Best of lists are always strange beasts. We sift through a year of ‘stuff’ trying to find value and quality, only to put it in some kind of arbitrary order. These lists always play like a competition – where you sit there for weeks pitting one ‘thing’ against another, judging its quality and minutely assessing it for blemishes and bruises that may tarnish its placement. Why do we do this? To what purpose is the existence of a ‘Best of List’?
Well, for me, a ‘Best of List’ is not so much a ranking of quality, but instead a way of putting a series of ‘things’ in order of their perceived value to me. Are these the best ‘things’ that that year had to offer? No, not entirely. In fact, there’s little way of actually deeming what is the ‘best’ at the end of a year.
I’m being deliberately obtuse – mostly because I’ve already done a handful of Best of Lists for 2018, but also because I’m trying to emphasise that the following list of fifty films from 2018 is in no way a definitive statement of what is the ‘Best’ that cinema had to offer. To that end, neither is the Academy Awards, or any awards ceremony for that matter.
What this list is, is a reminder to me that these were the films that were the ones that left the longest impression on me. Whether it was a personal connection I had with the film – I think of Strange Colours and my initial reaction of complete surprise that a film like that could speak so directly to me – or whether it was that these were films that utilised the art form of filmmaking in a way that I appreciated the most, these films all left a mark on me in some way.
I find ‘Best of Lists’ a fascinating endeavour. They work as a glimpse into the minds of the many, as a way of seeing into their lives for a moment and understanding what impacted them the most in that year. There’s something uniquely intimate about a ‘Best of List’. It’s a way of looking into someone’s life and seeing where they were at that point in time. Maybe you’ll agree with some of the films on my ‘Best of List’. Maybe you’ll find something about me through my selections that I didn’t know.
Most importantly, for me at least, I hope you find a few titles that you haven’t heard of or hadn’t seen.
As I’m based in Australia, all of the films included are done so by Australian release dates. For some films, they have only had festival appearances – in these circumstances, I have included them with the knowledge that they may appear at a theatrical screening later on. Given the finicky aspect of global release dates, this is an imprecise element of list making.
Some stats about the list:
- Seventeen films directed or co-directed by women
- Twelve films not in the English language
- Ten documentaries
- Seven Australian films
- Eleven films from Perth’s Revelation Film Festival
50. Happy End
Director: Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke’s Happy End plays like a ‘Best of Michael Haneke’ album, with nods to his previous work and the continuation of many themes he’s explored before. It’s also his most accessible, with the dark saturation of depressing themes surprisingly absent. Give this a watch for the best karaoke version of Sia’s Chandelier.
49. Book Club
Director: Bill Holderman
The distinct charm of watching masterful actors like Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen, work together is the core essence of why Book Club is such a deeply enjoyable film to watch. Easy fun with an easy plot that’ll bring out easy laughs.
48. The Endless
Directors: Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson
Unique, original science-fiction fare tends to fall between the cracks, which is why it’s important to single out the work of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson who manage to craft one of the most intriguing, mind bending narratives in genre film for 2018. The Endless works like a flower, revealing itself gradually until it’s in full bloom, only to close up at the end with you trapped inside wondering what’s just happened.
Director: Brett Morgen
Jane Goodall is one of the finest human beings to ever exist. Her narrative is so pure, and so inspiring, that watching this documentary that collates much of the footage captured in her time in Gombe is like sinking yourself into a hot spring. It’s refreshing, calming, and reinvigorating. Goodall is a person – like Fred Rogers – whom you are better off for having spent time with them.
Director: Spike Lee
Spike Lee is not a subtle director, and BlacKkKlansman is no different. Yes, it has a gut punch of an ending, and it’s full of Spike Lee-isms, but it’s also a film that encompasses black culture in all its glory in an unexpected way. Open discussions about the difference between Super Fly and Shaft, or the historical relevance of Gone With the Wind, help create a timely film about race and racism in America.
Director: Alex Garland
Home of one of the most unsettling scenes of 2018, Alex Garland’s Annihilation feels like a film lost in time. It’s an eerie, affective film about what thrives within us – whether it be emotions, or a past we can’t escape, Garland’s film explores it as a whole. Driven by some of the years finest performances, Annihilation is another sign that science-fiction that tests your mind is alive and well.
44. Avengers: Infinity War
Director: Anthony & Joe Russo
If Annihilation and The Endless got your mind grapes going, then Avengers: Infinity War will get your science fiction action heart pumping. One of the most visually exciting films in recent years, this is a film that, on paper, should not work, but punch after punch, quip after quip, and CGI explosion after CGI explosion, it somehow manages to be one of the most exciting comic book films ever.
Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
Downrange is a fairly simple concept with one heck of an execution. A car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, with the occupants gradually finding out that it was no accident, but instead a gunman somewhere. As the bodies pile up, the madness of the scenario amplifies to one heck of a crescendo that ends with easily one of the best endings of 2018. Low-fi horror filmmaking at its finest.
Director: Dana Nachman & Don Hardy Jr.
2018 was not a good year, but at least Pick of the Litter was there to deliver all the puppy goodness you need in your life, plus a little bit more. But, a good film can’t ride on cuteness alone, and Pick of the Litter ensures to show the hard work that goes in to training dogs for the vision impaired, while also showing what happens with the dogs who don’t pass the test. Easily one of the best family films of the year.
Director: R. Balki
Padman is one of the very few films that states a case for mansplaining (under the necessary conditions). Let me clarify (or, rather, let me do a little mansplaining myself) – based on a true story, this is a film about Arunachalam Muruganantham, a man who invents a low cost sanitary pad making machine in India and travels around India explaining to women why using these pads is life-saving. Akshay Kumar is great as the titular ‘Padman’, and the film as a whole is an eye opening exploration into how poorly the needs of women around the world are met.