2018 was a pretty terrible year by many measures, but it was a damn good year for movies. While big budget sequels of varying quality continued to dominate the box office, there was still room in theaters for new and original stories to stand out while streaming options give them a shot at reaching the wider audiences they deserve—including me, in a couple of cases.
My top 10 favorites (plus 4 honorable mentions) were unexpectedly tough to sort out, but they represent a more varied list than I would have initially guessed at the beginning of the year. Also, they come with one notable caveat: I’ve not yet seen several movies which I think have potential to push their way onto the list, including Blindspotting, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Hate U Give, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Thoroughbreds.
TOP 10 MOVIES
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Even though I’m not a big Spider-Man fan I was sold on this one from the first trailer and expected it to be solid fun, but it far exceeded my expectations! Not only is it the best Spider-Man movie yet, capturing the true essence of the character’s appeal by nailing multiple versions in one movie, it rivals the best Pixar movies for pure heart and sheer exuberance, while having its own unique visual style. I haven’t enjoyed a movie on so many different levels in a long time, and that’s saying a lot in a year that included Black Panther and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Horror has become a particularly rich genre recently and this year offered two great examples that illustrate its versatility. Having a teenage son means I’ve watched a lot more horror movies the past few years than I would have otherwise, and while I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of them—Get Out, It, Mother!, The VVitch, Don’t Breathe—Hereditary is the first truly terrifying one I’ve seen since… I don’t even know what to compare it to, really, but it arguably deserves consideration alongside The Exorcist. Only predictable snobbery will prevent Toni Collette from getting a Best Actress nomination, and you could make a strong argument for Ari Aster as a Best Director dark horse.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
I’ve loved the Mission Impossible movies since JJ Abrams stepped in for the third installment—each one ratcheting up the set piece spectacle a little further while letting unapologetically convoluted plots and the best version of Tom Cruise connect the dots. Fallout manages to deliver maximum action combined with arguably the tightest plot yet, and the finale is a fully-earned nail-biter that will be difficult to top… but I look forward to the attempt!
Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley went ALL THE WAY IN, found the hidden wall, and went in even further. #SorryToBotherYou was bananas! See it before you know any more about it.
— Guy LeCharles Gonzalez (@glecharles) August 8, 2018
I didn’t know anything about this movie beyond the initial trailer, but I like Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, it looked interesting and… hoo boy wowzers!!! While definitely not for everyone (my wife is still mad at me!), it’s still best seen knowing as little about it as possible to make your own decision. As a bonus, it also introduced me to the music of The Coup (Boots Riley’s band I somehow had never heard of!?!?) and one of my new favorite songs: The Guillotine.
I have never enjoyed being so uncomfortable as I was watching this delightfully awkward, cringeworthy-at-times look at the life of a modern eighth grader. Elsie Fisher is awesome. Gucci! O_o
#BlackPanther has led to a variety of smart, compelling takes from different perspectives and I’m devouring them all. It’s so much more than just another great Marvel movie, even though that alone would have been enough.
— Guy LeCharles Gonzalez (@glecharles) February 18, 2018
Three words: “Killmonger was right.” As much I enjoyed the movie itself, Black Panther‘s multi-layered significance as a cultural moment is what ultimately makes it stand out as more than just one of the best MCU movies yet. Whatever nitpicks you might have, Ryan Coogler faced an impossible task and pulled it off.
A Quiet Place
— Guy LeCharles Gonzalez (@glecharles) April 6, 2018
[See Hereditary above.] While A Quiet Place is arguably more thriller than horror—and not nearly as scary as Hereditary—it mines similar territory to generate an emotional impact while delivering a more traditional “happy(ish)” ending. The “quiet” conceit works because the cast has genuine chemistry and the stakes are simple and straightforward, hammered home in the opening scene: if you make a sound, you die. Bonus: Emily Blunt being awesome!
I’m still sorting through my own thoughts on Annihilation, but this nails one of its most compelling notes that stuck with me afterwards… https://t.co/LNFCtJcBNk
— Guy LeCharles Gonzalez (@glecharles) February 26, 2018
I love provocative, thoughtful sci-fi and Annihilation delivered that in spades and stuck with me for weeks afterwards. If you’ve seen it already, Leah Schnelbach’s take on one of its most compelling moments is worth a read.
A Spike Lee Joint, for better and worse, but I’m still torn on if BlacKkKlansman is ultimately a good film or not, partly because I’m not sure I was his target audience. The last 10 minutes are a roller coaster of lame, action movie tropes; a jaw-droppingly lazy climax; and a heartbreaking gut-punch of an epilogue—with no breath taken in between. I think I know what he was going for, but it’s sloppy and weakens the rest of the movie. BUT… I sat there for a few minutes at the end, stewing, letting the theater empty of its predominantly white audience who chuckled intermittently throughout, missing the simultaneously hamfisted and subtle ways he’d framed his story just for them. Ultimately, it made me want to watch Do The Right Thing again, and that’s a film I’ve actively avoided rewatching because it remains too current.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
I grew up with Mister Rogers—along with Sesame Street and the Electric Company—so this was a melancholic hit of pure nostalgia. Without PBS, there is no Mr. Rogers, and without Rogers, there might have been no PBS… but now Sesame Street is on HBO and “someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale…” The internet has simultaneously expanded and limited everything’s reach, connecting and separating people. Could a modern Mr. Rogers ever find and engage a generation like he did, or are we doomed to increasingly worse Pewdepies?
- Incredibles 2: The original ranked as my favorite superhero movie alongside Unbreakable for years, and I would have been perfectly happy if neither ever had a sequel in my lifetime. Unlike Split, though, I2 was really, really good.
- Avengers: Infinity War: A logistical tour de force muted only by the inescapable knowledge that the majority of its best moments will immediately be undone with the sequel.
- Mandy: The Nic Cagiest movie Nicolas Cage has ever Nic Caged! Pure bananas.
- You Were Never Really Here: Joaquin Phoenix. Nuff said.