The Top 10 Films of 2018

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


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.
 

 


PHOTO COURTESY A24
 

#5 — Eighth Grade
I’ll spoil the biggest Oscar snub for you, weeks before the nominations are announced: Elsie Fisher, the young star of “Eighth Grade,” won’t be nominated for Best Actress, and that’s a crime. Her heartbreaking, touching, funny, unforgettable performance captures the implacable heart of the teenage experience in a way that decades of films have failed to achieve. Director Bo Burnham’s debut feature is a must-watch for anyone who ever felt profoundly uncomfortable at a high-school party.
How to See It: On streaming services and Blu-Ray now.
 


 


Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos / 20th Century Fox Film Corp.
 

#4 — The Favourite
The politics of a love triangle among 18th-century royals shouldn’t be particularly relatable. Yet in “The Favourite,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ fascinating and surprisingly funny period piece, universal emotions — jealousy, fear, anxiety, suspicion — take center stage. (Well, universal emotions and really excellent costumes.) Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman are great; Emma Stone gives the best performance of her career, easily topping her Oscar-winning turn in “La La Land.”
How to See It: In theaters now.
 


 


Photo courtesy Marvel Studios
 

#3 — Black Panther
It’s the greatest film in the 10-year history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and may well be the best superhero film of all time. Ryan Coogler’s epic, myth-like creation made instant icons out of T’Challa and Killmonger, finally giving us a superhero rivalry as good as Batman and the Joker. Everything about “Black Panther” works perfectly. Marvel had already raised the bar on what superhero movies could become; “Black Panther” leapt over that bar with ease.
How to See It: On streaming services and Blu-Ray now.
 


 


Photo courtesy Annapurna Pictures
 

#2 — If Beale Street Could Talk
It’s a little bit better than “Moonlight,” and “Moonlight” was the best film of 2016. Writer/director Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to that Best Picture winner, an achingly gorgeous adaptation of a James Baldwin novel, is a visual and auditory feast wrapped around a tragic romance of the sort that has all but vanished from cinema screens. The performances are great, the score is great. “If Beale Street Could Talk” is magic.
How to See It: “If Beale Street Could Talk” is currently scheduled to debut in Pittsburgh on Jan. 11.
 


 


PHOTO BY ALESSIO BOLZONI / AMAZON STUDIOS
 

#1 — Suspiria
Luca Guadagnino’s part-remake, part-tribute to the landmark Italian horror masterwork is a jarring, troubling, psychedelic orgy of madness. The camera recalls Kubrick, Lynch and Hitchcock; the performances, particularly the chameleon act from Tilda Swinton and the lead role from a thankfully rehabilitated Dakota Johnson, are uncanny. “Suspiria” is absolutely too weird, too violent and too shocking for many viewers. I, however, left the theater convinced it was not only the best film of the year but one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I hope that the mixed reaction (and little box-office attention) it received on release will be remedied by those yet to discover it. It’s a true work of art.
How to See It: “Suspiria” has left theaters. It will be released on Blu-Ray on Jan. 29 and should be available via streaming services in late January.

Honorable Mentions: “A Simple Favor”; “Beautiful Boy”; “BlacKkKlansman”; “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”; “Cold War”; “Hereditary”; “Leave No Trace”; “Shoplifters”; “A Star is Born”; “The Wife”

Categories: Sean Collier’s Popcorn for Dinner