Now that 2018 has come and gone, it is finally time to discuss all the best that the year had to offer. 2018 was quite a bizarre year for film if I am going to be completely honest. Usually every single year that goes by, we get several pictures that release and are incredible. So many so, that by the time when fellow film critics get around to creating their “best movies of the year” list, we have a ridiculously difficult time deciding what will be included on said list, and what will unfortunately have to be left out, or simply be an honorable mention. This year, however, it was the easiest year in my career of film criticism making this list. For the first time, I did not have a massive struggle leaving certain movies off of this list.
This year, I will be doing a top fifteen list. But, before I start to delve into all the best that cinema had to offer us for 2018, I will first list off my honorable mentions.
- Black Panther
- Incredibles 2
- Ready Player One
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Love, Simon
15. A Quiet Place
What director and writer John Krasinski was able to do with A Quiet Place is nothing short of extraordinary. Before the release of the film, many people were unsure whether Krasinski would be able to pull off a deeply compelling and serious performance, as he is almost universally recognized as funny man Jim Halpert on the iconic American version of The Office. Thankfully, all of those fears quickly disappeared upon the release of A Quiet Place – one of the best horror films in years. The film, which follows a family living in a post-apocalyptic world in which any little sound could result in immediate death, was one of the most suspenseful motion pictures all year. The type of film that makes you genuinely wish you hadn’t brought popcorn into the theatre.
14. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story was one of the most surprising films of the year for many reasons. Firstly, the film went through production hell – constantly changing directors and other crew members lead many moviegoers into thinking the end result would be nothing more than a mess of a film and a disappointing Star Wars movie. Luckily, Howard’s smart and adventurous direction accompanied with Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan’s exciting script made for a memorable experience. Although it never reaches the extreme highs of the original trilogy, this is still a Star Wars story that you will definitely want to explore.
13. Ralph Breaks the Internet
One of my favorite films from 2012 was the animated feature Wreck-It Ralph. It was such an unexpectedly good time at the movies, as it seemed as if it would just be a feature that relied on old video game nostalgia in hopes to win over audiences. The film instead offered some incredibly heartfelt scenes, had well developed characters and a fun story as well. Ralph Breaks the Internet was a film that I was worried about deeply. The trailers made it seem as if it would simply rely on internet memes and dated jokes and nothing more. That is why I was so pleased to see that this picture is one of the most heartfelt and emotional rollercoasters of the year. It takes already beloved characters Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (voice of Sarah Silverman) and takes them to places that I never thought they would go. Their relationship gets challenged here and there are many terrific lessons that young children and even adults can learn from.
Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade was not only the most original science fiction film of the year, but one of the most unique and fresh films in several years. The film follows a man named Grey who gets into a chaotic car accident which leads to him being paralyzed. But, shortly after this, he gets an implant in his body named STEM that takes over his body and gives him unique abilities. Upgrade is a film where I never knew what would happen next. Lightning fast action sequences with some incredible world-building and a career best performance from Logan Marshall-Green are just a few of the reasons why this picture is an underappreciated win.
11. First Man
From Damien Chazelle, the director of the critically and commercially acclaimed music-related films Whiplash (2014) and La La Land (2016), comes First Man – a character study of the first man to step foot on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, portrayed excellently by Ryan Gosling. While watching First Man, I constantly wanted to learn more about who Armstrong was and why he wanted to go to the Moon so desperately. I wanted to get into his head and see his thought process. I got that and so much more with this film. We frequently get to see his home life with his wife Janet (portrayed by Claire Foy), which can be extremely compelling. Many audiences complained that the movie was not thrilling enough, and that we did not get to see Armstrong with NASA that much. For me, this is not an issue, as there is only so much a filmmaker can do with simply showing a man attempting to go to the Moon without exploring who he is as a person. For those looking for a brilliant character study of a complex man with an incredible passion, First Man is certainly one you should not miss.
