2018 brought us some truly marvellous films. We started the year with all the usual Oscars contenders, and what a solid bunch they were. In February, Wakanda changed the trajectory of superhero films for the better. Then we were gifted one of the best Aprils on record, as blockbuster cinema reached new heights thanks to a giant purple guy with a gem-filled fist and silence had never seemed scarier in the surprise-hit of the year. In summer, monsters reigned supreme (2019, please don’t make us watch another Predator film) and horror got a little too silly. But since then, we’ve stepped foot on the moon, gone gaga for Gaga and witnessed a truly outstanding web-slinging adventure; to put it simply, what a year.
So, without further ado, here are the films our writers have voted as the best of the year, starting with numbers 20-11.
20. Phantom Thread, dir. by Paul Thomas Anderson
A modern master who made The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the finest filmmakers working in American cinema today. Phantom Thread may just be his best work yet. The tale of a narcissistic male dressmaker and the muse he makes of a humble waitress, set in high society London in the 1950s, is perhaps not one to make the headlines in this precise cultural moment. However, Anderson does not indulge the controlling Reynolds Woodcock in masculine fantasy. This droll psychological romance is defined by its push-and-pull power play between Woodcock – Daniel Day-Lewis in what is said to be his swansong – and Vicky Krieps’ Alma, who proves determined and ultimately Machiavellian in her attempts to sustain their tempestuous relationship. Daniel Day-Lewis is Daniel Day-Lewis; we know he’s got the goods. If this is to be his final role, he’ll certainly be going out on a high. Krieps is more than a match for him, though, and Lesley Manville was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her biting performance as Reynolds’ sister Cyril. With an exquisite score from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread manifests as a semi-ethereal fairy tale, with references aplenty to the Brothers Grimm and Gothic fiction. It is a fever dream you will be unable to resist.
19. I, Tonya, dir. by Craig Gillespie
This innovative biopic tells its own version of the true story of Tonya Harding, a “white trash” figure skater, the first female to complete two triple axel jumps in competition. Despite her skill, Harding is now mainly known for events surrounding the 1994 Winter Olympics, when her rival Nancy Kerrigan was unable to compete due to a knee injury (thought to be ordered by Harding to remove the competition), and Harding, on being allowed to compete, asked tearfully to restart her performance due to an untied shoelace. For those, like my parents, who saw the events as they unfolded, Craig Gillespie’s biopic explores the story behind them, and for those like me, who had never heard of Harding, Gillespie provides the best introduction to this surreal story, revealing the prejudices against Harding and her family and lack of wealth, and the effect those events, and the media coverage of them, had on her life.
I, Tonya tells of the events that led up to 1994 – Harding’s childhood, her dominating mother, her abusive husband; the rise and fall of her figure skating career, from the landing of the triple axel to working as a waitress – moving through the events themselves, and then past them, to the court case and her life after skating. It is told as an almost traditional biopic, albeit particularly engagingly, except interspersed with interviews with older versions of the main characters, as they tell their versions of the story to the camera, casting doubt upon the events we are presented as fact.
As well as its innovative storytelling techniques, the stellar cast provide some incredible performances, Margot Robbie’s sensitive and heart-wrenching portrayal of Tonya rightfully earning her a Best Actress nomination in March, while Janney won Best Supporting Actress. A great soundtrack, intricate costumes, and wonderfully choreographed figure skating pieces complete the set of this marvel of a film.
18. The Shape of Water, dir. by Guillermo del Toro
The Shape of Water is an American fantasy/romance film written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, starring the likes of Sally Hawkins – who plays Elisa Espositio, a mute cleaner who communicates via sign language – and Octavia Spencer – Hawkin’s co-worker and interpreter. The film follows Hawkins character as she discovers a mysterious creature which is being kept and researched in a government laboratory. Elisa falls in love with the creature, as she feels it understands her existence, and as the film unfolds, Elisa attempts to escape the laboratory along with the creature, all with a little help from her friends.
