The 20 best films released in 2018

From Black Panther to A Star Is Born, our list of the very best movies released in 2018

Lady Bird
The votes are in, the ballots counted. The time has come to pick the 20 best films of 2018, as selected by Time Out’s team of dedicated film critics. Does Alfonso Cuarón’s stirring drama Roma make the cut? Could Black Panther power on to the list? Did Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s updated take on A Star Is Born cut the mustard? And was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri really released this year? (Spoiler: yes, yes, yes, and we know, right? Feels like ages ago.)

Without further ado, here’s our pick of the 20 best films released in the UK during 2018.
20. A Star Is Born

20. A Star Is Born

Bradley Cooper directs and stars in this well-trodden fable about fame, recruiting a surprisingly unassuming Lady Gaga as his foil and love interest. She delivers one of this year’s most nuanced performances, as well as co-writing the film’s inescapable soundtrack. Oscars will surely follow. Possibly most of them.

19. Suspiria

19. Suspiria

Fans of Call Me by Your Name had every reason to expect sexiness from Luca Guadagnino’s update of the 1977 Italian witches’ brew. But no one was anticipating this elegant top-to-bottom revision, one that recasts the supernatural in the context of Nazi atrocities, sweaty modern-dance moves and hot-blooded female potency. If people insist on remaking classic horror films, they should all be this thoughtful and challenging.

18. First Man

18. First Man

Forget the bad-faith controversy surrounding the number of American flags planted in La La Land wunderkind Damien Chazelle’s intimate epic: He’s on to something more soulful. His intimate Neil Armstrong story mines a pride born out of smarts, imagination and competence. It’s the right stuff that should fuel true patriotism.

17. American Animals

17. American Animals

Brit director Bart Layton impressed just about everyone with his ace 2012 doc The Imposter. Just when we were beginning to wonder what had happened to him, he returned with one of the year’s most daring, playful thrillers. Daring, because it follows four unlikeable kids into a heist they plan purely for the kicks; playful, because at the end, it asks us to question everything we’ve learnt about it. Few labyrinths are this much fun to get trapped in.

16. Leave No Trace

16. Leave No Trace

If the term ‘off the grid’ has you thinking about Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State, this impactful glimpse of hardscrabble America should offer enlightenment. It follows a dad and his daughter as they try to live, unnoticed and unbothered, in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik shows how jarring this simple existence is for mainstream Americans, while Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie are terrific as the pair of survivors.

15. Shoplifters

15. Shoplifters

Japanese giant Kore-Eda Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or for his lovely, melancholy urban fable about poverty and family. It’s set in contemporary Tokyo but could easily be transplanted to Dickensian London, revolving around a surrogate clan who scrape an improvised life together on the margins. With its warm, beating heart and strong sense of social conscience, it feels all too timely.

14. 120 Beats Per Minute

14. 120 Beats Per Minute

The story of a group of direct-action Aids campaigners in the ’80s, this terrific, Paris-set drama takes its inspiration from director Robin Campillo’s own experiences ­– and you can tell. The characters are all three-dimensional, human and deeply relatable, as they fight to make their voices heard to impassive pharma companies. 120 BPM may be embroidered by death and loss, but, memorably, it never forgets to celebrate life.

13. A Quiet Place

13. A Quiet Place

Actor-director John Krasinski’s relentless shocker thrives on a nifty premise: in a post-apocalyptic near future, a family must survive in a world where the slightest sound brings out deadly monsters. With minimal dialogue – characters communicate by sign language, eye contact and whispers – A Quiet Place is pure, bold cinema, its images and creepy sounds working together to scare the bejesus out of you.

12. The Rider

12. The Rider

Sober, thoughtful and beautifully acted by its cast of mainly first-timers, Chloé Zhao’s pastoral drama is one of those films that leaves you in a daze. The Chinese director presents a sun-kissed South Dakotan landscape where dreams go horribly wrong as often as they come true. Its star – real-life cowboy Brady Jandreau – had to pick up the pieces for real when an accident forced him to retire from the rodeo. He reprises that painful journey with the deftness of a veteran actor.

11. Black Panther

11. Black Panther

With its killer Kendrick Lamar soundtrack, eye-popping afrofuturist world and some stupidly charismatic performances, Black Panther is sleek, fast-moving and tons of fun. We walked away wanting to see Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Londoners Letitia Wright and Daniel Kaluuya in another superhero movie as soon as possible – which thanks to the epic Wakandan bits of Avengers: Infinity War, we shortly did.

10. Lady Bird

10. Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan make a mighty double-act in this sharply realised and often hilarious sorta-autobiographical movie set in Gerwig’s hometown of Sacramento. The writer-director, who scored her first Oscar nominations for it, gets the best from Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts too.

9. Loveless

9. Loveless

The kind of harrowing viewing experience that should come with a free hug, Loveless is basically Kramer vs Kramer without all the belly laughs. It follows the disappearance of a 12-year-old Russian boy, Alyosha, and the fallout between his warring parents, and it will break your heart.

8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The first part of the year belonged to the ever-ace Frances McDormand, who won an Oscar for her brilliantly salty turn as a mum who turns to unorthodox means to get justice for her murdered daughter. The tricky blend of big laughs and deep melancholy is executed perfectly by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges).

7. Cold War

7. Cold War

Packing more into 88 minutes than most movies manage into twice that, Paweł Pawlikowski’s black-and-white gem is a treat for doomed romantics everywhere. A rapturous love story spanning years and countries, it also features the best use of ‘Rock Around the Clock’ since The Karate Kid Part II.

6. Mission: Impossible - Fallout

6. Mission: Impossible - Fallout

While other franchises fall by the wayside, Mission: Impossible just seems to go from strength to strength, powered by slick storytelling and Tom Cruise’s willingness to lob himself off tall buildings. It’s the Duracell Bunny of blockbusters – and part six was the best yet.

5. Roma

5. Roma

If there was a grumble over this gorgeous, Netflix-released domestic epic, it’s that more people couldn’t see it on the big screen. On the upside, it’ll be on the streaming site forever. It’ll be worth revisiting too, with director Alfonso Cuarón conjuring heart-shaking emotions.

4. Hereditary

4. Hereditary

This cracking debut from New York director Ari Aster divided horror aficionados, but for our money, it was the scariest film of the year. It was also beautifully crafted, filled with ornate detail and had Toni Collette in career-best form.

3. Phantom Thread

3. Phantom Thread

The film that launched a thousand memes and the phrase ‘just mushroom him’, Paul Thomas Anderson’s tailoring tale is an opulent joy. Daniel Day-Lewis is predictably terrific, but we love Lesley Manville as his formidable sister.

2. Widows

2. Widows

A great year for arthouse directors making genre movies was rounded off with Steve McQueen’s take on a Lynda La Plante mini-series from the ’80s. Viola Davis heads up a posse of steely women in a heist movie with lots to say.

1. You Were Never Really Here

1. You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay’s brilliant thriller may yet evolve from cult fave into fully fledged classic. Like the film it’s been compared with – Taxi Driver – it casts a potent spell, with Joaquin Phoenix to the fore as its PTSD-stricken veteran.

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