DOC’S TOP THIRTY FILMS OF 2018





It’s been a fairly good year all in all, but not an outstanding one. Lots of good films, lots of very good films – but nothing truly outstanding, nothing I could rate higher than 9/10. So anyway here’s my personal top thirty of movies released in the UK over 2018 [a few were released in the US in 2017]. I hope that at least some of the titles you will agree with, though is the Doc so I’d be disappointing you if there weren’t some choices you’ll be left shaking your head over.

 

3o/ GRINGO
Everything about this movie screamed “good time”, you could even tell by the performances that the cast members enjoyed being on set, and yet the unpredictable, twist-filled and amusing black comedy was not only a flop but disliked by critics who usually love ‘progressive’ messaging yet obviously failed to see the commentary here on how the American capitalist system allows for exploitation of often non-white and disadvantaged labour. Of course nearly everybody was a liar, and the hero was too nice, but that just added to the fun. 7.5/10

 

 

29/YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
This very divisive film sometimes seemed to be deliberately trying to aggravating the viewer, but its impressionistic approach, emphasising psychologically significant fragments of images and sounds rather than plot or dialogue, made sense if you appreciated that writer/director Lynne Ramsey was trying to tell the story from the point of view of its seriously messed up character, and the way she mixed up all these cliches and came out with something original in feel was highly impressive. 7.5/10

 

 

28/CREED 2
The complaints about this basically rehashing Rocky 2, 3 and 4 were justified, but the formula still worked a treat and I felt all emotional in places plus properly pumped up during the climax. The big fight struck a good balance between the more realistic matches and the really over the top ones of 3 and 4, and Michel B. Jordan, who I felt was rather stiff in the first Creed, improved substantially. And the villainous side of things was perfectly balanced – you felt a bit for them yet certainly didn’t want them to win. 7.5/10

 

 

27/ALPHA
A film like this was never going to get much attention in today’s restrictive climate. Times are hard. Having the stampede scene being shown at the beginning, then being returned to 20 mins later was clumsy and smacked of studio re-editing so kids could get some action right at the start, and that wolf sure was docile, but this was visually stunning throughout with wonderful use of landscapes, consistently gripping, and touching in a reasonably unsentimental way. And stop the press….it was a film with real animals! 7.5/10

 

 

26/THE POST
Even though too much of its dialogue consisted of things people only say in movies, journalism inspired yet another fine film in this unofficial prequel to All the President’s Men, a movie that spoke to our present by examining our past, and told an unassailable truth about the value of a free press. Given that it starred Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, one would have reasonably expected it to be a master class in acting, but did many expect it to be so riveting and urgent? 7.5/10

 

 

25/SICARIO 2
Despite the expected whinging from idiots who’ll only be happy if every non-white movie character was a good person, this sequel to one of 2016’s best films may have been slightly less enjoyable but that was obviously part of the point in a follow-up that was even more uncompromising and morally murky, with only one truly likable main character [and she was a kid], while also being gripping enough to make one almost not miss Emily Blunt. 8/10

 

 

24/SOLO
Let’s face it – this was a film that didn’t need to be made, an elaboration of events that we already knew of. And yet, it got closer to that swashbuckling, rip-roaring feel of the original movies than any other entry in this franchise, and Alden Ehrenreich was a good match for the title role. Who’d have thought that we would one day live in a world where the spin-offs to a Star Wars trilogy [The Last Jedi clearly put people off this one] were by far the better films? 8/10

 

 

23/AQUAMAN
The best superhero film since Logan and easily outclassing the faintly dull and repetitive Avengers: Infinity War, this was a breathless, non-stop parade of fantastical settings, eye-popping action sequences, superhero cliches and mythological elements that at its best really took the viewer on an amazing trip in an almost dreamlike fashion, exploiting to its full its primary underwater setting while throwing as much ‘f*** me’ spectacle at the viewer as it could jam into its running time. Much of the dialogue was stiff, but hey? 8/10

 

 

22/BEAST
Okay, the premise of a woman falling for someone who may be a murderer was hardly original, even if garnished with some fairy tale elements, but it usually results in a compelling watch, and Michael Pierce made an impressive film here, full of uncomfortable psychological and sexual tension which – aided by two excellent central performances – you could almost feel, and added an extra dimension to the premise by having a heroine who had some seriously dark aspects to herself – though I’d have ended it five minutes before it actually did. 8/10

 

 

21/FIRST MAN
After four films, Damien Chazelle still can do no wrong. One of those biopics where you knew what was about to happen but couldn’t help but get caught up in suspense anyway, it still did some original things such as showing the space travel from Neil Armstrong’s point of view [dare I say it, justifiable ‘shakycam’ here?] until the climax. And it reminded us that determination, struggle, sacrifice and especially failure are the key ingredients to success, but in order to achieve it you’ve got to risk everything because success is never guaranteed. 8/10

