Venerable Sight & Sound magazine polled 164 international critics and curators, and these are the first half of their 40 Best Films of 2018. The second batch will be published in the next edition of the magazine. For more details, review quote, trailers, and other links, visit the S&S site. (While you’re there, see if you can find the elusive list of the 164 people they polled.)
(Thanks to Bryce Forestieri for the heads up)
Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico/USA (38 votes)
Cuáron’s magnificently crafted memoir casts us back to a 1970s childhood in the throes of family break-up, ruptures on the streets of Mexico City – and a Mixtec housekeeper, played by nonprofessional actor Yalitza Aparicio, given the weight of the drama.
2. Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Anderson, USA (30 votes)
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a chilly 1950s couturier resisting romantic intimacy in Paul Thomas Anderson’s slyly comic Hitchcockian drama – his most ambitious and surprising film yet.
Lee Chang-dong, Korea (25 votes)
Lee Chang-dong’s masterful and unclassifiable follow-up to Poetry teems with ambiguity, inevitability and sublime mystery.
4. Cold War
Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland/UK/France/India (21 votes)
Pawel Pawlikowski triumphs with a romantic epic cut down to a series of evocative episodes, with luscious monochrome photography and an unimprovable cast.
5. First Reformed
Paul Schrader, USA (20 votes)
Ethan Hawke stars as a small-town priest suffering a crisis of faith in the writer-director’s heartfelt, Bresson-influenced drama.
6. Leave No Trace
Debra Granik, USA (17 votes)
Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie gives a breakthrough turn as the loyal daughter of Ben Foster’s post-traumatised soldier, determined to live off-grid in post-frontier America, in Debra Granik’s tremendously subtle drama of diverging yearnings.
=7. The Favourite
Yorgos Lanthimos, UK/Ireland/USA (16 votes)
Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone turn in a trio of delectable performances in Yorgos Lanthimos’s giddy and acerbic courtly caper.
=7. You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay, USA/UK/France (16 votes)
The body count vies with the word count in Lynne Ramsay’s stunningly pared-down avenger noir, with a battered but unbowed Joaquin Phoenix storming the urban night.
=9. Happy as Lazzaro
Alice Rohrwacher, Italy/Switzerland/France/Germany (15 votes)
Alice Rohrwacher follows The Wonders with a boldly unsentimental tale of a holy innocent, an inexplicable miracle and a tyrannous aristocrat.
Lucrecia Martel, Argentina/Brazil/Spain/France/Mexico/The Netherlands /Monaco/Portugal/USA/Lebanon/UK/Dominican Republic (15 votes)
Lucrecia Martel’s masterly adaptation of Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 novel maroons Daniel Giménez Cacho’s preening officer of the Spanish empire in an Argentine backwater, then turns the screw.
11. The Image Book
Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland/France (14 votes)
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.
12. If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins, USA (12 votes)
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.
Spike Lee, USA (11 votes)
Spike Lee’s sweeping parable recounts the true story of a black police officer who went undercover in the KKK.
=14. The Other Side of the Wind
Orson Welles, France/Iran (10 votes)
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.
Sandi Tan, USA (10 votes)
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.
Koreeda Hirokazu, Japan (10 votes)
Koreeda Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or at Cannes with this nuanced and immersive drama about a makeshift family group.
17. Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley, USA (9 votes)
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.
=18. Faces Places
Agnès Varda & J.R., France/USA/Switzerland (8 votes)
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.
=18. The Rider
Chloe Zhao, USA (8 votes)
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.
Valeska Grisebach, Germany/Bulgaria/Austria (8 votes)
Valeska Grisebach’s tense drama summons the essence of a classic Hollywood genre to tell a mournful tale of fractured Europe and wounded masculinity.