Best Movies of 2018


Alex Garland | 115 mins | Adventure/Drama/Horror
Natalie Portman | Jennifer Jason Leigh | Gina Rodriguez | Tessa Thompson

“Annihilation is the best sci-fi film in years, a mind-blowing trip into an inscrutable heart of darkness that marks writer-director Alex Garland as one of the genre’s true greats. Desperate to understand what happened to her soldier husband (Oscar Issac) on his last mission, a biologist (Natalie Portman) ventures alongside four comrades (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny) into a mysterious, and rapidly growing, hot zone known as the “Shimmer.” What follows is an unsettling and hallucinatory tale of destruction and transformation, division and replication—dynamics that Garland posits as the fundamental building blocks of every aspect of existence, and which fully come to the fore during a climax of such surreal birth-death insanity that it has to be seen to be believed. Apropos for a story about nature’s endless cycles of synthesis and mutation, it combines elements of numerous predecessors (Apocalypse Now, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stalker, The Thing) to create something wholly and frighteningly unique.” – Nick Schager, Esquire


Bradley Cooper | 136 mins | Drama/Music/Romance
Lady Gaga| Bradley Cooper | Sam Elliott | Andrew Dice Clay

“After two foreign-language films (in black-and-white, no less), it’s time to give Hollywood its due. I was not a particular fan of either the Judy Garland or the Barbra Streisand version of A Star Is Born, and yet another remake of the story—the fifth overall—initially seemed to me a poor idea. But in his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper continues to prove that he can do more, so much more, than almost anyone imagined back when he was pigeonholed in cocky, ladies’-man roles. As an actor, he has a range that has been expanding with every passing year: In the familiar leading roles of this film, he and Lady Gaga are both fresh and both fantastic. And as a director, Cooper gets so many little things right that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been doing this for 20 years. A star is born, indeed.” – Christopher Orr, The Atlantic


Chang-dong Lee | 148 mins | Drama/Mystery
Yoo Ah-in | Steven Yeun | Jong-seo Jun | Soo-Kyung Kim

“A bone-dry comedy of class warfare. A perplexing missing-person mystery worthy of Hitchcock or Antonioni. An existential meditation on the little hungers and great hungers that drive us. There’s no single right way to classify Burning, so why not just call it the best movie of the year and leave it at that? Returning after an eight-year hiatus from filmmaking, South Korean master of the slow burn Lee Chang-dong (Poetry) did more than perfectly capture the subjective ambivalence of Haruki Murakami’s original short story, “Barn Burning.” In stretching it out to fill two-and-half perfectly paced hours, he also teased from his source material a wealth of new meanings and ambiguities, percolating through the love triangle of sorts that envelops an introverted writer (Ah-in Yoo), his hometown classmate-turned-crush (Jong-seo Jun), and her slick, wealthy new beau (Steven Yeun, rivetingly loathsome in a tricky role). You didn’t have to look hard to see a disturbing relevance in the film’s simmering stew of resentments, the working-class and explicitly male rage that boils over into a shocking climax. (Not for nothing does Donald Trump make a televised cameo.) But Burning’s power is more timeless that it is timely, located as it is in big questions without clear answers: real riddles of desire, longing, and motivation, none any easier to solve than the disappearance at the center of this captivating enigma.” – A.A. Dowd, AV Club


Ryan Coogler | 134 mins | Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Chadwick Boseman | Michael B. Jordan | Lupita Nyong’o | Danai Gurira

“Neither its cultural importance nor financial success can be understated. It’s a wonder of technical majesty, from Afro-futuristic landscapes to impeccably designed costumes. Probably no other superhero film has the nerve to take on colonialism and global resource-sharing. But here’s the thing about “Panther”: It’s just an endlessly enjoyable film. The personality lineup is so strong, you’ll have a new favorite character every time – maybe Letitia Wright’s precociously genius Shuri, then Michael B. Jordan’s captivating antagonist Killmonger the next – with Chadwick Boseman anchoring the whole thing with winning gravitas. And need we mention the armored war rhinos? Nothing was the complete package this year quite like director Ryan Coogler’s Wakandan treasure.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today


