So, here we are again…
Another year has passed, which means it’s time for critics the world over to compile their Top 10 Films of the year list in an effort to feel more important and, more importantly, to boost site traffic. As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them.
It’s been quite a year in cinema with lofty highs and crushing lows, I’ve set myself some proper rules this time out, after receiving complaints last year, complaints that were entirely justified in hindsight, over the inclusion of too many comic book movies, only one of these movies feature in my main list, I’m also not counting cinematic re-releases or live-streams to cinema, as good as I though 2001: A Space Odyssey was in cinema, it is 50 years old, and therefore it could be incongruous to include it here.
Also, this list is due to go out on New Year’s Day, when you’re all in the midst of. A monster hangover, staring down another year on the march to the grave, so this list is here to brighten your entry to 2019, by looking back at the best bits of the past year.
With that said, straight on… with the honourable mentions!
Black Panther – Directed by Ryan Coogler
While I set myself the goal of only one Superhero film in my Top 10, I allowed myself a bit of freedom with the honourable mentions, seeing as they aren’t part of the top 10, but exist on a plain of existence just outside of the Top 10.
It was honestly a tough choice between this and Aquaman, the last film I saw before my self-imposed deadline of the 21st December. As I honestly enjoyed them both equally, but I’ve chosen to go with Black Panther for what it represents, a step forward in terms of Hollywood representation, along with a simple, yet enjoyable, story focused around a likeable protagonist and an interesting antagonist, had a certain film not been released this year and utterly blown my socks off, this would comfortably Top 10, but as it stands it remains an honourable mention.
Full review here: https://majorfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/black-panther-review/
Isle of Dogs – Directed by Wes Anderson
I am a big fan of animation, as I see it as an interesting way of telling a story, not to mention my admiration for the hard work and passion that goes into most productions, I especially like when an animated film thinks outside the box in terms of traditional animation and utilises a much more rare form of the art in the form of stop-motion.
Wes Anderson is renowned for his quirky storytelling, and truth be told this isn’t his first foray into stop-motion animation, Fantastic Mr Fox was his first, and you’ll struggle to find a film as charming as Isle of Dogs. Its visual style is captivating and it does a tremendous job of building a world around the dogs and the human characters. All in all however, it was just nice to spend time watching a movie made out of obvious passion and love. The story is simple, but it has heart, and that’s all it really needed, it’s as enjoyable a time watching a movie as you could have, but just doesn’t manage to break my Top 10.
Full review here: https://majorfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2018/04/05/isle-of-dogs-review/
Ralph Breaks the Internet – Directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston
From one style of animation to the other, it’s the highly anticipated Disney sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet. I mentioned the word ‘charm’ when describing Isle of Dogs, and that’s the word that also springs to mind when describing this film, and the original film even more so, it’s a concept that you’d have thought would have been done years ago, and other films may have tried it, but done nowhere near as good of a job (looking at you Emoji Movie, now get back to the cellar where you belong).
Disney have this knack of reading a situation and audience so well, that they very rarely fail, and the perfectly judged humour from the first film makes the jump to internet humour very well, and there’s enough inside jokes and Easter eggs to merit re-watching, it maybe isn’t as focused as the first but it’s still another undeniable hit from the house of mouse.
The Top 10.
10. Coco – Directed by Lee Unkrich
Now, my American readers may well be scratching their heads in confusion; they may think: “Didn’t Coco come out in 2017?” To which I say, yes, it did for you but we didn’t get it until March, so there, it counts.
Coco is yet another example of how Disney can be when they get things right, together with their team at Pixar, they create animated masterpieces seemingly for fun, and together they created another one here.
I often feel that Disney/Pixar are at their best when exploring new worlds, be it the world in which toys are sentient or the world in which your emotions live inside your head, and here they create a world surrounding Mexico’s ‘Day of the Dead’ ceremony, something ripe for the picking, imagination wise at least.
The animation is beautiful, the world is vibrant and full of life, and the songs are catchy and thematically correct, Pixar really went all out to make this world come to life, be it in the world or the tremendous voice cast, Coco is one of the few films this years to get to me emotionally, given that it deals with a sense of loss, it is a universal struggle and one that is impeccably realised here.
