2018 was a turbulent time in much of the world, with politics littering people’s social media feeds more than usual. The year was still filled with cinematic gems though and, as usual in January, we’re jumping on the ‘best of the year’ bandwagon and listing our writers’ favourite films of the year. Because we pretty much solely focus on home entertainment releases, a couple of us decided to add a few lists taking in our favourite re-releases and Blu-Ray/DVD packages of the year too.
If you’re interested in what I saw in 2018 and beyond, I try to keep tabs of everything I watch, new or otherwise, at Letterboxd. It’s a cool site if you’re not aware of it, offering a social network for film geeks and a place to track the films you’ve seen or want to see.
Below are the top 10’s and other lists of the year from a handful of our contributors. As always let us know your thoughts in the comments section and feel free to include your own lists.
Top 10 New Releases
10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – I’m usually quite old fashioned and anti-Netflix, but the company had a handful of great releases I was keen to watch this year and three managed to make my top 10 and honourable mentions. One of them is this, the Coen Brothers’ latest. I’m not often a fan of anthology films, as they can feel a bit throwaway and the quality of each story can be variable. However, I enjoyed all segments to this. There’s a wonderful mixture of comedy, tragedy and even a little romance. Throw in a great cast and some lovely visuals and you’re on to a winner.
9. Widows – I’ve been very much enjoying watching Steve McQueen’s career develop. He’s made quite a wide variety of films over the last ten years and each one has been excellent. Widows is his most commercial venture, but he manages to take a pretty trashy concept and basic story and inject it with intelligent social commentary. He doesn’t skimp on the thrills either. There are only a couple of set pieces, but each is directed with flair and class.
8. Dogman – This hasn’t been getting nearly enough attention. Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone returns to the world of petty criminality with this story of a trod upon dog groomer who gets into trouble through the actions of a dangerous bully. The way the diminutive man exacts his revenge later on in the film is shocking but you can’t help siding with him to an extent. Bolstered by a superb lead performance by Marcello Fonte (the best of the year in my opinion), it’s a bleak, dark tale, but an incredibly engrossing one.
7. Apostasy – This powerful drama takes a fascinating and disturbing look at the world of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Subtly presented, but incredibly moving, it’s a striking debut from director Daniel Kokotajlo, who I’ll be keeping an eye on for future projects. Review
6. You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay proves she’s one of Britain’s greatest current directors with yet another original and striking work. This time she puts an arthouse skew on the hitman thriller. Review
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – This just slipped into 2018 in the UK and stayed near the top of my list all year. Boasting a handful of superb performances, not the least Frances McDormand, it’s a foul-mouthed and potent film about justice.
4. Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson’s films can be a bit divisive, with claims of ‘style over substance’ running rampant. I can see that, but here the film is so charming, fun and surprisingly moving as it reaches its climax, that I didn’t care. It’s meticulously well crafted too, as is to be expected from the director. Review
3. Hereditary – The most critically acclaimed horror movie of the year (alongside Mandy – see honourable mentions), this rode in on a wave of hype but absolutely lived up to it in my opinion. I found it a very difficult watch, so I can’t say it’s a film I wish to see again any time soon, but it’s devastatingly powerful. The direction it takes in the latter half may not be to everyone’s tastes after the more grounded first half, but I went with it and ‘enjoyed’ the carnage of its shocking climax.
2. Coco – Pixar’s reputation isn’t quite as squeaky clean as it used to be, but with Inside Out and now Coco they’ve proved they can still blow the competition out of the water when they set their mind to it. Coco feels fresh, develops interesting themes, is a visual treat and contains a handful of wonderful songs that I’ve been listening to non-stop with my kids ever since we saw the film early on in the year.
1. Roma – Alfonso Cuarón follows up the special effects-laden sci-fi thriller Gravity with the much more personal and subtle drama, Roma. It has been widely praised as the film of the year elsewhere and you won’t hear any disagreement from me. It’s a superb piece of work, turning a minimal and not particularly original story of class and motherhood/womanhood into a masterpiece. With elegant long-take black-and-white visuals, wonderfully understated performances and a devastating climax (after a deceptively uneventful build-up), it’s a nigh-on perfect piece of filmmaking.
