Top 10 Films of 2018

TOP10

It seems like I say this every time but another year has flown by. Now here we sit looking back at the movie year that was. 2018 was unique in that so many of my favorite films were never on my radar. A handful of blockbusters delivered while several small independent movies were huge surprises. Parsing this year’s batch of contenders was no easy task. Nonetheless we do these things so here we go:

As always I’ll begin by showing love to the fine movies that just missed my top 10. Here are my #11 – 20 picks:

  • #20 – “The 12th Man”
  • #19 – “Bad Times at the El Royale”
  • #18 – “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”
  • #17 – “Apostle”
  • #16 – “Custody”
  • #15 – “Eighth Grade”
  • #14 – “Paddington 2
  • #13 – “You Were Never Really There”
  • #12 – “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • #11 – “At Eternity’s Gate”

Here are my Top 10 films from 2018:

Quiet10

This innovative and surprisingly original horror film came from John Krasinski who not only starred but co-wrote and directed it. The movie’s central horror conceit is effective but at its core is the story of family shattered by grief and in a desperate struggle to pick up the pieces. Each family member is struggling under the weight of their own guilt and sense of loss. Each struggle to deal with it in their own ways. The craftiness in melding the horror and family elements can’t be praised enough.

Guardians10

This was easily one of the most beautiful films of 2018. It comes from French filmmaker Xavier Beauvois and tells a little known yet powerful World War I story. It’s not about the troops but the women left behind to keep their families, their farms, their livelihood together. The film’s slow observant rhythm rewards the patient viewer with a unique perspective on these characters and the uneasy drama that unfolds in the final third. Fine performances throughout and top-notch direction inspired by some of the great French filmmakers of the past.

Sicario210

Despite missing some key players from the first film, this worthy follow-up captured most of what made its predecessor so effective. It’s a tense, slow-boiling border thriller that tackles a highly contentious current issue and leaves neither side of it unscathed. Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin return to wreak havoc among the cartels stepping over any legal/illegal line set in front of them. Some saw the film as a pointless sequel. I saw it as opening up the series to a wealth of interesting possibilities.

Roma10

The awards curcuits have been buzzing over Alfonso Cuarón’s intimate and deeply personal “Roma” and for good reason. Inspired by a key figure from his childhood, Cuarón weaves together one gorgeously crafted visual composition after another. Every frame is crafted with painstaking detail and not an inch of the shot is wasted. It’s a film that hearkens back to the filmmaking of Fellini, Tati, and even a touch of Bresson. Still, it’s much more than gorgeous eye candy and it definitely feels fresh among the steady stream of modern filmmaking conventions.

Reformed10

Paul Schrader’s intense yet sensitive “First Reformed” is unlike anything else I saw in 2018. It’s a film rich in themes – faith,  guilt, obsession, self-destruction, and spiritual despair just to name a few. It’s a film wrestling with the idea of “a world without hope” and it does so with the most open and earnest of intentions. And then there is Ethan Hawke, a great actor giving a career best performance. As fascinating as the subject may be, it doesn’t get off the ground without Hawke who is nothing short of superb.

Firstman10

2018 saw Damien Chazelle follow up his award-winning “La La Land” with a biopic of the enigmatic Neil Armstrong. It was bogged down early by undeserved criticism and seemingly overlooked by many throughout its box office run. It’s a stirring portrayal that aims to be more personal than theatrical. It’s an approach I really appreciated. The movie is helped by a widely misunderstood performance from Ryan Gosling who is understated by design and hardly without an emotional underpinning. It makes for a wonderful study of an iconic American figure.

Trace10

Talk about a movie I wish more people would see. Director and co-writer Debra Granik’s subtly piercing father/daughter drama left an impression on me and I have felt its emotional tug since. Granik (who gave us “Winter’s Bone”) once again gets down on the most human of levels and does it through a segment of our population on the fringes. Ben Foster’s performance is powerful in its restraint, but it’s newcomer Thomasin McKenzie who shines brightest. She’s the emotional anchor and it’s impossible to not be moved by her story.

Wildlife10

I’ve long had reservations about Paul Dano the actor. I have no such reservations when it comes to Paul Dano the director. “Wildlife”, his directorial debut, sees him telling a piercing family story with the delicacy and precision of a seasoned filmmaker. A very good Ed Oxenbould is our eyes. Jake Gyllenhaal is fantastic. But this is really Carey Mulligan’s show. She brilliantly cracks open her character and works a wide range of emotions to give form to her many complexities. It’s one of the year’s best performances from one of the year’s best movies.

Scruggs10

Whenever the Coen brothers make a movie it automatically has my attention. “Buster Scruggs” shows the siblings flexing their creative freedoms in ways we haven’t seen before. The movie is an anthology – six short stories with very different flavors but each connected with a familiar thematic throughline. While its structure is unconventional, even a bit wacky, it’s unquestionably a Coen brothers film. You’ll find their dense wordplay, beautiful visuals, and quirky sense of humor stamped all over this thing.

MI Fallout10

In a year where independent films shined the brightest for me, it’s a big budget blockbuster that was my easy choice for best of the 2018. “M:I – Fallout” tops my list for a very simple reason – it is easily the most fun I had at the theaters this year. It is exactly what I want from a blockbuster. While the action is exhilarating and the thrills non-stop, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie never shortchanges his story or his characters. For me it sets a high bar not just for the franchise itself but for what blockbusters can and should be.

There you have it. Please let me know what you think in the comments section below. What did I get right and where did I go wrong? I would love to hear you thoughts. Lets do it again next year!

