Hello all! Happy New Year to everyone! Now that 2018 has officially come to a close, and we look ahead to the cinematic horizon of 2019, I figured it might be a bit of fun to recount the films in 2018 that were my personal favorites. Keep in mind, these are by no account the “best films of 2018,” and I absolutely know that everyone’s lists are going to be different. This is all 100% me here.
It’s also worth noting that a LOT of these films are films I saw after I wrote my “favorites of 2018 so far” piece, and a lot has thusly changed since then. And even though I’ve seen a good number of films this year, chances are I missed out on something that may have ended up on this list. I’m looking particularly at If Beale Street Could Talk, Eighth Grade, and First Man. I’m sure you were all wonderful, and I will see you come Oscar season.
Alrighty, disclaimers have been disclaimed, let’s get to it!
10. Searching (dir. Aneesh Chaganty)
I quite truthfully haven’t the slightest idea where to begin here. Everything about this film is undeniably wild in every sense of the word. This film takes its sweet time building an unreal amount of intensity and suspense, and is supplemented by a narrative that weaves in every which direction, keeping you guessing until the very end of what is one of the craziest third acts I’ve ever seen. Being one of the only central characters in the film, John Cho still manages to bring his best in every scene he’s in, and is undeniably part of what makes this film so great. Furthermore, the “screens only” format in which this film is shot takes what I once thought was a dead trend and breathes new life into it, making for one of the most inventive thrillers I’ve seen in quite a while. Do not miss this one. In fact, watch this film with a group, and prepare for absolute bedlam.
9. Ralph Breaks the Internet (dir. Rich Moore and Phil Johnston)
Anyone who knows me well enough knows just how near to my heart I hold the first Wreck-it Ralph. In fact, it’s undoubtedly my favorite Disney film, so after 6 years of waiting for its sequel, it’s safe to say that there was a bit riding on this for me. And while it doesn’t reach the ridiculous pedestal my impossible standards place its big brother on, this film is still a wonderful delight for all audiences. It’s full of plenty of depth, heart, and terrific voice acting that made the first film so great. It also never becomes too saturated with all the internet content and references it juggles, (be them ever so plentiful) and is one of the funniest animated films I’ve ever seen. In addition to a number of incredibly clever lines, gags, and references, there’s an animation studio joke somewhere around the middle of the film that is one of my favorite things to come out of a film in 2018. There’s just absolutely no denying how special this film is, and how special it will continue to be for years to come.
8. Upgrade (dir. Leigh Whannel)
I’m not too complex. I love sci-fi movies. I love good movies. I love good sci-fi movies, and I’d definitely say that Upgrade is all three of these and so much more. This film is undoubtedly my surprise of the year, and has continued to be a complete blast upon every rewatch. This flick is littered with chaotic and dynamic action, wields an inventive and delightfully rambunctious script that manages to revitalize what is arguably a worn-out concept, and has great performances from most of the cast, including Logan Marshall-Green’s occasional hamminess that, in a way, feels right at home with the nature of some of the film’s more absurdly fun moments. Also, anyone who has talked with me in the last year about film knows my love for this film’s finale, which contains a hell of a moment that I dare not give away. This film is a thrilling ride from start to finish, and one that I promise will not disappoint.
7. Widows (dir. Steve McQueen)
If one were to ask me what film I felt didn’t receive the attention at the cinema it deserved this past year, my answer would undoubtedly be Widows. There’s quite truthfully nothing to not love about this film, from its ridiculously stacked cast, to a large handful of phenomenal performances from players such as Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Cynthia Erivo (who has been a standout in everything I’ve seen her in this year), and Daniel Kaaluya in what is arguably the best performance of his career. This film’s script is also one of the best to grace 2018, with so many jaw-dropping sequences and breathtaking moments, brought to life masterfully by McQueen’s expert direction. If you missed out on this one, do yourself a favor and rectify that when it hits Blu-Ray. You won’t regret it.
6. BlacKkKlansman (dir. Spike Lee)
There aren’t too many who operate in the world of cinema who aren’t familiar with the works of Spike Lee. Known for their memorable characters, powerful themes, and hard-hitting messages, they’re some of the best social commentaries that Hollywood has to offer, and BlacKkKlansman is no different from the rest. This film is loud, proud, bold, and above all else, cuts to the core of many issues still prevalent in society through one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year. John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Topher Grace all give fantastic performances (especially Topher Grace, who gives a phenomenal performance in a role that I won’t ruin if you haven’t seen the film). BlacKkKlansman is incredibly hilarious, profoundly heartfelt, gleefully rebellious, and contains powerfully emotional and striking themes at a time when we need them most. It is undoubtedly my favorite Spike Lee joint since Do The Right Thing, and is one of the most memorable films I’ve seen this year.
5. Annihilation (dir. Alex Garland)
What an experience this film was. Coming off of 2015’s Ex Machina, director Alex Garland revisits his talent for creating wholly unique and provocatively beautiful science-fiction think pieces with Annihilation. This film is far and beyond one of the best sci-fi films to come out of 2018, and is yet another film that didn’t nearly receive the attention it truly deserved. Everything about one’s first viewing of this film is shrouded in a mysterious stasis of sorts, a stasis that Garland masterfully unravels through each of the film’s three acts, resulting in one of the most unforgettable finales in the history of 21st Century cinema. After my first viewing of this film, I sat in the theater lobby and debated this film’s messages, themes, and symbols with complete strangers. It’s a moviegoing experience unlike any other I’ve ever had. Portman, Isaac, Leigh, and many others give great performances, and the film’s beautiful cinematography make the 4K Blu-Ray absolutely worth the buy. You will never forget your first viewing of Annihilation, and will be debating, discussing, and rewatching this film for an incredibly long time.
4. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (dir. Morgan Neville)
Out of everything I saw in 2018, there was no truer reminder of the wholesome magic and power within entertainment than Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. This film is a truly heartfelt and powerfully resonant tribute to the life and legacy of one of the most influential people in the history of television, and entertainment as a whole. The way this film is expertly crafted by Neville and co. make for a powerful and fitting tribute that not only celebrates the life of Fred Rogers, but encapsulates the larger context of the time in which his show ran, therein showcasing why we needed Mr. Rogers more than ever. I was absolutely stunned and motionless throughout the duration of this film’s credits. I wanted to see it again as soon as it ended, and you will too. Also, I cried. Like, a lot. You will too, even if you’re a big macho tough guy/gal. You will sob, I bet my college tuition on this.
3. Sorry to Bother You (dir. Boots Riley)
In all truth, I didn’t actually think I was going to end up seeing this film in theaters during its late July run. It had circulated so close to major cities on the independent circuit, and wasn’t ever playing within a reasonable distance of me. However, one Saturday night in July saw a renegade theater about 90 minutes from me playing this film, and I didn’t have anything else to do, so I made the drive. Everything about this film made my roughly 3-hour commute incredibly worth it and so much more. This film is one of the most unique pieces of social satire I’ve ever seen, and is incredibly bold in the way it tells its story and guides its oddball characters through one of the wildest films I’ve ever seen. Riley’s original screenplay and chaotically precise direction make for so many wonderfully bizarre moments, be it bold story beats all the way to blink-and-you-miss-it visual cues. Sorry to Bother You is one of the most unique films I’ve ever seen, and one I won’t stop talking about for an incredibly long time. (It’s also put me off of watching Netflix’s BoJack Horseman for a reason that you’re just gonna have to find out for yourself.)
2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (dir. Christopher McQuarrie)
It’s really not all that often that franchise films continuously improve in quality as their franchise progresses, and the decline of a franchise with its progression is most often the rule, not the exception. Well, one of the exceptions is undoubtedly the Mission: Impossible franchise, one that has very quickly distinguished itself as one of the best action franchises in the history of cinema. And after the franchise’s 20+ year tenure, this past year brought us the best film in the M:I franchise, and one of the best action films of this century. This film is exciting, innovative, and a complete blast from start to finish. From McQuarrie’s high-octane and well-written script to the intensity-fueled and expertly crafted action sequences, Fallout will hook you from the word go, and thrill audiences of all kinds until the mission is accomplished. This film was some of the most fun I had at the movies all year, and makes me nothing but incredibly excited for the future of this franchise, and action franchises as a whole. If you’re one of the three people on Earth who hasn’t seen this film yet, fix that. Now, please.
AND WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, MY FAVORITE FILM OF 2018 IS…
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (dir. Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr., Rodney Rothman)
Quite simply put, of the many films I saw in 2018, there are none that made me feel quite like Into the Spider-Verse did. This is undoubtedly my favorite Spider-Man film, and is one of my favorite comic book movies ever. It uses its characters and larger world to not only compellingly tell us the story of fan-favorite Miles Morales, but also introduce us to Spider-People from all walks of life, and ultimately reminds us of who Spider-Man can be: any one of us. This film’s message is one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen in a Spidey/Comic Book film, and creates a powerfully important precedent for the future development of superhero cinema. The film’s animation style distinguishes itself in a colorful and creative comic-book homage, making for great character design and wonderfully animated action. Those present in this film’s voice cast are all marvelous on every level, and there are even a few surprise voices in there that you’re just gonna have to go see for yourself. I have seen this film a good handful of times over the course of about three weeks since its release, and it just simply gets better and better with every rewatch. Everything from the soundtrack to the art style to the characters to the easter eggs (which will satisfy Spidey fans everywhere) make for one of my favorite films ever, quite truthfully, and my favorite film of 2018.
So, that’s my list. Sure, it may not be beat-for-beat perfect, or in line with other lists, but if there’s one thing that everyone’s lists are, it’s a reminder of what a year 2018 was for film. We’ve seen so many great (and not-so-great) films this year, and many of the films we’ve seen have shocked us, moved us, wowed us, and done what films have set out to do since their creation: make us feel something. Furthermore, I’ve seen an unprecedented amount of people at the movies this year. More than I’ve ever seen in any prior year of moviegoing. And that excites me to no end. It shows us that people are going to the movies more often, and will continue to share in this wonderful passion we all hold dear in 2019, and in many more years to come. Here’s to a great 2018, and an even better 2019. Hope to see you all at the movies this year.