My 5 Favourite Films of 2018

This is my list of five favourite films of 2018, and most of those below I also consider to be the best films of 2018. Please note that I have not yet seen Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma”, Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” or Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book”. There is a big chance I would have equally enjoyed either or all of them.  

the favourite posterI. The Favourite (2018)

Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster” (2015), “The Killing of A Sacred Deer” (2017)) is one director who does not shy away from shocking film displays or enigmatic and displeasing film content. This time he is not a screenwriter and is rendering a period drama in his own style. “The Favourite“, which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, subverts one’s expectations about what a period drama should be, while it also makes one think deeply about the kind of characters that could exist in the world governed through ruthless power and self-interest. The unbelievably powerful performances from three leading ladies (Colman, Weisz and Stone) ensure the film’s high quality, while its unusual, curious camerawork has all the trademarks of its experimentally-minded director. Everything revolves around Queen Anne (Colman) here, and the story just loves to ridicule the excesses and extravagance of the royal court, as well as the fierce competition for one kind of “power” among the ladies closest to the Queen. The film works brilliantly as this exaggerated satire, which sometimes slides into deliciously-morbid and fascinatingly-obsessive character portrayals. I would have preferred the ending to be clearer in its message, but otherwise this film was just great as it is. My score: 9/10  

shoplifters posterII. Shoplifters (2018)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” is the winner of the Palme d’Or and this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee. After “The Third Murder” (2018), Kore-eda is back in his comfortable seat directing a film on family dynamics. This time the focus is one disjointed “family” of shoplifters, where each family member having to bear their own traumatic past. Marvellously executed and realistically presented, “Shoplifters” is a film of tremendous emotional power, and, in a purely Japanese style, Kore-eda does not venture far from just focusing on one family and its day-to-day activities (the film being rather contemplative, rather than fast-paced as a result). In the story, the family adopts one neglected-by-her-own-family little girl, and this is where the drama attempts to show itself. The film also has one thought-provoking showdown when the family has to finally face the consequences of its hectic and precarious lifestyle. My one and only criticism is that some scenes in the film are a bit emotionally manipulative, especially since young children are involved and we are forced to rethink our own morality compass. Otherwise, this beautiful film is fully-deserving of each and every one of its awards and praises. My score: 9/10  

first reformed posterIII. First Reformed (2018)

Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed” was the revelation of 2018. I said plenty on this film in my previous review of it (see here), but I would like again to emphasise the film’s deep and meditative qualities as it focuses on discerning the meaning of life, love and hope. In that vein, “First Reformed” may be the most essential existentialist film of the 21st century. In the story, the pastor of a small church in New York comes into contact with a rebellious environmental activist Michael and his worried wife Mary. The drama unfolds as the pastor feels no longer indifferent to the family’s affairs. The reason to mention the film now is that Ethan Hawke, who plays the difficult role of Reverend Ernst Toller in the film, was unjustly overlooked by the Academy in the nomination for Best Actor in the Leading Role. Hawke probably gave the best performance of his career, and his character is particularly difficult one to portray since the priest has to project both strength and confidence in the process of helping others in the community, while also show internal disintegration and weakness as he struggles with his own doubts, dilemmas and beliefs. My score: 10/10   

cold war posterIV. Cold War (2018)

Paweł Pawlikowski (“Ida” (2013) has made a beautiful black-and-white film set in post-war Poland about a composer/music director Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) who falls for a young temperamental singer Zula (Joanna Kulig). That is an impossible love in many respects because when they meet they are a teacher and a student respectively, and then circumstances just conspire to keep them apart through the years. Pawlikowski is a very talented director who made this film feel touching and realistically-looking. Years pass and Zula and Wiktor find themselves apart, but sometimes meeting in foreign cities. The fascinating aspect is that in this love story music is the third leading character and we get immersed in all the Polish folk singing and dancing, which is then contrasted with unruly jazz in Paris cafés. In that way, the love story is played in the background of sorrowful melodies, giving the film an almost unique aesthetic quality. However, the visual appeal is to be contrasted with the story, which sometimes feels rather unremarkable and even puzzling from the perspectives of the characters. The intensity of the love relationship is there, but it is also true that the relationship starts rather abruptly, and the attraction is presented rather crudely. Also, while Zula is a complex character, Wiktor is presented as rather one-dimensional. My score: 8/10

