Last year I skipped doing this article, as rounding-up my ten favourite features of the year would have literally meant boiling down the dozen or so full-length films I’d actually watched, to a list of titles I could never really claim were my favourite, as I had little to compare them to. In all honesty, I struggle to watch features nowadays. The times when MarBelle and I would challenge ourselves to watch 365 a year feel long gone. However, 2018 felt like a year when I somewhat rediscovered my passion and decided to put down the books, step away from the shorts films and return to the big screen. I’m not claiming this list means much, as I still don’t feel like I watch enough features for this selection to really mean anything, but these are the films I can’t stop thinking about, the films that have stuck with me ever since I first viewed them, the films I would happily return to tomorrow.
10. THE RAFT | Marcus Lindeen
An emotive, insightful look into the human psyche with some surprising conclusions, Marcus Lindeen’s The Raft takes a look back at a 1973 scientific experiment when five men and six women drifted across the Atlantic on the titular structure. Revisited through archive footage and interviews (cleverly shot on a reconstructed craft in a studio) with the surviving crew members, this is a fascinating film which keeps you on tenterhooks despite its events happening over 40-years ago.
9. BORDER | Ali Abbasi
Winner of the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes 2018, Ali Abbasi’s Border is a raw, uncompromising fantasy about isolation and loneliness. Following a border guard as she struggles to look for a connection in a world she doesn’t quite understand, expect a few surprises and one of the best sex scenes you’re likely to witness in cinema along the way.
8. ISLE OF DOGS | Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson returning to the world of stop-motion had me itching with excitement and this tale of a Japanese island inhabited with sick dogs doesn’t disappoint. The craft is stellar and the story is brimming with humour and warmth. Truly feels like a standout piece of cinema from 2018.
7. THE GUILTY | Gustav Möller
Boasting a tight run-time and taut plot, Gustav Möller’s debut thriller The Guilty (which won audience awards at Sundance & Rotterdam film festivals) will have viewers on the edge of their seats as this twisting tale follows a police officer on the end of an emergency call from a kidnapped woman.
6. ANNIHILATION | Alex Garland
Though I only read Jeff VanderMeer’s revolutionary novel a few years ago, it’s a book that’s already achieved cult status in my own personal favourite reads. Vandermeer’s world and the stories within it felt like something that could never be captured on screen but Garland does a sterling job of bringing them to life. The narrative never quite achieves the deeply resonating tone of the novel (adaptations rarely do), but it was hands-down the best sci-fi of 2018 and a film I think will only get better with time.
5. FIRST REFORMED | Paul Schrader
Another film built around a haunting central character, Paul Schrader’s First Reformed sees Ethan Hawke summon the best performance of his eclectic career, as he plays a pastor spiralling out of control after an encounter with an environmental activist. It’s a gripping watch that takes its viewers in unexpected directions and leaves them, in its aftermath, with some feelings they won’t be able to shake for some time.
4. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE | Lynne Ramsay
Sparse in dialogue but laden with tension, Lynne Ramsay’s fourth feature is a muscular, uncompromising piece featuring a captivating, ice-cold performance from Joaquin Phoenix and an incredible score from Jonny Greenwood.
3. CE MAGNIFIQUE GÂTEAU ! | Emma De Swaef & Marc James Roels
As someone who watches a lot more shorts than features nowadays, it’s exciting to see directors you love from the short film arena try their hands at something longer. Released back in 2012, Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels Oh Willy… is up there as one of the best shorts I’ve ever seen and their follow-up Ce Magnifique Gâteau ! (This Magnificent Cake) is as good, if not better. An anthology film set in colonial Africa, this 44-minute piece once again takes the pair’s distinct animated style and weaves a fantastical tale of Kings, Pygmies and Explorers.
2. THE KING | Eugene Jarecki
Eugene Jarecki’s frenetic Elvis documentary The King takes Presley’s old Rolls-Royce on a road trip across modern America as the director uses the late singer’s life as a metaphor for the death of the American dream. A poignant road movie that combines a traditional account of an artist’s troubled life with a more unconventional examination of culture and society, Jarecki’s doc is an insightful, thought-provoking and wildly entertaining watch.
1. MANDY | Panos Cosmatos
There are a number of reasons Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy sits top of this list. From the Jóhann Jóhannsson score to the practical FX, chainsaw duel and demon-biker henchmen, this film has it all. Most importantly though, Nicolas Cage is back to doing what he does best – going batshit crazy. I’ve always been attracted to bold, inventive filmmaking and Cosmatos’ film is just that. It’s like nothing I’ve seen before, an unshackled monster of a movie fuelled on LSD and Heavy Metal…what’s not to love about that?
You can check out the rest of team DN’s Top Ten picks here.