2018 was packed with a lot of big hits and hidden surprises, and while there are a bunch I saw that I haven’t yet reviewed on here, as well as a lot of movies I haven’t seen, this highlights my 10 favorite films, not the 10 best, that I saw this year. If I see anything new that makes the list, it’ll be updated here. Anything here with a full review will be hyperlinked.
Roma (directed by Alfonso Cuarón)
Ralph Breaks the Internet (directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston)
Sorry to Bother You (directed by Boots Riley)
Black Panther (directed by Ryan Coogler)
A Quiet Place (directed by John Krasinski)
10. Free Solo (directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin)
Free Solo does a great job digging into the psyche of climber Alex Honnold, and is a stunning portrait of his achievements, and why he does what he does. Not to mention the insane talent required to put this on film. The entire last third will have your eyes glued to the screen.
9. Bad Times at the El Royale (directed by Drew Goddard)
Bad Times at the El Royale, featuring a star-studded cast, explores a lot of really interesting ideas, and is bolstered up from compelling performances from its entire cast. The plot has a lot of mystery, that you slowly learn more and more about, and this feels really original, and like something that doesn’t get made as often now.
8. Hereditary (directed by Ari Aster)
First-time director Ari Aster created something with Hereditary that’s truly memorable. There are images, sequences in this movie that I’ll truly never forget. The way he creates an atmosphere and refrains from using jump scares, as well as brings out gripping character drama is incredible to behold. The true highlight of this, though, is Toni Collette, who gives a breathtaking, accurate, and at times frightening performance of a mother in a dysfunctional family. Great also are Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro, playing Toni Collette’s character’s children. Hereditary works both as a drama about the family and a deeply nerve-wracking horror movie, one that stuck with me for a while.
7. Upgrade (directed by Leigh Whannell)
The best Venom movie of 2018 didn’t end up being Venom, but rather Upgrade, with its own Tom Hardy, its own occasionally funny, occasionally terrifying nonhuman being that helps out our hero, and its own awesome action sequences. Upgrade is a blast from start to finish, with brutal action, an exciting, well-paced plot, and a really brilliant ending. Upgrade is super enjoyable without even considering its last few minutes, but its ending brings up some very thought-provoking ideas that I thought elevated this. Upgrade is original, thrilling, and most of all, fun.
6. BlacKkKlansman (directed by Spike Lee)
Spike Lee manages to capture a whirlwind of emotions with BlacKkKlansman, but most important of all, makes a statement with it. The cast, specifically performances from John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Topher Grace, all give their 100%, with some really intense performances sprinkled throughout. Some scenes in this movie had me rolling with laughter and moments later at the edge of my seat with tension. The screenplay here is really powerful, and without giving away anything, the ending is especially poignant.
5. Searching (directed by Aneesh Chaganty)
Searching floored me when I saw it. From the first 10, 15 minutes, I sat there thinking about how much work it must’ve been to put together (most of) an entire movie on a Mac screen. And the amazing thing is, it never feels gimmicky. The movie uses this technique to its advantage and explores the different ways it can show us the plot progressing just using screens. As far as the actual plot and characters, both are really well done. I cared about the family from the very beginning, and this is upheld even more by John Cho’s performance. The plot is twisty in the right ways and I was pretty glued to my seat for the whole thing.
4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (directed by Christopher McQuarrie)
So much has been said about how real everything in this movie feels, and it will be said again: the entire team here’s commitment to providing a white-knuckles, true action-thriller is something to behold. Just like with every new entry in this franchise, each succeeding set-piece here manages to top the last in terms of sheer scale and insanity, and what makes that so noteworthy is that they did it themselves. Take anything in this, and there’s probably a featurette of Tom Cruise doing it in preparation for this. All of which makes it even more frustrating to rank the entries of this franchise.
3. Avengers: Infinity War (directed by Joe and Anthony Russo)
Acting as the first half of the culmination of 10 years worth of interconnected storytelling, Infinity War did an impressive job. But perhaps what’s most impressive about it is that even though it managed to (for the most part) give each hero their fair share of moments, the villain didn’t have to give up their development, as is so common with MCU films. Thanos will go down as one of the great villains, and the fact that it was in this hero-studded of a movie is all the more credit to the team behind Infinity War.
2. Eighth Grade (directed by Bo Burnham)
Another incredible movie from a debut director was this year’s Eighth Grade. Bo Burnham, known more for his stand-up and comedy work, took the helm of director, and with the help of star Elsie Fisher and his phenomenal script, was able to capture the essence of middle school. Watching this in eighth grade was a really fantastic experience, and I don’t think I’ve ever related as closely to a movie as to this. Everything here is spot-on, and its more universal themes connect well with its take on today’s generation. Rarely ever before has such an accurate portrayal of middle school been put to screen, not to mention Fisher’s star-making performance. Bursting with humor and heart, Eighth Grade does a fantastic job showing what, in today’s world of technology, middle school can look like.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
From the moment the first trailer for Spider-Verse came out, I knew it was going to be something special. The animation style, if you even look at one frame of this movie, was unprecedented, and the balance this is able to strike between well-developed characters, a surprisingly ensemble cast, and an exciting plot is growing scarcer in comic book films. The painstaking attention to detail in every shot, and the “comic-book come to life” visual style not once gets old, largely due to how the film finds new settings, textures, and characters to explore and play with. And that’s just the animation style. You can instantly connect with Miles Morales, in part due to the great job Shameik Moore did with the character, and the writing of him. Basically everything in Spider-Verse is a product of an incredibly talented team coming together and truly bringing a comic book to life.