Catching Up With 2018
Last year was a great year for movies, however, for the most part the movies that I like the most missed out on awards and nominations even though many of them were prestige films. Last year I extended my list to 30 movies, and this year I'm going to reel that back in to 25 of the very best of 2018. If you feel you're missing out, I've got everything ranked on Letterboxd.
1. Death of Stalin
This doesn’t even have a Blu Ray release in the US. It’s insanely funny, darkly satirical and a unique historical look at a time that we don't see very often in film. The humor, style, casting and intense drama are something special. It's an overlooked movie for 2018, but it's also a great movie that will live on for a long time.
Steve McQueen has such a great track record with his filmography. 12 Years a Slave was a rare movie that was the best of the year and actually won the Best Picture Oscar. Widows didn’t get any awards love despite a very complex story mixing crime and politics with great acting from a deep cast.
3. Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse
There isn’t another animated movie like this and there isn’t another comic book movie that captures the nature of print comics. It isn’t just a uniquely made movie, it’s also one of the most entertaining and funny movies of the year and the best Spider-Man movie ever.
4. Avengers Infinity War
It’s amazing how this brought together ten years and so many superhero movies into one event. It isn’t all smashed together, either, it’s a cohesive movie that brings together so many stories and stories into one conclusion. It’s an entertaining ride that ends in an absolute gut punch.
5. If Beale Street Could Talk
Speaking of gut punches, Beale Street gives little touches of beauty and hope before showing that it is not just the story of one man, one couple, one family, but of black men, the police, and the legal system. This has one of the best scores of any movie in 2018.
6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
I love westerns and I love Coen Brothers movies. This episodic film gives such a broad swath in it’s western world of death. It’s amazing that with so many different stories, there really isn’t a less than interesting story in the lot.
I didn’t quite expect this to be my favorite Oscar Best Picture nominated movie of the year. I have to admit that I haven’t seem much of the earliest Spike Lee movies. There were some of his movies that I really liked, some that were interesting but not my favorite, and some that were huge disappointments. BlacKkKlansman is an incredible movie about a police sting, that’s also about Klan culture, and then it makes a turn at the end to be partially a really effective documentary.
Filled with great performances, Adam McKay mixes genres and styles of storytelling to tell a recent history that is still quite fresh in our memories. This is the third movie on this list to have documentary aspects to it and it manages to make the Dick Cheney story understandable and personal but without letting him off the hook one bit.
9. First Reformed
Beautifully shot, the story is more than just an existential crisis of a small town minister, it twists into something darker. This has one of the most harrowing final scenes of anything in 2018, in imagery that will be referenced for decades in film history.
10. Free Solo
This is one of the more terrifying documentaries I have seen where there is no certainty whether we will see the subject survive the movie. Set in the endlessly scenic Yosemite National Park, we get a glimpse into the mind of a man who struggles to be thrilled, shocked or to connect with other people.
11. Love, Simon
I’m not always a fan of high school dramas, there were quite a few that came out this year that were fine but didn’t stick with me, but the theme of having a secret and living with it coming out ended up being so heartwarming. It also pulls a trick of never fully tipping its hand on the secrets of the other character without being withholding from the audience.
Soderbergh goes full Hitchcock in this thriller. I did not expect this movie to go in the directions that it does. Claire Foy had an incredible year of movies with this, First Man and her turn as Lisbeth Silander. This looks great, unsettling at times with the angles it was shot on an iPhone.
13. Black Panther
The side characters kind of steal the show from the titular hero. It’s a solid Marvel action movie while also being one of the most culturally packed movies of the year. Not only is it filled with Marvel easter eggs, there are also African and African American cultural references.
14. The Old Man And the Gun
An interesting real story of a bank robber addicted to the heist as well as breaking out of prison. This has one of the best montages of the year using footage from throughout Robert Redford’s career as a nice mid-movie tribute during his final acting role.
15. Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot
It’s the story of a paralyzed cartoonist struggling alcoholism, but it’s much funnier than that sounds. Juaquin Phoenix gives one of the best performances of the year in a movie that barely got any publicity.
16. You Were Never Really Here
Hey it’s Juaquin Phoenix giving a stellar performance while contorting his body to look like a different man yet again. It’s much more than another spin on Taken and it gives an introspective look at the psychological toll on a guy who rescues kidnapped kids.
17. On The Basis of Sex
There was a Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary this year, RGB that was not very impressive even though it was Oscar nominated. This is a much more interesting telling of her story that is only helped by the charm of the leads Armie Hammer and Felicity Jones.
18. Ocean’s 8
This new take on the Ocean’s movies ended up being one of my favorite movies to rewatch because it is just pure entertainment anchored by a deep cast of some of the best actresses in Hollywood and Rihanna.
19. First Man
I love space movies, science fiction, historical, and this gives the most realist sense of being in a space capsule. It’s claustrophobic, brings the darkness of the human loss of the space race and pulls off the thrill of landing on the moon.
I’m not sure if I have a clue what really happens with the ending of the film but damn it looks great. The movie theater scene is an instant classic and I don’t think I have ever seen anything similar to it in a movie before.
21. Cold War
It was pretty hard to not have this be the best foreign film of the year, it’s a bit of a 1B after Roma. It’s nearly just as beautifully shot, also in black and white. It’s even darker than Roma, but the ending is actually a bit more fitting with classic foreign films.
22. Isle of Dogs
It’s the closest thing to science fiction from Wes Anderson and a return to his stop motion brilliance form Fantastic Mr. Fox. I definitely need to rewatch this a bit more and I’m sure it’ll inch its way up this list although 2018 was a pretty stacked year for movies as it was.
23. Won’t You be My Neighbor?
The story of Mr. Rogers was mostly unknown to me, and this was a nostalgic trip for me. I think I saw this around the same time as RBG and the difference in quality was stark from a CNN documentary and this, a documentary meant to be a feature and not formatted for ease of viewing experience for channel flipping casual viewers.
24. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
An unconventional story of a con artist, the oddball characters come through to elevate this from just another real life heist movie. Melissa McCarthy really earned her award nominations by flexing her comedy muscles while also showing she has some real dramatic chops.
25. They Shall Not Grow Old
I am always interested to track down a World War I movie, although I’m not as well versed in the actual historical timeline of the war. This is like a work of magic, creating 3D depth to hundred year old 2D film, color to black and white film and takes lip readings of silent film to insert sound and hear what these real people were saying. It’s not the easiest film to follow in the very beginning of the war and some of the movements are just a little unnatural looking, but overall it is still a marvel of cinema.
This was an especially good year for movies. There were a number of movies outside of my top 25 that I still really enjoyed and love to go back to watch again like Incredibles 2, which would have been the best animated film of the year in any other year. Solo which was better than its reputation, dammit, once Lando shows up in the movie it’s one of the best Star Wars viewing experiences in the whole franchise. The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling is a stand out documentary on one of the greatest comedians ever. Blockers was a dark horse comedy that was only hurt by a bad title. Crazy Rich Asians is a solid rom com in this renaisance of the genre. The Catcher Was a Spy was an underrated historical movie that flew too low under the radar. Finally, Journey's End is a depressing war film set in the trenches of World War I with a nice cast and some heavy drama. It is really well made, but didn't make it over to the US until DVD release well after it was in theaters in the UK. On my Letterboxd list I also rank an American Masters episode on Ted Williams that I found to be an especially well made baseball documentary.
Worst of the year (but kinda fun)
I didn’t have Moviepass for very long before it stopped really being effective so the Meg was a fun movie because it was free but it was certainly not good.
2015: The Force Awakens
2016: OJ: Made in America
2017: Thor Ragnarok