It has been a pretty excellent year in the world of film. 2018 has introduced the world to Wakanda and delivered a string of terrific blockbuster films, from Black Panther right at the beginning of the year through to the surprisingly excellent Bumblebee this week. With that in mind, it’s time for a list. After all, everyone else is doing them.
As has become normal over the last few years, I and my Popcorn Muncher Podcast co-hosts – Luke and Patrick – listed our top ten films of the year. We’ve awarded points for the rankings, crunched the numbers and here are, according to the three of us, the 20 best films that were released in the UK in 2018.
20=. Venom (2 pts)
Yes, Venom was in two of our top 10 lists. Go figure.
Luke said: “I’m not saying this to be different. Venom is some of the most fun you will have watching a movie. Period. It muddles through its origins, but when it hits its groove, it is just outrageous fun.”
Patrick said: “It’s bonkers fun in the vein of 90s superheroes and Tom Hardy freaks out in a fish tank while munching on live lobsters. What more could you want?”
20=. Pacific Rim: Uprising (2 pts)
Without Guillermo del Toro at the helm, things looked bleak for robots versus monsters sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising. No one expected it to be this much fun but, with John Boyega having the time of its life, it delivered the goods.
Luke said: “I can’t say no to a film that is just having lots of fun, and what this lacks in the first movie’s style and plotting, it more than makes up for with gay abandon. This is a great example of just allowing a charismatic star to have free reign, with some great fights around them.”
20=. Hereditary (2 pts)
Patrick said: “Certainly one of the best horror films of the year, this provides chills from the strains of family life and loss. It culminates in a terrifying third act that escalates into a truly unsettling finale. A well-directed, slow-burn horror from a first time director is really impressive.”
18=. Red Sparrow (3 pts)
Luke said: “J-Law’s foray into the hard-R spy genre may have been unheralded, but remains one of the most clinically effective films released this year. It is cold and brutal, but not in a way that feels exploitative. It’s engrossing and keeps you riveted on the edge of your seat throughout.”
18=. Creed 2 (3 pts)
Everyone was surprised by Creed a couple of years ago, which gave the Rocky franchise a whole new lease of life. Now, those characters are back, with Adonis Creed pitted against the brutish son of Ivan Drago – his father’s killer.
Patrick said: “This is definitely more of a mainline sequel to Rocky than Creed was, but that’s fine when it’s done this well. It may lack some of the directorial flair of Ryan Coogler, but what it lacks there it makes up for in character-driven storytelling, leading to a finale that had my heart racing.”
15=. First Reformed (4 pts)
Paul Schrader hasn’t been living up to his legendary reputation in recent years, but the acclaimed First Reformed changes things. Ethan Hawke delivers an ace performance as an isolated priest experiencing a crisis of faith when he learns of an eco-activist movement.
Tom said: “With a terrifically understated Hawke at its centre, this is proper, grown-up filmmaking that casts a tantalising spell with its slow-burn character study, leading to a mesmerising, open-ended conclusion.”
15=. Ghost Stories (4 pts)
The British horror anthology came back in a big way this year with Ghost Stories, adapted from a stage production. In the movie, three creepy tales give way to a mind-bending, twisty conclusion.
Luke said: “This invites you in through its adoration of horror conventions and then effectively scares the sweet crap out of you. Through three different stories all leaning on different styles of horror, this tells a singular, compelling journey with scares weaved throughout.”
15=. Avengers: Infinity War (4 pts)
Not just the most ambitious movie of 2018, but arguably of all time, Avengers: Infinity War is the pay-off of a decade of Marvel storytelling.
Patrick said: “I don’t see how you could make this material better. It accomplishes everything it sets out to do. It really is the perfect culmination of a 10-year experiment that is still going strong. On top of this, Thanos is one of the most memorable villains of all time and Josh Brolin excels in the role, married with fantastic CGI.”
13=. Coco (5 pts)
If Pixar makes a movie, odds are it’ll end up being one of the best of the year. With Coco, the animation maestros take audiences on a journey through the Mexican Day of the Dead tradition, where emotion meets smarts.
Luke said: “The first family animation released in the UK this year remains the best. Pixar once again succeeds with this lovingly-told story about family, music and loss, all of which intertwines into a final scene that will keep making you cry, no matter how many times you watch it.”
13=. Lady Bird (5 pts)
Nominated for a number of Oscars at the beginning of the year, Lady Bird is a terrific achievement from writer-director Greta Gerwig. She casts Saoirse Ronan as the titular teen, determined to find her way into a more exciting life than her Catholic school upbringing typically initiates.
Tom said: “Saoirse Ronan can do no wrong, and her and Gerwig make for a hell of a team. This is a sensitive and funny portrayal of teenage life, told with warm humour and a surprising amount of emotional punch.”
