Top 10 Best Movies of 2018
When I remember 2018 in film, I’ll remember a few things: this was a great year for documentaries; world cinema is having a bit of a resurgence; and non-big five studios are creating a majority of the most interesting projects right now. Overall, I’d like to think that 2018 was a very strong year for film — many studio films balanced monetary and critical success admirably while many smaller films challenged many of our current perceptions. And then there was Holmes & Watson…but that discussion is better suited for another upcoming, year-in-review article.
There’s three guarantees in life. The usual: death and taxes. And the fairly obvious: this list will unquestionably change with time. We’re all prisoners of the moment; I might come to reevaluate some of these films (and others not listed), and I may add some new additions as I continue to fill in the gaps from this year (Cold War, Burning, Shoplifters, and Minding the Gap are a few of the unfortunate misses that I had).
Actually, I should amend my previous comment and note that there is a fourth guarantee in life: your list of the best movies of 2018 will most certainly be different from mine. As is the nature of discussing highly subjective matters, but that’s the fun in it! (It’s also worth noting that these rankings will differ from when the films where first graded in their respective reviews.)
There was far more than just ten movies that I wanted to congratulate, so for your reading pleasure, here are my choices for the best movies of 2018 broken down into a few groups:
The “Very Solid Movies That Deserve Some Type of Recognition for Their Craft” Group
The “I Really, Really Like These Movies But There’s a Few Slightly Better Movies Out There” Group
The “Impossibly Tough Omissions that Might be in My Top 10 if You Asked Me Tomorrow” Group
The Death of Stalin — This might be Armando Iannucci’s best political satire yet. (And that’s saying a LOT.)
American Animals — One of the most fascinating story structures I’ve seen in years.
Support the Girls — Regina Hall deserves more roles like this one!
Mandy — I think I now have a really strong understanding of what LSD feels like after this movie.
Foxtrot — One of the best and oddest films to tackle the idea of grief in a very long time (and one of the best foreign films of the year, too!).
Sorry to Bother You — I never realized how much I needed and wanted Armie Hammer to say “horse cock” until this movie came along.
The Favourite — Responsible for some of my hardest laughs in a theater this year.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout — Somebody stop Tom Cruise before he kills himself filming the next one.
Three Identical Strangers — One of those documentaries where the story would seem impossibly far-fetched if not true.
The Tale — One could make the argument that this is the most important film of 2018.
Tully — With time, this may become the best Jason Reitman movie. (Sorry, Juno.)
And now for the main course:
#10: The Guilty
I imagine that many readers will have missed this one in theaters, but you should do your very best to seek it out on streaming. The Guilty is an intoxicating thriller that was too provocative for Hollywood to stay away — an English-language version is already in the works with Jake Gyllenhaal attached to star.
The Guilty follows a single emergency dispatcher (played beautifully by Jakob Cedergren) for the entirety of its 85-minute runtime as he goes above and beyond to see a particularly grisly emergency call through to its conclusion while also wrestling his own demons. Think of Phone Booth except, well, The Guilty is really, really good. It manages to stay full of tension with an amazing use of sound and limited camera movement. It’s not just a fascinating cinematic experiment — it works extremely well as a piece of art.
*To read the site’s full review of The Guilty, please click here.
#9: Free Solo
I truly feel terrible for those that’ll never have the opportunity to see Free Solo on the big screen as one could make the argument that it is the theater experience of the year. Director Jimmy Chin and the rest of his crew were with free solo climber Alex Honnold (i.e. climbing alone without any kind of safety apparatus) the entire time he climbed up El Capitan in Yosemite, dangling from ropes as they suspended themselves thousands of feet in the air. The result is a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching film that made this critic shake in disbelief. I’m sweating just thinking about it.
As Free Solo expertly shows, rock climbers are a little insane. Chin focuses on Honnold as a person as well as a climber, turning this documentary into one of the more interesting character studies of the year.
I can’t wait to put this film on for others and watch their expressions as Honnold climbs in the face of death.
*To read the site’s full review of Free Solo, please click here.
#8: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy’s work in Can You Ever Forgive Me? rivals her hilarious turn in Bridesmaids for the best performance of her career. She plays quite the misanthrope; the only thing she loves in her life is her aging cat. McCarthy’s character is completely self-destructive. She clearly wants affection and feeling in her life, but she refuses to change who she is to get to that point. I think this is McCarthy’s most subtle work to date, though it still has enough clear charm for all kinds of movie watchers.
On its surface, a story about a writer embellishing letters from prominent, historic writers sounds like a bit of a bore, but Marielle Heller films this story with such passion, warmth, and vibrancy that these characters pop off the screen. I’m a sucker for a well-filmed drama that takes place in New York City.
*To read the site’s full review of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, please click here.
#7: You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here paired with her last feature film We Need to Talk About Kevin would make for just about the most depressing double feature out there. Her latest film is short but incredibly tough, not to mention harrowing in every scene as Joaquin Phoenix’s Joe contemplates suicide with every move. Like many that struggle with mental illness and depression in the most extreme of circumstances, Joe’s life is something of a melancholy nightmare as he grapples with his PTSD from war and his job as a hired gun who rescues trafficked girls.
While You Were Never Really Here is utterly haunting (Phoenix’s performance is nothing short of perfection), I found many moments undeniably beautiful. The star in this respect is Jonny Greenwood and his AMAZING score. The last scene in particular will stick with me for quite some time.
