Another year of cinema is in the history books, and it is time to look at the films that I loved in 2018. You have already seen my runners-up list, and now let’s take a peak at my very favourite films of the year. I will say this, I found 2018 to be the all-time worst year in cinema since I started making Top 10 lists in 1999. Many of the critically-loved films didn’t sit high with me (Roma, A Star is Born) and quite a few of the films loved by audiences were not that special either (Avengers: Infinity War, and a certain Worst Movie of 2018 about a famous singer). Still, I managed to find 20 films that I really was passionate about and a Top 10 which is as strong as any list I’ve previously made. So, here are the 10 movies I loved the most in 2018.
#10 Juliet, Naked (Lionsgate)
I always make sure to reserve my #10 spot for a film that may not be showing up at the Oscars, but is a movie that I just down right loved and want to show some extra appreciation for. This year that honor goes to Juliet, Naked, a delightful romantic comedy that just so happens to be based off one of my all-time fav novels by Nick Hornby. We have gotten so lucky with Hornby adaptations over the years, but the last two (A Long Way Down and Slam) missed the mark, leaving me in fear for the next. My fears were for nothing, as a very close to the source screenplay and wonderful performance from Ethan Hawke help make this a stellar addition to the Hornby cannon. I love the story, about a couple who break up because they can’t agree on the brilliance of the latest album of the favourite artist of one of them. This then turns into said musician dating the negative reviewer. It is all done so wonderfully, and contains some huge laughs and touching moments. It’s a true hidden gem of the 2018 movie run.
#9 Widows (20th Century Fox)
When I heard that 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen was teaming up with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn to make an updated version of an old British mini-series, about a group of women whose husbands were criminals killed on the job, I got very excited. The result is this smart thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat for its entire running time. Owing much to Michael Mann, this film not only tells a fascinating story, but turns its camera lens on American society as a whole. Containing excellent acting from Colin Ferrell, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Kaluuya and Liam Neeson, the film is anchored by a downright brilliant performance from Viola Davis. The last 30 mins are filled with so many twists and turns, your jaw is going to be aching from dropping so many times, thanks to Flynn’s crafty screenplay. This film lets the ladies have the spotlight and they prove they can do it just as well as the men.
#8 Isle of Dogs (Fox Searchlight)
Wes Anderson has always been a director that I have admired, but have fallen just short of loving. His movies have almost always gotten positive reviews from me, but not even one has found its way onto my Top 10 list. That streak is finally broken with Anderson’s wonderful and meaningful animated classic. Taking place in a future Japanese city, where all dogs have been banished to an island used as the local dump by a cat-loving Mayor, this deeply funny film is very much an adult cartoon, looking at many different real-world themes and issues. But fear not, it is also an action-packed adventure film, that could easily sit on the shelf alongside the classics of that genre. It somehow finds the perfect balance between scenes of the group of dogs having a deep discussion about what their fav meals were, to a cluster of dogs scrapping (which had me just howling with laughter every single time), all with a smoothness that only Anderson could pull off. It is every bit a Wes Anderson film, just the very best version of one to date.
#7 Private Life (Netflix)
Everybody is taking about a certain Netflix film, that I found very overrated, when I wish that more people had been talking about this other Netflix title, a simply beautiful tale of a couple trying to have a baby at the later stages of life. The couple is played by Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn, both giving excellent, grounded performances, that really dig deep into their relationship and all the struggles this quest has caused for them. The same can be said about the film, written and directed by Tamara Jenkins, which never tries to go over the top, with silly scenes or moments that are clearly wedged in to get a reaction. Instead, Private Life plays it straight, giving us an honest and real look at the struggles many couples in the world face every day. One scene, where the couple is trying to present a unique scenario to a third party, was so well done it had me getting a bit choked up. The whole film is like this, hitting the raw emotions, by giving us honest and real reactions to everything that happens. It’s just wonderful stuff and it’s on Netflix right now!
#6 First Reformed (A24)
Ethan Hawke may just be the most underrated actor of his generation, and this has never been clearer than in First Reformed. Hawke gives a masterclass performance as a minister who finds his faith challenged when he comes into connect with a lovely young lady he instantly falls in love with, and her environmental activist husband. Hawke gives a performance of body and soul, not being overly flashy or chewing on the scenery, but using his expressions, movements and mannerisms to move the plot forward without it ever having to be spelled out for us. It helps that the story the film is telling is one that is both timely and fascinating. Looking at the time old debate of science vs. religion and how those wires can be crossed, especially by those looking to take advantage of both, the film takes us on a spiritual journey, with Ethan Hawke’s performance as the tour guide.
