It’s December, and that can only mean one thing: IT’S TIME FOR YEAR-END LISTS! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Throughout the month I’ll be revealing my “Best of…” lists, ranking the top movies, television shows, albums and more of 2018. Today, my favorite films of the year.
What a year at the theater.
From the continued superhero dominance to the emergence of several straight-to-streaming masterpieces, 2018 gave viewers the chance to witness phenomenal films both in the theater and at home. While I’ve always been a movie fanatic, I took my movie-going far more seriously this year, keeping track of everything I watched from January to December. This year I saw 56 new films, covered my first film festival and even set a new personal record, watching three movies in theaters in a single day.
Despite spending so much time at the theater this year, I still feel like I’ve barely seen a fraction of what I’d hoped to watch. Thanks to MoviePass, may she rest in peace, I was able to take advantage of the big blockbusters all summer long until the company’s ultimate demise, but as the year comes to a close, I find myself playing catch up. But Hollywood waits for no one, as movies like “Bumblebee,” “Vice,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and so many more continue to hit theaters, and I’m left struggling to see them all in time to find a place for them in the rankings.
Alas, I can only rank what I’ve seen, so I’m sure there are plenty of fantastic films I’ve overlooked, but here we go. I’m proud to present my Top 25 Movies of 2018.
24. “Deadpool 2“
23. “Green Book“
22. “Crazy Rich Asians”
21. “The Old Man & the Gun“
19. “Mary Poppins Returns”
18. “Incredibles 2”
17. “Ralph Breaks the Internet”
16. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
15. “Boy Erased”
14. “Beautiful Boy”
12. “The Hate U Give”
11. “Black Panther”
Steve McQueen’s female heist thriller was hands down one of the year’s best films. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Ervo star as four certified badasses forced to follow through on a heist-gone-wrong that left three of their husbands dead, while Colin Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry play dueling politicians in a heated campaign. In most films with such a star-studded cast it may seem difficult for a performance to stand out above the rest, but here, Daniel Kaluuya blows everyone else out of the water as Henry’s psycho-murderous henchman. On top of being two hours of pure excitement, “Widows” tackles a multitude of social issues, like sexism, police brutality, corrupt politicians and interracial marriage, without ever feeling unnecessarily forced.
9. “Eighth Grade”
Not many films have the ability to take you back to a time in your life so vividly – especially not the most uncomfortable and embarrassing days, but Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade” beautifully handles the most cringe-inducing and awkward time in everyone’s lives. Elsie Fisher is Kayla, an introverted eighth grader just trying to blend in and seem “cool,” as she struggles through her last few days in middle school. There’s something so horribly real about everything here, because we’ve all been in these situations. No matter how long ago they were in Kayla’s shoes, viewers are immediately transported back to their insecure past selves, bringing all that suppressed anxiety rushing back. It’s kind of like a train wreck that you just can’t turn away from, but you know it’s only going to get worse. Together, Burnham and Fisher perfectly encapsulate millennial angst and coming of age in the social media world.
8. “Game Night”
In a slim year for studio comedy’s, “Game Night” provided some of the year’s best laughs and may be one of its most under-appreciated films. Led by Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, “Game Night” centers around a group of adult friends who gather every weekend to play board games, but after Bateman’s exorbitant brother shows up (Kyle Chandler), the gang’s typical night is quickly turned upside down. Instead of Monopoly and charades, Chandler hires an acting company to kidnap him and leave clues to his rescue, but what everyone else doesn’t realize is that he’s not the wholesome breadwinner he claims to be, and has actually been kidnapped by gangsters he’s wronged. As expected, hilarity ensues, and Jesse Plemons’ delivers quite possibly the year’s most hysterical performance as the cringey cop next door.
7. “Avengers: Infinity War”
How could “the most ambitious crossover event ever” not make the cut? Not only is “Infinity War” one of the year’s biggest and most entertaining films, but it’s more than just a blockbuster cash grab – it’s both technically and visually stunning. Don’t get me wrong, this movie was made to haul in boatloads of cash, but Disney also made a damn good film. After 10 years and 18 movies, everything has finally been perfectly woven together and let me tell you, shit is going down. Marvel continues its streak of quality villains with Josh Brolin’s much-anticipated Thanos, who we finally get to see in action after years of post-credits teasers. As proven in “Captain America: Civil War,” Marvel knows how to expertly manage a ton of moving pieces, and that’s proven yet again here, as over 20 superheroes are featured and no one feels cheated. While some people are getting tired of the constant superhero fanfare, Marvel continues to dominate, and as long as they’re putting out movies as wonderful as this one, it’s fine by me.
