At a time when formulaic films rule the Box Office, 2018 was a golden year for Tamil cinema, with several movies daring to take an offfbeat path and succeeding. This is my ranking of the year’s best movies.

1. Vada Chennai: A sprawling epic from a master storyteller brought to life by a brilliant ensemble cast, Vada Chennai is bound to top most ‘Best Movies of 2018’ lists. With plenty of story still left to tell about the two warring clans, the possibilities are limitless for this planned trilogy.

2. Ratsasan: In a year that boasts of several high-octane thrillers, Ratsasan was the creme-de-creme of the lot and comes second in our list. The stakes feel very real, a rarity in Tamil cinema, as Vishnu Vishal’s newbie cop tries to nab a brutal serial killer.

3. 96: This was the mature love story which Kollywood didn’t deserve, but very much needed. C Prem Kumar’s 96 does more than enough to ensure that Ram and Janoo remain etched in our memories forever.

4. Merku Thodarchi Mazhai: A melancholic depiction of the life of laborers struggling for survival in the Western Ghats, portrayed through lavish shots.

5. Pariyerum Perumal: Set against the backdrop of a burgeoning friendship, Pariyerum Perumal is a hard-hitting drama about caste inequality.

6. U-Turn: A riveting thriller with a taut screenplay that unfortunately takes a U-Turn for the worse in the final act. The movie is a fine study of investigative journalism before getting muddled in a supernatural twist.

7. Tamizh Padam 2: Probably the biggest surprise in the list, Tamizh Padam 2 was an unabashed laughter riot. Director Amudhan has a whale of a time assembling the many spoofs into a funny and irreverent story laden with Easter Eggs.

8. Chekka Chivantha Vaanam: CCV saw Mani Ratnam getting back on track, delivering an entertaining action flick with an ensemble cast. The bloody power struggle between the three brothers might feel rushed, but the strong cast makes up for it in this revenge drama.

9. Thaanaa Serndha Kootam: A remake of the critically acclaimed Special 26, Surya’s TSK was one of the few “masala” movies that hit the mark this year, despite an action-laden final act. Crackling with energy, this was an enjoyable feel-good movie.

10. Kaala: Kaala has a multi-layered story that offers a lot to mull over even after the movie has ended. It’s a decent movie overall and an improvement over Kabali, but it still leaves a lot to be desired for it to be considered a good Rajni movie.

Honorable Mentions: Kanaa, Bhaagamathie, and Kolamavu Kokila.

Did Not Watch (Notable Only): Nadigaiyar Thilagam, Pyaar Prema Kadhal, and Mercury.