11. The Image Book
Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland/France ► Trailer
Godard’s multifaceted essay film revels in the mobility and mutability of imagery in the 21st century, uncovering the violence of representation but always searching for hope in a cacaphonous world.
“Godard’s gnomic cultural-political pronouncements now have a Prospero edge to them, as if he knows this might be his last work. All the usual manipulation/destruction of images and apt quotations of written texts are present, but his rhythm now seems comfortably similar to a series of memes.”
— Nick James, S&S July 2018
☞ Read our review The Image Book: Jean-Luc Godard’s ruminative and radical montage
Barry Jenkins, USA ► Trailer
Barry Jenkins’s rhapsodic adaptation of James Baldwin’s Harlem passion story, with KiKi Layne and Stephan James as the lovers sundered by a trumped-up police charge, finds reasons to swoon in the darkness.
“The melodrama amplifies the politics and the politics amplifies the melodrama and this double charge does not let up.”
— Sophie Monks Kaufman, reviewing from Toronto
Spike Lee, USA ► Trailer
Spike Lee’s sweeping parable recounts the true story of a black police officer who went undercover in the KKK.
“Lee paints with tone, using different modes of humour to skewer the basic mentality of bigots, satirise the notion of white America, and savour the absurdity of the true story from which this film has been adapted.”— Sophie Monks Kaufman, reviewing from Cannes
☞ Read our review BlacKkKlansman fails to get to the heart of racist America
Orson Welles, France/Iran ► Trailer
Welles’s legendary unfinished testament film about Hollywood finally made it to the screen after 48 years, thanks to the offices of an expert team working with admirable fidelity to his vision.
“The final version is a revelation in rounding out so many richly explored characterisations, while shaping the multilayered material in a jazzy rhythm.”
— Joseph McBride, S&S November 2018
☞ Read Twilight in the Smog: Joseph McBride’s notes from the making of The Other Side of the Wind in our November 2018 issue
Sandi Tan, USA ► Trailer
As a teenage punk, Sandi Tan dreamed of making a movie, and a charismatic older man promised to help – until he vanished with the finished reels. In this documentary, she tells the tale of her lost and found film.
“A bracingly bizarre true-life saga of indie filmmaking gone squirrelly and disastrous.”
— Michael Atkinson, S&S November 2018
☞ Read our review Shirkers is a true-life horror story for indie filmmakers
Koreeda Hirokazu, Japan ► Trailer
Koreeda Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or at Cannes with this nuanced and immersive drama about a makeshift family group.
“The filigree craftsmanship is worthy of admiration and analysis, yet what really makes this special is the sheer depth of compassion and knowing humanity behind every frame.”
— Trevor Johnston, S&S December 2018
☞ Read our review Shoplifters reveals Koreeda’s masterfully light touch
☞ Read our interreview ‘Is blood enough?’ Koreeda Hirokazu on makeshift families and Shoplifters
Boots Riley, USA ► Trailer
The grasping racial politics of late-stage capitalism come under fire in Boots Riley’s wildly inventive comedy, starring Lakeith Stanfield as an office worker who gets too close to the truth.
“The most unique debut of the year, an absurdist sci-fi comedy where capitalism creates equisapiens and artists answer with performance art.”
— Kaleem Aftab, S&S December 2018
☞ Read our review Sorry to Bother You is an unruly, outrageous corporate satire
Credit: Agnès Varda (c) Cine Tamaris
=18. Faces Places
Agnès Varda & J.R., France/USA/Switzerland ► Trailer
Teaming up with street artist JR, legendary director Agnès Varda goes in search of friends new and old in this intuitive caper, which veers between moments of collective joy and great personal poignancy.
“Faces Places is a wonderful exercise in memory and merriment, in instinct and improvisation… No filmmaker alive today plays as delightfully as Varda does.”
— Sukhdev Sandhu, S&S October 2018
☞ Read our review Faces Places pastes Agnès Varda’s playfulness over French landscapes
=18. The Rider
Chloe Zhao, USA ► Trailer
Director Chloé Zhao walks a fine line between fact and fiction in this nuanced study of a young rodeo star recovering from a brain injury.
“A very nuanced portrait of the hopelessness and lack of opportunity abounding in America’s hinterlands… a remarkable achievement from both Zhao and all her actors.”
— Isabel Stevens, reviewing from Cannes
☞ Read our review The Rider: a visceral, organic western
Valeska Grisebach, Germany/Bulgaria/Austria ► Trailer
Valeska Grisebach’s tense drama summons the essence of a classic Hollywood genre to tell a mournful tale of fractured Europe and wounded masculinity.
“Embedded in the rituals, postures and habits of the everyday, and constituted by small gestures and transitory moments of contact.”
— Elena Gorfinkel, S&S May 2018
☞ Read our review Western faces a cold frontier
=21. 120 BPM
Robin Campillo, France ► Trailer
Robin Campillo’s superb story of Aids activists in the 1990s is more than just a revelatory period piece – it’s a celebration of sex, dance and the invigorating value of collective resistance.
☞ Read our review 120 BPM is an enthralling, devastating call to action
=21. La Flor
Mariano Llinás, Argentina ► Trailer
Mariano Llinás’s bold and beguiling cinematic adventure is on a truly epic scale, structured across three parts and six very different narrative episodes.
