Some of you might know that I’m a big fan of cinema. As much as I love horror and horror movies constitute the majority of films I watch, I just adore cinema: it’s my favourite form of art and entertainment.
Since this website is constantly growing in terms of viewers and followers, I would really love to share my opinions on cinema in general with you guys in the hope you’ll find some non-horror titles that sound interesting to you. Why is this list coming out in March, though? Well, I wanted to make sure to watch every movie I had high expectations for before writing the list and, since I live in Italy, some of those titles came out late here in comparison to other parts of the world.
With this premise out of the way, I’m going to list a few honourable mentions and guilty pleasures, and, after that, we can delve into the list.
Honourable mentions: Bohemian Rhapsody (USA / biography, drama, music), Burning (South Korea / drama, mystery), The Death of Stalin (USA / comedy, drama, history), Green Book (USA / biography, comedy, drama), Happy as Lazzaro (Italy / comedy, drama), The Road Movie (Russia / documentary), Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (Japan / documentary).
Guilty pleasures: Game Night (USA / comedy), Star Wars: A Solo Story (USA / action, sci-fi), Rampage (USA / action, sci-fi, comedy), Too Much Info Clouding Over My Head (Greece / comedy, drama).
19) Shoplifters (Japan / crime, drama) – A married couple struggles with part-time jobs and not enough income to live the life they want; therefore, they make a habit out of shoplifting. Their life changes, however, as one day thy open their doors to a beleaguered young girl. This film perfectly captures the everyday struggles of everyday people, functioning as a microscope to their motivations, feelings and emotions. Sometimes quirky, sometimes tragic, always interesting, Shoplifters is a film I would recommend to those of you who like heavy dramas with bitter-sweet moments. The slow pacing can be a bit of a problem at times, but it never becomes a major flaw.
18) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (USA / action, animated, sci-fi) – Look, besides the old Disney movies and the Studio Ghibli stuff, I’m not too well-versed in animated movies. Yet, I can’t stand superhero films. So, I should hate this new version of Spiderman. Well, I don’t. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the most creative superhero films (out of the ones I’ve seen) and makes the best use of animation I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a visual spectacle that’s funny, cool and witty. The pacing is fantastic, with no dull moments whatsoever. The music is creative and badass. I’m really glad this was awarded as the best animated film of the year, it truly deserved that.
17) I Kill Giants (USA / drama, fantasy) – Despite the title might lead you into thinking this is another monster blockbuster, I Kill Giants is an indie character study centred around Barbara (Madison Wolfe), a 12-year-old quirky girl who uses her imagination to escape from reality. The perfect mix of heart-warming real-life occurrences and highly stylised CGI-driven action gives this movie a unique feel that turns a trite storyline into something very original. I Kill Giants is truly a great movie for everyone, there’s no reason for you not to giving this one a go. Great acting, fantastic special effects and solid story make this indie flick a true winner: had it not been for some predictable elements and a bit of cheese every here and there, I Kill Giants would have been a masterpiece… it still is a great film that has “cult classic” written all over it!
Continue reading below and check the remaining movies on the list
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16) You Were Never Really Here (USA / drama, thriller) – Joachim Phoenix plays Joe, a traumatised veteran, unafraid of violence, who tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe’s last mission becomes to save one last girl from a group of people that seems more dangerous than the ones he faced before. You Were Never Really Here is a modern version of Taxi Driver about frustration: the movie keeps refusing to give a payoff to Joe and to the audience alike. Very unconventional for a thriller and wonderfully acted, You Were Never Really Here is something people who like vigilante stories with a deeper meaning should definitely check out.
15) Blindspotting (USA / comedy) – This is the simple story of a guy who has to go through his last 3 days of probation but in order to do so he needs to re-evaluate the relationship with his best friend, who might be the foremost reason for his troubles. Written by the two guys who play the leads in the film, Blindspotting is constantly funny and entertaining without being slapstick or raunchy. This is the kind of situational humour that I love and many comedic moments are achieved through visual gags and editing, which elevates a cool comedy to a whole higher level. Blindspotting is a film that everyone can enjoy, therefore one of the easiest to recommend for me.