11=. Revenge (6 pts)
French filmmaker Coralie Fargeat cemented herself as a horror voice to watch with the fierce, powerful Revenge, which is a new spin on a rape-revenge tale. Matilda Lutz plays a woman who carries out violent retribution against her rapist and his friends who left her for dead.
Tom said: “With its eye for ferocious violence and compelling deconstruction of the male gaze, Revenge is one of the year’s most interesting genre movies. Fargeat tells her story with style, confidence and serious power.”
11=. Black Panther (6 pts)
It has taken Marvel a little too long to make a truly diverse superhero movie, but Black Panther is a staggering achievement that very quickly became an important cultural moment. Ryan Coogler’s movie works on every conceivable level. Wakanda forever, indeed.
Patrick said: “This film excels in so many ways. Its world is wonderfully realised, Michael B Jordan is a brilliant and complex foil and the whole production is executed with such confidence. Marvel are in their stride and this is them on their best day.”
10. First Man (7 pts)
Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling are together again for First Man. A straightforward retelling of Neil Armstrong’s life up until the moment he became the first human being to walk on the moon, it’s a slightly more conventional project for the maestro behind Whiplash and La La Land, but one that he executes with his typical skill and flair.
Luke said: “Chazelle and Gosling should only be allowed to make movies together if the product is as masterful as La La Land and First Man. What looks like this year’s major Oscar snub is an emotional and thrilling retelling of Armstrong’s journey. The brilliance is in making space travel as thrilling as it has ever been, but also in Gosling’s performance, which leaves a lot unsaid.”
8=. Mandy (8 pts)
This is a Nicolas Cage freakout movie with a difference. Through the psychedelic lens of writer-director Panos Cosmatos, Cage embarks on a journey of violent revenge when he and his wife – Andrea Riseborough‘s title character – are kidnapped by a drug-fuelled cult. Mandy is a chainsaw-wielding, funny face-pulling odyssey of madness that works as an arthouse showcase for Cage at his most unhinged.
Patrick said: “This movie is just the kind of thing I like. It’s visually stunning for one, with some of the most gorgeous cinematography of the year, and Cage is cast pitch-perfectly. It’s not high art by any means, but what’s here has some impeccable flair and Mandy as a character lingers through the movie, informing and molding the story into something else entirely by the end.”
8=. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (8 pts)
Desiree Akhavan‘s sophomore feature The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular teenager, sent to a gay conversion therapy camp when she is caught in a car with her girlfriend after a high school dance. She soon makes friends at the camp, but that doesn’t stop her being pulled into the orbit of its psychological programming methods. It’s a timely and important film, made as the 2016 American election was taking place and only more relevant given its unexpected outcome.
Tom said: “With the always reliable Moretz at the centre in her most complex and mature role to date, this is an exceptional film. It avoids sensationalism and moral grand-standing, but communicates the horror of these misguided camps while never losing sight of the most important issue at play – making these characters feel like plausible teenagers.”
6=. Anna and the Apocalypse (10 pts)
Scottish filmmaker John McPhail‘s Christmas musical Anna and the Apocalypse has plenty of festive cheer and gets considerable joy from its high school setting. It’s also, however, a zombie movie and regularly disappears into a world of gore and terror. None of these genres should work together, but McPhail’s film has undeniable comedic skill, a stocking full of scares and an enviable sense of fun.
Tom said: “Sometimes a movie just ticks all of your boxes. As a lover of horror, musicals and Christmas movies, this was everything I could possibly have asked for. It’s full of joy, gruesome practical effects work and a surprising amount of pathos, all conveyed through a sunny and silly festive zombie tale. Exactly what the cinematic doctor ordered and the best film of 2018.”
6=. Phantom Thread (10 pts)
The latest film from Paul Thomas Anderson – also allegedly the acting swansong of Daniel Day-Lewis – is a very strange beast indeed. In Phantom Thread, Day-Lewis is a dressmaker who forms a relationship with Vicky Krieps‘s much younger woman, which sours and curdles in ways that are unsettling and bizarre. It’s not a horror movie, but it always feels as if it’s only a moment or two away from becoming one.
Patrick said: “The guys gave me grief about this one being my favourite, but I don’t care. This movie is mesmerising. Anderson just consistently makes films I love and Phantom Thread is no different. A tale of a toxic relationship taken to its logical extremes, made with masterful direction, expert acting performances and a beautiful soundtrack from Jonny Greenwood, it’s flawless filmmaking and my favourite movie of the year.”
4=. A Quiet Place (12 pts)
The final film on this list to have earned a number one spot in one of our lists – and it’s only at number four! – A Quiet Place woke up a lot of horror skeptics to the power of the genre. Directed by TV acting veteran John Krasinski, who also stars alongside his real world wife Emily Blunt, it’s a tour de force tale of scares powered by one ingenious central conceit – blind alien predators who hunt only based on sound.
