“Top heavy” may end up being the best descriptor for cinema in 2018. It was a better year than average at the movies, but the crème de la crème made it truly memorable. A black-and-white foreign film about the women who raise us, a documentary about skateboarding and more, and a live-action, animated bear elevated 2018.
Ten is an arbitrary number so here are 17 additional movies I really liked (in alphabetical order): Annihilation, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Black Panther, Blindspotting, Burning, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Eighth Grade, Hereditary, The Kindergarten Teacher, Love, Simon, Shoplifters, Sorry to Bother You, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Support the Girls, Thoroughbreds, Wildlife, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
10. Mission: Impossible – Fallout: The Mission: Impossible franchise formula contains four basic elements: globetrotting in beautiful locations, an international plot to destroy the world as we know it, breathtaking set pieces, and a healthy dose of Tom Cruise. Cruise is scheduled to make two more MI movies, but there’s no telling how long Cruise, 56, will be doing these death-defying stunts. Enjoy MI while we have it.
9. Roma: Alfonso Cuarón’s near-inevitable Best Picture winner is as moving as it is gorgeously shot. Most impressive of all, the writer-director also served as cinematographer on Roma.
8. The Rider: A major twist on traditional filmmaking elevates The Rider, one of the best movies of the year, to something truly special.
7. Minding the Gap: This is the sixth time that I’ve written about my top films of the year. Never before has a documentary made the list or even come remotely close. Part of that is documentaries becoming better researched and less biased, but another part of that is me coming around on documentaries. None are more responsible for that change of heart than Minding the Gap, a childhood psychology study disguised as a coming-of-age skateboarding feature.
6. You Were Never Really Here: About a man who rescues girls sold into sex trafficking and hunts down the monsters who put them there, You Were Never Really Here sounds more like Liam Neeson’s next box office success than a contemplative film about the brutality of violence and cycles of abuse. Director Lynne Ramsay’s restraint sets You Were Never Really Here apart.
5. Vice: Among the most divisive films of the year, Adam McKay’s politically-entrenched Vice is as an honest, no-holds-barred approach to biographical filmmaking.
4. First Reformed: I haven’t decided on which reading of First Reformed’s ambiguous ending fits the film best, but I do know that Paul Schrader’s story of a reverend overwhelmed by internal conflict and environmental grief is the 72-year-old filmmaker’s best work to date.
3. Paddington 2: Paddington 2 is perhaps the first(?!) children’s movie that you can wholeheartedly recommend without feeling the need to punctuate with a “for a children’s movie” disclaimer. I’m passionate about few movies like I’m passionate about Paddington 2. It’s joyously whimsical, deliriously funny, and surprisingly poignant. Go see Paddington 2.
2. If Beale Street Could Talk: Exquisitely shot, scored, and acted, I’m beginning to sense in a pattern in the work of director Barry Jenkins.
1. The Favourite: The Favourite is comical. The Favourite is ponderous. The Favourite is the best movie of 2018.