Hereditary PosterV. Hereditary (2018)

This may be a surprising entry for some, but looking back at the year 2018, I guess “Hereditary” was one of the films I enjoyed watching (and criticising!) the most in 2018. I also especially wanted to include it now because I think Toni Collette in the role of Annie was unjustly overlooked by the Academy this year, and she should have been nominated for an Oscar. Her performance in “Hereditary” was raw, spell-binding, totally convincing. It was that kind of performance that requires much effort and determination to pull off. The film overall is a refreshing entry in the recent line of horror films (see also “A Quiet Place” (2018) and Unsane(2018)). In my review of “Hereditary” (see it here), I did criticise the movie ending (it was not as subtle as I wanted it to be), but I was also immensely impressed by the atmosphere created and the story’s inner intelligence. The fact that this is only a debut film of Ari Aster makes the film an even greater achievement. My score: 8/10

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24 Responses to My 5 Favourite Films of 2018

  1. Hi. Of these, I saw only Shoplifters, which I wasn’t crazy about. A few weeks ago I write a piece about my faves from 2018. Did you see any of the ones I mentioned?

    Neil Scheinin

  2. Keith says:

    Love the diversity of choices. I wish I loved The Favourite. Ended up sharply mixed in my review. First Reformed had a nice spot in my Top 10. Also really glad to see so many people appreciated Hereditary.

  3. Red Metal says:

    Of these films, I’ve seen The Favourite, Shoplifters, and Hereditary. I thought The Favourite was decent; it’s kind of like British version of the The Witch as far as the attention to detail concerning costumes goes, though I felt it was better than The Witch because it didn’t take a majority of its screentime to get good. Hereditary, on the other hand, I felt to be the second weakest film of 2018 of the ones I saw behind Upgrade. I was actually really intrigued by it because it was legitimately frightening; unfortunately, the ending dropped the ball big time. I have little doubt that Shoplifters is the best of the three films I saw. It’s not a side of Tokyo you really get to see often; it’s kind of like what would happen if Yasujirō Ozu made an adaptation of Oliver Twist that updated the setting and the time period.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      The Witch of 2015? I don’t claim Hereditary to be anywhere near the best of 2018, it was just one of the films I enjoyed watching the most, and I also felt that the ending was weak.

      As for Shoplifters, I agree, and I really applaud that it showed “hidden” people of Japan. I also consider it to be one of the best films of 2018. It is just I cannot see it as the best of the director’s because the overall message of the film is also a bit unclear. I am not even sure that the director meant for us to sympathise with the family in the story. Parents should know what is best for their children, but it seems to me there is much to overlook before we feel sympathy for the adults in the story. The presence of the little children definitely makes the film emotional, but also “easily” emotional.

      • Red Metal says:

        Yes, that’s the one I’m talking about. As I said, between the two films, The Favourite is the better one by far.

        When it comes to the grading system I use, one of my rules I have is that a lousy ending results in an automatic disqualification (which is to say, it can’t get a score higher than a 5/10). A work needs to stick the landing at least reasonably well in order for me to consider it above average, and Hereditary ended up away tossing its goodwill in the most foolish way possible. I can see why it’s liked because up until that point, it was reasonably good.

        Meanwhile, Shoplifters, while being a little overhyped was legitimately good, highlighting subject matter that tends to get ignored. I’ve heard good things about Nobody Knows, which I believe this director also made, so I might check that one out as well. If anything, I think the ambiguous feelings we’re supposed to have for the family is one of the film’s strengths.

        • dbmoviesblog says:

          I thought The Witch was rather poor, and I would not even think comparing it to The Favourite. These are very different films as well, in my opinion. I remember I gave The Witch 6/10 but only because of the grim atmosphere and some thought-provoking sequences.

          I need to see Nobody Knows too. Kore-eda is a very talented director and nearly all his films are masterful in one way or another. I also recommend The Third Murder, if you have not seen it already.

          • Red Metal says:

            Ah, good, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it to be underwhelming. I myself gave it a 4/10, which on my scale, translates to Mediocre (or just below average). It took way too long for anything to happen, and while it did have some good story beats, they barely got a chance to shine due to the glacial pacing. It was more style than substance, I feel.

            I just might check out The Third Murder.

