By: Henry J. Fromage and Movieboozer Staff & Contributors
2018 in Film had its ups and downs like all facets of public and private life this year, but when it all shakes out it’s clear this was one hell of a year for the medium. See what moved our writers:
10. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
8. Sorry to Bother You
6. Chained for Life
5. The Other Side of the Wind
2. If Beale Street Could Talk
1. Thunder Road
10. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
9. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
8. Thunder Road
6. Avengers: Infinity War
5. Game Night
4. Paddington 2
3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
1. Sorry to Bother You
10. Thoroughbreds (and ‘Split’, retroactively, for 2017): I hesitate to use such a super-saturated term, but Thoroughbreds is a (deliciously) dark and (deeply) disturbing coming-of-age (cautionary) tale of two teens drawn together in a slow burn and repelled apart like blood-soaked, incendiary magnets. Harmless alone. Together? Imagine being trapped between a next-level homicidal Scilla and Charybdis with more apathy and angst per square foot than the average performing arts high school. Bonus: finally saw Split this year and it’s a MASTERCLASS in character work by James McAvoy (even taking into account the M. Night Shyamalan of it all – see my 2019 Glass review for a full capslock rant on that). Connecting thread: Anya Taylor-Joy is in both films. Reason enough to take the plunge.
9. Netflix: Ibiza/The Bodyguard/To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before/Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina: Breaking from the mold here, I have to call out the original (and adapted) content from streaming providers (Just Netflix this time – better luck in 2019, Hulu) this past year that blew me away Dorothy Gale-style: Ibiza is a fun girl’s night, Hangover-esque (without the memory loss) vacation carpe diem flick. Bonus GOT Robb Stark (Richard Madden) love interest card to play here. The Bodyguard: MORE Richard Madden! More BBC goodness! More grit-filled PTSD spiraling and fractured psyche, sex-fueled politics, power, and murder galore! To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: Classic teen rom-com/drama throwback goodness you didn’t know you needed until the credits rolled and you immediately re-watched it five more times. Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina: not your 90’s pink bubble gum and talking cat chums from back in the day. This fantastically angsty Riverdale spinoff is filled with spells, gore, the walking dead, dark lords, and more. I’m all in on season two (praise Satan!).
8. A Simple Favor: You had me at Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively make a movie. Go into this knowing NOTHING. Do NOT succumb to Google! Definitely don’t read the book (not just because of spoilers, it’s equally as bland as the movie is awesome).
7. A Discovery Of Witches (BBC One-UK/AMC-US): Everything Twilight/Fifty Shades could’ve been (STICK WITH ME HERE) and wasn’t. Adapted from novel one in a trilogy, you have vampires, witches (etc.), forbidden romance done right and Matthew Goode as a perfect, broodingly sexy (immortal) Mr. Darcy with fangs to Theresa Palmer’s witchy Elizabeth Bennett-esque perfection. Bonus for inclusion and representation in cinema.
6. A Quiet Place: A revelation in film right up until the last five minutes. Worth it for the incredible creativity and killer sound engineering alone. Bonus John Krasinski beard (I’m not mad at the early episodes of Jack Ryan, either).
5. Black Panther: Superhero movies are a dime a dozen but this is a stand-alone entry of greatness into the Marvel(ous) pantheon. More movies with POC, WOC, and anything that represents more than 2% of the human population. Bonus name-taking and ass-kicking done with charisma and heart.
4. The First Purge: This franchise is low-key one of the most prescient and scathing political satires around. Peel the layers back on this onion for blood and guts, and take the carotid pulse of our nation while you’re there.
3. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (Netflix): This goes beyond a must-see into a should-be-madatory-see and gets its own number on this year’s list. Using her incredibly sharp wit and white-hot satire scalpel, Hannah Gadsby will make you laugh as well as take an honest, hard look at yourself in the mirror at the same time. You’re going to be uncomfortable, you’re going to feel a few sharp pricks from your conscience, and you’re absolutely going to be a better person after you watch Nanette.
