The Best Films of 2018

Always late to the party, Luke Miksa runs down his favourite movies released in 2018.


I know I always upload these things way too late to be relevant, but this time I have an actual medical situation, so I’ll excuse myself for being a number of months behind schedule (this time).

As always, due to the unexpected complexities of life, I have not seen as many movies released last year as I would have liked. Sorry Roma and A Star is Born.

Missed the cut:

Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Incredibles 2, Upgrade, Overlord, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Searching, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Aquaman


10. Game Night

Coming up first is a surprising choice in the unexpected quality of Game Night. With what appears on the surface to be a fairly run-of-the-mill feature comedy, is refreshingly full of some quite inventive laughs, and a plot that borderlines on caper.

The filmmaking team of John Francis Daly and Jonathan Goldstein have become a reputable brand in entertaining comedies (with recent successes including Vacation, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the Horrible Bosses films), and you can add Game Night into the same basket. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star, and while Bateman is in his element, the MVP is McAdams; for while she is not particularly known for her comic roles, she is the standout in an already hilarious cast.

Featuring on of this year’s best on-going gags involving Denzel Washington, Game Night is the best pure comedy film of 2018.


9. A Quiet Place

There are quite a few genre films in this year’s list — particularly horror films — and the first to make the cut is A Quiet Place: the sonically subdued work from writer/director/actor John Krasinski, who has grown into a tremendous filmmaker.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world of the near-future, the film’s gimmick of silent tension plays into the narrative of the film; as the alien creatures are attracted to sound, so the surviving family (led by Krasinski and an excellent Emily Blunt) need to persevere and thrive in a world of muteness in order to survive.

Although not his first directorial effort, Krasinski has confidently blasted onto the scene with A Quiet Place as a creative force, and I can’t wait to see what is in store in the future (a future which includes a sequel to this very movie).


8. Mandy

I love some Nicolas Cage, especially when he goes in “Full Cage” mode. The issue is that Cage indiscriminately chooses his film roles, which means that the entertainment often comes in the form of a sub-par movie. But every now and then Cage signs on for a quality role that truly highlights his insanity — and his talent — the right way. Mandy is one of those movies.

From writer/director Panos Cosmatos, Mandy is lush with gorgeous, colourful, and violent images. The threadbare story of revenge is not the focus here, as this film is 100% a banquet of blood-soaked, visual delights (including a ridiculously awesome chainsaw duel). With its extreme violence and unorthodox script, Mandy isn’t a film for everyone, it has got the ‘future cult-classic vibe all over it, but I highly recommend seeing it if only to bear witness to the glory that is the Cage Rage.


7. Creed II

The sequel to 2015’s Creed — which in itself is a continuation of the Rocky saga — Creed II finds the flourishing boxing career of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) interrupted by a ghost of the past in the form of Viktor and Ivan Drago (Florian Munteanu and a returning Dolph Lundgren), the latter responsible for the death of his father Apollo. What follows is a standard sports film of redemption, choices, and the will to fight.

Although the bare aspects of the plot are fairly standard for the genre, the reason this franchise continues its strong run is due to the boxing choreography and phenomenal acting and characters. Creed II (aka Rocky VIII) is a bizarre movie that functions simultaneously as a direct sequel to Creed and also as a sequel to Rocky IV, and is shockingly successful at juggling both. The ongoing saga of Adonis Creed and his family legacy, and the intertwined narrative of the senior Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) are both satisfyingly represented, and potentially signals a final franchise farewell to Rocky.

Creed II isn’t breaking new ground by any means, but it remains a highly entertaining movie with engaging characters and well shot, visceral in-ring action. Plus composer Ludwig Goransson carries on the legacy of great Rocky scores.


6. Bad Times at the El Royale

After a career filled with successful writing and producing credits, Drew Goddard follows up his 2011 directorial debut Cabin in the Woods with Bad Times at the El Royale, a crime thriller set in the late 1960’s in the Lake Tahoe area of the USA. The titular hotel, the El Royale, is the location where a disparate group of strangers gather, and over the course of a single night learn each others secrets before all their motivations are eventually revealed.

Much like Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at the El Royale slowly exposes the riddles with deft nuance and lets the suspense advance by switching narrative perspective from the various characters (featuring a tremendous cast led by Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Lewis Pullman, and a largely shirtless Chris Hemsworth), seeing different situations and events seen from alternate points of view.

Bad Times at the El Royale is a brilliant mystery that slowly unravels to an all-out conclusion, and will reward repeat viewings thanks to a tight script. This is a good time at the El Royale.


