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The Top 10 Films of 2018

PM Film Critic Sean Collier counts down the 10 best films of 2018.



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PHOTO BY TATUM MANGUS / ANNAPURNA PICTURES
 

Usually, these year-end roundups of film start with a brief explanation of how different, how distinct, how remarkable the year in cinema was.

Let’s cut to the chase: I’m not sure this was that year.

2018 felt like a transitional year, one where movies tried to figure out what they wanted to be and where they wanted to land — and a year when the best-of lists I’ve seen feature very little consensus. Are the best, most auteur-driven films bound for the dwindling arthouse circuit or Netflix? Should big-budget spectacle aim to advance the artform or please the crowds — or do both, as was the case in several of my Top 10 choices? Is the audience forever divided into specialized segments, or are there true unifying moments?

In a year with far more very good films than great films, a few stood out. I’d unabashedly recommend everything on the following list. I’d call the top 5 truly great. I’d call my number-one choice one of the best films I’ve ever seen, while admitting that it is most definitely not for wide audiences.

Perhaps that’s the encouraging sign in 2018’s cinema and the many (remarkably varied) year-end lists I’ve seen. I think there’s something in theaters for everyone.
 


 


Photo by Merrick Morton / 20th Century Fox Film Corp.
 

#10 — Widows
Director Steve McQueen followed his Best Picture-winning “12 Years a Slave” with a bold, bleak action epic, changing the stakes on a slice of cinema usually left for sleepy-weekend popcorn fare. The story and the direction are strong; the raw, gripping performances by Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Kaluuya and Cynthia Erivo make the movie remarkable.
How to See It: “Widows” has left theaters. It should be on streaming services within a month and will be released on Blu-Ray on Feb. 5.
 


 


PHOTO BY MATT KENNEDY / ANNAPURNA PICTURES
 

#9 — Vice
Dick Cheney is not a political figure many people are eager to learn much more about. And yet “Vice,” a sprawling comedy/drama/biopic about the former D.C. kingpin, turned out to be one of the year’s most refreshing and insightful films, with plenty of valid takes on recent history and more than a bit of insight on our current political climate. Writer/director Adam McKay might be the only filmmaker capable of turning the Cheney story into a fascinating parable. He nailed it.
How to See It: In theaters now.
 


 


Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Animation
 

#8 — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I didn’t see this coming. After six big-screen spider-flicks spread across three franchises, the best-ever film about the webslinger is a bizarre, innovative work of madcap animation. Every shot of “Into the Spider-Verse” is surprising and delightful, the voice cast is perfect (John Mulaney as Spider-Ham!) and both the laughs and the heart are real. In most years, this would’ve easily been the best superhero flick — and I can name a dozen recent comic-book efforts that can’t hold a candle to “Into the Spider-Verse.”
How to See It: In theaters now.
 


 


PHOTO BY DANIEL MCFADDEN / UNIVERSAL STUDIOS
 

#7 — First Man
There was a minute where I thought “First Man” might end up topping this list. That minute occurred immediately after I watched it. I was floored by the staggering effects, the beautiful cinematography and score and the quiet, powerful performances. It lost ground in my mind when none of it really stuck with me; it’s an achievement, but a passing one. Still, it’s a virtuosic piece of filmmaking with plenty to like. That moon landing is breathtaking.
How to See It: Available via streaming services on Jan. 8 and on Blu-Ray Jan. 22. (Find a friend with a really big TV.)
 


 


PHOTO COURTESY PARAMOUNT PICTURES
 

#6 — Annihilation
The first 2018 film that really impressed me was “Annihilation,” a mind-bending work of hard science fiction. Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Jennifer Jason Leigh (a perfect quartet) lead an expedition into a terrifying land where physics has stopped working the way it ought. Director Alex Garland remains at the forefront of modern sci-fi, and he also crafted some of the year’s best moments of fear (in a year of pretty darn good horror flicks).
How to See It: On streaming services and Blu-Ray now. Also playing at Row House Cinema through Jan. 3.
 

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