10. Mission Impossible: Fallout
As a fan of the series and the Dorian Gray-esque reverse aging properties of it’s leading man I was delighted to see that despite being the 6th Instalment in what is now a 22-year-old franchise, Mission: Impossible is still able to surprise, enthrall and blow us away with impeccable set piece design. It remains to be seen how much further the franchise can push itself but Cruise and Fallout sets a very high bar to be cleared.
9. Creed II
A tough act to follow, Creed was one of the biggest surprises of 2015, revitalizing an ailing franchise. Creed II felt more like a Rocky sequel than a Creed sequel but the training montages, fight sequences and charisma and of its outstanding cast make this more than worthy of inclusion in this list.
8. Black Panther
This movie hit each item on the superhero checklist – ambitious set pieces, snappy dialogue, likable characters and a lead forced to make hard choices before ultimately facing the “evil” version of himself. Black Panther also manages to add in a few new ingredients along the way with a mostly black cast and crew, an amazing soundtrack and the first black superhero to take serious box office. In years to come, we may well look at Black Panther as a tipping point for better representation in mainstream movies.
Alex Garland’s much anticipated follow up to the fantastic Ex-Machina, Annihilation is another complex, ambitious sci-fi that explores weighty themes. A fantastic ensemble cast including Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Jennifer Jason-Leigh carries the day complimenting a moody, thought-provoking sci-fi that really sticks to the ribs. Also, Barack Obama included it in his top ten so who am I to argue?
6. The Shape of Water
Winner of 4 Oscars including Best Picture, The Shape of Water is a surprising, odd, and very tender film. The Shape of Water sits comfortably alongside Pan’s Labyrinth in Guillermo Del Toro’s filmography as an example of how great movies can often sound silly in a pitch but when they are transposed to the screen the feelings they evoke transcend the plot lines.
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
A Netflix Original, this selection of vignettes set in the Old West from the Coen Brothers is at times funny, sad, thought-provoking and very eccentric. As with any anthology, some of the stories play better than others, but Buster Scruggs contains so much to keep the viewer engaged and despite is hefty running time it never outstays it’s welcome. Not enough has been said about just how fantastic looking this film is either.
4. Phantom Thread
Supposedly Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film (say it ain’t so!) Phantom Thread is a fitting end to one of the most varied and interesting film careers around. Day-Lewis is magnificent as Reynolds Woodcock, a fussy and exacting dressmaker whose relationship with his muse (the outstanding Vicky Krieps) has an unexpected impact on him. So much of this masterpiece rests in the moments between dialogue and what is left unsaid and is underlined by Jonny Greenwood’s magnificent score.
3. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig’s debut feature stars Saoirse Ronan as a teenager in the early 00’s coming to terms with adolescence. Simultaneously a period piece and timeless, this is a film about mothers and daughters and growing up and learning who you are. Far more accomplished than any debut has any right to be, this film really left a mark on me. Saoirse Ronan has added another example to support the argument that she is among her generation’s very best and I can’t wait to see what Gerwig comes up with next.
It is rare that a black and white, foreign language arthouse film arrives to streaming to such fanfare. Roma brought with it the usual debates about streaming vs seeing it in the cinema, much of which dominated its pre-release discussion. However, a testament to this film is how all of the background noise melts away when you settle into Alphonso Cuaron’s meditation on his childhood and the story of his maid. Wonderful.
1. You Were Never Really Here
I missed this on its initial release and caught it later on streaming. I felt the effect of this film long after it’s running time had elapsed. Everything about this film is tight and controlled, including the fantastic central performance from Joaquin Pheonix. The effect is to make the very dark themes and scenes of violence all the more impactful. I found myself living with this film for a few days after seeing it and cannot recommend it more highly.