10. Eighth Grade
From creative YouTube star Bo Burnham comes Eighth Grade – an extremely relatable experience that follows the complicated daily life of middle school student Kayla Day (portrayed by Elsie Fisher). This was one of the most simple yet heart-warming and often heart-breaking movies of the year. It is almost impossible not to relate to Fisher’s character Kayla at least once in the film, as she goes through many struggles that almost everybody has to go through in their life. This is one of those rare times where I genuinely did not see the actor in the role, but rather the character. Burnham’s remarkable direction as well as his script make Eighth Grade the best coming-of-age film since Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen (2016).
9. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
When it comes to big action franchises such as Mission: Impossible, a trend often occurs – the first entry is an incredibly fun thrill-ride, but with each passing installment, it gets more unoriginal and tired. This is why it is such a surprise that Fallout, the sixth entry in the long-running series is actually the best of them all so far. This is an almost two hour and thirty minute film that absolutely flies by, because it is all handled so well by Christopher McQuarrie, who previously helmed the fifth film Rogue Nation.
Tom Cruise yet again proves that he can be an incredible action star and does his own stunts unbelievably. Fallout has numerous sequences that will leave millions of audiences wondering to themselves “how did they do that?” over and over again. Not only is this the best action movie of 2018, but one of the greatest of all time.
8. Avengers: Infinity War
For ten whole years, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been leading up to Avengers: Infinity War – a superhero blockbuster extravaganza that takes virtually every major character from the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy teams and pits them against the deadliest threat in the universe – the mad titan Thanos (portrayed by Josh Brolin). From the opening minutes of the film alone, we get a sense of complete dread and hopelessness. This was honestly the first time that I felt like every hero had a chance of dying here, which is something that nobody really expects to happen in a superhero film. Our protagonists feel extremely vulnerable this time around, and this fear is further heightened by the excellent Thanos, who is arguably the best villain in the cinematic universe thus far. You never agree with what he is doing, but you do understand where he is coming from. These are the best types of villains.
Infinity War also further fleshed out characters that never really got a lot of exploration done with them. The most notable example of this is the character of Gamora (portrayed by Zoe Saldana). Many scenes in the film are dedicated solely to showing us the child life of Gamora and what her relationship was like with Thanos. When certain things eventually happen with her, it is all the more emotional after we see these flashbacks. Additionally, it all ends in a way that I never saw coming at all. If you have been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the beginning, the ending of Infinity War is sure to knock you down hard.
John Cho delivers a shockingly emotional performance in Searching – a film that follows a father who does everything in his power to find out what happened to his missing daughter. The film has immense sequences of tension that reminded me of the way Alfred Hitchcock crafted suspense. A film that twists and turns at every opportunity and always leaves you guessing what will happen next. With each passing scene, the film gives you something new to think about and to question. Searching is one of the most thrilling movies in recent memory.
If you were to tell me a couple of years ago that I would be placing a film in the Transformers series in my best of the year list, I would genuinely not believe you at all. But here we are with Bumblebee being in my top ten. What a massive and much welcomed surprise this was. Every issue with the Michael Bay Transformers movies – the over-saturated color palette, explosions, and women who are absurdly sexualized – are not present in Bumblebee. Director Travis Knight breathes so much life into this franchise and feels like a 1980s Steven Spielberg film in the vein of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It also gives us the best protagonist in the entire franchise, that of Hailee Steinfeld’s Charlie Watson.
From the beginning it is made crystal clear that Charlie is a complex character with real human emotions. She feels completely left out of her family life for many reasons. Her father is deceased and now has to live with her mother’s new boyfriend and her younger brother Otis (portrayed by Jason Drucker), who constantly gets all the attention. With absolutely no friends and hopes to get her own car, you really do begin to root for her rather quickly. The journey that she goes on feels so real and compelling. One of the best aspects of Bumblebee is the amazing bond between Steinfeld’s Charlie and the titular character.
It was so sweet and charming and I was always smiling when the two were on screen together. If the future Transformers films are anything like this, then maybe this series can do a complete turn-around and show us that these movies can be more than meets the eye.
