10 Best Movies of 2018

Dec 31, 2018 | Posted by in Lists
Top 10

As I write this it’s the final day of 2018 so I’m probably a little overdue with my list of the best and worst movies of the year.

The usual disclaimer that I haven’t seen every film applies and what follows is entirely my opinion based on what I personally saw. There is a supporting review for every entry on this list. The reviews will be hyperlinked on the heading. This year I’ve opened up the consideration to movies that were released on streaming services as the relevance of the output is increasing all the time. Without further ado here are my best movies of 2018.

10: Please Stand By

Please Stand ByAs a Star Trek fan this film was a must see for me and it largely didn’t disappoint. I won’t pretend to be clued up on what is or isn’t a fair portrayal of autism but this certainly seemed like a dignified one. Dakota Fanning is at all times engaging as Wendy; playing a sympathetic character with clear goals that she is comfortable with achieving. The film does a great job establishing what her daily routine is, the support she has around her and the difficulties that he condition brings her. It outlines what will challenge and support her along her journey and sets her up as a character worth following. Using Star Trek as the fandom she belongs to is almost incidental -though the specific references are appreciated- as the story can be expanded to encompass any fandom since the important thing is the level of comfort belonging to something much larger than herself brings her.

The film falters somewhat in the secondary plot where Wendy’s sister Audrey (Alice Eve) and her carer Scotti (Toni Collette) because it feels underdeveloped. Wendy’s relationship with Audrey could generally have been done better as well. There was the suggestion of something interesting there especially with Audrey’s inability to deal with Wendy’s outbursts and generally being afraid of her because of her lack of understanding of how her condition works. Despite the minor niggles this is a relentlessly endearing story that portrays fandom in a positive light and is well worth your time.

9: Black Panther

Black PantherNot the last superhero movie on my list. Black Panther is fairly unique among the Marvel Cinematic Universe films because of what it explores. This is the first movie with a black protagonist that they have produced and the film fully leans into that by making the issues that plague black people in the modern world a significant part of the background. The narrative asks some very difficult questions and makes it clear that there are no easy answers for them. It boasts one of the best villains the MCU has seen because his opinions can be empathised with even if his methods are far too extreme to make him heroic. Outside of that it is also a really intimate character story where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) settles into his role as King and asks some deep philosophical questions about his worthiness to take on the the title as well as his people’s overall place in the world. It’s all fascinating stuff and blends together well. There is also an excellent supporting cast; characters like Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) are particularly memorable deserving of a place in the universe outside of this movie.

As with any MCU movie it’s far from flawless. Despite having an excellent villain in Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger the second act feels somewhat rushed and the action climax isn’t all that engaging due to the wealth of moving parts and fairly spotty CGI at times. None of this drags down the film but what came before is definitely far more interesting. This film excels in the exploration of Wakanda as a society in its own right, the handling of complex issues and the internal soul searching that T’Challa is forced to do. It’s a very grown up and mature film proving that the MCU is unlikely to run out of steam anytime soon. I also participated on a podcast about this film.

8: The Shape of Water

WaterA story about an unconventional relationship between two characters literally from different worlds who can’t talk. This is certainly a daring thing to attempt and feels right up the alley of Guillermo Del Toro who clearly loves telling more outlandish and challenging stories. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is completely mute but the problem is solved by surrounding her with characters who do talk meaning that there are never long stretches of silence for audiences that might not be able to handle it. She communicates almost entirely using sign language which is subtitled sometimes but it isn’t relied on as a storytelling crutch. Instead Del Toro trusts the audience to be able to understand through context. This works without fail and Sally Hawkins is able to say more with a gesture or a facial expression than dialogue could ever hope to achieve. Similarly Doug Jones is wonderfully expressive as the creature with his meaning always clear through the various non vocal ways he expresses himself. Their romance is believable and constantly charming as the film does a great job establishing them as being unable to truly fit into their surrounding and seeking some understanding. The setting is also instrumental in creating tension as the cold war atmosphere is uninviting.

