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Best films of 2018

The best films of 2018

From ‘Black Panther’ to ‘A Star Is Born’, our list of the very best movies released in 2018

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Time Out Film

The votes are in, the ballots counted. The time has come to pick the best films of 2018 that saw the light of day in Hong Kong, as selected by Time Out’s film critics. Does Alfonso Cuarón’s stirring drama Roma make the cut? Could Black Panther power on to the list? Did Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s updated take on A Star is Born cut the mustard? And was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri really released this year? (Spoiler: yes, yes, yes, and we know, right? Feels like ages ago.)

Without further ado, here’s our pick of the best 20 films released last year.

17 best films of 2018

A Quiet Place

1. A Quiet Place

A great argument for noise-cancelling snacks in cinemas, John Krasinski’s ace sci-fi thriller sparked a debate around the etiquette of popcorn-eating. Was it okay to munch noisily during the film’s frequent pin-drop moments? Did shovelling the stuff directly into your maw distract from this hushed tale of a family surrounded by voracious space bastards who hunt by sound? The sequel is coming. Let battle recommence!

A Star is Born

2. A Star is Born

Bradley Cooper stars and directs in this well-trodden fable about fame, recruiting a surprisingly unassuming Lady Gaga as his foil and love interest. She delivers one of this year’s most nuanced performances, as well as co-writing the film’s inescapable soundtrack. Oscars will surely follow. Possibly most of them.

Black Panther

3. Black Panther

With its killer Kendrick Lamar soundtrack, eye-popping afrofuturist world and some stupidly charismatic performances, Black Panther is sleek, fast-moving and tons of fun. We walked away wanting to see Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Londoners Letitia Wright and Daniel Kaluuya in another superhero movie as soon as possible – which thanks to the epic Wakandan bits of Avengers: Infinity War, we shortly did.


4. Distinction

The third film by Hong Kong’s most accomplished young director, Jevons Au, Distinction is a gentle excoriation of the Hong Kong education system. Set in a special-needs school, Au takes aim at mindsets that prioritise rote learning over creativity and that see these rare institutions as places to be avoided rather than cherished. 

First Man

5. First Man

Forget the bad-faith controversy surrounding the number of American flags planted in La La Land wunderkind Damien Chazelle’s intimate epic: He’s on to something more soulful. His intimate Neil Armstrong story mines a pride born out of smarts, imagination and competence. It’s the right stuff that should fuel true patriotism.


6. Shoplifters

Japanese giant Kore-Eda Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or for his lovely, melancholy urban fable about poverty and family. It’s set in contemporary Tokyo but could easily be transplanted to Dickensian London, revolving around a surrogate clan who scrape an improvised life together on the margins. With its warm, beating heart and strong sense of social conscience, it feels all too timely.

Lady Bird

7. Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan make a mighty double-act in this sharply realised and often hilarious sorta-autobiographical movie set in Gerwig’s hometown of Sacramento. The writer-director, who scored her first Oscar nominations for it, gets the best from Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts too.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The first part of the year belonged to the ever-ace Frances McDormand, who won an Oscar for her brilliantly salty turn as a mum who turns to unorthodox means to get justice for her murdered daughter. The tricky blend of big laughs and deep melancholy is executed perfectly by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges).

Men on the Dragon

9. Men on the Dragon

A summer hit, Men on the Dragon won audiences over with its (unusually rare in modern Hong Kong films) sense of optimism and gentle humour. The film follows four middle-aged men roped into their company’s dragon boat team, each confronting a personal crisis. With its relatable writing about issues ordinary Hongkongers face – whether getting tickets to a Cantopop concert or emotional openness – this is an endearing classic.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

10. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

While other franchises fall by the wayside, Mission: Impossible just seems to go from strength to strength, powered by slick storytelling and Tom Cruise’s willingness to lob himself off tall buildings. It’s the Duracell Bunny of blockbusters – and part six was the best yet.

No. 1 Chung Ying Street

11. No. 1 Chung Ying Street

Winner of the Grand Prix at the Osaka Asian Film Festival, No. 1 Chung Ying Street juxtaposed Hong Kong’s 1967 Leftist Riots with 2014’s Umbrella Revolution, raising pertinent questions about Hong Kong’s past, present and future.

Project Gutenburg
Photo: Katie Yu

12. Project Gutenburg

Although various elements from Felix Chong’s second directorial feature feel lifted from other films (we won’t say which to avoid obvious spoilers) this was still the most accomplished big-budget Hong Kong movie of the year. Leads Aaron Kwok and Chow Yun-fat sparkle throughout and the movie’s slick depiction of currency counterfeiting is engrossing.


13. Roma

If there was a grumble over this gorgeous, Netflix-released domestic epic, it’s that more people couldn’t see it on the big screen. On the upside, it’ll be on the streaming site forever. It’ll be worth revisiting too, with director Alfonso Cuarón conjuring heart-shaking emotions.


14. Hereditary

This cracking debut from New York director Ari Aster divided horror aficionados, but for our money, it was the scariest film of the year. It was also beautifully crafted, filled with ornate detail and had Toni Collette in career-best form.

Phantom Thread

15. Phantom Thread

The film that launched a thousand memes and the phrase ‘just mushroom him’, Paul Thomas Anderson’s tailoring tale is an opulent joy. Daniel Day-Lewis is predictably terrific, but we love Lesley Manville as his formidable sister.

Somewhere Beyond the Mist

16. Somewhere Beyond the Mist

Arguably Hong Kong’s most accomplished documentary filmmaker, Cheung King-wai’s 2009 film KJ won the Golden Horse awards for Best Documentary, Best Editing and Best Sound Effects – an unprecedented trio for a documentary at the prestigious Taiwanese film awards. This, his first full-length work of fiction is an intriguing crime drama is a grim and engrossing whydunit focused on a pregnant policewoman investigating the case of a young girl who has murdered her parents.


17. Widows

A great year for arthouse directors making genre movies was rounded off with Steve McQueen’s take on a Lynda La Plante mini-series from the ’80s. Viola Davis heads up a posse of steely women in a heist movie with lots to say.


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