Here they are! Read on for the Best that 2018 had to offer in movies!
It was a strong year for film. 2018 has seen three movies break a BILLION (yes with a "B") in box office receipts ("Black Panther," "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" and "Incredibles 2") and one movie hitting TWO billion ("Avengers: Infinity War"). The overall numbers are also up from 2017 despite all of the worries about how streaming services like Netflix were supposed to destroy the theatrical experience. 2018 also gave us the highest-grossing biopic ever ("Bohemian Rhapsody," with over 630 million) as well as the highest-grossing documentary biopic ("Won't You Be My Neighbor?" with over 22 million).
Of course, a film's gross has nothing at all to do with a film's worth. So what movies stand out as the best-of-the-best in 2018? This critic saw over 170 films in 2018, and while there were no "La La Land"-quality masterpieces, there were several amazing entries this past year ("La La Land" is the last film to earn an "A+," although this year a total of 13 films received a solid "A" mark).
So what were the best films of 2018? Before we get to that, here is our list of the Top 10 overall performances this year. These can be Lead, Supporting, male or female. But all of them left a mark in 2018. In no particular order:
BEST 10 PERFORMANCES OF 2018
Glenn Close - "The Wife" - Glenn Close is obviously a top-tier actress, and when given roles as juicy as Joan Castleman in "The Wife," it just goes to show why.
Ethan Hawke - "First Reformed" - There isn't a better male Lead performance this year than what Ethan Hawke does in "First Reformed," as a priest who is questioning his faith, and the world around him. Hawke is a national treasure.
Rosamund Pike - "A Private War" - A few years back, Rosamund Pike gave one of the most memorable screen performances ever as the villain of "Gone Girl." This year, as real-life journalist Marie Colvin, she transforms herself and gives one of the grittiest, rawest performances of her career...and get used to her too: She's in no less than four movies and two TV series coming up in 2019.
Steven Yeun - "Burning" - Yeun is a dark horse for an Oscar nomination, in the smoldering mystery/thriller "Burning," the South Korean entry for Best Foreign Film. Yeun plays a mysterious, young, rich and mesmerizing figure, in a performance that absolutely electrifies.
Sam Elliott - "A Star is Born" - Elliott has a thankless career but has always brought intensity and authenticity to every role he's ever played. As Bradley Cooper's brother in "A Star is Born," Elliott is the emotional anchor to the film, and it's a career-best performance...which is saying a lot.
Jason Clarke - "Chappaquiddick" - Clarke's memorable performance as Ted Kennedy mainly suffered from its early 2018 release...had the film came out in the Fall, more people would undoubtedly be talking about it. It's one of the year's best.
Jesse Plemons - "Game Night" - "Game Night" was one of the funniest, most surprising movies of 2018, and a lot of that is due to the creepy-hilarious turn by Jesse Plemons, as the weird next-door-neighbor just hankering to be included in Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams' game night.
Lady Gaga - "A Star is Born" - Nobody really knew what to expect when word got out that Lady Gaga would star in the latest remake of this classic Hollywood story, and that low-expectation led to many people being absolutely wowed by what she was able to pull off in "A Star is Born." For an icon like Gaga to look vulnerable and nervous on stage, to grow throughout the movie and to pull off a believable romance just proved that this Lady 's talents have no limit.
Amandla Stenberg - "The Hate U Give" - Stenberg has become one of the best and brightest rising stars in Hollywood, and her dominant performance in "The Hate U Give" only scratches the surface of her potential.
The Ensemble Cast of "Crazy Rich Asians" - From the leads (Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding) to the stand-out supporting performances (Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Chris Pang, and especially Nico Santos, to name just a few), there was no better, "richer" ensemble in 2018 than the cast of "Crazy Rich Asians." Benefiting from a clever script, each character that populated this colorful world helped contribute to the movie being one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the year.
