The 10 Best Films of 2018

2018 was a big year for movies, it was a great year for animation, it was a stellar year for horror movies in general, and it was such a busy time for anyone that loved and appreciated film. Thankfully it was tough stacking a top ten that was definitive and that sit well with me because I had so many favorites. With so much new avenues to view film I didn’t get everything I wanted in 2018, but I saw enough to compile a top twenty or top twenty five.

This is my top ten films of 2018, these are films I loved, these are films that I hope you seek out if you haven’t, by now.

Honorable Mentions: Paddington 2, The Domestics, Black Panther, Ready Player One, Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse, Revenge, Tully, The Night Eats the World, Bird Box, A Star is Born

10. Mission Impossible – Fallout
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Paramount Pictures
Release Date: July 27th
Christopher McQuarrie’s “Mission Impossible” sequel is a film that threatens to be the height of the “Mission Impossible” movie series. For a franchise that’s been around since the nineties, you assume we’d get diminishing returns, but “Fallout” is a masterful work not only of action cinema, but of pure cinema, period. It’s a wonderful and intense adventure for Ethan Hunt who goes through his usual labyrinth of death defying stunts and battles just to achieve his mission. Tom Cruise is a mad man who goes the extra mile here, and he is aided by the usually stellar supporting performances of Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, and Simon Pegg, as well as Henry Cavil who is enormous as the foil to Hunt, who almost seems to fight for dominance every single time he’s on screen with the man. Even if you’re not a big fan of spy movies, the balls to the wall fight scene in the bathroom warrants a screening of “Mission Impossible – Fallout” alone.

9. Annihilation
Directed by Alex Garland
Paramount Pictures
Release Date: February 23rd
Alex Garland is a master of genre fare that’s disturbing and cerebral at the same time and “Annihilation” is a stroke of genius. Filled with equal amounts of terror and thought provoking overtones about evolution and the ever changing form of nature, “Annihilation” completely turns the sub-genre on its head by subverting so much of the worn tropes from science fiction. Rather than focusing on a group of men, the new form of nature is combed over by a group of women all facing their own personal demons who, in one way or another, fall under the spell of this new growing ecosystem. Natalie Portman’s turn as something of an unreliable narrator makes “Annihilation” an admirable mystery and horrific horror tale from beginning to end. “Annihilation” grants us so many themes about rebirth and a planet virtually renewing itself in the face of our changing climate. All the while Garland stages some banner moments of terror including a disemboweling scene involving serpents, remains shed on a wall like a bouquet, and of course the sequence where the group of women are terrorized by a bear. “Annihilation” is a brilliant, harrowing science fiction tale that kept me clutching my seat, but also thinking about it long after it’d ended.

8. Shoplifters (Manbiki Kazoku)
Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: November 23rd
Hirokazu Koreeda’s is about how sometimes the right decisions aren’t always the best decisions and how much we tell ourselves to get through the day. Koreeda pays homage to the idea of family by introducing us to a group of very flawed people working in shades of grey who do everything they can to get by and sleep through the night. When we meet Osamu and Shota, they’re stealing food from a local supermarket, and working with one another with non-verbal cues. Along the way we find that this is a trade for them, and that they have their own methods, as well as their own way of rationalizing just about everything they do in their world. When they meet young Yuri sitting alone outside her house, they decide to bring her along with them to their house and feed her. Very quickly she’s integrated in to their family, and very shaky foundation is created as the Osamu and Shota’s family accepts her as their own and virtually adopts her. “Shoplifters” asks hard questions about the definition of love, what being a parent really means, and whether the concept of family is always bound to the traditional idea of blood bonds. Koreeda’s drama grapples with tough themes, but also revels in simple but beautiful moments including a moment of love making, a fireworks display, and a rare moment of calm at the beach. “Shoplifters” affected me very much.

7. Roma
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Release Date: November 21st
Alfonso Cuarón’s ode to the women in his life is a marvel of filmmaking and storytelling, it’s a film that sucked me in right from the first scene and didn’t let go until the final scene on the beach. Yalitza Aparicio’s performance as meek worker Cleo is powerful and her portrayal of a young domestic worker watching life and death unfold before her eyes, even as she prepares to give birth to a child is hypnotic. Cuarón relies on very little quick cut, opening his world before our eyes with long takes and slow pans that unroll the landscape before us revealing a tumultuous and chaotic world that Cleo occupies. Within the run time of two and a half hours, Cuarón expounds on the beauty of life and the horrors of death, and how they begin and end in an almost natural balance. Cuarón’s respect and love for women is surpassed only by his staging of some truly memorable moments in film, including a martial arts demonstration, a fateful riot, and the climactic scene in the beach that was tense as it was riveting. Cuarón simply outdoes himself.

6. All About Nina
Directed by Eva Vives
The Orchard
Release Date: September 28th
One of the many responses to the #MeToo movement, “All About Nina” is a smart and effective drama comedy about a woman on the path to self destruction. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic as Nina Geld, a talented stand up comedian who struggles to kick start her comedy career in a profession where she’s consistently judged by her appearance. When she meets Rafe, she realizes she has an opportunity not only to clean up her life, but pursue happiness with an actual relationship, but she ends up being her own worst enemy time and time again. “All About Nina” is an interesting peek behind the profession of stand up comedy, and a wonderful look at a woman haunted by a horrific childhood event that might forever keep her at odds with the people in her life. Seemingly glossed over, Eva Vives drama comedy is wonderful, and topped off with an excellent climactic scene where Nina unleashes her emotions during a gig on a dumbstruck audience.

