Best of 2018: Top 10 Movies

We’re here at the end already – 2018 is a wrap! I thank you once again for reading – This has been an exhausting but hugely rewarding fortnight of opportunistic writing and the engagement I’ve seen has helped make it all worthwhile. On to the final list.

We return to a Top 10 format for movies – the default I would usually prefer to have. I saw just over twice that amount in the cinemas this year, so fewer than in 2017 but still much more than some years I’ve made myself form a Top 10. I’m pretty happy with this list, as despite its rather heavy comic book movie flavour I feel like it effectively filters out all the so-so movies that I otherwise might have felt a bit iffy about including (most of them from the first half of the year). Not being able to see any of the Boxing Day movies in time sucks, but what can you do. Please enjoy this final list of 2018!

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VR BEST OF 2018 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s odd, but let’s have a beer. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. Deadpool 2

Comedy movie sequels tend to have spotty track records – though comic movie sequels usually fare a bit better – so Deadpool 2 was up against it from the start. Luckily, the decision to put the vastly increased budget this time around towards a flood of fun new characters and much bigger action beats helps distract from the slight staleness of the central joke that fuels the lead character’s appeal. With a host of enthusiastic performances and at least three standout scenes (the air drop, the truck chase and the post-credits), Deadpool 2 is a worthwhile second outing for Ryan Reynolds’ fever dream.

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9. Black Panther

The CG is often bafflingly poor, there isn’t much in the way of satisfying action and the actual Panther is rather dull, but Black Panther tells a tale backed by heavy, relevant themes, positively shines in the production design department and sets a new standard for fleshed-out superhero movie supporting casts. From resourceful heroines to belligerent potential allies to two of the best villains Marvel Studios has ever presented, this worldwide smash-hit and Hollywood representation landmark has already carved an indelible mark on the MCU. Also the musical score is incredible.

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8. Bad Times at the El Royale

This one could have been really great, especially considering the personnel involved. It’s still very good. Bad Times at the El Royale doesn’t quite commit all the way to being a Tarantino homage despite plenty of Quentin’s hallmarks present and accounted for – long uninterrupted conversations, sudden explosions of violence, a funky retro soundtrack – They’re all there but don’t quite gel together in the way the trailers might sell. After all, Drew Goddard and co are more interested in a cinematic cocktail that’s one part mystery, two parts deliberate 1960s-allegory shotgun blast. When the twists do come they hit hard, but the movie is at its best when it is reminding us of the ugliest parts of the American ’60s.
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7. Annihilation

On one hand, Annihilation is a hard sell of a film with an attitude to catharsis coming from the same school as 2001: A Space Odyssey, not to mention a climactic scene that would not have been out of place in that Kubrick classic. It doesn’t care if it satisfies you on a narrative level. It just wants to make you think, and then feel. Luckily it’s stuffed with great performances and stunningly unique visuals. This kind of unbridled creative typhoon probably could not have been unleashed from the mind of Alex Garland (of Ex Machina fame) if it wasn’t bankrolled by Netflix. But it was, so you can simply switch apps and watch it right after reading this if you want.

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6. Searching

The guy most people probably still know as one half of Harold & Kumar shows he is capable of holding up a dramatic thriller with just a single static camera on him in Searching, which is a cold blast of fresh air in many other ways too. Though not the first film to attempt to tell a story purely within the confines of a computer screen, it is the first to tell one this sad, with a narrative this complex. Though it is not a horror movie (thanks marketing people), Searching‘s central mystery is still a heart-in-mouth thrill ride with a box of nostalgic sucker-punches up its sleeve. If stuff about family relationship dynamics tends to get to you, best have a box of tissues ready for the opening sequence and the closing shot.

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5. Avengers: Infinity War

The term “cinematic achievement” doesn’t get thrown around with actual weight behind it all that often nowadays, but Marvel Studios now gets to own the label twice this decade because, following the industry-changing first Avengers movie six years ago, the gigantic Disney-owned team has managed to pull off an even crazier bunch of first-meetings and team-ups between beloved characters from its sprawling roster. This should not work, but throw in the MCU’s most imposing and impressive villain ever, some real stakes, and a crucially near-perfect screenwriting balance between unbearable stress and character-driven hilarity, and yes, you have a cinematic achievement of note.

