Ever since 2016, I have made it my duty to see as many theatrical releases as I can. Now, I usually don’t go out of the way to see bad stuff, that’d be a waste of money. I try and go see as many movies that I can, that I actually want to see. I’m up for anything: westerns, kids movies, documentaries, dramas, etc. I don’t have one genre that I lean towards or against, that’s why I go and see so many different types of movies.
I know it’s already February, but I didn’t want to make this list without having seen a couple, and I waited for them either to come to a theater near me, or release on home video. In total, I was able to see 74 movies that were released in 2018. Unlike my reviews, I am not going to go too in depth. I’m just gonna give some quick thoughts about why I love them. Before we get into the top 10, I have a list of some honorable mentions that I would still recommend seeing (in order of most recommended, to least recommended):
Avengers: Infinity War
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Bad Times at the El Royale
Mary Poppins Returns
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (or at least ⅔s of it)
Crazy Rich Asians
The Hate U Give
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (I know, I’m dumb)
If Beale Street Could Talk
10. Paddington 2: This film was the first theatrical movie I saw, and it sure set a precedent for the films to come, in terms of quality. It’s been labeled as “delightful”, and I could not agree anymore. I fell in love with the first movie for it’s sweet, charming humor and overall likability. While the first film felt “origin story”-like, this film took the already established characters and setting, and built off of that by adding some hysterical new characters, brilliant cinematography, and a more “personal” plot. This film made me consistently smile throughout it’s entire 104 minute runtime, and I consider that a plus.
9. Blindspotting: After gaining monstrous success from his Tony Award-winning performance in Hamilton, Daveed Diggs became a hot commodity. With all of that fame, though, Diggs decided to make a smaller, more independent film, with a friend of his, Rafael Casal, and co-wrote a screenplay that was very personal to him. I missed this one in theaters, and I’m sort of glad, because in that atmosphere I might have began to get a little weepy-eyed at some parts. I don’t want to reveal to much about this movie, because I think it’s best to go into it “blind”, and be surprised by the events that follow. It does, however, make incredible, biting commentary of race-relations, especially in areas of lower-economic status. It’s both a feel good and feel horrible movie, but somehow those both merge perfectly.
8. A Star is Born: I never expected this movie to perform as well as it has. As of this moment, the film is still playing in theaters, and it was released, I kid you not, 4 months ago. That is almost unheard of in today’s wide movie landscape. But, I do understand why. Bradley Cooper, in his first attempt at writing and directing, shows skills way above his years. It feels so professionally and expertly made, and that has to stem from the passion that Cooper had for this project. You can tell that he is putting all of his talent and skills into this film, and the audience is able to tell that he is pouring his heart into the project. On my first (of two) trips to see this in the cinema, I appreciated Lady Gaga’s breathtaking performance the most. But, on repeat viewing, I began to be more intrigued in Cooper’s character’s journey. I think that’s pretty brilliant. The fact that there are almost two different experiences you can take away when watching this says a lot about the quality of the film.
7. Isle of Dogs: “Isle of Dogs”? More like “I Love This Movie”! Get it? Cause the title is supposed to sound like “I Love Dogs”? ...I’ll go home now. That’s besides the point, though. Wes Anderson is, sadly, the punching bag when it comes to making fun of independent films. He encapsulates “quirky”, and “symmetrical”, which are commonly associated with “pretentiousness”. This is sad, because he makes some fantastic films. Isle is his 2nd animated feature, his first being Fantastic Mr. Fox (one of my top 10 favorite movies PERIOD), and it’s clear that he has improved on a lot of aspects. One of the most admirable aspects of this film is the lack of subtitles. Almost all of the human characters speak Japanese, and there’s no subtitles underneath that, the English-speaking audience just kind of has to interpret what they mean with through body language. This is so bold and unheard of, and made me appreciate the studio behind this film for letting Anderson make his movie, and not forcing him to follow some norm. The stop-motion animation is breathtaking, the writing is so comically dry, and the score and cinematography continue to be an outstanding trademark of Anderson’s filmography.
