It’s insanely difficult to do a “Top 10 Movies of 2018” list when you’ve seen about 200 movies in 365 days – everything from blockbusters, to arthouse films, to documentaries, to films that simply defy classification. I reviewed some of them for Chickflix; others I just bantered about on the Cinema Clash podcast; still others I never got around to reviewing, ‘cuz sometimes, Life happens and the catch-up game aint worth playin’.
Movies are subjective – and so is my list. And no movie is a “bad movie” if somebody out there “gets” it and likes it. My list is different today than it was yesterday. And it will surely be different tomorrow. But at this particular moment in time – as we enter 2019 – this is where I stand with my top picks, and why.
1. Green Book – I don’t understand how this one is missing entirely from many year-end lists. It is by far my favorite film of the year. It’s got everything – a great story inspired by real events, humor, heart and stellar performances. It’s about an Italian American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) who takes a gig driving and protecting a black world-class pianist (Mahershala Ali) through the deep South during the Jim Crow era. It got a standing ovation at the Middleburg Film Festival, deservedly so!
2. A Star Is Born – I watched all three previous incarnations of ASIB to prep, and this new one is my favorite. It holds up on repeat viewings and features an awesome soundtrack (“Shallow” deserves to win Best Original Song at the Oscars). The movie stars Lady Gaga as a struggling singer-songwriter who gets her big break when discovered and mentored by country-rock musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, in his directorial debut). (Note: Some folks liked the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody more. I did not. However on second viewing, Rhapsody did prove solid enough to earn an honorable mention.). A Star Is Born is the bigger tearjerker, and I’m a big sap. So there you have it.
3. Blindspotting – This film was probably the best film that too few people saw in 2018, so I’m putting it high on my list in the hopes that more people will seek it out. It tackles many of the same themes of race relations, corrupt cops and societal ills featured in “bigger” films like BlackKlansman, Sorry to Bother You, and If Beale Street Could Talk. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal co-wrote and co-star in Blindspotting, rooted in their own personal insights and experiences growing up in Oakland, California.
4. Mission Impossible: Fallout – This is another one that held up on second viewing and therefore made my list. I couldn’t really tell you exactly what happened plot-wise in this sixth installment of the popular franchise starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, but it sure was fun to watch on the big screen. It’s fast-paced and engaging and takes you across the globe. Sometimes, that’s just what you need for a cinematic escape. No judging!
5. Black Panther – Black Panther came out way back in February but stayed on my list as the year progressed because it delivered on so many levels, even if you’re not typically a fan of “superhero” movies. T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is one cool dude surrounded and protected by a bunch of kickass cool women. To see it is to understand #WakandaForever.
6. A Quiet Place – I saw this one rather late in the game and never got around to a formal review. But it’s really, really good, even if you normally shy away from creepy horror movies. I mean, c’mon, it stars the uber-endearing and talented real-life couple John Krasinski (who also directed) and Emily Blunt, so how terrifying can it be? A Quiet Place is original and gripping, and the entire cast pulls off quite the silent coup. A sequel is already in the works.
7. Eighth Grade – This one sneaks onto the list because there’s simply no denying that it nails the 14-year-old experience, as horrifying as that might be, particularly in this age of social media. The movie follows eighth-grader Kayla (Elsie Fisher) as she struggles through her final week of middle school and prepares for that next big step on the education and socialization ladder – high school. Let’s face it, we can all relate.
8. Won’t You Be My Neighbor – There were a lot of really good documentaries this year, but this one gets top honors because it comes at a time when we really need a reminder to be civil to one another. Children young and old can benefit from watching the doc and celebrating Fred Rogers’ legacy… one that promotes diversity, inclusiveness, tolerance, compassion, love and kindness – in the neighborhood of Make-Believe, and around the world. (Note: Honorable mention goes to Paddington 2, a charming family-friendly sequel with a simple message: “If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right.”)
9. An animated tie: Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – This one’s a toss-up, because the enjoyment factor ultimately depends on the age and comic-book savvy of the viewer. Incredibles 2 delivers a delightful new take on the Incredibles hero family, putting Mom in the center of the action and appealing to all ages; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse delivers a refreshing and unique new take on the classic superhero. In this version, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales gets bitten by a radioactive spider and must come to the aid of Spideys from other dimensions. It’s very clever, but young ‘uns could get restless. Should make for an interesting battle come Oscar time.
10. A tie – for Lucas Hedges! The 22-year-old actor had a banner year starring in two big films that tackle different issues but feel somewhat similar, Boy Erased (with Joel Edgerton, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) and Ben Is Back (with Julia Roberts). In Boy Erased, Hedges plays a preacher’s son who is forced to participate in a gay conversion program. In Ben Is Back, he plays a teenager who ditches his drug-rehab program at Christmas. Both films have stellar casts and poignant messages. (Honorable mention to 23-year-old Timothee Chalamet for his powerful performance as a drug addict in the heart-wrenching film Beautiful Boy.)
This was an especially tough year for a ‘Top 10’ list because, honestly, aside from my #1 and #2, the rest could have gone in any order. There are also many others that easily could have made the list. So, in no particular order, here are some additional honorable mentions. They are films that stuck with me for one reason or another, due to shock value, comedic value, sheer entertainment value, or some indiscernible quality that can’t be put into words. They’re all worth checking out to see if they fit the bill for whatever type of film you may be in the mood for at any particular time:
Bumblebee; Crazy Rich Asians; Avengers: Infinity War; Instant Family; Hearts Beat Loud; Juliet, Naked; Shoplifters; Game Night; Modern Life is Rubbish; RBG; On the Basis of Sex; Deadpool 2; Summer 1993; Whitney; Three Identical Strangers; Bathrooms Over Broadway; The Guilty; What They Had; A Private War; Creed II; Leave No Trace; Love Simon; The Death of Stalin
This is in no way a complete list, and it could change by tomorrow. Feel free to agree or disagree, reach out, or weigh in. Your opinion counts too.
Now, time to get crackin’ on my list for 2019…
[Note: Want to know what Arty Chick’s Top Picks were? Click here.]