Filipino production companies are quite prolific, and 2018 was no exception. That said, what are the Best Pinoy Movies of 2018?
We here at Cinema Escapist have compiled a list of 2018’s best Filipino movies to give you an answer. To no Filipino moviegoer’s surprise, some of these top Pinoy films of 2018 are romances from top “love teams.”
While romance might be Philippine cinema’s most dominant genre, there’s a lot more out there. As such, this 2018 Pinoy movies list also contains multiple titles that grapple with socioeconomic issues, Philippine history, and current events.
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Director: Erik Matti | Starring: Anne Curtis, Brandon Vera, Victor Neri, Arjo Atayde | Genre(s): Action, Crime, Thriller
The Filipino drug war has been the topic of numerous conversations, both in the Philippines and internationally. BuyBust dramatizes a police raid on a drug deal in a slum, in a brutally realistic depiction of the human toll of the drug war. A squad of anti-narcotics agents infiltrate a slum and attempt to capture a drug lord. However, their operation goes wrong when someone inside the narcotics agency betrays them to the drug cartel.
As the agents try to escape, they engage in countless gunfights with the drug dealers. Meanwhile, local slum residents tired of the collateral damage inflicted on their homes attack both the agents and narcos. Packed with dramatic fight sequences and tense foot chases, BuyBust received accolades internationally for its timely political commentary and action-packed cinematography.
Want to learn more? Check out our review of BuyBust here.
Director: Ruel S. Bayani | Starring: Bea Alonzo, Derek Ramsay, Paulo Avelino | Genre(s): Romance, Drama
The first of multiple romances on this list is Kasal, which major production company Star Cinema released as its 25 anniversary offering. Actress Bea Alonzo stars as Lia Marquez, a down-to-earth schoolteacher who’s about to marry the dashing Philip Cordero (Paulo Avelino), scion of a political dynasty and mayoral candidate for Cebu City.
However, before Lia and Phillip get married, a figure from the past emerges: Wado dela Costa (Derek Ramsay), Lia’s old ex-boyfriend. Wado’s returned to Cebu to help with Phillip’s campaign and, as both election and wedding day get closer, Lia becomes increasingly conflicted over which man to choose. While this plot isn’t necessarily innovative, Kasal executed it reliably, becoming one of the ten highest grossing movies in the Philippines during 2018.
8. One Great Love
Director: Eric Quizon| Starring: Dennis Trillo, Kim Chiu, JC de Vera | Genre(s): Drama, Romance
Released on Christmas 2018, One Great Love is another reliably crowd-pleasing Filipino romance movie.
Renowned actress Kim Chiu stars as the movie’s lead, a woman named Zyra Paez. Zyra’s relationship with her boyfriend Carl Mauricio (JC de Vera) is falling apart, though the two are still trying to make things work. However, Zyra meets a dashing heart doctor named Ian Arcano (Dennis Trillo)—who makes her reassess her romantic choices.
With an entertaining musical score and strong performance from Dennis Trillo, One Great Love also did fairly well at 2018’s Metro Manila Film Festival with two awards.
7. Never Not Love You
Director: Antoinette Jadaone | Starring: James Reid, Nadine Lustre, Yayo Aguila | Genres: Romance, Drama
I hope you like romances, because there’ll be more on this list! (OK, don’t worry, there are non-romances too.) As our seventh entry, Never Not Love You offers a pragmatic look at modern romance courtesy of the “JaDine” (James Reid and Nadine Lustre) love team.
Young couple Gio (James Reid) and Joanne (Nadine Lustre) start off Never Not Love You in a carefree relationship. However, when Joanne leaves a marketing brand manager position in Manila to work as a cafe server in London, the two start encountering the constraints of real life. Balancing romance with career prospects, Gio and Joanne’s love story becomes so realistic that it almost feels like real life.
Never Not Love You also did quite well at 2018’s Filipino box office, and brought the JaDine love team more accolades for their increasing maturity. The film also contains some great cinematography that’ll make you want to visit London.
6. Goyo the Boy General
Director: Jerrold Tarog | Starring: Paulo Avelino, Carlo Aquino, Arron Villaflor | Genre(s): Historical, War
Alas, something that’s not a romance! If war and history are more your thing, look no further than Goyo: The Boy General. “Goyo,” for our readers unfamiliar with Filipino history, is none other than General Gregorio “Goyo” del Pilar. General del Pilar was a leading commander during the Philippine-American War, and a national hero for many Filipinos today. As he assumed command in his early 20s, del Pilar earned the nickname of “Boy General.”
Goyo: The Boy General is director Jerrold Tarog’s spiritual successor to Heneral Luna, an epic 2015 blockbuster that lionized General Antonio Luna, another Philippine-American War commander. Those who enjoyed Heneral Luna will also enjoy Goyo; both movies make ample use of sweeping combat scenery and dramatized political intrigue to tell an entertaining story.
While anybody who likes action movies can enjoy Goyo, history buffs will appreciate it even more. The film offers an exceptional depiction of the Battle of Tirad Pass, known as the “Philippine Thermopylae,” among other historical moments. Furthermore, like we pointed out for Heneral Luna, even viewers outside the Philippines can appreciate Goyo as one of the few easily watchable war movies that shows America as the bad guy.
