For much of the back-half of 2018 I kept hearing people talk about what a great year it’s been for film and for the most part, I’ve been in disagreement with all of them. For my money, 2018 has felt more like a whiplash-inducing roller coaster of a year for film. I was largely disappointed with many of the movies I was most looking forward to coming into the year. Still, there’s no denying we’ve seen some truly wonderful films in 2018 and now that we’ve reached the end, it’s time to step back, assess the bigger picture and to celebrate the films that moved us the most.
What you are about to read is a profoundly scrutinized list of the ten films that moved me the most these last twelve months. They’re the films I can’t imagine going without heading into 2019 and beyond. Your list will look different and that’s a good thing. Discussing and debating everybody’s wildly different tastes in and experiences with these movies is the best part about being a film fan.
I hope this list inspires you to check out some films you might have otherwise missed out on as well as the lists of other passionate movie lovers.
Let the countdown begin…
10.) A Simple Favor
Alfred Hitchcock meets Desperate Housewives for this slick pick, a deliciously exaggerated melodrama drizzled over a darkly comedic murder mystery topped off with shocking revelations nearly every twenty minutes. Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick are absolutely electric together and boast some of the best on-screen chemistry of any acting pair this year. As a total package, A Simple Favor was some of the most fun I had at the movies in 2018.
9.) You Were Never Really Here
You Were Never Really Here was definitely one of the most cerebral movie-going experiences of the year. Lynne Ramsay’s intense psychological thriller daftly utilizes artistic expressionism to set you inside the mind-space of a traumatized veteran who now tracks down missing girls for a living. Joaquin Phoenix gives another career-highlighting performance and it’s undeniably one of the very best of 2018.
8.) Black Panther
This was the first film this year to truly thrill me. Director Ryan Coogler has a talent for shooting exciting action. More than that, Black Panther opened my eyes to racial relationships I didn’t even know existed. Michael B. Jordan stands out this year for his performance as Killmonger, a jaded African American soldier seeking vengeance against his African family who abandoned him in the States as a child and liberation for the oppressed across the world. Black Panther is a complete package: an action-packed comic book movie with compelling characters and potent social insight.
7.) A Star Is Born
It seems nothing draws out the bellowed groans of movie fans quicker these days than words like “reboot” and “remake.” Meanwhile, films like Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born prove that those folks need to chill out. This is an emotionally moving exploration of a romance poetically wrought with joy and heartbreak with two wonderful performances at its core as well as a small but impactful supporting turn from the great Sam Elliot. And I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the stellar soundtrack, which gave us some of the best movie music of 2018.
6.) Avengers: Infinity War
Though it seems to be getting better, superhero movies don’t get the serious recognition they deserve. That’s why it might sound odd when I say this: Avengers: Infinity War is unlike anything we’ve seen before in the history of cinema. It’s the culmination of a decade of storytelling that brings together dozens of characters from nearly 20 previous films. I hold it in such high regard because somehow it all works. Every character gets their moment, their motivations are all understandable and compelling, the story flows smoothly despite the epic scope of the film and the action is still thoroughly enthralling, even after all these films. And then there is that ending, which left me breathless in a way no film ever has, despite being telegraphed for the last two hours.
Before we hit on my top five films of the year, here are some honorable mentions:
5.) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I was not expecting Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse would disappoint me walking into the theater, but neither was I prepared to love it to the degree that I did. Like ‘Infinity War,’ this film shouldn’t work, with seven Spider-People, six different realities and just about as many villains. Still, everything comes together so seamlessly and often in fashions we haven’t seen before on screen, including the distinctively kinetic art style. It’s funny and heartfelt and impossible not to connect with Miles Morales on his way to discovering that truly anyone can wear the mask of Spider-Man.
4.) Mission: Impossible–Fallout
Mission: Impossible– Fallout is the sixth film in this seemingly undying series and may just be the best one yet. But it’s definitely one of the best movies this year. What other sixth film in a franchise can you say that about? Tom Cruise once again throws himself at death’s door for our entertainment in a number of the film’s insane and insanely well-executed stunts. The plot could be ripped from any other super-spy film, but ‘Fallout’ never slows down to let you realize it, and the chemistry between the core cast is as electric as ever and the addition of the formidable Henry Cavil adds an air of added mystery to a mission already twisting and winding with intrigue.
This is the film on my list that’s been the most difficult to describe. That’s because it seamlessly transitions between goofy buddy comedy and serious, hard-hitting social commentary throughout its runtime. Both Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal co-wrote the screenplay in addition to giving two of the most stirring and truthful performances of the year. I believed in these two as real dudes with real issues but also as friends who love each other despite their complicated relationship. I was also left speechless for a bit following one particularly moving scene at the end, which now serves as one of my favorite movie moments of 2018.
2.) The Favourite
I genuinely disliked the first twenty or so minutes of The Favourite. It seemed to be setting itself up as stiff, awkward British comedy and I just was not laughing. Alas, in Yorgos Lanthimos fashion, the film’s truer, darker nature slowly starts to make itself known and like a train-wreck in slow-motion, I couldn’t look away. The Favourite is another prime example of why the Academy needs to introduce an award for Best Ensemble Performance. Expect Oscar nominations at the very least for Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman and possibly one for Nicolas Hoult, who left a lasting impression both on the ladies of the story and myself.
No movie in 2018 got under my skin and stayed with me quite like Hereditary. As was the case with The Witch or It Comes at Night, I was still mentally unraveling both the big, shocking revelations and the tiny details weeks later. (To be honest, I still am.) Unlike A Quiet Place earlier in the year, Hereditary moves at a much more deliberate pace, subtly planting seeds of information without you noticing until things start taking a malevolent turn. Is this family legitimately going crazy or are they going to Hell? Director Ari Aster carefully constructs a challenging narrative that will keep you guessing up to the very last scene. Toni Collette gives one of the year’s most captivating lead performances and Alex Wolff deserves more recognition for his mesmerizing supporting turn. It’s not for everyone, but if you like your horror to shake you more than simply scare you, then Hereditary might just be for you.
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Those are my top ten films of 2018. What do you think? Any movies I missed? What were your top films of the year? I want to hear from you, so let me know in the comments below!