It’s becoming something of cliché to begin every year-end retrospective with the phrase “it’s been an interesting/funny year in (insert genre here) …”  but the reality is that the predictability in the film world, especially where the box office is concerned, has stepped aside to allow for a few surprises.

Whether this is down to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime offering a wider variety of content for film fans as opposed to what gets released in the cinema or shown on TV, tastes appear to be widening and eve those who would label themselves an average film fan are starting to support titles outside of the mainstream they had hitherto avoided., and, shock horror, even agreeing with the highbrow critics on those films!

Similarly the bubble is continuing to deflate for big budget action and comic book films, with what were once sure fire hits underperforming at the box office (including a Star Wars film no less) as audiences favour diversity with the likes of Crazy Rich Asians packing them in across the globe (except ironically in Asia since they see themselves on the screen all the time).

Therefore, nothing can be taken for granted anymore in cinema and certainly not where the box office is concerned. Whilst lessons are to be learned from the success of Black Panther in Hollywood, we don’t want, or need, hastily concocted cash-ins to capitalise on this, but instead to embrace the winds of change and not stay within the boundaries of the safe moneymakers because that well is running dry.

Granted this has nothing to do with my personal picks for the year, again another selection of films from across the globe that I got to see in 2018 (and yes I am aware that some of them were on your 2017 lists but I am just a mere mortal who has to wait for these things), but it does bode well for what awaits in 2019 and that a wider range of films will continue to be made available to all of us, and continue to break the monotony of Hollywood formula that has dominated mainstream cinema.

So, without further ado, here are my personal Top Ten films either released or available to the UK for the first time in 2018 and as usual agree or disagree as is your wont.

10. The Battleship Island (Korea Dir. Ryoo Seung-wan)

A harrowing tale set around the Japanese occupation of Korea during World War II, in which the antics of a jazz band leader sees him, his young daughter and his group taken by the Japanese to work as labourers aboard a battleship built like an island. Based on real events, this is a story of betrayal, political and military corruption, survival, and the horrors of encampment, that is gritty and hard hitting yet epic in scale but not easily forgotten.

Read the full review HERE

9. Wajib (Palestine Dir. Annemarie Jacir)

Contemporary views clash with traditional attitudes in this eye-opening Palestinian film as a father and his adult son recently returned from abroad traverse the capital to hand deliver invitations for a wedding whilst trying to reconcile the differences in their outlook. A road trip with a difference, we learn as much about the culture of the Palestinians as the two main characters do about themselves in this charming outing, starring a real life father and son in the lead roles!

Read the full review HERE

8. The Third Murder (Japan Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda)

One of two Kore-eda films to receive a home video release in Old Blighty this year, this departure from the usual family drama yarn just edges out After The Storm. A man confesses to a murder but his lawyer thinks he can get the charged reduced due to insufficient evidence, except his investigation exposes too many holes in the defendant’s story, raising questions about which version is the truth. A riveting and tense character study as only Kore-eda can deliver.

Read the full review HERE

7. Black Venus (France Dir. Abdellatif Kechiche)

A slight cheat here as Black Venus was actually made in 2010 but only got its first time UK release this year on Blu-ray, so it counts. It’s a fact-based drama of the life of Saartjie ‘Sarah’ Baartman, an African woman taken to Europe with the promise of fame and fortune but instead was treated as carnival freak show act portraying a savage beast. One of those shameful but curiously compelling tales that are so superbly made it works as a piece of art as well as grim story to watch unfold.

Read the full review HERE

6. A Gentle Creature (Russia/Ukraine Dir. Sergei Loznitsa)

Films like this should be shown to remind us to be thankful of the freedoms we have and that there are filmmakers like Loznitsa who aren’t afraid to make them. A young woman wants to find out why the care packages she sent to her imprisoned husband are being returned but gets no answers forcing her to take matters into her own hands. This frightening indictment of the corrupt side of bureaucracy leaves us wondering where all the hope has gone.

