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: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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The life and legacy of Fred Rogers is explored in the new documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Source: IMDb)

I watched an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood this morning where Fred talks about how balloons are made and Prince Tuesday, in the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe”, being worried about his parents not coming home. Mr. Rogers’ message really hit home. “Children need to be able to believe their parents, and Prince Tuesday needed to know that his mother and his dad really did mean what they said about coming home.”

If you have never watched a single episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, your childhood must have been boring. Fred Rogers always had a gift of teaching children the world around them as well as learning how to love and be loved. He always meant what he had to say in front of the camera. In an imperfect world, he talked to the young viewers as a way they could understand. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is the latest documentary from director/producer Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom). He dives deep into the most humble, down-to-earth, and complex human-being who ever lived.

Born and raised near Pittsburgh, Fred Rogers hated how children’s television shows, back in the 1960s, were presented. They would always display cartoon violence or slapstick (“It’s not all clowns and guns”). After attending graduate school for childhood development at the University of Pittsburgh, he decided to star in a show on WQED, in which he would eventually host for more than 30 years. The show contained colorful sets, puppets (not to mention providing the voices of all of them), and, most importantly, life lessons to teach to the kids around the country. The documentary mixes interviews from his friends (from Yo-Yo Ma to Francois Clemmons), his wife Joanne, and his two sons talking about his life and legacy, home footage of Fred Rogers, and gorgeous hand-drawn animated sequences that play out as his dreams as Daniel Tiger, who represents his childhood anxieties and feelings; trying to understand the meaning of what’s going on.

While seeing the documentary, I learned about the man I never knew. For instance, Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. It makes sense considering his Christian beliefs of “love your neighbor, love yourself” worked well for the show. His soothing voice, beautiful music ability, and bright personality is what made the show shine. He never talked down to the young viewers. He gave them full understanding about everything including the meaning behind number 143 and assassination, following the death of Robert F. Kennedy.

Rogers was no stranger to criticism and rumors. This included being a Navy veteran, being gay, and having tattoos. Of course, they were all false. Also, on a monumental day on May 1, 1969, he spoke before the Senate to defend the cutting of $20 million in PBS funds, proposed by Richard Nixon.

Rogers had a delightful sense of humor. He always had fun with his crew on the set, especially when they pull pranks on one another (their stories had the audience in stitches). He didn’t care for the parodies of the show, from Johnny Carson to Saturday Night Live. While he idolized Eddie Murphy, he found his parody Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood to be quite offensive.

With the world infested with segregation and the Vietnam War being in full swing, black men were thrown out of a “whites only” pool by guards pouring bleach on them. However, in one episode, Rogers invited Francois Clemmons (who was black and gay) to be on the show to sit and talk with him dipping his feet in the wading pool. He told Clemmons he likes him just the way he is. No matter what race, gender, or disability, he treats everyone as equals. His song, “It’s You I Like”, showcases the true love in one another.

But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you, it’s you I like.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a perfect documentary for this day and age. It’s definitely something that would make people learn more about Fred Rogers and his show. I doubt there will be another person like him. He will always be my role model. This is easily one of 2018’s best!

4/4