14) Under the Silver Lake (USA / crime, mystery) – From the director of It Follows, Under the Silver Lake is one of the weirdest films I’ve seen last year. Sam (Andrew Garfield), intelligent but without purpose, finds a mysterious woman swimming in his apartment’s pool one night. The next morning, she disappears and Sam sets off across LA to find her, and along the way he uncovers a conspiracy far more bizarre. The whole picture is a commentary on the Hollywood lifestyle and artificial morals, which is probably why many critics didn’t like it (I guess): in fact, besides being witty and clever, this film is also perfectly shot and scored, and features solid performances. Had it not been for some exaggerated artsy moments, which stretched the runtime to 149 minutes, this would definitely be closer to the top of my list.
13) Sicilian Ghost Story (Italy / drama, fantasy) – Based on a sad true story, this movie follows Giuseppe, a boy of 13, who’s kidnapped by the Sicilian Mafia because his father rebelled against them. Luna, one of his classmates, refuses to accept Giuseppe’s mysterious disappearance and rebels against the silence and complicity that surround her. In real life, the kid was actually melted in acid (which is incredibly gruesome and fucked up… but that’s Mafia), whereas the movie assesses the story from a somewhat naïve and fairy tale-esque angle: although this could be considered sugar-coating, Sicilian Ghost Story uses it to show the bravery a person should have to fight such relentless evil. This is a beautiful yet depressing movie that tells a dark chapter in Italian history, but it does that in a very delicate way that won’t put people off.
12) Hitler’s Hollywood (Germany / documentary) – Through interviews and newly discovered footage, this documentary examines German cinema from 1933, when the Nazis came into power, until 1945 when the Third Reich collapsed. For fans of cinema and politics, this is a goldmine: besides being historically accurate and very interesting, Hitler’s Hollywood presents the viewer with some scary parallels between the German cinema industry in those dark years and the current situation in American big studios. Strongly recommended!
11) The Guilty (Denmark / crime, drama, thriller) – Alarm dispatcher Asger Holm answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman. When the call is suddenly disconnected, the search for the woman and her kidnapper begins in a race against time. The Guilty is an intense, anxiety-inducing ride where every 5 minutes a well thought out plot twist happens. This is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen last year and, with the short 85-minute runtime, a film that I can easily watch multiple times. If you like thrillers that will keep you on the edge of your sit, you shouldn’t miss this one out.
10) Thoroughbreds (USA / comedy, crime) – Two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut are deeply unhappy and set out an extreme plan to solve their issues. Thoroughbreds takes two very unlikeable characters (played by Olivia Crook and Anya Taylor-Joy) and turns them into very complex and relatable people: besides that, this film is filled with dark, off-putting humour, simple but effective cinematography, and a meaning that might be obvious but it’s still effective when displayed like this movie does.
9) Roma (Mexico / drama) – The newest film by Alfonso Cuaron shows a year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s. Everything in the movie is great but, as per usual with Cuaron, the cinematography is the show-stealer: this is the best-looking film of the year for me, which elevates the material to a whole other level.
8) Dogman (Italy / thriller) – This bleak and offbeat film follows a timid and mentally ill dog groomer who lives in a poor suburb where he sells cocaine on the side and stays out of trouble, until a violent acquaintance starts menacing the whole neighbourhood. Although acting and cinematography (and locations… wow, the locations!) are fantastic, Dogman truly stands out due to the relentless approach to taboo topics and overall off-putting nature of the story. It’s a shame that the music, to me, ruined some of the scenes because otherwise this would definitely have been my favourite film of the year. Still, please set your morals aside and watch Dogman as soon as you can.
