- American Animals – Based on a true story, this tale of four high school kids out to commit the ultimate heist was brilliant from start to finish. From its unique screenplay that is a splice of actual world documentary with the people involved reflecting on their choices, and re-enactments as feature film with a cast at the top of their game (Evan Peters is always so good and here he’s even better). This is by turns dreamy, frenetic, funny, thrilling, anxiety inducing and painfully real. Not sure I’ve ever seen a film address the consequences of actions quite this thoroughly before, this one really stayed with me. American Animals trailer
2. BlacKkKlansman – I have to admit I’ve never been much of a Spike Lee fan, finding his films preachy and divisive in ways I found hard to connect to; his name attached to a film usually would give me pause rather than elation. But this film turned that trepidation completely on its head because this is one hell of a movie! Another film based on a true story, this tells of rookie cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) going undercover in the heart of the 70s to infiltrate the reprehensible Klu Klux Klan, it also details the rise of the Black Panthers and the racial struggles that gripped America then. With some hip music, clever script, vibrant direction and pitch perfect performances from a stellar cast, this film had me gripped from the get go. The sobering coda however reminds us that the war is far from over. BlacKkKlansman trailer
3. Hereditary – The scariest film I have seen in a long time, the script here focuses on a family at a crossroads, a family doomed to repeat and embrace the demons from its past. The screenplay and direction is astounding especially considering this was a debut; Toni Collette gives a tour de force performance and if she doesn’t at least get a nomination for what I think is the best performance since Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, than the Oscars have well and truly gone to the dogs. Horror these past years seems as if it wants to give you a few good jump scares and send you home doing that nervous giggle to yourself, happy that “its just a movie”. Hereditary wants to do no such reassuring coddling, this is no thrill ride – this is a film that wants to fuck with you, give you nightmares, truly horrify. It’s powerful, depressing, and unforgettable. Hereditary trailer
4. Call me by your name – we all remember our first love… alternatively float-on-cloud wonderful and exquisitely painful. This film explores those feelings, the fact that the romance is between two men and set in gloriously sunbathed Italy just adds to the languorously seductive tale. Timothee Chalamet gives the performance that should have won best actor at the Oscars last year, even just for that perfectly realised final shot that holds his face so nakedly. The scene near the end between father and son makes me cry every time. Gorgeous. Call me by your name trailer
5. First Reformed – This world is a pretty screwed up place, there are parts of the planet crying out for relief from the human scourge that spreads across it daily. How do you hold that knowledge at the same time as worshipping and trusting in a supposedly loving and benevolent god? How about if you are a priest slowly losing his faith and unsure what to do to make the world a better place? Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) has crafted an unusual love story with a questioning and troubled heart. Sometimes shocking, sometimes studied, but always interesting, it’s refreshing to watch something that I have no idea where it will go. And Ethan Hawke is simply mesmerising in his struggle. Fearless. First Reformed trailer
6. A Quiet Place –A family survives in a post alien world where they are being hunted by creatures that use their sense of hearing to track prey. Emily Blunt is a revelation as the pregnant matriarch of the family unit. This was creepy, warm-hearted, and the most tense I’ve been at the moves all year – what a ride! A Quiet Place Trailer
7. Bohemian Rhapsody – Rami Malek you beautiful man. Freddy Mercury comes to fabulous life in this funny, generous, knowing and musical celebration of a most remarkable band. The direction by Brian Singer is inspired and you can’t help but get sucked into grinning like an idiot when they belt out some of their greatest songs. Bohemian Rhapsody trailer
8. Summer of 84 – Like Goonies meets Rear Window this ‘80s set ‘kids suspect a neighbour is a killer’ film seemingly came out of nowhere so I went in with little expectation. The film itself is a loving nod to the best decade without overegging the references, the kids aren’t all likable, the story doesn’t go the way you expect for his kind of film. And the ending truly shocked me. Summer of ’84 trailer
9. Spiderman into the Spiderverse – I’m not really into superhero films and I really don’t like kids films or care for animation but this movie was so good I forgot all that and had an absolute blast. Laughed so hard my stomach hurt, the only misstep being the pig character, but everything else was so right I could forgive it. Spiderman into the Spiderverse trailer
10. You Were Never Really Here – This is a slow burn movie that you need to be ready to absorb and digest over time. Joaquin Phoenix who can sometimes be less than warm on screen is never more watchable than as a damaged veteran who now spends his life tracking down missing girls. Uber violent, dense, intriguing and beautifully lensed. You Were Never Really Here trailer
11. Papillon – Yes it’s a remake of a classic and perhaps its unfair of me to include a film of which I have not seen the original but taken on its own merit this film really stuck with me. Telling of the real life false imprisonment of Henri Charriere in the 1930’s to the French Guiana hell that was their gaol, the performances by Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek are brilliant. The locations, set design and that wonderful cinematography are all beautifully realised. Gritty, compelling and ultimately very moving. Papillon trailer
