The Best Films of 2018

Another 12 months of glorious cinema summed up by our writers

One of our favourite, and most stressful, parts of the year seems to have swung around faster than ever. In our view it’s been another great year for cinema, with some wonderful films arriving from all over the world. The past 12 months have also seen Netflix and Amazon dramatically change the way we watch films and a host of other platforms are preparing to join the fray next year.

As per last year, our writers have put together their top 5’s instead of going for the traditional ten. All of the films listed below have been released in UK cinemas or on streaming platforms in one form or another. Once again, our writers have covered a good spread of films, taking in arthouse treats, big blockbusters and treasured independents – although, sadly, there’s no love for documentaries this year.

Julien Bassignani

1. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
With Shoplifters Hirokazu Kore-eda has not only made another poignant family chronicle, he has also made an indispensable social film, whilst displaying a masterful sense of mise-en-scene. Read Julien’s review here.

2. Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird)
A worthy sequel to what might be Pixar’s best film, Incredibles 2 is packed full of inventiveness, suspense and laughs and it doesn’t forget to propose interesting stakes for its characters. A great reminder of what a true superhero film should be. Read our review here.

3. Mirai (Mamoru Hosoda)
Mirai will most likely not be recognised by many as Mamoru Hosoda’s best film (difficult to contradict them with such a filmography). Nonetheless it remains a beautiful and unique illustration of growing up at a young age, and a touching ode to family. Read Julien’s review here.

4. Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg)
Spielberg proves yet again that he is the king of entertainment with an astonishing, yet very clever, film which finally gives cinephiles an alternative to the alarming amount of sanitised referential products dumped on us regularly. Read our review here.

5. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)
A fun, spectacular and nerve-wrecking new instalment to the franchise, which summons elements of the previous films while announcing a new exciting chapter. Read Julien’s review here.


Gary Couzens
1. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
Alfonso Cuarón’s story of Mexico City in the 1970s of his childhood is both intimate and epic, with an astonishing visual sweep and a powerful sound design and several sequences that will live with me for a long time. Read our review here.

2. Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski)
Paweł Pawlikowski’s follow-up to Ida takes us to black and white Poland in the post-war era, a love story between a musical director and a singer, an elliptical, very emotional film with plenty of fine music on the soundtrack. Read our review here.

3. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)
Lynne Ramsay’s first feature film in six years, a spare tale of troubled Joaquin Phoenix hired to rescue an abducted girl. A film that spells out nothing more than it needs to, letting visuals and a striking sound design make a considerable impact. Read our review here.

4. Sweet Country (Warwick Thornton)
The story of a manhunt in the 1920s, Warwick Thornton’s second feature as director/cinematographer is a fine Australian western with some harsh lessons about the country’s past. Read Gary’s review here.

5. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s story of 1950s dress designer Daniel Day-Lewis (in his final screen performance) undone by his affair with young protégée (Vicky Krieps) is a visually sumptuous, surprisingly dark film that confirms Anderson’s stature in filmmaking today. Read our review here.

Jack Godwin
1. Widows (Steve McQueen)
McQueen is easily one of the best directors working today, and his unexpected foray into the heist film sub-genre meets the high standard he’s set for himself. He’s helped in no small part by some captivating performances from Viola Davis and Daniel Kaluuya, who knock it out of the park. Read our review here.

2. Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada)
It’s hard to believe this is Estrada’s first feature considering how well-balanced it is. It’s masterful at juggling tones and exploring themes through character, jumping headfirst into its political message without ever feeling ham-fisted or losing its sense of humour. Read our review here.

3. Annihilation (Alex Garland)
Garland is back with another sci-fi flick that’s worlds apart from Ex Machina, but nonetheless sharing the visual imagination and strong character work that made his last feature so special. In his hands, science fiction still has some fascinating places to go. Read our review here.

4. Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)
For superhero movies to side-step the ‘fatigue’ their proliferation brings, they need to stand out. Coogler knew that when he made Black Panther, bringing together a wide pool of talent to create a thrilling, beautiful and hilarious movie that also has the time to ponder the impact of colonialism on the modern world. Read our review here.

5. Duck Butter (Miguel Arteta)
Miguel Arteta and Alia Shawkat’s expertly-written, authentically millennial film is small by design. Its simple premise sees two women spend 48 hours together, fast-tracking a relationship and displaying all the wonders and frustrations that come with intimacy.


Hel Harding-Jones
1. Summer 1993 (Carla Simón)
Simón’s autobiographical film – while relatively plot-free – is beautifully measured, made up of small moments which deepens meaning and enhances the intuitive performances of the two little girls – Laia Artigas and Paula Robles – who make this wonderful, heart-swelling and cathartic film.

2. Columbus (Koganada)
Circumstance brings Jin and Casey together and they share a fleeting connection and bond over architecture. This film, from Korean-American filmmaker Koganada, is staggering. It’s a feature debut which is confident in its beguiling composition, unique, and a completely unforgettable experience. Read our review here.

3. The Divine Order (Petra Vople)
Set in a Switzerland of 1971 where, despite everything, women were still denied the right to vote, it takes one quiet and unassuming housewife and mother Nora and a whole village of amazing women to find their voices and seek institutional change. Volpe’s utterly charming Die göttliche Ordnung balances the comedy and drama perfectly. If this doesn’t make you feel good nothing will. Read our review here.

4. Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski)
Tense, tragic and moving, the film – reminiscent of early Miloš Forman – perfectly depicts the obsessive, all consuming and destructive nature of love and freedom. Another monochromatic wonder following Ida (2016) and quite simply gorgeous.

5. Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)
Coogler’s third film was revolutionary. Combining an indie sensibility on an epic scale, he gave an exhilarating and refreshing spin on the superhero standalone, memorialising history and contemporary issues within African (and American) culture through an Afrofuturist lens. I’ll always have love for Asgard but… Wakanda Forever.

Noel Megahey
1. Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski)
In a series of stunning kinetic set pieces Cold War used the political climate of the Soviet Union in the 1950s as a rivetting character study of two people in love and in conflict, constantly in the wrong time, the wrong place and with the wrong people – including with each other.

2. Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont)
Setting a nineteenth century text as an hallucinatory historical musical with non-professional actors, this is another vivid, daring piece of filmmaking from a director always willing to take risks and find new ways to explore spiritual dimensions.

3. Let The Sunshine In (Claire Denis)
A pleasant change of tone from Claire Denis that nonetheless balances warmth with her characteristically insightful probing of matters of desire, but in the more relatable guise of a middle-aged woman struggling to find love with all the wrong kinds of men. Read our review here.

4. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Absorbing is probably the best word to describe of Paul Thomas Anderson meticulous and detailed character study and Daniel Day Lewis’s performance in a battle of wits between a celebrated womanising dressmaker and his latest muse.

5. Jeune Femme (Léonor Serraille)
A refreshing, entertaining and inventive twist on the romantic comedy from Léonor Serraille, Jeune Femme also took a realistic view of the difficulties and expectations placed of being a young woman struggling with the absurd conventions of modern life. Read our review here.


Sarah Miles
1. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
A family made up of those thrown away by society, this is a heart wrenching drama that is, quite frankly, a masterpiece of modern Japanese cinema.

2. The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro)
A pure love story that is a celebration of differences and a defiance of the norm, all told by a master storyteller. Read our review here.

3. Annihilation (Alex Garland)
Wish I could have seen this in cinemas. Weird, wonderful, beautiful and terrifying, it often comes back to my mind after all these months.

4. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
A wonderful coming of age story that is masterfully constructed and speaks to truths in all of us. Read our review here.

5. BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee)
A stylish and funny, but also uncompromising, film that tackles racism in the 70s and draws a line straight to the present day. John David Washington is phenomenal. Read our review here.

