I usually say this every December, but I consistently found myself having fun at the movies this year. Whether it was laughing at jokes or having my jaw hit the ground over an ending, many of this year’s movies drew me in and created memorable movie-going experiences. However, there is a difference between a good movie and a great movie, and I want to highlight some of the films that stuck with me long after I left the theater.
These may not necessarily be the “best” movies of 2018 or the ones that will be the most universally praised; these are the movies that personally impacted me by engaging me from start-to-finish, captivating me with their craft, and ultimately making me leave the theater enthralled and eager for a second viewing.
Whether you have seen none of these movies or all of them, my hope is that this list can expose you to some truly great films and allow you to compare your thoughts with mine.
Jonah Hill’s directorial debut functions as a great coming-of-age story, as well as a love letter to skateboarding and the 90’s. The film’s unique aspect ratio and its killer soundtrack truly give the vibe of the time period. Hill also made the decision to cast many unprofessional actors, helping convey the sense of realism he is trying to capture.
This is not just a movie about cool skating tricks, but a movie about how many use skating as a means of escape or community. As a result, “Mid90s” has the ability to successfully transition from lighthearted montages to truly dark moments, which ultimately makes it such a special film.
What appeared to be an uninspired, low-budget take on “RoboCop” ultimately ended up being a total blast.
This uber-violent revenge story does not do anything revolutionary in its storytelling, but boy is it fun. The film epically pays off the buildup to its first action scene, and it never lets go of the throttle from there.
In addition to great choreography, each action scene features killer camera work in which the camera robotically mirrors the characters’ movement, and the dark and surprising ending elevates (upgrades it, if you will) from a good movie to a great one.
I dread “computer screen dramas” just as much as anybody else, but “Searching” proves that the concept can be far more than a generic gimmick.
This mystery starring John Cho cleverly uses its premise for every ounce of its worth. It is the little things that shine, like the way a disappearing and reappearing text bubble can function as clue as well as an insight into a character. Every revelation or clue feels perfectly laid-out and executed, but the well-paced thrills are only complements to the strong emotional core of the movie. Oh, and the first ten minutes will remind you of a certain Pixar movie, and that is a compliment.
7.“Three Identical Strangers”
Any description about this movie beyond its title is a criminal offense, so I’ll keep it brief: Watch this. Seriously. Watch it. I do not care if you hate documentaries, just watch the movie. It is twisted, shocking, and will enrage you to your core.
I cannot imagine somebody not relating to “Eighth Grade” in some capacity. Bo Burnham’s take on the coming-of-age story is brutally honest, comically awkward, and refreshingly heartfelt.
Make no mistake, this is a portrait of middle school in the age of Instagram, but the universal themes will ensure that anybody can relate to it. Elsie Fisher’s performance solidifies her as an absolute star and helps lend to the film’s realistic nature.
In addition to its young actors, the film’s most realistic aspect is that it doesn’t have some grand beginning, middle and end: much like middle school itself, things of varying significance appear.
I found certain scenes to be so anxiety-inducing that I could not help but look away from the screen, and that is the biggest compliment I could give for a movie trying to capture teen angst. But behind all that angst, eighth-graders are just as human as anybody else, and that is a truth that “Eighth Grade” wonderfully tells.
5.“Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse”
In the year where “Black Panther” brought thematic heft to the superhero genre and “Avengers: Infinity War” brought dizzying spectacle, an animated Spider-Man movie managed to easily solidify itself as the best comic-book movie of the year.
This stylish thrill-ride features some of the best animation ever put to screen. Every frame is vibrant with color that gives it the aesthetic of a comic book, and there are countless visual gags and Easter eggs, too.
Even without its visuals, “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” manages to tell a wholly unique Spider-Man story that injects creative energy into the character who so desperately needs to maintain it.
This movie does not just revitalize the character of Spider-Man; it revitalizes animation as a medium and comic-book movies as a genre.
This movie. Oh, man, this movie.
Let me start by saying that this movie is not for everybody. If you need movies to give you a clear sense of closure and explanation, stay away from “Annihilation” at all costs. However, if you are willing to accept the film’s ambiguity and analyze its many ideas, you will find one of the most rewarding sci-fi films of the decade.