The film does have a tendency to feel overstuffed with plot that does sometimes get in the way of the central love story. There are lots of things that could have gone unsaid as enough work was done to create an impression of the obstacles this unconventional romance would face. Michael Shannon adds a lot of depth to what would otherwise be a weak antagonist and personifies the cold war paranoia wonderfully. This is certainly one of Guillermo Del Toro’s more interesting projects and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something well built yet unconventional.

7: Calibre

BestI’m not going to say much about this film because it is best experience blind. The basic story is that two friends head up to the Scottish Highlands on a hunting trip and find themselves in a great deal of trouble as a result of mistakes that they made. What follows is a masterclass in tension and suspense that never lets up until the end. The characters are engaging with enough mystery to each of them to keep the audience on their toes and the escalation of the situation is organic.

As with many films like this there are a number of contrivances that exist to move the plot along and misdirect the viewer but it doesn’t detract from what amounts to a must see experience. If you’re a Netflix subscriber then make sure to watch this.

6: Hearts Beat Loud

2018In short this is a charming and uplifting viewing experience that would warm even the most cynical of hearts. Nick Offerman as Frank; a struggling record store owner with the soul of a true musician is excellent, Kiersey Clemons as his ambitious daughter Sam is equally excellent and the supporting cast round out as being more or less necessary given the situation. The core of the film is Frank and Sam’s relationship as they both struggle with the notion of being stuck in the lives they now have. Frank is part of a dying trade where Sam represents the future but they both struggle with the next chapter in their lives with Frank having to deal with not having his daughter around. Music unites them and together they create beautifully composed songs that enhance the main themes perfectly. It’s just a joy to watch from beginning to end.

Some elements let it down here and there such as some relatively shallow supporting characters like Ted Danson as a bartender who clearly exists to throw in choice advice at key points and a bizarre subplot involving Frank’s mother that distracts from the main story while feeling out of place. None of this gets in the way of how well put together the rest of the film is and it has a powerful message about how change sometimes has to be accepted even if it’s not entirely positive for all parties.

5: A Quiet Place

QuietHorror films are a dime a dozen and there are definitely more bad ones than there are good ones. A Quiet Place is a masterclass in visual storytelling. The limitation of sound needing to be avoided at all costs lends itself to some remarkable creativity that shines through in pretty much every scene. Characters are developed through their actions rather than dialogue which shows just how little needs to be said to convey necessary information. They all feel rich despite saying very little over the course of the film and director/star John Krasinski finds some really clever workarounds to get around the problem of not being able to convey ideas through speech. Any sound made could potentially be lethal which provides the foundation for most of the tension throughout. The entire world compliments this idea and there are a number of sequences dripping with tension because of the need to be quiet.

The only thing that really brings this film down is underwhelming creature design and some inconsistency with the established rules. It isn’t all that noticeable but it does happen periodically. One thing to note is that this one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve had in recent times. It can’t be overstated how little sound is in this film which means that any noise made by a cinema audience will be noticed. In my case this seemed to encourage everyone to leave their snacks alone and be as quiet as possible. It made the whole thing more immersive and memorable as a result. It isn’t a film I’ve revisited at home as yet so I’m not sure how it translates but the quality is undeniable.

4: Avengers: Infinity War

AvengersWhat is there left to say about this film? It’s truly the culmination of 10 years of filmmaking by bringing together pretty much every corner of the intricate universe built over the course of nearly 20 films. The end result is remarkable by virtue of the sheer volume of characters on screen. Not only that but they are used really well in a story that follows the villain’s quest to unite 6 magical stones so that he can make a fundamental change to the universe itself. Josh Brolin’s Thanos is engaging, sympathetic and terrifying all at once with a clear objective that carries the film. The rest of the characters are well served and the set pieces have to be seen to be believed in some cases.

Some of the action sequences are a little hard to follow because there are so many moving parts to them that make them very busy. There is a good mix between smaller sequences with less characters and mass army conflicts. The Russo Brothers find creative ways to use and combine the powers as well. As a fan of these sorts of movies I’m glad that this was pulled off so elegantly and makes for one of the strongest entries into the Superhero subgenre. I was involved in two podcasts; one short one immediately after the midnight screening and a more comprehensive one recorded later. There was also a general MCU one in anticipation of the release.

