Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Top Ten Movies of 2018

2018 has come to a close. This means it's time to look back at the best films the year had to offer. This year's list includes animation, documentaries, super-heroes, biopics, betrayal, a hidden gem unearthed, and a return to form by one of America's greatest living directors. Honorable mentions include Widows, Eighth Grade, First Reformed, The Old Man and the Gun, the return of The Incredibles, and the surprisingly entertaining Teen Titans! Go to the Movies. Now, here are the best movies of 2018.

10. Mary and the Witch's Flower

Our list begins with director Hiromasa Yonebayashi's beautiful anime Mary and the Witch's Flower which follows a young girl on her discovery of the wonders and horrors after learning that magic is real. The opening spot of the list turned out to be the hardest to fill, but while there were a handful of other movies that achieved greater heights at times, inconsistencies, plot issues, or a lack of emotional resonance, kept them off unseating this entry. The earliest release of any movie on this list, Mary and the Witch's Flower has stayed with me over time earning its spot on our countdown. Read the full review

Now available on home video and Netflix

9. Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Won't You Be My Neighbor? movie review

The first of two documentaries on the list, both of which hold up well to multiple viewings, Won't You Be My Neighbor takes a loving look at the life and career of Fred Rogers which is likely to bring smiles and tears for those who grew up watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Although I think the film could have done better in exploring Rogers' later life, the movie is a treasure that takes a look at the man who created something unparalleled in children's entertainment and the legacy he has left. Read the full review

Now available on home video

8. A Star is Born

A Star is Born movie review

From the opening musical performance through to the end credits, there was never any doubt A Star is Born was going to earn a spot on this list. Taking a familiar story of an aging troubled artist showing the ropes to the next generation, the film hits all the right notes providing amazing performances by its two leads Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. There were certainly more original films this year, but few which carried the emotional resonance of what Cooper (who also directs) and his co-star were able to achieve. Read the full review

Still playing in select cities. Available on Blu-ray and DVD on February 19th

7. Science Fair

The other documentary to earn a spot on the list is the triumphant Science Fair from Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster which follows students from across the globe on the road to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. With interviews from past winners and this year's contestants, the directors weave an engaging tale focused on the dedication, drive, and hopes of those who work to earn a chance to win Best in Fair. Read the full review

Still playing in select cities & available on Amazon streaming. Available on Blu-ray and DVD on May 20th

6. Avengers: Infinity War

Not since The Avengers has Marvel attempted something as ambitious as Avengers: Infinity War. Tying together characters from across a decade of movies, the latest in the Marvel pantheon turns out to be one of its best in delivering a life-and-death struggle between our heroes and the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin). The story allows for a dizzying amount plot that still allows for individual character moments to shine through the extended action. Building on ten years of foundation, the epic film offers an immense payoff for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe while leaving the door open for one last hurrah. Read the full review

Now available on home video

5. Colette

Keira Knightley's latest offers a look back at Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette whose husband (Dominic West) took sole credit for her semi-autobiographical novels about a French girl named Claudine. Feeling right at home in another period piece, Knightley shines as a woman who discovers her own self-worth and spreads her wings as an artist as she strives to take control of her life despite what society may expect from her. Read the full review

Now available on home video

4. The Other Side of the Wind

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie review

Originally shot decades ago, the final movie from legendary filmmaker Orson Welles finally found its way to audiences. The complicated story of a film within a film hits close to home for Welles who cast close friend John Huston as an aging director on the outs with Hollywood and struggling to get his latest film finished. The film within a film, also titled The Other Side of the Wind, is shown in pieces throughout the larger mockumentary involving a party at the director's home and the troubles and tribulations that boil to the surface. As relevant today as it was when he shot the film, Welles offers a commentary on changing Hollywood and the struggles of filmmaking. For those interested, I'd recommend watching the documentary They'll Love Me When I'm Dead prior to the film in order to put it into proper historical context. Read the full review

Currently available on Netflix

3. The Favourite

The second of two period pieces on the list, The Favourite offers a darkly humorous look at the rivalry between two cousins (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) for the affections of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). All three women shine in the latest from director Yorgos Lanthimos whose more wild impulses (which can lead to some bizarre tales) are held in check by the historical context and setting of the story. The provides the appropriate amount of structure for the director to paint with his vibrant colors inside the lines for a change. Read the full review

Now in theaters

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie review

In a strong year for animation there was one clear winner. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse delivers audidences the origin story of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) who takes over the mantle when his world's Spider-Man meets a gruesome end. On hand to help him as heroes from other realities (Jake Johnson, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Hailee Steinfeld) who need Miles' help to get home. Featuring an unique visual style and terrific characters, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse easily takes home the trophy as best animated film of the year. Read the full review

Now in theaters

1. BlacKkKlansman

Some years it's incredibly easy, and obvious, to pick the best movie of the year. Based on a real events involving a young African-American Colorado Springs police officer (John David Washington) going undercover to become a card-carrying member of the Klu Klux Klan, Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman is a marvel to behold. Washington leads a terrific cast that also includes Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, and Topher Grace as Grand Wizard David Duke. Working on multiple levels, Lee offers a fascinating, heartfelt, and amusing story which he helps frame as incredibly relevant in today's politically-charged climate. If there truly is such a thing as an instant classic, BlacKkKlansman fits the bill. Read the full review

Now available on home video

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