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The top 10 films of 2018 that you (probably) haven’t seen, but absolutely must

From the rap-battle satire Bodied to Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece Roma, here are the top 10 films of 2018 that you (probably) haven’t seen, but absolutely must.

weekend binge Updated: Dec 24, 2018 17:51 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Best Films 2018,Top 10 Films 2018,Hereditary
Stills from Eighth Grade, Bodied and BlackKklansman, three of the best films you need to see this year.

It feels slightly outdated to recommend films that ‘you might not have seen’, considering just how easily available most good movies are these days. Gone is the era when you’d have to break numerous laws to watch the latest Oscar favourite, or that Sundance winner that everyone was talking about.

From international oddities to the latest mainstream hits, everything is merely a click away. For the first time ever, none of your complaints about not having access to good movies hold water. A great education in cinema is at your fingertips; all you need to do is to switch off Race 3 and explore.

However, we’re caught at an odd time of the year, here in India. For instance, barely any of 2018’s biggest festival hits have scored any sort of distribution deals here, and the most talked about Oscar contenders are still a couple of months away.

This doesn’t mean that we’re worse off than everyone else, the poor third-world dwellers that we are; it simply means that the best is yet to come (and if you don’t spot your favourite here, there is a reason).

Here are the top 10 films of 2018 that you need to make time for, arranged from ‘worst’ to best. Big-budget, mainstream movies have been listed separately.

Hearts Beat Loud

This is going to be a heavy list, be warned. But before all that, cleanse your palate with director Brett Haley’s feel-good father-daughter drama, about old doors being shut, and new ones being opened. Nick Offerman plays a widower who runs a failing record shop, but realises that his fluctuating bond with his teenage daughter, played by Kiersey Clemons, is more important than everything else. Filled with moments of quiet profundity and a foot-tapping soundtrack, Hearts Beat Loud is a welcome bit of niceness in what has been a very horrible year, generally speaking.

Hereditary

Even director Ari Aster was surprised by how polarised the reactions to his debut feature were. “I knew it was going to be divisive in many respects,” he told Huffington Post, “but I’ll admit that I’ve been surprised by just how deeply some viewers hate the thing.” And yes, it takes barely a minute to understand that Hereditary isn’t not going to please anyone, but that’s sort of the point. It isn’t in the business of pandering to the audience. It respects you too much to do that. But if you’re the sort of person who adores films like The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby, Hereditary can be a delightfully disturbing experience.

Demon House

As excellent as this year has been for horror cinema, pound for pound there is no better scary movie than Demon House. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that no horror film has been this effective since 2007’s first Paranormal Activity. Of course, it’s easy to read this and simply dismiss it as the ramblings of someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but you must understand, like this list, horror is a very subjective genre. What you like your friends probably don’t. Clearly, faux documentaries about real-life hauntings are my jam.

BlackKklansman

One of the greatest joys of watching films by celebrated directors is to watch them pull out their trademark shots. Quentin Tarantino puts you inside trunks (and forces you to encourage his foot fetish), Zack Snyder goes super slo-mo, Martin Scorsese plays the Rolling Stones and Spike Lee glides. BlackKklansman is a welcome return to form for the legendary filmmaker, who returns to some of the same thorny themes he addressed in his breakout film, Do the Right Thing. Almost three decades have passed since then, but unfortunately, the times haven’t changed.

Searching

The surest sign of a good thriller is to see how well it works within the confines of the genre – whether or not it is able to offer a fresh take on familiar themes, and how well it is able to conceal twists and turns from an audience that has been conditioned to take nothing at face value. A great thriller, however, is one whose restrictions are self-imposed. Searching is the sort of movie that will need your support – you must seek it out and spread the word. It will find its true audience when it is released on streaming - because of obvious reasons - but now, and for the future, we must champion it.

Three Identical Strangers

Tim Wardle’s documentary about triplets separated at birth, and then reunited by chance almost 20 years later, is as heartbreaking as it is uplifting. It reminded me of Mark Romanek’s exceptionally dreary masterpiece, Never Let Me Go - a science-fiction drama about clones learning the true purpose of their lives, and attempting a breakout. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Bodied

Joseph Kahn’s Bodied, one of the first YouTube Red original films, is a comedy of manners set within the decidedly rude world of battle rap. It’s a biting satire of our politically correct times, and a wickedly stylised story about race, culture and history, that dares to subvert cinematic as well as social expectations.

The Tale

It’s bittersweet that The Tale was released on HBO and not in movie theatres because Laura Dern was robbed of what would have been a sure-shot (and thoroughly deserved) Oscar nomination. It might even be one of the finest performances of her career. And it couldn’t have belonged to a more heartbreakingly terrific film. Director Jennifer Fox reveals her demons for the whole world to see, and in doing so, exorcises them in this uncompromising self-portrait of a film about the abuse she faced as a child. You’ll need to prepare yourselves mentally, but it’s one of the most rewarding cinematic experience of the year.

Eighth Grade

It took Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade exactly 30 seconds to announce that is a stone-cold masterpiece. The opening credits hadn’t concluded yet, but the film’s preciously awkward tone - all left feet and odd edges - had already settled in. It’s a testament to the power of filmmaking, and Burnham’s frankly astonishing skills as a first-time director, that a 26-year-old in New Delhi could relate this hard to the story of a 13-year-old girl stumbling through school in New York.

Roma

Like The Tale, Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma is a semi-autobiographical story about childhood. It’s like a half-remembered dream, drawn almost entirely from hazy memories. It is the film of the year - a feminist fable that will do more for the movement than the movies and shows that identify as such. It will also change everything that we know and understand about how the movie business works; a game changing masterpiece that needs to be seen again, and again, and again. You no longer have an excuse not to.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Dec 22, 2018 09:20 IST