The votes have been cast and the results are in. Here at The Edge we’ve already revealed numbers 20-11 on our Best Films of 2018 list, but with the warm-up act out of the way, it’s time for the main event. Read what our writers have to say about our Top 10 of 2018:
10. Black Panther, dir. by Ryan Coogler
To describe Black Panther as a phenomenon would not do it enough justice. The cultural impact of Ryan Coogler’s smash-hit has been unprecedented, accessing and subsequently inspiring new audiences, breaking numerous box-office statistics worldwide and injecting the Marvel Cinematic Universe with some well-needed fresh ideas. And behind all the warranted hype was a genuinely good film. The stunning and immersive Wakanda at once belonged to, and provided something genuinely different from, the rest of the MCU. In Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, we saw one of the best villains of the year, with Jordan mastering the art of portraying a character that was in equal parts terrifying and endearing; that art gallery scene was quite simply one of the most thrilling parts of Blockbuster cinema this year. As for the script, despite one or two unnecessary wisecracks, Coogler managed to strike a near-perfect balance of necessary character development and laughs for the masses. In short, Black Panther was funny, gripping, and most importantly, really, really necessary. Few films deserve their spot on this list as much as this one.
9. Coco, dir. by Lee Unkrich
Pixar’s hit rate may not be as consistent as it once was, the celebrated animation studio producing more Cars sequels than one could ever possibly appreciate in recent years, but every now and then they demonstrate that the ability to create profound and affecting original stories remains present in their DNA. Coco was the latest reminder of this, a compassionate exploration of Mexican culture through Day of the Dead traditions that delivers on all the hallmarks of classic Pixar. Tapping into notions of childlike wonder and imagination? Check. Using computer animation as a means to aid story rather than overshadow it, yet at the same time rendering stunning vistas that could only be realised in this medium? Check. Creating a perfect balance of deceptively sharp humour and astonishingly moving, bittersweet pathos? A million per cent check. As an added bonus, Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina’s movie is Pixar’s most musical yet – a soundtrack boasting the likes of “Un Poco Loco” and “Remember Me”, taking home the award for Best Original Song to sit nicely alongside the film’s win for Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards. Coco’s depiction of the Land of the Dead through gorgeous light purples and glowy oranges is, ironically, the foreground to a place of extraordinary life and wisdom.
8. Isle of Dogs, dir. by Wes Anderson
In a dystopian Japan, the mayor of Megasaki City, Kobayashi, makes the decision to ban all dogs due to an outbreak of influenza specific to canines which carries the risk of spreading to humans. These unfortunate pups are exiled to Trash Island, in which they are forced to survive without the companionship of a society which once adored them. It is here they meet Kobayashi’s nephew, Atari, after he crash lands on the Island in search of his old dog Spots. With the help of five other pooches, Isle of Dogs thus tells the story of Atari’s quest to be reunited with his beloved Spots and the obstacles they encounter on the way.
Wes Anderson’s quirky animated feature certainly deserves a spot in our Best Films of 2018. Isle of Dogs is a breath of fresh air to the legacy of animation as Anderson adds a modern twist to the traditional art-form of stop motion. With an outstanding cast including the likes of Jeff Goldblum and Scarlett Johansson, Anderson never fails to create an immersive story containing all the fun of child-like imagination. The film’s charming yet intricate aesthetic definitely illustrates Anderson’s capabilities as an auteur and his whacky nature has been reflected in the film’s reception, as dog friendly screenings were available upon the film’s release – certainly making it one of the more memorable films of 2018. Isle of Dogs will have both children and adults alike invested in its story and perhaps even have you treating your dog with the utmost respect he/she deserves.
7. Roma, dir. by Alfonso Cuarón
When collating my list of the top films of this year, I was unsure which to place first. That is, until I watched Roma. Written, co-produced, co-edited and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, the semi-autobiographical tale was inspired by Cuarón’s childhood. The entire film is in a rather striking black and white, following the life of a housekeeper to a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City. The story is so intensely personal, combined with the most beautiful aesthetics, and acting that is effortless and authentic. I found the juxtaposition of the collective historical, such as the Corpus Christi massacre, with the personal grief and poignant moments particularly effective. There are several points in the film which prove an incredibly difficult watch, and whilst generally there is not a huge amount of action, it is as if the film unravels in real time, making the difficult parts even more powerful. The beauty is in the small details that Cuarón carefully creates, from parking a car in the driveway, to the everyday tasks of the housemaid. Roma deserves a bigger release than just Netflix, and come award season, I hope this epic picks up the awards that it so rightfully deserves.
