2018 was not a landmark year for films, but some were excellent, even on low budgets. The blockbuster of the year was Black Panther, the best of the many instalments in the Marvel Universe series, and one of the most profitable in history. But a few films below scored more than 95% on Rotten Tomatoes * – which suggest that nearly everyone will like them — The Guilty, The Hate U Give, Leave No Trace, Mission Impossible – Fallout, A Quiet Place and Paddington 2. There’s something for every age group in the list below.
* * * * * * * *
Directed by Albert Hughes. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Chuck. Length 96 minutes. RT 80%
Ever wonder how man’s best friend became a trusted member of the family? This adventure set in the last Ice Age tells a familiar story of a boy and his dog with a Neolithic twist. While on his first hunt, a young man is injured and learns to survive alone in a savage wilderness. After taming an injured wolf, the pair become unlikely allies, enduring countless dangers to find their way home before winter sets in.
Ant-Man and The Wasp
Directed by Peyton Reed. Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly. Length 118 minutes. RT 88%.
A new chapter in the Marvel Universe. In the aftermath of “Captain America: Civil War,” Scott Lang grapples with the consequences of his choices as a superhero and a father. Then duty calls: he puts on the suit and fights with The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past. Lots of energy and weird humour.
Avengers: Infinity War
Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt & More! Length 156 minutes. RT 84%
This chronicles the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. The Avengers and their Super Hero allies sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe. A sly dig at zero population growth is unexpected and welcome.
Directed by Brad Anderson. Starring Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris. Length 109 minutes. Mission Impossible – Fallout 81%
Set in 1982 during the Lebanese Civil War, the film features a former US diplomat who returns to service to save a colleague from the group responsible for the death of his family. A solid, old-fashioned thriller about angst-ridden spies.
Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya. Length 135 minutes. RT 97%.
If the public is never wrong, Black Panther is the film of the year. It has already earned US $1.3 billion worldwide and has become the ninth-highest grossing film of all time. After “Captain America: Civil War,” T'Challa returns home to the isolated but technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. When an old enemy reappears, his mettle is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the whole world at risk. “The movie has a beating heart, and a big one; it's not just sincere, but that rarest of birds in the jungle of mainstream entertainment, a heartfelt epic,” says the Wall Street Journal.
The First Man
Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke. Length 141 minutes. RT 88%
This is the riveting story of NASA's mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong from 1961 to 1969.
Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer
Directed by Nick Searcy. Starring Dean Cain, Sarah Jane Morris, Earl Billings. Length 93 minutes. RT 50%
There’s an obvious explanation for the low RT rating. Gosnell is a film about the horror of abortion. With a subject that explosive, few reviewers even dared to watch the film. This is the shocking true story of the investigation and trial of Dr Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist ignored by the media before and after his arrest. Stomach-churning but necessary.
The Greatest Showman
Directed by Michael Gracey. Starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson. Length 105 minutes. RT 55%
This is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show biz. P.T. Barnum was a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. A rousing feel-good performance energised by Hugh Jackman’s marvellous performance. A great family film.
The Guilty (Den Skyldige)
Directed by Gustav Möller. Starring Jakob Cedergren. Length 85 minutes. RT 99%. From Denmark.
When police officer Asger Holm is demoted to desk work, he expects a sleepy time as an emergency dispatcher. Then he answers a phone call from a kidnapped woman who disconnects abruptly. Confined to the police station, Asger is forced to use others as his eyes and ears as the nature of the crime slowly becomes more clear. A white-knuckle thriller.
The Hate U Give
Directed by George Tillman Jr. Starring Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Common. Length 132 minutes. RT 97%
Starr Carter lives between two worlds: her poor, mostly black, neighbourhood and her rich, mostly white, prep school. The uneasy balance is shattered when she witnesses the fatal shooting of best friend Khalil by a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr has to stand up for what's right. This is what #BlackLivesMatter is all about.
Directed by Brad Bird. Voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson. Length 118 minutes. RT 94%
Everyone's favourite superhero family is back, but this time Mom is in the spotlight, leaving Dad at home with Violet and Dash. Being a home Dad is tough transition for everyone, made tougher by the fact that baby Jack-Jack's superpowers are emerging. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, they find a way to work together. Good messages about the importance of family – and being the best superhero you can be.
The Insult (L’Insulte)
Directed by Ziad Doueiri. Starring Adel Karam, Kamel El Basha. Length 113 minutes. RT 88%. From Lebanon
In today's Beirut, Tony, a Lebanese Christian, and Yasser, a Palestinian refugee, face off in court over an assault. As the media circus surrounding the case threatens a social explosion, the two men reconsider their values. A tough film about hatred, contempt and reconciliation.