Spike Lee | 135 mins | Biography/Crime/Drama
John David Washington | Adam Driver | Laura Harrier | Topher Grace

“Meanwhile, Spike Lee’s “BlackKklansman” — which Boots Riley, in a public “political critique,” condemned as a whitewash of police malfeasance — was the second movie of the year to make use of a black character’s “white voice” as a major plot point (and a source of comedy); perhaps Lee, too, worried that a movie in 2018 that makes heroes of law enforcement represented too much of a “white voice” itself, so the film’s most powerful passages are lengthy digressions that abandon the plot to memorialize the victims of lynching; to mourn the role of Lee’s beloved chosen art form, cinema, in the stoking of racism; and to condemn — with news footage from Charlottesville that is presented with fury and sorrow — the public encouragement of racial violence. Inspired by an actual event, the film stars John David Washington as a rookie Colorado police detective who recruits a white Jewish veteran officer, played by Adam Driver, in a plan to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.” – John Beifuss, Memphis Commercial Appeal


Bo Burnham | 93 mins | Comedy/Drama
Elsie Fisher | Josh Hamilton | Emily Robinson | Jake Ryan

“It was an extraordinary year for directorial debuts: Ari Aster’s familial horror drama, Hereditary, Boots Riley’s fever-dream social satire, Sorry to Bother You, and Carlos López Estrada’s politically charged buddy comedy, Blindspotting, all marked the start of careers to keep a sharp eye on. But no first-time filmmaker produced a work as unexpectedly assured as the former YouTube performer and stand-up comic Bo Burnham with this intimate portrait of a painfully shy middle school girl named Kayla, played with astonishing openness by then–14-year-old Elsie Fisher. The supporting cast, made up largely of nonprofessional middle schoolers chosen by Burnham, emerges as a group of real, differentiated individuals, not archetypal teen-movie types. And in a year notable for its many loving on-screen dads (in A Wrinkle in Time, A Quiet Place, A Star Is Born, Creed II), Josh Hamilton’s nerdy but noble Mark may be the dad-est of them all.” – Dana Stevens, Slate


Barry Jenkins | 119 mins | Drama/Romance
KiKi Lane | Stephan James | Regina King | Teyonah Parris

“In adapting James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, filmmaker Barry Jenkins has created something even more self-assured and visionary than his Oscar-winning “Moonlight.” Ripe with a bursting, overwhelming sense of beauty in the world, the movie also acknowledges the frailty of joy, telling a story of young lovers torn apart by a system set up against them. Jenkins never burnishes over the thornier, political aspects of Baldwin’s story — as in, Brian Tyree Henry’s fulcrum-point monologue that the movie pivots on — creating a rare literary adaptation that captures the tone, the imagery and the feeling of its source material.” – Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times


Yorgos Lanthimos | 119 mins | Biography/Drama/History
Olivia Coleman | Emma Stone | Rachel Weisz | Joe Alwyn

“I know acting categories are an awards season necessity, but I can’t bring myself to think of Olivia Colman as the “actress in a leading role” of The Favourite. She is, don’t get me wrong, fully delightful, playing Queen Anne as a gouty toddler of a monarch, impulse-driven and querulous while also being capable of bursts of devious plotting. But it feels wrong to declare any of the three women at the forefront of Yorgos Lanthimos’s indelibly strange and wonderful period comedy as the main character, when it so deftly shifts the audience’s sympathies around as it goes. For a while, it’s a maybe-career-best Emma Stone as Abigail Hill, who seems like the hero, the young underdog seizing opportunities to get herself into the Queen’s good graces. Then it seems like Rachel Weisz’s gloriously imperious Sarah Churchill is the one to root for, especially after a nasty accident, when it seems like she’s going to return to fuck shit up in her lace facial wrap. And of course, the Queen herself can be a compellingly tragic figure, since the only relationship in her life that seems to be even remotely genuine is hopelessly unhealthy. But to hand ownership of the story to only one of these women seems to miss the point — that there’s no winning the game they’re playing. It sure is a joy to watch, though.” – Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed News


Paul Schrader | 113 mins | Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Ethan Hawke | Amanda Seyfried | Cedric the Entertainer | Victoria Hill

