As we look ahead at what appears to be a fantastic new year for movies, it’s worth taking a glance back at the eclectic mix of successes we were treated to over the past year. While there were almost certainly some films that would have made the list had I been able to see them (I’m looking at you Suspiria), here are the ten movies I was most impressed with in 2018.
10. Eighth Grade
Multi-faceted comic Bo Burnham brought us this harrowingly intimate yet hilarious portrayal of the way social media has complicated the overwhelming transition from childhood to adulthood. No other film seemed to capture the authenticity of adolescence the way Eighth Grade did in large part thanks Elsie Fisher’s tremendous breakout performance. More than anything, the film revealed that Burnham is capable of more than crude humor and left audiences clamoring for whatever type of project the entertainer will tackle next.
After the similarly brilliant 2011 film Young Adult, Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody, and Charlize Theron once again collaborate for another whip-smart, quirky comedy. This deceptively simple tale of motherhood is bursting with profound insights into the importance of being reacquainted with your past values in order to be a better caregiver as well as how societal pressures can skew our own appraisals of what being a good mother looks like. With a transformative performance from Theron and Cody’s screenplay that deftly balances subtle humor with an honest message, Tully is not to be missed.
8. Avengers: Infinity War
This 10 years-in-the-making event more than lived up to the insurmountable expectations placed upon it by fans. While the criticism that Infinity War suffered from being overly stuffed with characters and struggling to dig into each particular character’s arc is justified, the film’s success with almost all of its ambitions cancels this out for me. The film worked spectacularly well as fans were treated to unexpected character interactions, an off-brand bleak ending for Marvel, not to mention saving the best MCU villain for last with Thanos being the most fascinating antagonist to date.
This adaptation of a British TV show depicting a group of widows who decide to seize their own fate after inheriting their deceased husbands’ debts is a consistently unpredictable thrill ride. The film explores a myriad of political issues ranging from gun control, corrupt politicians, and gender equality. While this may seem overambitious to some, I found this added to the film’s appeal as it properly reflected the current political climate whilst adding depth to the question of whether breaking the law is morally justified when the rest of the world is even more corrupt. With compelling performances from the entire cast that sees actress Viola Davis in a role bravely outside of her wheelhouse and a twisty screenplay from Gillian Flynn, Steve McQueen has created a heist thriller unlike any other.
6. Vox Lux
While I was already extremely positive about the film with my initial review, I have found that with time my fondness for Brady Corbet’s uniquely provocative meditation on stardom has grown considerably. The unconventional parallels between acts of mass violence and the public’s tendency to turn to celebrities for guidance is exceedingly original and was fully brought to life thanks to Natalie Portman turning in one of her best performances to date. The film’s message about the toxicity of celebrity culture and the increasingly blurry line between fame and infamy today was thought-provoking in a way that few other films dared to be this year.
This deliciously dark thriller-comedy about two privileged teens plotting to kill one’s abusive stepfather is uproariously entertaining from start to finish. The film boasts fantastic performances from young actresses-to-watch Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy, not to mention eye-catching cinematography as we are ushered into the upper-class suburbs of Connecticut with their immaculate facades harboring darker, more insidious intentions from within. In addition to being wickedly humorous, this tale poses some novel questions of what the true nature of evil is in today’s society and whether a lack of empathy necessarily makes a person bad.
Alex Garland, the visionary director behind 2015’s stirring sci-fi thriller Ex Machina crafts another thought-provoking film offering genre thrills whilst challenging the audience with ambiguously weighty themes. With a premise that could have easily sputtered into a laughably cheesy sci-fi story, Garland puts special care to present a beautifully uncompromising story that examines cerebral themes of duality and the Freudian drive to destroy oneself. No other film this year had me pondering its exact meaning the way Annihilation did, and it is incredible that this type of story came from a major movie studio no less (even if they hedged with the international release).
3. First Reformed
Ethan Hawke stars in this taut spiritual thriller in which we follow a Reverend as he counsels a radical-environmentalist who believes the world is past redemption due to how humanity has treated it. This is a fascinating character study as we witness a man of God confronting the notion that he is inhabiting a world on the brink of apocalypse that God has possibly turned his back on. The film will have you glued to the screen until the tension-fueled conclusion that takes the idea of balancing hope with despair to literal extremes. It is a polarizing film, to say the least, and one of Hawke’s finest performances of all time.
Ari Aster’s feature directorial debut is every bit the brilliant game-changer that it has been heralded as since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Hereditary subverts all expectations associated with the demonic possession subgenre, which left me never certain where this horror masterpiece would go next. The film’s remarkable restraint results in a dense miasma pervading the bulk of the film until exploding with nightmarish imagery that will be seared into your mind for some time after the credits roll. Not to mention that Toni Collette masterfully encapsulates a mother’s bloodcurdling descent into manic grief perfectly and should seriously be in consideration come awards season.
1. The Favourite
Nothing else this year immediately grabbed me and entertained me throughout its duration in the way that Yorgos Lanthimos’ wickedly original dark comedy did. This warped world of 18th-century sycophants behaving like delinquent children left me hilariously stupefied at each progressively audacious action that occurred on screen. The performances of Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone as the trio of women at the heart of the power struggle to be the Queen’s favorite subject are each fantastic and nuanced in their own way. The Favourite is daringly unique and enthralled me in a way unlike any other film of recent memory.
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