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[OPINION] - The 15 Best Films of 2018 (So Far)



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Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpoilerTV.

There have been plenty of good movies coming out already this year so August seemed like a good time to take stock of all the films that have been released so far. This is an entirely personal list which reflects my taste in film, and I should also point out that I've done my best to watch as many films released in the year as possible before making it. But there are some - like First Reformed,Sorry to Bother You and Leave no Trace - that are glaring omissions from this list but I just haven't yet been able to watch them because they didn't or haven't yet aired where I live. Hopefully I'll get the chance to remedy that by the end of the year so they can be included in the next list.

These films are in a loose order which for the most part is largely flexible, and may change further down the line. But for now this is the order that I've put them in. I'm also very interested to hear you take in what your favourite movies of the year have been, so if you could leave your picks in the comments below and any that I haven't seen I'll add to the list to check out at a later date.

Unsane


Dark, creepy and unsettling from start to finish, Ocean's 11 director Steven Soderbergh continues to push new boundaries in this film, which was shot entirely on an iPhone. Starring Claire Foy in one of her best ever performances as she single-handedly elevates the movie from "good" to "great" - the film is unpredictable, tense and often scary throughout.

Foy plays a woman on the run from a stalker who finds herself involuntarily committed to a mental institution after making an offhand comment about suicide in an evaluation, and things get progressively worse for her from there. The attention to detail that the writers took in fleshing out her character makes Sawyer such a compelling lead, and Joshua Leonard plays a very sinister foe. In a film with little big names Foy shows why she should be at least considered as a Dark Horse for the Oscars in best actress this year - I know this sort of film is commonly overlooked by the Academy, even though Soderbergh's name may be attached, but for my money, I've yet to see a better performance by a lead actress this year on the big screen.


A Quiet Place


Directed and starring The Office's John Krasinski, A Quiet Place serves as unique entry into the horror genre, a field that is too often derivative and soulless. Here, this atmospheric horror drama pits a family - including Krasinski's real-life wife, and star of Edge of Tomorrow, Emily Blunt. If you make any sort of noise in this film, you're going to be heard, and if they hear you, then you will die. The smart approach to this storytelling keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout and you will find yourself trying to stay as silent as possible.

The cast is fantastic. Krasinski and Blunt both put in fantastic performances in the lead roles respectively, but an honourable mention too should be given to deaf actress Millicent Simmonds. The film feels all the more authentic because she is deaf rather than having a non-deaf person pretend to be deaf, and it's far superior because of that. Simmonds knocks it out of the park, and more than holds her own with the established stars. The story gets around the sound problem by using sign language to tell most of its narrative, and it works really well, adding to the authentic feel of the script, which maintains its tension throughout and never feels dull or boring.

Love, Simon


This movie sent me on a whirlwind of emotions. Whilst it may be formulaic especially when navigating the relationship between Simon and his friends, it feels like its importance as a film should not be understated. It follows a young closeted gay teen struggling with coming out to his family and friends, as he's worried how it will change his world. As a coming of age story aimed at a younger audience it is a remarkable film to watch, clearly made with heart and care and benefiting a lot thanks to the strong performance of lead Nick Robinson, who has clear chemistry with The Flash actor Keiynan Lonsdale.

It's hard to find fault in a film so full of warmth and life and made with so much heart. The storytelling is simple and it benefits from a strong cast of well-developed characters at its core. Love, Simon never loses any of its impact, allowing for a crowd pleasing experience that really shines as something that is by far and away the best young adult film based on a book in years, as well as bringing a welcome shift in direction for the high-school romcom genre. If this leads to more representation in films, then all the better.


Game Night


It is rare that a studio comedy can draw as many laughs from me as Game Night did, weaving a clever and entertaining premise together in a masterful fashion as it follows a group of friends who find themselves unwittingly thrust on an adventure to solve a murder mystery that they think is a game designed by the host, when in fact, it's an actual life-or-death situation. The cast is incredible in this film with Jesse Plemons providing one of the best supporting characters of 2018 in the form of his oddball Police Officer Gary, whilst Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Kyle Chandler and more all make this a great ensemble effort.