“By turns thoughtful and outrageous, Paul Schrader’s drama about an alcoholic ex-military chaplain (Ethan Hawke, in one of his finest performances) pushes its writer-director’s career-long interest in contemplation and grotesque, gratuitous self-destruction to new extremes. As the minister and caretaker of an old clapboard church in upstate New York, Hawke’s depressed, soft-spoken Rev. Toller struggles with the betrayed promise of Christianity—and with the secrets of a Marian young widow (Amanda Seyfried) whose husband left behind an explosive suicide vest. The material may be borrowed from Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light, Robert Bresson’s Diary Of A Country Priest, and Schrader’s own screenplay for Taxi Driver, but First Reformed’s perturbed vision of the modern End Times of terrorism and ecological disaster is very much its own. For all of its boxy visual asceticism, the result is one of Schrader’s richest films—and one’s that likely to grow on the viewer, as it has on this writer.” – Igntiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club


Alfonso Cuarón | 135 mins | Drama
Yalitza Aparicio | Marina de Tavira | Diego Cortina Autrey | Carlos Peralta

“Alfonso Cuarón’s haunting portrait of a socially, racially, and sexually stratified Mexico City in 1970 and ’71 comes dressed as an autobiographical memory play: Cuarón’s stylized recollection of his newly broken middle-class family and of the housekeeper, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), who struggled to find her equilibrium in a world in which she had so little power. An indigenous Mexican (her primary language is Mixtec) in a country ruled by the descendants of Spanish colonialists, Cleo holds herself in reserve, and at first even the camera can’t quite penetrate her mask of stoicism. But slowly … slowly … the audience is drawn in, and Cuarón’s formal, black-and-white cinematography (nearly every shot is a gliding horizontal line) begins to pay off emotionally. Cleo is buffeted, trapped, nearly broken, until her suffering and endurance takes on the quality of myth. Does Cuarón overidealize Cleo? Certainly. But the hard, material fact of her and of Aparicio’s performance gives Roma its human core. If you weep through the final credits, you won’t be alone.” – David Edelstein, Vulture

Full Top 50:

2First Reformed357514.141%7%1662148%7%
3The Favourite317324.137%5%1241236%4%
4If Beale Street Could Talk279174.732%2%116933%3%
5Eighth Grade249184.829%3%931127%3%
7Black Panther226184.926%3%67419%1%
9A Star Is Born (2018)191204.222%3%57416%1%
11Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse173164.520%2%66619%2%
13Leave No Trace16744.719%1%87425%1%
14You Were Never Really Here166154.819%2%71820%3%
15Sorry to Bother You165135.419%2%66319%1%
17The Rider147184.817%3%70720%2%
18Mission: Impossible - Fallout14554.917%1%53215%1%
19A Quiet Place14295.216%1%36310%1%
20First Man13795.216%1%50214%1%
22Paddington 2125104.815%1%50414%1%
24The Ballad of Buster Scruggs12465.214%1%57416%1%
25Can You Ever Forgive Me?12235.014%0%62118%0%
26Cold War11584.413%1%61517%2%
27Won't You Be My Neighbor?10165.212%1%2517%0%
30Support the Girls8945.210%1%55416%1%
31The Death of Stalin8865.010%1%39111%0%
32The Other Side of the Wind84155.010%2%381011%3%
33Avengers: Infinity War83105.110%1%1524%1%
34Minding the Gap8334.510%0%43212%1%
35Green Book8084.99%1%2828%1%
36Isle of Dogs8015.49%0%2317%0%
39Happy as Lazzaro6734.98%0%3219%0%
40Private Life6725.18%0%38111%0%
41Madeline's Madeline6555.08%1%36210%1%
42Let the Sunshine In6335.27%0%3339%1%
43The House That Jack Built5744.57%1%1605%0%
45Crazy Rich Asians4705.35%0%1705%0%
47The Hate U Give4405.65%0%2006%0%
48Three Identical Strangers3805.54%0%1905%0%
49Lean on Pete3735.14%0%1705%0%
50Amazing Grace3423.94%0%1514%0%

Lists Included 862 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 349

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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