a charity worker that befriends a bitter and rage filled man, and he does not disappoint with his follow-up Journeyman.
Starring Considine and Jodie Whittaker, the film is a heart-wrenching tale of a Champion boxer who suffers a brain injury after a title-retaining fight. The champ is a shadow of his former self, a caring family man as well as a quick-witted professional boxer, and the film portrays a difficult struggle with brain-injury, and those it affects, including his wife who is tasked with maintaining a relationship with someone she now has to constantly look after, and his friends so cannot bear to look him in the eye. The performances across the board in this film are fantastic, with Considine proving himself to be one of Britain’s very best working actors, and Jodie Whittaker one of it’s very best actresses (although her recent outing in Doctor Who does not make anywhere near good enough use of her talents). Not just a fantastic boxing film, but a fantastic film across the board.
- Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson returns with a witty and charismatic stop-motion animation film about an island of exiled dogs, and one boy’s attempt to retrieve his best-friend. A star-studded voice cast carries the film, coupled alongside some beautiful animation techniques. The film is full of the great visual gags and dynamic scenery you’ve come to expect from the likes of Aardman, but while Nick Park and company seem content with slipping further and further into mediocrity, people like Wes Anderson are championing how amazing the art-form can really be when it comes to making movies. I adored this film, and I wholly wish it does not take Anderson another 10 years or so to return the craft he’s proven he can bring so much life to.
- They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead//The Other Side of the Wind (Morgan Neville/Orson
While I’m sort of cheating by including two films in the same spot here, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead and The Other Side of the Wind are very much a companion piece. The former is a documentary telling the story of director Orson Welles’ last great picture, The Other Side of the Wind, which remained unfinished before he died. The film remained locked under copyrights and production issues, until a group of people managed to get their hands on the footage and stitch it together using a 45 minute cut that Welles had already finished, and leftover notes from the director.
The result of this efforts to bring Welles’ last film to life is the latter, an excellent, confusing (in all the right ways) tale of an aged director played by John Huston, who on his birthday, hosts a party to screen his art-house film, which is aptly also titled ‘The Other Side of the Wind’. The film is far from something Orson Welles himself would have directed, except of course he did direct it, and the topsy-turvy, back and forth between reality and film occurs. This was one of the few things Netflix did right this year, in helping to give Orson Welles’ last film a film, and for that many begrudged congratulations are in order.
- They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson)
On the centenary of the end of the First World War, Peter Jackson has brought to life some of the footage shot at the time. By bring to life, I mean to say that the black-and-white original footage has been given colour and remastered, which just makes the horrors and tragedy of the war, as told by pre-recorded voice over of soldiers retelling their experience, so much more impact. The life-affirming moments are told as well, and given all the same treatment, bringing these men’s tales of the war to a modern audience who, in all likelihood, have never experienced anything like what these men went through. The film is a groundbreaking achievement in film-restoration, and while at times it looks ever-so-slightly animated in appearance, the technical achievements here cannot be diminished.
- Widows (Steve McQueen)
In a stark departure from Steve McQueen’s previous film 12 Years a Slave, Widows is a collaboration with Sharp Objects and Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn, in which the pair tell the tale of three widowed women tasked with pulling off a heist left-behind by their now deceased partners.
The film, while following the story of these women in particular, could have followed any of the narratives going on in the film and have been just as compelling and raw as the one it chooses to look at. Every member of the cast delivers some of the best performances of the their careers, in particular Daniel Kaluuya who is absolutely terrifying as the sociopathic brother to a campaign front-runner. So much more than the simple heist film it portrays itself as, this film stuck with me long after I watched it, and is so deeply layered in socio-political commentary that is just under the surface. An absolutely outstanding piece of work by one of Britain’s very best working directors.
- BlackkKlansman (Spike Lee)
Spike Lee, while being known for his work like Do The Right Thing and 25th Hour, has had a rough couple of years regarding his filmography. His latest effort in BlackkKlansman however is simply breathtaking, edge of your seat stuff. He brings his trademark style, blending humour and comedy with juxtaposing elements of race politics and societal critique. Adam Driver and John David Washington give two of the best performances of the year as two undercover cops who attempt to infiltrate a local Ku Klux Klan membership. Lee casts a humiliating shining light on the problems inherent 1960’s society at the time, and then scarily compares them to that of the current political climate of today to show that, in fact, they really are not that different at all. A stunning and incredibly relevant film. Spike Lee is back.
- You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)
Lynne Ramsay proves with her latest outing that she is one of, if not the, best British directors working today. You Were Never Really Here is a cinematic punch to the gut, jaw and eyes all at once. Equal parts stress inducing, violent and beautiful; a mesmerising, career-best Joaquin Phoenix performance (although that in itself is difficult to pick out) carries you through a sleazy underbelly of a film. When I first watched this, I didn’t think anything could top it, and although it finds itself as my third favourite film of the year, a re-watch could certainly put it as one of my absolute favourite films of all time.
- Mandy (Panos Cosmatos)
This film is hardcore heavy metal personified. The world of Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy is dripping in chaotic imagery and symbolism. Of course, the main thing to talk about when it comes to this film is a fantastically over-the-top and outstanding Nicholas Cage performance, that is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. I had a massive smile on my face throughout Mandy, a film well aware of what it is and how cool it looks doing it. There isn’t much more I can say about this other than saying I had an absolute blast watching it. I relish and praise any film that manages to awaken my inner sleeping metal-head.
- Assassination Nation (Sam Levinson)
Assassination Nation completely threw me off-guard. An impromptu watch, with little to no expectations going in greeted me with what was one of my absolute favourite cinematic experiences this year. On the surface, Sam Levinson has directed a jumped up entry into the Purge franchise about high-school girls and parties. Delving deeper into the film reveals a deliberately over-the-top commentary of society at large, and by having these moments in conjunction with all too real, all to scary actions that aren’t too far from reality; the realisation that we are not so different from the absolute lunatics on display here begins to sink in. The cinematography and editing are outstanding as well, as are the set-pieces. I was completely taken aback by how much I enjoyed this film, and I’m happy to call it my favourite film of 2018.
Avengers: Infinity War
Mission Impossible: Fallout
A Star is Born
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot