Top ten movies of 2018

2018 has come to a close, which means it’s time for everyone’s favorite time of the year. No, not the holidays. Not winter break. No, it’s, of course, time for the arbitrary ranking of various things that have happened throughout the last 365 days. This leads me to our topic today: my top 10 movies of 2018. I can’t say I’ve seen every movie this year, but these are a few that every should absolutely go out and see.

#10: “Incredibles 2”

For 14 years, fans have waited for everyone’s favorite crime fighting family to make their return, and return they do. Director Brad Bird waited so long because he felt he didn’t want to rush a sequel, but rather wait until he figured out the next thematic step in the saga of the Parr family, and it seems his waiting payed off. With a relevant story, nice, human emotional beats for the characters, beautiful animation and exciting action sequences and set pieces, “Incredibles 2” is a fun time for families and nostalgic fans alike. While perhaps it suffers from having an underdeveloped antagonist, “Incredibles 2” cements itself as a solid sequel and engaging blockbuster for all.

#9: “BlacKkKlansman”

2018 has seen Spike Lee’s triumphant return, with his film about a black cop going undercover within the KKK. With its highly stylized aesthetic, blaring 70’s funk music, and great performances by John-David Washington and Adam Driver (as well as a wonderfully villainous performance from “That 70’s Show”’s Topher Grace as David Duke), “BlacKkKlansman” proves for an exciting, and socially relevant tale that uses it message and story as a striking allegory for the socio-political climate. While some of the commentary is a little too on the nose for my taste, “BlacKkKlansman” is still a brazen and true return for Spike Lee.

#8: “A Quiet Place”

Of all the places that I expected to see fresh horror come from, John Krasinski of “The Office” was not it. Yet, here we are. A wonderful writer/director debut, Krasinski has come out of the gate swinging, showing how one doesn’t need lengthy monologues, or even all too many lines in general to convey emotional beats. Lying somewhere between horror and family drama, “A Quiet Place” tells the story of one family attempting to survive after earth has been attacked by a race aliens who can hear you from miles away. Every sound cause you to clench your fist with tension, knowing even the slightest creak can spell doom for our heroes. With a solid script, a wonderful understanding of tension, and great performances by real life couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, “A Quiet Place” gives enough scares and enough emotional resonance to keep you engaged the whole time.

#7: “Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse”

Through movie blogs and podcasts I have heard rumblings of the superhero movie genre starting to feel stale. While some recent movies have mixed up the formula, the constant stream of comic book movies can sometimes make it feel like they are the only movies being released. However, “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” feels ripped directly from the pages of a comic book, and is all the better for it. Due to the fact that it’s an animated film, “Into the Spider-Verse” has no reality it needs to base itself in. Instead, it can play around with bombastic visuals and intricate and ridiculous storytelling. It introduces the audiences into a lively world, that’s familiar, yet still different enough to feel new and fresh. With its star studded cast (Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Chris Pine, John Mulaney, Liev Schreiber, to name a few), “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” is a wonderful adventure that all ages can enjoy.

#6: “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”

One may have expected Tom Cruise doing life threatening stunts for an entire movie to have gotten old at this point. One would be wrong. While you might be hard pressed to find a well developed character arc in this movie, or a developed antagonist, it is hard to deny the genuine joy and childlike excitement one gets from this film. The story is fast paced and gripping, the action sequence are, as always in this franchise, incredible, and on the more surprising side, the cinematography is impressive and even beautiful at times. With a strong, albeit not very dynamic performance by Tom Cruise, and a very impressive ensemble (with a special shoutout to Henry Cavill, who is having a blast in his role), “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is a thrilling, fantastically fun ride that just may be the best in the series.