#5 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures)
The best animated film of the year also happens to be the biggest surprise. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this cartoon version of my favourite super hero, but I had written it off as a mere kids’ cash grab. Boy was I wrong and in the best way possible! Sure, this film was aimed at children, but it was even more so for the fans who have stuck with their fav web slinger through many different universes. The movie starts by killing off Spider-Man and never lets up from there. It is peppered with brilliant references throughout, calling out every single different Spider-Man era you can think of. This includes a brilliant beyond words post-credits scene, that takes it to a perfect extreme! Even better is the fact that this film manages to jam in more action scenes and brilliant villains than all other Spider-Man films to date. Oh, did I mention that it is funny as hell, leaving me crying with laughter at some moments. Basically, it is the perfect Spider-Man movie and the second best of the Spider-Man films to date.
#4 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Paramount Pictures)
The best action movie of the year is this sixth entry into Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, Mission: saga. It also happens to be the best movie in the already superb series, edging out both the first film and Ghost Protocol (the fourth). Tom Cruise once again excels as the series’ lead character, again doing his own stunts, which is positively stunning when you stop and think about it. Fresh to the mix is Superman himself, Henry Cavill, giving a great performance and showing off his acting chops in many surprising ways. I was concerned about this installment because one of the things that made this series so unique is that each film had a different director, who has been allowed to move the series into their style. Christopher McQuarrie directed the excellent 5th installment and was back for this outing, but boy did he step up his game here! You are assured to have your breath taken away by the parachute scene, your blood racing with the iconic bathroom fight scene and your eyes popped out of your head at the helicopter chase scene finale! An all-time classic action film!
#3 Black Panther (Disney/Marvel)
The year’s best superhero movie just happens to be of an African hero, which I must point out because with this placement being so high, you are bound to hear someone say, “oh, it’s only considered good because it was a black hero.” Well I am here to tell you that it’s a stupid argument because the film is so much more than that. Its brilliance runs deep. For starters, look at the time and detail put into the costumes and make-up, respecting and paying tribute to African culture. How about the brilliant choice to have Kendrick Lamar take control of the superb soundtrack. Or how its great screenplay allows the movie to have a natural flow that doesn’t seem rushed or forced to move the plot along. The acting from lead Chadwick Boseman, baddie Michael B. Jordan, and supporting players Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Daniel Kaluuya, all excellent. Maybe it’s the fact that its action scenes are spectacular and meaningful, not just a collection of over the top scenes. But you’re right, it must just be because it’s a black superhero.
#2 BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features)
It has been a good many of years since Spike Lee created a movie that had us screaming how brilliant a director, he is, but boy did he do just that in 2018! This spectacular, timely, utterly hilarious comedy is about how a black police officer was able to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan, with the help of a Jewish cop who acts as his stand in for the real-life meetings. Based on true events, Lee doesn’t shy away from connecting this film to modern-day politics, taking over our MAGA world. This wouldn’t all work so perfectly if it wasn’t for some superb acting across the board. John David Washington as the black cop, Adam Driver as the Jewish stand in and Topher Grace as Klan icon David Duke, all perfect. What really makes this film such a masterpiece is the way Lee uses humor to cut the suspense that the film is always filled with, making us laugh from our bellies, while the same belly tightens with tension. The finally 30 mins of this movie are just flawless filmmaking. No matter what happens at the Oscars, this film will be the one we remember 20 years down the road, it is a classic.
#1 Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Focus Features)
The best movie I saw in 2018 was this wonderful documentary, chronicling the life of children’s TV icon Fred Rogers. Not only was this a perfect doc that brilliantly captures the life of a great man, but it was able to really hit me on a personal level as well. My everyday job is that of an Early Childhood Educator, so watching as Rogers basically fought so hard for everything that we are still fighting for today for children, this movie really snuck into my core being. It is fascinating to watch as Rogers works for everything he believes in, that every child should be loved no matter what and have a safe place they can go to feel welcome. The way he used his show to explain the events of the real world to the curious but innocent and oblivious children truly got to me, as that is something I have struggled with every day at my job. However, you don’t have to be an ECE to love this film, you will be engaged at the story of this wonderful man, who did so much good for the world. It is truly a masterpiece, one of the best documentaries of all time, and the very best film I saw in 2018.