Luke said: “As extortionate prices, sub-par confectionery and awful people make the cinema a regrettable experience, a film like A Quiet Place reminds you of its magic. Krasinski’s horror masterpiece grabs you from scene one and holds you in place, daring you to make a noise when its protagonists won’t. Such a cinema phenomenon was this film that it feels like its reputation will diminish as people now catch up on VOD. But don’t be fooled. This is a film so good it reminds you why the cinema might be worth preserving.”
Tom said: “Luke hates the cinema and he reckons this movie is basically the saviour of the multiplex experience. That means more than anything I could say.”
4=. The Shape of Water (12 pts)
Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning fantasy romance is a very special movie indeed. At its core, The Shape of Water is a tale of romance between a mute cleaner played by Sally Hawkins and a mysterious fish creature, embodied by Del Toro favourite Doug Jones. But really, it’s about much more than that. It’s about the voice of the outsider, the politics of intolerance and Del Toro’s firmly held humanist beliefs.
Patrick said: “I don’t cry often at films – unlike resident cry baby Tom – but this got me. I joke that this is the ‘fish fuck’ movie, but it really has a cracking romance at its heart that you deeply feel for, as well as having an undercurrent theme around the voicelessness of women and minority groups during the period, which is woven seamlessly into the film.”
Tom said: “I love Del Toro and this is him at his most human and spell-binding. It uses its period setting as a clear allegory for today but also, at its core, tells a simple story of fantasy romance that is impossible not to take to heart. Patrick has me pegged on this one. I cried.”
3. Annihilation (16 pts)
Released straight to Netflix in the UK and many other territories outside of America, Annihilation is a high-concept sci-fi with a real brain in its head. Natalie Portman is excellent as a scientist embarking on an expedition into a mysterious and potentially deadly alien invasion site, with little chance of emerging from it all alive. That setup doesn’t even scratch the surface of where this film ultimately has the sheer brass balls to take its audience. It’s the only film that made all three of the top 10 lists.
Luke said: “While A Quiet Place reminded us how good cinemas could be, for viewers across the world Netflix made a statement about its role in distributing films to the masses. The result is that millions got to witness Alex Garland distinguish himself as the principle voice in science fiction filmmaking. Annihilation is an engrossing journey that leaves many of its questions unanswered, but never fails to enthrall you with its mind-bending journey.”
Patrick said: “It may have been criminally forgotten in discussions for awards this year, but this really is one of the best of the year and one of the best sci-fi movies of the last decade. A great female-led cast and unique visual design and storytelling are just some of the reasons this movie is so brilliant. Avoid spoilers and let it wash over you.”
Tom said: “I am a little gutted I had to watch this movie on Netflix, but it would have been worse not to see it at all. With great performances and limitless invention on both a visual and thematic level, it’s a very special achievement indeed.”
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (17 pts)
People didn’t get much time to be excited about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, right up until the point that it arrived in cinemas and became the talk of the film world. Featuring a scientific misadventure that sends Peter Parker variations from multiple comic book universes into the same story, it’s a daring experiment in superhero storytelling that pushes the medium of animation into a whole new realm of possibilities. In a crowded year, it’s the top comic book entry on our list.
Patrick said: “This movie really came out of nowhere. Its laser-focused plotting and visual artistry is astounding and the love for its source material flows through the whole production. It’s not just a great piece of animation, it may be the best Spider-Man movie ever made and it’s definitely one of the best superhero films of all time.”
Luke said: “You would think it impossible to successfully reinvent the dominant blockbuster genre in the year in which the biggest film it has ever produced came out. But Sony might’ve just done it. It’s an energetic thrill ride with oodles of creativity to make it feel distinct in a crowded field. This isn’t so much an animated superhero movie as a superhero movie they decided to animate, and that decision gives the film free reign to be more visually inventive than live action films, while also boasting real heart.”
1. Love, Simon (18 pts)
This film topped our list in the middle of the year, and it’s still there now at the end of 2018. Love, Simon tells the story of Nick Robinson‘s title character as he comes to terms with a school blog outing him as gay before he is ready to confront the issue publicly. Other than the character’s sexuality, it navigates the usual teen romcom beats, creating something that feels at once comfortably familiar and enjoyably innovative.
Tom said: “This is a beautiful film that knows exactly when to push its genre buttons and when to pull away from the tropes and conventions of the past. The performances feel natural and filled with genuine, palpable emotion, while the comedy comes thick and fast. This isn’t an issues movie. It’s an unashamed romcom. But that doesn’t make it any less special.”
Luke said: “Another masterpiece of its genre in a year bursting with them. This uses the conventions of its teen comedy genre to subvert expectations. The familiarity with the teen romance beats gives the film space to develop real emotion and packs a heft its company at the top of the genre – 10 Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls, Clueless, etc – can never reach. Love, Simon is a truly special film, and one that may define its genre for a generation to come.”
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.
Anna and the Apocalypse
Miseducation of Cameron Post
Shape of Water
A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place
Into the Spider-Verse
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Into the Spider-Verse
Shape of Water
Avengers: Infinity War