Not to start this celebration of films off on a glum note, but 2018 has been one of the toughest years for me, personally, and because of that my time spent in the cinema or watching films hasn’t been as extensive as previous years. Why am I telling you this? Well it means that this year’s list might have what you may consider to me omissions. That could either be because I wasn’t able to see the film, or I thought they weren’t as good as everyone else seemed to think they were (I’m talking about you, Hereditary).
Still though, this has been another great year for cinema, and when I have made it to the chapel of film, I’ve been treated to a number of special experiences – I even found myself wowed and excited by a Marvel movie this year with Avengers: Infinity War (a film that I enjoyed the first time round and then loved the second time). So, despite my limited time with films this year, there are still plenty of standout films that I’m excited to share with you in this list.
Before I get started properly, I want to as always lay out the fact that this list is not one comprised of what are perhaps the absolute best films of the year (though some definitely are in my opinion). This is more a list about exploring films that for one reason or another stuck with me and made an impact on me when I saw them. And as always, this list will contain the film that was my favourite of the year – a decision I have struggled with when looking at the list. So, enough with this rambling intro, let’s get to the list and see what were the films that stood out to me in 2018!
Starting off the list, we have Scott Cooper’s anti-western, which was an early favourite of mine from the year. It captured my attention immediately and went onto be a film I continued to think about throughout the year. The scale of this film; the amount of incredibly nuanced characters and the themes that expertly cut into what the old-west was and subsequently what it became, and so much more, all went into making Hostiles an event that truly captivated me throughout 2018.
It’s a film I don’t feel got the attention or praise that it deserved and so I want to take the opportunity to shine a little light on it now. It’s one that if you missed, I implore you make the effort to see it, as I truly do think it’s one of 2018’s standout films.
This was perhaps one of the most mind-meltingly overwhelming experiences I had watching a film this year. My time with this film was hypnotic in effect. The mind-bending visual effects, the bone chilling sound design and the body horror that left my everything crawling, had this hypnotically exciting sci-fi experience feel like as much a David Cronenberg film as it did an Alex Garland sci-fi extravaganza.
For people outside the US, it was sadly dumped onto Netflix, where some of the magic was then diluted, but that still didn’t stop this from being an experience that I’m desperate for others to share in, no matter where they end up watching it. Lovers of sci-fi need to make the time for this one, and those looking for something truly different and genuinely effecting; then Annihilation is a film from 2018 that has to be seen to be believed!
In this brilliantly clever and genuinely scary British horror film, you have one of the most underrated horror experiences of the year, and one of the least talked about delights to grace the big screen in 2018. On a purely scare driven level, Ghost Stories will have you leaping from you seat, but immediately beyond those scares is a plot that twists and winds itself around you brain and has you infinitely curious as to where it’s going and what it all means.
Walking out of the cinema after the film had finished, I remember smiling, because I knew I had just sat through a film that when the end of the year came, I’d still be thinking about it and I’d have the opportunity to write about it once again… and here we are. 2018 has been another great year for the horror genre, and while there are a number of films to talk about, this is the one I think deserves people’s attention. Make the time to see and support this little British horror gem and indulge in a film that any lover of the genre will undoubtedly love!
You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay proves once again that she is one of the most exciting, dynamic, and unflinchingly brutal directors in Hollywood right now. Her newest film is one that pulls you kicking and screaming through dark, disturbing places, but she doesn’t do that in the conventional ways.
In a more psychological way than anything else, this film weirdly transfixes you with its terrifying, broken characters, who in most other films would be considered the antagonist, but in this film are the only hope that we the audience and the characters in danger have. What you end up getting is one of the best handlings and explorations of self-destructive characters that I’ve seen in quite some time. This is one of those films that a lot of people are talking about (and rightly so) and if you haven’t already, make yourself a part of that conversation… you won’t regret it!
Calibre is a brilliantly executed wee Scottish film that employs incredible amounts of tension and morally charged situations to keep you engaged and forever on the edge of your seat! Utilising the stunning backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, and two extremely nuanced and powerful lead performances; Calibre was a film that had me squirming with both anticipation and fear, and it makes for an experience where you won’t properly exhale until it’s all over.
You could argue that I’m only pushing this film because it was shot in my back garden of Scotland, but I promise you it’s a film well worth giving your time over too. It’s also one of the very FEW Netflix exclusive films this year to deserve any attention. So please, make the time to see and support this brilliantly executed film, and have its challenging scenario suck you in.
In what is undoubtedly one of the biggest surprises for me this year, Searching was a film that I had zero expectations for and came out of completely blown away by the addictive experience I had when watching it.
This is a film that overcomes a format that usually fails and ends up delivering one of the most gripping stories and experiences I had in the cinema this year. I was obsessed with learning what had happened, and I was fully invested in playing along with all the clues that the film slowly fed to me. It’s not just a well-made film that you desperately want to see through to the end, but it’s a well-crafted journey that has you feeling like a participant and not a passive watcher. This is certainly a film that stood out to me this year, because of how effective it was in not only grabbing my full attention when watching it, but subsequently never losing it once I had left the cinema.