Honourable mentions – Mandy, The Night Comes For Us, The Breadwinner, Lean on Pete, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Avengers: Infinity War, The Endless, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Skate Kitchen, BlacKkKlansman
Notable films missed or not released in the UK yet – The Favourite, Shoplifters, Burning, Zama, The Rider, Phantom Thread, Leave No Trace, The Square, A Fantastic Woman, The Old Man and the Gun, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Annihilation, First Reformed, Lady Bird, The Hate U Give, Sorry to Bother You, Incredibles 2, Faces Places, Suspiria, Eighth Grade, If Beale Street Could Talk
Top 20 Older First Time Watches
* Click on the links to read full reviews when available
20. Kings of the Road
18. Project A Part II
17. Othello (1951)
16. Charley Varrick
14. The Tall T
13. The Tale of Zatoichi
12. Return of the Living Dead
11. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters
11. The Old Dark House
10. Invention For Destruction
9. Black Peter
7. Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji
6. Underworld USA
5. Ride Lonesome
4. Intimate Lighting
3. Yi Yi
2. Pather Panchali
1. Make Way For Tomorrow
Honourable mentions – Megaforce, The American Friend
Top 25 Blu-Rays of the Year
25. The Deer Hunter (Studiocanal)
24. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Eureka)
23. Heathers (Arrow)
22. Last Year at Marienbad (Studiocanal)
21. Yi Yi (Criterion)
20. The Passenger (Indicator)
19. The Gate (Lionsgate/Vestron Video)
18. Charley Varrick (Indicator)
17. Daisies (Second Run)
16. When the Wind Blows (BFI)
15. An Actor’s Revenge (BFI)
14. Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (Arrow)
13. Othello (1951) (Criterion)
12. The Magnificent Ambersons (Criterion)
11. Phenomena (Arrow)
10. Night of the Living Dead (Criterion)
9. Twelve Monkeys (Arrow)
8. The Endless (Arrow)
7. Troll: The Complete Collection (Eureka)
6. Once Upon a Time in China Trilogy (Eureka)
5. Zatoichi – The Blind Swordsman (Criterion)
4. Family Values: Three Films by Hirokazu Kore-eda (Arrow)
3. Sam Fuller at Columbia 1937-1961 (Indicator)
2. Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott At Columbia, 1957-1960 (Indicator)
1. Mishima: A Life in 4 Chapters (Criterion)
Mishima took the top spot for me because the features so perfectly and comprehensively complemented the film. Some other releases may have contained more films and features, but this was a perfect set for me and the film really impressed me too.
* Please note – I didn’t have the cash to purchase Criterion’s incredible looking ‘Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema’ box set, but I imagine this would likely top the list if I did. On paper, it looks phenomenal. Indicator’s ‘Night of the Demon’ looks superb too, but I passed this on to Justin to review.
9. Game Night
8. A Quiet Place
6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
4. Bad Times at the El Royale
3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
1. Isle of Dogs
9. Game Night
8. A Prayer Before Dawn
6. Avengers: Infinity War
5. Bohemian Rhapsody
2. Incident In A Ghostland
1. Bomb City
10. First Reformed
8. A Simple Favour
7. Sorry to Bother You
5. Hold the Dark
4. Phantom Thread
2. You Were Never Really Here
1. Lady Bird
Honourable mentions: The Rider, 22 July, Isle of Dogs, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Madeline’s Madeline, Support the Girls
Films I haven’t seen that might have made the list: Widows, If Beale Street Could Talk, Burning, Shoplifters, Wildlife, The Favourite, Suspiria, The Tale
While 2018 was a good year for watching films and TV series for me, personally, it does seem that overall the quality of films, when compared to previous years, was down a little, certainly with less memorable titles in the mix.
I managed to get to see a fair few films at the cinema and these are my pick of the bunch:
Darkest Hour – Gary Oldman is amazing as Winston Churchill in this World War II drama which won tons of awards, and rightly so.
The Shape of Water – A near perfect film, apart from the amazingly frustrating plot spoiler during the opening credits which annoyed me somewhat.