6. Black Panther: 2018 was an incredible year for superheroes. When combining my honorable mentions and top 10 submissions, there were a total of 5 films in this collection, something that doesn’t happen too often. While the quantity increases, surprisingly, the quality increases too when it comes to superhero films. Black Panther is the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture at The Oscars, making this film a huge landmark for the genre. I have been a giant fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since it’s first film, Iron Man in 2008, and this film became one of my all-time favorites of the franchise. I loved the unique and cool world-building that was established with the country of Wakanda. The film, seamlessly, introduced so many characters to the audience, like Nakia, Okoye, Shuri, but in a way which made it feel like I already knew them. Ryan Coogler (of Fruitvale Station and Creed fame) has earned his spot as a must-watch director, and has assured a ticket from me with everything he puts out in the future. This film has shown other big blockbusters that you are allowed to have these outstanding visuals and fight scenes, while also having terrific world-building, well-written characters, and a dynamic villain.
5. Sorry to Bother You: I do not want to go into too much detail about this movie because I’m not sure if I could live with myself if I were to accidentally spoil this movie. If there was an Oscar for “Best Originality”, this film would sweep the competition. From the trailers, you’d assume that this film was about race-relations in the workplace, and the relationship between hierarchy and race, through the lens of an absurdist comedy about telemarketers. You would be 100% valid to assume that, but this film is nothing like that (in a good way). The movie doesn’t lie to you about it’s premise, it simply points out a small portion of this movie, and doesn’t spoil the insane twists and turns that will follow. First time writer and director Boots Riley has been consistently snubbed this award season for Best Screenplay nominations, and it’s a shame, because this film is hysterical, jaw-dropping, and politically relevant, all at the same time.
4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: I already have a review of this one on this website, so I’ll make it brief. After seeing the film for a second time, it reassured me that animation is, perhaps, the best form of visual-storytelling. A story like this could not be done successfully in live-action, but requires that animation/cartoon style. Animation has so much potential for unique and untold stories, and films like Spider-Verse are a shining example of that.
3. Eighth Grade: In perhaps the most relevant film I’ve ever seen, Bo Burnham’s directorial debut perfectly displays the life of a teenager in the 21st century. Films like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and The Kissing Booth, feel, almost, artificial, and not realistic, even though that’s what they’re trying to be. This is likely because they’re made by older people who don’t know that much about what it’s actually like to be young in this time. Eighth Grade doesn’t glorify teenage life at all, it, insteads, holds a mirror to it. Burnham’s comedy has always lied in realism and pessimism, and he makes this look at modern-day youth feel like it’s actually from the mind of a teenager. This film has the most important scene of the year, fitting with Hollywood’s post-#MeToo environment. The scene, hauntingly, hits too close to home, and made me physically cringe in my seat both times I saw it. Elsie Fisher gives one of the best performances of the year, and one of the best child performances of all time. She inhabits the anxieties of adolescence perfectly, and lets the audience know that it’s okay to be introverted.
2. Mid 90s: I also have a review of this film up, and I’m going to be brief. This film is basically an “Eighth Grade for boys”, as dumb as that sounds, meaning that it deals with very similar themes, but also discusses male-specific problems such as toxic masculinity. Although I am not a skater boy, from California, or from the mid 90s, Sunny Suljic made me feel like I was one. It makes really heartfelt commentary on what it means to be a friend, what’s considered “manly”, and the relationship between mother and son. It feels so personal and inspired and really just resonated with me the entire time.
1. Hereditary: I did not see this movie in theaters, and I have beat myself up about it ever since. Hereditary is one of those films that, as time goes on, my love for it has increased a significant amount. After watching a movie once, I usually gather my whole opinion on it right there, and I don’t need a second viewing to cement my feelings. This film, though, keeps calling me back to it, and I want to constantly watch it. I didn’t really grasp the meaning of the ending, but once explained, rewatching it makes the experience much more engaging, by knowing all of the secrets. Knowing the twist of the film gives the audience a completely different experience their second time watching it, similar to The Sixth Sense. Toni Collette gives one of the greatest performances in horror history, and easily the best of 2018. She adds so much to her character with her facial expressions, which encapsulates pure terror. Alex Wolff, also, gives an outstanding performance as the son, easily deserving awards nominations (but sadly has been overlooked). It’s so clear that the director had a specific story he wanted to tell, and A24 let him tell it, making me admire the company for their trust of the artist. (PS. if you have a peanut allergy, maybe stray away from this film…)