10. THE FAVOURITE
Yorgos Lanthimos | 119 mins | Biography/Drama/History Olivia Coleman | Emma Stone | Rachel Weisz | Joe Alwyn
Yorgos Lanthimos’s tale of jealously, power, English royalty, and lesbianism has plenty to like – especially the performances from Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. All three of them deserve Oscar nominations, and between the three of them, they might just come away with two wins. Coleman, in the film’s lead, plays a clueless British queen who is constantly in need to affection. Fortunately for her, there are two women who compete for her affection, with the goal of gaining power. Lanthimos has built an impressive resume, but The Favourite is likely his most ambitious and widely admired work. It’s also his best film, or at least my favourite.
9. A STAR IS BORN
Bradley Cooper | 136 mins | Drama/Music/Romance Lady Gaga| Bradley Cooper | Sam Elliott | Andrew Dice Clay
The best scene from a movie in 2018 – and possibly of the entire decade – belongs to Ally’s debut performance of the song Shallow after she is put on the spot by her new boyfriend/country-western star Jack at one of his stadium-sized concerts. It’s truly the type of moment where stars are born. The film’s second half rests on an uncomforting and slow-burning tension that can only be described as unbearable at times, but that’s also part of the film’s magic. In an era where so many movies leave us emotionless, the fourth rendition of A Star Is Born is a film that woke its audience up from a long and emotionless movie coma.
8. MINDING THE GAP
Bing Liu | 93 mins | Documentary Keire Johnson | Bing Liu | Zack Mulligan
To me, Minding the Gap was the most difficult film to watch in 2018. Not because it’s painful to watch, but because it is only available on Hulu’s streaming platform. Is Minding the Gap worth getting Hulu for? Absolutely, even if I never watch another thing on it ever again. The film follows three skateboarding friends from Illinois from their teenage years until they’re young adults. Bing, who is also the film’s director, began filming his friends to cope with his abusive stepfather. His friend Zach has a child of his own, that he quickly begins to abandon and Keire feels enormous guilt about fighting with his father shortly before his dad passed away. For these three young men, skating isn’t just a hobby – it’s the way they cope with the struggles that life throws at them. Minding the Gap reminds me a lot of Hoop Dreams, a film that Roger Ebert called the best of the entire decade. Hoop Dreams had more scope and dealt more with inner-city poverty than Minding the Gap, but they do have one thing in common: They’re both two of the best documentaries ever made.
Steve McQueen | 129 mins | Crime/Drama/Thriller Viola Davis | Michelle Rodriguez | Elizabeth Debicki | Liam Neeson
There are heist movies, and then there are heist movies directed by Steve McQueen. The director, who’s past films include the Best Picture-winning 12 Years a Slave and the acclaimed sex-addiction drama, Shame, is one of our era’s biggest treasures. Widows tells the story of four women who find themselves in financial trouble after their husbands are killed during a botched heist. The storyline may not sound that different from other heist films like Ocean’s Eleven and Inside Man, but McQueen’s vision makes those films look like the work of amateurs. And making guys like Spike Lee and Steven Soderberg look like amateurs is no easy task. Of course, McQueen receives help from a very talented cast – led by great performances from Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki – and a great screenplay that intertwines the politics, power and money that drive our country.
6. A QUIET PLACE
John Krasinski | 90 mins | Drama/Horror/Sci-Fi Emily Blunt | John Krasinski | Millicent Simmonds | Noah Jupe
Remember a few years ago when everyone was raving about The Artist and its brilliant throwback to the silent film era? Well, move over The Artist because A Quiet Place sets the new standard for modern silent films. John Krasinski – the lovable Jim from The Office – wrote and directed the A Quiet Place, but perhaps his best move was casting his wife, Emily Blunt as one of the film’s leads. Krasinski and Blunt play the parents of three young children in a post-apocalyptic world where aliens destroy anyone and anything that they hear. There have been many respectable horror/thrillers in recent years, but very, very few of them feel more Hitchcockian than this brilliant joyride.
