Staff Vote: The Best Films of 2018

Tom Dwyer

20 Dec 18

As 2019 approaches, Picturehouse staff have taken a look back at what's glued them to the big screen in the last 12 months. Later this week we'll publish our Members' top films, but until then here's a run down of our top picks.

Last year, we voted Call Me By Your Name as our favourite film from 2017. Luca Guadagnino's tender love story offered a blissful escape to the hazy summer of '80s Italy. If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane, check out our previous lists to see some favourites from yesteryear. 

Phantom Thread takes the top spot on this year's poll. Paul Thomas Anderson's work has always been incredibly well received at Picturehouse, and his second collaboration with Daniel-Day Lewis, depicting the haute couture of 1950s London, proved no different. It's been a prominent year for big-name directors all round, with appearances from seasoned auteurs Wes Anderson (Isle of Dogs) and Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), alongside acclaimed directorial debuts from actors Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) and Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born).

Our list only contains one franchise movie (Avengers: Infinity War) and one remake (A Star is Born), compared to the UK wide top ten which contains eight franchise titles. We think it's encouraging to see original stories shining through! 

Before we get into the list, here are a few honourable mentions for the films that didn't make the final cut. It was a strong year for horror, but both A Quiet Place and Hereditary narrowly missed out. Female directors featured heavily, with Debra Granik's superlative Leave No Trace and Desiree Akhavan's The Miseducation of Cameron Post, both of which premiered at Sundance London. Of the 83 films voted for, 14% were foreign language, 8% were documentaries and 6% were animation.

And now over to the Picturehouse staff for the top films of 2018!

10. First Reformed

In the height of the scorching summer of 2018, discerning film fans sought sanctuary from the stifling heat in the church of iconic filmmaker Paul Schrader and his triumphant return to form, First Reformed.

In an age of political, environmental and personal disasters, here's a film that faces these issues in an assured and palpable manner. Schrader's tight and soulful screenplay is complemented by his equally taut and astute framing and pacing, with Ethan Hawke digging deep for a career-best performance as Reverend Toller.

Schrader and Hawke tapped into the underlying darkness that is always, and perhaps now more than ever, just around the corner.
First Reformed was never going to be a feel-good film of the year and this reinforces why this film was so necessary to 2018; one week after its release at the UK box office, the cinematic sunshine returned as Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again opened in cinemas.

Toby King - Sales & Marketing - Picturehouse Entertainment

Joint 9. Blindspotting

Full of heart, home truths and poetry that packs a punch, Blindspotting was as enjoyable as it was impactful. The social commentary dramedy, starring Daveed Diggs on a mission to survive the last three days of his probation, had tongues wagging since its world premiere at Sundance, Utah, which had film-festivalers queuing around the snowy block. Finally released in the UK this autumn, Carlos Lopez Estrada's film turned a timely lens towards the more ambiguous social tensions that weigh on interracial relationships and the effects gentrification has on so many communities within America. With possibly one of the best bromances of the year and intuitive meditations on masculinity, Blindspotting is an essential 2018 film telling it like it is with style and sincerity.

Corrina Antrobus - Communications Manager

Joint 9. American Animals

Bart Layton's heist thriller is a dizzying carousel of cinematic references, delivered with enough hedonistic abandon for you to (almost) understand how the culprits thought they could pull it off. The film doubles as a reflective documentary in which the perpetrators sheepishly lament their stupidity and selfishness. American Animals beautifully demonstrates how intoxicating and ultimately unstoppable the collective intent of a group of adolescents can be, regardless of practicality, decency or common sense.

Laurence Turner - The Cameo, Edinburgh

8. Avengers: Infinity War

This is a truly unique film - pulling together the previous 20 instalments in the Marvel cinematic universe - 10 years in the making!

I was a little sceptical when I heard Marvel Studios was going to attempt to shape a film around so many of their characters, but the filmmakers pulled it off in fantastic fashion. I was particularly impressed with how the film puts the story of the villain, Thanos, at the forefront of the movie. Josh Brolin's motion-captured performance was excellent too!

Sam Clements - Head of Marketing 

7. Isle of Dogs

If you're ever in doubt about the strength a bit of detailed observation can add to a film, I urge you to check out the Isle Of Dogs mid-film sushi-making scene. Combining the visceral yet precise nature of traditional seafood butchery with Alexandre Desplat's tension-building score, Anderson's animators' meticulous minute of food/murder prep serves up a sumptuous (and heavily weaponised) concoction of pure filmic sushi-roll joy – simply breathtaking!