Colin Polonowski
1. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
Cuaron’s most personal film to date – set in the early 1970’s and partly autobiographical, Roma is one of the most affecting films of 2018. Stunning cinematography and one of the most engrossing films of the year don’t let the fact that Roma had a tiny theatrical release put you off.

2. Black Panther (Ryan Coogler)
One of the highlights of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, Ryan Coogler’s film is epic in scope and features brilliant performances throughout – Chadwick Boseman is brilliant as T’challa but it’s Letitia Wright’s Shuri that really stood out from the crowd. A tighter film than the Thanos extravaganza; it is gripping, despite a delightfully hammy performance by Andy Serkis.

3. Solo: A Star Wars Story (Ron Howard)
The most fun in a galaxy far far away since the prequel trilogy, Solo: A Star Wars Story is better than its troubled production would have suggested. Despite a change of director and over 70% of the film being reshot, Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t attempt to copy Harrison Ford but manages to still be the Han Solo we already know, while Donald Glover’s take on Lando Calrissian steals the show.

4. Game Night (John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein)
Jason Bateman leads this comedy with a beautifully dark edge with belly laughs quickly switching to shock and back again; sometimes a even a few times in the same scene. Rachel McAdams is also brilliantly funny and her chemistry with Bateman is one of the highlights of the film. It’ll make you giggle, wince and want to hide and is well worth your time. Read our review here.

5. Coco (Lee Unkrich)
Pixar have turned out another stunning production that tugs at the heartstrings and offers characters with more life and depth than most live action films. The diverse cast are a joy and it’s a testament to Pixar’s ability to create such a deep and moving experience in animated form proves they’re still at the top of their game. Read our review here.


David Poplar
1. Widows (Steve McQueen)
McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn put their own stamp on this deft reworking of Linda La Plante’s original heist story, making a taut and stylish thriller that doesn’t shy away from incorporating social commentary. Viola Davis excels in the lead.

2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)
Even after more than 20 years, the franchise shows no signs of running out of steam with this polished entry, jam packed full of eye-popping stunt work. Easily one of the most exhilarating action films of 2018. In an age where CGI is sometimes overused, Cruise’s insistence on keeping it real pays dividends.

3. Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu)
Touted as being one of the first Hollywood studio films comprising an all Asian cast, Jon Chu’s romantic comedy may cover some overly familiar ground in terms of story, yet still manages to be a delightful crowd pleaser with winning performances from Constance Wu and Henry Golding.

4. Hereditary (Ari Aster)
Many modern horror films are quickly forgotten afterwards, but by contrast this creepy little indie gem is deeply unsettling and certainly does stick in the mind. Aster’s assured debut boasts a career best performance from Toni Collette, with impressive support from young co-stars Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro. Read our review here.

5. A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio)
Daniela Vega gives an amazing heartfelt performance as the transgender woman grieving the loss of her boyfriend, while facing a lack of acceptance and even suspicion. Sebastien Lelio’s Oscar winning film is profoundly moving. Read our review here.

Lauren Price
1. Coco (Lee Unkrich)
Coco is perfect. It’s ridiculously charming and sweet, has terrific characters and features one of the most tense and heart-wrenching third acts I’ve ever seen in an animation. This is up there with the very best Pixar films.

2. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Daniel Day-Lewis’ swansong is another Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece. A darkly funny story that is part fairytale, part gothic romance. I could watch Day-Lewis argue with Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville for hours.

3. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
Not only did it have the best mother-daughter relationship committed to celluloid in a long time, it was also very funny, personal and touching. Bravo, Greta Gerwig.

4. Searching (Aneesh Chaganty)
Go into this film without reading anything about it. That’s what I did and it ended up being one of the most thrilling and surprising films of the year. Searching is insanely clever. Read our review here.

5. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)
The most exciting film of 2018. There are now six Mission: Impossible instalments and this one is the best of the bunch. I struggled to catch my breath multiple times.


