Lots of laughs, plenty of scares, tons of thrills, copious sorrows – These are the films of 2018.
2018 has been an interesting year for film. While it wasn’t the flood of good content that 2017 provided us, it slowly but surely proved to be no slouch in the movie department. There was something pretty much for everyone and even films that managed to break past their barriers to reach audiences that wouldn’t typically go for them. Granted, not all of them work for whatever the reason or simply due to it not being their thing but hey, it’s not too bad. And because there was so much to choose from this year, I realized I couldn’t just do a simple top ten because I had a lot of think about the movies I truly enjoyed from 2018. So I’m going to get weird and opt for a big ol’ list. Keep in mind, this my opinion not yours, so if something you liked isn’t on here, either I missed it or I viewed it and just didn’t feel like putting it on here. Also I wish to apologize for this being so late: I’ve wanted to publish this later but wanted to squeeze in a few more movies to view and see which ones had a chance of winding up on here. If you are so curious to see what else I saw, here’s my full rankings.
Anywho, on with the show!
25. Den of Thieves.
“You’re not the bad guys; We are.”
A two and a half hour knockoff of HEAT starring Gerard Butler and directed by the guy who’s written the scripts for such action schlock like A Man Apart and London Has Fallen released back in January doesn’t sound too promising on paper. Here’s a movie that has everything going against it but here’s the shocker: It’s good! Hell, even a tinge close to great even. For a first timer in the director’s chair, Christian Gudegast shows a surprisingly steady and clean hand towards this pulpy material that it probably doesn’t deserve as Butler plays a gloriously swinging dick, burnt out corrupt cop tracking down a group of ex-marines turned thieves planning to rob the Federal Reserve. Here’s a movie that drinks cheap beer by the pitcher and munches on crappy Asian food but sometimes, that is far from a bad thing when it’s as ambitious and thoroughly entertaining as this is. In a year where we saw a surprising amount of heist films (such as American Animals, Ocean’s 8 and Widows), this was the one that topped them all and with a sequel currently in development, I can’t wait to see more adventures of Big Nick O’Brien.
“Women always have to put up a fucking fight.”
I want to get something out of the way that might make me look like a jerk but just hear me out: No, Coralie Fargeat’s first swing at a full length feature is not the radical reinvention of the Rape/Revenge genre some make it out to be. Narrative-wise all things considered, it’s rather bog-standard as a bubbly blonde named Jen (Matilda Lutz) finds herself on the receiving end of an unforgivable punishment at the hands of a group of men who stubbornly refuse to either not get the hint or acknowledged that they screwed up. These flaws in the male ego come to bite them severely in the ass as Jen comes back as a silent, blood soaked and dirt covered avenging angel out to get even in the most ruthless way possible. And what it lacks in originality, to say that the film is makes up for in purebred genre thrills is an understatement. From Fargeat’s eye for gloriously excessive style to Lutz’s thoroughly fierce and committed performance, the film is a blast of righteousness and tons of blood from start to finish. Some may find it hard to watch while others will roll their eyes at its flourishes but for my money, I was hooked pretty much all the way to the film’s piercing final shot.
23. Eighth Grade.
Growing up, quite frankly, sucks. Especially when you’re a teen and you are going through all of the headaches one would expect go through such as awkwardness, puberty, not knowing whether to follow the beat of your own drum or just roll with what’s “popular”, etc etc. And Bo Burnham’s debut details all the trials and tribulations one experiences when transitioning from middle school to high school all through the eyes of Kayla (Elsie Fisher in a super endearing performance), as she’s still reeling from an awful run. You will most certainly cringe and squirm during moments of the film but thanks to its sincerity and a surprising amount of creative tricks in its filmmaking (from format changes to one takes to even a John Carpenter-esque synth score) make it an experience far more palatable than one would think. It’s not without issues mind you (for a movie that’s 90 minutes, it feels like two hours instead) but all in all, a worthy watch and a kind hearted entry in the well worn coming of age canon.
“You will be a brilliant mother! You’ve got to be brave and beautiful.”
For the first first half hour of Sebastián Lelio’s adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s novel of the same name, I wasn’t fully feeling it. The story of a photographer (Rachel Weisz) who comes back to the her Jewish community community who has ostracized her and in the process reunites with a lost flame of hers (Rachel McAdams) made me think that I was in for a slog of a romance drama. It was drab and slow moving. However, once our two leads lock lips, the film kicks into overdrive into being an emotional love story of forbidden passions and buckling in the face of rigid rigid Religious traditions. Yes, this is a movie where McAdams spits in the Weisz’s mouth, but there’s so much going on here thematically and emotionally to just approach the film in a shallow manner such as that does it a real disservice. It’s truly a beautiful story and if one has Amazon Prime, do check it out. You won’t regret it.
21. A Quiet Place.
“I love you. I have always loved you.”