There are plenty of surprises and enough twists in Game Night to keep you guessing throughout. It's smart, witty and well-plotted, with directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein bringing their A-Game to the table. If they bring that sort of energy to The Flash, which they've been attached to direct, then we should be in for a real treat.

Ready Player One


This nostalgia-filled blockbuster was one of the most fun experiences that I had at the cinema all year. Pure fun from start to finish, Ready Player One introduced us to the virtual reality world of the Oasis, following the protagonist Wade Watts and his quest to save it. In a film that provided plenty of awesome moments set to a great 80s soundtrack, I really enjoyed spotting all the many references that this film brought to the table, with one of the most overt set-piece sequences taking you into the world of The Shining itself. It's an excellent example of just what makes Steven Spielberg such a great director and showcases how versatile he is, able to go from a drama about The Washington Post's involvement in uncovering Presidential scandals to an explosive, science fiction epic.

The cast is great even if the romance is one of the film's few weak points. Tye Sheridan's Wade Watts is impressive, Olivia Cooke plays the female lead Art3mis, and it's clear that the always-villainous Ben Mendelsohn is having a blast as the film's antagonist, Nolan Sorrento. With a memorable climax that feels like the best video game boss battle ever put to film, making excellent use of Twisted Sister's We're Not Gonna Take This, this pop-culture mashup is a pure delight from start to finish.

Black Panther


One of the best entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and my personal favourite superhero film of the year so far, Black Panther was a perfect introduction to the world of Wakanda, handling the character of T'Challa with the care that only someone as talented as Creed director Ryan Coogler could accomplish. The film also gave us the best comic book villain since Heath Ledger's Joker in the form of Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger, who stole every scene that he was in and served as a worthy adversary to the Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman continues his fine form that made him one of the best parts of the otherwise underwhelming Captain America: Civil War in this film, establishing the character as one of the best superheroes in Marvel's extensive roster. The power struggle for the throne of Wakanda that played out between T'Challa and Killmonger felt very Shakespearean in nature, and was fascinating to watch unfold.

Explosive, powerful and action-packed from start to finish, I was never tired watching Black Panther as it grabbed my attention in the best way possible. The cast all gets their time to shine, with Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Winston Duke, Forest Whitaker, and more all getting their time in the spotlight. It became the third film behind The Force Awakens and Avatar to hit $700 million in the United States at the box office, and such a feat is rightly deserved.

Isle of Dogs


This animated fable is aeuter director Wes Anderson's passion project and although he is a director who is hit or miss with me (I loved Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Rushmore but wasn't too keen on The Darjeeling Limited or Bottle Rocket), and I'm glad to say Isle of Dogs falls very much in the 'hit' category. It's wonderfully animated with fantastic levels of attention to detail throughout the film, set in dystopian Japan where all dogs have been banished to an island of trash. It is here that we follow a select group of dogs who set out to reunite twelve-year-old Atari (Koyu Rankin) with his lost pet named Spots on a journey that will have ramifications for them all. It's a simple plot that hits all the right notes, making the most out of the talents that Anderson is capable of bringing to the table.

Isle of Dogs is probably the best-looking animated film that I've seen so far this year and it is going to take something special to beat what this film has achieved from an entirely visual perspective. The all-star voice cast which includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Harvey Keitel is worthy of a mention all on its own, and the decision to have the dogs talk in English whilst the native-language speaking humans speak their own tongue, is used to great effect in the film to increase the divide between the two species. It's also impossible not to spot Anderson's love of Japanese directing legend Akira Kurosawa in this film if you've seen any of his works before, as he plays homage to the director in the best way possible. There is nothing that is too demanding here in regards to a viewing experience, so if you're looking for a good animated film to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, you can't go wrong with Isle of Dogs.