2. Deadpool 2: Defying the sequel odds, Deadpool 2 is a near-perfect take two on the merc with a mouth. Add in a YOKED Josh Brolin and you’re ringing ALL of mama’s bells if you catch my drift *awkward Will Ferrell wink*. Tying up almost every loose thread from the first film, Deadpool 2 thrills, chills, AND fulfills.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: I have very complicated feels about animated movies; most often used as a crutch in children’s entertainment this medium can – and should – be used for a much more complete experience (not unlike this pitch-perfect leap into the Spider-Verse). The incredibly rich artwork, nuanced sound engineering, a musical score perfectly, thoughtfully composed (plus flawless voicework) alongside a layered script and complex characters weave together an unimpeachable narrative (and emotionally resonant origin story unmatched by anything else I experienced in 2018). Be prepared for Stan Lee’s last (voice) cameo or you will cry-shriek like a raccoon tased on high voltage. You’ve been warned.
11. Mission: Impossible – Fallout: Easily the best action flick since Mad Max: Fury Road, Fallout is an outstanding and surprisingly thoughtful action movie that puts a good deal of emphasis on character and theme to keep things compelling even when Tom Cruise isn’t risking his life for ridiculous stunts. But when the movie does go there, it’s insane: the final half hour of Fallout is outrageously exciting, which is saying something because it maintains a similar tempo from every full-throttle action sequence while keeping the character of Ethan Hunt firmly in mind the entire time.
10. Shrek Retold: How bizarre. I like the original Shrek enough, but there’s something about this project, the cumulative effort of over 200 animators and creators remaking it, scene-for-scene, that resonated with me. Something about so many people with so much love coming together to recreate it is heartwarming. Every half-minute or so, a new visual influence, a new artistic vision elbows in and somehow, it works. It’s a crazy amalgamation of passion, emotion, grotesqueness, hilarity and love that doesn’t quite completely work, but works so well that it ends up being one of the most unique, satisfying and hallucinatory experiences of the year. As a bonus, each of its new covers of the songs in the film (All Star, Hallelujah, I’m a Believer) are just sublime.
9. Thunder Road: Jim Cummings (no, not the Winnie the Pooh Jim Cummings) is a new force in indie cinema with this bitterly funny, moving, and heartbreaking journey into grief. It’s not an easy watch; while often funny, it grapples hard with the damaging effects of grief and the film’s dangerous, impulsive main character slips into a free-fall when too many uncomfortable life events line up. As a character piece, it’s almost impossible to look away from.
8. Thoroughbreds: The intoxicating toxicity of Thoroughbreds is hard to resist, as it digs into the psyche of two very predatory, parasitic women and how the give-and-take power dynamic between themselves and those around them infects their surroundings. There’s hardly anyone to like or sympathize with in this film, but with Cory Finley’s confident writing and direction, it’s hard to look away from these awful people and their dangerous motivations. It also boasts the late Anton Yelchin in his final (and arguably finest) role, and a terrific score.
7. You Were Never Really Here: Lynne Ramsay directs Joaquin Phoenix in one of the most crushingly accurate depictions of PTSD I’ve ever seen on film, and one of the greatest performances Phoenix has ever given. Like the actual disorder, it is suffocating, helpless and bleak. The visual depiction of PTSD is amazingly well-realized: Phoenix plays his character as socially detached and often plagued by random visual cues to pull him back into his trauma. The film is a gut punch that kicks you when you’re down.
6. American Animals: One of the most fascinating and fun movies of the year, American Animals utilizes interviews with the real-life perpetrators of a Kentucky art heist to add surprising context to the almost completely accurate dramatization of the events. Where the film really excels, however, is how it uniquely blends both elements together: the real men comment on the events as they’re played out by the actors, and differing interview accounts play respective reenactments against each other. It’s a fable on the effects of bored privilege leading to criminality, Ocean’s Eleven without much of the glamor and with all of the consequence.
5. Suspiria: While not specifically scary, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake certainly one of the most extreme horror films of 2018. A low-key sense of dread and discomfort builds progressively into one of the most nightmarish finales I’ve ever seen in a film. The final half hour of Suspiria elicited such a strong physical and emotional response from me, I sat shell-shocked in my car for a good few minutes before I could drive away. In every technical and in several narrative senses, Suspiria is very intense and immediate. Thom Yorke’s score is haunting and brilliant. In everything he does, Guadagnino is a master of manipulating mood.