- Ideal Home – Two gay guys (Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan – both hilarious) are lumbered with the grandson of Coogans character and try to make the best of it. While sounding like heart-warming kid stuff this is far from it, the adult relationship takes centre stage and is as difficult and painful and real as seen in any drama; its also very very funny. Ideal Home trailer
13. Love, Simon – Coming of age and coming out combine in this funny, sweet, and much needed gentle comedy. Its like John Hughes came back to life for all the teenagers who don’t identify as straight and made this filmic love letter just for them. Love, Simon trailer
14. Brawl in Cell Block 99 – Brutal, extreme violence and a powerhouse central performance by a surprisingly great Vince Vaughn make this film a stand out in the crowd. Kinetic, mesmerising and downright nasty, this is genre film-making for fans of ‘70s exploitation cinema. Brawl in Cell Block 99 trailer
15. Downsizing – With a quirky central idea and a precociousness that recalls Wes Anderson for me, this film had more to say than I expected it to. With a fine line on the destruction we humans create and a sad acceptance of our ‘shortcomings’ this went in tangents I never expected but truly enjoyed. Downsizing trailer
16. I, Tonya – With a ferociously confident Margot Robbie tearing up the screen as the titular Tonya Harding (my pick for best actress at last years Oscars) this comedy/biography never fails to be both funny and heartbreaking all at once. Form your own opinion over her guilt but by the end of this movie, her harsh punishment, particularly after all you’ve seen of her life, seems unfathomably cruel. I, Tonya trailer
17. Vice – Much more accessible than Adam McKays previous work (The Big Short) but with the same methods of exposition coming together more harmoniously here, this biography of Dick Cheneys rise to power and his damaging choices with far-reaching consequences is both fascinating and anger-inducing. Amazing performances from the all-star cast make it impossible to look away. Vice trailer
18. Searching – John Cho (always good) plays the father who’s daughter is missing, he breaks into her laptop to help find and discovers that maybe he didn’t know her as well as he thought. This thriller that’s also about connections and our failure to be present in another’s life happens entirely on screens. The beauty of the direction is that while you start the film acutely aware you are looking at a computer screen, by the time Margot goes missing you are so absorbed that central conceit melts away. Clever. Searching trailer
19. Only The Brave – Based on the true story of elite fire-fighters in small town America, this could easily have been a hokey midday-movie sobfest. Instead it’s a carefully crafted ode to the actual people who risk their lives everyday. Real characters and real danger; this one packs one hell of an emotional punch. Only The Brave trailer
20. Shot Caller – A newly released prisoner realises that every door is closed to him except the ones that may just lead him straight back to jail. A simple film with a hard message about how experiences change us and not always for the better, about how some paths are set in stone and cannot be veered from, about the destructive nature of regret and it calls for a major overhaul of the US prison system. Shot Caller trailer
21. Every day – This sci-fi romance was not something I ever thought I’d like. The story of a shy young lady who falls for someone who transforms into someone different everyday, it asks some very interesting questions about sexuality, personal responsibility, identity, and the ability of love to really overcome any obstacle (as many people believe). This was fascinating and illuminating, the speech about the future near the films finale made me cry at its honesty. Lovely and sad. Every Day trailer
Sweet Virginia – Down home crime noir with a sympathetic central performance by Jon Bernthal
Breathe – The first film I can recall about a major disability that was light instead of heavy, a joyous celebration of life
Last Flag Flying – Male friendship especially in older men, is not something often portrayed honestly on film but this story of old buddies reuniting nails it
Open House – A film that really surprised me.. its scarily plausible and the nastiness at the end was well earned
Avengers Infinity Wars – The addition of the Thor from ‘Ragnarok’ and the Galaxy Guardians brought just the right amount of brevity to get through what can sometimes be insufferable seriousness.. I also really dug Josh Brolins ‘ends justify the means’ villain
Hostiles – Starting with a devastating tragedy this is the best western to come out last year.. great cast.. great characters
Thoroughbreds – Cold and calculating story about two teenage girls out to commit the perfect murder. Savage, intelligent and darkly comic.
Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom – One of the first in the JW canon to address our responsibilities to those we create and deem to ‘care’ for… I also think the twist was a stroke of genus.. but do NOT make me think of that brontosaurus!
The Shape of Water – Mean-spirited and ugly ‘fairy-tale’ full of plotholes
The Commuter – Stupid, obvious and embarrassing for Liam Neeson
The Post – Dull as dishwater, women’s liberation as a cure for insomnia
Venom – Just plain weird and wrong.
A Star is Born – An entitled mansplainer takes ingénue under his wing, gets upset when she is successful – how ‘romantic’!
Black Panther – Boring titular character tries to make sense of a film that contradicts itself at every turn, underwhelming.
Crazy Rich Asians – Apart from the diversity card (which is important) every other card this film holds we have seen done before, and better.
The worst film of this, or any other, year
The 15:17 to Paris
This film needed a category all its own.. I cannot believe this movie even got made; the worst dialogue I have ever heard in a big screen movie, and the worst ‘acting’. Its also very very boring. Not even so bad its good, this can only be sat through with the help of a friend to distract from the filmic abortion that you are witnessing.