ICO's Best of 2018

Posted on December 27, 2018 by Maria Pirkkalainen

Categories: General

Which screenings stood out? Which posters still linger in our minds? And how did The Rock make it on this list? We’re wrapping up a great year with this list of cinematic highlights, as selected by the ICO team.

Isabel Moir, Film Programmer

Favourite 2018 films by female directors

I always find it really hard to remember all the films I have watched in the past year, particularly as I am also in a very privileged position where I get to watch films as part of my job. Every year many films get overlooked and lost within the UK release schedule – therefore, this year I have decided to highlight my favourite films released in 2018 by female directors. Writing this list has also made me realise that there are still many titles I need to catch up on…

The Rider

In no particular order:

The Rider by Chloe Zhao

Faces Places  by Agnes Varda

You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsay

Lady Bird by Greta Gerwig

Western by Valeska Grisebach

Pin Cushion by Deborah Haywood

Leave No Trace by Debra Granik

Summer 1993 by Carla Simon

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Desiree Akhavan

Waru by Ainsley Gardiner, Casey Kaa, Renae Maihi, Awanui Simich-Pene,Briar Grace Smith, Paula Whetu Jones, Chelsea Winstanley, Katie Wolfe


Here’s to more female directed released in 2019! I am already very excited about upcoming films such as Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love, Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher and Dominga Sotomayor’s Too Late to Die Young.

Jonny Courtney, Senior Film Programmer

Lots of films I’m still to see (Summer 1993, The Rider, Leave No Trace, Suspiria and Roma are all high on my watch-list), but the films below are the ones that stayed with me the most this year.

Top films of 2018

Phantom Thread
You Were Never Really Here
Mission Impossible: Fallout
First Man
The Guilty
A Star is Born
Cold War
The Favourite (technically released on 1st Jan but platforming in London on boxing day so I’m having it!)

Favourite scores/soundtracks (with Spotify links)

You Were Never Really Here – Jonny Greenwood

First Man – Justin Hurwitz

A Star is Born – Various

Phantom Thread – Jonny Greenwood

Suspiria – Thom Yorke

Best films  I saw in 2018 that haven’t got a UK release (yet!):

The Nightingale by Jennifer Kent

Petra by Jaime Rosales

Shut Up and Play the Piano by Philipp Jedicke


David Sin, Head of Cinemas

For my 2018 Films of the Year, I’ll set aside any English language films for the time being as these mostly receive more than enough attention already.

The best films I’ve seen that were released in 2018 are:

Cold War




After some years of creative inertia, it felt like there were some signs of life in World Cinema in 2018  – With these four films, plus a couple of interesting films from China, the new Andrey Zvyagintsev,  A Fantastic Woman breaking out and titles like Capernaum, Burning and maybe Carlos Reygadas’ Our Time lined up to hit UK screens in 2019, a revival of deeper interest seems possible for the first time in years. What’s still missing are the powerful emerging voices, new national cinemas or film trends and movements that cannot be ignored. In the UK, the big task remains to arrest the general decline in audiences for World Cinema, and to persuade audiences to broaden their film horizons.

Best personal experience in a cinema for me was doing an on-stage with Kore-Eda Hirokazu at BAFTA in November to support Shoplifters. I first met and worked with him almost 20 years ago when the ICA  released Afterlife so it was a real privilege to reconnect with him for what has turned out to be his most critically and commercially successful film.

Heather McIntosh, Film Programmer

Below are my top 10 films of the year in release order


I can’t do written justice to how I felt about Loveless. A perfect film to me – I delighted in every second of it.

Lady Bird

I saw this twice – once in London, once in Glasgow – and both times strongly connected to the mother-daughter storyline, and more broadly, the film’s ability to capture what felt like a relatable snapshot of female adolescence.

A Fantastic Woman

Beautiful and rich in its style, while offering a compassion portrait of a trans woman mourning her lover, Daniela Vega gives one of my favourite performances of the year in Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman.

Summer 1993

This really took me by surprise – a powerful, yet delicately handled debut film from Carla Simón with some of the best child performances I’ve seen.

Cold War

I remember this fondly as the standout film at my first ever Cannes. It’s almost impossible not to be won over by.

American Animals

I was so tense throughout the whole film, almost unbearably so at times. A lot of films really struggle with pacing but this one gets top marks for it.


I feel very ‘eyeroll’ towards Gaspar Noé but I absolutely loved Climax. It got about as close to provoking the full-blown WILD exhilaration I felt from watching Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession that any other film’s come close to.

