Regina Hall in "Support The Girls." (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

Winter is the season of “best of” lists, with 2018 coming to a close and award season looming just around the corner. Many independent and lower budget films released earlier in the year get left out of the conversation as December fills up with big budgets and high-profile stars competing for their chance at an Academy Award.

Don’t miss out on some of the best films of the year with the Emerald’s Top Underrated Films of 2018!

“Beast:” A mesmerizing thriller to sink your teeth into

Michael Pierce, mainly known for starring in “The Mentalist,” proves his directing chops in this haunting psychological thriller set in the beautiful isolation of the Channel Islands. “Beast” stars Jessie Buckley as Moll, brilliant as an emotionally repressed woman controlled by her family due to a troubled past. Moll falls for the rugged outcast Pascal (Johnny Flynn) on the same night that a murder occurs on the peaceful isle.

What follows is a twisty, sensual whodunit, with Moll and Pascal struggling with mounting suspicion from the town — and each other — regarding their actions that night. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end, gripping the audience with its plot, complex acting and gorgeous topographical cinematography.

Similar to: "Prisoners," "The Place Beyond the Pines," "Nightcrawler"

“Support the Girls:” A subtle, comedic look at a ‘sports bar with curves’

Mumblecore filmmaker Andrew Bujalski does it again with “Support the Girls,” a subtle character study of the workers at a ‘sports bar with curves.’ Regina Hall gives her best performance to date as the caring, ‘mother hen’ manager who just wants to get through her job without incident. The opposite occurs with humorous results.

The actors bring the best out of each other in this ensemble comedy, with a delightfully cheery Haley Lu Richardson, moody Dylan Gelula and witty Shayna McHayle rounding out the cast. Mixing feminism and racial commentary, the film never hits you over the head with its message; instead it lets viewers immerse themselves into the setting and construct their own opinion of the work environment.

Similar to: "The Descendants," "The Florida Project," "Girls Trip"

“Revenge:” Women get their ‘Revenge’ in this blood-soaked take back of the male gaze

Revenge,” French director Coralie Fargeat’s feature debut, is a stunning masterpiece of cinematography and social commentary. The film stars Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz as Jen, a male gaze dream with her perfect blonde hair and body, open sexuality and shallow ambitions. On retreat with her lover Richard (Kevin Janssens) in his desert vacation home, Jen’s idyllic vacation is shattered after an incident with Richard’s work buddy.  

What happens next is a high stakes, heart-pounding battle cry, with Jen shedding her male-pleasing persona to seek vengeance for herself and the crowd rooting her on in the theatre. The male gaze also shifts, with Jen viewed as a warrior rather than an object of desire for the remainder of the film.

Fargeat’s stunning direction raises this revenge film to spectacular heights, with fantastic acting, camera work, set design and sound mixing bringing forth a stunning cinematic feast.

Similar to: "Kill Bill: Vol. I," "Raw," "Elle"

“You Were Never Really Here:” A must see, gritty revenge drama

You Were Never Really Here” is Lynne Ramsay's modern retelling of “Taxi Driver,” expanding on the artistic elements and vivid cinematography of the prior film. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Joe, a hitman double crossed on a deceivingly simple job rescuing a young girl from prostitution.

Joe’s bloody revenge knows no bounds, as he avenges himself and the girl’s captors. Ramsay’s subtle, feminist storytelling prevents the film from subverting to white savior material, as she questions the consequences of excessive masculinity through Joe’s depressing life.

Action fans and cinematography nerds won’t want to miss this spellbinding thriller, as Ramsay transforms a simple plot into an engrossing character study and gorgeous depiction of underground city crime.

Similar to: "Taxi Driver," "Drive," "Oldboy"

“The Tale:” A heartbreaking true story relays how the past can haunt us

The Tale” is the true story of director Jennifer Fox’s childhood sexual abuse, relayed in a heartbreakingly genuine fashion through the narrator’s perspective and a flashback structure.

Laura Dern stars as the real life Jennifer Fox with honest emotionality, as her character struggles with denial over past experiences. A film that could have been overwhelming due to it’s disturbing content, “The Tale” gradually sucks the audience in until the true nature of the injustice is revealed. Told from the perspective of the survivor, the film never feels forced or exploitative.

The film also features an enthralling performance from Elizabeth Debicki, a standout in this year’s ‘Widows.’ Make sure not to miss this ultimately empowering tear jerker and bring a box of tissues.

Similar to: "Spotlight," "Una," "Short Term 12"

Keep these films in mind before this season’s blockbuster highlights!

Ilana is the Emerald's film and media reviewer. In her free time she enjoys writing poetry, going to concerts and watching too many movies for her own good.

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