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TMW's 50 Best Movies Of 2018

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Whether released in cinemas or heading straight to streaming services, 2018 was another impressive year for movies, making it difficult to narrow down our Top 50 once again.

As you've probably come to expect, our list features a new movie from Hirokazu Koreeda, actually make that two new films from the Japanese auteur. Netflix make their first real impact on our annual roundup with four of their originals making the 50. It was also a strong year for women directed fare, with three of the films in the top 10 coming from female filmmakers.

Without further ado, here is The Movie Waffler's Top 50 movies of 2018!


50. Lifechanger
lifechanger movie
We said: It's the latest North American indie horror that, like Beyond the Gates and Sequence Break, isn't concerned so much with being scary as being sad, soulful and even sweet, and it may make you question the various guises you adopt to negotiate your own way through life. Chicken soup for the horror fan's soul.




49. Tehran Taboo
tehran taboo
We said: Tehran Taboo often resembles a hipper, more streetwise cousin of the work of Iran's rebellious filmmaking figurehead, Jafar Panahi. It tells a story that will and should induce outrage from any liberal minded viewer, but it does so in a wry and often witty fashion, and some of the sexual double standards on display are so ludicrous that you simply have to laugh.




48. Columbus
columbus movie
We said: In cinema, modernist architecture has often been used to suggest oppression and failed utopias, but with Columbus, Kogonada reclaims the original idealistic intent of its architects. While visually overwhelming Kogonada's protagonists, the architecture of Columbus ultimately proves a positive influence, its studied, logical lines providing a path to redemption.




47. Summer 1993
summer 1993
We said: The horror sub-genre known as body-horror has often employed allegories for AIDS, from Jeff Goldblum's physically deteriorating scientist in The Fly to the alien parasite transmitting itself between human hosts in The Thing. Summer 1993 turns the tables, giving us a reality based AIDS drama that often plays like a body-horror movie in grounded surroundings.




46. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
We said: For fans of genre cinema hungry for a fresh take on old tropes, Mouly Surya's film offers something new - a rape revenge narrative in which the victim becomes the target of vengeance rather than the perpetrator, and one which makes some daring observations on the struggles of women in second world societies while proving entertaining throughout.




45. Roma
roma netflix
We said: Alfonso Cuarón has always pushed the technical boundaries of cinema with his films, so don't be fooled by the relatively low key nature of Roma's drama - this is his most cinematic endeavour, a true spectacle that finds visual magic in the everyday.




44. Knife + Heart
knife + heart
We said: Where several recent movies have channelled the look of '70s exploitation cinema, few have captured their scuzziness in quite the same way as Knife + Heart. It's a sleazy, sadistic movie that genuinely feels like the product of a less sensitive time.




43. The Guilty
the guilty movie
We said: Director Gustav Möller and co-screenwriter Emil Nygaard Albertsen spin out their twisty tale in expert fashion, feeding both their protagonist and the audience enough details to fool both into believing they have a grasp on the scenario, only to pepper the plotline with twists that keep us guessing as to the true nature of the unfolding drama.




42. Sadie
sadie movie
We said: Newcomer Sophia Mitri Schloss is a revelation in the title role. We immediately warm to her, sympathising with her longing for her family to be reunited, and even when her desire to protect her father's honour leads her down a dark path it's impossible to view her solely as a villain.




41. A Fantastic Woman
a fantastic woman
We said: It's a film that inspires outrage from its audience at the treatment of its protagonist, but it never asks us to pity her. Strong and defiant throughout, if brittle within, Marina is a figure of inspiration, and you don't leave the film feeling sorry for her, rather you exit wishing you had an ounce of her fortitude.




40. Madeline's Madeline
Madeline's Madeline
We said: Experimental with a capital 'E', Madeline's Madeline may well prove a frustrating watch for many casual viewers, but for anyone with an interest in the creative process and the narcissism that often goes along with that process, it's a fascinating and rewarding experience.




39. Sequence Break
Sequence Break movie
We said: While Ready Player One goes easy on its primary audience of pop culture obsessives, Sequence Break is far more scornful, like Rod Serling has come back from the grave to tell the young men of today to get a life, put the joypad down and call up that nice girl you like. Or as the film tells it, look between the ones and zeros.




38. Revenge
revenge 2018 movie
We said: To director Coralie Fargeat, the male audience for such seemingly regressive fare would seem akin to a sleeping bear, and she's determined to poke it with a stick until it growls in admission that yes, rape-revenge movies are sick and twisted in their concept, but (lowers voice to a whisper) they can also be a lot of fun.




