My Top Films of 2018 (with extra bonus lists)

Before we start: In celebration of the old Cinema Knife Fight days, please check out Top Movie lists from CKF founder: L. L. Soares (he'll post it later today)!

So, let's begin: Here we are in the last year of “the teens” and time to list my favorite films of 2018. I tried to see as many movies from 2018 as I could before I clicking “publish” on this post. I managed to get a couple in at the last minute. As usual, I didn’t get to see all the movies I wanted to, especially potential Oscar contenders like MARY POPPINS RETURNS, ROMA, A STAR IS BORN, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, THE FAVOURITE and BLACKKKLANSMAN. I also want to see AQUAMAN, RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET and CHRISTOPHER ROBIN someday, to name only a few. I'll see them all soon, I hope.

Before I get to 2018, over the course of the year I got to catch up with some 2017 films I missed so let's take a quick look at my favorites from those first. 


1.   STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – a couple of annoying decisions aside I’ll save for another time, overall I thought it was absolutely brilliant and a great way to shake up the franchise, much like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) did in its day.
2.   JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE – Goofy and very funny and, finally, a movie the entire family can watch and enjoy together. Everyone was just brilliant.
3    THE DARKEST HOUR – this was an Oscar contender I needed to see before the awards, and was amazed by  Gary Oldman’s transformation.
4    THE DISASTER ARTIST – that this is a true story only makes it more riveting, and hilarious.
5    SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING – finally, a new Spider-man movie that isn’t another origin story. Tom Holland is perfect in this role.

Other 2017 films I was able to see and loved were: LADY BIRD, THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS, PASSENGERS, THE GREATEST SHOWMAN and MOTHER!. The latter I have to write a review for soon. Just finished it the other day. My word.... :)

ON TO MY TOP 10 (with some honorable mentions)

In reverse order for drama

10. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?: Like most of you, I grew up watching Mister Rogers, and it’s heartening to find that Fred Rogers was exactly as he appeared. Though the documentary had the feel of a celebration with some subtle gloss-overs (such as him being a bit of a whip-cracker on the show with the crew, though they seemed to love him immensely anyway), it was touching; a wonderful time capsule for a show, and era, where being nice to each other was the norm.
9. BIRD BOX: This is near the bottom of the list because I’ll admit to have seen only the first third and last few scenes. But I liked what I saw, especially considering the book Bird Box by Josh Malerman was my favorite book from the year before. The movie keeps very close to it, taking liberties here and there as any visual medium has to. It’s been especially heartening to see how many people are talking about in wherever I go.
8. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER VERSE: As strange and creative as I’d expected it to be from the trailers. As I write this it also just won the Golden Globe for Best Animated film. The animation was stunning, and diverse – each “Spider-” hero (there was a Spider-Woman) was animated in the style of their original comic, which made for some fun visuals because these varying styles shared scenes. It also had a very endearing story.
7. BLACK PANTHER: Like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), this was a break from what was becoming the “norm” of the slate of MCU films. With a powerful cast who also (with a couple of exceptions) are African American, and set mostly in Africa, the filmmakers had an open-road (while keeping true to the comic of course) in where to go with it. Powerful story, great special effects (mostly top-notch CGI, with a couple of misses), and a cast that almost outshined its leading man, it earned its recent Golden Globe nomination – especially for a “commercial” film.
6. GREEN BOOK – I knew almost nothing about this movie going in except the snippet of trailer I’d seen. In many ways it’s an updated DRIVING MISS DAISY (1989), only with “Miss Daisy” as a black musician (Mahershala Ali, who took home the Golden Globe for his role) traveling in the fifties with his newly-hired, rough-around-the edges Italian driver (Viggo Mortensen). It’s funny, and touching and beautifully shot.
5. ISLE OF DOGS – Wes Anderson has a definite style of movie – understated dialogue, oft-emotionless expressions on the characters even during highly passionate moments, and Bill Murry. Anderson returns to his animation roots with a new Claymation (I guess that’s a brand name, it got capitalized) movie about dogs exiled to an island by an evil, cat-loving government, and the boy who wants to find his long lost pup. Understated as everything is, it is very clever, and hilarious. And very, very odd. Funny-odd, though. If you like that sort of thing. I do. Anderson is an acquired taste.
4. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY – Rami Malek (MR. ROBOT TV Series) earned his Golden Globe for the role of Freddy Mercury and then some. Not just Malek, though, but the entire cast, including the rest of Queen who looked so much like their real-life counterparts. They drove this film with a lot of passion. Book-ended by their famous Live-Aid convert appearance, we see the inside story on the man who entertained millions. Besides the acting, the highlight is the music. I will say I’m very glad I was half a theater back from the guy in the front row who sang along with every song, even when the song might be playing in the background.
3. A QUIET PLACE – Hollywood’s favorite nice couple, John Krasinski (who wrote and directed the film) and Emily Blunt together at last in the most intense, chair gripping film I’ve ever seen. Ever. Is it the scariest? In parts, but it is the most intense. I watched it in a full theater (which is rare, especially the second week of showing – BLACK PANTHER excluded) and you could literally hear a pin drop. I learned quickly how often I fidget and make Daddy-noises in movie theaters watching this. Yea, I was that guy. :)
2. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – I was one of many who wondered if they could carry off so many actors and storylines in one film without everything feeling thin. This is one of the most dramatic and emotional Marvel movies to date. Nothing felt tacked on or rushed, every character was in the spotlight. And Thanos (Josh Brolin, his dad was in THE CAR, 1977) has to be the most three-dimensional villain in the MCU to this point. Not everyone in the theater knew there was going to be a part two, so when the ending smacked everyone upside the head and the credits rolled, I laughed at the gasps and cursing. Part Two, coming soon. No idea how they’ll top this. People will need to lower their expectations, but then again we did before and they’ve surprised us again and again with this franchise.
1. ANNIHILATION – My favorite film of 2018. Smart science fiction, a touch of surrealism (not quite as Lovecraftian bizarre as Jeff Vandermeer’s novel of the same name, though). Between the cinematography, effects, and music, and of course the story, ANNIHILATION was a feast. It’s not perfectly clear what is going on all the time, and it does not wrap up as nicely as, say, ARRIVAL (2016), which this film reminds me of a lot in tone. I’ve watched the movie three times already, in less than a year. That’s saying a lot.

Some honorable mentions. Two comedies: GAME NIGHT and TAG, whose makers succeeded where so many others have failed in the recent past: make a comedy that is very funny without resorting to crude jokes all the way through. Coming very close to the top 10 is VICE, from the makers of THE BIG SHORT (2015). Others on my HM list: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, HBO’s FAHRENHEIT 451, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE, READY PLAYER ONE, and THE MEG for being exactly what it set out to be, a fun, rompy B-Monster Movie with great special effects. There were SO many more I could include, but I really have to stop now.

Have a great 2019!