  4. Chris says:

    Great post! Agree about the acting snubs. Didn’t know The Favourite is so high on your 2018 list which explains your spirited defense of it over at my blog 🙂
    Agree First Reformed is very good and I’m curious to rewatch it with subtitles as it’s very wordy(in a good way). I tend to like the projects Ethan Hawke goes for. Hereditary I enjoyed too for the atmosphere and I was hooked the whole way.
    I really wanted to like Cold War but the teacher going after the young girl made me feel uneasy even if it is romantic later on. I read the actress is mid30s but she looked like a teenager in the early parts of the film. I agree it’s impressively shot though.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      Thank you! This list was a bit in no particular order and rather my scores reflect my rating. First Reformed was the only film I rated 10/10.

      I very much agree with you on Cold War and the teacher-student relationship. It made me feel very uneasy too. Maybe another way to look at it will be to realise that these characters are not perfect people – far from it – and try not to romanticise their relationship or even fully sympathise with them. Perhaps the director tried to go for realism, and if the audience comments how wrong it all feels, the director could just say that this is how it is sometimes in real life – take it or leave it.

  5. Didn’t see The Favorite until this year, would have made my top five had I seen it last year. First Reformed didn’t make my top ten, but Hawke is one of my favourite performances of the year.
    Glad to see Cold War on another list, not enough people saw that movie.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      Yes, your list is good: I would just consider The Shape of Water, Three Billboards and Phantom Thread of 2017. Curious that you include In the Fade, I have heard much about Diane Kruger’s performance there and, of course, she won an award at the Cannes.

  6. Nice list…..I have First Reformed and Hereditary but haven’t watched them yet. Looking forwarding to checking both out. I’ll be skipping The Favourite as I’m not a Emma Stone fan in the slightest. I would recommend “Molly”,”Oh Lucy” and “The Devil’s Doorway” as they were among the best films I watched in 2018.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      There are other performances to admire in The Favourite apart from Stone, and Colman and Weisz both have an equal screen time there. Thanks a lot, I will look up Molly, Oh Lucy and The Devil’s Doorway. Oh Lucy looks very interesting even if rather odd. I am always on a lookout for good Japanese films.

  7. Sam Simon says:

    I’ve seen two of these movies, The favourite and Cold war, and I can certainly understand why they made it to your list!

    I didn’t enjoy Cold war as much as I wanted to, though…

    My review here, if you want to have a look!

    https://vengonofuoridallefottutepareti.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/cold-war-cool-soundtrack-english/

  8. Last year was the perfect time for me to start delving into the horror genre! Completely agree with you about Toni Colette – she’s always brilliant but she deserves awards for Hereditary.

  9. Jane says:

    Great list – The Favourite was brilliant and I loved the freedom of her dancing in Cold War. Must watch Hereditary.

  10. Jade says:

    I still need to see a couple of these! Cold War is definitely on my watchlist. And Hereditary is an excellent choice (even that odd little ending worked for me). I totally agree on Toni Collette’s Oscar snub.

  11. mitchteemley says:

    I’ve only seen one of these, The Favourite. I’ve got some catching up to do!

  12. makoe5 says:

    The rider-happy as lazaro-burning-first reformed-zama-at eternity’s gate-wild life(criminally under appreciated)

    The rider will be recognized as a new American classic in the years to come.

    I watched the favorite 3 times. The film failed to ever develop a singular tone. Compared to his previous work, it seemed to be thrown together without any thought for cohesion. Oh yeah, but cute costumes.

    Zama was one of the “funniest” movies I’ve seen. First reformed was just all types of not giving a shit righteous film making.

    Paul dano dropped a gem of a debut with wild life. No love for the cinematograpor, Diego Garcia, either.

    Don’t get me started on burning or Lazaro. I could talk for days.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      Thanks for your insightful comment. They are criminally appreciated, I agree. I remember Zama from The London Film Festival 2017, and I also read the book it is based on. Both are very impressive and both underappreciated. I think cohesion and Lanthimos are not two words that you can find often in the same sentence. I sometimes like Lanthimos because of his randomness and incoherence. My opinion on Burning is very unpopular because I did not like it, but Happy as Lazzaro have been on my to-watch list for awhile now. I need to watch it. I also see that the Rider is made by a Chinese director and a woman. That will definitely be also one of the reasons for me to watch it.

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