2018 was a pretty spectacular year for film. This past year I particularly enjoyed some films that came from outside of the US and UK — as you’ll see, half of my top 10 favorite films are in languages other than English. It was hard to narrow it down and there are plenty of terrific films that just didn’t quite make the list. My method for choosing these particular films was to ask myself whether, and to what extent, I would implore people to go out of their way to watch the specific film I had in mind. With that being said, here are the 10 films of 2018 that I would very strongly encourage everyone to make time to see…
10. BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, 2018)
Cannes Grand Prix 2018 winner BlacKkKlansman comes in at number 10 on my list. Set in the 70s and based on some “fo’real, fo’real sh*t,” the film depicts the unbelievable tale of the first African American police officer in Colorado Springs, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), as he infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan over the phone whilst using his co-worker, Flip Zimmerman, (Adam Driver) for face-to-face interactions. With an expert blend of dark humor and relevance to the present day — especially in light of the film’s release coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville Rally — BlacKkKlansman delivers on all fronts.
9. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2018)
With one of the most brilliant and intense soundtracks in recent memory, courtesy of maestro Jonny Greenwood, You Were Never Really Here is a psychological thriller that keeps you on edge for the entirety of its short but not-so-sweet 90-minute run time. In her first feature since We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011), Ramsay triumphs again with this equally dark story in which psychologically tortured hitman, Joe (Joaquin Pheonix), rescues the victims of trafficking and inflicts gruesome punishment onto those behind the crimes.
8. Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018)
Wes Anderson did it again in 2018 with another charming and witty stop-motion animation, with an all-star cast to boot. I thought that any other Anderson-led animation would pale in comparison to Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), and while I don’t think that Isle of Dogs quite lives up to its predecessor, I can safely say that I extremely enjoyed this canine-packed adventure set within a dystopian vision of the Japanese archipelago 20 years in the future.
7. Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018)
Not only is Bo Burnham a successful comedian and musician but he’s proven this past year that he’s also a filmmaker to be reckoned with. His directorial debut is more of a horror film than a comedy in that it forces us all to relive the cringe-worthy and downright painful reality of being a young teenager through the trials and tribulations of socially awkward teen Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher), but it’s so endearing and hilarious that it’s definitely worth the trauma of being transported back to early adolescence. Elsie Fisher delivers a veritable masterclass in authentic, natural performance and is so utterly relatable and genuine it’s impossible not to fall in love with her. Sitting through Eighth Grade is pretty agonizing, but it’s worth it . . . I promise.
6. Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2018)
Bleak and beautifully tragic, Loveless tells the story of a fractured family in an unforgiving, unnamed city in the Leningrad region of Russia. The film centers around the search for a missing child who vanishes whilst his parents are in the throes of a hostile separation. Their son’s disappearance forces the pair to work together in a desperate attempt to find him. It’s a tough watch, and I can’t say it’s a particularly fulfilling one at that, but it is really a tour de force of filmmaking.
5. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018)
From here on in my list, you’ll see some of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. One of the hottest names is Shoplifters. A Palme d’Or winner at Cannes 2018, it certainly lives up to the hype that’s been building up around it for the past few months. Set in Tokyo, the film focuses on an unconventional family that — as you can guess from the title — steals and embezzles to make ends meet. It’s a complex tale that takes you on an unexpected emotional journey, especially at the film’s climax, and the performances from the film’s actors, both young and old, are superb all ’round.
4. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018)
Yorgos Lanthimos, the king of the “Greek Weird Wave” strikes again and this time he’s struck gold. With a spectacular cast including Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Nicholas Hoult, it’d be a crime if this film was anything less than brilliant. Though based on the life of Queen Anne — the ruling monarch of Great Britain for a short period in the 18th century — this is not a period drama like one might expect. With wacky cinematography and Lanthimos’ signature dark comedy, The Favourite is possibly the most entertaining films in my top 5 and it’s definitely my “favourite” Lanthimos film thus far.
3. Burning (Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
A surprising snub in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards, this film adaptation captures the sense of mystery and magic of the Haruki Murakami short story on which it is based. Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo) randomly meets Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jun), a girl from his past, and he agrees to look after her cat whilst she is in Africa. She returns alongside Ben (Steven Yeun), an enigmatic stranger, who quickly becomes the object of Jong-su’s fascination after discovering his favorite pastime. This film expertly delivers a sense of magical realism that will keep you bewildered, yet completely transfixed.
2. Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2018)
Both this and the number 1 film on my list are up for top prizes in Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards. I had a hard time choosing which one to place first in my own ranking. Paweł Pawlikowski is a formidable filmmaker, and in this cinematic masterpiece, he tells a love story that spans many years and locations, following the turbulent and tragically beautiful course of a relationship between two people who, despite the harshest of conditions, are fated to be together. Shot black and white in “Academy Ratio,” Cold War had some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve ever seen, so watch it on a big screen if you can.
1. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
There’s a reason why everyone has been talking about Roma. It’s one of those films that will stay with you long after the credits have finished rolling, and that’s why I’ve chosen it as my top film of 2018. It’s a story about family — based on Cuarón’s own childhood in the titular neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City — it follows the story of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a live-in nanny for a middle-class family. The film beautifully depicts the complex relationship between Cleo and the family with whom she is so close to, and yet will never truly be one of. The film’s cinematography is unobtrusive and yet skilfully artistic, allowing the authenticity and raw emotion of the story to remain the central focus. You can really tell that Cuarón put his heart into this film, and the effects are simply breath-taking.