*To read the site’s full review of You Were Never Really Here, please click here.
#6: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
This is the film we all need in 2018. As Twitter spats become more hostile and hatred becomes more apparent, it’s more and more essential that we remember the simple teachings of Fred Rogers.
Morgan Neville proves that he’s one of the most impactful documentary filmmakers working with this moving masterpiece. I will always remember my theater experience as I watch Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Amazingly, this effect was done with little emotional manipulation. (Well, art is very manipulative in of itself, but you get the idea.) Mr. Rogers was truly a beautiful man and his teachings were much more layered than simple platitudes. He’s the best example of what we can be when we give ourselves up to love and decency. We need him more now than ever.
*To read the site’s full review of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, please click here.
#5: Thunder Road
I’m so pleased that I stumbled upon this indie gem. It’s easy to explain Thunder Road from a plot perspective: a cop tries to grapple with many instances of hardship in his life in a very short period of time. However, on an emotional level, this movie is far more complex.
I felt incredibly sad, frustrated, delighted, anxious, euphoric, and even stunned as I watched Thunder Road; it’s refreshingly odd within the skin of a standard family drama. It’s a peculiar mix of character actions, emotions, and situations that comes together to form a delicious melting pot of feeling. The same scene may drive you to both tears of laughter and sadness within seconds of each other.
Jim Cummings’ work as an actor, director, and screenwriter absolutely floored me in Thunder Road. I legitimately cannot wait to see what he creates next.
*To read the site’s full review of Thunder Road, please click here.
I am utterly fascinated with Annihilation. I love it for its ambition, its faults, and, most of all, for how much it has made me think about its themes since its release back in February. I’ve heard so many different interpretations of this film from a simple extended metaphor for evolution or cancer to a woman coming to grips with her own indiscretions as a mate. None of these (and other) interpretations cancels out any of the others, which makes Annihilation one of the most fun films of 2018 to discuss. It’s astoundingly dense, but it also has Natalie Portman shooting a genetically-modified alligator-shark with an automatic rifle. That’s amazing!
I have such an appreciation for how Alex Garland chose to visualize this kaleidoscopic world: it’s beautiful but also overwhelmingly gross and sickly. Annihilation also has one of the more haunting movie monsters of the decade. And on top of that, its final act will leave you completely speechless.
*To read the site’s full review of Annihilation, please click here.
#3: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie. It’s not close.
Lord and Miller are two of the best comedic minds we have in Hollywood, showing with Spider-Verse that Disney might have been doubly idiotic to take away Solo: A Star Wars Story from them during principal photography. Even though the film has multiple Spider-Men that includes Spider-Ham, a pig that acts like a Looney Tunes character; Spider-Man Noir, an unfeeling, black-and-white, and morose detective voiced by Nicolas Cage; and (my personal favorite), an over-the-hill Spider-Man that wears sweatpants to hide his ever-growing waistline (among many, many more odd characters), Into the Spider-Verse stills functions as a charming coming-of-age tale thanks to some great voice work from Shameik Moore.
With Pixar and Disney dominating the animation market, it is so refreshing to see an animated tale that isn’t just a CGI replication of real life, but instead a wacky movie that uses its form to push far beyond the boundaries of live-action. Spider-Verse captures the cool factor where its Spider predecessors could not.
*To read the site’s full review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, please click here.
#2: If Beale Street Could Talk
With a director other than Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk might have devolved into a sappy, fake romance. Thankfully, Jenkins is one of the best directors working in Hollywood.
Many dramas with award aspirations have handled similar ideas before. Prison reform, race relations, and sexual assault make for tough films to watch, yet Beale Street has a remarkable feeling of warmth and love for its subject material and its characters. This movie is unabashedly sincere and earnest as it showcases some pretty amazing performances from Kiki Layne, Stephan James, and Regina King. Though faced with immense hardship, these actors have a few expressions and reactions that will melt your heart.
Jenkins’ Moonlight was a very precise, specific tale that used those traits for a cathartic tale. If Beale Street Could Talk, however, is very much powered by feelings and sensations in a way that covers you like a warm blanket but without a single ounce of triteness that most movies succumb to in the end. It’s powerful stuff.
*To read the site’s full review of If Beale Street Could Talk, please click here.
Roma washed over me with its gorgeous cinematography and even more arresting character work. With the amount of praise that Roma has been receiving from other critics, it’s almost a cliché to gush over it at this point. But in my opinion, it earns every single bit of it.
I think those that prefer more clear-cut and visceral films will struggle with Roma as its narrative is the very definition of a “slice-of-life picture.” It certainly has some major plot pieces, but Roma is far more of a personal love letter from Alfonso Cuarón to his childhood, showing how life was and always is equal parts mournful, beautiful, and mundane. One image that has refused to leave my skull is seeing Cleo and the family crumble in front of our eyes as a joyous wedding occurs off to the side. Our problems may mean absolutely nothing to the person sitting next to us and we may be in completely different emotional states within the same plane of existence, but such is life in this crazy world.
Roma is the perfect culmination of everything that Cuarón has prided his career on thus far: telling a hyper-specific story and capturing imaginative scope. What a film!
*To read the site’s full review of Roma, please click here.
Thank you for reading! What are your best movies of 2018? Comment down below!
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