3: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

FalloutThe Mission: Impossible franchise is arguably little more than an excuse for Tom Cruise to put himself in mortal danger for the sake of an action sequence. It’s not a fair assessment as entries in this series are so much more than a procession of impressive set pieces held together by a thin plot. The plot manages to be engaging in its complexity but also simple enough that it’s easy to follow so it strikes the right balance in terms of what viewers might want from it. Tom Cruise continues to delight with his magnetic performance as Ethan Hunt and the stunts on display are nothing short of incredible. All of the action sequences are great and the variety is impressive. Many of them are perfect displays of suspense and others are really brutal. The rest of the cast do a great job as well. Henry Cavill in  particular makes for a great foil for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and is constantly believable as a physical threat to him. Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and the others round out the cast really well.

Despite the strong supporting cast some of them are very thinly characterised. There is also an attempt to explore Ethan Hunt specifically through how others see him and the impact he’s had on the world around him that doesn’t really work. Any flaws this film has are small and are easily forgotten because the overall presentation is so strong.

2: Searching

2018Arguably there are only a small number of plots that are recycled and remixed in various ways to create something that appears original. Searching is a great example of a film that takes something that we’ve all seen before and tells the story in a very different way to make it feel unique. The gimmick of telling the story through phone and computer screens works really well as a way to move the plot forward and is surprisingly gripping throughout. There’s a strong message about how much of our lives can be found online and how that does or doesn’t define us as people. John Cho’s David learns a lot about his daughter as well as himself through exploring her social media accounts to find clues about her disappearance. It’s constantly compelling and continues to ramp up the urgency throughout.

It is difficult to maintain the narrative progression by only using the screens of various devices and compromises are made by cutting to news reports to move the plot along. It’s understandable that this is necessary though I wonder if there was a better way around it. There are also a few too many coincidences that culminate in an ending that isn’t really earned. Despite the minor flaws this is one of the most creative and fascinating cinema experience you’re likely to have.

1: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-ManI’m a huge Spider-Man fan and won’t deny that I was really hyped for this film. Various trailers set this up as being a beautiful looking and hilarious film with a lot of reverence for the character of Spider-Man. The end result was even better than expected with excellent animation, stellar characterisation and a really well told story that is as expansive as it intimate. Shameik Moore’s Miles Morales is the focus of the film though the various versions of Peter Parker are there to ease audiences into the unfamiliar holder of the Spider-Man identity. It’s all so intricately developed and has a lot of fun with the alternate universe concept. Jack Johnson’s version of Peter Parker has a strong arc that compliments Miles’ really well. The other Spider characters are memorable in their own way with Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacy receiving plenty of development in her own right as well. There’s a strong foundation to expand on these elements and a well told origin story for Miles who is unquestionably the protagonist. The alternate universe idea only serves as a reminder of the message that anyone has the potential to be a hero and that it isn’t the powers that made Peter Parker everything Spider-Man represents. It’s strong and well told.

As with many superhero movies this one suffers from a villain problem. Liev Schreiber’s Wilson Fisk feels extraneous as one of the other villains could have accomplished the same thing just as well. It would have been so easy for this film to be terrible based on everything it throws at the screen but it establishes its own identity, has a great sense of humour and respects the character of Spider-Man. It’s a great film for fans of the character as well as newcomers who are interested in all that the various versions have to offer.

2018 was a strong year for Kneel Before Blog. We continued our coverage of many comic book TV shows, once again participated in a panel at Edinburgh Comic-Con, covered the Edinburgh International Film Festival and reached a personal milestone of 100 Podcasts. The latter was recorded live over the course of one evening and is available for your listening pleasure. For 2019 there are no specific goals as such but the aim is to continue on as we have up until this point. Happy New Year and a big thank you from all of us for the support we have received.

Here endeth my list of the best films released in 2018. Feel free to comment with your favourites/least favourites. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up.

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