2018 was a wild ride for cinema. Netflix continues to cut into the marketplace with films that are both debuting on their streaming platform, while getting small theatrical runs and possible Oscar nominations. Likewise, big-budget Hollywood filmmaking remains the center of attention as franchises continue to gobble up the world platform through established characters and known universes.
But, while all of this continues to happen, the magic of movie-making continues to excel through artists and their art, varying from indie darlings to mega-money tentpoles.
What I found most interesting about 2018 relating to film was the versatile nature of the business and the ability of the public forum — if people are active enough, they will get to see the movies they want, on the platform that they see fit.
I also loved how we have gone past the point of simple remakes and sequels, with audiences (finally) demanding actual effort to be put forth into new and re-establishing franchises. I haven’t seen it yet, but look at the attention that Bumblebee is earning, because of its ability to strip down the Michael Bay approach to a fatigued franchise that almost everybody was ready to give up on.
Or look at movies like The First Purge and Unfriended: Dark Web, both sequels that are infinitely better than their original installments, one that strikes with razor-sharp commentary on the world that we live in and maybe are about to dive into, while the other takes a directing gimmick and adds true horror and suspense, by way of inventive approach and proper build-up.
2018 can’t conclude without me at the very least mentioning some of my guilty pleasures and runner-ups, including J.A. Bayona‘s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a silly and bloated dino-mash-up of style and blockbuster filmmaking that I still pop in from time-to-time.
What about Shane Black‘s criminally under-rated The Predator, which blends the action and horror of previous films with black (see what I did there?) comedy to make for a gory good B movie that had me clapping and audibly praising during BOTH theatrical viewings.
I noticed that my top ten list this year was light in the comedy department, which is why I just had to mention Game Night, Blockers and Tag — three comedies that I’ve watched over five times each throughout the year.
Game Night is a full-on The Game knockoff, embracing the styles to the point of sincerity, injecting the otherwise serious plot with a chain of hilariousness, thanks to Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams.
Blockers might function as a minor R-rated adult comedy, but it’s actually a clever gender swap that works so well, because of the lead chemistry between John Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz.
Lastly, Tag — the R-rated comedy about a group of friends that have been playing tag their whole life, which yes, is based on a true story. Tag might sound like the dumbest plot ever, yet the film is full of heart, focusing on friendship and the meaning of what it means to “never grow up”.
Now that I’ve got those out of the way, we can now move onto my top ten list of 2018. As always, I mention that this list is constructed and presented in the form of favorites. This means that I am not simply judging these films on their technical merits alone or their importance to the world as forms of art.
I construct my top ten list of films as a blending of many elements, commenting on how well-made they are and how effective they were to me. These are films that moved me, films that made me laugh, films that made me cry. These are films that I consider important and I don’t really care if people want to criticize me for not including enough “Academy” material, because while I respect the idea of the Oscars, I often strongly disagree with how they select films to be considered “important”. I surely hope all of these films grace the awards ceremony, but I won’t be holding my breath.
I find myself continuously surprised by the placement of Steven Soderbergh‘s Unsane on my list, partially because it isn’t a film that I can revisit on any given day, but it is a film that I adored for its technical achievements and ability to absolutely make my stomach knot up.
This is because of Claire Foy‘s nervous and paranoid performance that blends effortlessly with Soderbergh’s unusual choice to shoot the film entirely on an iPhone, which makes Unsane an experimental film gone completely right.
As I said in my original blurb…
Unsane is a nerve-wrecking thriller that ups the paranoia and claustrophobia thanks to its iPhone-shot approach. It’s not perfect or always needed, but it gives the film a unique set of vibes that will keep you engaged from start-to-finish.
9. The Night Comes for Us
People might be praising Netflix for bringing us dramatic achievements like Roma or Bird Box, but I personally want to thank Netflix for allowing me the opportunity to re-watch The Night Comes for Us a half-dozen times.
Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim are forces to be reckoned with, showing us skill and craft that is comparative to the likes of Tony Jaa, Jet Li and Jackie Chan.
The Night Comes for Us is a brutal and epic martial arts film that demands your attention — you’re unlikely to find another movie released in 2018 with such adrenaline.
I never thought we’d be living in a world where there is a Sicario franchise. Day of the Soldado is not only a great film, but a better film than its predecessor, thanks to its more condensed and precise focus on its material.
Taylor Sheridan‘s script is murky, moody and corrupt in ways that make the first film child’s play, while Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin continue to give destructive performances that define “gray area” in terms of which characters are supposed to be considered good or bad, conventionally.
The last shot of Sicario: Day of the Soldado is still my absolute favorite moment from any film released in 2018.
Aneesh Chaganty‘s Searching is one of 2018’s most creative and inventive films. The film stars John Cho as an ordinary father in search for his missing daughter.
The kicker is that the film is presented entirely through electronic devices, such as his smartphone, laptop and security cameras. What makes Searching so much more than a gimmick is its ability to interweave drama and mystery through its unique filmmaking lens.
