The top 50 films of 2018 - Part I, with trailers
By Mark Liversidge
It’s the end of another brilliant year of cinema, although for once it’s continuing to be brilliant right up to the end. Sadly, print deadlines mean that I’ve not seen Roma, Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse, Free Solo or Mary Poppins Returns at the time of writing, and while their early reviews suggest they all might appear in a final, final list of my annual favourites, I still stand by this half-century of films as being a worthy set of cinematic treasures.
If you agree with any of my choices, it might tempt you into seeking out some of the films on the list you’ve not seen; if you disagree, I’ll see you in the pub for a four-hour debate about why I’ve left off popular films like Bohemian Rhapsody or They Shall Not Grow Old. What would any list be like this without a bit of controversy, though?
Gaspar Noé’s films usually set out to be controversial, and this tale of a group of dancers turning murderous after their drinks are spiked with LSD is no exception. Noé creates a dreamlike state that still delivers on the tension.
49. Let The Sunshine In
Sometimes life’s simplest pleasures can be the most satisfying. Claire Denis’ film isn’t showy or stagey, instead relying on the acting talent of Juliette Binoche as she looks for love with a variety of variously unsuitable suitors.
Andrea Riseborough is one of the most talented British character actors around, and her she’s captivating as a woman who believes she may have been abducted thirty years previously and sets out to meet her “parents”.
47. All The Money In The World
There’s also been a TV adaptation of the story this year, but Ridley Scott’s film did a fine job of telling the story of the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. Christopher Plummer made a fantastic late addition as his unflinchingly miserly grandfather.
A story of forbidden love between Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, set against the backdrop of the Jewish community in London, this is one of two films on this year’s countdown from the Argentine director.
45. A Simple Favour
Paul Feig is best known for making comedies including Bridesmaids, but this noir-ish murder mystery balances the darker side with some fun and its tongue in its cheek. Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick both excel, and there’s a cheeky French flavour to one of the year’s best soundtracks.
44. The Post
Steven Spielberg continues to be able to balance the blockbuster with the more serious drama, and while Ready Player One held up the former tradition, this drama with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks was the better of the two this year.
Diablo Cody, who rose to prominence with Juno, sees a return to form in her fourth collaboration with director Jason Reitman. It’s the story of a struggling mother (Charlize Theron) who recruits a night time nanny (Mackenzie Davis) before they become friends.
42. Isle Of Dogs
Wes Anderson, whose live action films are some of the most stylised around, has also proven a dab hand at directing stop-motion animation, and he follows up his adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox with this original tale of a boy marooned on a Japanese island.
Finding films when they’re released can be an increasingly tricky proposition. This comedy drama about an incredibly talented, incredibly white rapper stirring things up was produced by Eminem and released by YouTube.
40. Cold War
Every year there’s a film which turns out to be a darling of the critics but leaves me slightly cold. I appreciate the artistry and the intention of Pawel Pawlikowski’s black and white Fifties romance, but it was a shade too mannered and too elusive for me to truly captivate.
39. The Miseducation Of Cameron Post
I loved director Desiree Akhavan’s previous film Appropriate Behaviour from a few years ago, and her latest was equally good. Chloë Moretz, probably still best known as Hit Girl, plays the young woman whose aunt sends her to a gay conversion camp run by Jennifer Ehle.
38. On Chesil Beach
Saoirse Ronan already has an incredible career for someone aged just 24, and this adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel centres around her wedding day to Billy Howle. Ronan is as brilliant here as we’ve come to expect, a masterclass in acting that’s restrained but still powerful.
37. Anna and the Apocalypse
Zombie musical? Yes please. This Scottish set film is a clear descendent of the likes of Shaun Of The Dead, but it gets both the zombie elements and the musical numbers bang on. It’s also carried along by a star-making performance from Ella Hunt as Anna.
36. Avengers: Infinity War
This pivotal outing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe actually turned out to be the weakest of the three films the studio released this year. Still pretty strong, but the emotional welt of the film soon fades when you realise that all of this film’s ending will almost certainly be undone in Endgame.
35. First Man
For once, Ryan Gosling’s stoicism doesn’t serve the character he’s playing, with his Neil Armstrong frustratingly at arm’s length. However, Damian Chazelle’s direction is at its best when capturing the fragile nature of space exploration and the epic scale of the first moon landing.
34. Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvel is having a gratifying amount of fun with its superheroes, and this light-hearted romp serves as the perfect antidote to Infinity War’s grandstanding. It’s just a shame we had to wait this long for one of the Marvel heroes in a film’s title to be female.
33. Lean On Pete
Andrew Haigh is one of the best British directors working at the moment, and relocating to America to adapt Willy Vlautin’s novel hasn’t dampened his talent. A strong supporting cast helps, but this is all about Charlie Plummer and the story of a boy on a road trip to save a horse from slaughter.
32. Ghost Stories
A British horror movie that delivers on scares and generates a truly chilling atmosphere, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman adapt their own stage play featuring a trio of increasingly nerve-wracking stories. Turn off the lights and the phone and give yourself over to it.
31. The Square
Claes Bang has been recruited to play Dracula for Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss in their Sherlock follow-up, and anyone looking for evidence of his talent need look no further. This art world satire is occasionally scattershot but understands social discomfort brilliantly.
A backdrop of tension is often best offset by humour, and so it proves in Annemarie Jacir’s story of a father and son driving around Nazareth delivering wedding invitations. Father and son bicker and bond in equal, charming measure.
29. The Old Man & the Gun
If this does turn out to be Robert Redford’s final film as an actor, then what better swansong than this wonderful throwback, which feels like it was lifted from the Seventies? Redford oozes charisma, as always, as a serial bank robber gaining results through good manners.
Steve McQueen follows up the Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave with an adaptation of an Eighties Lynda La Plante TV series, relocated to Chicago. Standouts in the cast are Viola Davis as Liam Neeson’s widow and Daniel Kaluuya as a menacing enforcer.
27. First Reformed
Paul Schrader’s written four significant Martin Scorsese films, but he can adapt his own work equally well. Ethan Hawke is a pastor in a small American church struggling with his own faith and sense of morality.
26. Incredibles 2
Pixar often leaves quite a gap between sequels, but the decade that’s passed since the original hasn’t diminished the storytelling power of Brad Bird and the Pixar team. Michael Giacchino’s super jazzy score help keeps the pace up too.
Look out for Part II, coming soon.