The end of the year brings with it many traditions. It’s a time to reflect on the things we’ve went through, the state of the world (it ain’t great) and to arbitrarily rank our favorite movies for complete strangers to criticize and mock on the internet. It’s that time once again, for every Tom, Dick and Harry with an opinion to list their favorite movies of the year. This list, however, is a bit different in that I’ve ranked every film I’ve seen, not just my favorites. Oh and that my rankings are correct.
The list will be broken down into:
- The Bad— Films that received an F or lower D.
- The Ok— Films that received a higher D or C.
- The Good— Films that received a higher C or B.
- The Great— Films that received a higher B or A
- The Discoveries— Films I liked that weren’t released in 2018.
- The Documentaries— A ranking of the documentaries I’ve seen this year from worst to best.
The world is on fire. Schools are getting shot up at an alarming rate, actresses are leaving Twitter over harassment, children are being locked in cages, the house of mouse is slowly becoming an all powerful conglomerate and a Star Wars film flopped. 2018 straight up sucked but these are the films that help distract me from everything wrong with the year. For better or worse.
This is 2018: Year in Review (The Great)
14. The Ritual
Directed by: David Bruckner
Plot: A group of college friends reunite for a trip to the forest, but encounter a menacing presence in the woods that’s stalking them.
After the death of one of their friends, a group of Friends reunite to take a vacation they had all planned before the tragedy. Whilst on the trip, one of them sprains their leg and the group decides to take a short cut through the forest but encounter a menacing presence intent on killing them. With a unique mythology and one of the best monster designs in decades, The Ritual is a solid debut that leaves me eager to see what the director does next.
13. Game Night
Directed by: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Plot: A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves entangled in a real-life mystery when the shady brother of one of them is seemingly kidnapped by dangerous gangsters.
A rock solid comedy that’s hampered by an unnecessarily long third act. It goes on far too long and gets increasingly ridiculous but the cast is so fucking funny, it doesn’t matter. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams have a natural chemistry and the two other couples have a decent amount to work with but Jesse Plemons is a goddamn murderer. He slays every scene he’s in.
12. The Clovehitch Killer
Directed by: Duncan Skiles
Plot: A picture-perfect family is shattered when the work of a serial killer hits too close to home. Dylan McDermott stars in this chilling portrait of all-American evil.
The “I think my next door neighbor might be a killer” sub genre started and peaked with the 1954 classic Rear Window. Every other film up to and including Summer of 84, does nothing the Hitchcock film didn’t do better and while The Clovehitch Killer is no where near as good, It’s the first one to do anything interesting with the premise. For about 30 minutes, the film is good, if a bit cliched but around the half way point, the film shifts perspectives and it’s this split in the narrative that separates it from every other film in the genre. This, along with Searching, are probably the best discoveries of 2018.
11. Isle of Dogs
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Plot: Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.
It’s ironic that the title of the film, when said fast, sounds like “I love dogs” because although I love me some pups, it would’ve been more accurate if it sounded like “I love Wes Anderson.” He is a director you either get or you don’t and I’m glad I’m on the right side of the equation.
You can read my review here.
10. Batman Ninja
Directed by: Junpei Mizusaki
Plot: Batman, along with a number of his allies and adversaries, finds himself transplanted from modern Gotham City to feudal Japan.
If this was live action, it would be my number 1 film of the year with a bullet. This film laughs in the face of logic. Joker operates a mechanized Arkham that chucks huge ass shurikens at the batmobile, Robin inexplicably has a pet monkey that actually factors into the plot and there’s a scene involving ninjas, robots and a shit ton of monkeys and bats that’s absolute lunacy. This film is non-stop entertainment.
You can read my review here.
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Plot: Four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.
Alongside prison escape films, heist films are my favorite subgenre. The planning, the execution, the double crosses, every aspect has the potential for great action and suspense and if the film is really good, it also leaves some room for great drama.
This film is one of the really good ones.
With one of the best casts in recent history, Widows is a superb drama that constantly unfolds revealing new mysteries. My only gripe with it is a certain characters motivation. Nothing [redacted] does seems to make any logical sense and the film doesn’t do a good job in explaining their plan or goals. But other than that, it’s another solid entry in the heist genre.
Directed by: Bo Burnham
Plot: An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school.
There’s a scene in this that had me more tense than anything in A Quiet Place or Hereditary. I was legitimately afraid for the main character and had no idea what was going to happen. That scene alone merits a strong recommendation but a film is more than just one scene. On top of the best directed scene of the year, it also has one of the best scores, one of the best scripts and a strong contender for the second best performance of the year*
But on top of all of that, and the reason I recommend it, is the fact that there’s not a single scene in the entire film where the main character gets bullied. It is a high school film about a socially awkward outcast desperately trying to fit in and there’s not a single fucking bully. Not seeing any variation of the over the top cliche bully that inevitably shows up in every high school movie was refreshing and made me love this film.
It is damn near perfect.
*Nothing beats Toni Collette.
Directed by: Demián Rugna
Plot: When strange events occur in a neighborhood in Buenos Aires, a doctor specializing in the paranormal, her colleague, and an ex police officer decide to investigate further.