6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, dir. by Martin McDonagh
Released early into 2018, double Oscar winner Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, starring Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, follows a grieving mother who will do anything to get the local police to further investigate the brutal rape and murder of her daughter. She does this by putting signs on 3 massive billboards that together read “Raped while dying, still no arrests, how come Chief Willoughby?”. The townsfolk’s reaction to the signs is where the story takes root, and then progresses along as Mildred receives more support and abuse because of her bold statement.
The story is a huge clash of emotions; one minute you’re feeling the pain that Mildred is going through, the next you’re lauging at her quick witted puns and banter with various other characters. At the beginning of the film, I was almost certain that both Mildred and Deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) would be one dimensional, an angry grieving mother and a violent bad cop with a lack of remorse and emotion. However, I was wrong. They both become deeply complex and interesting characters with backstories to match, and this is further commended by the acting of Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, who both recieved Oscars in 2018 for their respective roles.
Although it’s not an overly action packed movie, Three Billboards does keep enough excitement with the occasional brawl to break up the dialogue. My only small gripe with the film as a whole is that the ending left me wanting more; aside from that, however, it was a joy to watch and firmly deserves its place in our Best Films of 2018 for the performances of McDormand and co. alone.
5. A Star is Born, dir. by Bradley Cooper
With Bradley Cooper stepping behind the camera for the first time to retell an age-old story that had already hit cinema screens numerous times, we had every reason to be worried about the release of A Star is Born. Yet Cooper’s debut efforts proved to be a triumph in every way, rightfully earning a top 5 spot in The Edge’s Best Films of 2018.
The opening scene sets the tone for what is a thoroughly immersive and emotional tragedy. We are plunged into the performance of Jackson Maine (Cooper) as he belts out rock banger, ‘Black Eyes’, and from this moment onwards the soundtrack provides hit after hit. As director, Cooper does a sterling job, with every show and backstage moment evoking a sense of live-ness that makes for a truly intimate watch. As an actor, he is equally as impressive. We all know where things are heading for addict Maine, but Cooper’s raw performance does everything in its power to convince us that there might just be a light at the end of the tunnel, making it that much more heartbreaking when reality sets in. The real star here, though, is Lady Gaga. She is an utter tour-de-force as Ally, combining the breathtaking vocals we all expected with a performance that very few could have anticipated. We certainly haven’t heard the last from this film as awards season approaches.
4. Avengers: Infinity War, dir. by Joe and Anthony Russo
“Fun isn’t something one considers when balancing the universe. But this… does put a smile on my face.” You could say the same about the ending of the blockbuster event of 2018, the truly superb Avengers: Infinity War. Yes, we know it’s a two-parter, and the damage is likely to be undone in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, but Infinity War did something few blockbusters ever dream of: it let the bad guy win. And how.
The Russo Brothers took on the impossible task of weaving together the last 10 years (and 19 movies) of Marvel Cinematic Universe narrative threads into one, coherent mind-blowing film, but pulled it off with aplomb. Infinity War had to do so many things, but it exceeded expectations in each and every aspect: every character, big or small, was given their chance to shine; multiple plots and subplots ran together and intermingled in harmony; the villain was actually terrifying; the set-pieces were perfectly orchestrated smorgasbords of superhero action delight; sequels in the form of Captain Marvel and Endgame were set up wonderfully; and the ending was absolute perfection. Watching your favourite heroes, who you’ve grown up with for the last 10 years, heartbreakingly turn to dust all around, not knowing who’s next to go, before glimpsing Thanos’ satisfied face and a cut to black, is something we’ve never seen before in a blockbuster – and something we’re unlikely to see again, for an event like this is so hard to pull off – but it worked because of the sheer amount of heart and craft that went into building up to this very payoff. Marvel made the best superhero film since 2008’s The Dark Knight, and the best popcorn-munching blockbuster ever, in the truly, utterly superb Avengers: Infinity War.
