2018 Mid-Year Review – Best films of 2018 so far

We are now halfway through 2018 and so it’s time to take stock and have a look at the best and worst of the first six months of the year. The Oscar season yielded a wide array of future classic and terrific movies from established auteurs, while there has been a surprising amount of success on the blockbuster front this year as well. But what are the best films of 2018 so far?

All three hosts of The Popcorn Muncher Podcast listed our five best films of 2018 so far. We’ve awarded points for the rankings, crunched the numbers and here are, according to the three of us, the ten best films that have been released in the UK during the first six months of 2018.

 

Poster for 2018 superhero blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War8=. Avengers: Infinity War (2 pts)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe finally reached its spectacular crescendo this year with Avengers: Infinity War, which brought together just about every A-lister in Hollywood to fill out a bonkers superhero cast working together to prevent Josh Brolin‘s big purple baddie from committing genocide.

Patrick said: “The fact this movie shoves in a decade’s worth of characters and world building, but doesn’t feel bloated, is an astounding achievement. If the first Avengers movie was a home run, this is winning the World Series.”

 

Poster for 2018 Pixar animation Coco8=. Coco (2 pts)

Released in America late last year before arriving on these shores in January, Coco is another example of Pixar’s weaponised sentimentality, designed to bring a tear to even the most cynical of audience eyes with its Day of the Dead storyline. That ‘Remember Me’ song alone is enough to make anyone well up.

Luke said: “Coco will make you cry. Granted, a lot of Pixar movies have that effect, but few do it with the efficiency of this. It manages to build a complex world and a large extended family and makes you care about every inch of it.”

 

Poster for 2018 coming of age movie Lady Bird8=. Lady Bird (2 pts)

It left without a single statuette after the Oscars ceremony, but Greta Gerwig‘s coming of age comedy Lady Bird was a critical darling throughout awards season. Featuring a stunning central performance from Saoirse Ronan, it’s one of the most touching and poignant films released this year.

Tom said: “Saoirse Ronan’s last awards season movie, Brooklyn, affected me on a profound level. The same is true of Lady Bird, which is a beautiful film about familial relationships and the struggle to find a personal identity.”

 

Poster for 2018 drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (3 pts)

Three Billboards may have been pipped to the post for Best Picture – by a film we shall discuss later – but Martin McDonagh‘s acerbic drama will be remembered for its razor-sharp script and fiery performances.

Patrick said: “The character of Mildred Hayes is a stubborn woman, but Frances McDormand is able to pair the outward harshness with a real sense of sadness, demonstrating a woman broken by grief. It’s a stellar performance that elevates the entire production.”

 

5=. Revenge (4 pts)

Matilda Lutz must fight to survive in Revenge
Matilda Lutz must fight to survive in Revenge

The rape-revenge movie is one of the most maligned subgenres in the horror world, but no one told Coralie Fargeat that when she made Revenge. With Matilda Lutz as her protagonist, switching from hunted to hunter as she takes apart her abusers, the movie could not be more timely and spends a great deal of its time analysing the ‘male gaze’ that is still such a huge part of mainstream culture.

Tom said: “Coralie Fargeat’s movie is a searing critique of misogynist cinema, told through the prism of a rape-revenge movie that dismantles the male gaze with gleeful ingenuity and puts it back together with a feminist slant. Beyond that, it works as a straightforward horror film as well, delivering gruesome violence, breakneck tension and visual invention.”

 

5=. Annihilation (4 pts)

Natalie Portman stars in Alex Garland's sci-fi story Annihilation
Natalie Portman stars in Alex Garland’s sci-fi story Annihilation

Several years after his directorial debut Ex Machina became an Oscar winner, Alex Garland hopped behind the camera once again for Annihilation. It’s a complex and sophisticated sci-fi of ideas, following Natalie Portman and a group of female scientists as they explore a strange, dangerous alien forcefield. Bizarrely, Paramount made the decision to flog the movie to Netflix in the UK and in much of the world outside of America, which was able to enjoy the movie in its full big screen glory.

Luke said: “Alex Garland cements his place as the premiere voice in high-concept sci-fi with Annihilation, which is a masterpiece of big scientific ideas, but also mood, atmosphere and emotion. The science is really a backdrop to the human drama unfolding in front of it. Natalie Portman is excellent and is supported by four other expeditionists, who are fleshed out well to make every horror of the world they are exploring feel emotive. Many a movie has tried to tackle big sci-fi concepts, but few do it with the command of character that Garland does here.”

Tom said: “Unforgivably forced on to the small screen in the UK by Paramount, Annihilation is a mammoth undertaking that feels huge in every way, from its ideas to its spectacle. The performances are stellar and Garland knows exactly how to mesh ideas with humanity. I just wish I could have experienced its majesty in the cinema, as the filmmakers intended.”

 

3=. Phantom Thread (5 pts)

Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps form an odd relationship in Phantom Thread
Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps form an odd relationship in Phantom Thread

The dream team of Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis was basically enough to create anticipation for Phantom Thread, which was a late arrival into awards season and likely crept in and out of cinemas too quickly for anyone not avidly following the Oscars to catch it. Day-Lewis has claimed the film will be his final performance and, if so, fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock is an idosyncratic, prickly high for him to go out on. It’s a romance, but one that doesn’t do anything conventionally.

Patrick said: “I have an internal self-loathing over how much I love Paul Thomas Anderson. Even when people deride films like The Master, I just can’t help but adore them. Surely I should dislike something he’s made right? Alas, Phantom Thread is a goddamn masterpiece – a tale of toxic relationships taken to its logical conclusion that features beautiful direction and cinematography, gorgeous set and costume design and amazing performances by all of the major cast.”

 

3=. A Quiet Place (5 pts)

Emily Blunt hides from an alien threat in A Quiet Place
Emily Blunt hides from an alien threat in A Quiet Place

Horror is currently talked about in terms of two camps, from the Insidious movies of the world through to the “elevated” horror of something like Hereditary. Comedy star John Krasinski managed to masterfully position himself at the exact midpoint of that scale with A Quiet Place, in which he plays a father trying to protect his family from alien creatures that hunt via sound. It’s a world in which everyone is safe, as long as they never make a noise.

Luke said: “John Krasinski’s directorial debut and horror masterpiece managed to be the most talked about film of the beginning of a year that built up to the release of the biggest superhero movie ever. What this movie possesses that ranks it above all others this year is its ability to be a singly unifying cinema experience that compels every member of the audience to sit in stoic silence waiting for the horror and the characters to take you on a white-knuckle hour and a half.”

 

2. The Shape of Water (7 pts)

Sally Hawkins stars in Guillermo del Toro monster movie The Shape of Water
Sally Hawkins stars in Guillermo del Toro monster movie The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro finally managed to climb the Academy Award mountain this year, winning the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture with his fantasy romance The Shape of Water. It’s an unusual proposition that showcases Del Toro’s well-publicised love for monsters, following a mute woman played by Sally Hawkins as she falls in love with an amphibious creature brought into the research facility where she works as a cleaner. It’s a tale of an underdog speaking out in righteous anger againstintolerance, prejudice and abuse, all told with the director’s unmistakable humanism.

Patrick said: “Well deserving of the Oscar, The Shape of Water uses the trappings of the monster movie to tell a tale of forbidden love, the heightened tensions and suspicions of the Cold War and the marginalisation of minorities, women and the LGBT community in that era. It’s a supremely beautiful work of filmmaking where every element is an absolute 10 out of 10. Del Toro may just have made his masterpiece.”

Tom said: “Nobody appreciates the beauty and sensitivity of the outsider like Guillermo del Toro and, more even than any of his other movies, The Shape of Water feels like a clear love letter to those on the fringes of society. Sally Hawkins is wonderful and the visual palette is unforgettably grim, littered throughout with moments of the simple, powerful beauty that this director can always find in the darkest of corners.”

 

1. Love, Simon (9 pts)

Katherine Langford and Nick Robinson lead a teen ensemble in Love, Simon
Katherine Langford and Nick Robinson lead a teen ensemble in Love, Simon

Just over a year after Moonlight won Best Picture, and six months or so after the beautiful Call Me By Your Name, the LGBT love story moved squarely across into the mainstream with Love, Simon. It’s a studio romcom with a gay lead and that feels far more revolutionary than it arguably should. The movie follows Nick Robinson‘s title character as he is outed on the school blog, before working out how to get what he wants and come to terms with who he is, now that his secret is out there.

Luke said: “Genre masterpieces are a feature of my top movies – and Love, Simon is no different. It’s a wonderful teen romantic comedy up there with 10 Things I Hate About You but brings with it a sensitively handled importance that elevates it above standard comedy fare. The film’s devotion to its characters is what sets it apart from leaner teen comedies, and that’s what makes its use of the same high school beats not feel tired. It feels like a breezy teen film we will be talking about for decades to come.”

Tom said: “This is not just the best movie of the year so far, but it’s one of the most heart-warming films I have seen in years. The performances are immediately relatable and the tone works at the same level of frothy silliness as the best examples of the romcom genre. It’s hugely important for LGBT representation and also massively enjoyable for all audiences.”

 

And here are our full lists. For our weekly reviews and chat, check out the podcast. If you want to yell at us for what we have chosen or indeed what we haven’t chosen, feel free to pop down to the comments section and scream your heart out.

 

Tom’s List
Love, Simon
Revenge
The Shape of Water
Lady Bird
Annihilation
Luke’s List
A Quiet Place
Love, Simon
Annihilation
Coco
Ghost Stories
Patrick’s List
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards
Avengers: Infinity War
Black Panther

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