Third time’s the charm for writer-director-actor John Krasinski with his horror smash A Quiet Place, a cracker jack creature feature with a terrific gimmick: Living in a world where noise is forbidden due to ravenous monsters who are attracted to it and will eat your ass if you so much as step on the tiniest twig. It’s absolutely effective stuff, from how he so masterfully stages tension and gets really terrific performances out of his actors, from his real life wife Emily Blunt to deaf actress Millicent Simmonds. But what really makes this creature feature so effective is its surprising heart; Seriously, the movie really gets you to care about the Abbott family and their struggle against these vicious creatures that have plagued the world. On top of that, it looks and sounds terrific, from Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s surprisingly gorgeous 35mm photography to sharp sound design and Marco Beltrami’s score, which is honestly one of his best in years. It may not reinvent the wheel but it has a nuts and bolts approach to filmmaking I greatly appreciate and I can’t wait to see what Krasinski does next.
20. The Mule.
“You’re welcome, dykes.”
I won’t lie when I say I’m a fanboy of Clint Eastwood, both as an actor and filmmaker. I love his understated approach, no frills presentation and how he presents his messages in films; Just saying what they’re about and leaving audience to decide on what they feel instead of shoving it down their throat. And with The Mule, he continues his tried and true methods with this quiet crowd pleaser of a 90 year old man dealing with financial issues who finds himself inexplicably becoming the cartels go-to delivery man for their shipments. While the subject matter and marketing makes it look like a somber affair, the final film is a much more lighter and fun ride, thanks to Eastwood having a ball dicking around on the road between munching down on snacks at pit stops, listening to oldies and having threesomes with prostitutes. Sometimes, simple dad movies like this make for perfectly pleasant viewing than any mega budget spectacular and if this is Eastwood’s last stab at acting, he chose a good note to leave on.
19. Sicario: Day of The Soldado.
“How do you define terrorism?”
Now here’s an oddball of a movie: A sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed films of the decade without the original director, cinematographer, lead actress, composer (RIP Johan Johansson) but still keeping the original writer and two of its supporting players, who were seen as major highlights from its predecessor bringing along a new director, cinematographer and composer. However, despite some bumps in the road, Stefano Sollima’s Day of The Soldado continues its predecessors sense of dread and brutality in the cartel wars. A DTV sequel this is not, from its sharp production values to its doubling down on its ugliness of what a colossal, psychotic clusterfruitcake the war on drugs truly is. There’s no victories here, no grandstanding message to be delivered like the first film did, no moral characters; Just an endless pit of violence and destruction with no end. Yet I found it almost as much as compelling as the first, thanks to excellent performances from its cast and brutally effective setpieces. And you can bet your ass I’ll be in line for a third one if it ever gets made.
18. You Were Never Really Here.
“Joe? Wake up. It’s a beautiful day.”
On the base synopsis, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here (based off a book by the same name by Jonathan Ames) seems like a bog standard thriller: An ex military man named Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) moonlights as an assassin killing people who need to die and rescuing underage women from their abusers. However, when he takes on a job to rescue a senator’s daughter under not too dissimilar from his other jobs, things go to hell in a hand basket and Joe has to find a way to piece it all back together. But instead of going for a Taken-esque route like so many other filmmakers would, Ramsay gives us something bold, artistic and genuinely harrowing in its depiction of PTSD, the consequence of violence, suicide and trying to find hope in situations where there is none. For a film that cares so little about actual on screen violence (perhaps a little too much), it shows great empathy for those affected by it and I doubt you can say that about a lot of movies of this type, regardless of how good they are.
17. First Reformed.
“My hands shake as I write these lines.”
For a majority of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, I was convinced I was watching one of the top five best films of the year. This haunting story of Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke in a revelatory performance) as he finds himself in a spiral of self destruction and fears of our planet’s ecosystem kept stunning me the more it went on: The exceptional cinematography, the unbelievably sharp script, the mournful mood, every performance across the board……until the ending hits, which is quite honestly one of the most baffling conclusions I’ve ever seen for a movie like this to end on. I cannot in good conscience fully sing my praises of the film as much as I want to yet I would still recommend it for everything it does well. In a sea of ridiculously insecure Religious propaganda films like the God’s Not Dead series, what Schrader does here is honestly what we need more of. Just stick the landing better next time, will ya?
16. A Star Is Born.
“I just wanted to take another look at you.”
Feel like I need a second viewing to fully appreciate the film, but holy hell who knew Bradley Cooper could direct this well? Guess working with Clint Eastwood a couple years back really did rub off on him in all the best ways in this straightforward but effective and unpretentious redo of the famous rise and fall story. The music rocks, the performances are off the charts, the camera work stuns and it proudly wears its heart on its sleeve. Above all, it feels much more rawer than these “singer gets popular” stories than most of them lack. The story maybe fictitious but it feels more real than any typical musical biopic out there, especially in its depictions of self destruction and heartbreak. If this winds up sweeping the Oscars, you’ll be seeing me cheer this on.