Top 6 Films of 2018

So here it is, another end of year list. 2018 has, by all accounts, been a wonderful year for film. For me, there’s been a fantastic spread of indie films – Shirkers, Apostasy, The Tale to name but a couple of my personal favourites. I’m not a fan of ranking films – it’s difficult to compare films which are remarkably different in subject matter, genre, style and substance and there is little point in comparing something like Shape of Water to the Avengers franchise. The films below are the ones which touched me the most in 2018, and are in no specific order.

So without further delay – here are my top six films of 2018 (yes I know it’s usually either 5 or 10 but I’m rebelling. Six is a nice number).

You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay

I’ve been in love with Lynne Ramsay’s film-making since I watched Morvern Callar about five years ago. I found it to be one of the greatest depictions of loneliness, isolation and then resounding hope that I had ever seen. Watching You Were Never Really Here is, in a way, an accompaniment to Morvern Callar – both Morvern and Joe are fundamentally alone in the world and in their own heads.

You Were Never Really Here is an unwavering and confident 90 minute rollercoaster guided by Joaquin Phoenix’s traumatised hit-man Joe – a man whose journey takes turns that neither he nor the audience is expecting. Ramsay’s film is violent and gory, but it never does show for the shock-factor. The violence portrayed is a reflection of Joe’s own mind as he tries to do the right thing.

Favourite Scene: The Lake

Leave No Trace (Debra Granik)

I went to see Leave No Trace almost by accident. The screening of the film I’d wanted to see was full (Apostasy – also a fantastic film), so instead of going home, I bought a ticket to see Leave No Trace instead. It was the best choice I made all year.

The story of Will (Thomasin McKenzie) and her father Tom (Ben Foster) is one wrapped up in the kindness of humans, the lasting effects of PTSD and the way our lives are so intrinsically entwined with nature even if we are not aware of it. Everything about Leave No Trace is perfect – the acting, dialogue, script, cinematography is all on point. Granik’s depiction of this small dysfunctional family trying to hold it together is sensitive and heartbreaking, but it also leaves the audience with something we all desperately need right now – hope.

Read my full review of Leave No Trace here.

The Rider (Chloe Zhao)

Striking a poignant chord between fact and fiction, Chloe Zhao’s The Rider tells the story of real-life cowboy Brady who is struggling to come to terms with his life after a devastating brain injury.

The Rider speaks at length about modern masculinity, friendship and what it means to have a dream. It is a very niche narrative – there’s probably few audiences who have been rising stars in the rodeo circuit – but the emotional gravitas here is something that feels universal.

For me, The Rider’s blend of fiction and fact made it such an interesting watch. It felt unpredictable within it’s own narrative, constantly keeping me guessing about Brady’s mental state and what exactly he would decide to do. It’s an utterly fulfilling ride.

Read my full review of The Rider here

Waru (Ainsley Gardner, Casey Kaa, Ranae Maihi, Awanui Smich-Pene, Briar Grace Smith, Paula Whetu Jones, Chelsea Winstanley, Katie Wolfe)

The premise of Waru, and the production behind it, is almost as intriguing as the film itself. Eight Maori women directors individually direct eight separate segments – all in real time – which depict the aftermath of a young child’s death due to neglect and abuse. From the schoolteacher who feels guilt for not noticing the abuse earlier, to funeral mourners – Waru is a deep dive into the effect that death has on a community, and those who are left to pick up the pieces.

Each segment is shot in real time, and in one shot, which makes the technical feat of Waru something that deserves to be watched on that basis alone. However, it’s not just the impressive cinematography that makes Waru feel accomplished – the characters are all incredibly well developed. We are introduced to new characters in each segment, and within a few minutes are already engaged their narrative and emotions.

With it’s realistic depiction of Maori culture to a vibrant conversation on abuse, there’s far more to say about Waru, but perhaps the only thing that needs to be said is: watch it.

Annihilation (Alex Garland)

Annihilation is the only film on this list that I’ve watched twice this year, and I am very close to watching it for a third time. With each re-watch, I notice more and more details that Garland has woven into the backgrounds of scenes, into the dialogue between characters. Annihilation is something to be re-discovered over and over again.

There are a seemingly insurmountable number of ways to read Annihilation. Is it a metaphor for cancer? Is it a take on climate change? Is it a commentary on our deepest desires, identity and the relationships in our lives? It is all of these, and more. Annihilation can read a simple sci-fi film – five brave adventurers exploring the source of a seemingly alien species – or it can be so much more.

