One of the hardest parts of loving movies is the inevitable task of whittling them down into some sort of “best-of” list.
In an ideal world, films wouldn’t be judged by numbers or percentages, but by the way they make us laugh, make us cry, make us think, keep us on the edge of our seats, or open our imaginations. Films are more than numbers on scales and placements on lists. Unfortunately that’s just the way we are forced to go about explaining why or how we connected with a film or not.
2018 was a great year at the movies. There could be plenty more said about why each of these moves below were so wonderful but there’s only so much room on the interwebs. The best films are, at their core, about what it means to be human – with all the good, the bad, and the ugly. The best ones do it with delightful stories to wrap our heads around, characters to care about, and epic sights to feast our eyes upon.
These are the ones I think did it best this year:
MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 2018
30) If Beale Street Could Talk
29) Juliet, Naked
28) Incredibles 2
27) Solo: A Star Wars Story
25) Isle of Dogs
24) Three Identical Strangers
23) Mary Poppins Returns
22) Game Night
21) The Hate U Give
20 — Beautiful Boy
The heartbreaking true story of a father coping with his son’s struggle with addiction. An emotional, moving and very un-funny performance from Steve Carell (in a good way).
19 — Ralph Breaks the Internet
Much funnier and original than any studio animated sequel should be, RBTI delivers laughs and internet in-jokes at a ridiculous rate. A heartfelt musical ode to a violent video game called Slaughter Race is worth the price of admission alone.
18 — Mission Impossible: Fallout
In terms of full-throttle wild action adventures, no one does it better than Mission Impossible. And in terms of incredible stunts, this is perhaps the best of them all. Tom Cruise continues to outdo himself in terms of his dedication to making us watch him defy death.
17- First Man
Damien Chazelle’s follow up to La La Land is a stirring, subtle exploration of the inner turmoils within the first man to ever walk on the moon. Ryan Gosling makes the quiet, reserved Neil Armstrong a completely compelling character.
16 — Bad Times at the El Royale
A fun, thrilling and original character-driven mystery… they just don’t make ’em like this anymore. An incredible cast (Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo, etc) bring life to a smart story about the group of strangers who find themselves together one evening at the quiet El Royale motel.
15 — Searching
What easily could have been a gimmick (the entire film takes place on a character’s computer screen) quickly proves to be an innovative way to tell the story of a father’s search for his missing daughter.
14 — I Can Only Imagine
Perhaps the first “faith-based” film I can say I legitimately loved? The story of how MercyMe wrote their hit song may not seem like that great of an idea for a movie, but Bart’s fractured past with his father, and their restored relationship that led him to write the song, makes for a deeply emotional story about reconciliation and redemption.
13 — Christopher Robin
Winnie the Pooh and his pals in the Hundred Acre Wood are some of the simplest, most beloved characters of all time. It’s hard not to fall in love with them all over again when their old friend Christopher Robin returns to the forest (and learns how to re-connect with his childhood). It might be one of the simplest and straight-forward movies of the year, but sometimes those are the best.
12 — Ready Player One
Steven Spielberg has made some great movies in recent years. But it’s been a while since he’s made one that’s just fun. Ready Player One is that movie. Grab some popcorn, throw on your favorite Back to the Future graphic tee, and enjoy all the fun pop culture references in this thrilling alternate-reality adventure.
11 — Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
We could all use a little more kindness these days — and there were not many who better exemplified this trait better than Mr. Rogers. An emotional documentary about everyone’s favorite neighbor, and his impact on the medium of television and the culture at large, is exactly what our world needs right now.
10 — Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
Yes that’s right. Don’t judge me. It’s great — low brow entertainment is welcome here as well… Even when it doesn’t make much sense, it’s honestly so much fun. And way better than the first one. Beautiful Greek islands, Abba music, tons of nonsensical dance sequences, Lily James as a young Meryl Streep — how could I not be a sucker for this movie??
9 — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Not only does this new take on Spider-Man innovate the art form of animation in new and creative ways, it’s also hilariously funny… Many may not even plan to see it because, it’s like “ugh, another Spider-Man?” But you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
8 — Bohemian Rhapsody
There’s no doubt Bohemian Rhapsody coasts along on Queen’s iconic and beloved music. I’m okay with that. The movie has problems — but it’s also so dang fun to watch. Is there anything better than rocking out in your seat to We Are the Champions or Somebody to Love while watching the (somewhat true) stories of how the songs were written, and Rami Malek hamming it up on stage in eclectic costumes? That’s what going to the movies is all about.
