The Best and Worst Films of 2018
Merry Christmas! The year is coming to a close which means we’ve gotta do one thing: make lists of stuff we like! This is the big one: our favourite and least favourite films of the past year, a vast and varied assortment ranging from the daring stunts of one Tom Cruise to the all-singing antics of a rebooted Mary Poppins to a ton of pleasant surprises and some true disappointments from directors we love.
To qualify for the list, a film may have been on release (or screened at a festival) in Ireland between February 2018 and January 2019 (eg. Downsizing, Phantom Thread), but not appeared on our Best & Worst of 2017 list (Lady Bird, Lucky). The cut-off for inclusion in this list has led to several significant omissions: Vice, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Favourite, Welcome to Marwen, The Front Runner, Shoplifters, Burning, Vox Lux.
THE WORST FILM OF THE YEAR: 3 THINGS
An explosive chicken curry provides the dramatic crescendo for this embarrassing, sub-TV movie Danish thriller, easily one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in a cinema.
57. DEADPOOL 2
A film with so little respect for its audience, it thinks it can get away with parading a series of crude and unimaginative comic-book movie cliches because it points out that they’re cliches. An ugly, mean-spirited attempt at meta-commentary from the worst side of this genre. You think it can’t get worse… then the little brat from Hunt for the Wilderpeople shows up.
56. RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET
A paid advertisement for every social media company that’s ruined children’s lives, that (wait for it) also normalises the horrific sexism of the Grand Theft Auto games and teaches kids about the dark web. Horrible capitalist cynicism; one of the most harmful products the Disney company have released.
Duncan Jones’s greasy Blade Runner homage has a shell of a sci-fi premise and some astoundingly bad performances from Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd. Mercifully a direct-to-Netflix release.
54. DARKEST HOUR
Remember the despicably intolerant colonialist Winston Churchill, who represents every toxic element of male power the #MeToo movement tried to highlight? Let’s celebrate what a hero he was for more than 2 hours. Gary Oldman’s Oscar win for this film will be remembered as one of the Academy’s most baffling decisions; it is pure pantomime, the film an impressively-shot but morally-bankrupt farce.
53. PETER RABBIT
James Corden Smart-ass Talking Rabbit is a premise of nightmares, and Peter Rabbit is almost better than it sounds. Almost.
52. THE KISSING BOOTH
The only one of Netflix’s big rom-coms we made it through this year, thanks to our long-standing affection for Joey King. But the girl isn’t cut out for this rubbish, and the shocking handsomeness of that kid from Super 8 can’t save what is effectively a feature length episode of Girl Meets World.
51. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM
Jeff Goldblum has one scene in this film where he sits at a desk for five minutes, and that it’s the most entertaining part of a massive epic about escaped dinosaurs is very telling. James Cromwell plays a version of his character from Succession, which is cute, but Chris Pratt is just not a likeable lead in this movies at all and CGI dinosaurs are so boring.
50. READY PLAYER ONE
A serious improvement on the worst book ever written, Spielberg’s VR-themed adventure is a profoundly unattractive visual effort made watchable by Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn’s divergent charms. At least, unlike many of these films, it produced a fabulous Demi Adejuyigbe theme song.
49. GAME NIGHT
The Game is David Fincher’s worst film and Game Night remakes it with Jesse Plemons in the Sean Penn role. Awfully flat and noisy.
The lesser of The Rock’s two big summer efforts, this one has a reasonably well-done giant mo-cap monkey as his wingman but falls apart about 10 minutes in.
On some level, Alexander Payne’s “What If Matt Damon Small” drama is really the worst film of the year: it’s pretentious beyond any measure, its marketing campaign a complete lie. Within minutes it’s forgotten that Matt Damon is small and it merely becomes a film about starting a new life on a dying planet. Painfully overeager with some dreadful performances to boot.
The greatest mystery of Skycraper is whether its title refers to the literal skyscraper it takes place in, or the really tall men who star in it. The Rock runs around a skyscraper that’s on fire for 2 hours. There’s one genuinely great fight scene in a weird futuristic mirror room. The rest is rubbish.
45. PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING
Pacific Rim: Uprising doesn’t have half the spark of Guillermo Del Toro’s original, and totally drags, but squeezes enough camp life out of Charlie Day and Burn Gorman that it ultimately has more personality than most of the year’s other blockbusters.
