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The Best Movies of 2018

January 13, 2019

By John Corrado

Another year has come and gone. While 2018 officially ended nearly two weeks ago now, I wouldn’t be able to officially say goodbye to the year without first counting down my picks for the best films that were released within that timeframe. My list of the best documentaries of 2018 already dropped yesterday, so below are my choices for the best movies that I saw last year.

While I had a good deal of trouble putting this list together, and there are a few films that I missed and would’ve liked to have seen in time for consideration (Burning, Cold War, Shoplifters, etc.), doing a top ten list is also a tradition that I don’t see fit to break. Some of these films are more idiosyncratic choices, while others are consensus picks that have already shown up on many other lists and deserve all the praise they have gotten.

Because year-end top ten lists are very much in the moment things, you can feel free to think of this list as somewhat fluid. These are simply the films from 2018 that, as of now, have stuck with me for one reason or another, followed by a bunch of honourable mentions.

#10: Beautiful Boy

Timothée Chalamet, fresh off an Oscar nomination for his breakout role in Call Me By Your Name, delivers his best performance yet as a young drug addict in Beautiful Boy, which harrowingly depicts the struggles that writer David Sheff (Steve Carell) faced trying to help his young adult son Nic (Chalamet) get clean. Working as both a compelling father-son drama, and a powerful look at how addiction effects both the user and their family, this is one of the most moving films that I saw last year, anchored by the superb work of Carell and Chalamet. This one really stuck with me, and I also want to give a special mention to Ben is Back, another powerful film dealing with opioid addiction that starred Hollywood’s fellow hot young actor (and Lady Bird’s other ex-boyfriend) Lucas Hedges.

#9: Ready Player One

Like so many other film lovers, I used to be obsessed with the work of Steven Spielberg as a kid. The director’s latest film, Ready Player One, is a visually dazzling thrill ride that pays tribute to countless cinematic classics, including several that he had a hand in making. While the film makes a lot of changes to Ernest Cline’s book, the overall story of a Willy Wonka-inspired hunt for three virtual Easter eggs, with whoever finds them gaining control of the digital world known as the Oasis, where in the dystopia of 2045 most people live out their lives, remains similar. The result is a wildly entertaining blockbuster that features an abundance of ’80s pop culture references, while also offering a surprisingly poignant story about nostalgia and being stuck in the past, with Mark Rylance delivering a touching performance as the creator of the Oasis. It astounds on a visual level, but it’s that classic Spielberg heart that caused Ready Player One to stick with me throughout the year.

#8: Mary Poppins Returns

A belated sequel to the 1964 classic, Mary Poppins Returns serves as over two hours of pure Disney magic. The film finds Emily Blunt taking over for Julie Andrews, and she is practically perfect in every way in the titular role of the magical nanny, as director Rob Marshall fills the screen with countless delights. The new songs by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman are joyful, the musical numbers are a lot of fun with “A Cover is Not the Book” and “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” being the main showstoppers, and the film’s impeccable production design and costumes offer a glorious feast for the eyes. This is a feel good movie in every sense of the term, and sometimes that’s just what we need. I left the theatre happy and with a smile on my face.

#7: Mid90s

For his directorial debut, Jonah Hill has crafted a funny and bittersweet ode to 1990s skater culture that itself feels like a lost classic from the decade. Featuring exceptional performances from its young cast, Mid90s is a scrappy and incredibly enjoyable coming of age film that follows Stevie (Sunny Suljic), a kid in 1995 who finds his tribe when he starts hanging out with an inner city Los Angeles skater crew. While Mid90s is a small film that got somewhat lost in the shuffle, Hill has crafted something that already feels like it will stand the test of time, with echoes of early Richard Linklater. The film perfectly captures the specifics of its time and place, heightened by the fact that it’s shot on Super 16 film and framed in a square aspect ratio, taking us on a glorious nostalgia trip that is by turns hilarious and heartfelt.

#6: The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos upends the usual costume drama formula with The Favourite, which reimagines the reign of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) as a pitch black comedy in which Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and her estranged cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) use seduction to jockey for control of wartime England, with whoever is in the Queen’s bed essentially holding the balance of power. The production design of the film is extraordinary, and Robbie Ryan’s cinematography is frequently astounding, making memorable use of fisheye lenses. Lanthimos keeps the tone of the piece perched precipitously between comedy and tragedy, helped along by a trio of marvellous performances from Colman, Weisz and Stone, who are all unforgettable in their own unique ways.

