Before we get to the list, here are some stuff to note:
- This article is written based on the Malaysian movie listings. In other words, Widows, Creed 2, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, etc aren’t out in cinemas yet. (On the flip side, we Malaysians do get movies of various languages and countries from around the world.)
- Some of the movies on this list may make you go, “Bruh! Those movies were released in 2017! Check IMDb you idiot.” Again, this list is based on the MALAYSIAN movie listings.
- I did not catch every single movie that was out in 2018 – that feat would be very much impossible, yes, even for someone who has no life and no friends. So, I’m sorry if an indie film from Uzbekistan or Pluto did not make it on this list.
- These are not my movie reviews. Therefore, I am not going to analyse each movie in depth, but rather write random thoughts that pop into my head regarding my favourite movies of the year. (I will link my in-depth reviews below).
- Art-House purists, get your pitchforks (or keyboards) ready cause you’re not going to be happy with what you’re about to see.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the top 15 best movies of 2018! But first some honorable mentions.
- Crazy Rich Asians
- Avengers: Infinity War
- One Two Jaga (Malaysia)
- Battle of the Sexes
- First Man
- Incredibles 2
- Roma (Mexico) — Netflix Original
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs — Netflix Original
- A Star is Born
- Annihilation — Netflix in countries outside of the US.
15. Revenge (France) — wide release on Netflix
This is the only film on the list that I have yet to review and that’s because I literally just watched it a couple of hours before working on this list. So maybe in time, after rewatching it and thinking about it more, it will place higher. But for now, I will say this: Revenge is a captivating, beautifully shot film that makes other rape-revenge films look like lame losers. It’s thrilling, violent, haunting and has kickass action scenes (the engrossing final action sequence that takes place in a house is one of the best of the year). It’s also a commentary on this genre, that are often directed by men. Here, the gaze is female (its helmed by debutante Coralie Fargeat).
We have a lot of badass female characters in cinema this year. From Chandra in Vada Chennai and Evelyn Abbott in A Quiet Place to Mera in Aquaman and everybody in Black Panther. But none are as ferociously badass and fiercely sexy as Matilda Lutz’s Jen in Revenge. Next to her, John Rambo looks like my preschool teacher.
14. Deadpool 2
Just like the original, this movie is all about ass-kicking, kicking ass, double katanas and F-bombs and crass fourth wall breaking humour. Did I mention ass-whooping? Cause there’s a lot of that too. But here, the writers exercise restraint. As a result, we have a more wholesome movie with a lot more room to breathe. And at the core of this grotesque violent R-rated comedy, is a love story, tragic, beautiful and emotionally moving. It’s not too often we see comedy sequels that outdo their original counterparts, but Deadpool 2 succeeds in exactly that.
13. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Into the Spider-Verse slapped me in the face, karate kicked my stupid ass, shoved me into my seat and said, “shut up and sit down loser. I’m about to show you what’s up!” This isn’t a movie, it’s a unique experience. Game over. If it doesn’t WIN (not just get nominated, but win) Best Animated Feature at the Oscars then it’s just further proof that those old farts at The Academy need to get laid. The way the colours pop, the way the characters move, man, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. If you’re a comic book fan, this will give you goosebumps for days — FOR DAYS — and if you’re not, then buddy, you’re about to be. And underneath of all that, a truly personal story about Miles Morales, an afro-latin teenager that picks up the Spidey mantle after the death of Peter Parker.
12. Mission: Impossible — Fallout
Look buddy, if you’re in search of a film with deep and weighty character exploration, you won’t find it here. But if you’re looking for the best fucking pure action flick in a long time, then step right in cause Mission: Impossible — Fallout is absolutely RIDICULOUS.
This movie has it all. Fights in toilets, fights in hidden tunnels, fights ON cliffs, fights in helicopters. There is one scene where Tom Cruise runs and jumps and catches a rope that’s attached to a moving chopper, climbs up, falls down, climbs up again, beats the shit out of two men, takes control of the vehicle and then holy shit it’s madness I tell ya! We also have car and motorcycle chase sequences that are masterfully shot. And if all those aren’t enough to get your adrenaline pumping, at one point, the 56-year-old Tom Cruise does a HALO jump without a stunt double, at which point my buttocks were clenched so tight, it needed an oxygen mask by the end of it.
Oh, I can already hear people screaming at their screens and whacking the alphabets on their keyboard furiously. You read that right! Aquaman made the list but not Avengers: Infinity War. Yes, I’m being perfectly honest. No, I can’t promise you that I have above average IQ. While there’s no denying that the third act of Infinity War is one of mankind’s greatest creations, Aquaman is a far more balanced movie from start to finish.