The film was, undeniably, a fresh release for Hollywood. With mutism, politics, and a thrilling adventure all on show, it was bound, and deserved, to be a hit. In the capable hands of del Toro, The Shape of Water swam to victory in the box office, and claimed several elite awards, including four of the much coveted Oscars and three BAFTAs. The film makes our top 20 because of the raw talent of its cast, its intriguing content, and the bizarrely beautiful love story.
17. Ready Player One, dir. by Steven Spielberg
To say that the film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel was divisive would be a massive understatement. In fact, Ready Player One was rather like marmite when it was first released, with its explosion of pop culture references proving just a little too much for many. Here at The Edge, however, we seem to have agreed that Steven Spielberg’s latest was simply an awful lot of fun, as Ready Player One has creeped its way into our Best Films of 2018 list at number 17.
Set in 2045, the Sci-Fi adventure focuses on orphaned teen Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) who, like the rest of the population, escapes into the immersive virtual reality OASIS to hide from the realities of dystopian life. The aim of the game is simple, collect three keys hidden by illusive creator James Halliday, find the Golden Easter Egg and become the new owner of the OASIS. At the film’s very core is Spielberg doing what Spielberg does best and using cinema to its full potential, creating a real blockbuster spectacle, with one particular use of 1980s nostalgia (Here’s Johnny!) proving particularly effective. Sure, Ready Player One might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you’ve got to be pretty dull to not find something love in what can since be remembered as one of the most exciting films of the past year.
16. Incredibles 2, dir by. Brad Bird
One of Disney’s many (many) sequels being released recently, Incredibles 2 is actually a very impressive film. Besides the significant progress made in animation between 2004 and now, the movie is funny, engaging and doesn’t feel as though Disney made it simply because they were running out of ideas. The movie is also one of these rare films that promises to have something for everybody, and actually does: it’s got action, humour, and a parent struggling to understand modern homework, what more could you want? The film also sees the Parr family attempting to accommodate baby Jack-Jack’s vast number of superpowers, and ultimately failing, to hilarious effect. Edna Mode, the fashion icon of our generation, babysitting Jack-Jack is arguably the single best thing about the entire film, but then Edna is one of the best Disney characters to ever grace our screens. The Parr family (and Frozone of course) return to fight evil with full force, making this film worthy of both the 14-year wait and its place in our Top 20.
15. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, dir. by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman
Everyone with even a passing knowledge of comic book movies knows Spider-Man, but they know the Peter Parker incarnation of the character. In this animated Marvel movie, we see young Miles Morales take the helm, accompanied by some of the lesser known (and perhaps downright strange) incarnations of everyone’s favourite New York webslinger.
Into the Spider-Verse embraces its weirdness and runs with it – and that’s exactly what makes it so great! The art style looks as if several scenes have been lifted right from the pages of a comic, with the shading done using comic book-esque dots. Each Spider-person (and pig) each have a slightly different aesthetic, with Spider-Ham looking straight-out-of Looney Tunes. The story makes you think, and its message of how everyone can be a superhero – noted by the dedication to Stan Lee at the end in a moving moment – is something that we can all take away. It shows how one person can change the lives of many – whether that’s Peter Parker, Miles, Gwen, or Stan Lee himself. Overall, it feels exactly what a comic book movie should be, and I would love to see more to see more taking this refreshing perspective.
14. Deadpool 2, dir. by David Leitch
Deadpool 2 is proof that not all sequels are a bad thing. Ryan Reynolds’ latest stint in the infamous red suit was as entertaining, if not more, than the first, which earns the film its place on this list; the genius creation of Deadpool’s own X-Force, especially the inclusion of Peter, is worthy of the place alone. Getting Wade Wilson’s backstory and his progression to becoming an antihero out of the way in the first film really aids the flow of the sequel, allowing for a fast-paced story which is mostly full of gags and jokes (essential in a Deadpool film), with some heartfelt or more sombre moments to balance it out along the way. Most importantly, this film doesn’t leave you feeling like Deadpool has been milked as much as possible: I thoroughly hope to see more of the character as a part of the X-Men, as he would be a welcome addition. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t need more of Deadpool’s dark humour in their lives?
