We are now halfway through the year and it’s time to countdown the top 10 films of the year so far.
10. American Animals
One of the most entertaining films of the year, “American Animals” pulls together a cast full of some of the best young talent working today. While mixing narrative and documentary style filmmaking “American Animals” brings an interesting flare to a heist film. Featuring two very solid performances from Evan Peters and Barry Keoghan, while also being one of the best edited films of the year “American Animals” is a nice breeze of a ride.
9. A Quiet Place
One of the most tense films of the year, “A Quiet Place” brings immaculate sound design that truly is Oscar worthy. This film also shows that John Krasinski is more than a competent director and can build tension with the best of them. You can’t go without mentioning the great performances of the entire cast from Krasinski himself, to Emily Blunt to some of the best kid actors working today Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. All of them have fantastic chemistry and together are one of the best film families of the year.
The best way to describe “Thoroughbreds” is to say it’s a meld of “Heathers” and “American Psycho”. “Thoroughbreds” is also a fascinating study of remorse and the tinkering of the human emotion. The film also features some solid performances from Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy and the late Anton Yelchin. The interactions between these three performances bring the film’s dark comedy, which works throughout the film very well. This film also marks the final performance of Anton Yelchin, which is more than heartbreaking because its performances like this in which only Yelchin could bring.
7. The Endless
A look at familial perspective and free will, “The Endless” is a micro-budget sci-fi horror film that will stay with you for days afterwards. A film where the leads (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead) are also the directors, co-producers and co-editors. While Benson wrote the screenplay and Moorhead shot the film. “The Endless” introduces some mind-bending ideas and concepts, while also having some gripping twists and turns. In the end “The Endless” shows that even with a micro-budget you still can take sci-fi to interesting places.
A film full of nightmare like imagery and Cronenberg body horror, “Annihilation” is a film that will for sure screw with your head. The film takes some visual cues from Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”, but it as well has its own style visually. As it uses light going through “the Shimmer” (which is essentially a giant soap bubble) for some stunning shots. But you can’t go without talking about the final 25 minutes of this film, which can only be compared to the final act of “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Those final 25 minutes will for sure keep you thinking for weeks on end.
5. The Tale
A confrontational look at child abuse, “The Tale” brings a look at childhood memories in a new way. This is the first and only TV movie entry on this list, and it’s too bad because this film brings many Oscar worthy elements. First off Laura Dern gives one the best performances of her career that is emotional wreaking. The screenplay introduces a shifting view of childhood memories for our lead character Jennifer. As she is telling her story she finds out new details and we see the film rewind and start over with the details. This entire film is unflinching and holds little to nothing back, so it will be difficult for some viewers to handle, but I recommend trying to fight through it.
The most haunting film of the year, “Hereditary” brings precise direction from the feature length debut of Ari Aster. Aster is already one of the most exciting filmmakers working today after just his first film. Aster brings long holding shots that bring some of the most unnerving tension I’ve ever felt in my life. The performances in this film as well are some of the best of the year. Toni Collette in particular gives the best performance by an actress so far this year. If done by a different actress the performance could be very over the top, but Collette walks the line brilliantly. Alex Wolff as well brings subtle emotional torment to his character that builds throughout the film. This is a film I’ve already seen twice in the theater and there is still more to dissect in due time.
3. First Reformed
Inside the mind of self destructive and spiritually tormented priest is where you are throughout “First Reformed”. This film features the best work Ethan Hawke has ever done. And this is by far the best written film of the year, as it features the unforgettable Paul Schrader narration. Schrader has been a brilliant screenwriter for years, as seen in his past screenplays for “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” amongst others. And no one can get you into a characters psyche like Paul Schrader. Here he also steps behind the camera and directs this film very well. He brings a strong minimalist and slow-cinema feel to the entire film. We see the minimalist feel through the film being shot in the academy aspect ratio and having very little camera movement. While the slow-cinema feel comes from the films influences, those being Robert Bresson’s “Diary of a Country Priest”, and also Ingmar Bergman’s “Winter Light”. The film wears those influences proudly on its sleeve and never for once is held back by them.
2. The Rider
“The Rider” brings a new look at the American cowboy that stripes the mythology away. Chloé Zhao directs this film with a Terrence Malick-esque feel and brings that to the South Dakota badlands. This film features no professional actors and yet that brings an even more powerful emotion to the film, as those actors are all playing a version of themselves. Brady Jandreau plays our lead character (Brady Blackburn) and for someone who has never acted before, he already has a very magnetic screen presence, and holds the film up beautifully. This film overall is a study of recovery and masculinity and is as compelling as they come.
1. You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay continues to show why she is one of the best directors working today with “You Were Never Really Here”. Ramsay brings here visual poetry style to this film and even handles violence in a new way. Instead of showing all the action, we just see the aftermath of violence. Her screenplay as well brings a plaguing arc to the lead character “Joe” and a jaw-dropping ending that is a mix of horror and gracefulness. This film also features the best performance of the year so far, given by Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix brings a transfixing physicality to his character “Joe”, and at points just lets the way he carries himself do the talking. With Daniel Day-Lewis in retirement, you can now give Joaquin Phoenix the title of the best actor working today.