2018 was a fantastic year from cinema. Starting with the great surprise that was Paddington 2 and followed by huge blockbusters like Black Panther and Mission Impossible: Fallout, the year was already great before the festival season began. The year was so good that I would be fine with saying any of these 10 was my favorite movie of the year. Here is the list of the best films of 2018:
Alfonso Cuaron’s epic drama retells his own story as a young kid growing up in Mexico. Roma is told from the perspective of Cleo Gutierrez, a nanny in Mexico city who worked for Cuaron’s family and helped raise him when he was a child. He wrote the movie by recollecting his own memories and by collaborating with Libo, the woman Cleo’s character was based on. Cuaron directed, wrote and shot the film himself, and he excels at all. What makes the film so compelling is the nuanced portrayal of the characters and the deeply moving story of Cleo as a young lower-class woman. It is primarily a film about family, but it discusses the political, racial and class issues of Mexico in the early 70s. It ponders important questions about what means to love or care for someone and what the role of the nanny serves in the Latin-American middle-class households. The prominent wide-angle shots of the film invite you to observe not only what is at their center (the Cuaron family and Cleo as a central character), but to look at every corner and angle to learn about Mexican culture. It is painfully relevant in a time when most movies (and media) depict Mexicans as drug-dealers or criminals.
2. The Rider
Chloé Zhao’s western drama is one of the best movies of 2018. The movie was shown in some festivals in 2017, but it wasn’t until 2018 that it was quietly released in the US. It is a small movie about a young horse rider in the badlands in South Dakota that suffers an accident that renders him unable to ride anymore. The cast is lead by Brady Jandreau and is mainly formed by non-actors who deliver great performances. It is a testament to Zhao’s great directing abilities that the story is so cohesive and that the characters feel so real. The movie isn’t groundbreaking by any metric, but it is so effective in its storytelling that it will make you reconsider many stereotypes as it deconstructs masculinity and horse-riding’s role in a male-dominated society.
3. First Reformed
This one was one of our favorites from SIFF 2018. Put simply, if you like Taxi Driver, you will probably love Paul Schrader’s First Reformed. Ethan Hawke gives one of the best performances of his career as a priest who undergoes an identity crisis. First Reformed is a story about identity, morality, and existentialism, and it is frankly unforgettable. It’s one of the best-written movies of the year, and I hope Academy voters will keep this one in mind.
4. The Favourite
The Favorite might be Lanthimos’ most accessible movie to date. But, don’t let the seemingly innocent premise to fool you, it is a twisted, devilish story about revenge, class, and power dynamics. The pitch-perfect balance between drama, cynical comedy, and absurdity make this movie one hell of a ride. The movie is led by Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as her lady friend Sarah and Emma Stone as her new servant Abigail, who all give masterful performances that are well worth your money. The risks that Lanthimos takes in avoiding stereotypes and going for the unconventional choices make the film much more rewarding. Just when you think that something just couldn’t possibly work, Lanthimos proves you wrong. From the beginning to one of the best ending scenes in recent memory, Lanthimos delivers one knock-out scene after another. I had this as my #1 for the longest time, and upon a rewatch I realized it could very well have been.
5. Paddington 2
This could have very well been my number 1 movie of the year in a less competitive year. Even if I enjoyed Paddington (its prequel), I wasn’t prepared for how great Paddington 2 would be. It is rare for a sequel to be better than the original, but Paddington 2 is the Empire Strikes Back of the Paddington franchise. Paddington succeeds at telling an entertaining and visually stunning story that would please any Wes Anderson fans. But, more than being great at entertaining, the story is so painfully relevant to the times. It is a story about an immigrant struggling to find his place in a different society.
There is no excuse not to watch this movie since it is the more accessible one in my list. It is a movie for *everyone*, from the kids to the seniors. A heartwarming story about a cute bear doing stuff around London, do I need to say anything else?
6. First Man
First Man was poised to be one of the biggest movies of 2018 until it wasn’t. Its critical buzz was strong after it premiered, and audiences loved it, but the film simply did not gel with middle America, probably because of its personal approach to the story. What should have been a commercial juggernaut, ended up being a commercial misfire. But, don’t let that mislead you, First Man is indeed one of the best films of 2018. From Gosling’s and Foy’s acting to the nuanced writing and outstanding cinematography and score, it is all pitch-perfect.
7. Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham’s debut film is a hilarious and painfully accurate depiction of what life was like as a teenager. Eighth Grade is elevated to greatness by Burnham’s careful attention to detail and by Ellie Fisher’s breakthrough performances as Kayla, the protagonist. If you are a fan of coming of age stories, this is one for the ages. The best coming of age stories are the ones that make you see your own life in a different light, and Eighth Grade manages to do that even though it takes place in the ‘teens have iPhones and Snapchat’ age. It’s GUCCI, and you should check it out.
8. Leave No Trace
Academy Award-nominee Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) returns with an emotional story of Will (Ben Foster) and Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), a dad and his daughter, who live in the middle of a national park in Oregon. The film explores the intricate relationship of this unconventional family as Tom is compelled to acknowledge their precarious living situation. Ben Foster has never been better and McKenzie is a revelation. This one is a must watch for nature lovers and those who enjoy movies that explore complex family relationships.
9. Cold War
Amazon bought this movie because they knew that it would get them right to the Best Foreign Picture Oscar race. Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow up to his Academy Award winner Ida, is beautifully tragic romance and an insightful portrait of a country’s identity and history. Filmed in black and white, and full of musical performances and plays, Cold War is gorgeous looking and deeply captivating. It is a film for both the thinkers and the lovers, and you should get some wine and watch it on Amazon Prime Video as soon as possible.
10. A Star Is Born
Against many people’s advice, Bradley Cooper decided to have his debut film be a new version of the heavily rebooted A Star Is Born. Cooper said he knew he had to do it once he saw Lady Gaga audition. And, I bet he is right because Lady Gaga gives one of the best performances of the year as Ally. Bradley Cooper is her co-lead as Jackson. I didn’t know Cooper could sing, or that he would be such a good first-time director, but he put together one of the best movies of the year, while also acting in it. It’s a musical romance and an exploration of what fame can do to a person. The movie features a great soundtrack, great performances and it never fails to entertain. Very few people could have pulled that off, and the fact that the movie works so well is a testament to Cooper’s and Gaga’s great talent. It is probably the most popular film of the list, and if somehow you haven’t watched, go before it’s out of theaters.
The next 10
11. If Beale Street Could Talk
12. Mission Impossible: Fallout
14. The Old Man & The Gun
18. We the Animals
19. Black Panther
Here are a few movies that I really enjoyed and appreciated:
A Quiet Place: Intriguing thriller with a pretty damn good performance by Emily Blunt. Can’t wait to see what Krasinski does next.
Blockers: Probably the funniest movie of the year and one of the most grounded studio comedies in years.
BlacKkKlansman: Powerful film by Spike Lee that deserves all the praise its getting.
Mary Poppins Returns: Emily Blunt is great as Mary Poppins in a movie that is a great follow up to the original. It’s almost as magical and it will surely put a smile on your face.
Tully: The dreamy story of an overwhelmed mother is just so good. Charlize Theron has never been better!
Disclaimer: Unfortunately I missed two movies I really wanted to see (Burning and Vox Lux)