From a resurgence of psychological horror to superheroes, it’s been another good year on the big and small screen. In our annual feature, here are our favourite films of 2018

10. SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

Director: Ron Howard

The backstory of Star Wars’ ‘scruffy-looking nerf herder’ was the film that stopped one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises in it tracks. Original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie) were replaced by Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code) due to creative differences. Then the movie flopped at the cinemas, resulting in further Star Wars spin-offs being called off until further notice.

But in true Han Solo ‘never tell me the odds’ fashion – in terms of the quality of the film – it is a gamble that paid off.

The story is a bit of a ‘join the dots’ exercise with lines from the classic trilogy about Han’s past turned into a plot and yet remarkably it is coherent and the ‘seams’ are not obvious connecting Lord and Miller’s work with Howard’s. Alden Ehrenreich has Han’s characteristics and mannerisms down to a tee as the young rogue, although he does not quite have Ford’s charisma.

There is also a lot of fun to be had in how he meets his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and the stylish scoundrel that is Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover on top form).

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9. ISLE OF DOGS

Director: Wes Anderson

The latest film by indie director Wes Anderson is not only worth watching for its stunning stop-motion animation but it is also arguably his funniest movie yet.

The plot centres around a young boy looking for his pooch Spots, after an outbreak of canine flu in Japan leads to all dogs being quarantined on an island.

Along his journey he meets a group of other exiled dogs and the stellar cast, including Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Liev Schreiber and Bill Murray, and smart writing really bring these characters to life.

All the trademarks of an Anderson film are here, from the symmetrical cinematography and delightful visuals to the quirky, eccentric dialogue.

The standout performer is Cranston. The Breaking Bad actor provides a real levity to the film and the development of his character, Chief, is where the heart of the film really shines.

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8. A QUIET PLACE

Director: John Krasinski

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place has such a simple concept – but that is what makes it so brilliant.

It focuses entirely on a family who have managed to survive in a post-apocalyptic America where monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing have all but eradicated mankind.

Krasinski, who also stars in the film, does not muddy the idea with a bloated backstory or even much of an indication of the threat his character’s family is facing.

Instead the story is told through their actions, their silent interactions through sign language and haunted expressions.

This translates into pure Hitchcockian tension with the threat of the monsters more powerful than their actual presence.

For all parents, not being able to protect your family has to be one of the biggest fears and A Quiet Place uses that as a jumping off point with a unique concept.

The film also represents a new wave of recent horror flicks that have risen above convention and an exceptional breakthrough for Krasinski as a filmmaker who until now was actually better known as Jim from the American version of The Office.

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7. THE INCREDIBLES 2

Director: Brad Bird

Every parent is a bit of a superhero.

Juggling the responsibilities of kids with work and family life takes some doing.

Director Brad Bird completely recognises that in the long-awaited animated sequel to Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles. Bird gets the balance just right with a film that parents will enjoy as much as their kids, maybe more so.

In the warm-hearted but action-packed story, the Parrs have all the same pressures and insecurities as any other family unit.

It’s just that in between family meals, homework and the mini dramas of everyday life they happen to wear Spandex and fight crime.

Youngsters will love this immaculately presented adventure but what takes the movie to another level is its sharp dialogue and knowing wit.

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6. THE POST

Director: Steven Spielberg

In the social media era of so-called ‘fake news’, Steven Spielberg’s reminder of the importance of a free press could not have come at a better time.

The Post may be set in the 1970s but its relevance in terms of the fight for truth and justice still rings out. With an all-star cast led by Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, Spielberg shows what was really at stake when The Washington Post exposed the futility of the Vietnam War and a devastating cover-up spanning four US presidents.

When government secrets – 4,000 pages of them – fall into The Washington Post’s hands, editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) and owner Katharine Graham (Streep) must decide whether to risk the paper’s future, their careers and even their freedom if they publish.

Following other compelling investigative newsroom films like All The President’s Men and Spotlight, The Post is as well paced and well written as it is inspiring.

5. THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

Directors: The Coen brothers

There is a debate to be had about Netflix and the pros and cons of releasing movies straight onto a streaming platform that would have otherwise been on the big screen. But no one can doubt the calibre of the filmmakers Netflix is working with, especially after the release of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

The Coen brothers seem to be constantly drawn back to the wild west for their wildly inventive films and this one takes the form of an anthology of six stories.

The episodic structure of the film really suits Ethan Coen and Joel Coen’s style – so between all the tales they manage to incorporate all the signatures of their career.

From comedy to tragedy and from high tension to surreal and soul searching moments, it is all there in six distinct chapters with no weak links. You can also expect all the Coen signature touches so each chapter is beautifully shot and bristling with energy with an immaculate eye for detail.

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4. BLACKKKLANSMAN

Director: Spike Lee

Spike Lee’s true story of police officers infiltrating the KKK is gripping, hilarious and disturbing in equal measure.

The film features stellar performances from the whole cast but especially from John David Washington, Adam Driver and Michael Buscemi.

The script is also one of the year’s strongest as it manages to find and maintain a comedic tone without losing sight of the film’s message and dark subject matter.

But what stands out as one of the cinematic moments of the year is the closing sequence. It is revealing, thought provoking and at the same time truly horrifying.

Watching the film shortly after it arrived in UK cinemas was a special experience.

The frequent bursts of laughter gave way to stunned silence as the story leaves the viewer with so much to digest.

A brilliant soundtrack, gorgeous cinematography and a powerful message all shine through.

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3. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Director: The Russo brothers

For any comic book movie fan, this was the moment we were all waiting for. We have had the in-depth superhero backstories and bruising battles with a host of megalomaniac villains.

But our decade-long investment in Marvel’s cinematic universe has always been leading up to this point – and boy was it worth the wait.

Avengers: Infinity War sees all the various factions in the comic book films coming together in an end-of-the-world sort of scenario.

Everything is at stake in Infinity War with archvillain Thanos (Josh Brolin) on the warpath to collect six ‘Infinity Stones’ in his twisted goal to wipe out half the galaxy’s population to ‘save’ those remaining.

With big ensemble films like this there is the risk it can feel overcrowded but Infinity War overcomes this because there is no baggage – we are already familiar with each character. And although it clocks in around two and a half hours the pacing is even and excitement rarely wanes thanks to some staggering special effects.

The galaxy nervously awaits the conclusion of Infinity War in Endgame next year.

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2. ROMA

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma explores the meaning of family through the eyes of two women who are divided by social class but have more in common than they realise.

Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is a live-in maid for Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and her large family and has become well loved by her many children.

The story sees both women abandoned by the cowardly men in their lives as they attempt to pick up the pieces for each other.

Roma may be set against the backdrop of the political turmoil of 1970s Mexico City but Cuarón – director of Gravity and Children of Men – shows there is plenty of drama and emotion to be found in domestic life.

It is also a very personal film for Cuarón as the story is based on his own family home and the woman who helped to raise him.

This shows and by the end of the feature you will care deeply about Cleo after a powerful and, at times, heartbreaking sequence of events.

Presented in black and white, Roma is also immaculately shot by a filmmaker at the top of his game.

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1. HEREDITARY

Director: Ari Aster

Hereditary is not just arguably the scariest film of 2018, it is one of the creepiest of the decade.

You need an iron will to get through Ari Aster’s immaculately constructed psychological horror because it really gets under your skin with shocks of every kind.

Pushing horror into new territory, the uncompromising film’s tone shifts from ominous and disquieting to extremely intense and rarely lets up.

Aster ratchets up the tension with some masterful camera work which builds up the power of suggestion while the droning soundtrack adds to the sense of unease. Hereditary starts with the death of Ellen, the estranged matriarch of the Graham family.

This opens up old wounds for Annie (Toni Collette) as she begins to unravel terrifying secrets about her family’s ancestry.

Among the cast is the ever talented Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale/The Leftovers) who impresses as Annie’s friend Joan in a memorable supporting role. Young actors Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff are also superb and some haunting, lingering close-ups of Wolff’s character Peter’s face at key moments will stay with you for a long time.

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