Paddington 2


The best family-friendly film of the year, Paddington 2 is an absolute beauty of a film that shares more similarities to The Shawshank Redemption than I expected going in. It's pretty much a perfect film to be watched regardless of how old you are, made with delightful heart and care, providing the audience with a comforting viewing experience that rightly stands up there as the best of its kind, proving to be a great ensemble film that shows why we should all be nice to one another, capturing the innocence of the bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw), remarkably well. The plot revolves around Paddington being framed for a robbery and being forced to clear his name, yet it never feels tired and repetitive as these such plots often do.

Paul King's filmmaking delicately brings the world of Paddington to life and crafts a film that never feels boring or slow-paced, keeping audiences engaged right the way through. I went in without watching the first installment and I didn't miss much, but it has stoked my interest in watching the first film when I get the chance to do so. It's the perfect antidote for everything that is bad going on in the world at the moment.

After all, "If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right."

The Death of Stalin


When I finished my A Levels a few years ago I never thought that the module that I took on Russian history would come in useful again but if all it is going to be used to is to understand the contextual and in-jokes of Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin, then it will be considered time well spent. This black comedy is set, as the title implies, immediately after the death of Stalin, as we follow the key players in the Soviet Union plotting their next move, with infighting and betrayals left right and centre.

Iannucci will be most well known for his excellent work on his brilliant political comediesThe Thick of It and Veep, but The Death of Stalin is up there with his best work and the decision to leave Veep for it really paid off. The comedy lands, and although the first half is funnier than the second, the latter makes up for it with a distinct increase in tension. The cast is all excellent too. Casting Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev was an inspired choice, but Jason Isaacs too should not be ignored, as he steals every scene he's in.

It's also worth pointing out that rather than force the actors to speak in bad Russian accents, the film opted instead to let the actors talk in their own accents to convey the variety of accents present in the Russian language. It's something that more English-language films set in a foreign location should do, and I'm disappointed that the much-more serious Red Sparrow didn't follow suit when it was released earlier this year.


Annihilation


Alex Garland has been a prominent force in big-screen science fiction for a few years now, with his 2014 hit Ex Machina being one of the most memorable films of that year. Before that, he wrote the script for Dredd and Never Let Me Go, two more great science fiction films. And now, he's returned with another smart science fiction drama that harkens back to the likes of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker. It's not just a pure sci-fi drama though, there are plenty of horror elements to it, and the gradual feeling of suspense is ever present, as we follow an all-female team on a secret expedition into a mysterious zone that doesn't abide by the laws of nature.

The cast for this film is incredible. Natalie Portman plays the lead biologist, who signed up to find out what happened to her husband, and she's joined by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Oscar Isaac, in what turns out to be an excellent ensemble effort. It has one of the scariest scenes of the year within its 115 minute runtime, and although not all of your questions will be answered, its journey is one worth taking. The colour scheme in particular is eye catching and the film's visuals look stunning, and the biggest disappointment about this movie that I found was that it was not released theatrically outside of the United States, which was a poor decision from Paramount's perspective as watching this film on Netflix in my living room simply did not do it justice.


Lean on Pete


Quiet, understated and incredibly moving, Lean on Pete is one of the more emotional films on this list with a powerful coming of age story at its heart. It follows Charley, a young boy who gets a summer job working for a horse trainer and in the process, befriends the fading racehorse called Lean on Pete. It's a slow-burner sure, but the cast is excellent and the experience that this film provides is absolutely essential, providing a welcome break from a summer packed full of blockbusters.

Whilst the supporting cast of Chloë Sevigny, Travis Fimmel and Steve Buscemi all knock impress in their brief roles, the centre of attention is Charlie Plummer, who is the heart and soul of Lean on Pete, able to captivate your attention when he's not doing much more than talking to a horse. He does much of the film's heavy lifting as we follow him on a odyssey across rural America, and the film is all the better because of his involvement. Director Andrew Haigh (Looking: The Movie, 45 Years) paints an incredibly bleak picture of Charley's environment, and the film does a fantastic job at getting into the minds of the characters, whilst looking incredibly good in the process, thanks to some strong cinematography and lighting that helps the film on its way.