I was ready to dismiss this film entirely on the fact that it’s “just another gimmick” or something that foolishly decided to restrict its presentation, yet I discovered that Chaganty’s limited scope helped spark the creativity and resourcefulness of technology and how scary (and helpful) it can be, both in our everyday lives and in how we choose to create and share media and art.
Searching is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat until its satisfying, if not shocking conclusion. Major props must also be given to John Cho for giving the film a reliable and relatable lead that makes the experience more authentic.
6. The Mule
Clint Eastwood‘s latest just might be his greatest. The Mule is a powerhouse film that no-doubtably represents the end of an era and the end of a career. Eastwood could stop directing/acting tomorrow and I would be perfectly fine, because The Mule is a stellar example of Eastwood’s agility and magnitude as a first-class filmmaker unmoved by age or time.
The Mule is a bleak tale of redemption, anchored down by another unfiltered Clint Eastwood performance that’s drenched in moral ambiguity. The Mule is a heart-wrenching drama that foreshadows Eastwood’s prolific career.
The Mule might not be the most ideal film to watch with family members over the Holiday season, but I highly urge you give it your attention at some point, because we might not ever get to see Eastwood operate at such high levels of effectiveness ever again.
Leigh Whannell‘s Upgrade is a balanced dose of bad ass and high-tech, as Logan Marshall-Green gives a career-best performance in one of this year’s most lean and efficient films.
We’re talking Death Sentence meets Saw meets The Terminator in a sci-fi/action mash-up that somehow never manages to sacrifice its performances or greater story for a cool concept.
Upgrade is a film that I missed theatrically and am kicking myself every day, knowing that fact. Once I discovered it on Blu-ray, I quickly realized just how awesome it truly is.
Upgrade is unique and original, boasting spectacular practical effects on a tight budget that wastes absolutely no talent or resources. Leigh Whannell has been building towards this moment his whole career and now he can finally say that he’s made the perfect film.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse might just be the very best piece of Spidey-Media that we currently have at our disposal to consume. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is beautifully constructed, with a meticulous eye for detail and vibrancy that is going to make this movie a must-own on 4K UHD.
I’m still in awe and honestly can’t believe how definitely perfect this movie is. The direction, the writing, the animation and even the soundtrack (which is the year’s best) are all stellar beyond belief and prime examples of how important direction and writing truly are to the overall filmmaking experience.
Nobody would have ever guessed that the animated Spider-Man movie, made after 6 live-action Spider-Man movies would be the freshest, most inventive and most monumentally game-changing of them all, but here we are.
2018 is definitely the year full of surprises, after delivering us the very best Spider-Man film and a franchise based on Benicio Del Toro‘s assassin character from Sicario.
To make matters even more interesting, it gave us one of the best films of the year, directed by Bradley Cooper — the guy from The Hangover and let’s not forget Limitless.
A Star is Born is a painful reflection of fame, a study of addiction and a display of what it means to be true to yourself. Bradley Cooper writes, directs and sings with an intimate, yet powerful force and Lady Gaga reassures us that she has one of the best voices in the industry today.
Not a second of A Star is Born is wasted as its music flows as gracefully as the film’s story, which digs deep, hits hard and keeps us humming along as we face our own forms of addiction and truth. Gaga and Cooper’s collaboration left a lasting impact on me and reminded me not to judge a book by its cover.
Say what you want about Hollywood’s lack of ideas or focus on franchise properties, such as Marvel’s Avengers, because I am here to argue Avengers: Infinity War as not just Marvel’s best film to date, but one of 2018’s shining examples of perfection.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have managed to make Avengers: Infinity War the culmination of ten years of dedication to stories and characters that we’ve grown to love (and hate).
Infinity War is both a massive achievement for Marvel and a massive achievement for long-form storytelling, showing us that it is possible to raise the stakes to the highest level in all regards to filmmaking, including scope, scale and size of not just the cast, the story or the budget, but also the impact on its viewers and fanbase.
I still can’t believe how well-balanced and impressive Infinity War is, functioning perfectly on all levels of construction.
How on Earth are they going to follow it up?
Blindspotting is the very best film of 2018. It’s remarkably powerful and topical, dealing with themes of identity and self-perception in a way that’s reflective of our own culture and climate, yet eye-opening and frightening, as if we haven’t seen or experienced situations like this first-hand.
Director Carlos Lopez Estrada and writers/stars Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs have somehow managed to make a movie that’s both hilarious and terrifying — a poetic, beautiful and visceral experience that you won’t be able to shake for days.
I’ve watched a lot of movies over the years, but none have managed to hit me as hard as Blindspotting. It’s a curveball out of left field, disguised as “just another indie film” that swiftly and skillfully transcends the competition as 2018’s crowning achievement.
As 2018 comes to a conclusion, I sit back and reflect on all of the great films that I have been so fortunate to have been able to check out. With that being said, I am curious to see what everyone else considers the best of the year.
Do you agree with any part of my list? Or maybe you think I am completely insane and have missed all of your personal favorites?
Whatever the case may be, please sound off in the comments section below.