13. Mission: Impossible – Fallout, dir. by Christopher McQuarrie
Mission: Impossible has quietly been one of the most exciting and consistent action movie franchises for years now, without ever veering into the ridiculousness of, say, the Fast and Furious series. Now, with Fallout, Tom Cruise and his team at IMF have done it again, in a fantastically sleek action film that somehow sets the bar even higher for the franchise. Cruise is, of course, the key player here, and despite being 56 (!) shows no signs of slowing down as man-without-fear Ethan Hunt. Whether its his real-life skydiving sequence, piloting a helicopter in a chase through the Himalayas, or – blink and you’ll miss it – breaking his foot during a tense race through London, his commitment to the series is as impressive as ever. Yet it’s Henry Cavill’s role as CIA agent August Walker that provides the film’s biggest addition; his quiet intensity and (obviously) huge physical presence make him a great counterpart to Ethan Hunt, and it’s great to see Cavill playing a much more rough-around-the-edges character than usual. Such a strong script, combined with the mind-blowing bait-and-switches, incredible stunts and fantastically choreographed fist-fights make Mission: Impossible – Fallout the best action film of the year, and further proof that Tom Cruise just can’t miss with this franchise.
11=. Bohemian Rhapsody, dir. by Bryan Singer
Although Bohemian Rhapsody was given a hard time by many, I would argue that it is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year.
I was always a fan of Queen growing up, and was deathly jealous of all of those who were able to see the spectacle of Freddie Mercury live or to even live in a time that was contemporary to Queen’s heyday. Through Malek’s performance, the impeccable eye for detail and the perfectly replicated concert scenes, Bohemian Rhapsody enabled me to feel as if I were experiencing the band in the same way that those fans who were there to see it all in person. Some have argued that the film is rushed, full of inaccuracies and glosses over Mercury’s sexuality, but with that I completely disagree. You can’t even hope to contain the spirit of a man as vibrant as Freddie in 2 hours of running time, and you can’t really get anymore accurate given the input of Queen and the commitment by Malek to the role.
We saw a vulnerability to Freddie that was never really revealed to the media and, through this understanding of one of the most enigmatic men in history, we were able to understand some of the songs we thought we knew in a whole new way. As for the Live Aid scene, I strongly believe that will expose a whole new generation to Queen. Now give Rami Malek that Oscar.
11=. Annihilaton, dir. by Alex Garland
Written and directed by Alex Garland, Annihilation follows a team of all female biologists as they head into a newly descended ‘shimmer’ in which the laws of nature seem to be redefined.
I honestly believe that if Annihilation had been granted a theatrical release as the filmmaker had intended, it would be receiving the praise it deserves. As we have come to expect from Garland, the film delivers a deep social critique, whilst also showcasing stunning visual effects that are almost lost on a small screen, however not unnoticed. With wide colour rich landscapes and stunning attention to detail, even the horrors in this film are gorgeous, with the 5 female leads never falling into clichés and showing the audience that Sci-Fi can be more than successful without a leading man. Each woman is written with emotional development and purpose, something lost in the majority of female roles in the genre, their presence never signposted as if Garland expects a gold star. The cinematography is artful, and the narrative is original and suspenseful throughout, gripping us in its intelligence. Like few sci-fi films, emotion is the core of this film as opposed to overwhelming jargon, and the beautiful chaos that the film descends into left us so stunned that Annihilation has rightfully earned its way onto our Best Films of 2018 list – one watch will certainly leave you embarrassed that you ever overlooked it on Netflix.