Alex Garland has proved himself before with Ex Machina (also one of my favourite films), and I cannot wait to see what he does next.

Read my full review here.

*and a bonus number 6 film*

Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Phantom Thread is like a fairy-tale. Girl meets (much older) man, they fall in love, man gets annoyed at how loudly girl eats breakfast, man loses his touch for creating beautiful dresses, girl poises man, man likes it, the end.

Much like the fabrics that Daniel Day Lewis’ Woodcock works with, Phantom Thread is exquisite. I was fortunate enough to see it on 60mm projection and every single frame felt alive. Between the gorgeous cinematography and Day Lewis’ and Vicky Krieps’ chemistry – Paul Thomas Anderson has made an instant classic. Phantom Thread is textured, layered and doused in a remarkable black humour that only Anderson can create onscreen.

It’s a film which captures something about the human psyche that so few other films ever manage to. We’ve all got our kinks, and we just need to find someone who can get down with them. Now, where are my mushrooms?

50 Films of the 21st Century (an alternative list)

BBC Culture released a list of the (alleged) top 100 films of the 21st Century yesterday, and it wasn’t terrifically received by most people. Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that only 9 of the 100 films were directed by women, or that it placed Inception higher than Finding Nemo, or that The Wolf of Wall Street was on there at all. Instead of complain about it on twitter (though I did do that too), two of my greatest cinephile friends and I set about compiling our own list. Due to time restraints (you know, full time jobs and all that), we have only 50 films on our list and they are only in a very rough order. Whilst all films are pretty much equal in our love for them, the ones are the top are ranked slightly higher than those at the bottom.

Let the list commence!


Girlhood – Celine Sciamma (2015)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Ana Lily Amirpour (2015)

The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos (2016)

Amelie – Jean Pierre Jeunet (2001)

Mean Girls – Mark Waters (2004)

A Ma Soeur – Catherine Breillat (2001)

Far From Heaven – Todd Haynes (2002)

Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller (2015)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Michael Gondry (2004)

Under The Skin – Jonathan Glazer (2013)

City of God – Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund (2002)

What We Do In The Shadows – Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement (2014)

Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud (2007)

Little Miss Sunshine – Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (2006)

Mustang – Deniz Gamze Erguven (2015)

The Look of Silence – Joshua Oppenheimer (2014)

Attenberg – Athina Rachel Tsangari (2010)

Chevalier – Athina Rachel Tsangari (2015)

Dogtooth – Yorgos Lanthimos (2009)

Alps – Yorgos Lanthimos (2011)

Pans Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro (2006)

Her – Spike Jonze (2013)

Fish Tank – Andrea Arnold (2009)

Room – Lenny Abrahamson (2015)

The Great Beauty – Paolo Sorrentino (2013)

Il Divo – Paolo Sorrentino (2008)

Donnie Darko – Richard Kelly (2001)

Spirited Away – Hayao Miyazaki (2001)

Ida – Pawel Pawlikowski (2013)

This is England – Shane Meadows (2006)

There Will Be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson (2007)

Brokeback Mountain – Ang Lee (2005)

Wild Tales – Damian Szifron (2014)

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle (2014)

In The Mood For Love – Wong Kar-Wai (2000)

Dreams of a Life – Carol Morley (2011)

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days – Cristian Mungiu (2007)

Senna – Asif Kapadia (2010)

Irreversible – Gaspar Noe (2002)

Love Trilogy – Ulrich Seidl (2012)

Bend it Like Beckham – Gurinder Chadha (2002)

Carol – Todd Haynes (2015)

Sexy Beast – Jonathan Glazer (2000)

Shaun of the Dead – Edgar Wright (2004)

The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson (2012)

Let the Right One In – Tomas Alfredson (2008)

What Happened Miss Simone – Liz Garbus (2015)

Y Tu Mama Tambien – Alfonso Cuaron (2001)

Inglorious Bastards – Quentin Tarantino (2009)



(Due to our lack of mathematical skills, this list is only 49… We studied film, not maths so give us a break…) Also I’d like to point out that one of our (unnamed and un-shamed) contributors wanted to put Gladiator on this list. That decision was overruled.

Any films you’d like to see in this list, or think we should have included? What did you think of the BBC list? Let us know in the comments!