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Another year comes to a close and now is the time for the plethora of lists to explode upon the internet. While some may say that 2018 seemed to be a down year for films, I cannot help but disagree. Box office returns to new heights (good job, Disney) and cinematic wokeness for the sake of wokeness has given way to actual, legitimate diversity in both filmmaking and storytelling that has built up a love of movies in an entirely new generation. It has been a GREAT year for movies, and what you find below may not be the OBJECTIVELY BEST films of the year, but they were the ones that struck me the most, that sang to me the most, and are the films that I’ll hopefully be celebrating and remembering long after this.
Enough of all that, let’s get to the list.
Films That I’ve Yet to See As of This Writing: Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, First Reformed, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Bohemian Rhapsody, Eighth Grade, Leave No Trace, Searching, Isle of Dogs, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting
Honorable Mentions: Tully, Halloween, Bumblebee, Widows, Mary Poppins Returns, Blackkklansman, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, The Favourite
18. Ready Player One
dir. Steven Spielberg
Ready Player One shows that Steven Spielberg is still a master blockbuster filmmaker. His inventive, escalating action scenes contain the energy and delight of a much younger man still enthralled by telling stories. The changes between the film and the novel help clarify a sentiment that embraces a love for nostalgia while urging us to move forward to build a new and exciting future. The film has no less than three sequences that tally up their with the best of Spielberg, including the opening car chase through Easter Egg city, the show stopping Shining puzzle, and the gigantic final battle featuring dozens upon dozens of delightfully hilarious pop culture icons. Special shoutout to one of the best uses of the F-Word all year. Plus the Back to the Future DeLorean races against King Kong and the Jurassic Park T-Rex. HOW COOL IS THAT?? Read the Full Review Here
dir. Julius Avery
Overlord is a film that takes handfuls of familiar tropes and runs them through a modern lens to craft a thrilling, fun, bloody genre mash-up. A strong script, fleshed out characters and performances, and awesome gore make this a blast of a film, even if it doesn’t have anything important to do beyond having fun. Overlord has the benefit of being a mid-budget B movie that knows exactly what it is and where to pool its resources. The direction is crisp, the makeup effects and gore are particularly gnarly, and Wyatt Russell has more than a few instances where his father Kurt’s attitude comes shining through. If you’re in the mood for a bloody, fun time watching a movie, you’ll struggle to do better than Overlord. Read the Full Review Here
16. Incredibles 2
dir. Brad Bird
Joining The Incredibles again after 14 long years is well worth the wait. The decision to immediately continue the story after the original is an excellent choice, and the film features some of the funniest and most thrilling moments of any Pixar, or any animated film, yet. The gender switch putting Mr. Incredible at home and Elastigirl on the job works wonders for the action and the story, and Jack-Jack proves to be a fantastic wild card that keeps getting more and more fun as the picture rolls on. Incredibles 2 is a thrilling, action-packed, laugh-out-loud funny continuation of how a family can struggle together and thrive together, super powered or otherwise. If I have to wait 14 more years to get another Incredibles film of this quality, then so be it. Read the Full Review Here
15. Crazy Rich Asians
dir. Jon M. Chu
This delightful , Asian-centric rom com doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does offer heaps of charm, quality filmmaking, and gorgeous design. Crazy Rich Asians is the best version of a culturally diverse romantic comedy. It acts wonderfully as comfort food meets cotton candy meets drugs, existing only to make you feel good about this fairy tale that you’re looking in on. Crazy Rich uses the predominantly Asian cast to not only show a full range of characters that many moviegoers have never seen before, but also as a way to use cultural traditions in it’s dramatic storytelling. It also features what may be the most beautiful on screen wedding in the history of on screen weddings, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw many future viral videos of the water gag in the film going horribly wrong at other ceremonies. Good luck, future brides and grooms! Read the Full Review Here
14. The Death of Stalin
dir. Armando Iannucci
Armando Iannucci proves once again that he is the modern king of the darkly hilarious political satire. It feels like, rather than tackling modern American politics as he has in Veep and In the Loop, Iannucci has given himself a higher degree of difficulty by taking on the Stalin power grab. Featuring a wide array of brilliantly cast character actors from everywhere but Russia and having them play it straight, the film serves as an almost pitch black comedic look at the desperation and disarray that must’ve followed the true death of Stalin.