5. Game Night
Who would have thought that John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, the directors behind the 2015 misfire Vacation, would return in 2018 to make the greatest comedy film in several years with Game Night? Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams have absolutely phenomenal chemistry here as couple Max and Annie, who do feel like a real husband and wife here. There is never a dull moment in this picture, with one after another clever and witty jokes. Mark Perez’s script is one of the best of the year and had me in stitches nearly every minute.
4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Tear-jerking, exhilarating, hilarious, and exciting, are just a few of the words that can be used to describe Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Before seeing this movie, I had no clue what Miles Morales’ backstory was but after seeing it all unfold here, I am completely behind this character and I am absolutely itching to see where else this character can go from here.
One of the greatest strengths in the film is the animation style, which is some of the most unique I have ever seen in cinema. This is a film that feels like a comic book come to life on the big screen. Whenever we see a character punching a villain or web-swinging around the city, little “POW” or “ZIP” words appear on the screen, just like they would in an actual comic book. This is such a small detail that the filmmakers did not need to include, but they did which added so much to the overall enjoyment that I had. Into the Spider-Verse proves that superhero films still have something to say all these years later.
3. A Star Is Born
Bradley Cooper’s imagining of the classic A Star Is Born story is not only the best iteration of it so far, but it just may be the greatest music biopic of all time. His incredible direction and excellent acting mixed with the beautiful music created for the film make this film so memorable. Lady Gaga gives a brilliant performance as Ally here as well, and proves that she is not just a legendary singer, but a legendary actress as well. With an emotional ending that will leave you breathless, A Star Is Born is a gripping music biopic fueled by terrific performances and a gritty story.
One of the most bizarre and unnerving motion pictures I have ever seen in my life is Alex Garland’s latest Annihilation. After the success of his also terrific Ex Machina, Garland returns to deliver a colossal achievement in cinema with Annihilation, which boasts career best performances from Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson to name a few.
The world of the “Shimmer” is additionally one that I wanted to delve into so much, and when we do, it is immensely rewarding. It also sets up a plethora of questions and the answers are there, but it is up to the viewer to decide whether or not they want to delve deep and find out what they are. Repeat viewings are almost necessary here, as there is just so much to explore and find out with this utterly stunning world that never pulls any punches.
Ever since my early teenage years, my favorite film of all time was Stanley Kubrick’s masterful achievement in horror, The Shining (1980). I was completely awe-struck at how he managed to craft a movie that was so horrifying and made it look so easy. When I saw it for the first time, I never understood why I thought it was so creepy and disturbing. Years later, I knew why – Kubrick made a film that scares the viewer by showing us horrific events that feel as if they are feasible. Jack’s descent into madness felt almost scarily real and nothing felt dramaticized or embellished. These same elements are present in Ari Aster’s phenomenal debut feature Hereditary, and his efforts may pay off even more.
When I saw this film in theatres back in June, I vividly remember that after leaving the theatre, I literally felt sick to my stomach after watching the events play out in front of my eyes. Watching this family slowly but surely fall apart right before our eyes is absolutely horrifying and it felt so real and I was blown away at how well done it was. Since my initial theatre experience with Hereditary, I have seen the film about four more times, and with each repeat viewing I appreciate this experience even more than I did the previous time.
Toni Collette gives the best performance of her entire career, and is one of the many reasons why Hereditary works as well as it does. But, this is certainly a horror feature that is not meant for everybody. In fact, I know a couple of people in real life that did not like this film because it was not the horror film that they were expecting it to be. Some will really adore this movie whereas others will find this to be unscary and not good. But if you feel like watching a family slowly become insane after family tragedies occur as well as many other things, Hereditary is definitely the horror film for you.
The final twenty minutes of the film were absolutely sickening and I almost could not believe what I was watching on screen. Colin Stetson’s euphoric musical score further improves Hereditary‘s haunting atmosphere. The standout track on this score is “Reborn” which never fails to give my goosebumps all over my body when I listen to it. Hereditary may just be my favorite horror film of all time.