Who would’ve thought that the man who’s known for his meticulously crafted horror affairs (Saw, The Conjuring, Insidious) also has a great sense of epic sweep and scope? Not only is Aquaman a damn good superhero movie, it’s also the sprawling fantasy and fist-pumping adventure we’ve been waiting for all year long, maybe longer. It’s also the best IMAX experience of the year.
10. Kaala (India – Tamil)
Kaala reminds me a lot of Black Panther (a movie you will find later on this list). Just like Black Panther, Kaala is larger than life and exist squarely in the mainstream. It too is a movie about a superhero, or more accurately, pseudo superhero? — I mean the Rajinikanth character, Kaala is able to take on tens of men single handedly and send them flying in the air with a mere fist to the gut. Black Panther is a fantasy-comic book movie; Kaala is a mass-masala, fully equipped with hero entry sequences in slow-motion and edgy dance numbers. And just like Black Panther, it’s also a film that transcends its genre and tells a deeper story. It too is a film about blackness (Kaala translates to ‘black’) and oppression.
Here, in his second collaboration with Superstar Rajinikanth, director Pa Ranjith crafts a far more engrossing picture than the mediocre and bland Kabali. Kaala is a political movie centred around the caste system that is still deep-rooted in Indian culture. Ranjith also ingeniously combines that with an interesting look at the Ramayana and Ravana biblical story. A deconstruction if you will. What if the light-skinned Ram is actually a racist? In this movie, Kaala, the hero, is dark skinned and only dons black (and occasionally blue), while the elitist villain only dons white. But it isn’t just the story, it’s the storytelling — exciting and emotionally moving.
This would’ve been much, much higher on the list had it not been for the insufferably cringeworthy, completely unnecessary 15-minute romance sequence between Kaala and Zareena which bogs the movie down.
9. Molly’s Game
I was a little anxious heading into this one. Aaron Sorkin is a Godly writer, but sitting in the director’s chair is a completely different ball game altogether. Within the first couple of minutes though, my worry dissolved. He’s no Fincher, but Molly’s Game is as cinematic as it gets.
If you’re looking for a hyper-realistic retelling of Molly Bloom’s journey, then this movie isn’t for you. There’s a fantastical aspect of all of Sorkin’s scripts. He doesn’t just tell stories about smart people. In his movies, ‘smart’ feels like a superpower, where the dialogues are rat-a-tat, quick fire and poetic. Characters give out a vibe that their favourite category on Red Tube is ‘thesaurus.’ Nobody talks like that in real life. But who cares? This Aaron Sorkin film is riveting.
Interestingly enough, at the start of the year, I would’ve predicted that this movie would crack the top 5 or top 7 at least.
Easily 2018’s most interesting film. Searching is a film that plays out entirely on computer screens, streaming-video footage, cellphone cameras and iMessage text bubbles. That is what we see. That is all we see. But it isn’t just a gimmick. It makes sense, playing as a wicked satire on the unique, digital age we live in right now.
It is also a smart, arresting and absolutely stirring whodunit-thriller, one that will keep your eyes glued to the screen, enraptured by the proceedings and analysing every single frame as it goes along. Debutant Indian-American director Aneesh Chaganty proves that he’s a director we should keep our eyes on moving forward.
7. The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is Del Toro’s best work since Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s not as bombastic as Blade II, Hellboy or Pacific Rim, but it is in a smaller sandbox does del Toro truly thrive. The premise is simple but executed with such conviction and confidence.
A simple tale about a woman who falls in love with an alien. But underneath its simplicity, is a narrative that fights bigotry head on, without hitting you on the head. This is a film about the freedom to be who you are and love who you love. It highlights the purity of compassion and empathy. The alien represents the minority and the oppressed, whether it’s sexual orientation or the colour of your skin.
6. Lady Bird
The story isn’t something we’ve never seen or heard before. But Greta Gerwig’s distinct style and storytelling is gripping. Gerwig handles the material with such flair and confidence, that it’s hard to believe that it’s her directorial debut. By the end of it, I was emotionally overwhelmed. What a beautiful film, my favourite out the 2018 Oscar nominated movies.
Here, Greta Gerwig breaks down her lead character to her bare bones and explores her mindset and emotional state during a particular time period. It is raw, realistic and moving. Most coming of age movies are either feel good or hard comedies. Lady Bird is earnest and pure. But I’ll be damned if don’t praise the humour, as well. Lady Bird is a celebration of the fiery youth spirit!