44. BOOK CLUB
The joke of women over 60 talking about sex wears off very quickly, but it’s obviously fun watching Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and co. flirting with Andy Garcia and Craig T. Nelson, even via the tedious framing device of a book club reading Fifty Shades. Sub-Nancy Meyers effort.
43. OCEAN’S 8
An appalling, misshapen script rushed to production with an in-cohesive ensemble and… James Corden. Anne Hathaway’s presence and Helena Bonham Carter’s shockingly okay Irish accent save a few scenes, but it’s daft and unnecessary.
42. DUBLIN OLDSCHOOL
A tediously faux-philosophical Trainspotting rip-off with some nice use of Dublin city locations, this is one of the most overtly theatrical Irish dramas in years. If you like rave music, you’ll go crazy for it.
41. PHANTOM THREAD
Phantom Thread is the only film this year that actually made me ill. There is nothing we like about it at all. Yet it’s so obviously a superior work to any of the films we’ve ranked below it because, well, Paul Thomas Anderson is at least capable of shooting and editing a functioning piece of cinema, even if it’s stupid and nasty and gave us a week-long flu.
40. THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY
A picturesque setting and Lily James’s charisma could save even the most icky, sentimental of films. Which is exactly what this Mike Newell joint is.
39. THE WIFE
Appropriately-theatrical film equivalent of The Guardian newspaper, as a Nobel Prize winning author (Jonathan Pryce) is unmasked as a fraud and his long-abiding spouse (Glenn Close) is forced into the spotlight. Well performed, too-broadly scripted.
38. BLACK PANTHER
The cultural moment surrounding Black Panther is fascinating. The film itself is more tiresome Marvel nonsense: punching and yelling and such, but at least with some cool African tribal overtones and clever application of Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis as The Only White Men In The Movie
37. SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
It would seem impossible to make a Star Wars movie that feels so galactically inconsequential, yet behind-the-scenes drama and the soulless guiding hand of Ron Howard resulted in a tediously-structured, visually-flat melocomedy featuring the most irritating robot since Chappie.
36. THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS
A very 2007 family fantasy with some rewarding A Series of Unfortunate Events vibes and a great Kyle Maclachlan villain, burdened by the ham of Jack Black and Cate Blanchett and an unappealing child star.
35. ANT-MAN & THE WASP
Needless superhero sequel that would’ve been better as a mid-2000s Ben Stiller comedy. Saved by a really good Michael Pena performance.
34. LOVE, SIMON
An uninteresting, social media-friendly teen comedy boosted by its gay main character. Josh Duhamel attempting his version of the Michael Stuhlbarg Call Me By Your Name monologue when comforting his heartbroken son is a truly unforgettable moment of bad acting.
There are maybe 4 laugh-out-loud jokes in this super broad high school sex comedy that somehow has 3 middle-aged leads, but it’s sexual politics are surprisingly woke and it’s just a very pleasant watch.
32. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
The biggest film of the year is an assortment of largely unrelated, recycled scenes of intertextual punching and banter. It’s never dull, unlike some of its recent MCU predecessors, and there’s one good Squidward joke. But neither is it a fully-formed or functioning feature film. It’s just a couple of TV episodes glued together.
31. DEAR DICTATOR
The Michael Caine/Odeya Rush communist buddy comedy you never thought you needed in your life. Sincerely enjoyable nonsense.
30. FIRST REFORMED
Ethan Hawke is outstanding in Paul Schrader’s Can-Anyone-Save-The-Planet-Now melodrama, but the film itself drowns in heavy-handed imagery (the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ scene is among the year’s worst) and a shrill reaction to Christian grandstanding that feels like a watered-down version of The Leftovers’ Reverend Matt episodes.
29. FIRST MAN
Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic is an intensely boring film about an intensely boring individual. No director nor star could make Armstrong seem like a charismatic guy. God bless Armstrong and Ryan Gosling for trying.
28. FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
Nobody is as interested in Wizarding World backstory as its creator, and J.K. Rowling truly jumps the shark in this outrageously indulgent fantasy spectacle, a film not without its pleasures: Jude Law’s Dumbledore, some suitably nostalgia-triggering Hogwarts content and a weirdly good Johnny Depp performance.
27. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
Boots Riley’s postmodern satire is a pretty stupid film — like a really unsuccessful Season 1 episode of Atlanta — but the cast keep it somewhat anchored in real-life conversations of race, primarily the great Lakeith Stanfield as a weary call centre stooge-turned-revolutionary.
Easily the best comic-book movie of 2018, Venom is a crazy, stupid and very enjoyable throwback to the superheroes of 15 years ago that — at just over 90 minutes — doesn’t outstay its welcome. Tom Hardy is genuinely excellent as Cool Handsome Reporter Eddie Brock who gets goo on him and turns into a smart-ass alien with a long tongue and a big attitude.
(right about here is where the movies start to get good)
25. GREEN BOOK
An absolutely ridiculous buddy road-trip drama that poses the unique question “Is racism… bad?”. Viggo Mortenson plays an Italian nightclub bouncer, waving his hands around shouting “I’m walkin’ here” while Mahershala Ali is significantly more plausible as a dignified pianist. The highlight is a very traditional Farrelly Brothers scene involving fried chicken. If this film wins Best Picture, we’re shutting down the blog.
A surprisingly watchable thriller set entirely on a MacBook screen, John Cho is genuinely heartbreaking as the father of a missing teenager girl. You never thought watching a fictional character reset their Gmail password could be so tense.
23. ISLE OF DOGS
An overdose of Wes Anderson frivolity, and the worst nightmare of a dog sceptic, Isle of Dogs goes full-on Japanese cultural appropriation until it becomes near-unwatchable. But the voice cast are stupendously charming.
22. EIGHTH GRADE
As a crushingly self-conscious young teen, Elsie Fisher is a revelation. The film Bo Burnham builds around her is a little too reliant on the cliches of the social media era it’s attempting to subvert. But it does have the most disturbing use of a Jimmy Fallon clip you’ve ever seen.
21. COLD WAR
Certainly the most picturesque creation of the year, Paweł Pawlikowski’s drama indulges in sumptuous black-and-white images and extensive overtures of wartime folksongs. As if a much sadder, darker Sound Of Music.
20. HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: A MONSTER VACATION
One of the highest laugh-per-minute counts of any comedy this year, HT3 takes Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) and friends out of the titular hotel and introduces a frenzy of fresh visual chaos.
A drama that tries a little too hard to be a masterpiece, Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white tale of a young Mexican maid hits its stride in its last 30 minutes with two sequences — set in a hospital and at the beach — executed with traumatising realism. A worthy effort.
18. THUNDER ROAD
Thunder Road has the strongest opening scene since Lady Bird and, in Jim Cummings (who also wrote and directed), a brilliant new leading man. It doesn’t quite hold together as a great feature, but it needs to be seen for its few incredible elements.
Although a strong debut from director Paul Dano, Wildlife lacks the dramatic originality to support great work by Carey Mulligan and Bill Camp.
16. WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY
A sensitively-executed Norwegian/Pakistani culture clash drama elevated by a very effective central performance from young actress Maria Mozhdah as a Muslim teenager banished by her father after she’s caught with her boyfriend. Falls victim to some cliches but nonetheless moving.
15. FINDING YOUR FEET
A tsunami of whimsey, Celia Imrie is a joy to behold in this nicecore comedy about a bunch of friendly English pensioners hitting dance lessons. Timothy Spall gets to captain a small boat, which is always a good thing for the soul of mankind.
14. LEAVE NO TRACE
A rain-drizzled father/daughter drama reminiscent of both Into the Wild and Room, set in the labyrinthine forestry of Oregon. Ben Foster brings his grizzled aggression, but it’s 18-year old Thomasin McKenzie who steals the show.
Spike Lee delivers an entertaining, auspiciously-timed black comedy with a shatteringly prescient (though not unsubtly executed) climax.
12. MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN!
Two hours of pure, silly, bright camp with a series of second-tier ABBA songs performed amidst a Godfather Part II structure that sees Lily James play a young Meryl Streep in flashback. Yet Cher and Andy Garcia steal the movie with their rendition of “Fernando”.
11. BERNARD & HUEY
Jim Rash and Mae Whitman are two of the most underappreciated actors around, and both were given substantive dramatic parts in this witty, touching Jules Feiffer adaptation about two egotistical college friends (Rash and David Koechner) reunited after years apart, seeking some kind of affirmation. Richly-scripted but never pretentious.
