Top 15 Best Movies of 2018

2018 has, yet again, released a myriad of amazing movies; several of which made history. My list comes to showcase how miraculous and powerful these movies on my list are. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen every great movie that has come out. So–don’t get upset when movies such as Cold War, If Beale Street Could Talk, and The Favourite are absent from the list. Let’s not waste any more time and dive right into my list of the top fifteen best movies of 2018. First things first…

Honorable Mentions: Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, First Man, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Hereditary, Isle of Dogs, Lean on Pete, Searching, Thoroughbreds, Three Identical Strangers, Tully, Widows

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(Source: The New Yorker)

15. Mission: Impossible – Fallout – The popular action-film franchise has been getting better with each entry. Starting off as a remake of the television show from the 1960s, the series has gotten a different director for each sequel to give them their own distinct style. I still think Ghost Protocol is my favorite in the franchise, but Fallout has so much going on it feels like I’ve been on a massive roller-coaster ride. Filled with twists and turns, death-defying stunts, and almost wall-to-wall action. Kudos to Tom Cruise, for risking his entire life taking on roles like IMF agent Ethan Hunt. Another kudos to director Christopher McQuarrie for making the most exhilarating thrill-ride of the summer. I bet you can feel every bone breaking during the brutal bathroom fight.

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(Source: Forbes)

14. A Quiet Place – This will surprise anyone I prefer this movie over another great horror movie such as Hereditary. No offense, but A Quiet Place is a much more superior horror movie that could work as an old silent film. Starring and directed by John Krasinski, this movie contains no spoken dialogue (save for one scene), but the suspense is at an all-time high. While the concept concerning a world where monsters are blind yet extremely sensitive to sound might be similar to Signs and Tremors, A Quiet Place has never come out at a perfect time than in 2018.

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(Source: Variety)

13. Boy Erased – Lucas Hedges is joining the likes of Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet as one of the best actors of the new generation. After receiving praise in Manchester by the Sea and Lady Bird, he gives another phenomenal performance in Joel Edgerton’s excellent sophomore feature as Jared Eamons, a teenager who is forced by his parents (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, also astounding) to attend a gay conversion therapy program. The audience is with Jared every step of the way as he tries to convince his parents to accept for who he truly is. Through subtle yet unflinching flashbacks, Jared’s struggle of coming out truly shines.

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(Source: IMDb)

12. Black Panther – The MCU has become the highest-grossing franchise of all-time. Things have changed since the release of Iron Man in 2008. New characters have been introduced and the stakes have gone higher than before. Black Panther has broken records left to right; becoming the highest-grossing film not only in the franchise, but also directed by a black director and starring a mostly black cast. And for good reason!

Ryan Coogler is a great director to look out for. He envisions a world unlike any other; with its distinct culture norms, environment, and politics. Chadwick Boseman leads an excellent cast portraying one of the coolest superheroes I’ve seen on the silver screen. The movie is not without its sense of humor, dazzling visuals, and thrilling action set-pieces. Wakanda Forever!

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(Source: The New York Times)

11. Green Book – This movie surprised the hell out of me! This time, Peter Farrelly goes solo as the director for this true story about a friendship between white bouncer Tony Lip and black pianist Don Shirley–played to perfection by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. It does sound like a reversed version of Driving Miss Daisy, but this is an entertaining history lesson and road trip movie that is hard not to smile all the way through. Containing some laugh-out-loud moments, hard-hitting realism of the Civil Rights Movement, wonderful music, and dazzling cinematography by Sean Porter. A future Christmas tradition, for sure!

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(Source: Phoenix New Times)

10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – No one can simply go wrong with Joel and Ethan Coen. From Fargo to The Big Lebowski to O Brother, Where Art Thou to No Country for Old Men, they have created some of the best movies ever made through their dark, deadpan humor, memorable characters, and stunning visuals. In their Western anthology film by Netflix, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is another marvelous achievement from the brother duo. Being their first film shot digitally, they bring forth six short stories that range from laugh-out-loud hilarious to straight-up tragic. It features a massive cast including Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, and Tom Waits, and visuals so beautiful each image is a work of art (I think this is the first of their movies to ever contain CGI). Here’s how I would rank each of the stories:

  1. All Gold Canyon
  2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  3. The Gal Who Got Rattled
  4. Meal Ticket
  5. The Mortal Remains
  6. Near Algodones

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(Source: Vox)

9. First Reformed – Known for writing the screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Paul Schrader directs this miraculous film about questioning one’s faith in a world where climate change is the norm. Starring Ethan Hawke, in one of the best performances of his entire career, as Reverend Ernst Toller of a small church in upstate New York, who helps a young woman (Amanda Seyfried, surprisingly superb) with an environmentalist husband. I have never seen a movie so grounded and so thought-provoking. I have a feeling this movie would be viewed in film criticism classes in high schools and colleges throughout America. The final ten minutes of First Reformed are some of the most intense I’ve seen this year; more so than a lot of action thrillers I’ve ever seen.

