More so than on books and music, our writers coalesced around some clear picks for our top films of 2018, with the top three in particular appearing on many lists. It meant some personal favourites missed out, but produced a representative sample of what we consider the best viewing of the year just gone.
10. They Shall Not Grow Old
Peter Jackson’s colourised documentary of World War I brings a fresh new intensity to familiar history. “No film has ever gotten closer to the nasty, brutal, and unflinchingly bleak reality of early modern warfare than They Shall Not Grow Old, and the historical power it holds is immense,” said The Gate.
=8. Bad Times at the El Royale
Drew Goddard’s neo-noir thriller saw seven strangers brought together at a rundown hotel, each of them with a secret to bury. The List praised it for its “charismatic performances and zippy dialogue,” concluding that “it may not be as genre-bending as its predecessor Cabin, but it’s an atmospheric and airtight noir.”
=8. I, Tonya
Margot Robbie and Allison Janney both received Oscar nominations for playing the mother and daughter at the centre of this unedifying piece of figure-skating history, with Janney bagging the award for Best Supporting Actress. Empire found it “consistently gripping — a tale that assumes the audience’s complicity in Harding’s trial by media, then forcing us to reconsider.”
7. Isle Of Dogs
“All of the ingredients are here for a film which shouldn’t work. But work it does, if not quite perfectly. Partly this is down to the fact that the film is visually ravishing. There is more attention to detail than can be appreciated in one sitting… The entire production feels lavish and intelligently designed, with imaginative little touches such as televised scenes being rendered in traditional animation being par for the course.”
“120 BPM immediately stimulates our pulses with its explosive opening scene. Protesters storm a pharmaceutical seminar about AIDS medication, culminating in the speaker being pelted with fake blood and handcuffed to a piece of stage equipment. It’s a startling opener and one that epitomises the aims of activist group ACT UP: to demand attention and refuse to let the world forget the AIDS epidemic… 120 BPM is a ‘based-on-truth’ film that avoids any schmaltz, happy payoffs or cliché. The acting is consistently natural and the filming style so journalistic in places that we sense we are almost watching documentary. It blends the political with the personal and is ultimately harrowing yet crucial viewing.”
5. First Reformed
Set around a failing church in upstate New York, First Reformed stars Ethan Hawke as a minister struggling with matters of faith and morality as he becomes embroiled in the complicated life of a pregnant parishioner. A “passionate, intelligent and audacious study of a priest in crisis,” The Skinny called it, while the Washington Post proclaimed it the “movie that gets right everything that Mother! got wrong”.
4. Cold War
“Broadly inspired by [Pawel] Pawlikowski’s parents’ tempestuous relationship, the film is a mesmerising and intoxicating depiction of a tragic romance, set against the backdrop of post-war Europe… [He] conveys the nuanced and complicated emotional evolution of the protagonists with a subtlety so genuinely magical that the ending, almost Shakespearean in romance and tragedy, is imbued with a compelling, heart-breaking, profoundly human truth.”
“A24 have once again produced another unsettling independent horror with Hereditary – a Greek tragedy of sorts about a woman and her family, whose lives slowly unravel as they begin to experience strange and possibly supernatural occurrences, after the loss of a family member… [Ari] Aster has succeeded with an accomplished debut full of nightmarish imagery and emotional terror, anchored by a colossal performance from Collette.”
“The story of Ron Stallworth, the first Black detective in Colorado Springs, who in 1979 (1972 in the film) began an undercover investigation into the local chapter of the KKK, exposing white supremacists in the US military and preventing cross burnings in the process. While some aspects of the film are fictionalised, there are several horrifying moments in the film which are true (although one cannot help but wish they weren’t) and it is through this blend of outright horror and smartly-delivered comedy that BlacKkKlansman excels.”
1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
“Martin McDonagh’s latest is a dense, profane tragicomedy of revenge and redemption at once blackly enjoyable and surprisingly emotional. Frances McDormand is Mildred Hayes, a mother still grieving after the unsolved rape and murder of her teenage daughter Angela nearly a year earlier… Three Billboards is a tonal roller coaster of McDonagh’s usual firecracker dialogue, sudden spurts of nasty violence, punishing emotional punches and social invective.”