13. Thunder Road
dir. Jim Cummings
Most likely the least-known film on this list, Thunder Road is no less deserving of your attention and time. Small, character focused, but none the less a tour de force indie made straight from the heart that manages to deftly balance tones of the hilarious ridiculous with the painfully tragic in a tightrope act of a film. Writer/Director/ Actor/Everything Jim Cummings displays his incredible ability to break your heart and make you laugh at the same time with a completely bare, vulnerable performance based off of his short film from the same name. This is a film that is purely based on Cummings’ ability to deliver laugh-out-loud asides, glances, and outbursts even during the most heart-wrenching situations. Thunder Road manages to serve both as a tough, emotional tale of how tragedy and tough parenting can make you spiral out of control whilst also being a love letter to that same struggle of parenting. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
12. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
dir. The Coen Brothers
Netflix and The Coen Brothers prove to be a match made in heaven. Offering a weirdly dark and humorous western anthology, Buster Scruggs allows the Coens to operate at their most Coen-y. Using everything from a singing quickdraw cowboy in white to a carriage full of seemingly-doomed strangers on a dark trail, the Coens flex their muscles and their wits to show off their entire catalogue of skills. Musical numbers, darkly violent sight gags, deeply flawed and unlucky characters, and tough consequences fill these stories while gorgeous production design and camerawork make them shine. And for what it’s worth, my favorite segments were The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and All Gold Canyon.
11. Paddington 2
dir. Paul King
One of the most delightful films of the year, Paddington 2 is more than just your average family film that will put a smile on your face. By championing themes of decency and politeness above all else, Paddington serves as the perfect hero for our age. Writer/Director Paul King elevates everything with his filmmaking flair, and every performance is a cheer, especially Hugh Grant as the perfectly named Phoenix Buchanan. This is seriously a film that will make you feel better just by watching it, all due to its charming cast, deft direction, and perfectly timed decency. Who knew that a bear and his marmalade could make an audience feel so warm and fuzzy inside?
10. Creed II
dir. Steven Caple Jr.
Although objectively not as good as the first Creed, Creed II manages to serve as an emotionally effective sequel not only to its predecessor, but also to Rocky IV. Creed II allows the characters to shed any of the weight from the previous Rocky films (without Rocky himself, obviously) and opens up the pathway to more stories with Adonis, Bianca, and Rocky that can be totally original conflicts. The struggles that come to a famous fighter like Adonis, married to a talented singer/songwriter like Bianca, with a growing family that includes Rocky as a surrogate uncle/grandfather figure to provide interesting stories in this exciting franchise for years to come. Not only that, but it manages to make the Dragos into one of the more layered antagonists in cinemas this year. No small feat. Read the Full Review Here
9. Game Night
dir. John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Perhaps the most underrated film of the year, Game Night is an all-timer of dark comedy hijinks. Featuring an elaborate game night gone horribly wrong, it is a high-concept comedy that blends action, suspense, and cringe comedy in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of each ingredient. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are fantastic together, and the entire cast is uniformly excellent, but it’s Jesse Plemons and his deeply unsettling police officer/neighbor Gary that steals the show. Game Night is a pitch perfect example of how to ramp up awkward, bleak humor to nearly unbearable points, and then sticks the landing. Never has a line about the profitability of Frito Lay been so damn funny.
8. First Man
dir. Damien Chazelle
Taking the romanticized period of space exploration and lacing it with the genuinely terror of launching yourself into space is a stroke of genius from director Damien Chazelle. Treating this film as an intense character study, it cuts deep down to what made Neil Armstrong the perfect man to land on the moon, even if it was at the expense of his relationships with his family. Both Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy do quiet, introspective work to build a tense, honest portrayal of the weight that the risk of space travel caused both physically, mentally, and emotionally on the Armstrong family. Of all the films on this list, First Man feels like the one movie we’ll look back on in ten years and wonder why we didn’t give it enough love at the time. It is spectacularly crafted and features some of the most intense filmmaking of the year. Chazelle knows intensity in a way that I’ve seen in few filmmakers before.