Read the full review HERE

5. Angels Wear White (China Dir. Vivian Qu)

Whilst female voices are getting louder here in the west, in Asia they remain as muffled as they do in the Middle East. Almost single handedly justifying the adoption of the #MeToo movement in China is this grim tale of a corrupt police officer’s predilection for underage girls and the fallout of being caught, which he is able to deflect to the victims, whilst the one person who knows the truth has too much to lose if she speaks up. Provocative, upsetting, but vital cinema.

Read the full review HERE

4.The Breadwinner (Ireland Dir. Nora Twomey)

The only animated entry on the list, this multi-national production adds its support to the oppressed woman of the Middle East with the tale of an 11 year-old girl in Afghanistan is forced to dress as a boy to earn money for her family when her impaired father is jailed by Taliban soldiers. Even when presented in the accessible form of a colourful cartoon this essay on blanket religion-based misogyny and attacks on human rights for women is hard to digest and not feel galvanised by it.

Read the full review HERE

 3. Oh Lucy! (Japan Dir. Dir. Atsuko Hirayanagi)

Japan does quirky cinema like no other country, yet also seem able to suffuse outlandish premises with plenty of pathos and touching drama that reveal its true humanity. This tale of delusion, heartbreak, and self-exploration sees a middle-aged Japanese woman falling for a shady American English teacher who runs off back to the US with her teenage niece, so she and her sister follow them. It is amazing to watch a character you pity because she is so tragic become someone you pity because she is in fact so lovely.

Read the full review HERE

 2. One Cut Of The Dead (Japan Dir. Shinichiro Ueda)

If you thought the zombie movie needed burying again, this low budget love letter to the genre reinvents it for the new generation of filmmakers and fans alike. We seem to be watching a young girl being attacked by a zombie but she is in fact shooting a film, except we are watching this film being made, when real zombies attack the set. Confused? Only one way to find out what it all means when the UK home video arrives at the end of January.

Read the full review HERE

No 1.

The Shape Of Water

(US Dir. Guillermo del Toro)

Possibly a predictable choice for the top spot, what with it winning the Best Picture Oscar in 2018 and all, but this was one magical ride that stuck with me through the year, partially as it was one I actually saw at the cinema. You already know the story by now – a deaf mute woman works as a cleaner at  top research facility where a fish-man creature is being held captive. She falls in love with him and tries to help him escape before he can being experimented on.

If we can accept inter-species romance in fairy tales then we can extend our suspension of disbelief to live action cinema too, and del Toro works his magic in applying his dark but inventive flair for the fantastic to this film to make us believe in the relationship between the sublime Sally Hawkins and her fish-man. There is nothing to say a film can’t be “out there” and still be sweet!

Read the full review HERE

And there we have it. After a slow start to the year where I still only had four bona fide entries by September, whittling the list down to just ten was rather difficult in the end. At one point the list did look as if it would be comic book heavy with Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther on the cusp of being added to make up the numbers. Bohemian Rhapsody would have been on there too had the scriptwriters not abused the facts and timeline of events as much as they did, whilst is also pained me to omit a few other films from Asia that were halfway mark contenders.

But those are the ten I’ve settled with for this year, and I am sure some of the titles everyone else has already seen and ranked high on their 2018 lists will make an appearance as part of my 2019 picks once they get their UK home video release (*cough* Shoplifters *cough*). So, join me then to see what those choices are and what others will earn a place on MIB’s Top Ten of the year!

Thanks for reading and until next time, this is the Man in Black saying Sayonara!

6 thoughts on “MIB’s Top Ten Films Of 2018

    1. It was interesting to see Kore-eda’s dark side come to the front for a change! 🙂 The Kurosawa comparison is interesting but probably more “Kurosawa lite” as he likes to get REALLY dark and creepy! 😮

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  1. I jotted down several of your picks, most of which I haven’t heard of. Hope to give them a look. My list gave me fits this year.

    I really struggled with some aspects of The Shape of Water. I loved its fantasy point of view but some of GDT’s choices were headscratchers for me. Still, the Guy sure knows how to shoot a scene!

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    1. Thanks for the comment. Del Toro has always had a subversive streak in him so it is no surprise a “simple” love story in his hands would end up going against the grain in some way! 😛

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