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4. Upgrade

I’d say this was the better version of Venom in 2018, but I actually quite enjoyed Venom (despite it not making this list) and despite their meme-friendly similarities at first glance – both are films about sentient foreign entities inhabiting a male human host, improving his abilities and co-operating with him – Upgrade goes in a very different direction to the cheesy Spider-man spinoff. I won’t spoil that direction, but suffice to say this neat Australian-American collaborative effort directed by the guy who wrote Saw and a bunch of Insidious entries is rather keen to pursue cool things with its premise. What’s more, the action is gritty and well-shot, the performances are memorable and the world makes me want a sequel that probably isn’t happening. Alas.

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3. Crazy Rich Asians

It’s one thing to make headlines with your record-breaking all-Asian cast, but it’s another to take an ostensibly cookie-cutter romantic comedy plot structure and infuse it with this much scale and heart. I struggle to think of another non-action film that revels this much in its scenery and locales. It truly feels like an expensive Event Movie, which gives it a leg up on other movies like it in the memorability stakes. It’s riotously funny, with its humour coming from multiple reliable sources. It has a delightfully gimmicky soundtrack composed almost entirely of Mandarin covers of famous Western pop songs. And yes, it’s about family, so it made me tear up and was always going to rank highly, but I can’t have two years in a row of sentimentality dictating my number one slot, so…

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2. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

Wow. This one came out of the blue a little bit. I figured a cinematic release of its kind might be decent but this movie may just have changed how Hollywood and audiences alike view animated superhero movies. It has certainly done so for me. Every double-lingering frame of this insanely stylish film is saturated with rich visual information that serves its world(s) and characters – so much so that it took me a good ten minutes to get my eyes adjusted to the way it moves. After that – with the brief exception of a sudden handbrake turn into ad-friendly jargon – Into the Spiderverse is a funny, tragic, extremely cool explosion of colour with a great voice cast, fun character reveals and a killer soundtrack. It’s not only better than it had any right to be, it’s one of the best comic book movies ever made.

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1. Mission Impossible: Fallout

I had to fight with myself to keep this movie at the peak of my list, where it kind of ended up by default. It is, after all, easy to write the Mission Impossible films off as “just action movies”. But not only have well-made straightforward action movies become increasingly rare in recent years, the sixth Mission Impossible adventure is not really all that straightforward. It’s easily the most grounded in real life of all the action films on this page, but the script’s penchant for unmaskings, callbacks, verbose double-crossings and the odd dream sequence keep movie number six feeling very much like a classic Mission Impossible joint – which is to say it’s utterly ludicrous.

Of course that only serves to keep things extremely entertaining when you aren’t watching some of the best practical action sequences of the decade play out on screen. Unsung writer-director Chris McQuarrie’s vision for the MI franchise appears to be holistically excellent, taking Ethan Hunt and his pals on a thrill ride that keeps them guessing and defines what makes them tick more clearly than ever before. Ultimately at this point in 2018 this is a movie I find pretty hard to fault, so it’s more than just the best thing to come out this year with Fallout in the title – Mission Impossible: Fallout is my favourite movie of 2018.

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Honorable Mentions
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The Incredibles 2

It doesn’t hold a candle to Toy Story 2 but The Incredibles 2 joins the likes of Finding Dory and Monsters University in the realm of solid Pixar sequels I would easily watch again. And let’s not forget that pre-feature short film, which happens to go nicely alongside Searching and Crazy Rich Asians as a family-themed 2018 eye-destroyer.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Rami Malek is a good 60% of the reason this movie works, as his affectations in the role of the late great Freddie Mercury are appropriately magnetic and impossible not to watch. Queen’s legendary and endearing music does a lot of the rest of the work, even if it would’ve been nice to see a bit more about how it was created during the band’s early years.

Rampage

Yes it’s simplistic and cliched, but thanks to Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Naomi Harris Rampage doesn’t have to rely on The Rock for all of its human charisma and that goes a long way – as do the really cool giant mutated animal shots, to be fair. This is probably the best video game movie adaptation yet – Tell me I’m wrong.

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