5. Halloween
Directed by David Gordon Green
Universal Pictures
Release Date: October 19th

“H20” was a slasher movie that brought the team together again, but “Halloween” attempts to ground the events of Halloween 1978 in to a more realistic plane. More relevant today than it’s ever been, “Halloween” explores the idea of the lasting effects of trauma on the victim of a heinous crime, and how it perpetually renders them a victim. This time, though, Laurie has no outlet for her endless trauma and spends all of her life frozen in the night where the shape came home and murdered her friends. She was unprepared for fate stomping down her doorway, now she’s a woman preparing tirelessly for the inevitability of trauma destroying her life once and for all. Does Laurie inviting danger render her the victim, or does it empower her? Will Laurie’s daughter and granddaughter ever really cope with their confrontation with Michael? Perhaps he has stained a new generation with his inexplicable evil.

4. Eighth Grade
Directed by Bo Burnham
A24 Films
Release Date: August 3rd
Kids today have it harder than previous generations. With the influx of information and the pressure to keep up with every trend that come and go within a matter of minutes, sometimes,  it’s a tough world kids are being brought up in. Bo Burnham directs one of the most compelling and incredible coming of age teen dramas of the twenty first century, capturing not just the world our character Kayla lives in, but the digital world Kayla is obsessed with and how she seeks out an identity where people often lack one. Elsie Fischer’s performance as Kayla is brilliant, portraying a flawed protagonist that you may not always like, but you’ll definitely root for time and time again. She’s complimented by Josh Hamilton whose performance as Kayla’s overwhelmed and understanding to a fault dad is both heartbreaking and absolutely sweet. Burnham’s “Eighth Grade” touches on a very rarely explored milestone in adolescence and promises to become a timeless classic in the arena of “Sixteen Candles” and “Breakfast Club.” Gucci!

3. A Quiet Place
Directed by John Krasinski
Platinum Dunes
Release Date: April 6th
“A Quiet Place” came out of nowhere in 2018 as a film I didn’t quite expect to be so incredible. I’ve never been a huge fan of John Krasinski, but “A Quiet Place” changed my mind on the man as a creative force and an actor in general. Too many writers place a lot of emphases on talking and dialogue, especially when it comes to exposition, and Krasinski manages to establish a new world without much dialogue at all. It’s a world that’s perilous, dangerous, and under the consistent threat of enigmatic monsters that can hear everything including the slightest cough. “A Quiet Place” is a harrowing film that mixes family drama and pure horror, exploring a family trying their best to keep themselves tightly knit, as their environment tests their bonds. How can you inspire hope on your family where there is no quality of life? How can you convey faith and strength in a world dominated by a seemingly invincible enemy? “A Quiet Place” is a grade A nail biter that compels as a character piece, but also excels as a genuinely intense monster movie with great effects, gut wrenching tension, and top notch performances from its entire cast.

2. Avengers: Infinity War
Directed by: The Russo Brothers
Walt Disney Pictures, Marvel Entertainment
Release Date: April 27th
This is the culmination of ten years, a risky venture for any studio that not many can get right, or have gotten right. Marvel took a big chance banking on the appeal and potential of Iron Man in 2008, and it’s all led up to the big entrance and appearance of one of Marvel Comics’ most notorious and devious enemies. Like previous Marvel arcs, “Infinity War” is a loose adaptation of the famed nineties universe wide event, now featuring pretty much every single character that’s ever appeared in a Marvel movie. The Russos offer the proper amount of action, adventure, science fiction, and drama with a wonderful dynamic between all of the characters. “Infinity War” never feels over crowded or even convoluted. It’s a wonderful straight forward charge in to probably the most menacing villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. The cast is top notch, the special effects are brilliant, and The Russos pay tribute to everything that makes Marvel Comics so magical.

1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Directed by Morgan Neville
Starring Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers, François Clemmons, Yo Yo Ma, David Newell
Focus Features
Release Date: June 8th
Fred Rogers is a man the world needed, and he’s a man we were lucky to have, if even for such a brief period of time. The story of Fred Rogers is so simple, but truly touching and absolutely remarkable, it’s a tale of heroism and bravery and courage. It’s a much needed positive tale about encouraging kindness and tolerance in a world that’s grown dimmer and dimmer by the hour. If anything can give you hope, it’s the idea that every once in a while someone like Fred Rogers comes along, and that we can find beauty in the simplicity of life. Roger was someone so unencumbered by the need for fame, and simply wanted to not just rethink the idea of children’s programming, but also rethink the way we taught children as a whole.

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is heart wrenching and sad while also inspiring a lot of hope, and the feeling that perhaps if humanity can produce one of this type of person every so often, perhaps not all is lost. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is free of sensationalism, it’s merely the portrait of a man who grew up in misery and pain and used that as a spring board to spread happiness, tolerance, and love, regardless of what color, gender, or nationality you were. It’s the best superhero movie of the year. To the very end, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” will leave you in tears, but it’ll also compel you to wipe the tears, and smile.