Last year I listed my top 5 films that came out before 2017 and then my top 5 of 2017, but I found that my favorites this year didn’t follow a similar pattern at all. In fact, there are only two pre-2018 movies that I thought was worth mentioning in this post, but I loved them way too much to leave either of them out.
Director: Houda Benyamina
Starring: Oulaya Amamra
This is a French-Qatari film that you can hopefully still find on Netflix, and if you can, you should all watch it immediately. It follows a teenage girl, Dounia, played by the incomparable Oulaya Amamra, living in a Romani suburb outside Paris, who hustles for money alongside her best friend. This film is raw and desperate and heartbreaking and beautifully shot and beautifully acted and it just destroyed me. Go watch it.
I, Tonya (2017)
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney
A fictionalized account of the life and career of former U.S. figure skater Tonya Harding. I was dreading watching this, to be completely honest; I was positive that it wasn’t going to be for me as I tend to really dislike sports movies. But it’s easily in my top 3 of the year. I thought the fusion of fact and fiction was inspired, it hit all the right comedic beats but still proved to be something much heavier than I was expecting. Margot Robbie gives the performance of her career; that scene where she’s crying while fixing her makeup is something I just felt in my bones. This is one I watched twice and I loved it even more the second time.
Now, onto all of the fantastic films of 2018:
9. A Quiet Place
Director: John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt
This masterfully creepy horror film could have been much further up my list, but I thought the emotional climax came too soon and the film ended too abruptly and I’ve felt vaguely dissatisfied with the lost potential ever since. But still, this is horror done right as far as I’m concerned: relying more on primal fear than gore, with an undeniable emotional core that doesn’t verge too heavily into corny territory. This fully deserved all of its accolades as far as I’m concerned.
8. Eighth Grade
Director: Bo Burnham
Starring: Elsie Fisher
This pared down comedy/drama about middle school is one of the most emotionally honest things I have ever watched. Emotionally honest to a fault, even; I was also That Quiet Girl all through school and this film hit a bit closer to home than I’d have liked. In a lot of ways it’s a paint-by-numbers coming of age drama, so don’t go into this expecting any innovations for the genre, but it’s one of the best-acted renditions of this story I have ever seen. If the stupidly talented 15-year-old Elsie Fisher isn’t nominated for an Oscar I will be very upset indeed.
7. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again
Director: Ol Parker
Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried
Listen. I don’t want to hear it. I know I have a ~dark and edgy~ reputation to uphold but don’t care. Lily James is a ray of sunshine and ABBA has been a constant source of joy in my life since childhood. I loved every moment of this dumb movie. And it is FAR superior to its predecessor, imo.
Director: Matt Palmer
Starring: Jack Lowden, Martin McCann
This thriller follows two friends who go on a hunting trip in Scotland and end up shooting and killing a child by accident; it then deals with the psychological ramifications as they attempt to get away with what they’ve done. This film is a train wreck you can’t look away from, which is one of the highest compliments I can give something. This is just a wonderfully tense melodrama-turned-revenge-saga, and Lowden’s incredibly moving performance provides the required amount of pathos.
5. Mary Queen of Scots
Director: Josie Rourke
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie
This is probably the only film on this list that got panned by critics and audiences alike, and in a way, I kind of get it. The trailer is misleading as hell (Margot Robbie is barely in it), the pacing is… not great, the screenplay lucks out in being elevated by superb performances. But I don’t really care about any of that, to be completely honest: I found this riveting. I’m someone who tends to veer toward all things indie and art-house, so I understand the compulsion to contrast this to The Favourite in order to tear it down, but sometimes a good old fashioned period biopic is all you need. This got the job done, as far as I was concerned. It was flawed but I loved it. And – I say this as a HUGE fan – I firmly believe that this is Saoirse Ronan’s best performance yet.
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki
When four men are killed while attempting to pull off an armed robbery, their widows join together to pull of a heist of their own. This is probably the best premise of any film I have seen all year (maybe ever?), and thankfully the film itself lived up. (Also – this was the only film Colin Farrell was in ALL YEAR, you guys. I had to rest all of my hopes on this.) I was expecting an action movie and got a character study instead, and I am perfectly happy with that. The performances were truly exceptional across the board, but Elizabeth Debicki and Daniel Kaluuya really stood out to me. Why this isn’t getting more awards season attention is beyond me.
3. American Animals
Director: Bart Layton
Starring: Barry Keoghan, Evan Peters
Based on a true story, American Animals is a sort of dark comedy about a 2004 library heist, in which four students attempted to steal an Audubon book valued at several million dollars from a rare books collection. In a sort of documentary style, interviews with the real people portrayed are interspersed throughout the film, though the events themselves are performed by their fictional counterparts, who are the film’s emotional anchors as well as the main players (Barry Keoghan stands out, as he always does). I’ve watched this film twice and both times I was so, so impressed by the creative liberties it takes to tell this story in a way that engages its audience; the first time I watched this I couldn’t make sense of which elements were real and which were fictionalized, and I loved it all the more for that. This is storytelling done right.
Director: Cory Finley
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin
A privileged teenage girl enlists her friend’s help to try to kill her stepfather in this beautifully shot dark comedy. This film is visually stunning, twisted, hilarious, tense, and deliciously melodramatic. The climactic scene is one of the most interesting shots I have ever seen and it will forever be seared into my brain. Both leading women give performances that are utterly unforgettable – I couldn’t even choose which of them is stronger. Anton Yelchin’s tragically inert character gives the film an even more macabre undertone, given the actor’s untimely death before it was released. Everything just comes together to form something striking and dynamic and haunting.
I so desperately wanted this to be my film of the year, a spot it held until I went to the movies again yesterday. So now, of course, it just has to be:
1. The Favourite
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone
Yorgos Lanthimos is my favorite director; I don’t know how to explain the strong connection I feel to his brand of insanity, but I have been simultaneously amused, disturbed, and deeply moved by something in Alps, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (I have not yet seen Dogtooth in its entirety). So to say I had high hopes for The Favourite is an understatement, but it managed to exceed my expectations. It’s not even my first or second favorite film by Lanthimos and it still blows this year’s competition out of the water. Blending absurd humor with a story that is, at its core, deeply sad, The Favourite is a captivating and unconventional film about love and power, that gives us three of the best written female characters of 2018 cinema. It’s fresh, it’s funny, it’s oddly unsettling, and it deserves all of the hype and more. And if anyone can figure out a way for me to marry Rachel Weisz, do kindly let me know.
So, there we have it. What was your favorite film of 2018?