7) The Night Comes for Us (Indonesia / action, thriller) – With part of the cast of The Raid reuniting, The Night Comes for Us follows a gangland enforcer, caught amidst a treacherous and violent insurrection. Story and acting, here, come secondary to the over-the-top, gory violence and perfectly stylised fight scenes. This movie is pure adrenaline pump: it ain’t The Raid: Redemption (as basically no action movie has ever been or ever will be), but it’s still a testosterone fuelled experience that will please every single action movie fan and gore-hound.
6) Before We Vanish (Japan / sci-fi) – An alien invasion story like no other, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest film sees three aliens arrive on Earth as an advance team before the actual attack begins. They take the form of the recently deceased and each must rely on a human guide to help them acclimate, but their respective experiences are far from uniform. Terrific action set-pieces punctuate this sci-fi drama about relationships, communication, and the argument for saving humanity or letting them perish. It’s great thought-provoking fun.
5) Forgotten (South Korea / drama, mystery) – Funnily enough, this is the very first film I have seen in 2018. Very simply put, it tells the story of an apparently regular family moving to a new house, something feels odd from the very beginning and, as soon as the story starts to unfold, it’s one twist after the other. Forgotten is unsettling, depressing, compelling and features awesome characters, all of the extremely well written by writer/director Hang-Jun Zhang (whose last film came out 15 years ago!). I can’t imagine anyone not liking this one… and it’s on Netflix, so there’s no reason for you not to give it a shot.
4) First Reformed (Australia / drama, mystery) – Ethan Hawke plays the minister of a small congregation in upstate New York who grapples with mounting despair brought on by tragedy, worldly concerns and a tormented past. I’m always intrigued by scandals in the Catholic Church and movies that go against the dark side of religions, so First Reformed is exactly my cup of tea story-wise. Add to that the best performance in Ethan Hawke’s career, a fantastic atmosphere, and a script that doesn’t have inconsistency or stupid moments, and you have a winner!
3) On My Skin (Italy / biography, drama) – Stefano Cucchi is a young building surveyor who, after being found in possession of some packs of hashish and 2 grams of cocaine, is brought to a prison in Rome. During precautionary custody, Cucchi is beaten up and abused by the Italian police for days, resulting in his death. This brings his family, led by his sister Ilaria, to start a battle for the truth and to try to find out the people responsible of Stefano’s death. On My Skin isn’t particularly exceptional in terms of technical execution, but it’s wonderfully acted and tells a story (a true story, by the way) that’s gut-wrenching and infuriating. This is a powerful film that had me either crying or fuming out of rage throughout. The film is relentless in showing the unapologetic and unwarranted actions of the Italian police, and it’s a powerful statement about police brutality and abuse. Watch it but keep a tissue or two near you.
2) The Favourite (UK-USA / drama, comedy, history) – Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite is set in the early 18th century England and follows frail Queen Anne. Her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead but, when a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. The rivalry between these two women is the focal point of the film and it’s showed in a darkly funny and humorously dramatic way. The solid script and interesting story turn what could be a boring period piece into the one of the most entertaining films of the year: on top of that, Yorgos’ directing make everything look better to the creativity behind every single shot. How did this movie didn’t win the Award for best film? Anyway, check it out for yourself, you won’t be disappointed!
1) Blade of the Immortal (Japan / action, drama) – the 100th movie by Takashi Miike is one of the best in the legendary filmmaker’s catalogue, in my opinion. We follow Manji, a highly skilled samurai, who becomes cursed with immortality after a legendary battle. Haunted by the brutal murder of his sister, Manji knows that only fighting evil will regain his soul. Based on a manga and featuring amazing samurai action filled with gore and violence, Blade of the Immortal’s two-and-a-half-hour-long runtime feels like the blink of an eye: brutal, emotional, well-acted, filled with Japanese tradition and themes of honour and revenge, this is a must-see for fans of Japanese cinema.
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