The Hate You Give

With a breakout performance from Amandla Stenberg, The Hate You Give is a searing drama that tackles the issues of racism and police violence without pulling a single punch.

Nae Pasaran!

This incredibly moving documentary had me in tears. Scottish factory workers who stood in solidarity with their Chilean counterparts come to learn just how huge the impact of their supportive action was.

Sorry To Bother You

Easily the most unique film I’ve seen this year. With a completely unpredictable narrative trajectory, it examines issues of white privilege while critiquing the capitalist system. Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Riley are outstanding.

Favourite, and newly discovered, repertory screenings of the year

Nine to Five (1980) – Jane Fonda! Dolly Parton! Lily Tomlin! Abduct! Their! Sexist! Boss! Jane Fonda introduced it while swigging and spilling a martini!

The Girls [Flickorna] (1968) – Part of the Revolt, She Said: Women and Film after ’68 tour, I haven’t seen anything quite like it – a real joy to discover.

The Hitch-Hiker (1953) – I saw this as part of the BFI’s Ida Lupino season. I’m not sure I’ve seen another Film Noir film of that decade directed by a woman, I loved it.


Maria Pirkkalainen, Marketing and Events Officer

Film marketing highlights of 2018

1. The Rock watching Three Identical Strangers and posting about it on Instagram

Influencer marketing at its best.

2. Claire Foy taking a Buzzfeed quiz to find out how Lisbeth Salander she really is

Great idea that could be easily adapted for different campaigns.

3. Social cards for Hyde Park Picture House’s dog-friendly screenings

Just look at that paw! Top stuff.

4. Black Panther’s trailer

Technically this trailer was released already in October 2017, but re-watching it (and listening to that amazing mix of Vince Staples’ BagBak with Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) has very much stayed with me in 2018!

5.  A new website dedicated to writing on Margarethe von Trotta

Fair enough, this one’s by us, but it’s not everyday that an undersung female filmmaker gets a brand new web portal made and dedicated to her. I’m really happy how it turned out and how it’s been reaching new audiences for her work and films (we even got a mention on The Criterion Collection’s blog!). There’s also more new writing coming up in early 2019. This isn’t just marketing, it’s a public service for film history.


Thomas Wightman, BFI Network Talent Executive – South East

The best shorts I’ve seen this year:

Wilson by John Ogunmuyiwa

Entitled by Adeyemi Michael

Dodgy Dave by Charlotte Regan

Quarantine by Astrid Goldsmith


Catharine Des Forges, Director:

Most of mine are on the shortlist for the Oscar for best foreign language film – Cold War, Shoplifters, Capernaum… All of them exceptional, heart-warming, transformational and from directors at the height of their powers.

My event of the year had to be Jane Fonda in conversation at the BFI Southbank – I would have liked her to carry on talking all week,  she was fabulous!

Technically it’s from last year but we all still love The Greatest Showman in our house and I love the way that it didn’t follow the conventional industry model of success but seeped into everyone’s consciousness so that by the end of the year the soundtrack was fashionable enough to merit an album of cover versions.

I have also really enjoyed lots of screenings from ICO projects this year;  Rosa Luxemburg at the Barbican; South East Stories at the Cambridge Film Festival where the mum of one of the filmmakers saw her film for the first time and my mum showing Rural Life from the Britain of Film collection to all of her friends at a community cinema screening.

James Calver, Project Coordinator

My top 5 film posters 2018


I know the film itself isn’t released until next February, but this poster came out this year, and honestly I wouldn’t need much more of an excuse than that to include it in this list. Just look at it. As if you needed any more provocation to see this film, they then go and release the most beautiful, double exposure-esque poster to get you even more excited.

Cold War

Everything I’d want to say about this film is summed up not even by this image as a whole, but simply by the expressions on Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot’s faces. It manages to capture in one moment the serenity of the film – what made it so captivating – all while maintaining such a stylish artistry.


It may not have been the official UK release poster, but this Hokusai-inspired poster for the Japanese release of Shoplifters is just sumptuous. At a first glance, does it tell you much about the film? Not really. But after you’ve seen the film, you realise that it captures everything that the film is saying in one carefully curated image.


Very few posters this year have made me stop outside of a cinema and stare, but this poster did just that. I don’t know whether it was the colours, the artistic style, or the fact that there’s so much going on in this image that it almost demands you give it some extra time to allow your eye to wander and pick out some of the finer details.

Ready Player One

Say what you want about the film, this poster managed to capture everything that the book was trying to be, paying homage to film posters for classic and modern sci-fi’s alike. I’ll never understand how The Iron Giant got into a film that’s supposed to be about 70’s and 80’s sci-fi, but I’m happy to overlook that for now.