37. Thoroughbreds
thoroughbreds movie
We said: It's a movie that follows a tried and trusted formula - take two talented actresses, provide them with a worthwhile script, and find interesting but meaningful ways to shoot their interactions. It sounds simple, and Finley, Cooke and Taylor-Joy certainly make it look simple, but it takes real talent to make a movie that feels as effortlessly composed as Thoroughbreds.




36. Funny Story
funny story 2018 movie
We said: By the bittersweet end, which sees our characters set adrift by the decisive events of the movie, you may not know whether to laugh or cry, but Funny Story will have passed the test of not only being a good movie, but one that is honest, thoughtful and moving too.




35. Michael Inside
michael inside
We said: Director Frank Berry shoots his film's prison sequences like a horror movie, making effective use of the empty space in his widescreen frame. Following Michael as he negotiates the treacherous prison corridors is akin to watching some candle-wielding gothic horror heroine explore a haunted house, the threat of violence ready to pounce at any moment.




34. Sink
sink 2018 movie
We said: Sink's premise may sound like that of a hundred other low budget British dramas, but writer/director Mark Gillis confounds expectations at every turn, twisting the well-worn tropes of gritty British kitchen sink cinema to deliver one of the most genuine and heartfelt portrayals of working class life I've ever seen.





33. Creed II
creed ii
We said: Creed II is essentially a father/son story, and as such it's packed with tearjerking moments that will have grown men reaching for their hankies. The final fight has so much riding on it emotionally, both in and out of the ring, that it really puts you through the ringer, yet somewhat subversively, the film doesn't simply set up an easy hero/villain dynamic, as both Adonis and Viktor are fighting for the same reason, the pride of the names they inherited from their fathers.




32. Pyewacket
pyewacket
We said: The female stars of horror are often dismissed as having little more to do but scream and look pretty, and to be fair, in a lot of bad horror movies that's all that's asked of them. The good horror movies present their female stars with challenging roles that really test their acting chops, placing heavy demands on their ability to visually convey a variety of moods and states of mind. Pyewacket is one of those good horror movies.




31. Wonderstruck
wonderstruck film
We said: Go into Wonderstruck looking for a compelling story and you may find yourself frustrated. Go in for a sensory experience and you'll find yourself...well, the title says it all.




30. Beast
beast 2018 film
We said: Beast is one of the most gripping dramas of 2018, and one hell of a calling card for its first time director.




29. First Man
first man movie
We said: With space travel portrayed in numerous movies by some of the most talented of filmmakers, director Damien Chazelle faced a tough task of making his sequences stand out, but no previous movie has conveyed just how scary it is to be shot into space inside a tin can.




28. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
We said: All six tales share a common moral - "life is not easy, death the only certainty, and the hand of fate can strike at any time, in any way." The Coens approach this notion from a different tonal and thematic position in each tale, though always with eccentric humour and a bittersweet perspective.




27. Climax
climax 2018 movie
We said: Gaspar Noé has nailed that feeling of shutting yourself in a bathroom as you suffer a bad trip, the throbbing bass pouring in from a distant dancefloor threatening to drive you insane.




26. I Feel Good
i feel good 2018 movie
We said: A hilarious series of comic vignettes that will have you regularly doubled over in your seat. In terms of its gags per minute ratio, it might be the most laugh-laden film since the 1980s heyday of the Zucker Brothers.




25. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
We said: At 56 (only a year younger than the late Roger Moore was during the filming of A View to a Kill), how many more of these movies can Tom Cruise possibly have in him? I wouldn't bet against the Cruiser making us gasp well into his sixties, and if he can continue to entertain us with his unique Elvis meets Jackie Chan charisma, we'll be with him all the way.




24. American Animals
American Animals film
We said: Despite knowing the fate of the film's protagonists, you'll find your nails digging into your cinema seat as Layton pulls off relatively low-key but remarkably tense set-pieces.




23. Shoplifters
shoplifters
We said: Shoplifters plays like a greatest hits of Kore-eda's career, developing and deconstructing themes he's explored before, and for most of its running time it's right up there with the best of his work.




22. Lucky
lucky harry dean stanton
We said: This is Harry Dean Stanton's party, and it's as fitting a farewell to an unassuming screen legend as you could hope for.




21. At War
at war 2018 film
We said: At War asks us how far we might be willing to go to ensure not just our own economic safety, but that of generations to come in the face of an increasingly globalised industrial landscape.




20. School's Out
school's out 2018 film
We said: Presents us with an ambiguous picture of the self-destructive behaviour which might be engendered in highly-intelligent youngsters when they examine the state of the world and conclude that there is no hope.