Honorable Mentions: Elsie Fisher ("Eighth Grade"), Evan Peters ("American Animals"), Jonathan Pryce ("The Wife"), Bradley Cooper ("A Star is Born"), Ryan Gosling ("First Man"), Rami Malek ("Bohemian Rhapsody"), Stephan James ("If Beale Street Could Talk"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Red Sparrow"), Toni Colette ("Hereditary"), Carey Mulligan ("Wildlife"), Kiki Layne ("If Beale Street Could Talk"), Simon Russell Beale ("The Death of Stalin"), Gabriel Byrne ("Hereditary"), Nick Offerman ("Hearts Beat Loud"), Richard E. Grant ("Can You Ever Forgive Me?"), Mahershala Ali ("Green Book"), the ensemble cast of "The Favourite."
THE BEST FILMS OF 2018
Outside the Top 10:
20. "Avengers: Infinity War"
18. "The Rider"
17. "Hearts Beat Loud"
16. "The Death of Stalin"
15. "Green Book"
14. "The Endless"
13. "If Beale Street Could Talk"
12. "Two Trains Runnin'"
11. "Leave No Trace"
#10. "First Man"
Read our original full review: "First Man".
"First Man" is the first film that isn't quite getting universal praise from writer/director Damien Chazelle ("Whiplash," "La La Land"), but why we're not sure. Ryan Gosling gives a subdued, heart-breaking performance as the NASA hero Neil Armstrong, but even space buffs may not know exactly what he and his colleagues went through on the first manned mission to the moon, or what Armstrong went through in his personal life. Chazelle puts us in the cockpit and in the action like no other space film has, and somehow makes this a human story, much more focused on the “small step for man” and less on the “giant leap for mankind.”
#9. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse"
Read our original full review: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse".
The latest incarnation of the popular Marvel hero is the best animated film of the year, and one of the best overall films. The late Stan Lee would be proud, that "Into the Spider-verse" stands as everything he could have ever hoped for, and it reconfirms the notion that Spider-Man - and all of his creations - are timeless, given the right story-teller.
#8. "Crazy Rich Asians"
Read our original full review: "Crazy Rich Asians".
It has been way too long since there has been an all Asian-American ensemble and a female Asian-American lead in an American movie...you'd have to go back 25 years to 1993's "The Joy Luck Club" to find the last occurrence of this. But that's only a fraction of why "Crazy Rich Asians" feels like a breath of fresh air. Ethnicity aside, this is one of the best and most effective rom-coms in quite a while, a movie that is sure to win over the hearts and minds of any audience demographic. This movie will have you laughing, crying, and feeling those tingles that are usually reserved only for the top-tier romantic-comedies...a zone that "Crazy Rich Asians" confidently positions itself in.
Director Adam McKay gives us the year's boldest directorial effort, striking a tone that is simultaneously comedic and biting. Christian Bale transforms himself into former Vice President Dick Cheney, and is surrounded by great support from Sam Rockwell (as George W. Bush) and Steve Carrell (as former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld). Whether or not you believe everything that is portrayed is your choice, but this is undeniably one of the most compelling movies of the year, one that feels more like a carnival ride than just a movie-going experience.
#6. "Three Identical Strangers"
Read our original full review: "Three Identical Strangers".
There is quite simply no story or movie you'll see in 2018 that is as outrageous as the premise of this one...and the fact that it is a documentary about occurrences that actually happened makes it all the more mind-blowing. "Three Identical Strangers" needs to be seen, and even then it may not be believed.
#5. "A Private War"
Read our original full review: "A Private War".
"A Private War" is not only one of the best films of 2018, it’s one of the most important films given what’s going on in our country. It’s the true story of war correspondent Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), a fearless journalist who risked everything to put herself on the front lines, shedding light on some of humanity’s greatest atrocities. In the same way that "The Hurt Locker" showed war as an addiction for soldiers who saw action, "A Private War" shows us that the front-line journalists can become addicts too. This is a raw and real re-telling, from director Matthew Heineman, a man most known for his documentary work. Oh, and Rosamund Pike gives an Oscar-worthy performance. It never preaches, but it shows you first-hand just why investigative journalism is so vital to our democracy, and it will leave you furious when you stop to consider that a patriot like Marie Colvin would currently be lumped in and labeled an “enemy of the people” by the current administration. Just absolutely infuriating.