Chang-dong Lee | 148 mins | Drama/Mystery Yoo Ah-in | Steven Yeun | Jong-seo Jun | Soo-Kyung Kim
Roma may be the year’s best import, but South Korean director Chang-dong Lee’s masterful thriller isn’t far behind. Burning tells the story of a Jong-Soo, who moves back to his hometown to take care of the family farm after his father is sentenced to time in prison. While there, he reconnects with a childhood friend whom he quickly begins to develop feelings for, and agrees to take care of her cat while she’s away on vacation. When she returns, she has befriended a wealthy playboy who confesses a passion for burning greenhouses. What follows is an absorbing and debatable thriller that will remain burned in your mind for weeks.
4. LEAVE NO TRACE
Debra Granik | 109 mins | Drama Thomasin McKenzie | Ben Foster | Jeffery Rifflard | Derek John Drescher
Last year’s movie of the year, The Florida Project is still the greatest portrait of homelessness in cinema history, but Debra Granik’s heartbreaking Leave No Trace isn’t far behind. Ben Foster stars as a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress. The distress from his PTSD makes it impossible for him to live inside walls, so his thirteen-year-old daughter and him instead live in tents a public forest. Thomasin McKenzie is a revolution as the daughter who is trapped by her father’s illness. Granik has an eye for discovering young talent; her 2010 film introduced us to a very young talent named Jennifer Lawrence. If her performance in Leave No Trace is any indication, eight years from now, McKenzie may too be one of cinema’s biggest stars. Leave No Trace is a film of enormous importance and vast heartbreak.
3. FIRST REFORMED
Paul Schrader | 113 mins | Drama/Mystery/Thriller Ethan Hawke | Amanda Seyfried | Cedric the Entertainer | Victoria Hill
What does Ethan Hawke need to do to finally win an Oscar? The star of First Reformed gives one of the year’s definitive performances – arguable the best by anyone in 2018 – but still appears to be outside the bubble for an Academy Award nomination. In Paul Schrader’s brilliant First Reformed, Hawke plays the minister of a small congregation who begins to question his beliefs after he is unable to save the husband of an attendee from suicide. Hawke has starred in some pretty classic films including the Before Sunrise trilogy and Boyhood, but has never been better than he is in First Reformed. But the real driving force is the story by Paul Schrader, who many are calling his best story since Taxi Driver. I’m not fully convinced, yet. Because I think First Reformed might just be better.
Alfonso Cuarón | 135 mins | Drama Yalitza Aparicio | Marina de Tavira | Diego Cortina Autrey | Carlos Peralta
In an era where President Trump and his right-wing media have painted a vivid portrait of violent Mexicans destroying America, Alfonso Cuarόn’s beautiful and deeply personal story of his loving childhood housekeeper could not be timelier. But that alone isn’t why Roma is the most acclaimed film of the year – it’s also the year’s most delicate, heartfelt and beautiful film of 2018. Roma is focused around the life of a nanny named Cleo – played brilliantly by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio – who is hired by a middleclass family to assist around the house and take care of their four young children. Although Cuarόn wrote most of the story, he did not provide a script to his actors, and the result is evident. Roma is a film with many big, unforgettable moments, but also one that realizes that one often impacts other lives in moments that might seem quite insufficient, like taking the time to play dead with a child. But that’s not the only lesson of Roma; it’s also a film that reminds us that family isn’t restricted to blood lines, that emotions aren’t just an American thing, and that people have struggles that may not be clearly evident. Roma is an absolute masterpiece that inspires you to be your best self.
1. EIGHTH GRADE
Bo Burnham | 93 mins | Comedy/Drama Elsie Fisher | Josh Hamilton | Emily Robinson | Jake Ryan
Is there any time in one’s life that is more difficult than eighth grade? Junior high has always been a time of change, where clicks are formed and insecurities are at an all-time high, but now there’s even more pressure, thanks to Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube and cell phones. They may not deserve our sincerity, but director Bo Burnham does for making Eighth Grade, a film that is absolutely necessary for our times. His debut film captures the fears and anxieties that dictate this era in one’s life better than any film before it, and reminds everyone from teenagers to full-grown adults that low points are really just a phase that will pass. Eighth Grade focuses on Kayla, a young girl who gives advice to other teenagers on her YouTube channel, but struggles to use her own advice. Burnham, who also wrote the story, knows a thing or two about the world of social media – he himself gained fame from posting his corky songs on YouTube. His songs and sketches may be enough to please his 1.5 million YouTube followers, but fortunately he’s saved his best work for the big screen. Eighth Grade is an absolute must-see that should be shown to every teenager in America. And every adult, too.