19. Sweet Country
sweet country
We said: Sweet Country is so blunt in its depiction of racial bigotry that it hammers home just how safe most modern American movies depicting racism play their drama. Writer/director Warwick Thornton, of aboriginal descent himself, doesn't give a damn if his movie upsets white viewers, and he gives us images here no American would dare, and crucially, he gives agency to his blackfella lead.




18. A Quiet Place
a quiet place
We said: A Quiet Place may be headlined by one of Hollywood's biggest stars, but it's a b-movie of the best kind, one that gets into its advertised premise quickly, does its job of inching the viewer closer and closer to the edge of their seat, and gets out without a fuss, leaving us thirsty for more adventures in its world, and more from its talented director.




17. Outside In
outside in film
We said: Outside In is the latest in a recent wave of great women directed movies, and it's another one that makes a mockery of the reductive Bechdel Test, a metric it fails while giving us a couple of the most well rendered women we'll see on screen in 2018 in Carol and Hildy.




16. You Were Never Really Here
You Were Never Really Here
We said: In You Were Never Really Here, Ramsay has managed to translate her singular vision into a complex, but compelling, feature film.




15. Sicario 2: Soldado
Sicario 2: Soldado
We said: It's a timely release for a movie about the US authorities kidnapping a Mexican child, and amid all the self-righteous and unironic crowing about Russian meddling in US affairs, it's a reminder that America has no qualms whatsoever about interfering in the affairs of foreign nations.




14. If Beale Street Could Talk
If Beale Street Could Talk
We said: If Beale Street Could Talk is about people stuck in a horrific situation, but never feeling sorry for themselves, carrying hope in their hearts and finding beauty wherever they can.




13. The Square
The Square film
We said: The Square is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and you’ll feel both wiser and a little bit more pleasantly insane after watching it.




12. Utøya: July 22
Utøya: July 22
We said: Utøya-July 22 isn't an easy watch, but I believe it's an essential one.




11. 1985
1985 yen tan movie
We said: Many recent movies have appropriated 1980s settings to evoke cheap nostalgia, but there's nothing sentimental about director Yen Tan's adoption of the era.





10. The Wild Pear Tree
The Wild Pear Tree film
We said: Some of the conversations seem to stretch on endlessly, but they're never less than compelling. Ceylan's film is a Wrestlemania for lovers of great dialogue, offering us a card packed with riveting bouts between actors who must truly cherish the gift of such substantial material.




9. The Other Side of the Wind
The Other Side of the Wind
We said: By presenting the party as seen through the lens of various cameraman, Welles seems to have accidentally invented the found footage genre a full decade before Cannibal Holocaust. Of course, as this is Orson Welles, the footage rarely looks accidental, and even when cameras are shaking and out of focus, there's hardly a shot that isn't visually dynamic.




8. Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace
We said: There's something undoubtedly affecting about the complete lack of cynicism on display in a film that could have come off a lot angrier in the hands of a less humanistic filmmaker.




7. Western
western 2018 film
We said: Cinema tends to favour romantic relationships over their platonic equivalent, arguably because they're easier to convey. The simple but essential notion of friendship has gone relatively unexplored on screen by comparison, but Western is a compelling tribute to our ability to find a soulful connection that transcends the obstacles of language and culture.




6. The Third Murder
The Third Murder
We said: The Third Murder is a film about the nature of storytelling, and how we often believe a story simply because we want it to be true. It's Kore-eda's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.




5. Videoman
Videoman
We said: Writer/director Kristian A. Söderström's Videoman will likely give genre fans of a certain vintage that warm nostalgic glow, but it's also a considered examination of the dangers of clinging onto the past.




4. Golden Exits
Golden Exits
We said: The magnum opus of Alex Ross Perry's still relatively burgeoning career, Golden Exits is a film about ordinary people who don't really do anything, and watching their inaction is as beguiling as cinema gets.




3. Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread
We said: Despite its heady exploration of how awful people can be for each other, Phantom Thread is an undeniably romantic yarn, one which never judges its protagonists for their extreme behaviour towards each other, and ultimately it leaves us content in the knowledge that two difficult but fascinating and compelling characters have found their equal.




2. The Rider
The Rider
We said: A loving tribute to the sort of rural folk American media tends to portray with condescension at best, contempt at worst.




1. First Reformed
First Reformed
We said: With his latest and perhaps greatest film, Paul Schrader combines his dual passions of cinema and theology to deliver a movie that will provide food for thought for cinephiles and seminarians alike.




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