The Coen Brothers went short-form with this eclectic collection of six short stories, ranging from exceptional to forgettable but maintaining a classical Wild West swagger and snark missing from the too-reverential western efforts of, say, Tarantino. Buster Scruggs incorporates a bunch of our favourite Coen tropes, from undercurrents of divine intervention to straight-out farce. Though its cast includes Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson and Tim Blake Nelson, it’s the heap of young talent it introduces the audience to — Harry Melling, Bill Heck — that we suspect will cement its largest legacy.
A uniquely truthful depiction of female comradery set amongst the sleazy tables of a roadside diner as its manager (the superb Regina Hall) and crew of young waitresses tackle a series of day-to-day mishaps, both personal and professional. A lean, smart 94 minutes of joyful feminist friendship.
You can almost bathe in the fluid direction of Bradley Cooper’s debut feature, a glamorous yet sincere throwback to a forgotten Hollywood favourite: the star-led romantic drama. Lady Gaga delivers a sensational performance as a young cabaret singer catapulted to pop royalty with the aid of partner Jackson Maine (the gorgeously scruffy Cooper) until heartbreak and tragedy strike. A bombastic, bold new (but old) brand of blockbuster.
It’s only when Richard Sherman himself appears during the closing credits that it’s clear the delightful Christopher Robin owes its spirit to a film you’ll read more about later in this countdown: Disney’s classic Mary Poppins. Though not itself a musical, it’s a sensitive, deeply heartfelt fable on fatherhood and forgetting the joys of childhood with a truly, surprisingly sad aesthetic that allows its highs to reach so much higher.
Cory Finley’s debut feature is a deliciously, refreshingly pessimistic parable that captures the toxic apathy of contemporary teenagers like few films have with such dramatic impact. It’s carried by the friction between wide-eyed wonder Olivia Cooke and even-wider-eyed Anya Taylor-Joy, but Finley’s frenetic directing style marks him as an auteur to watch.
At times it’s an infuriating watch for a Poppins purist, but Rob Marshall’s epic love letter to the greatest Disney musical of them all simply just works, with heaps of charm and an optimistic outlook that makes its G-rated Christmas release a really special event. Once Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury show up, it’s hard not to burst into tears at this sweet, sentimental and occasionally supercalifragilisticexpialidocious sequel that achieves the almost impossible: allowing the legacy of the 1965 original to remain intact.
Robert Redford is one of the greatest movie stars ever to live, and his legacy is done incredible justice in this touching, triumphant retirement effort from director David Lowery. From the captivating score to the use of old Redford footage to illustrate his journey as an actor, The Old Man & The Gun is a beautiful tribute to 70s American cinema and all of its little quirks.
Brad Bird’s long-awaited sequel was nothing less than our cinema event of 2018, yet diminishing returns and a bloated structure caused it to fall just short of masterpiece status (the arrival of Mission: Impossible — Fallout two weeks later wasn’t helpful either). Yet Incredibles 2 is a complete pleasure to watch, a sophisticated and conscientious family adventure with genuine kindness and curiosity at its core. And, damn it, we missed Edna Mode so much.
Steve McQueen takes the formula of a heist movie, throws southside Chicago social turmoil into the mix, injects a dose of Michael Mann and adds an ensemble of some of the best actors alive. The result is Widows, a remarkable, important thriller with an intensely sad premise and some ferocious women behind the driving wheel: Viola Davis and Elizabeth Debicki tear up the screen, while Colin Farrell, Bryan Tyree Henry and Daniel Kaluuya are just some of the talented men also contributing to this smart, soulful experience.
Chris McQuarrie and Tom Cruise’s rollercoaster opera is nothing less than nuclear: a heart-stopping disassembly of the American blockbuster and of Cruise’s persona as our greatest movie star. As daring agent Ethan Hunt, Cruise jumps out of a plane, crashes a helicopter into a cliff and motorcycles the wrong way through traffic at the Arc de Triomphe. Fallout smashes through two-and-a-half hours of stunts and surprises with a reckless and relentless joy, asserting itself with bullish glee as one of the greatest thrill-rides audiences have ever seen.
So that’s it: our best and worst films of 2018 list. What were your picks for the best and worst of the year? Let us know in the comments below or across social media channels. But if Infinity War is your film of the year, we honestly don’t want to know. See y’all in 2019!