Best films of 2018

Best films of 2018

Spoiler alert: Phantom Thread is included below

The votes are in, our critics have spoken, find out what madeour best films of 2018 list

Both a reflection of and respite from what continue to be tumultuous times, 2018 marked another fine year for film. Nostalgia, as ever, played a key role across releases as Roma, Cold War, A Star Is Born and Phantom Thread took their cues from that which shone before.

It wasn't all about burying our heads in the past though and, as far as the cinematic crème de la crème goes, females were, finally, at the forefront: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Widows channelled the feminist rage of #MeToo; Best Picture Oscar winner The Shape of Water saw a shy woman explore her sexuality in an, ahem, unconventional union; while I, Tonya offered a sympathetic reinvention of a much-maligned figure. And women called the shots on some of the most striking films of the year: Lady Bird, The Rider, You Were Never Really Here, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Leave No Trace and Faces Places.

With no shortage of options to consider, we polled our regular reviewers for their cinematic highlights. When the future seems less than bright, in these films we find glimmers of hope.

10. The Rider

Best films of 2018

Crafting compelling fiction out of the wreckage of devastating fact, Chloé Zhao gives us an atmospheric and humane sophomore feature. Unfolding against a backdrop of South Dakota's Badlands, it follows an injured bronc rider (Brady Jandreau) after his forced retirement from the rodeo circuit. Read our review.

9. Beast

Best films of 2018

Writer-director Michael Pearce announced his arrival with an extraordinarily accomplished and unsettling first feature: a serial-killer thriller set in suburban Jersey. Jessie Buckley shines as the initially unassuming Moll, while Johnny Flynn and Geraldine James are similarly splendid as her dangerous paramour and monstrous mother respectively. Read our review.

8. American Animals

Best films of 2018

Blending documentary and drama with notable audacity, the British director of the BAFTA-winning The Imposter, Bart Layton, unpicks the events leading up to and including the 2004 Transylvania University heist, an act of spectacular folly. Interviews with the real-life players are intercut with exhilarating recreations in a film that combines insight and excitement. Read our review.

7. I, Tonya

Best films of 2018

Disgraced ice skater Tonya Harding's story is delivered in an irreverent and sympathetic fashion in a blackly comic take on her rather sad story. Margot Robbie has never been better in an energetic offering from Craig Gillespie, yet the show is stolen by Allison Janney, who also snatched the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her unforgettably acrid turn. Read our review.

6. A Star Is Born

With his reinvention of an already thrice-told tale, debut writer-director Bradley Cooper surprised many, delivering a characterful, tragic and properly romantic story of one star rising as another falls. As an actor, he's gravelly-voiced and adorable, generating impressive chemistry with a superb Lady Gaga as the pair sing their hearts out and give us vulnerability in spades. Read our review.

5. The Shape of Water

Best films of 2018

Following haunted house horror Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro returns to the adult fairytale territory of Pan's Labyrinth. The winner of a quartet of Oscars, including Del Toro's first for Best Director, it's a breathtakingly beautiful, heartfelt homage to Hollywood's Golden Era, shot through with a modern infusion of sex and violence. Read our review.

4. You Were Never Really Here

Unapologetic and immersive, if you've ever wondered what it's like to be inside a hitman's head, Lynne Ramsay took us there. Flashes of dark humour pepper this revenge narrative, which sees Joaquin Phoenix's ex-military hired gun take on sex traffickers. It's an almost unbearably intense marriage of an actor and director sans limits and with talent to burn. Read our review.

3. Roma

Best films of 2018

Alfonso Cuarón's most personal and poignant film yet takes inspiration from his Mexico City upbringing, filtering it through a prism of Italian neorealism. Winner of Venice's Golden Lion and stunningly shot by the man himself, it follows the live-in housekeeper of a middle-class family, played with skill and subtlety by first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio. Read our review.

2. Lady Bird

Best films of 2018

Another deeply personal project, this time with a comic bent, Greta Gerwig's teenage years in Sacramento provide the fuel for a fabulously funny look at suburban dissatisfaction and mother-daughter strife. Affectionate and acerbic, its sparkling wit has the ring of truth, with Gerwig's wonderfully judged dialogue done full justice by stars Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. Read our review.

1. Phantom Thread

Besting the competition by a considerable margin in our poll, The List's reviewers fell head-over-heels for this exquisite and idiosyncratic costume drama that's unusually fixated on fashion. Paul Thomas Anderson is at the helm of a film that sheds its layers with style, as Daniel Day-Lewis's petulant and perfectionist dressmaker comes undone. Read our review.

Contributors: Nikki Baughan, Kevin Harley, Eddie Harrison, Allan Hunter, Katherine McLaughlin, James Mottram, Emma Simmonds, Matthew Turner