Heists, shoot-outs, drug smuggling, art robberies, revenge… The big screen crime entertainment of 2018 had everything you could want and a little bit more. 2017’s crime movies set the bar so high even Goliath could easily limbo under it. So these last twelve months had some real work to do to keep up. Luckily for us, they more than managed it.
We’ve studied the year’s crime dramas and thrillers and drawn up a shortlist of the very best. Some are bruising, some are poignant, all are really rather good.
Here’s our list of the very best crime movies of 2018. Read it and then get them all seen.
The very best crime movies of 2018:
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
2015 saw a film sneak into cinemas that stunned audiences. Stylish, uncompromising and suffocatingly tense, the brutal Mexican drug cartel thriller Sicario remains one of the best films of the past decade. Director Denis Villeneuve may have gone onto to bigger things, but the writer of the original, the talented Taylor Sheridan, was on board for this follow-up.
There’s no Emily Blunt here and that’s a shame, but James Brolin and the first movie’s highlight Benicio del Toro return. Sicario: Day of the Soldado never quite hits the heady heights of its older brother, but it sure comes close. Especially in its frenetic action scenes where Brolin and del Toro’s intelligence assets have to come up against Mexican special forces. Best avoided if you don’t like the sound of machine gun fire.
IMDb rating: 7.1
Two bored teenagers decide to plot the perfect crime to alleviate the drudgery of their dull lives but quickly find themselves consumed by the plan to the point that they can’t help but attempt to carry it out. But, of course, nicking and fencing a priceless book of artworks from a library safe room isn’t as easy as they imagine.
Part drama, part comedy, part documentary, this clever little film is absorbing, funny and – above all – an incredible true story. Evan Peters is on top charismatic form and Barry Keoghan proves why he’s one of the most sought-after young actors working today.
American Animals is a slick and slippery caper that’s very cleverly made. Don’t let it fly under your radar – seek it out when it hits streaming services.
IMDb rating: 7.0
The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy has seen four film adaptations, all of them hits. So Scandi Noir lovers – and fans of Lisbeth Salander – were excited to hear that I am Zlatan author David Lagercrantz had been commissioned to write the follow-up The Girl in the Spider’s Web novel back in 2013. The book was published two years later. And now, in 2018, we have the film version.
Starring The Crown‘s Claire Foy as the genius computer hacker and ‘righter of wrongs’ Salander, this dark thriller takes a more action-led approach to proceedings than its predecessors. But it’s none the weaker for it.
Tasked with retrieving a dangerous nuclear software program from the NSA, things quickly go astray as spies, the mob, Lisbeth’s evil younger sister and our anti-heroine all clash in various ugly ways. Quite a few critics have given The Girl in the Spider’s Web something of a kicking and – if we’re totally honest – we’ve absolutely no idea why.
IMDb rating: 6.1
The Equalizer 2
They’re not exactly cerebral and they don’t star Edward Woodward, but The Equalizer movies offer up simple thrills that aren’t to be sniffed at. So this follow-up to 2014’s first outing is no Academy botherer. So what? It’s still Denzel Washington reuniting again with his Training Day and Magnificent Seven director Antoine Fuqua and the pair delivering some bone-crunchingly thrilling vigilante action.
The plot is so unmemorable you’ll forget it even as you’re watching it, but that doesn’t really matter. This is Old Man Washington kicking ass and taking names in variously satisfying ways. Like leather boots, fine wine and Liam Neeson, the man just gets better with age. We could watch him pistol whippin’ bad guys all day.
IMDb rating: 6.8
Den of Thieves
While we’re on the subject of hard-hitting thrillers that never let up but aren’t likely to bag a Best Screenplay Oscar, let’s talk Den of Thieves. More discerning film buffs may likely scoff at spending 140 minutes watching something that has a poster featuring Gerard Butler holding a gun. But bear with us here…
First of all, Butler is almost revelatory here. He’s unpleasant, bulky and looks like he’s been on a decade-long bender. He growls, winces and generally alpha males his way around the place as the lead cop hunting a team of professional thieves and does a surprisingly damn fine job of it.
A ripped Pablo Schreiber (American Gods) is the head of the bad guys in this fun ride that plays out like Heat on performance-enhancing drugs. It’s available on Netflix. Surprise yourself with this hulking gem soon.
IMDb rating: 7.0
Hold the Dark
With the brilliant Blue Ruin and equally good Green Room on his CV, Jeremy Saulnier is a man behind some of the best low budget crime films of the past few years. So anything he works on is worth checking out. Hold the Dark takes a slightly different approach and tone here than his previous movies, but unsettles and thrills just as much.
Retired wolf expert Jeffrey Wright ventures north to Alaska to help investigate the death of a disturbed woman’s son at the paws of his favourite creatures. Things go from creepy to full-on nuts when the woman’s violent husband (played by The Little Drummer Girl‘s Alexander Skarsgård) returns from a tour of duty in Iraq. Look out for an excellent turn from James Badge Dale as the local sheriff and the year’s most thrilling – and unusual – shoot-out.
Part crime thriller, part arthouse flick, part horror, it’s all going on in Hold the Dark.
IMDb rating: 5.7
2018 saw a slew of heist movies. We’ve already tipped our hat to two of them here. We’ve saved the best until last, though. Not only is Widows a cracking armed robbery flick, it’s also a classic crime caper and an all-round five-star film.
Steve McQueen was last seen collecting armfuls of awards for helming 12 Years a Slave, so an adaptation of a Lynda la Plante book isn’t an obvious choice as a next project. But it may have been the right choice. He directs a frankly quite awesome ensemble cast (including the likes of Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Jon Bernthal and Liam Neeson…) in a twisting feminist heist picture that really stands out from the crowd.
If you only see one crime film from 2018, well, you’re daft. But if you do – make it Widows.
IMDb rating: 7.5
Thanks 2018. Roll on 2019.
There you have it – our pick of the very best crime films of 2018. What would make your list? Let us know in the comments below…