 

 

20/BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
The critics made it clear that they would have preferred more emphasis on Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, and the mind boggles at that thought as the film actually dealt with it quite considerably. You were never going to get a ‘warts and all’ biography with two band members being involved, but the fashioning of things into a standard biography format still made for terrific, uplifting yet at times poignant entertainment with simply superb casting – and of course some of the best pop music ever. 8/1o

 

 

19/THE ENDLESS
Only notably held back by the two lead performances by its creators [who did do virtually everything else so we can almost forgive them], this head-scratcher was an extremely creepy, highly unpredictable yet oddly amusing offering in a way that revealed that its creators weren’t taking it all ultra-seriously but which didn’t diminish the palpable eeriness. Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson also understood that even the strangest of films need a strong human dimension to hang on to, and the sound design was superb. 8/10

 

 

18/EVERY DAY
I must be going insane including two Young Adult novel adaptations in this list, though neither of them were set in a post apocalyptic future for once. And his film was a great example of how to take a potentially hokey, uninvolving premise and do the very best with it so one was on board with its ‘out there’ elements almost immediately and eventually properly moved by the story. Sentimental it still was, but then there’s not enough honest, unashamed sentimentality in films these days. 8/10

 

 

17/THE HATE U GIVE
And here’s the second one, even though it wound me up the way that Hollywood seems to be using texting abbreviations in movie titles. Against the odds, this turned out to be a surprisingly complex, mature and balanced look at racism that tried hard to avoid broad caricatures, pointing the finger and irresponsible shouting. It just showed the issues as how they are as much as a ‘PG-13’rated film would allow. Yet it still managed to be entertaining, and Amandla Stenberg’s performance was astonishing. 8/10

 

 

16/A FANTASTIC WOMAN
I was ready to whinge about the fact that this film won Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards was down to political reasons. Modern Hollywood is obsessed with showing off how ‘progressive’ it is. But, anchored by a tremendously ‘interior’ performance from Daniella Vargas as the transgender heroine and enlivened by stylish direction from Sebastian Lelio, this proved to be a highly moving picture, the search for acceptance and self-respect really being universal and certainly striking a chord. 8/10

 

 

15/HOSTILES
Oddly recalling both traditional westerns and the more recent revisionist kind at the same time, and at times sometimes seeming like it was trying to serve as a commentary on the evolution of the genre, this brutal, uncompromising effort had much to say about the pointlessness of conflict, the corrosive effect of righteousness, prejudice and hatred, and the futility of trying to civilise a wild land built on violence, while only occasionally coming across as being didactic. And was this Christian Bale’s best performance to this date? 8/10

 

 

14/BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
Yes, writer/director Drew Goddard [whose work for some reason I tend to either really like or really dislike] was clearly channeling Quentin Tarantino here as well as I think Brian De Palma, but this was still a terrific mystery thriller that managed to completely subvert expectations within the first ten minutes and continued to surprise from there on. The topics of ultimatums and self reflection were strengthened by the non-linear and multiple perspective storytelling, and all out of the starry cast were great. 8/10

 

 

13/MARY POPPINS RETURNS
It did indeed follow the original film rather too closely, so much that it seemed more like a remake than a sequel, and yet this managed to recapture much of its heart, joy and innocence, almost seeming like a film from another era – which also meant that we got songs with decent tunes and clever lyrics for once. Emily Blunt outdid Julie Andrews as a somewhat sharper Poppins yet with more human flaws, but everyone involved seemed to give it their all. And Dick van Dyke’s cameo brought tears of joy to the eyes. 8/10

 

 

12/A QUIET PLACE
Perhaps this was a tad overrated – after all, there were plot holes and a rather too convenient way to kill the aliens – but nonetheless this worked incredibly well as a scare machine with a few bits that even had the Doc on edge and made him not want to make a single damn sound as he went home, while the concept was so great yet so simple that it’s very surprising that this was the first time it had been put on screen. Director John Krasinski has a great future in the genre if he so wishes, he’s superb at this stuff. 8/10

 

 

11/RED SPARROW
I found it strange and even worrying that this was much criticised for not having much action. For goodness sake it wasn’t even trying to be that kind of movie. Instead, it was far more out of the John LeCarre school of spy tales, and in this one you didn’t even know what side the main character was on half the time, which was just great – and yet somehow you were still on her side. Intelligent, unpredictable, and anchored by probably Jennifer Lawrence’s best performance yet, totally convincing as a Russian. 8/10

 

 

10/A STAR IS BORN
I will say that the music didn’t really do it for me, though that’s probably more down to taste, and I was still thankful that not much of it was Lady Gaga’s typical stuff, while her performance was nothing short of a revelation, and Bradley Cooper, not an actor I tend to warm to, finally won me over. Their chemistry together was incredible. This was how to do a remake right – keep the basic plot but change the setting, feel and tone so it seemed very much a story of today. 8/10