7 — Blackkklansman
The absurdly true (and hilarious) story of the black cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970’s is one of the craziest and surprisingly funny movies of the year. The humor risks making light of evil at points, but its fresh tone is so different and unique that it’s a more-than-welcome look back at one of America’s dark corners.
6 — Green Book
Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortenson give two of the best performances of their careers in this true story about two men from very different walks of life, who find friendship while traveling through the racially-charged South.
5 — Free Solo
I still remember hearing in May 2017 that someone had free solo’ed El Capitan in Yosemite. “What…? Is that even possible?” It’s not an exaggeration to call Alex Honnold’s free solo one of the greatest athletic achievements in history. If you’re unfamiliar with why, consider — At over 3,000 feet tall, El Capitan is considered the largest rock monolith in the world. Its vertical face is perhaps the most popular rock-climbing spot in the world, with many taking days to weeks to summit. Alex Honnold “free solo” climbed (meaning, without ropes — any mistake meaning death) one of the tallest, trickiest rock formations in the world in about 3 hours. You read that right. Watch this on the biggest screen possible.
4 — Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham is the biggest surprise of 2018 for me. If you’ve ever watched this 28 year-old’s stand-up special on Netflix, you probably laughed, but also thought “this is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever seen” and “this guy is crazy.” And then — THEN — he writes and directs this touching coming-of-age drama!? Eighth Grade is such a funny, heartfelt, cringe-because-it’s-true look at the insecurities involved with being thirteen years old.
3 — A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place is a testament in telling a simple story, really really well. Like a feature-length episode of The Twilight Zone, the delicious premise of a family living in a world where no one can make any noise — at the risk of death — is clever, intriguing and opens up an entire landscape for dramatic storytelling. John Krasinski pulls off an incredible achievement both in front and behind the scenes, delivering a beautifully-made thriller with heart. If possible, watch it in a crowded theater where it’s so quiet that you can hear someone eight rows in front of you munching on popcorn. Trust me, it’s a great experience.
2 — Crazy Rich Asians
Oh my goodness, this movie is so delightful. A visually-dazzling romantic comedy full of fun characters, emotional moments, and spectacular screwball humor, Crazy Rich Asians takes the rom-com formula and runs with it in loving, entirely enjoyable fashion. Like many movies on this list, CRA is just a great time — you’d have to have a pretty cold heart to resist its charms. And it might even make you cry.
1 — A Star is Born
A Star is Born is the movie of 2018, and it will stand the test of time regardless of what wins awards and receives glowing critic write-ups. It is a poignant, emotional and dramatic look at addiction, pain, falling in love, the appeals and pitfalls of celebrity, and the struggle to create art that has something worth saying.
I can’t say enough good things about this movie. Bradley Cooper is a powerhouse — not only giving a resonant performance as the alcoholic country star Jackson Maine, but also writing the script, directing, and helping create the memorable music throughout. Every song not only stands on its own, but pushes the story forward in a meaningful way. Lady Gaga, meanwhile, will charm her way right into your heart. It’s hard to imagine someone being so cynical and callous as to actually dislike A Star is Born. It’s an eager and heartbreaking romance for the ages. I will admit that the “just wanted to take another look at you” memes are pretty great too, though.
BECAUSE EVERYONE WANTS AN AWARD:
Who did it the best this year?
Ryan Gosling, First Man
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns
John Krasinski, A Quiet Place
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
BEST MUSICAL SCORES:
A Quiet Place
If Beale Street Could Talk
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: A Star is Born
MOST OVERRATED MOVIES OF THE YEAR (HOT TAKES!):
Avengers: Infinity War
DESTINED TO WIN THE MOST AWARDS: Roma
So those are my big fat opinions about 2018 at the movies! You don’t have to love my list; you don’t have to agree. So let me know what your favorite movies were this year! But first, if you excuse me, I think I’ll grab my popcorn bucket and head back to the theater. Time to start all over again!
© Matt Tory, 2019.
All movie posters shown are used for non-commercial analysis and commentary purposes related to the films mentioned herein.