Accident Man – I was very fortunate to see the premiere of this film in Birmingham, introduced by star and writer Scott Adkins. This is how indie comic book films should be done. Some great gags and awesome fight sequences make this a very re-watchable film.
The Avengers Infinity War: Part One – Although I’m getting increasingly tired of comic book films this one definitely met my expectations, and more. Roll on April for part two.
Deadpool 2 – The storyline isn’t as engaging as the first film, but this sequel is probably funnier and that’s saying something when the first film was such a hoot!
Solo – After the fury created by The Last Jedi no one was really looking forward to Solo, but it turned out to be a fun, retro film awash in broad brush space opera antics that encouraged many of us to believe that the force is still not yet dead in this mammoth sci-fi franchise.
Mission Impossible: Fallout – Forget about the so-so plot and sit back and enjoy the fantastic action set-pieces and dangerous stunts on offer throughout this spy-tastic adventure film. The fight in the washroom is a doozy too.
The Equalizer 2 – A sequel that took a very different approach than the first Equalizer film, and was probably better for it. Definitely a thinking person’s action film.
Skyscraper – A mix of Die Hard and The Towering Inferno featuring The Rock; what’s not to like. Leave your brain at the door and immerse yourself in pure OTT action goodness!
Overlord – This kind of crept out of nowhere, but turned out to be one of my favourite films of the year. Part Second World War action film and part Nazi super-soldier horror film, this was a delight for fans of horror mash-ups everywhere. Shame it was in cinemas so briefly…
Honourable cinematic mentions
Other films I saw at the cinema that I really liked were the Hammeresque The Nun, the atmospheric Sicario 2, the creepy Hereditary, the dinosaur heavy Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, and the family friendly Ant Man and Wasp Woman. I was also very fortunate to catch both Escape from New York and Die Hard at the cinema in 2018, both of which are still great films and deserving of the love many people have for them.
Other recommended films seen this year
I finally caught up with the Harry Potter series, which I was slow to get around to but was glad I finally took the time to see them. Recommended to all those sceptics out there – they’re better than you’d think.
It was also a great year for me to catch up with some of the more obscure film releases from the Hammer Films studios, courtesy of two great boxed sets from Powerhouse films (Hammer Volume Two: Criminal Intent and Volume Three: Blood & Terror). Pretty much all of the films are under-valued gems so go and check them out as soon as you can. Two of my favourites are Never Take Sweets from a Stranger and The Stranglers of Bombay.
Finally, can I recommend that you check out the likes of Megaforce, Rawforce and Raiders of Atlantis for trashy classics, and Tesis, Lights Out, A Quiet Place and Halloween 2018 if you fancy something a bit scary or creepy to watch.
Top TV for 2018
Daredevil – This continues to be excellent dark and dramatic superhero stuff. The fight choreography is great too.
Ash Vs Evil Dead – Sadly now cancelled, but still worth catching up with if you’re a fan of the original Evil Dead trilogy featuring everyone’s favourite chin, Bruce Campbell.
Game of Thrones – This continues to surprise and shock its many viewers, and is a great watch, not only for those who love the fantasy genre but for those who love great drama.
Agent Carter – Another adventure series that’s now been cancelled, but is still worth checking out. So much for equal rights for the ladies… shame on you.
Teen Wolf – Surprisingly good with engaging characters and some interesting twists. I’m a sucker for any loopy lycanthrope action…
9 – Roma/Bomb City/Lady Bird/Black Panther (joint with 10)
8 – Solo: A Star Wars Story (11)
6 – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri/BlacKkKlansman(joint with 12)
4 – Widows/Mission Impossible: Fallout (joint 4th with 13)
3 – You Were Never Really Here (14)
2 – Isle of Dogs (17)
1 – Avengers: Infinity War (18)
Congratulations to Avengers: Infinity War for being named Blueprint: Review’s film of the year!
So that’s it for another year. Keep visiting the site for our thoughts on the latest home entertainment releases (and the rare cinematic releases that we get around to). Let us know your thoughts about the best and worst of the year below.
Happy New Year!