 

9/HEREDITARY
I originally had this a bit higher, but eventually came to the conclusion that this was weakened a tad by its overused ending. But everything else was top class. You could literally feel the atmosphere of dread and evil, but rather than startling with cheap scares, it offered haunting, upsetting images and anchored everything in an emotional core with nuanced characters experiencing relatable issues. And Toni Colette deserves an Oscar – though she won’t get one. 8.5/10

 

 

8/WIDOWS
Like Damien Chazelle, Steve McQueen is another filmmaker who seems determined to maintain a high quality to his work. I don’t think I ever saw the TV series of the same name, but I doubt that it’s as good as this film version. I guess you could say that it fitted into the current feminism trend as it was essentially about women having to deal with the crap that men leave behind, but it juggled the various plot strands with skill, didn’t spoon feed the viewer, and had excellent performances across the board. 8.5/10

 

 

7/I, TONYA
Yes, I’m including a film about a bloody ice skater so high, but it’s not so much what a film is about that’s important, but what it does with its subject. Much like a mid-period Martin Scorsese effort, besides having Margot Robbie prove that she’s far more than just a pretty face, the most frightening mother since Carrie’s, and two of the most hilariously incompetent crooks in cinema history, this also offered a highly realistic depiction of an abusive relationship but also enough insight and measured elation to make it nearly one of the great sports movies. 8.5/10

 

 

6/ALLURE
This hugely impressive directorial debut from Carlos and Jason Sanchez is probably the least known and seen film on this list, which is a shame because the hugely tense psychological thriller was brilliantly acted by Evan Rachel Ward and Julia Sarah Stone, visually striking, and deep and balanced enough to ask the viewer to stop and think things like “what has made he/she this way?” when they next see somebody being nasty to somebody else. And in these restrictive PC-dominated times, how good was it to have a character smoke continuously? 8.5/10

 

 

5/THE SECRET OF MARROWBONE
This is possibly the entry that may most baffle some readers, though complaints about it not being much of a horror film seems to me to be a very narrow view of what a horror film can be. Though the first ‘twist’ was guessable, it was such a rich and emotionally fulfilling story that it didn’t matter too much. Frightening yet tear jerking, disturbing yet beautiful, this cast its net wider than the above film in an attempt to move as much as chill, and even bravely attempted a rather positive look at mental illness. 8.5/10

 

 

4/MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT
Did it largely rehash previous Missions? Yes, though it also managed the hard task of linking to earlier adventures while still being easy to enjoy if you hadn’t seen a single one. Probably the fastest paced 147 minutes ever, Mission: Impossible – Fallout was a breathtaking melee of incredible stunts, speeding vehicles, bruising brawls and double crosses that just kept on going and never lost speed while allowing you just about enough time to follow the plot, with a star that was the film’s main special effect. 9/10

 

 

3/THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI
It’s debatable whether Martin McDonagh’s third film was as fine as his first, but it was far more than the simple story of revenge it at first seemed to be, instead emphasising more antagonism and healing as the writer/director somehow found a stunning cohesion between dark mischief and soul-splitting grief which found tremendous value in the inner workings of damaged people. Consistently uncomfortable, yet very human, and with the best open ending in ages. 9/10

 

 

 2/CLIMAX
Talk about first world problems. I was almost tearing myself apart trying to decide if this was superior or inferior to the film that is now my number one for 2018. Purely cinematic yet with some depth, cruel yet beguiling, tiring yet liberating, outrageous yet in its own way saying quite a lot about human nature [even if its generally unflattering], this was the closest that Noe has come in quality to the masterpiece Irreversible, and with surprisingly good acting from a mainly amateur cast too. 9/10

 

 

1/COCO
Though treading on similar ground to 2014’s The Book Of Life, this resisted that film’s seeming need to constantly pile on the slapstick and jokes so a tale about death and the underworld was more accessible for small children, and was possibly even better than Pixar’s last much needed return to original material, proving once again that when Pixar is on fire few can match them. It was a loving tribute to both the beauty and the pain of family as well as the wonder that is music, with expert telling of a story that was full of surprises, and the alternating of glowing brightness with bit of glum darkness making for a visually diverse experience that never outstayed its welcome. Pixar also finally topped the beginning of Up in the tear-eruption stakes. I’d have liked to have found out exactly why playing that guitar made Miguel half-dead and half-alive though. 9/10

 

 

And just for fun, while I seem to have seen quite a few different films to my colleague David Smith whose horror top ten can be viewed here, here’s my top ten horrors of the year anyway.

 

10/Hell Fest

9/ Ghost Stories

8/ Insidious: The Last Key

7/ The Strangers: Prey At Night

6/ Unfriended: Dark Web

5/ The Endless

4/ A Quiet Place

3/ Hereditary

2/ The Secret of Marrowbone

1/ Climax 

 

 

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2539 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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