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(Source: Parade)

8. Eighth Grade – Yes, this movie might be rated R for its language and scenes involving and referencing oral sex. Bo Burnham’s directorial debut, however, should be required viewing for eighth-graders making the transition to high school. Elsie Fisher is straight-up fantastic as Kayla, a socially inept teenager who spends more on her iPhone and making inspirational videos on YouTube that receive little to no attention at all. She tries to get through her last week of middle school by becoming more open. It’s hard not to relate to this movie and look back at your time at middle school. Let’s hope Burnham directs and writes screenplays for more funny and poignant movies like Eighth Grade in the near future.

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(Source: The Atlantic)

7. The Rider – Two movies featuring horses came out this year–Lean on Pete and this one. While the first was great and went into directions I haven’t expected, this one is easily the superior one. Being her second film, Beijing native Chloe Zhao has a great future as a filmmaker. The Rider is a stunning outlook on life, with The Wrestler being a big influence. Featuring a wonderful cast of non-professionals, their performances–particularly Brady Jandreau and his family–feel like real people. This is a special movie-going experience.

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(Source: The Atlantic)

6. The Old Man and the Gun – 2018 contained two movies featuring two legendary actors playing criminals with a distinct charm. The more recent being The Mule, starring Clint Eastwood as a 90-year-old Korean War veteran unknowingly smuggling 200 pounds of cocaine for a Mexican drug cartel.

While there is plenty to like about Eastwood’s return to directing himself for the first time since Gran Torino, I prefer David Lowery’s magnum opus The Old Man and the Gun, starring Robert Redford in his (supposedly) last acting role. Based on the too-good-to-be-true story, it’s hard not to smile at our protagonist Forrest Tucker getting away with his bank robberies using his polite manners. Although John Hunt (Casey Affleck, delivering another marvelous performance) is on his tail, Forrest will be ready for his next escape after getting caught. It might not move at a fast pace, but this movie contains an offbeat sense of humor, terrific music, an excellent cast, and a vintage feel that gives subtle nods to Redford’s early work like The Sting. Great stuff!

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(Source: San Francisco Examiner)

5. Leave No Trace – Debra Granik returns eight years from directing the Oscar-nominated Winter’s Bone to write and direct another movie that is devastating and delightful. Leave No Trace showcases the slice of life in rural America. Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie (who is going to star in Taika Waititi’s upcoming WWII satire Jojo Rabbit, coming out some time next year) are the heart and soul of the movie as Will and Tom, the father and daughter who are succumbed to come to terms with society after living off the grid for some time. I’ve seen this movie twice in theaters, and I’m surprised it earned a PG-rating (i.e. pay attention to Ben Foster’s tattoos early on). No matter what the rating is, it’s a subtle and powerful film that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

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(Source: The New York Times)

4. BlacKkKlansman – Who knew Spike Lee would make his grand return with this too-good-to-be-true story about Colorado Springs police detective Ron Stallworth infiltrating the local Ku Klux Klan? And who knew it would become a future American classic?

Like with his 1989 film Do the Right Thing, Spike shifts the tone for BlacKkKlansman almost seamlessly. You laugh so hard one minute and you get chills down your spine the next. John David Washington leads the cast with his badassery and humbleness as Stallworth. His scenes with Adam Driver’s Flip are electrifying. This movie is a wake-up call to where America is today with its race relations. The ending will leave you speechless.

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(Source: The Dallas Observer)

3. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – The documentary everybody needs right now! Fred Rogers was easily the most down-to-earth human-being who ever lived. He had a way with children and taught them how to love and be loved. It makes sense how his Christian beliefs of “Love thy neighbor; love thyself” work perfectly to the show. Director Morgan Neville dives deep into the life of Fred Rogers and the effect he and his show had on everyone. No matter the age, everyone should watch at least one episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to forget about the harsh reality of the outside world. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? came out at a great time!