7. Avengers: Infinity War
dir. Joe & Anthony Russo
Never before has the culmination of a variety of franchise led to something that even somewhat resembles Infinity War. As much of an overwhelming finale as it is its own film, it manages to be packed with literally dozens of characters but still carry emotional weight. It’s nothing short of impressive that they managed to mash all these characters together, give us a compelling villain, and do so with an even mixture of laughs and heartache. As an individual movie, sure the characters are thin and it’s long as hell, but as the beginning of the end for a decade of storytelling, it’s hard to imagine how they could’ve done it any better. I cannot wait to see how Endgame turns out. Read the Full Review Here
6. A Quiet Place
dir. John Krasinski
As effective a genre film as there has been this year, A Quiet Place uses it’s gimmick to full effect, crafting an intense yet quiet portrait of a family struggling through an otherworldly disaster. With the threat of death hanging on every sound, the film throws numerous obstacles in the way of its heroes to keep audiences on the edge of their seat. Tie that in with fantastic direction from John Krasinski and performances from he, Emily Blunt, and their on screen children, and you have one of the most effective yet accessible horror films of the year. It doesn’t hurt that the film has some awesome creature designs and uses incredibly creative ways to navigate around their sensory hunting. Waterfalls, sand, nails, bathtubs, and running water all contribute to the suspense.
dir. Alfonso Cuarón
Alfonso Cuarón shapes an emotional story about family, life, and loss in 70s Mexico with absolutely stunning cinematography that brings you right into the world. Not afraid of wide, cinematic, almost painting-like shots, the audience feels like a fly on the wall because Cuarón stages everything to feel almost like a documentary. Realistic, crushing performances help lift what is easily one of the most gorgeous films of the year to a truly special level. Cuarón walks a fine line with delivering a small, intimate film that has little flair in a way that contains such artistic flourish. Special shout out to Netflix. Not long ago, a film like Roma would have barely been seen by American audience. Now, a gorgeous, quiet, subtitled film about a family struggling through hardship in 70s was put on the login screen of the biggest streaming service in the world for all to see. That’s amazing.
4. A Star is Born
dir. Bradley Cooper
A Star is Born is a perfect example of how the same story can be told, but remain effective because of those who tell it. To quote the film, “It’s the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes.” Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga put together a story that has been told many times before, but in a way that was powerful and emotionally resonant with a modern audience. Not only that, but it also reminds the world that Sam Elliott is an amazing gift that we’ve all been taking advantage of for years. Few sequences this year will match the emotional complexity of the first performance of ‘Shallow’ in A Star is Born. It’s a scene that makes the audience feel the fear, exhilaration, and joy that Ally is feeling, and it’s awesome.
3. Black Panther
dir. Ryan Coogler
Black Panther marks itself as not only one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but one of the most vibrant, impactful, and fully realized comic book adaptations ever created. It’s bold visuals are matched not only by a riveting story filled with complex characters, but also a director and cast more than up to the challenge to tell the story. Director Ryan Coogler isn’t afraid to bring his Oakland roots with him in this globetrotting story, touching on topics such as race, class, isolationism, and diplomacy in a way that has never quite been done in a superhero film before. Black Panther is King, and it will be exciting to see how T’Challa not only fits in with the MCU from this point forward, but how he’ll help shape not only the fictional landscape of these films, but also the way they are made and told. Read the Full Review Here
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
dir. Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr., Rodney Rothman
I came into Spider-Verse expecting quite a lot. The hyperbole was set very high, and I am more than happy to find that it met and exceeded every one of my expectations. Everything, from the characters to the action to the humor hits on all cylinders and proves that not only is there a Spider-Man (or Woman, or Pig, or whatever) out there for each of us, but that they can keep telling fresh, energetic stories of them for many many years to come. The voice performances are perfect, and the animation style is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, which is particularly exciting in 2018. It is a breathtakingly kinetic pop art and one of the best films of the year. Read the Full Review Here
1. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
dir. Christopher McQuarrie
Quite simply the best action film of the year, possibly the best action film over the last 10 years, and maybe one of the best action films ever made. Tom Cruise has never been better as a physical performer, complimenting Christopher McQuarrie’s flawless and relentless directing as well as the pure balls-out mentality of the cast of stunt personnel and camera operators. Every single action sequence in this movie could and would be the climatic banger in any other film. Cruise has always amped himself up from each Mission Impossible film, but now he’s topping himself numerous times in the same film. From halo jumps to car chases to motorcycle chases to foot chases to helicopter chases, it is a thrill ride unlike any other. The cast is great, the action is great, the plot is delightfully twisty and turn-y. This is what blockbuster filmmaking can hope to achieve. Read the Full Review Here