Not since the days of Raimi and Jackson, has there been a horror film with this much energy. Terrified is a bullet train attached to a haunted house that transitions into a roller coaster. It’s non-stop spooks and fun.
This is the closest we’ve come to old school Evil Dead. Not in terms of tone or humor but in execution of gags. All it wants to do is make you jump out of your seat and scream and it’ll throw as much scary shit at you until you do. And you will.
06. Avengers: Infinity War
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Plot: The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
The fact that this thing even works is a fucking miracle. Since Superman: The Movie came out over 40 years ago, there have been well over 100 comic book and superhero related films and while there’s a plethora of great ones, there’s only a handful that feel like a comic book. That nail the aesthetic and over the top bombast of funny books. Infinity War may lack character development and be guilty of sidelining some important characters but its successes far outweigh its negatives. That ending is ballsy as fuck.
05. Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse
Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Plot: Teen Miles Morales becomes Spider-Man of his reality, crossing his path with five counterparts from another dimensions to stop a threat for all realities.
When Sony first announced they were going to reboot Spider-Man instead of making a Spider-Man 4, fans and audiences were both less than enthused, with the general consensus being that it was far too soon to reboot the story. After two disappointing entries, Sony (with Marvel’s help) decided to reboot the character again. While Homecoming (2017) wisely skipped the origin story, audiences still thought it there was too many versions of Spider-Man and were starting to feel fatigue.
To which Sony responded with the craziest goddamn triple down in history–another fucking reboot. With the deck already stacked against them, Sony, decided to dip their balls in liquid brass, throw them on the table and announce that not only were they doing Spider-Man for the 3rd time in six years, this one was going to have a shit ton of Spider-Men. All with origins.
Lady luck must have been smiling on that day because not only did it pay off, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse might be the greatest superhero movie ever made. In addition to having one of the most unique art styles in all of animation, a script that’s a fresh new take on the conventional origin story (both of Miles’ parents are alive), as well as being hilariously funny and a voice cast that’s uniformly fantastic, it’s the plotting that should get the most amount of recognition. This film somehow manages to stuff itself full of characters audiences have never seen or heard of before without ever feeling crowded. Every character has enough screen time to leave they’re mark and although some characters feel like they should’ve gotten more screen time than others, there’s no character you would eliminate to free up time either.
In Lord & Miller we trust.
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Plot: A story that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s.
There’s a reason this film’s title is the Spanish word for love spelled backwards. Loosely based on Cuarón‘s own childhood, Roma is a film all about love. His love of his family, his city but most importantly–the family servant he grew up with. Chronicling a year in the life of Cleo (newcomer Yalitza Aparicio), the film is half love letter and half apology note. He clearly has nothing but affection for this character but he also makes it a point that as much as he and his family had appreciation for her, none of them knew anything about her. They took her for granted and this film is his atonement/celebration of her accomplishments, however fictional they might be. Joyous and heartbreaking in equal measure, Roma is the finest drama of the year. It’s also the best directed film of the year.
03. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Plot: Six tales about life on the American Frontier following: a wagon train, a bank robber, an elderly prospector, a perverse pair of bounty hunters, an ambitious impresario and a singing gunslinger named “Buster Scruggs”.
There’s a general rule of thumb that states that if a film has three great scenes, it’s automatically a great movie and if that is true, the Ballad of Buster Scruggs earns the title of great before the twenty minute mark. A western anthology comprising of six tales that all have hilariously bleak punchlines for endings, it’s the first segment that earns this film a spot on this list. As much as I loved Tom Waits‘ grumbling prospector and Liam Neesons‘ relationship with a armless, legless actor, it’s the singing cowboy played by Tim Blake Nelson, that makes this film a must watch. Playing with the Gene Autry archetype, the titular Buster Scruggs is an instantly lovable troubadour that is as good at killing as he is at singing. Watching him dispatch fellow outlaws feels like a bloody live action Looney Tune cartoon. The rest of the segments fluctuate between good and great but Buster Scruggs is the most consistently entertaining thing this year.
Directed by: Ari Aster
Plot: After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.
Steven King once referred to The Shinning as “A film designed to hurt people” and while he meant that as a criticism, there’s no better quote to describe Hereditary. Every shot is designed to unsettle you, with images you’ll only understand after a second viewing. The film is paced methodically to slowly draw you into its spell. It’s a slowburn that cultivates dread until the dread turns into nightmare fuel. And if Toni Collette doesn’t get an Oscar nom, I’m going to flip so many tables, you don’t even know.
01. This is America
Directed by: Hiro Murai
In 2009, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was the first music video to be selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. There is 750 films in the registry and Thriller is the only video to be deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant enough to make the cut. If a video (about dancing zombies, no less) can make that much of an impact on pop culture that it’s deemed as important a piece of art as the best of cinema, is there even a difference between the two? Art is art, regardless of its length.
At exactly 4 minutes, This Is America has as many iconic moments as Avengers: Infinity War or Black Panther, is as socially relevant as Sorry to Bother You or BlackKklansman, tells a more compelling story than Mandy or Mission Impossible: Fallout, had better dance sequences than Suspiria and was a better musical than Bohemian Rhapsody. In addition to being the best piece of entertainment released this year, This Is America might be the most significant work of art of the 21st century.