2018 was a year that introduced a few young and unique voices into the ever-growing and evolving experience of cinema-going. While the mainstream films mostly turned out to be mediocre, the independent cinema scene is thriving into newer directions. While I wasn’t able to see as many films as I usually do I couldn’t help myself from making this elaborate list that I make every year. These are those films that in my opinion comprise as the best films of 2018:
50. The Cakemaker | Director: Ofir Raul Graizer | Language: Hebrew, German
Ofir Raul Graizer’s delicate and tender The Cakemaker makes a wonderful case for how important it is to know, witness and go through grief together. The film very steadily measures through the various levels of loss through a beautiful story about a gay man’s fate to rest with a lonely pedestal.
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49. The Guilty | Director: Gustav Möller | Language: Danish
A pulsating Danish thriller that knows exactly how to get the heart beats racing, Gustav Möller’s The Guilty manages to keep true to its restricted premise and high concept thriller without succumbing to theatrics. Tautly plotted with an uncanny understanding of a gripping, multilayered narrative that focuses on aural space and inner imagery, the film ingenuously bags a head-start when compared to Hollywood counterparts.
48. The Old Man & The Gun | Director: David Lowery | Language: English
After making a cosmic connection with existence in his experimental indie feature ‘A Ghost Story,’ David Lowrey is back with Old Man and the Gun. A charming homage devised as a puristic farewell for the legendary Robert Redford. Oozing with style and giving the actor a fun, frolic character to hangs his shoe which proves that Lowrey can do almost anything.
47. Long Day’s Journey Into Night | Director: Bi Gan | Language: Mandarin
After lapsing us in a time frame in his poetic masterwork – Kaili Blues, Bi Gan is back with another mind-scrambling, dream-like film-noir that is intentionally fragmented to keeps it’s selected audience at bay. It’s only nearly one hour into Long Day’s Journey Into Night that you see the film taking a three-dimensional turn into answers about life and love that you never knew could be answered in the first place.
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46. Thunder Road | Director: Jim Cummings | Language: English
Jim Cummings, who wrote, directed and acted in Thunder Road deserves a pat on his back as he manages to channel out a very assured, matured and understated character sketch of a broken man on the verge of mental breakdown. His understanding of the process of grief pits this little indie as one of the best debut films of the year.
45. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse | Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman | Language: English
It would be a definite surprise for people who know me to see that an animated film, that too with a superhero narrative has made it to the list of my favourite films. Not that I have anything against them, but it takes only a great film to break the curse. Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse is that great film. Not only is it the best spiderman movie ever made but is also the greatest superhero film in quite a while.
44. In Fabric | Director: Peter Strickland | Language: English
If I say that Peter Strickland’s In Fabric is a dark, ominous black comedy about a killer dress, then it might just sound silly. But that’s exactly what it is A silly, homage to early Giallo euro-horror sans Dario Argento’s Suspiria. While it might seem to have a tad too many loose threads, there’s so much artistry that has gone into this strangely fetishistic fable that it’s hard to let go.
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43. Minding the Gap | Director: Bing Liu | Language: English
Bing Liu – Who serves as a part of this self-questioning documentary about a trio of young skaters in Rockford, Illinois has held his camera up close for more than a decade. On the surface, the film feels like your usual Skateboard Documentary that would recollect memories of how these young people made it big in the skating scene. But Liu – Who shot this film himself wishes to rig through the very centre that plagues the lives of young people who run away from their homes. Minding the Gap astonishingly questions the life of American youth. This is an incredibly personal look at fractured American lives that need internal catharsis.
42. Sorry to Bother You | Director: Boots Riley | Language: English
Boots Riley’s incredibly inventive Sorry to Bother is a big fat dick on the face of capitalism. A funny, weirdly arousing satire on workplace politics and selfishly falsified socio-economic structure. Cast to perfection and surreal for more reasons than one, Riley’s film brings greed and moral dilemma inside a box and then traps the protagonist with spooky thrills.
41. Isle of Dogs | Director: Wes Anderson | Language: English
You heard the rumour, right? The one which said that Wes Anderson can make an adventure film about loving dogs and forming a middle ground in our language barriers while setting his entire tale in a dirty, disease-filled wasteland? He can also make it look like a kaleidoscope of anti-propaganda wrapped around a political bureaucracy to tame the world. Isle Of Dogs is a wonderous film with a big heart.
40. Thoroughbreds | Director: Cory Finley | Language: English
A daring, amusing dark comedy about the peril nature of teenage rebellion. Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds is an incredibly confident first feature about the absence of empathy and the sudden realizations of the comforts of a posh life. Featuring Olivia Cook as an antisocial psychopath who just can’t feel any kind of feeling, this is one of those films that is both dangerous and delicious at the same time.
39. Disobedience | Director: Sebastián Lelio | Language: English
Disobedience is a complex drama about people who are tired of not being able to live their truths. It’s a compelling, real and occasionally sentimental look into the life of oppression which is beautifully orchestrated by a sensual lesbian love story. Watch it for its realism and not because Rachel Weisz spits into Rachel McAdams mouth as an act of reunited sensuality.
