2018 spoiled us with so many good-to-great movies. Fans flocked to exceptional blockbuster fare like "Black Panther" and gave ALL their money to horror (thanks, "A Quiet Place, "Hereditary," and "Halloween.") We also got to see Tom Cruise out-Jackie Chan Jackie Chan by hanging -- then falling -- from a moving helicopter. Blessed be the fruit. From Oscar-contenders to four-quadrant hits, here are the year's best films.
A perfect sequel, this January 2018 release charmed the hell out of audiences and critics as Paddington Bear found himself facing his highest stakes yet, thanks you villain Hugh Grant. And that ending, where Paddington almost drowns? It will give you feels on par with the incinerator scene in "Toy Story 3."
So-called “adult” comedies seldom resonate with critics and audiences alike, but filmmakers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley plays its twists and turns perfectly straight for what ends up being a terrifically funny thriller. Meanwhile, Rachel McAdams is wonderful as the spirited Annie, and Jesse Plemons absolutely steals the show in a turn for which he absolutely deserves to contend for Best Supporting Actor.
Ryan Coogler's groundbreaking and box office-record setting Marvel entry is one of the studio's most assured and dramatically-satisfying efforts. Timely with its subject matter and grounded in character-driven stakes, "Black Panther" is as gripping as studio filmmaking gets. And Michael B. Jordan gives a nuanced and sympathetic portrayal of Killmonger, Marvel's best villain by a mile.
Just because Paramount all but dumped this movie in February (and gave Netflix international release on its streaming service) doesn't mean you should skip this trippy, frightening, and emotional sci-fi drama. Directed by Alex Garland ("Ex Machina"), who also wrote the adaptation of the popular sci-fi novel, Natalie Portman leads a team of scientific specialists into The Shimmer -- which is basically an alien form of space cancer that has infected a section of Florida and refuses to stop expanding. As it grows and changes and adapts all those within its range, the film tells a devastating story of creation as a form of self-destruction -- as told through the eyes of Portman's unfaithful wife, who struggles through The Shimmer to find the husband she lost to it. Also: The bear creature that sounds its female victim's scream when it roars is one of the scariest things ever made in movies.
'A Quiet Place'
John Krasinski’s tight-lipped thriller broke box office records last spring, and it’s quietly racked the kind up accolades that hint it might earn a nod for Best Original Screenplay.
Charlize Theron reunites with the writer and director of "Young Adult" to deliver another underrated drama about the emotional and physical cost of motherhood. Theron's performance is scary-good, though that wasn't enough to rise above the din of summer blockbusters in a way that attracted mass audiences. Ignore the mixed reactions to the film's twist involving a nanny character and make sure you give this movie a watch.
'Avengers: Infinity War'
The Russo Brothers had the unenviable task of paying off ten years of storytelling in the MCU, and they pulled it off effortlessly. While it sags with a subplot involving Thor reigniting a planet-sized forge in order to build a weapon to defeat Thanos (SO MUCH CG!), it more than makes up for it with the dramatic weight and consequences (see "I don't feel so good..." memes) forced upon its heroes. Thanos' victory is a body blow to the Avengers, and the execution therein resonates into one of Marvel's best and most well-told adventures.
4. 'Private Life' (2018)
This more recent addition to the Netflix catalog also happens to be one of the service's best. Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn are fantastic as a middle-aged couple trying to finally become parents by any means necessary.
How in the world did Paul Schrader go from “Dog Eat Dog,” a barely watchable, pornographically violent Z-grade crime movie (starring Nicolas Cage, of course) to “First Reformed,” a beautiful, transcendent drama that moves like a thriller. Ethan Hawke plays a former military chaplain put in charge of an ailing historic church, who gets involved in the life of a young widow (Amanda Seyfried) whose husband was planning an act of eco-terrorism. It might seem overwrought or too philosophical for its own good, but “First Reformed” is a transfixing, oftentimes downright mesmerizing treatise on faith in 2018 America.
As a mother dealing with indescribable loss - and the creeping influence of her late mother’s mysterious machinations - Toni Collette gives one of the year’s soul-baring performances in a film that resonates both with terror and absolute humanity. Alex Wolff’s deterioration as her character’s son offers its own incredible anchor for the frightening images and ideas in Ari Aster’s meticulous writing, and later, in his expert direction of this frightening tale.
"Gucci!" This movie is so hard to watch, not because of its content and storytelling (which are top notch, thanks to comedian Bo Burnham in his writing-directing debut). But rather because it captures the messiness of middle school life and how it is lived via social media in such a relatable and emotionally-resonate way.
Damien Chazelle’s portrait of Neil Armstrong’s trek - both physical and emotional - to the moon may have mostly come and gone from theaters, but Claire Foy’s performance as Armstrong’s resilient wife seems destined to earn her a Best Supporting Actress nomination, while the film itself will likely attract nods in technical categories such as Cinematography, Editing, Music, Production Design and Visual Effects.
"Fu**ed up" barely covers both what one sees on screen and later feels after leaving the theater. This bloody, slow-burn remake of the Argento classic is not for the faint of heart. It will challenge you in ways few films in the genre can.
'Mission: Impossible - Fallout'
The sixth "Mission: Impossible" movie may well be the best in the series. Despite his advancing age, star Tom Cruise continues his single-minded dedication towards delivering the most insane stunts and action scenes captured in a major American blockbuster. The fact that this sequel pits him against Henry "Reloading Arms" Cavill just elevates this one that much higher. Audiences and critics were on the verge of obsessive behavior when it came to dissecting Chris McQuarrie's blockbuster, especially in regards to that showstopper of a third act featuring Cruise hanging from and falling off a moving helicopter. The conversation carried over into the recent home video release of the film, making it even harder for fans to wait patiently for the next installment to hit theaters.