Full review here: https://majorfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/coco-review/
9. A Quiet Place – Directed by John Krasinski
For someone who doesn’t really like horror films, I sure do like to include them in my Top 10’s. It was It last year (what an odd sentence) and now, it’s A Quiet Place.
In my defence, it is hard to not see the appeal in A Quiet Place, it doesn’t fall into the usual horror tropes, choosing to build suspense rather than go for the low-hanging fruit of jump scares. It also has a unique and interesting concept, something as rare in the horror genre as an Amish YouTube star, and it uses this concept to its fullest effect, utilising the effect of silence on its characters and the world around them.
As for the world, it’s a bleak and depressing place, highlighted excellently in the first few minutes when a child is picked off by the roving monsters of the film, that is its very early statement of intention and it never really lets up, setting your stall up with something like killing a child ups the stakes indescribably, as we now now the lengths the film, and the creatures are willing to go to threaten us.
It’s direction is effective, it’s tension is nerve-shredding and it’s characters are sympathetic, you’ll have to walk a long mile to find a more effective, and strangely enjoyable, horror film.
Full review here: https://majorfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/a-quiet-place-review/
8. Bohemian Rhapsody – Directed by Bryan Singer
This is a film that may not have won over all critics, but every Queen fan I have spoken to has gushed about the film and I myself practically wrote a love letter in the form of a review to it just last month.
It is probably the film that is mostly here because of personal taste, but what do you want? It’s my list after all. I think it’s a marvellous film, highlighting all the features that made Freddie an icon, and some of which showed him in a more negative light, and more the better, we want to know the real Freddie, but know that that doesn’t detract from the God we’ve all watched perform, be it on recordings, or live in person if you’re extremely lucky.
Not only is the film a love letter to all things Queen and Freddie, it’s also brilliantly shot, and acted. Rami Malek rightfully has Oscar buzz about him for the role, but Gwilym Lee was also an astonishing Brian May, and the cast in general were great.
It may not be a perfect film, but it is a treat for Queen fans, young and old and contains one of the year’s best all-round performances, so for that reason, it makes the list.
7. BlacKkKlansman – Directed by Spike Lee
Now, I’d never watched a Spike Lee film (or ‘joint’ as he refers to it, a term I feel too white to use with any seriousness) but I knew him by reputation. From taking a look at his past works, it seems like his career has been up and down, but obviously I can’t judge.
What I can judge, however, is BlacKkKlansman. Its completely grammatically incorrect title aside, BlacKkKlansman is one of those stories that makes sense in both its own time period and in modern times, and Spike Lee recognises this, which is why the film works, its mainly in the timing, we needed this film to remind us of the huge steps backwards we are currently taken.
It’s not just in the films social attitude where it shines, but in its performances and smaller story points. It has natural story progression, with some incredible intensity completely out of left field. Including a lie detector scene that I will hold up as one of the years best scenes, and the performances of John David Washington and Adam Driver, I can’t see either getting a nod in awards ceremony, but they are incredible here, I’d say I preferred Driver slightly, but both can lay claim to two of the best characters of the year, and Spike Lee can lay claim to being one of the more relevant directors of our time.
Finally, I couldn’t move on from this film without mentioning its ending. Which is one of the greatest things I’ve ever had the pleasure of being surprised with in a cinema. It is worth the price of admission alone, and cemented its place here in the top 10.
Full review here: https://majorfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/blackkklansman-review/
6. The Shape of Water – Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
The Shape of Water doesn’t really need my acclaim, as it already had the saliva of every other critic all over it, but I’d say it deserves it. After all, it won Best Picture and who am I to argue with the Academy?
Despite my obvious sarcasm, it is an absolutely beautiful movie, which is to be expected from Del Toro, he’s practically a Picasso with a film camera, visuals are his bread and butter, but here he goes beyond visual beauty and into beautiful storytelling.
He crafts likeable characters with such ease, and makes his antagonist instantly hate-able, and the scenes with him are creepily uncomfortable, he’s one of those villains that you know is probably evil from his first appearance on camera, maybe its because he’s played by Michael Shannon, that would help, and we feel attached to the main character because she’s vulnerable, with her being a mute and all, so we are made to sympathise with her quite easily, even more so when she’s victimised by others.