#5: Roma

Alfonso Cauron’s Roma, the director’s expansive, black and white homage to the Mexico of his youth and the women who raised him, has gotten near unanimous praise from critics, and deservedly so. Cauron’s cinematography is spectacular, with many sequences unfolding through single takes and panoramic shots, the attention to detail throughout every frame is incredible, and the film is carried by a moving performance from first time actress Yalitza Aparicio as the nanny that the story unfolds around. After the first hour takes its time to immerse us in this world, the second half of Roma features some of the most intensely emotional sequences of any film last year. This is a technical masterpiece, and a film that will be remembered as a classic for years to come.

#4: A Star is Born

Much has already been written about Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut A Star is Born, the fourth retelling of this story that charts one star rising as another one fades away, and that’s because it’s an absolute knockout of a musical drama. The film is anchored every step of the way by Cooper’s assured direction and transformative performance as a depressed country rocker in the throes of alcoholism, and Lady Gaga really impresses in her breakout leading role as the young singer that he falls in love with and helps turn into a pop star. This was not only one of the most entertaining movies of last year, but also one of the most emotionally powerful as well, building towards the deeply moving final few scenes. The soundtrack is incredible, with the instantly iconic power ballad “Shallow” having not left my head since seeing the film.

#3: Leave No Trace

Director Debra Granik follows up her Oscar-nominated Winter’s Bone, which presented a bleak view of backwoods life, with the masterful drama Leave No Trace, a serene and deeply moving meditation on the healing power of solitude. Ben Foster and newcomer Thomason MacKenzie carry the film with a pair of deeply felt performances as a father and daughter trying to live off grid, as society keeps intruding upon them. I saw this film over the summer, and haven’t stopped thinking about it since then. There’s just something about Leave No Trace that has made it stick with me in a profound way, and the film has steadily moved up my list throughout the year, until finally settling in third place.

#2: First Reformed

Will God forgive us for destroying His creation, and is an otherwise morally reprehensible act ever justifiable if it has the potential to save many more people? These are the questions at the centre of Paul Schrader’s haunting masterpiece First Reformed, one of the most complex and spiritually challenging works that we have gotten in quite some time. Ethan Hawke delivers the best performance of the year, and maybe of his career, as a Calvinist preacher suffering a crisis of faith and a dwindling congregation as he grapples with the question of how far God wants us to go in terms of saving the environment.

There is a sense of despair running through First Reformed that is impossible to shake. The square aspect ratio and stately composition of many of the shots recalls works like Robert Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest, and the ending, which carries with it multiple interpretations that vary depending on whether you are agnostic or a believer, will be debated and talked about for years to come. This is a major work, and not to be missed.

#1: Paddington 2

When I saw Paddington 2 on a Saturday morning nearly a year ago, I had a feeling that it would remain atop my list as the best movie of 2018, and here we are. The first film landed right in the middle of my top ten list in 2015, and I think this sequel even surpasses it, offering a miracle of a movie that comes together perfectly in every single way.

I love everything about Paddington 2, from Hugh Grant’s wonderfully campy performance as the thespian turned scoundrel Phoenix Buchanan, to Brendan Gleeson’s supporting role as a hardened prison chef embracing his sensitive side and learning to make marmalade, in one of the most joyous sequences of any film last year. And I especially love Paddington himself, the cheerful and impeccably mannered bear from Darkest Peru, who is brought to life through seamless visual effects and is voiced perfectly by Ben Whishaw.

Paddington is a kind-hearted and optimistic character who not only sees the best in everyone, but also manages to bring out the best in others, spurred on by the belief that “if we’re kind and polite the world will be right.” Put simply, no film brought me more joy last year than Paddington 2, and for that I’m calling it the best movie of 2018.

Honourable Mentions:

Avengers: Infinity War

Ben is Back

BlacKkKlansman

Black Panther

Blaze

Bodied

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Christopher Robin

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

Eighth Grade

Green Book

The Grinch

The Hate U Give

If Beale Street Could Talk

Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Love, Simon

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

The Old Man & The Gun

On Chesil Beach

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Vox Lux

Wildlife

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