Ari Aster, USA ► Trailer
Ari Aster’s unnerving and artful debut stars Toni Collette as a woman tormented by her own mother’s terrifying legacy, and uses a palette of haunted-house tropes to keep the audience guessing until the end.
☞ Read our review Hereditary paints a diabolical family portrait
=21. High Life
Claire Denis, Germany/France/USA/UK/Poland ► Trailer
In Claire Denis’ off-planet but decidedly earthy English-language debut, Juliette Binoche plays a crazed scientist intent on harvesting the semen of Robert Pattinson’s monkish inmate on a prison-ship sent to extract the energy from black holes.
=21. Isle of Dogs
Wes Anderson, USA/Germany ► Trailer
The universe of this shaggy-dog story reflects the influence of classic animators and Japanese auteurs both, but its attention to delightful detail and its sympathy for pack of furry leads are all Anderson’s own.
☞ Read our review Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson’s absurdist canine caper
=21. Madeline’s Madeline
Josephine Decker, USA ► Trailer
Josephine Decker pauses only to grapple with her own working methods in this thrilling, formally daring drama about an emotionally fraught teenage girl.
Christian Petzold, Germany/France ► Trailer
The German director’s follow-up to Phoenix shadows a runaway from the Third Reich in modern-day Marseille to conflate the continent’s moral failings past and present.
=28. Ash is Purest White
Jia Zhangke, China/France ► Trailer
Jia Zhangke explores the masculine codes of his country and his own previous work in this ravishing, self-referential film about a woman in love with a mobster, with an astonishing lead performance from Zhao Tao.
☞ Read our review Ash is Purest White: Jia Zhangke’s magisterial mob critique
RaMell Ross, USA ► Trailer
Writer and photographer RaMell Ross captures black Southerners about the business of living in an exquisite triumph of documentary cinema.
☞ Read Kelli Weston’s interview with RaMell Ross in our January/February 2019 issue
=28. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig, USA ► Trailer
A Californian high school student desperate to escape her hometown of Sacramento to study on the East Coast finds her roots in the city are far deeper than she could have imagined, in Greta Gerwig’s fabulous bittersweet coming-of-age tale
☞ Read our review Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig sketches scenes from an awkward adolescence
Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia/France/Belgium/Germany ► Trailer
The Russian director’s fifth feature is an enigmatic, and very rewarding, film about a missing child, a dissolving marriage and a country in crisis. At its best, it’s cinematic poetry.
=28. Ray & Liz
Richard Billingham, UK ► Trailer
Richard Billingham’s obliquely topical debut feature offers a fragmented story of life in inner-city Birmingham during the Thatcher years, as bruising memories rise to the surface.
☞ Read our review Ray & Liz: Revealing a troubled family scrap by scrap
=28. A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper, USA ► Trailer
Bradley Cooper’s accomplished debut stars Lady Gaga as an aspiring singer looking for a break, while the director plays the sozzled rocker who gives her a hand up.
Martin McDonagh, USA/UK ► Trailer
Martin McDonagh’s small-town policing story has a greater emotional depth than his previous offerings, thanks in part to Frances McDormand’s sincere portrait of a grieving mother.
☞ Read our review Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a bitterly poignant comedy
=28. The Wild Pear Tree
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/France/Germany/Bulgaria/Macedonia/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Sweden ► Trailer
Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest follows a would-be writer’s reluctant return to his small-town fold, spinning an extensive series of conversational encounters into a typically rich, wry, melancholic mood-piece.
Daniel Kokotajlo, UK ► Trailer
Mother and daughters are torn apart by religion in Daniel Kokotajlo’s assured debut, a potent drama about life in a tight-knit community of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
☞ Read our review Apostasy presents a family’s painful crisis of faith
Gaspar Noé, France ► Trailer
Noé’s breathtaking one-room dance film corrals a troupe of unfortunate wrap-night celebrants then spikes their punch; degeneracy ensues.
☞ Read our review Climax: Gaspar Noé’s dance demonic
=35. Killing Eve
Various, USA/UK/Italy ► Trailer
Phoebe Waller-Bridge globetrotting, witty and subversive thriller for BBC Three stars Jodie Comer as a deadly assassin, and Sandra Oh as the spy on her trail.
=35. Let the Sunshine In
Claire Denis, France ► Trailer
In Claire Denis’s low-key rondo, archetypal romantic situations elicit subtle yet surprising transformations in the character of Binoche’s newly divorced painter as she returns to the romantic fray.
☞ Read our review Let the Sunshine In: Juliette Binoche rings love’s changes
Desiree Akhavan, USA ► Trailer
Chloë Grace Moretz plays an introverted teenager at a naff but merciless gay conversion therapy camp in Desiree Akhavan’s study of psychological cruelty.
☞ Read our review The Miseducation of Cameron Post teaches tough life lessons
Steve McQueen, USA/UK ► Trailer
Viola Davis leads a gang of novice female crooks in Steve McQueen’s slick and intelligent blockbuster, which has plenty to say for itself over the gunfire.
☞ Read our review Widows takes the heist thriller for a spectacular ride