Interested? Goyo is available to stream worldwide on Netflix.
5. Rainbow’s Sunset
Director: Joel Lamangan | Starring: Eddie Garcia, Tony Mabesa, Gloria Romero | Genre(s): LGBT, Romance, Family Drama
Part love story and part family drama, Rainbow’s Sunset is one of the most unique Pinoy movies of 2018. The film swept 2018’s Metro Manila Film Festival, winning 11 awards including Best Picture and Best Director.
Seasoned actor Eddie Garcia plays the film’s lead, a retired Philippine Senator named Ramon Estrella. To take care of his cancer-stricken lover Fredo (Tony Mabesa), Ramon comes out as gay to his adult children, wife, and grandchildren—catapulting all of them on a journey to discover what “family” means in this modern day and age.
Although it gets slightly distracted with multiple subplots, Rainbow’s Sunset provides an overall poignant experience that’s never dull. The film also explores the topic of homosexuality with great intricacy, taking care to explore different perspectives on the matter whilst still remaining thoughtful.
4. Exes Baggage
Director: Dan Villegas | Starring: Angelica Panganiban and Carlo Aquino | Genre(s): Romance, Drama
“CarGel” of the teen drama G-mik was a favorite love team for many Filipinos growing up. The duo reunites in Exes Baggage, where they play a pair of ex-lovers who reunite at a party hosted by their mutual friend. Helmed by renowned Filipino rom-com director Dan Villegas, Exes Baggage explores the stages of relationships from falling in love, to breaking up—and everything in between.
Exes Baggage strays from many Filipino romance movies by avoiding clichéd themes and overly melodramatic playwriting. Instead, the film focuses on a deeper message: despite the turmoil and pain that ex-partners may cause, we can all learn something from our previous relationships. Especially with actress Angelica Panganiban, who broke up with her real-life partner shortly before the film’s release, this movie carries a powerful message.
Interested to learn more? Read our full review of Exes Baggage here!
3. Miss Granny
Director: Joyce Bernal | Starring: Sarah Geronimo, Xian Lim, James Reid | Genre(s): Music, Comedy, Fantasy, Family
If you’re thinking “wait, isn’t this a Korean movie,” you’d be right—in a way. 2018’s Filipino Miss Granny is a remake of the extremely popular 2014 Korean movie Miss Granny. However, don’t let that deter you. 2018’s Miss Granny takes the Korean original’s concept and manages to make it both novel and highly entertaining within a localized Filipino context.
Filipino Miss Granny tells the story of an older lady named Feliza Malabaño. After visiting a mysterious photo booth, Feliza gets transformed into her younger self. With newfound youth, Feliza assumes a new identity as “Audrey De Leon,” leveraging her musical abilities to gain fame as a singer.
It’s fitting that superstar singer Sarah Geronimo plays “Audrey”—she steals the show and has great chemistry with her fellow actors. All the songs featured in the movie have intentional connections to characters, and watching the movie feels like you’re experiencing a vivid show. The cinematography, sound mixing, and jokes in Miss Granny are all top-notch as well. If you watch Miss Granny, be prepared to laugh, cry, and go on an enjoyable roller coaster of emotions.
2. Signal Rock
Director: Chito S. Roño | Starring: Christian Bables, Daria Ramirez, Nanding Josef | Genre(s): Drama
Our second best Pinoy movie of 2018 gets a bit more artistic. Signal Rock was the Philippines’ submission to the Oscars in 2018. Although it didn’t make the final shortlist, this indie film is worth a watch nevertheless.
Set during the 1990s, Signal Rock centers around a young man named Intoy who lives in a remote part of Northern Samar. The movie’s title comes from how the only place Intoy can find cell phone reception is a remote rock outcropping. As it turns out, Intoy has to make cell phone calls quite a bit. His sister Vicky is involved in a custody dispute with a Finnish man, and Intoy must band together with his fellow villagers to help her and deal with faraway bureaucracies.
Besides stirring cinematography, Signal Rock offers a philosophical yet accessible meditation on Philippine society. On one hand, it showcases the beauty of the traditional Filipino bayanihan communitarian spirit. On the other, it demonstrates how communitarianism also plays into exploitative capitalist structures that entrap many Filipinos worldwide. If you’re looking for a more meditative, artistic break from all the romance on this list, check out Signal Rock.
1. The Hows of Us
Director: Cathy Garcia-Molina | Starring: Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, Darren Espanto | Genre(s): Romance, Drama
Topping our list of 2018’s best Pinoy movies is The Hows of Us. The seventh movie starring the famous “KathNiel” (Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla) love team, The Hows of Us is the highest-grossing movie of all time (so far) in the Philippines. Compared with previous “KathNiel” movies, The Hows of Us offers a more mature and nuanced take on romance.
George (Kathryn Bernardo) and Primo (Daniel Padilla) first meet in a debate contest. Entranced by each others’ ambitions, the two fall in love. However, The Hows of Us puts that all in the past. Today, Primo and George are no longer together. As they fight for the ownership of a house they invested in together, the two grapple with their past love, dark parts included.
While the film’s plot is relatively simple and still contains many Filipino romance tropes, The Hows of Us shows that Pinoy movies are increasing in quality. With solid cinematography and decent screenwriting, The Hows of Us makes its mark as the best Pinoy movie of 2018.
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