Director Spike Lee doesn’t pull any punches in “BlacKkKlansman,” the outrageous true story of an African American police officer secretly infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan. After establishing communication with the KKK over the phone, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) teams up with fellow police officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) who will pose as Stallworth for in person meetings. Together, the two attempt to bring down the group’s local branch from the inside. There’s little subtlety in Lee’s direction – he’s extremely direct and his anger is palpable, yet he manages to balance the film’s tone with ample amounts of humor. After this performance, I don’t think there’s any doubt Washington is one of Hollywood’s most promising up-and-coming leading men.
This one may seem unexpected to many, but something about Elizabeth Chomko’s moving family drama struck me. Bridget (Hilary Swank) is forced to return home to Chicago when her ailing mother’s (Blythe Danner) health declines, leaving the rest of the family struggling to decide how to move forward. Bridget’s brother, Nick (Michael Shannon), is pushing for an assisted living home, but their father (Robert Forster) is reluctant to give up his life alongside his wife. For a first time writer/director, Chomko crafts a startlingly raw and powerful story about family and the struggles we face making of end-of-life decisions. The film’s cast is incredibly strong across the board, led by terrific outings from Swank and Shannon, and even Taissa Farmiga, only 24, holds her own in the veteran group. The thing about this film that’s so impactful is its realness – it hits close to home for nearly everyone, as we’ve all had to care for loved ones in their final days. Be prepared for misty eyes all around.
Can I get “Things I Never Want to See Again” for 2,000, Alex? As I’ve said time and time again, I mean that in the best way possible. Ari Aster’s horror masterpiece is one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen, and while I know some people who’ve already watched it over and over again, I haven’t been able to make myself sit through a second viewing, yet. Films that stick with you like this are why movies are so interesting to me – the ability to simultaneously love something and be disgusted by it. After a tragic death, Annie’s (Toni Collette) family slowly unravels, as this film walks a fine line between supernatural horror and family drama. Yes, there are jump scares and general creepiness, but the most terrifying thing about “Hereditary” isn’t a demon or a ghost – it’s how easily tragedy can tear a family apart. Both Collette and co-star Alex Wolff are outstanding, and each is worthy of an Academy Award nom for best actress and best supporting actor, respectively.
We all knew it’d be up here somewhere. “A Star Is Born” was one of Hollywood’s biggest events of the year, and for good reason. In his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper set the bar pretty high. If ASIB lives up to its full potential, it very well may sweep the big five at the Oscars, so how on earth would he follow that up? As Jackson Maine’s (Cooper) career fades, he falls in love with Ally (Lady Gaga), an aspiring musician, and helps her find stardom. Along the way, Maine struggles through alcoholism, drug abuse and his own jealousy, as it threatens to derail his career, relationship and life. As if Gaga wasn’t already an international star, ASIB proves she’s more than just a singer, and deserves serious respect as an actress, too. Sam Elliott’s performance as Bobby, Maine’s older brother, should put him in contention for a best supporting actor nom, too. Oh, and that soundtrack? Fire.
2. “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”
Simply put, “Fallout” is hands down the year’s best action film, and in all likelihood, the best action film of the decade. It seems that each time a new MI film comes out, Cruise outdoes his previously most outrageous stunt, but beyond the action sequences, there’s something different this time around. “Fallout” is the definition of a summer blockbuster, bursting at the seams with massive set pieces and wild stunts, but also filled with smart dialogue and compelling characters and emotions. No matter how many times someone pulls of a rubber mask, I’ll still never see it coming. For a franchise six movies deep, each installment just keeps outdoing the previous while keeping things fresh and, of course, exciting.
1. “A Quiet Place”
It’s only fitting that the year’s best film is also its most revolutionary. In John Krasinski’s horror debut, the actor/director delivered the year’s most essential movie-going experience, creating a film that simply had to be viewed in theaters. Set in a dystopian future where alien creatures are attracted to even the slightest sounds, Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt, struggle to keep their children safe every day. Continuing on the success of “Get Out” last year, “A Quiet Place” helps the horror genre take another step towards legitimacy when it comes to awards consideration. Never before have I ever felt so directly injected into the world of a film – due in large part to the opening eight minutes of pure silence. The stakes are immediately set, and viewers must live by them, too. If you chew your popcorn too loud or crunch your candy wrappers, the monsters are just as likely to come for you. Krasinski creates a world of grave danger, tremendous suspense and true terror, in a way that few others are capable of doing. Blunt turns in a performance worthy of a best supporting actress nod, and perhaps a win, which is even more impressive considering the film’s minimal dialogue. The sheer amount of emotion she is capable of portraying through her actions and facial expressions is unbelievable. And don’t even get me started on that bathtub scene… While nothing can compete with the film’s theatrical experience, it’s still one that I’ll come back to time and time again, regardless of location.
So, there you have it – the year in film. Here’s to 2019 being another year of fantastic films and moviegoing experiences! With tons of HUGE names already on the horizon, I’m sure it will be.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.