38. Ee.Ma.Yau | Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery | Language: Malayalam
Surpasses Lijo Jose Pellissery’s previous film both in it’s introspect of the human condition and a certain event triggering complex emotional reasonings in people connected and not connected to it. Ee.Ma.Yau balances brilliant writing with a gloomy atmosphere that can in no way pre-warn you about the impending doom that the final act packed up
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37. Leave No Trace | Director: Debra Garnik | Language: English
Debra Garnik, who likes to tell tales of survivors, investigates the lives of a father-daughter duo who has decided to live a life in complete secrecy with no hook to the real world. However, Leave No Trace is a brilliant drama that works in an unconventional way of dealing with coming of age troops. With her newest film, the takeaway is really about accepting and understanding that sometimes children grow faster than you expect them to. And really it’s you – The viewer who really grows up watching them deal with real-life problems with a brave face.
36. Happy as Lazzaro | Director: Alice Rohrwacher | Language: Italian
In Happy as Lazzaro, director Alice Rohrwacher has seamlessly stitched the elements of social realism and magical realism to devise a dubious character sketch of one innocent boy witnessing the corruption and societal discern with a wide-eyed smile. With time serving as a catalyst to compare the two opposite poles of existence, this whimsical fairytale-esque story is about Lazzaro – A simple, hardworking boy who is forced to understand the different facets of life in spite of serving life the best way he can.
35. Hereditary | Director: Ari Aster | Language: English
Ari Aster’s astutely well-crafted, unnerving feature debut is a guilt-ball of dread. The kind of dread that doesn’t scare you but completely overpowers your psyche when you find yourself sleeping on the wrong side of the bed or walking past the home corridor while dragging your feet. It’s the kind of scare-machine that twists every possible nerve in your mind to completely reframe your outlook towards the possibility of redemption. With Hereditary, Aster has given birth to a dreadful, infecting organism that sits inside you while prevailing evil minute after minute.
34. Eighth Grade | Director: Bo Burnham | Language: English
Gives you the kind of honest, heartfelt portrayal of high-school that Hollywood only wishes to do. Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade has a kind of understanding about the teenage mental state that it’s hard to differentiate it from real life. I haven’t seen such measured, unadulterated version of contemporary teenage problems with understated artefacts of glowing wisdom before.
33. October | Director: Shoojit Sircar | Language: English
In Shoojit Sircar’s October, none of the characters expresses their love for one another. And yet, like the changing season that comes and goes – you feel it’s presence. On the shimmering, tired, yet always hopeful face of the selfless protagonist, Love blooms like a fallen flower that still retains some of its fragrance. Even when it is no more a part of the place that gave it light, it flickers with sadness that grows tenderly into something that the four letter word is too small to encapsulate.
32. Manta Ray | Director: Phuttiphong Aroonpheng | Language: Thai
Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s debut feature is hypnotic, layered and symbolically angry take on the refugee crises in Thailand in how it represents a loss of identity wrapped in a tale of true friendship. Subtley filmed and mostly silent in its metaphorical look at societal displacement, Manta Ray is a film of truly artistic beauty.
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31. If Beale Street Could Talk | Director: Barry Jenkins | Language: English
I’m sure Berry Jenkins had a deeply connective adoration for Baldwin’s text. From start to finish you can foresee how he wishes to visually represent a sensory experience that he might have had reading the book for the first time. With perfectly calibrated sound design and an uncanny eye for framing, he manages to give a visually stunning homage to lives that his fellows had lived. While not as poetically poignant and relatable as Moonlight, Berry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk is a timeless romance brimming in the face of distress.
30. Jonaki | Director: Aditya Vikram Sengupta | Language: Bengali
A true cinematic equivalent to dreamscape memories formulating an articulative mosaic of artful images, Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s Jonaki is an interpersonal account of decaying life and fumigating sadness. It is a love story set to the moving sensibilities of the time and the destructive immunity of memorabilia. In only his second feature, Sengupta proves to have a vision that, in spite of its clear influences, manages to be surrealistically magical.
29. Under the Silver Lake | Director: David Robert Mitchell | Language: English
A hippie post-break-up film that jumbles itself in a bizarre neo-noir, trapped in a fever-dream that critiques what’s it’s like to decode LA – especially Hollywood. While David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake can feel constantly bonkers and cartoonish, the mystery that engulfs the central character is only about him understanding that he needs to grow up and maybe grow out of his apartment.
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28. Cold War | Director: Paweł Pawlikowski | Language: Polish
Cold War is an exquisitely shot, beautifully rendered love story about broken people in a broken state and place. Joanna Kulig shines in Paweł Pawlikowski’s film that shadows the romance of two people over the course of 20 years as they try in vain to fix each other. This romance understands the restlessness of love and the passion that simply wouldn’t become whole.
27. In the Aisles | Director: Thomas Stuber | Language: German
Thomas Stuber’s In the Aisles is an incredibly absorbing and immersive character drama that studies the life of a man trying to find his place in the world. Set inside the shoddy interiors of a supermarket, Stuber manages to subdue the lack of space by formulating a dreamy, almost poetic reflection of life’s ordinance and transience.
26. The Great Buddha + | Director: Huang Hsin-yao | Language: Taiwanese
A smart, uproaring black comedy that decidedly breaks the narrative strand into a superbly crafted narrative device where the director spells out everything for you. Yet, The Great Buddha+ manages to keep the social critique so concretely bleak and rigid that hearsays would simply skim it for it serves a delicious voyeuristic gaze at the never-in-concern higher class literally snatching colour out of the black and white days of the lower class.