This year, I have watched 513 films (45 released this year and 282 for the first time). My most watched director was Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock and my most watched actors were Samuel L. Jackson and Domhnall Gleeson.
And here are my top 10 films of 2018. This list changes constantly so you can view a constantly updated list on my Letterboxd page. Please note, I’ve not seen many new releases over the past year so this is likely to change quite often over the next few months as I play catch up, as well.
10. Phantom Thread
Only Daniel Day-Lewis could have led this film. I hated his character, but I also would have stood still for hours in silence at his request and succumb to his every word. He is such a powerful actor and is one of the few who can hold your attention so strongly for such a slow-burning story. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, it’s no surprise that the film is shot as beautifully as it is acted. Like with most of his films, a story like this can only work with PTA and DD-L’s perfectionist qualities and combined accomplished talents.
9. You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay, yes! Joaquin Phoenix, yes! Beautifully shot and with a great score, You Were Never Really Here is a hard-hitting, effective, immersive and refreshing action film with a perfectly set mood and examination of PTSD. It doesn’t quite hit you where it hurts like We Need to Talk About Kevin, but it does deal with similar themes and states of mind, equally as disturbing and violent but also heartwrenching and tragic.
Most Netflix original films that I have reviewed so far have been very mediocre, but this is on another level. With stunning visuals, exceptional performances, anxiety-inducing horror and a brilliant science fiction premise, Annihilation should have been made for the big screen. From the director of Ex Machina, Alex Garland, this is further proof that he knows how to handle this genre of film better than most. This is a film that you will be thinking about days after watching, so make sure that you do.
7. Bird Box
The story is brilliantly developed and paced and it keeps you guessing until the very last minute. There are still a few things left unanswered, but I was happy with how the film concluded as I had no idea how this world was going to survive this unknown force, or if it ever will. The effects are great and the whole film is shot really well, too. It’s like a really good nightmare; never allowing you to see what is there but always making you aware that something is close by.
6. Lady Bird
Lady Bird captures the transition from adolescence to adulthood perfectly in this deeply engaging coming-of-age story full of fantastic performances.
It’s a story that many viewers will easily relate to. For me, personally, I remember feeling a lot of what Saoirse Ronan’s character is going through in the years before I went to university 300 miles away from home. You feel so grown up at the time, but then you look back at this and realise that you were far from it. It’s such a brilliant age to explore the headspace of a female, on the cusp of so much, eager to move far away and prove yourself to others. But no matter how far you run, you’re home will always be your home, and you will always find yourself running back to your mum in times of comfort.
5. Bohemian Rhapsody
As a film, Bohemian Rhapsody is much like the song itself, a medley of great talent and exceptional performances with a vicissitude of highs and lows. The film hasn’t done well as expected with critics, but that’s most likely due to it being a different kind of film to one that many were expecting. Critics wanted a revolutionary and in-depth look at Freddie’s life, but what Bohemian Rhapsody is, in fact, is a film about Queen – a brilliant celebration of one of the greatest bands of all time.
It may not be groundbreaking, but it is still an insightful story. Whilst everybody will know most of Queen’s songs, not many will know much about what was going on with the band off stage. For those, there’s a lot to learn about Freddie and the rest of the band. I didn’t realise how little I knew until I began watching this film. Learning that Freddie was born as Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar to parents from India and that he was engaged to a woman for a long time, I soon realised that I hadn’t even seen Freddie on a screen aside from the band’s music videos.
Beautifully animated with vibrant colours and patterns, as it should be being inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, Coco is a beautiful story about life. But, most notably, it is also about death, because to be remembered in death, you need to have lived a good life. Mexico has a beautiful tradition of celebrating the dead with their Day of the Dead festival, allowing themes which are usually quite difficult to talk about to be explored in a beautiful and magical way. It is a story that has meaning and honesty, and that’s why it’s one that won’t easily be forgotten.
3. Avengers: Infinity War
There are superhero films that struggle to work with only four or five characters. There are superhero films that struggle to focus on just one. Somehow, Avengers: Infinity War manages to work incredibly well with over 20 of them. And it does this on various different planets and with the introduction of new characters, all without feeling like we are constantly being thrown new information that we don’t have time to take in or find difficult to place. Not once did I question what was going on or who somebody was, which is very rare for a film focusing on so many characters. For that, Infinity War cannot be faulted.
2. The Shape Of Water
Guillermo del Toro is the man to go to if you want to make a film equally terrifying, fantastical, and engaging. He has such amazing ideas, and this tribute to old Hollywood monster movies blends perfectly with del Toro’s love of dark fairytales.
Whilst I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to divulge in a film about a mute woman falling in love with an amphibious sea creature, the refreshingly told story, remarkable performances, and enchanting score pulled me deep under the water with them. The use of bluey-green tones throughout gives this illusion, as the film feels like an elegant dance underwater. The Shape of Water is simply mesmerising.
1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
There’s so much that I love about this film: the performances, the characters, the conflicts, the balance of tragedy and comedy, but most of all, I love how it evolved in ways that I wasn’t expecting it to. Frances McDormand gives a powerful performance and you can tell how much of a connection she had with her character, and the dedication that she wanted to give to make people aware of how relevant and culturally insightful this film is. She wanted you to stop in your tracks and pay attention, and that’s just what you’ll do.
However, knowing that there isn’t going to be a sequel makes me think that, on further viewings, my rating of this will eventually come down. Director Martin McDonagh has commented that “So many crimes are unsolved, and part of the story is what happens when a crime isn’t solved. What happens to the people left behind? What happens to their anger and rage and pain?” Which is great. I’m glad that they haven’t given a happy ending to the investigation just because it was made for a cinema screen. I can handle the reality of what the families in this story are left with, what they have to deal with every day, the heartbreak that won’t go away. That kind of ending is just as powerful in its own way.