Alistair Ryder
1. The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro)
This deserved best picture winner is an achingly sincere love story and the most profoundly uncool film in recent memory; an ode to society’s outsiders that’s reminiscent of Douglas Sirk, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, but is unmistakably the work of Guillermo Del Toro.

2. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)
Ramsay’s first film in six years was worth the wait. A typical hitman thriller transformed into one of the most accurate realisations of a PTSD riddled mind, it is conclusive proof Ramsay is the best British filmmaker working today.

3. 120 Beats Per Minute (Robin Campillo)
No film has nailed the mix of the personal and the political quite like Campillo’s semi-autobiographical effort. Following Act Up Paris activists in the 90’s, this is an inspiring look at LGBT activism, with a genuinely moving romance nestled alongside its political core. Read our review here.

4. First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
Ethan Hawke delivers the best performance of 2018 in Schrader’s directorial return to form. Although cribbing from Bergman and Bresson, this is an entirely singular work that may very well leave you as despairing at humanity’s self destructive path as Hawke’s Reverend Toller. Read Alistair’s review here.

5. A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio)
Sebastian Lelio’s drama is a moving tale of grief, with a star making turn from actress Daniela Vega. Marina is denied the right to mourn her partner due to her identity – Lelio’s anchors his film in her passionate love rather than the adversity that is stopping her from expressing it. Read our review here.

Steven Sheehan

1. Leave No Trace (Debra Granik)
Layer upon layer of ideas about family, society, capitalism, America, freedom of thought and our relationship with nature. Ben Foster is great. Thomasin McKenzie is sensational. A message to Granik – please do not leave it another 8 years. Read Steven’s review here.

2. Columbus (Kogonada)
Kogonada confirms his immense talent. John Cho shows he has far more to offer than goofy stoner characters. Haley Lu Richardson reveals herself as one of the best young actresses in America. It’s just a beautiful, humanist love letter to modern architecture.

3. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)
PTA and Jonny Greenwood have you in the palm of their hands within the opening few minutes as you enter the House of Woodcock. Performances from Krieps, Day-Lewis and Manville are perfectly judged. Never has anyone said the word sausages more perfectly.

4. Apostasy (Daniel Kokotajlo)
One hell of a debut from Kokotajlo that has been tragically slept on almost everywhere. Flawless performances from Finneran, Parkinson and Wright set the tone for a rare, but balanced, look at life inside the Jehovah Witness community. Read Steven’s review here.

5. Summer 1993 (Carla Simón)
The relationship between 6-year-old Frida and 3-year-old Anna may be the most beautiful thing in cinema this year. This is as heart-breaking as it is heart-warming, director Simón somehow placing us carefully into the psyche of someone so young.


Andy Winter
1. 120 Beats Per Minute (Robin Campillo)
French director Robin Campillo expertly juggles the personal and political in this excoriating ’90s-set AIDS activist drama about the Paris branch of ACT UP. Furiously human and emotionally wrenching.

2. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)
Joaquin Phoenix is a brutal, PTSD-afflicted hammer-for-hire in Ramsay’s adaptation of Jonathan Ames’s novella. A chilling study of violence and its psychological effects on victim and perpetrator.

3. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)
PTA’s intricately-stitched love story cum battle-of-the-sexes comedy is a perfect storm of sharp writing, terrific performances and outrageous costumery. Daniel Day Lewis retires on a high.

4. Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski)
Unabashedly romantic and unapologetically old fashioned, Pawel Pawlikowski’s beautiful black and white tale of star-crossed Polish lovers will break your heart into a thousand pieces. Read Andy’s review here.

5. The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier)
Lars von Trier returns with a savage, self-regarding serial-killer satire, full of jaw-dropping violence and laugh-out-loud black comedy. Matt Dillon is the best screen psychopath since Patrick Bateman. Read Andy’s review here.

Steven Sheehan

Updated: Dec 21, 2018

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