I see a lot of movies. I think, among the middle aged Dads who are my immediate peers, I probably see way more movies than any of them. Probably 2 or 3 a week, at least. (If you’re in my demographic and actually beating that number, please let me know; I’ll tip my hat to you).
Even still, every year I read a bunch of critics’ “Best Movies of this Year” lists and I’m bummed out that I haven’t seen roughly two thirds of the movies that appear on them. Obviously I love movies and would love to do nothing but watch them and think about them and write about them all day, but the realities of being a Dad and a husband and an accountant with some baseline responsibilities to check in on the real world once in a while makes that sort of lifestyle choice pretty much impossible. But still, I love movies. And, with that said: Here are my top 15 favorite movies (that I saw) from 2018.
15. Upgrade – A really fun, scary, thought-provoking body horror/martial arts/sci-fi/action movie that packs a solid punch and also plenty of horrific limb-snapping. Really entertaining.
14. You Were Never Really Here – Beautifully shot, languidly-paced film about a guy who kills people with a hammer for money, and has, unsurprisingly, lots of problems in his personal life. Lynne Ramsey is a phenomenal stylist and I am happy to watch anything she does.
13. The Hate U Give – This is the YA Novel/Movie I hope to watch with my daughter when she’s old enough to handle the subject matter. It’s really great storytelling and gives you a perspective on police violence and racism that young white people in America really need to see, and that the Hollywood of my youth was not interest in giving them.
12. 7 Day in Entebbe – I’m a sucker for any movie about Israeli history. This one is a fantastic ensemble piece about a sobering terrorist act perpetrated by the PLO and the Bader-Meinhof organization in the 1970s that I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about going into. I enjoyed the way the movie gave you the perspectives of all the participants to these events as they unfolded. The filmmakers and a great ensemble cast painted a picture of a hijacking that was horrific, foreboding, and incredibly frustrating, when you finally realize that things in the Middle East seem to have barely progressed in the 40 years since this hijacking occurred, and are arguably even much worse.
11. A Star Is Born – The first half of this movie is riveting, then it gets kind of sloppy. But the performances are amazing and I feel like the romance really works.
10. Juliet, Naked – I’m also a sucker for Nick Hornby books made into movies. I enjoyed trying to imagine what middle-aged men who are Jeff Buckley or Elliot Smith obsessives thought about this movie.
9. Sorry to Bother You – I love how many times the city of Oakland got to be a character in a movie this year (definitely more than any previous year in history), and also how we finally live in a time where a black, Marxist filmmaker can get their unabashedly anti-Capitalist vision into the multiplexes. Watching it reminded me of how narrow the scope of the recognizable political viewpoints in Hollywood movies has been. I like that the spectrum of “acceptable” political themes in movies seems to be opening up to different, more radical kinds of voices.
8. Mission Impossible: Fallout – Possibly the best action movie ever. It would honestly be enough just to know that the A-List mega-star who’s the protagonist in this movie did their own stunts, filmed in long, steady takes with few cutaways, to find it awe-inspiring, since that basically never happens and no one’s really ever seen it before at this level. But the fact that each stunt and action set-piece is also ground-breaking and superbly terrifying easily vaulted MI: F easily into my list of the top ten films of the year.
7. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Everything they say about the ground-breaking animation in this movie is true. It’s also the most postmodern movie ever. It’s also a well-told story, and is shockingly accessible to almost any audience, despite the fact that it traffics in the minutiae of alternate Spider-Man timelines from the past 30 years of comic books.
6. Blindspotting – Oakland!! Again!! Also, one of the most interesting films about cross cultural communication I’ve seen in a while. It manages to be incredibly profound, very entertaining, and neither overly optimistic or pessimistic in describing the hurdles involved in navigating privilege and prejudice.
5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor – This movie could not have been released at a better time. There’s near universal agreement that America just plain needed to spend some time with Mr. Rogers in 2018. I definitely felt better having seen it.
4. First Reformed – One of Paul Schrader’s best movies. Ethan Hawk is amazing in this. Also, it’s cold and bleak as hell, and offers no easy answers to the incredibly topical questions it raises.
3. Widows – This movie has incredible characters and is wildly ambitious. A great heist movie and also reminds me of all of the late Sidney Lumet’s greatest movies about civic corruption. Worth your attention.
2. Leave No Trace – I honestly just saw this movie a few days ago and maybe it’s recency bias (although I don’t think so) but it easily vaulted to nearly the top of my best of list. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Great performances, and an incredibly lean, taut, meditative movie about a father-daughter relationship that’s put under intense stress by the father’s debilitating PTST, but never becomes overly melodramatic or obvious. It’s just a great, simple character study about people you really like and are rooting for the entire time.
- Black Panther – I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is on the short list for movie of the decade. It captures two fundamental things about America today: 1) We can’t get enough of superhero movies, and 2) Our culture is undergoing a huge reckoning about the role racism plays and has played in shaping our society. Pitting a superhero against the twin villains of apartheid and colonialism is a really perfect choice in 2018, and one that’s incredibly satisfying, and may make this movie the apotheosis of the whole 20th century superhero film genre. That said, Black Panther is never anything but grounded in the reality of how difficult it will be to fix a world that’s as broken as ours is. It’s a great film on many, many levels, and the high water mark of the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe project.
Anyway, those were my favorite movies this year. There are plenty more I wish I’d seen, but I probably will not get to before 2019, (and even though I’m seeing Aquaman with my wife on Saturday night, I’m not optimistic it’ll be cracking this list).
Anyway, if you have movie recommendations for other gems I might’ve missed this year, I’d love to read about them in the comments.
Thanks for reading!