Thoroughbreds


Olivia Cooke is one of the most talented young actors around, and so is Anya Taylor-Joy, who both star in Thoroughbreds, a film about two teenage girls in Suburban Connecticut who rekindle their unlikely friendship after years spent apart. But the more they spend in contact with each other the more they learn that neither is who they seem to be, and as the film escalates, it quickly turns into a black comedy drama with plenty of moments of humour and tension that build to a memorable climax.

The screenplay is fantastic and Cooke's character makes a compelling case for one of the best psychopathic characters of the decade so far, and Taylor-Joy is the perfect foil to her. In what sadly amounted to one of his final on-screen appearances, Anton Yelchin also plays a key part in the film that left really me with a distinct feeling of awe, and it's a stellar début effort from Cory Finley. It's safe to say that its clever combination of multiple genres make for an incredibly rewarding film that needs to be seen.

Hereditary


Providing one of the scariest experiences that I've had at the cinema this decade, Ari Aster's Hereditary was an unflinching, unsettling masterpiece that is hard to top, boasting a terrific, and Oscar-worthy performance from Toni Collette. Focusing on the fallout of Ellen Graham's death, her daughter's family begin to unravel terrifying secrets about their ancestry.

All the while I was on edge through this film and it highlights the importance of watching a horror movie with the right crowd, everyone in the audience was into the film and there were multiple gasps of shock throughout. It added to the already tense atmosphere that the film created, made all the more unnerving by the fact that Hereditary didn't simply opt in favour of the basic horror clichés, turning instead to something original and bold that was stuck in my mind for days after I watched it, complete with the most surprising twist of the year so far halfway through that I never saw coming at all. The creeping fear of dread and tension is ever-present, and I'll never be able to hear an ordinary clucking sound the same way again.

You Were Never Really Here


The Taxi Driver for the 21st century. You Were Never Really Here is a jaw-droppingly good film, unsettling, disturbing and incredibly tense from start to finish, making the absolute most out of its 89 minute runtime featuring a masterful, possibly career-best lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix (although it is hard to overlook his role in The Master), one of the best actors currently working in the industry at the moment. Here, Phoenix plays a tortured war veteran who tracks down and rescues missing girls for a living. But on his latest case, things get decidedly out of hand.

What could have been a typical and boring police procedural-style film is elevated thanks to Lynne Ramsay's superb direction, Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack and Thomas Townend's cinematography. All the pieces click together in the right ways, providing a simply unforgettable experience that looks absolutely stunning. Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay has been establishing herself as a brilliant filmmaker since her debut with the 1999 release Ratcatcher, and she followed that up with 2002's Morvern Callar and 2010's We Need to Talk About Kevin. All 3 films are absolutely essential viewing, and whilst normally I would say You Were Never Really Here is her magnum opus, it's hard to pin down a favourite from her filmography as everything that we've seen from her so far is legendary.

Mission Impossible: Fallout


The latest entry in the Mission Impossible franchise is the best action movie since Mad Max: Fury Road and a better espionage movie than most of the James Bond films. Hitting you like a freight train that doesn't slow down, Fallout somehow manages to be not only the most personal film for Tom Cruise's protagonist Ethan Hunt yet, but also something that ups the stakes in every conceivable way from what has come before, more over the top set-pieces, more bad guys to fight, and overall, it just turns out to be a truly wonderful ride to watch from start to finish.

Possibly one of the best cases for a best-stunts category at the Oscars, director Christopher mcQuarrie isn't afraid of coming up with more and more audacious set-pieces for Cruise to attempt, with the climatic helicopter scene having you on edge until literally the last second. Introduced in this film is Henry Cavill as the CIA's Top Assassin August Walker - where he really makes for a formidable addition to the film. A special mention too should be given to Rebecca Ferguson's performance Ilsa Faust, who proves she's worthy of her own franchise and it's criminal how underutilised her talents have been since her breakout role in Rogue Nation.

Tightly plotted, awe-inspiring and action packed from start to finish, Fallout is an example of what all good action movies should be and it's something that I cannot wait to revisit again.


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