5. Hereditary

Another killer horror movie to hit in 2018, Hereditary comes from writer/director Ari Aster (a filmmaker I’m largely, until now, unfamiliar with), and is a haunting story of a family followed by the dark shadow of the recently deceased matriarch and the increasingly disturbing situations which follow.

Hereditary contains a tour-de-force acting performance by Toni Collette, who was absolutely snubbed during awards season for her portrayal of a grieving mother slowly unravelling mentally. Snubbed I tell you! The fantastic cast is rounded out by Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, and the magnetic, young Milly Shapiro (in an all-time horror role).

There are a handful of genuinely shocking moments throughout the film, and the ending is unexpected and delightfully wacky. Hereditary plays out like classic family-based horror movies of the 70’s such as Rosemary’s Baby, and I’m sure it will wind up being a seminal classic of our time as well.


4. Annihilation

With the much-hyped follow up the the fantastic Ex Machina, writer/director Alex Garland comes with an adaptation of the Jeff Vandermeer science fiction novel Annihilation, starring an all-star female-led cast featuring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, and Gina Rodriguez. Portman plays a biologist sent on a military mission to a strange zone — an organic, alien biosphere where the rules of nature do not apply — to conduct tests on the growing global threat.

As a Netflix exclusive release, Australia copped a raw deal in the release for this film; as unlike the US who got a minimal theatrical release, us down under got no such luxury. And it’s a damn shame because Annihilation — with its lush visuals and intense score — is a film that demands to be seen on the big screen. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Garland adapted the original novel so much that it is practically and entirely new creation, one that is both simultaneously gorgeous and disturbing, taking many thematic cues from the works of HP Lovecraft (much like another Netflix release, Birdbox. Except that movie kind of stinks). This is the kind of sci-fi that will leave you thinking existentially (the best kind). Hopefully you have a nice, big HD screen with a good home theatre sound system at home, because this film deserves it.


3. The Shape of Water

No one currently in filmmaking has mastered the art of romantic horror like The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro is a horror historian, and this film is as beautifully gothic as the early classic horror films of the 20’s and 30’s, while maintaining a modern, timeless appeal.

Set in the 1960’s, The Shape of Water is about the bond developed between mute janitor Elisa (played wonderfully by Sally Hawkins) and the strange Amphibian Man (eternal chameleon Doug Jones) who is held captive in a secret compound. Where del Toro succeeds is in creating a genuinely moving and beautiful love story between two unconventional leads (one who, it bears repeating, is a gill man).

It is beautifully shot, stunningly scored, and emotionally resonant. It’s not often I agree with the Academy’s choices on certain matters, but I was very pleased when The Shape of Water won the Best Picture Oscar last year.


2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

If you would have told me this time last year that an animated Spider-Man movie would not only be the best animated feature of the year, but one of the best films of the year full-stop, I wouldn’t have believed you. Sony’s recent history with the Spider-Man franchise has been sketchy at best, so when they announced Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I didn’t embrace it with much enthusiasm — I don’t think many did, honestly.

All it took to scrape Spider-Man back from out of the muck was an inspired creative team, seemingly unleashed without much restriction, to take what has been done many times over and make it original again. Instead of focusing on Peter Parker as many have done before, this film focuses on a different Spider-Man. His name is Miles Morales and his story his told with heart and an earnestness not seen in this genre for some time. Miles joins forces with Spiders from other dimensions, including Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, and yes, Peter Parker (just not the Peter Parker we know). The art style is unique and lively, with an off-the-page feel and a dropped frame-rate which may take some getting used to for some, but provides the film with a one-of-a-kind kinetic energy.

I can’t recommend Into the Spider-Verse enough. Easily one of the best superhero movies of all time.


1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the sixth film in the Tom Cruise led Mission: Impossible series which began all the way back in 1996, and second stab at the franchise for writer/director Christopher McQuarrie. There’s no way that a movie on its sixth installment has any right to be as good as Fallout is, but despite the odds it’s not only the best action movie of the year, but potentially the best action movie ever put to screen.

The responsibility for this happening is largely on the shoulders of Tom Cruise. Cruise has taken the insanity from his personal life and pushed it directly into his films, with Fallout being the apex. To put it simply, Cruise is an absolute nutter that demands to do many of his own freaky stunts personally, which gives his films a sense of verisimilitude and realism that a lot of contemporary action movies lack. If there’s an insane thing happening in a Tom Cruise movie, Tom Cruise is doing that insane thing! He does the thing!

This may be an unconventional choice to top the list, but there is not a single movie this year I enjoyed more than Mission: Impossible – Fallout, therefore it takes this year’s top spot!

Thoughts on the list? Don’t forget to get social on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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