Alfonso Cauron's much-anticipated follow-up to the Oscar-winning "Gravity" is both his best film and one of the year's most awards-worthy entries. Seek it out in a theater before streaming on Netflix.
'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'
Marielle Heller’s sophomore film, about real-life forger Lee Israel, may not be a Best Picture contender, but nominations for Melissa McCarthy for Best Actress and Richard E. Grant for Best Supporting Actor seem likely, even as its script may earn Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty a Best Adapted Screenplay nod.
'The Hate U Give'
This crime drama is based on the breakout 2017 novel by Angie Thomas. Amandla Stenberg stars as a girl torn between her poor, mostly black neighborhood and her upper crust prep school, a situation made all the more tense after her best friend is killed by a police officer.
For years now Yorgos Lanthimos has been one of the most exciting voices in world cinema, crossing over to the English-speaking realm with his gonzo romantic comedy “The Lobster” and his dark thriller “Killing of a Sacred Deer.” But nothing could prepare you for “The Favourite,” his most accessible movie so far by a considerable margin but full of all the hallmarks of his filmography (cockeyed angles, a penchant for bleak comedy, general weirdness). In short: it’s a new classic. Set in the court of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), who is being coveted by his advisor (Rachel Weisz) and a new ingenue (Emma Stone). All three performances are peerless, and the movie rollicks along, gleefully upending costume drama tropes with reckless abandon.
'A Star Is Born'
Bradley Cooper has already demonstrated a gift for transformation, and for versatility, thanks to everything from “Wedding Crashers” to “American Sniper.” But he pulls double duties as star and director in this latest version of the classic Hollywood story of two talented musicians who fall for one another as their careers take dramatically different paths. Working opposite the amazing Lady Gaga, Cooper delivers an amazing performance in a film worthy of it, and well worth his audience’s attention.
'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse'
Phil Lord and Chris Miller have a remarkable track record for turning questionable ideas into terrific films, but no one could have expected this animated Spider-spinoff to be so good that it took tons of awards already, and currently stands as front-runner for the year’s Best Animated Film.
11. 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs'
If Netflix can rope in the Coen Bros. for a new comedic Western film, you know they've really come into their own as a film distributor. "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" offers a wild ride of an anthology story with a hilariously compelling Tim Blake Nelson as a tour guide. Our only complaint is that we wish it had been a limited series as initially planned.
This Palme d’Or-winning drama from Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Still Walking”), is both adorable and scathing, equal parts Dickensian fantasy and unsparing look at the modern poverty epidemic. A family on the outskirts of Tokyo lives in poverty, but they’ve also just taken in a young boy, who they found in a car. (Is it an abduction? This question lingers.) Slowly, the family dynamics take shape and secrets begin to emerge. For a while things are sweet, if not ideal. But things become more bittersweet as they go along, with a final act that is absolutely wrenching. You may not know where “Shoplifters” is going but stick with it and you’ll be endlessly rewarded.
'Mary Poppins Returns'
What could have been a failed exercise in misplaced nostalgia was instead a joyous, lighter-than-air confection. “Mary Poppins Returns” succeeds thanks to its earnestness, the conviction of its performances (primarily Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda) and the concerted effort, from seemingly everyone involved, to not only replicate the whimsy and charm of the original film but to elevate it and modernize it for contemporary audiences. Also, the sequence combining live action with 2D animation is one of the most jaw-dropping moments in movies all year. In other words: it’s practically perfect in every way.
The feel-bad movie of the year is for anyone who, in our current tumultuous political climate, looks at past presidencies with wistful remembrance. (Big spoiler alert: things were just as awful.) Christian Bale -- in a transformative performance that is every bit as impressive as him being a jaguar in “Mowgli" -- gained weight, shaved his head, and Xeroxed every mannerism of former Vice President Dick Cheney. But it’s not mere mimicry; he does everything he can to inject depth and dimension into a man who could easily be characterized as a two-dimensional baddie. And writer-director Adam McKay, who last dazzled with “The Big Short,” takes things even further here, broadening the scope while maintaining a granular sense of storytelling. It’s like an evil “JFK.”
'Three Identical Strangers'
It’s a story too unbelievable to be true, which means of course it’s a documentary and not fiction: three handsome kids realize, through a nutty series of events, that they were triplets separated at birth. It’s an incredible story, for sure. And a happy one, like some kind of modern fantasy. But then revelations keep coming and a story that was once bathed in sunlight is plunged into darkness. It’s hard to talk about later sections of the movie without giving anything away, but there’s something sinister and not altogether unplanned about the boy’s separation. Ultimately, the movie is a galvanic triumph, one that shows you the power of love can overcome almost anything.
'If Beale Street Could Talk'
Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight" was the toast of the awards circuit two years ago, and it's very likely that his follow-up will do the same. "If Beale Street Could Talk" is a romantic drama starring KiKi Layne and Stephan James as a couple torn apart by a wrongful arrest and racing against the clock to reunite before their new baby arrives.
"Widows" is another 2018 movie worthy of the hype. Director Steve McQueen and star Viola Davis -- both Oscar-winners -- deliver a very stirring and taunt heist thriller about the widows of group of thieves struggling to clean up their mess. To say any more would spoil the movie, and before you go see it, check out these must-see capers.