In summary then, beautiful world with a unique love story and engaging characters, helmed by an extremely talented auteur director, the world could do with more films like The Shape of Water.
5. Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
On the surface, placing the latest Mission Impossible in front of The Shape of Water exposes how little I actually know, to which I say, drop the elitist attitude and you’ll realise how great a time at the cinema Fallout is.
As I stated at the time, I only recently caught up with the world of Ethan Hunt and his film series, and I’m astonished at how a series can still be getting better in its sixth instalment. I think this may have something to do with the series finding its true rhythm under the direction of Christopher McQuarrie, and allowing Cruise to produce these films may be another masterstroke, as he finds new ways to push himself in ways men in their 50’s really shouldn’t.
Of course, to compare Tom Cruise to a regular 50-something would be a grave error in judgement, as he’s better than he’s ever been in Fallout, it isn’t just that the stunts get better, it’s that they have focus to go with them, it’s girdle-tight action sequences that have a reason to be action sequences, because the stakes get bigger in each film.
The film also toes the line between that action, and character development, the previous films antagonist makes his return to trouble Ethan Hunt and his team once again, and we dig further into Ethan’s past and into his relationships with his crew.
Mission Impossible – Fallout, is what happens when summer blockbusters actually make effort, when they decide not to be vapid, fill in the spaces money vacuums, they really can be great, and this is one of the best examples, smart action paired with characters we’ve grown attached to will always be a winning formula, if only more studios would realise this, it’d be a much happier world.
4. Avengers: Infinity War – Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
The award for most obvious inclusion goes to…
Seriously though, following on from what I said about Mission Impossible, this is another example of another blockbuster that makes an effort. Mind you, having to follow 18 other films and satisfy a rabid fan-base should be all the motivation you need.
To say this film had to top off an epic 10-year arc put an enormous amount of pressure on any production and is usually an impossible task in Hollywood, yet the Russo’s rose to the occasion and hit it out of the park like.
Earlier in the year, I ranked this film as my third favourite Superhero film of all time, which should give you an indication of how much I loved this film (and the fact that it only made fourth on my year list is a testament to the quality of some of this years releases) but I also don’t want to risk repeating myself too much, so here’s a few brief reasons why it worked.
Firstly, and foremost, is its balancing of its characters, working with an unprecedented number of heroes must have been a thankless task, but they manage to highlight all of the characters strengths in the short time they had on screen, it made every character important, every development important, it was a huge production with a tight focus. Secondly, it made itself feel ‘epic’ without straining too much to make itself look like its trying too hard to be epic (good luck making sense of that sentence) and last but not least, it offered closure for the journey, whether you’re a long-time fan, or watching for the first time, it made you understand the story and offered closure for its characters.
There have been technically better films this year, but none that offer the roller-coaster Infinity War offers.
Full review here: https://majorfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/avengers-infinity-war/
3. First Man – Directed by Damien Chazelle
Very few films manage to make my jaw drop with visuals, but First Man managed it in the very first scene.
So, there’s that, I’m willing to go on record as saying that First Man is this years most beautiful film, and when we get this far up the list is where the job of arranging these into order gets a LOT harder, honestly, I left all three of the top 3 films in stunned silence, and still haven’t found adequate superlatives for any of them, I don’t even think my full reviews scratch the surface of praise I could give it, much less in a few paragraphs in a list, but here goes.
On the back of the equally eye-catching La La Land, one of Hollywood’s most promising filmmakers, Damien Chazelle, announced that he would adapt to film one of histories greatest moments, the Apollo 11 moon landing, and straight from the go, I knew that, if nothing else, it would look spectacular, and even with my lofty expectations, the film surpasses them, by quite a distance.
It isn’t just how this film looks that lands it so high up though, it’s its focus on the personal story of Neil Armstrong, the part we didn’t know about, to say this film is about the moon landing would do it a great disservice. In reality, it’s about the life of an ordinary man, who had experienced heartbreak, getting his life back on track, and how his life escalates into becoming the hero of a nation.
But, for the most part, we don’t see that, we see him at his lows, his struggles with grief, and with his place in his family, his relationships, his successes and his failures, all conveyed in one of the years best performances from Ryan Gosling.
