Top 10 Movies of 2018

Alex Holmes

The Oscar nominations are out, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is in. The race is on to see which movie will be crowned Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards, taking place on February 24th. With 2018 being an excellent year for film, the Academy is bound to leave out many deserving films, even if they do honor a few great ones. There were so many great films that came out last year that it was incredibly hard to narrow it down to just ten. So here are just a few honorable mentions: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, “You Were Never Really Here”, and “First Reformed”. Now, my picks for the ten best movies of 2018:


“Roma” directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Cuarón’s sun-dappled spectacle of his own childhood memories dazzles from the start. From the gorgeous black and white to the fluid camerawork, “Roma” is a lush film. Cuaron focuses on Cleo, based on his real-life nanny, who serves a middle-class family in early 1970s Mexico City. The acting by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio in the lead role is deeply empathetic, and Marina de Tavira as the broken wife is superb. The story builds to an emotional climax unlike any I have seen this year. “Roma” is available on Netflix, so there’s no excuse not to see this bold, beautiful masterpiece.


“If Beale Street Could Talk” directed by Barry Jenkins

“Beale Street,” based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name and adapted by “Moonlight” director Jenkins, is a lush, vibrant, and powerful film. It is the story of star-crossed lovers Tish and Fonny, who are African-American, living in Harlem during the early 1970s. Fonny is wrongfully imprisoned just as Tish announces her pregnancy. The film admonishes the hate and bigotry of the time and that still exists today while also celebrating the joys of life itself. Seemingly mundane moments are infused with bright colors and a moving score. The colors pop off the screen, making it one of the most aesthetically pleasing of the year. The score by Nicholas Britell is sensational, sensuous, and elegant. The ensemble is by far the year’s best, and Brian Tyree Henry’s speech about prison is top tier acting. Everything comes together in “Beale Street” to create an important, harrowing, and vibrant film.


“First Man” directed by Damien Chazelle

Wunderkind director Chazelle, of “La La Land” fame, helmed this epic yet grounded portrait of intrepid astronaut Neil Armstrong, played by a subtly moving Ryan Gosling. The technical wizardry of the film goes above and beyond, including composer Justin Hurwitz’s elegant and ethereal score. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren captures every intimate moment in Armstrong’s journey, bringing this larger-than-life figure down to Earth.


“The Favourite” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Greek director Lanthimos does an excellent job here, but in “The Favourite,” it’s really the women who shine. Olivia Colman is Queen Anne. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are her suitors, vying for her favor (in more ways than one). This eighteenth-century romp is a visual, auditory, and emotional delight thanks to the brilliant sets and costumes, the rapturous soundtrack, and the incredible talent on display.  


“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

A finely tuned work of pure genius by the irresistible Coen brothers. It is narratively the most unique film on this list, told in six different vignettes, only connected by the constant theme of human mortality and the backdrop of the Wild West. “Buster Scruggs” ranges from pitch black comedy to haunting drama, to survivalist thriller to chilling campfire tale, with deft, gleeful wit, constructing a stark depiction of the Old West that is bound to entertain. This one’s on Netflix as well, and I strongly urge a watch. Each segment has its own strengths and weaknesses, and my favorite segment may be vastly different from yours, which is part of what makes “Ballad” so much fun.


“A Star Is Born” directed by Bradley Cooper

Cooper’s directorial debut is gripping, putting a fresh spin on a tale as old as cinema. It’s a great film because of the depth of the actors and the clarity of the direction. The music lifts you up as the story drags you down, creating a devastating emotional resonance that leaves you dumbfounded.

“The Death of Stalin” directed by Armando Iannucci

It’s witty, cynical, timely, satirical, brilliant, and funny as hell. Iannucci, best known for his TV series “Veep,” brings a caustic sense of dread and hilariousness in the deadly serious that result in a darkly comic take on the power struggle in the Soviet Union after Joseph Stalin’s death.


“Vice” directed by Adam McKay

Another political satire from another comedy legend (McKay has directed “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” and “The Big Short”), 2018 seems to be a year full of dark political comedy. “Vice” tells the story of Dick Cheney, and is as irreverent in its tone as it is scathing in its implications. It jumps around time and place, features incredible makeup on and acting by Christian Bale as Cheney, and Amy Adams as his wife, Lynne. The narrative devices it employs to great comedic effect dip into the surreal, from a menu of executive powers served at a fancy restaurant to a Shakespearean soliloquy after Cheney brushes his teeth (you have to see it to believe it). “Vice” is daring, and while it may be a bit too ambitious for its own good, it earns a spot here purely on its acting and eccentric direction that pushes the boundaries of the art form.

“Wildlife” directed by Paul Dano

Dano is known as an actor, and it shows in this story about a marriage falling apart in 1960’s Montana when the husband leaves to fight fires. He clearly knows how to direct actors, as the three leads, Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ed Oxenbould, all bring their A game. Mulligan especially does a fantastic job conveying her character’s turmoil as she becomes embroiled with another man (Bill Camp). The emotion is palpable, and the characters believable, ultimately leading to a picture perfect ending.


“BlacKkKlansman” directed by Spike Lee

The Academy is notorious for overlooking Lee’s influential and thought-provoking films, but this could be the year that he finally gets long overdue recognition. Lee’s 2018 entry stars John David Washington (Denzel’s son) as Ron Stallworth, a real-life African-American cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado during the late 1970s. The story is already fantastical in its own right but Lee embellishes it with his signature stylized direction, resulting in an enthralling movie with an ending that perfectly captures the current moment and sends a message. Lee has something to say, and his movie makes us listen.