And now we get to the best of the best of the best. The top 5 best films of 2018! *Drum roll*
5. The Hate U Give
THUG LIFE: The Hate U Give Little Infants, Fucks Everybody.
We often see black oppression films told from the perspective of adults. The Hate U Give is a unique film about racism, oppression and more importantly, IDENTITY, told from the perspective of a modern middle-class teenager. It’s a film that perhaps more than any other film this year, struck a personal chord with me. (You can check out my review to find out why.)
I love this film for its importance. I also love it as a movie. This is a character driven drama that is gripping, emotionally moving (I broke into tears many times), haunting and thrilling. It’s a damn shame that this George Tillman Jr film isn’t getting any love in the awards circuit. A damn shame I tell you!
4. Pariyerum Perumal (India – Tamil)
2018’s most difficult film to stomach (if you think A Star is Born is a tough pill to swallow, you ain’t seen nothing yet) that thankfully leaves you inspired and hopeful. This is a film, that just like Kaala, is about fighting caste based oppression. But unlike the Pa Ranjith film, Mari Selvaraj’s Pariyerum Perumal doesn’t exist in the mainstream. It’s not a commercial bank breaker.
This is a truly personal letter. The kind where certain words are smudged due to the tears trickling down the writer’s cheek and onto the paper as he pours his soul out. This is both an introspective and an interrogative film. A character study and a study of society. It is wonderfully penned (also by Mari Selvaraj) and masterfully helmed. It also has one of the best, most emotionally harrowing opening sequences to a film I have ever seen and a powerful final frame that will leave you pondering for days.
3. A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place is merciless with its thrills and offered one of the more unique cinematic experiences in recent memory: Absolute silence. I know, it’s a cinema, not a friggin’ night market. And cinemas are typically quiet. But even so, more often than not, you will hear the sound of the shuffling of feet, the occasional whispers, the crunch of popcorn or the slurps of someone trying to drain the last drops of Pepsi at the bottom of their paper cup. Not at A Quiet Place, though. This was different. You’ll find yourself whispering in fear even after leaving the cinema.
For the most part, A Quiet Place plays like a silent film, with little to no dialogue. It is crafted with, at times Hitchcockian detail, that it feels like it’s helmed by a veteran of this genre, not someone who directed three episodes of The Office. WTF John Krasinski?! The sound design here so good that I could literally feel Krasinski and his sound designer’s erect penis prodding my ears. A Quiet Place is one of, if not the best horror movie of the past few years. Definitely the most inventive.
2. Black Panther
There’s no hiding the fact that I’m a huge fan of the geeky side of cinema. Whether it’s Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, comic book movies, I live and breathe all of it. And Black Panther is one of the best this genre has to offer. Black Panther isn’t just a good Marvel movie, it isn’t just a superb comic book movie — one of the best I might add — it is a great movie. Period. This is another comic book movie, just like Wonder Woman and Logan last year, and The Dark Knight before that, that prove that ‘comic book’ isn’t a genre, but a form.
This is an epic war film; It is a heartbreaking family drama; At times it is a James Bond-esque espionage. This is a film that empowers women, just as much as Wonder Woman did; A film with heavy sociopolitical themes (if you don’t like politics in films, maybe this isn’t for you. Also, grow up and stop being a baby). This is a film that is unabashedly black. And I love it, very very much.
1. Vada Chennai (India – Tamil)
Before I talk about the film, let me first say that the trailer for this film is average at best and does not in any shape or form resemble the final product. I say this because I know a lot of you probably have not watched Vada Chennai and may watch the trailer immediately upon reading this list.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about this bloody brilliant motion picture.
Here Vetri Maaran has penned a screenplay that is just as smart as it is utterly intoxicating. The film is constructed in such a nonlinear way that you’re constantly on your toes. The various plot threads rhyme like poetry. Past, present, future and the multitude of characters are woven together seamlessly. Vetri Maaran’s attention to detail is on another level altogether where even the game of carrom is a character… and a metaphor.
Billed by the director as his dream project, the gangster epic, Vada Chennai was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. And after watching it multiple times, I can confidently say that this truly is an achievement in cinema. A first viewing may not make that clear. There is a lot to absorb, digest and process. But this is a film that gets better and better with multiple examinations, each offering something new. This is an inspired piece of storytelling littered with great actors embodying wonderfully written, raw characters. An absorbing work of art. An absolute masterpiece of a motion picture! Vada Chennai is the reason why I go to the movies.
Happy new year everybody! Here’s to another great year of movies ahead in 2019.