Isle of Dogs
Directed by Wes Anderson. Voices of Koyu Rankin, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Yoko Ono. Length 101 minutes. RT 89%.
In this stop-motion-animated film, an outbreak of canine flu in Japan leads all dogs to be quarantined on an island. A 12-year-old boy journeys there to rescue his dog Spots and gets help from a pack of misfits. His quest inspires a group of dog lovers to expose a conspiracy by a local dictator. Wildly original (aka a bit weird), visually intriguing and entertaining.
Leave No Trace
Directed by Debra Granik. Starring Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Ben Foster. Length 109 minutes. RT 100%.
Will, a war vet with PTSD, and his teenage daughter Tom have lived off the grid for years in the forests of Oregon. When their idyllic life is shattered, both are put into social services. After clashing with their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland. Marvellous acting and a touching story about growing up.
Mission Impossible – Fallout
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames. Length 147 minutes. RT 97%
The best intentions often come back to haunt you. The latest instalment in the Mission Impossible franchise finds Ethan Hunt and his IMF in a race against time after a mission gone wrong. There is a plot, but mostly it’s car chases, motorbike chases, scaling sheer cliffs, punch-ups and broken glass, explosions, the rat-a-tat-tat of submachine guns, and MORE. Great fun.
The Old Man & the Gun
Directed by David Lowery. Starring Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek. Length 93 minutes. RT 93%.
Hollywood legend Robert Redford says that this is his last film. It is the based-on-fact life story of Forrest Tucker, from his audacious escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to a string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public. Wrapped up in the pursuit are detective John Hunt, who becomes captivated with Forrest's commitment to his craft, and the woman who loves him.
The Other Side of Hope
Directed by Aki Kaurismäki. Starring Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen. Length 98 minutes. RT 92%. From Finland
This wry, humane comedy deals with Europe’s refugee crisis. Khaled, a Syrian refugee from Aleppo, lands in Helsinki as a stowaway. At the same time Wikström, a middle-aged salesman, leaves his wife and job to set up a restaurant. After Khaled is denied asylum, Wikström hires him as a waiter. A bittersweet tale of human kindness in the face of official indifference. It’s refreshing to see real human beings after so much Hollywood popcorn.
Directed by Paul King. Starring Ben Wishaw, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Sally Hawkins. Length 105 minutes. RT 100%
Paddington the teddy bear is happily settled with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, where he has become a popular member of the community, spreading joy and marmalade wherever he goes. While searching for a perfect present, he spots a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber's antique shop. When the book is stolen, Paddington and the Browns have to unmask the thief – which lands Paddington in jail. Delightfully cheerful and family-friendly.
A Quiet Place
Directed by John Krasinski. Starring Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds. Length 90 minutes. RT 95%.
A highly original science fiction horror thriller. A family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threaten their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you. In a strange way, the film is an inspiring tribute to the strength of family ties.
The Salesman (Forushande)
Directed by Asghar Farhadi. Starring Shahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidootsi, Babak Karimi. Length 125 minutes. RT 96%. From Iran
Forced to leave their apartment due to a dangerous construction project in a neighbouring building, a young Iranian couple moves to the centre of Tehran where they become embroiled in a life-altering situation involving the previous tenant. A tense drama about marriage, sincerity, and revenge. Another amazing achievement from Iran.
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty. Starring John Cho, Debra Messing. Length 102 minutes. RT 93%.
After David’s 16-year-old daughter goes missing, police get to work. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David searches the one place no one has looked, his daughter's laptop. In this hyper-modern thriller, David has to track his daughter's digital footprints before she disappears forever.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany. Length 135 minutes. RT 70%
Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his co-pilot Chewbacca and the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that sets the course of future Star Wars sagas. Great characters in what is effectively a galactic Western without the horses.
* Rotten Tomatoes is not the last word in movie reviews. It is just a very useful tool which aggregates the positive and negative views of critics. 100% means everyone liked it; 50% means that only half of them liked it. Quality films usually have ratings above 80%. If you have a taste for low-budget horror films, don't be put off by a rating of 23%. You'll probably love it, no matter what those hoity-toity critics say.
And now for something completely different. Looking for a heart-warming Christmas film? Check out Anna and the Apocalypse, a low-budget Scottish musical about zombies who invade a small community and its high school at Christmas time. She and her friends slash, stab, hack, and hammer their way through the undead, one of them dressed as Frosty the Snowman. Lots of song and dance and festive cheer. To be honest, we haven't had a chance to review it, so it might not be all that family-friendly. However, one blurb suggests that it is “This year’s feel-good Christmas hit”. So make your own mind up.