#4. "The Hate U Give"
Read our original full review: "The Hate U Give".
This is just a powerful, yet accessible movie, not just a coming-of-age story, but a coming-of-THIS-age, where in a polarized world a young person finds their way, and isn’t accepting of the “norms” that have stayed in place for generations. It isn't afraid to address tough questions, or show things as they really are, yet it's done in a simplistic way that lends itself to the straight-forward message.
#3. "Eighth Grade"
Read our original full review: "Eighth Grade".
To call "Eighth Grade" a coming-of-age film would be correct, but it also feels like a sweeping generalization that doesn't quite do it justice. What director Bo Burnham manages to do here is eye-opening, and this is a film that movie-goers of all ages should seek out immediately. Sure it's early, but "Eighth Grade" is in the same vein as movies like "The Breakfast Club" or "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" when it comes to a generation-defining teen movie. It's uncomfortable at times, but Burnham keeps his sights on his main character's journey ( a wonderfully vulnerable Elsie Fisher), resisting the urge to take the movie down more "dramatic" paths. The result is a raw, realistic and sharply written story that feels authentic at every step.
Just wow. South Korea's entry for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award this year is "Burning," and it's too bad that critics all over the world are busy drooling over "Roma," because "Burning" deserves the same - if not more - attention. It's a plot too complex and layered to give away, but it'ss a riveting cinematic experience from the first frame to the last, featuring a star-turn by "The Walking Dead" alum Steven Yeun. The movie isn't fancy or pretentious in the way that films like "Roma" is, and "Burning" should also be considered accessible for mass audiences looking to be challenged, and entertained. This is a movie that many describe as having a "slow-burn" throughout, where director Chang-dong Lee creates a palpable and lasting tension, but the real fire that gets ignited is in the viewer's mind...this is a film that will burn into your memory and will stick with you for a long time. There are no easy answers in "Burning," but oh, how the questions are fascinating.
#1. "American Animals"
Despite getting nearly ZERO award-season love, "American Animals" is the best film of 2018. It currently holds an 88% "fresh" rating on RottenTomatoes.com, and was universally lauded as being a great film when it was released in the middle of the Summer...yet it seemed to be all but forgotten in the Fall shuffle. This marks the first feature-film by director Bart Layton, who up until now had only directed one other film, the 2012 documentary, "The Imposter," which just happens to be the best documentary of the past decade (don't want to believe me? Go watch it now on YouTube or Google Play!).
Maybe not since Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino has each frame of a film felt unmistakably like the filmmaker's own, but Layton is forging a new style of cinema. The film itself feels fresh...it mixes interviews with the actual criminals inside the "fictional" re-telling, so it's structured like almost no other movie you can think of (maybe except Richard Linklater's "Bernie"). It also takes the familiar "heist" formula and breathes new life into it and plays off of the audience's expectations. It's a story and style that sucks you in from the get-go.
Evan Peters is superb as the zany man with the master plan, and Barry Keoghan (a stand-out in last year's "The Killing of a Sacred Deer") shows that he will have lasting star-power in Hollywood. The wonderful Ann Dowd shows that the actress known for her creepiness actually has a sweet, vulnerable side, and the other players like Blake Jenner and Jared Abrahamson round-out a very memorable cast.
"American Animals" is not only innovative, funny and at times uncomfortable, but it has some underlying themes at work too...this isn't just some stylish filmmaker showing off his technical skills. In a weird way, "American Animals" is a story about millennials who grow up realizing that they're not all that special after all, and that life doesn't actually play out the way it does in the movies. So far through two films, Bart Layton has showcased not only a masterful hand at story-telling, but an innate ability to find humanity in the strangest of places.
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