It is all of these things, and more besides, but in the centre, this film has a heart, it has the feel of a film made with love, and the best intentions, and my only regret is that I didn’t see it in cinemas more than once, it was the kind of cinema experience that makes you remember how important the cinema is for watching films.
Full review here: https://majorfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2018/10/22/first-man-review/
2. A Star is Born – Directed by Bradley Cooper
I’ll let you into a secret, dear reader. I’m a soft touch, this characterisation as a grizzled critic? It’s all a front, films make me cry. Not often, but they do. Sometimes this is a good thing, I cried at Coco (don’t judge) and this film, because they awakened an emotional response, they hit me right in the soft spot for emotions, and sometimes I cry at films like The Boss Baby because I actually wasted money and time on it, but that’s another thing.
Upon first hearing about this film, my eyes started rolling like a Ferris wheel pushed down a hill. Not only a remake, but the FOURTH version of a film, and directed by an actor who we hadn’t seen step behind the camera, it smelled like an ego trip if there ever was one. How wrong I was.
Even as the reviews started rolling in, praising the film and specifically the performances, I kept a cynical eye, safe to say I wasn’t expecting one of the most emotional cinematic journeys I’ve ever been on.
So, straight on with the obvious, yes Lady Gaga is phenomenal, if there’s a more deserving Oscar winner, I haven’t seen it yet, but it wasn’t just her acting talents that she brought to the table, but her musical ability, and that is another place in which the film shines, its soundtrack. I’ve always admired Gaga from a distance, her music isn’t up my street, but at least she’s an artist, with her own style, and that is why she fits so well here.
The music is great, the acting is great, but the surprise package is Cooper’s ability as a director. The film has a distinctive feel, an important thing for a director to realise, and it has focus, some of the shots are works of art in their own right, and for that Cooper deserves praise, I look forward to what else he can bring to the table, we may have a new Clint Eastwood on our hands.
In conclusion then, this is what a remake should be, a timeless story updated for a new age, which is probably why this film has been made so many times, its story will always resonate, it has an legitimate a place withing cinema history as any, and it was made by someone with a clear passion and love for the source material, potentially the greatest remake there’s ever been.
Full review here: https://majorfilmreviews.wordpress.com/2018/11/06/a-star-is-born-review/
1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Directed by Martin McDonagh
Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by my number one pick, it’s practically been sewn up since February.
Another film on this list that was a late release over here in Blighty, Three Billboards was released in 2017 Stateside, but I’ll be damned if I miss another opportunity to trumpet this film from the rooftops again.
Three Billboards isn’t only my favourite film of this year, it may just be my favourite film of all time, and if it isn’t definitively my top pick, it’s up there. I adore it so much, and I knew from the second the credits rolled way back in February when I saw it, that it would take nothing less than a titanic effort to unseat it as the years best, A Star is Born ran it close, but in the end, there was no competition.
It goes to show how much I loved this film that, even now, almost a year on, I am still talking to anyone with even a passing interest in cinema about it, I want more people to see it, so I have more people to talk about it with.
It’s hard to say why I enjoyed it so much, I think it’s because it’s a perfect storm of a film, it has great characters used to their full potential, and it’s even better to know that their effort paid off come awards season, usually I’m not always a big fan of occasions like the Oscars, I think they’re a bit too self-aggrandising for their own good, but this year I was actively hoping it would clean up, in the end they only left with two wins, nothing to be sniffed at of course, and I was overjoyed that McDormand walked away with a well-deserved Best Actress (its other award also being an acting award; Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell) but left with less than perhaps I think it deserved.
This is partly the reason it occupies top spot, not just because of my own opinion, but because its the film I think most deserves the praise, the one that deserves to be remembered, I could have put Avengers, or Shape of Water at number one, but everyone remembers how good they were. I feel that Three Billboards has been forgotten, and anything that inspires that amount of passion from me, should tell you why it’s so deserving of the golden crown of 2018.
So, that’s me done for another year, I hope you enjoyed this run down of the years best films, in a few days, I will provide a counter-point in the form of the worst films, but until then, thank you for reading, and I hope 2019 brings you all health and happiness.