4. First Reformed: Paul Schrader gets less credit than he is owed due to studio interference, but when let off the leash he really shines. The writer of Taxi Driver brings some of those noir sensibilities here. Ethan Hawke gives what may be the best performance of the entire year as a priest in a crisis of faith. First Reformed treads confidently into a thematic minefield and emerges triumphantly as a dark, heavy examination of religion, environment and personal guilt and grief.
3. Blindspotting: Blindspotting‘s deft navigation of tone, theme and character is an absolute feat. Right up front, it tackles police brutality, gentrification and learned behavior but drops it into a buddy comedy starring the two writers of the film who have been best friends for over a decade, producing painfully genuine interaction. This is the real heart of the film: genuinely hilarious interactions interspersed with surprising and pleasant freestyle interludes from two genuinely loving souls pushing against tragic and troubling gentrification and unconscious biases. The way that Daveed Diggs’ main character slowly sees his reality unfold is transfixing, and heartbreaking in its direct show of where we are as a society.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: This is far beyond your standard superhero film. By turns, Into the Spider-Verse aches with the pain of loss, the uncertainty of destiny, and a deep, profound love for its characters. It eschews the norms of PG-rated animated films to become an absolutely necessary viewing experience, so confident and profound in its vision that flaws become nonexistent. We are not worthy of a superhero film as good as this.
1. Mandy: Mandy is a magnificent, phantasmagoric heavy metal feast for the senses. It’s otherworldly: nearly every frame is appropriate for an album cover, and Johann Johannsonn’s final score (God rest his soul) is the year’s best. Structurally, the film is defiantly different, building tension and frightening expectation before an explosion of black comedy and awesome violence. Nicolas Cage gives an amazing performance in an insane, savage fever dream of grief, cosmic madness and savage revenge.
10. Hereditary: The first horror film in a long time to cause a physical reaction from me in a theater. It’s equal parts horrifying and brilliant and Toni Collette is amazing.
9. First Man: I don’t understand why there wasn’t more love for this film. It’s a technical marvel and Gosling gives a brilliant internal performance. Couldn’t recommend this more.
8. Widows: Another film where I don’t understand why there isn’t more love. Great director, stellar cast putting in amazing work. A smart heist film that deserved some Oscar love.
7. Wildlife: A small film Written by Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan and Directed by Dano. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan giving great performances. Definitely check this one out.
6. Disobedience: The smaller film that Rachel Weisz had this year, but still amazing. It’s an honest film about sexuality, religion, belief systems, and how outside influence can cause clouded judgement.
5. First Reformed: Poor Ethan Hawke, totally snubbed by the Academy. This is a brilliant and timely film about religion, belief, and the environment. Are we doing enough for our future children?
4. If Beale Street Could Talk: Barry Jenkins delivers another beautiful film about love, and a very real film about racial injustice in 1970s New York. That score is on another level as well.
3. The Favourite: Olivia Coleman might be my favorite performance of the year, but all 3 women in this film are excellent. Also Nicolas Hoult is brilliantly hilarious. Such a fun and amazing film at the same time.
2. Roma: It’s an absolutely gorgeous film that is top of its class across the board; directing, cinematography, acting, sound. It’s just marvelous.
1. You Were Never Really Here: I’ve never seen a better portrayal of PTSD in a film. Lynne Ramsay is an expert director and this could be Joaquin Phoenix’s best work. Go see this film!!
10. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
9. A Star is Born
8. If Beale Street Could Talk
7. First Reformed
6. Vox Lux
4. You Were Never Really Here
3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
10. Alpha: THE “boy and his dog” narrative for all time, this film surprised me so much with its emotional depth and visual flair that I had to put it on this list somewhere. Possibly the strongest argument for artistic use of 3D filmmaking yet.
9. Leave No Trace: “trauma” is a theme that permeates most of the year’s best films, but honestly this film might cover the subject better than any other. As heartbreaking as this film might be, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel that holds hope, however far-fetched.
8. If Beale Street Could Talk: Barry Jenkins took a chance in adapting James Baldwin’s greatest work of fiction. Luckily he was able to deliver with a film that is both the greatest romance of the year, and probably the most socially relevant and poignant ever made.