And oh yea, there are some cats and dogs too – if you don't like stop-motion nibbles that is.

Matty Lane - Designer 

6. Cold War

Pawel Pawlikowski came across a winning formula with 2013's perfectly crafted Ida and the Polish filmmaker returned this year with another irresistibly cinematic work. Shot in shimmering monochrome with each frame perfectly photographed, Cold War must be a strong contender for the most beautiful film of the year. Set against the backdrop of Soviet-era Poland, it's a tale of star-crossed lovers across the Iron Curtain with an extra helping of jazz. It's a romance that will floor you.

JP Pierrot - Marketing Manager 

Joint 5. BlacKkKlansman

For his latest joint, Spike Lee turned to the true story of African-American police officer Ron Stallworth who infiltrated the KKK in 1970s Colorado. The jaw-dropping story is peppered with cinematic references, from the opening shot of Gone With the Wind, through a watching session of the deeply problematic Birth Of A Nation, a discussion of favourite Blaxploitation films and a self-referential Spike Lee tracking shot thrown in for good measure. Pulling from cinema's past, Lee creates a wide overview of African-American cinema, demonstrating the systemic racism within Hollywood as well as wider American society, leading up to the gut punch of the film's final scenes. A vital, blazing film that truly belongs to 2018.

Tom Dwyer - Marketing and Sponsorship Executive  

Joint 5. A Star Is Born

I must have been one of very few people watching this with no idea what the ending would be. It didn't actually go the way I thought, so it took me a day or two to process and recover before downloading the soundtrack, learning every lyric and waiting impatiently for my next viewing.

The music is fabulous. From the beautiful nod to Judy Garland in the opening sequence to chart-topper Shallow and my personal favourite Always Remember Us This Way. Bradley Cooper is as great as you'd expect him to be with the added bonus of a decent singing voice that's albeit a little raspy. But Lady Gaga is the real revelation here. She's raw, authentic and a remarkably talented actress. The real deal. As a Bristol girl I also enjoyed spotting the Glastonbury Pyramid stage in the concert footage. The film is gritty, tender, uplifting and devastating all at once and it doesn't feel like a remake.

My heart is with Picturehouse's own The Wife with Glenn Close for the Best Actress win. But my money would be on Gaga.

Clare Reynolds - Head of People 

4. Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig put so much heart and wit into her directorial debut that it's very hard not to love it. Lady Bird is a cinematic pearl; simple yet perfect, it tells a coming-of-age story with candour and empathy, encapsulating the very specific moment that anticipates leaving home (and all the feelings that come with it). Gerwig's direction is confident and personal, unafraid of being sentimental and all the more effective because of it. I've seen it multiple times, and each time the audience was filled with girls crying and deciding to call their mums immediately afterwards. And there's something special about that.

Marina Vuotto - East Dulwich Picturehouse 

3. You Were Never Really Here

Acclaimed director Lynne Ramsay explores the psyche of a troubled war veteran turned hitman as he rescues a young girl in the intense You Were Never Really Here. Joaquin Phoenix is mesmeric as a man numb to the world in a film that needs very little dialogue to create some incredibly powerful moments. As Jonny Greenwood's impeccable score and Tom Townend's beautiful cinematography meet, Ramsay's thriller becomes an unforgettable masterpiece.

Sarah Cook - Marketing Manager at Picturehouse Central 

2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

In a year full of stand-out releases, I didn't see anything as funny, moving or downright original as Three Billboards. While the film is carried by a career-best performance from Frances McDormand, the supporting cast of Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage and Lucas Hedges really help to populate the story with some memorable, sympathetic and complicated characters. Plus, in typical Martin McDonagh fashion, the film mines its comedy from some seriously dark places – which perfectly suits my twisted taste!

Charlie Rutter - Marketing Manager at East Dulwich Picturehouse 

1. Phantom Thread

Billed as the swansong of Paul Thomas Anderson's most trusted collaborator, Daniel Day-Lewis dazzles as Reynolds Woodcock, with equally nuanced performances from Vicky Krieps, and the spiky Lesley Manville as his sister. Every element of the film is exquisite, from the lush cinematography to the immaculate costume design. Jonny Greenwood's sweeping score is a real highlight. Greenwood complied with PTA's demands for an intensely romantic score, and the result is utterly ravishing, channelling Bernard Hermann at his best. The only thing grander and more impressive is Woodcock's infamous breakfast, but listing that in full would bloat any word count!

Maxwell Tait - Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge