There’s no denying there were a significant number of great films that came out in 2018, and a good few that are coming out this year as well. So while we’re diving in to Oscar season, it’s a good time to revisit some of this year’s best.
Before we begin, there are always honorable mentions as there were so many good movies this year there’s only so much room on a top list. So here they are:
Avengers: Infinity War
Bad Times at the El Royale
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Isle of Dogs
Mission Impossible: Fallout
The Hate U Give
The Old Man & The Gun
You Were Never Really Here
Everything Is Subjective
Also before we begin, I think it’s important to point out that my list is no more important than anyone else’s. However, I’ve seen a substantial amount of movies this year (85), and studying film is kind of my thing. While there may be some films I liked more just for their entertainment value and re-watch ability, they didn’t make my list simply because some movies were just better made, had stronger characters, dialogue, etc.
So, coming in hot at my #10 is …
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Easily the best animated film of the year, and might also be the best take on the Spider-Man character as well. Look out Tom Holland, someone’s coming for your job. The story is the strongest of all the Spidey films, but it’s the animation that’ll warm your hearts in this one. The visuals are stunning, it’s like watching a comic book. It also features an all-star voice cast which includes Brian Tyree Henry, Nicholas Cage, and Hailee Steinfield. Not just worth watching, but one you could see over and over again and still be entertained. So that brings us to our next pick…
Blakkklansman Directed by Spike Lee
Next, is the real life story of Ron Stallworth, the black detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. What Spike Lee does here is nothing short of sensational. The film dangles the line between blaxploitation and sincere commentary on racial injustice, police brutality and the infestation of racism in our politics. He made a very serious film tackling real issues, using historical evidence to tie into the current political discussion. It’s easily one of Spike Lee’s best films to date, and is helped pretty well by impressive performances from both John David Washington and Adam Driver.
Ethan Hawke delivers in “First Reformed”
There were some really strong horror films this year, the Krasinski directed, “A Quiet Place” took sound to new heights. Toni Colette delivered a smash performance in the haunting “Hereditary”, but while these stylized horror films showed promise, they couldn’t beat out a film that wasn’t really about fear, but about change. Which can be just as scary. Ethan Hawke comes through with a masterful performance that takes him through multiple layers of the human experience and in a story filled with battling between a midlife crisis and a religious reckoning. First Reformed challenges its audience to fear in a brand new way.
Marvel’s Black Panther
Few movies grabbed audiences at the beginning of the year and held on towards the end quite like Black Panther. A cultural phenomenon it was destined to be once it was announced it was going to be made, and 98% of the cast would be African-American. The film was like a revelation, but then it had the nerve to be good. And not just good, but really, really good. The sad thing is that the thing that brings it down is probably also the only reason it was made in the first place, and that’s the fact that it’s a Marvel movie. But the script is so well-written and tells a story so true to the character, the comics and the black experience that you may find yourself rooting for the villain on more than one occasion. Add into that the exquisite set pieces, the fabulous costume design by Ruth Carter (possibly the only sure fire Oscar win for this movie), and a sensational soundtrack, all make this one of the year’s best films despite it being apart of the MCU and it’s probably one of their better films as well.
Green Book based on a true story
Don’t be surprised if Green Book ends up the darling of Oscar season. It’s that good of a film. When it comes to dialogue alone, the banter between Tony Lipp (played expertly well by Viggo Mortenson) and Doctor Don Shirley (also sensationally played by Mahershala Ali) is charming, hilarious, and honest. But the film takes a different look at racism through the eyes of an Italian man with a certain amount of privilege in society, and what happens when he’s confronted with the ugliness of racism and how he learns it’s more about the person than their color. The film also has some incredibly tender-hearted moments like Don teaching Tony how to write letters to his wife, and the men rushing back home to make it in time for Christmas Eve. Green Book is probably the feel-good movie of the year, and I just have a feeling, it’s going to have a few more golden statues than anyone expects.
Fred Rogers returns in “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and who’s cutting onions?
Now if you’re in the mood to cry, these next couple of films are going to have you a bumbling mess. Starting off with Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the documentary about America’s most beloved humanitarian, Fred Rogers. That guy you used to see on TV talking and singing with puppets, yeah that’s him. That’s actually who he is. And that was the biggest and strangest takeaway from this film. That guy whom you thought was a bit odd, quirky and sang children’s songs is actually a guy who’s pretty straightforward, honest, funny and yeah…sang songs for children. But the film dives more into everything Mister Rogers did in front of and behind the camera to keep his show on air because he recognized what he was doing was important. And what he did for millions of adults today, we recognize is a lot more needed now than ever.
“I’m not crying, you’re crying.”
A remake of a remake of a remake and I think you can see why this film keeps getting remade. It’s so damn good. The story of a girl falling in love with an falling rock star, when suddenly she begins to climb. It’s both astoundingly beautiful and utterly heartbreaking. But the music. By Gawd, the music is so intense, so passionate; you can feel it in every word and lyric both Gaga and (surprisingly) Bradley Cooper belt out. Plus Gaga puts on a stellar performance as “Ally” and deserves all the praise sent her way, but Bradley Cooper may have risen his stock tremendously by being Actor, Director, Producer, co-writer and singer all in one on this film. And it delivers. Easily one of the best films of the year and a definite contender this awards season.
Barry Jenkins returns with the James Baldwin adaptation
If you thought Barry Jenkins was just gonna ride off the coattails of “Moonlight” for another year, think again. The Oscar winning director came back with a vengeance in an adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, “If Beale Street Could Talk.” There’s something to be said about love. But when love is done by Barry Jenkins, man does he make it look good. If I die, I want Barry Jenkins to direct my funeral. He is a director who knows how he wants to tell his stories down to the last details. He knows what music is going to be used in this scene, which color scheme fits the emotion he wants to illicit from the audience, and he’s got one hell of a casting director to thank for the brilliance that is Regina King. Clear favorite to win Best Supporting Actress and it is definitely clear why. She delivers a powerful and genuine performance that steals the show. But the one thing that is at the forefront of this film is love. And no one does love like Barry Jenkins.
Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone in “The Favourite”
This bracing English comedy is a laugh out loud tour de force. And what’s impressive is there’s room in it for all three leading women to shine. Weisz is both brooding and territorial, so she’s easy to hate and easy to care for. Whilst, Stone is campy, good fun and ruthless. Coleman plays the Queen with relegated softness, humor and depth. And the story doesn’t take long to build which is why you’ll spend the rest of the movie in stitches. Anyone who’s ever seen a parliament debate will attest to the sanctimoniousness of politicians and Lanthimos does not shy away from it at all. This film will make you laugh, cry and probably cry again from laughing. Its funny and mean, and with a lot of heart. Expect a lot of love to come this film’s way.
And finally, if you’ve seen this film this year, you should already know what’s about to happen…
“Roma” for the win.
You knew this was coming. If you didn’t, you certainly should have. The Netflix autobiographical drama written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron is filled with so much richness in storytelling, cinematography and characters, it’s easy to see why we (and pretty much everyone else) have it as the best film of the year. While a lot of the praise is (rightfully) falling on Cuaron’s masterful directing and recreation of Mexican life in the time during his childhood, one cannot simply look past the performance of Yalitza Aparicio, who plays Cleo, the live-in domestic worker similar to Cuaron’s own when he was a child. Aparicio brings Cleo to life in the most abundant ways. Her concern for the families children rivals her own concern for her own family. She gives a complex and layered performance which mirrors the very film as it too is layered and textured perfectly around the events of the film. “Roma” however, may be put in to a difficult spot come Oscar season as the Academy may still not be ready to award the top prize of the night to a Netflix film. “Roma” is also up for grabs in the Foreign Language Film category, so it has the potential to walk away with one or the other or both. (Fingers crossed.) Still, if you haven’t seen the Netflix film, don’t wait. It’s in the palm of your hand and it’s worth every second.
So there you have it, the Top films of 2018 and we’re looking forward to many more. As 2019 will be no shortage of awesome to come.