#5: “Eighth Grade”

Bo Burnham has gained a reputation for his musical comedy specials based in introspection and and societal evaluation. In his directorial debut, his background in this has clearly come in handy, as “Eighth Grade” comes off as one of the most honest, human films of the year. “Eighth Grade” tells a story that all can relate to at least partly. Everyone can understand the awkwardness of being in middle school and just how ridiculous we act as children. This is the most secondhand embarrassment you’ll probably ever feel in a movie, but the subject matter makes it work. Elsie Fisher is wonderful and lovable as our young protagonist. You empathize at every awkward moment, and you rejoice at every success. Bo Burnham knocks it out of the park with this fascinating debut.

#4: “Sorry to Bother You”

This is one of the most absurd movies I have seen this year. And I loved every moment of it. “Sorry to Bother You” is the directorial debut of musician Boots Riley, and it has a lot to say. It tackles the problems with corporate executives, cultural appropriation, the treatment of workers, the numbing of the human psyche through the dumbing of media programs and the temptations of greed vs one’s own morality, upping itself in its slightly science fiction absurdity at every turn. It is important to note however, there is one jump that may deter some. In the last 45 minutes of the film, there is a twist that is so out of left field and ridiculous, and it will take up a large chunk of the ending. If you’re unable to get on board with it, you might not like the end of it. But if you’re willing to accept the movie’s strange reality, it’s a great time. Its star studded cast carries this film with ease (Danny Glover, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, Steve Buscemi, Forest Whitaker, David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Tessa Thompson, Lily James, and a fantastic leading man performance from up and comer Lakeith Stanfield), and its relevant story are a delight to behold. If you are into the bombastic and absurd, this is the film for you.

#3: “A Star is Born”

Sticking with the theme of directorial debut, “A Star is Born” is debut of actor Bradley Cooper, and it is one solid way to get started. One of the biggest film sensations of the year, “A Star is Born” manages to recapture and improve on the magic of the three previous versions of this film, now with incredible talent Lady Gaga playing alongside Cooper in what is a great performance from the both of them. Both have time to show off their vocal and acting chops as the audience views this couple struggle with their fame and their own relationship. Bradley Cooper also shows off his new talent behind the scenes, with some moments that are intricately and smartly made, even for a veteran director, hopefully paving the way for several more directing credits from Cooper to come in the future. With its fantastic original songs, engaging performances, and moments that just captivate your whole soul, “A Star is Born” is one to check out.

#2: “Green Book”

When I first saw the trailer for “Green Book”, I thought it looked cute. I was excited to see Viggo Mortensen doing some work, but I didn’t plan on going out of my way to see it. However, when asked if I wanted to tag along with my family, I said “sure, why not?,” and I’m glad I did. There’s something so sincere and endearing about this film that can be very hard to find nowadays. You leave the theater just feeling a little better about yourself. It follows Viggo Mortensen as Italian-American New Yorker Tony “Lip,” as he is given a new job driving famed African American pianist Donald Shirley Jr., portrayed by academy award winner Mahershala Ali, across the deep south for his new tour in the early 1960’s. We watch as the two learn from each other, and slowly break down the barriers of American racism as a close friendship forms between the two. Funny, heartwarming, and based on a true story, “Green Book” will leave you feeling a little better about the world, and is absolutely worth a viewing.

#1: “First Man”

If you happened to read my review of this film, you may have been able to tell that I was absolutely smitten with it. Director Damien Chazelle takes a classic American tale, and flips it on its head, showing just how truly daunting the space-race of the 1960s was. With an auteur’s hand, Chazelle shows off the inner workings of NASA, Neil Armstrong’s personal struggles, and terrifying nature of space. Each blare of horns the score throws at you leaves you feeling just as determined as Armstrong to reach the moon. In a movie one might think is dialogue and exposition heavy, Chazelle shows that sometimes silence is more important than sound, that what isn’t said can sometimes reveal much more. With solid performances from Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, wonderful camera work, and a brilliant original score, “First Man” shows director Damien Chazelle is going to be a name people should get used to hearing, and is my favorite film of 2018.