With Widows, it’s the incredibly nuanced characters and how they all interweave with one another, why I found myself so enamoured with this film; and when you add to that the always outstanding direction by Steve McQueen, Widows was a film that fully gripped my attention and made sure to never lose it.
Everywhere you turn in Widows, there is another character who intrigues you, who saddens you, who has you on the edge of your seat. The characters and what meaningful delights they have to offer don’t stop, and I found myself not wanting the film to ever end, as there felt like there was still so much for them to give, and I was eager to take in as much of it as possible.
McQueen stands as one of my favourite directors, his filmography – now including Widows – is one that shocks you, that disturbs you and that completely holds you within its control, even when the subject matter can make you want to recoil. There’s no doubt that McQueen’s newest film is a standout from 2018, and one you should absolutely make the time to see and experience!
I’ll admit I walked into First Man with very little interest or faith in the experience I was about to watch. So, it came as a massive surprise when I slowly realised that I was watching one of the most personal, effective experiences that I would have in the cinema all year.
There is perhaps no better exploration and handling of a subject and its themes than in First Man. I can’t think of a time where I saw a film handle grief and pain in such a powerful way, but Chazelle took the story of one of America’s most well-known historical figures and delivered a character study that I still find myself drifting back over too and thinking about. Made all the more effective by Gosling’s outstanding performance, First Man is one of 2018’s most emotionally resonant films I saw, and one that you need to make the effort to see. I imagine much more will be said about this film in the coming award season.
Sorry to Bother You
I found Sorry to Bother You to be one of the most surprising experiences of the year. This film melted my mind, it left me completely shocked by the madness I had just watched, and it was one I could not stop thinking about.
If you walk into this film knowing nothing, I promise you’ll have an experience unlike anything you’ve had when watching a film this year. I’ll admit my faith going into Sorry to Bother you wasn’t strong, but I came out of it completely amazed by what I had seen, and completely eager to share it with others. And so, that’s why I have it on this list; it is a film that must be seen, so please do!
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
In what might be one of the most wonderful experiences I had at the cinema this year; Into the Spider-Verse was a film that I couldn’t stop smiling during, and also one I haven’t been able to get out of my head since seeing – nor would I want to.
2018 was a great year for the character of Spider-Man; with Infinity War, the video game and now this film, and out of all those great showings for the character, Into the Spider-Verse is undoubtedly the standout. If you’re looking to brighten your day and watch something that will genuinely have you feeling good inside, then this is a film you should absolutely treat yourself too. Your time spent watching this film won’t be one you regret, so please get yourself to seeing, Into the Spider-Verse and indulge in a film that there’s no chance you won’t love.
It was between Wildlife and the film I’ll be talking about next that I struggled between when considering what was my favourite film of 2018, but in the end, Wildlife took second place, but don’t let that make you think this film is any less, as Wildlife is one of the most emotionally potent films, I saw this year!
With some truly outstanding performances from all involved – Carey Mulligan in particular, who delivered one of my favourite performances of the year – a level of pure intimacy that drew me in and had me completely overwhelmed by its simple, yet wholly effective story and its characters who I completely lost myself in; all resulted in an experience that I found to be very emotionally overwhelming and infinitely moving. This is a truly special film from 2018, and an outstanding directorial debut from Paul Dano. This film is an absolute standout and an absolute must see!
A Prayer Before Dawn
And now we find ourselves at the film that I consider my favourite film of 2018. A Prayer Before Dawn is a brutal experience. It was a film that forever had me tense and on edge, but it was a film and an experience I found wholly addictive. I relished in its unwavering brutality. I both feared the main character and found myself completely transfixed by him – made all the more the case by the relentlessly powerful performance by Joe Cole.
When watching this film, I couldn’t escape it – nor did I want to – and after seeing it, it stuck with me ever since. I knew the moment I had seen it that it was going to hold a place on this list, and I was also pretty confident it would end up being my favourite film of 2018.
Please, if you haven’t already, seek this film out, watch it, and bask in its brutal brilliance. This film will stay with you, it will make an impact on you that can’t be overlooked. It is… truly something special.
Well, there you have it, those were the films that stood out to me in 2018. I’m fully aware there are films that have garnered much praise that aren’t on this list and the main reason for that is my lack of time to see them. But know that the films on this list are still absolute standouts from this year and ones you should absolutely make the effort to see.
I’ll bring things to a close now by thanking you for stopping by. If you liked what you read then please consider giving my wee blog a follow, also jump on over to my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings– and give that a follow. 2019 will be a year of growth for me in terms of my interaction and commentary on films and my Twitter will be the place to learn more about that soon.
Anyway, I’ll stop rambling on now and simply finish by saying thank you to you. Thank you for stopping by my blog, for reading my reviews and helping me to further my dream. I can’t begin to describe how much I appreciate it, so I’ll humbly stop typing now and say thank you for the last time.