– Sam Law
3. First Man, dir. by Damien Chazelle
When Damian Chazelle announced his next feature film would be a biopic of legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong, I was excited, if not a little reserved, to see what he would come out with. Whiplash was a nearly faultless film, and given the opportunity I knew that Chazelle could bring the intensity of that film to a powerful look at the lethal space race. What I didn’t expect, however, was one of the most overwhelmingly emotional films of 2018.
Gosling is a superb Armstrong, channelling the grief for his deceased daughter but without tipping over into melodrama. There’s something about his facial expressions, his mannerisms and his deeply-saddened gaze that stayed with me long after the credits rolled. Claire Foy is similarly brilliant as his wife, who fears the worst when several family friends and fellow astronauts are tragically killed during test flights. The cinematography is intensely moving, culminating with a (literally) breathtaking sequence on the surface of the moon. As Armstrong drops his late daughter’s possession into a lunar crater, his heart finally breaking in two, mine did too.
A stunning, gut-wrenching and absorbing film from start to finish. First Man is truly one of 2018’s greats.
2. Lady Bird, dir. by Greta Gerwig
Snubbed at the Oscars at the beginning of 2018, Greta Gerwig’s outstanding directorial debut Lady Bird still carries a large amount of resonance amongst our writers as the year draws to a close. Set in the year 2002, we follow Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) in her last year of high school as she struggles to decide her next steps in life along with trying and failing to uphold a number of boyfriends. Her family are having major financial difficulties, especially her mum Marion (Laurie Metcalf), who is struggling to maintain a loving relationship with her daughter whilst covering longer shifts as a nurse at the local hospital.
Gerwig’s directorial talent shines through, as her skill of switching the emotion within a scene is particularly remarkable, flicking from comedy to pathos in the space of 10 seconds during an unforgettable trip to the local thrift shop. Meanwhile, from the terrific young heartthrobs Timothee Chalamet and Lucas Hedges, to a career-best performance from Tracy Lets as Christine’s father, the cast are expertly picked. But the film’s beating heart is the relationship of Christine and Marion, both played with heartfelt affection by Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. What strikes me with every viewing is a surprise abundance of melancholy because, like Christine, we are ignorant to notice Marion’s hardships. This is partially to do with Ronan’s charismatic vibrant performance and the fact that the narrative deliberately forces us to do so, which makes for a bittersweet ending that had me stunned into silence, and reaching for my Mum’s phone number whilst wiping away tears from across my face. It is this reflection on the relationship of mothers and daughters that sets Lady Bird apart from a typical coming-of-age story, and makes it truly deserving of the runner up spot on our list this year.
1. A Quiet Place, dir. by John Krasinski
If we scroll 2018 all the way back to April (before Infinity War came out), The Office’s John Krasinski’s low-budget, simplistic, yet utterly thrilling and emotionally draining horror A Quiet Place was on everyone’s lips. The reasons for its resounding success are not hard to recognise: the film is itself a surprise and full of surprises.
A family tries to live their life in complete silence to avoid being killed by monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing – the simplicity of A Quiet Place’s premise can be off-putting (with dialogue being the crux of any successful screenplay), but the directorial approach that developed this premise is a breath of fresh air to the increasingly dull and repetitive horror genre. We get to know this family by focusing on their faces and body language, we grasp their world and their personalities beyond the main plot line of the hunt – and here the cast is to be applauded for their marvellous performances.
While the film’s climax is absolutely insane (seriously, is Emily Blunt even real?), and the plot succeeds in gradually pushing the viewer to the very edge of their seat, A Quiet Place is, above all, about the unbreakable bond between parents and their children. This thematic layer is, alongside the astonishing use of sound and raw emotion, what distinguishes Krasinski’s directorial debut among a sea of unremarkable fast-paced monster films, and among all other films released in 2018. Regardless of your history with the horror genre, A Quiet Place is going to surprise you in the best and worst possible ways. Get ready for a rollercoaster of a film – just like 2018 itself.