7. Roma: This understated slice of life masterpiece could have been stretched into a whole season TV drama for all of the stories it has to tell packed into its relatively brief runtime. Throw into it some of the most human and relatable characters in recent memory and you have a truly memorable experience.
6. Overlord: Of any film on my top 10 list, this is the one I will probably revisit the most. It one-ups Quentin Tarantino by making a stylish grindhouse-style genre flick by never once winking at the audience.
5. American Animals: This docudrama heist film grips the audience from start to finish with its story of the dangerous combination that results from boredom, teenage stupidity, and passing familiarity with gangster films.
4. The Death of Stalin: The most outrageously funny and witty movie of the year. Armando Iannucci is simply a master of political satire. This historical film set in the Soviet Union has far more insights on modern Western political events than might be spotted on first viewing.
3. First Reformed: Taxi Driver was about the moral and physical decay of New York in the 1970s through the eyes of an increasingly unstable individual. First Reformed takes that premise to the logical next step by concentrating on the physical and moral decay of the planet, observed by Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke), serving as Director/Writer Paul Schrader’s avatar.
2. Sorry to Bother You: The more I think about this film, the more I’m convinced that this is the movie historians will look back on and say “this was important.” STBY is a rip-roaring satire that says so much about the state of the world it is almost impossible to take it all in the first time around.
1. Mandy: Mandy is simply haunting to witness. Some of the most creative cinematography and editing in service of a heavy metal nightmare revenge thriller. Nicolas Cage gives his all in what might be his best performance since Leaving Las Vegas.
Mrs. Henry J. Fromage
First off, another year of marriage, another Best Of list from my wife. Still looking pretty good!
10. Bohemian Rhapsody
7. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
6. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
5. The Favourite
4. First Man
Henry J. Fromage
And now for mine:
10. Lowlife: This is my little indie that could pick, a bloody, beautifully edited tale of crime and redemption starring, who else? A luchador prone to blackout spells of ultraviolence. A calling card of a film.
9. You Were Never Really Here/Destroyer: The two most muscular, bone-crunching, just best action films of the year were directed by Lynne Ramsey and Karyn Kusama, and I simply couldn’t pick between them. Producers of Hollywood, just give them whatever they ask for and watch the masterpieces roll in.
8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: The best superhero movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s not even particularly close. Somehow this movie really does have it all- mind-blowing animation, laugh out loud humor, real pathos and drama, an effortless coolness.
7. Leave No Trace: Debra Granik should also get any budget she wants going forward. Ben Foster and especially real find Thomasin McKenzie deliver understated drama in this story of a father and daughter living at the very edges of society.
6. Thunder Road: Jim Cummings gives his all in turning his short film into one of the more striking features of the last year. It’s a feel-bad comedy that somehow makes you feel good- an artistic debut of such bravery and abandon that I can’t imagine anything but many more striking films from him both in front of and behind the camera.
5. Blindspotting: That perhaps goes double for the artistic team behind Blindspotting, Daveed Diggs recently of Hamilton fame, actual childhood friend and poet Rafael Casal, and first-time feature director Carlos Lopez Estrada. They create a film with a dazzling mix of tones, impactful social messages, and style that is unlike anything you’ll see this year.
4. Hereditary: The mix of honed and polished technique and pure unadulterated terror that Ari Aster produces here is an apex moment for the arthouse horror genre that’s been gathering strength the last several years. Destined to go down as one of the greats.
3. They Shall Not Grow Old: Asked to produced a documentary for the 100 year anniversary of the Armistice, Peter Jackson didn’t produce another remix of the same black and white footage. Instead, he finds a way to bring it to life for modern eyes- a technical marvel quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen- and even more impressively, he uses this revitalized medium to deliver one of the most potent anti-war messages ever put to film. No kidding- this is his finest achievement as a filmmaker.
2. Roma: What hasn’t been said yet about Alfonso Cuaron’s achingly personal and stunningly artistic achievement? I cried both times I saw it, for what that’s worth.
1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: And yet, no movie made my eyes run like this paean to the pure human decency that Mr. Rogers made it his life’s mission to try and embody, and to pass on to the young ones he loved so dearly. We could all use a reminder of how powerful unconditional love can be over hate.