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(Source: Vox)

2. A Star is Born – The fourth version of A Star is Born has been in production hell since 2010. With Clint Eastwood once attached to the project, Bradley Cooper eventually took over to direct himself in this marvelous film about the hardships of making it big in the music industry while facing one’s personal demons. This is what happens when musician Jackson Maine (Cooper) develops a relationship with aspiring singer Ally (Lady Gaga).

I had a bad feeling this movie would become a manipulative mess. What Cooper does here is anything but. Through his impressive direction and excellent performance as Jackson Maine, he gets the tone for every scene down to a T. From the music to the amazing performances (particularly from Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, and Sam Elliott), everything in A Star is Born works. It might not be easy-viewing, due to its depiction of alcohol and drug abuse, but it’s hard to look away. There might be another version of A Star is Born in the future, but this version will be hard to top. I get chills every time I listen to the soundtrack.

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(Source: Playlist)

1. Roma – Alfonso Cuarón’s latest is, by miles, the best movie of the year. Being his first film since Gravity, he takes a more personal approach in this Netflix original through his astounding direction, screenplay, and camerawork. Bringing 1970s Mexico City to pure life through the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography (after his collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki was unavailable), the story focuses on Cleo, a maid taking care a middle-class family during a rough time in history. With terrific performances from non-professionals, a straightforward narrative, outstanding attention to detail, there will never be another movie like Roma. There is so much that affected me on an emotional level. Definitely one to look out for during awards season.

There you have it! Don’t get upset that I didn’t include a movie you considered one of the best of the year on my list. Keep in mind, this is my list, not yours. I have my entire life to catch up on the movies I’ve missed.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my picks for the best and worst movies of the year. Please feel free to leave a comment on what you think are the best movies of 2018. I look forward to seeing more great movies in the coming year. Keep an eye out for changes coming to this blog in the new year. Have a Happy New Year!

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2018 Summer Movie Review: Leave No Trace

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A father (Ben Foster) and his daughter (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) try to find their way home in Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace. (Source: The Atlantic)

Remember a quirky little movie from 2016 called Captain Fantastic? It starred Viggo Mortensen as a father of six. They have been living in the forests with their vintage bus for who knows how long. Once the mother dies, they step into a scary place known as the “real world.” Earning its cult status since it premiered at Sundance, Mortensen saves that uneven movie from being a total disaster.

Eight years later, Leave No Trace marks the return for writer/director Debra Granik after 2010’s Winter’s Bone, which introduced Jennifer Lawrence into stardom. It might have a similar concept to Captain Fantastic (considering they are both set in Pacific Northwest), but this is a much superior film.

Based on Peter Rock’s novel, My Abandonment, Will (Ben Foster) is an Army veteran suffering from PTSD, who lives with his 13-year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, in her first major role) deep in Forest Park, just outside Portland, Oregon. There is always something to do; they gather kindling to make campfire, read books, play board games, and cook food. They keep tarps overhead and sleep in sleeping bags to keep warm. The only time they go into town is when Will sells his prescription drugs to earn money for groceries and propane.

One day, Tom spots a jogger. Soon enough, the authorities separate them for questioning. Tom is placed in a detention center for young girls. Will struggles to answer true/false questions on the computer. Together, they struggle coming terms with a new environment.

Who knows why Granik waited so long to release another movie. But–she picked the perfect time to release this movie. Along with co-writer Anne Rosellini, she never shies away from her love of rural America (Winter’s Bone was set in the Missouri Ozarks) and nature. Kudos to Michael McDonough’s cinematography, the vibrant greens of the forest invite the audience to a different world that Will and Tom live in. There are no villains in the story at all. The authorities and Social Services treat the two with respect. Eventually, they help them relocate to place they might call home.

From 3:10 to Yuma to Hell or High Water, Foster has never been better as the demanding father learning her daughter the ways of survival. He must learn how to live with a roof over their heads. While he prefers to head back to the forest, Tom, on the other hands, resists living in this new environment. Unlike most kids her age, she never relies on a cell phone to communicate. She walks to a farmhouse nearby where she meets a boy who participates in 4-H meetings. She makes prized possessions such as a seahorse pendant necklace and miniature toy horses. McKenzie’s performance is truly one-of-a-kind, and one to look out for in the future.

With its PG-rating, Leave No Trace is a mature story about father and daughter living in a society unlike their own, which will more likely appeal to teens and adults. It’s subtle. It’s powerful. It’s intense. It’s devastating. It’s one of the year’s best films!

4/4