Daniel Horseman, Administration Coordinator

Soundtrack/score highlights of 2018

When I recently received my Spotify Wrapped 2018 list, that nifty feature that breaks down your most played songs and artists of the year, I wasn’t at all surprised to see that Jonny Greenwood was firmly in the number one spot, thanks to a mild obsession with his scores to two of my favourite films of the year.

Although I have always loved and appreciated a great film score, I felt that a significant number of my favourite films this year had a score or soundtrack that was absolutely integral to the experience. So in no particular order here are a few of my favourites.

Phantom Thread

The first time I saw Phantom Thread was at the Royal Festival Hall with the score being played live by the London Contemporary Orchestra. Occasionally when I have seen a film screened with a live score I have found that, if the film is sufficiently absorbing, the fact that the score is live gradually fades away into the background, which then prompts you to consider if it was really worth the bother (and extra expense)! But like one of Reynolds Woodcock’s dresses, this score is intricate and fragile; at times it is lush and romantic, with swelling strings and delicate harp; at others there is an undercurrent of foreboding, a rising sickness and tension but yet somehow unnervingly beautiful. Hearing this score performed live was easily one of my highlights of the year.

Listen to Catch Hold

Cold War

The first shot of the film is of a man with tired eyes and a tattered winter coat playing some type of bagpipe (don’t @ me) along with another man playing the fiddle, singing a mournful folk song about an unrequited love. From the outset music is at the heart of the film – moving from rural folk music, to tightly choreographed dance troupes singing about Stalin’s agricultural reforms, to smoky French jazz and US rock and roll. These latter forms of music seem to promise freedom and escape, but it’s the naked sincerity of the folk music, songs of impossible loves and broken hearts that remind you of the far greater national sorrow that underlies the film.

Listen to Two Hearts, Four Eyes

You Were Never Really Here

As you would expect from a film about a violent hitman, this soundtrack contains some of the same dissonant glitchy tricks used so well in the soundtrack for There Will Be Blood; bursts of jangly percussion and melancholic electronica capture the deeply traumatised and anguished place that Joe finds himself. But it is the two pieces that bookend the film that absolutely overwhelmed me, using soft delicate strings and synthesisers they gracefully offer hope, relief and a tenderness that I believe is absolutely at the core of the film.

Listen to Tree Synthesisers

Most looking forward to in 2019

I recently saw Barry Jenkins tweet about how someone has used a piece from the score to If Beale Street Could Talk, and based on that alone I have not looked forward to seeing a film this much for a long time. This piece of music is so deeply infused with longing and love I can hardly bare it.

Listen to Agape

Luke Doran, Project Coordinator

Favourite posters of the year

Peterloo (Neon Green- amazing)

I Tonya (Loved the bright pink)

BFI’s Pandora’s Box

Favourite film moment: The finale and closing song to In The Fade, I Know Places by Lykke Li.  The last time music and image hit me so hard was a previous film by Fatih Akin, Head On with Wendy Rene singing After the Laughter (comes tears). He knows how to get me!

Favourite rep screening: Mildred Pierce on a wet August Bank Holiday lunchtime. Perfect !

Other greats this year: A Quiet Place, I Tonya, Dogman, Under the Tree and The Nile Hilton Incident.


Emily Lowe, Finance and Administration Assistant

There have been so many brilliant films out this year, that I couldn’t make a top 5 list. So I decided to list some of my favourite outfits and wardrobes from 2018’s releases:

The House of Woodcock’s dresses from Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread is not only a stylish and gorgeously-shot film, the wardrobe is wonderful. I’d consider putting up with the nightmare of Reynolds Woodcock just to be able to swan around in one of his gowns.

Literally everything in Skate Kitchen

Despite the fact that I’ve never stepped on a skateboard, Skate Kitchen had me re-evaluating my entire wardrobe and ready to chuck it all out in favour of high socks and loose T-shirts.

Amanda and Lily’s wardrobes in Thoroughbreds

Perfect outfits for the preppy sociopath in all our lives!

Lucy Liu’s wardrobe in Set It Up

Strongest power suits I’ve seen all year.

Lady Bird’s Prom Dress in Lady Bird

I chose this dress not because I particularly like it, but mainly because of my favourite scene where Lady Bird and her mother go dress shopping.

Lady Bird also gets a special mention because Greta Gerwig directed the prom scene whilst wearing a prom dress.

Honorary mentions to Crazy Rich Asians for the entire cast’s wardrobe and A Star is Born for Lady Gaga’s crop tops.

Happy New Year from team ICO!

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