Few films have infected my mind and occupied my thoughts like “Annihilation” has. It is an absolute audio-visual feast, but that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface as to what makes this movie great. Its slow-burn structure creates a constant sense of unease and curiosity, and it drove me to search every corner of the frame for potential clues.
It is ultimately this atmosphere that director Alex Garland creates that lets “Annihilation” succeed to such epic proportions. And, of course, this atmosphere is what allows the movie to pull off one of the most bizarre and daring endings to any big-budget movie from recent memory.
The ending is what will make or break this movie for most people, as many will walk away finding it to be unfulfilling or pretentious. Fortunately, I found the last 30 minutes of “Annihilation” to be bonkers in the best way possible. It is truly a slight miracle that a movie studio greenlit a movie with a budget this big and an ending this bizarre, and we are all all the luckier for it.
3.“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”
There are good action movies, there are great action movies, and there is “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”
This movie can best be described as Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie flexing for 150 minutes. It is almost as if they were like, “Hey, remember how cool the opera scene was from ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’? Let’s make every action scene in this movie that good.”
I sat with a giddy smile on my face throughout the entire movie, reacting to every punch thrown or bullet shot. The culminating of acting, choreography, cinematography, editing, music and direction on display is nothing short of astounding. It is not just a technical masterpiece and an adrenaline rush; it is the perfect summer movie.
Yes, really; the family film about the talking bear managed to dunk over (almost) all of 2018’s other releases.
Everything about this movie is infectiously charming. Its visuals are reminiscent of a toned-down Wes Anderson film, boasting bright colors and fun camera movement. The comedic moments and action set-pieces are also bitingly clever, utilizing physical comedy and staging that is missing from most films.
Of course, the talking bear himself is the beating heart of the movie. I do not think I am being hyperbolic in labeling Paddington as one of the most likable protagonists ever put to screen. He is so good-hearted in nature that it is impossible not to cheer at his successes and mourn at his failures. The concept of a “naive and pure” character has been done countless times, but “Paddington 2” ensures that we never are laughing down at our protagonist, but that we are instead inspired to be as wholesome as him.
If a movie could ever give a hug, that movie would be “Paddington 2.”
“Hereditary” entered my #1 spot ever since I saw it in June, and nothing else has come remotely close to threatening its position.
Similar to “Annihilation,” this is a divisive movie. Many horror fans felt they had been betrayed, saying that “Hereditary”should not even be called a horror movie. On a surface level, I can see why. But that is exactly what makes this movie so great.
“Hereditary” is just as much a family drama as it as a horror movie. Everything is on the shoulders of Toni Collette and Alex Wolff, both of whom give extremely powerful performances that showcase the tension in a family dealing with grief. There is nothing better than a great scene of a tense dinner conversation, and “Hereditary” has one done to perfection.
And the horror elements. Ah, yes, the horror elements. As somebody who has been unfazed by most recent horror films, I can safely that “Hereditary” crawled under my skin and then some. There are no cheap jump scares, no unwarranted closeups of gore; what is there, however, are visuals that will forever be burnt in my mind.
The movie is so patient in its frightening moments that many have felt like they are not even there, but the subtlety is exactly why they work. A sense of unease and disturbance is created by its imagery that wouldn’t be present if it resorted to big “Aha!” scares.
All of this builds up to the ending which is…well, you can see for yourself (Spoiler: It is insane, and I loved it.)
I fully believe that director Ari Aster has created a horror masterpiece that is destined to be rewatched for decades to come. We need more horror movies like this, but I feel that saying that is a tad too specific: we just need more good movies like this.
Avengers: Infinity War
Minding the Gap
(It is impossible for me to see a fraction of the movies that release each year. In order to clarify what I did or did not see, here is a list of every movie I saw that released during the year.)
A Quiet Place
Isle of Dogs
Avengers: Infinity War
Ant-Man and the Wasp
A Star Is Born
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
Wreck It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet
The Incredibles 2
Three Identical Strangers
Bad Times at the El Royale
Ready Player One
Crazy Rich Asians
Solo: A Star Wars Story
The Maze Runner: Death Cure