123 thoughts on “Top 10 Films of 2018

    • Thanks so much. “Sicario 2” is a movie I loved despite some of the criticisms it received (some of which I feel was terribly unfair). “Fallout” was an easy choice for me. I adore it and it’s the only 5 star score I gave all year. Have you seen “Wildlife”?

  1. Of the films in your top 10, I’ve only seen 2 of those films in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and First Man while the only other 2018 film I saw in your list is Annihilation as I will post my “unofficial” list on New Year’s Day.

    • Look forward to seeing it. What did you think of the movie year as a whole. I had so many really good movies that I HATED to leave off my list. For me it was that kind of year.

      • My viewing this year was weird. I had two gaps where I hardly saw a thing (for one reason or another). And of course there is always the incredibly annoying cases of movies getting big market releases but not opening here until next year sometimes. That drives me nuts.

  2. I was very underwhelmed by this year with some of the movies that got high praise and just didn’t connect with me. The Coen brothers just don’t do it for me and I really wanted to like First Reformed but it lost me. However totally agree with Mission Impossible, amazing movie .A Quiet Place I really liked, Annihilation was excellent. My fav genre is fantasy/comicbook movies was well represented with Avengers and Antman Wasp I really enjoyed but Aquaman won it for me. I had a blast. On the other end, Black Panther was a huge disappointment. I grew up with it being one of my face comics and it fell flat. Watched it a few more times and each time, I like it less. As usual, totally enjoy your reviews and thanks for being fair and thoughtful. Now onto 2019 and what will cinema bring us?

    • Thanks so much for being such a faithful reader. It’s such an encouragement. It’s funny because I found myself liking a lot more movies this year than I expected to. I ended up cutting a lot of films that I thought a lot of. You and I definitely saw eye-to-eye on “Fallout”. It was such a fun ride and a near perfect blockbuster. Did you happen to see “Wildlife” or “Leave No Trace”?

      • Leave No Trace was very good but Wildlife for me was alright but I admit openly, Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t a actor I enjoy for some reason. But I think another movie that was neglected a bit was First Man .Glad to see it so high on your list .

      • Leave No Trace has left such a mark on me. Maybe it’s me being a father with a daughter. But it moved me so much.

        As for “First Man”, do you think it’s a movie that will be re-evaluated over time and finally get the respect it deserves? I truly do.

  3. I do think that First Man will get the love it truly deserves over time . Sometimes a gem like that will rise to the top , while others who get accolades dim over time . Having been 6 years old and engrossed in the NASA moon mission , I recall my parents allowing me to stay up to see the first step live . This movie really had everything for me . Loved it .

  4. It’ll take me some time to put my list together but I reckon First Reformed and Buster Scruggs have a good chance of making it. Leave No Trace was excellent to but it might end up being shrugged out as things stand. Very surprised to see MI: Fallout at the top spot.

    • I’m glad you liked Leave No trace. Man that movie cut me deep. As for “Fallout”, I doubt it will top any other list but I found it to be a perfectly executed franchise blockbuster. So many of those things are bloated spectacles that skimp on character and story. “Fallout” blew me away. Have you seen it by chance?

      • I did see it. I’ll just start by saying that I’m not normally an action fan, though. I thought it was overrated. 😦 Although I did enjoy Henry Cavill. I thought they spent a lot of time on his character which paid off.

      • Booo! LOL. I loved how it has broken down the whole superhero Ethan Hunt of some of the earlier films. Yes he still does crazy stuff, but I love how the film has made his team vital. I also enjoyed its look at his morality as both strength and weakness. And while I’m raving, how about the incredible use of stunt work and practical effects over tons of CGI. So much of it worked for me. Cavill was a lot of fun. “The hammer”. 😂

  5. Nice list! I never make these because I feel so weird knowing there’s a good deal I missed, but I like seeing MI-Fallout #1. Easily the best blockbuster of the year.

    If I WERE to publicize mine though, it would look something like this:

    Searching
    Hereditary
    BlacKkKlansman
    A Star is Born
    M-I: Fallout
    Widows
    Mid90s
    Roma
    The Wife
    Avengers: Infinity War

    Honorable Mention: Sorry to Bother You, Black Panther, The Old Man & The Gun, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, First Reformed, Game Night, Destroyer, Love Simon, Upgrade, Halloween.

    • Lots of good stuff there. I really do enjoy doing these things. I love hearing other people’s lists as well. It never fails, I’m always introduced to some movies I missed.

      As for this past year, did you think it was a good movie year? I had a bunch that I hated to leave off my Top 20. More than last year.

  6. Hmmm I think so, but I don’t know if the best and truly hidden gems were reflected on the awards circuit. Overall, I do think that the movies of 2018 are stronger than 2017’s crop. But in a way, I think the individuals performances in totality were stronger last year than this year.

      • Best Actress is a long list though! Close, Collette, Davis, Fisher, McCarthy, Gaga, Aparicio, Kidman, Stone, Weisz, Theron, Hall, Layne, Mulligan. All great or believed to be. Some of those are more realistic shots than others, but, they were all deserving of praise.

        But on most best performances list, I too was a little surprised as how there weren’t many resounding stick out performances.

      • I think what has surprised me the most is the wealth of great young newcomers. I think of movies like Lean on Pete, Leave No Trace, Custody, Eighth Grade, Wildlife, and several others.

  7. Hey Keith! I just finished my top 10 (to go up tomorrow) so I finally can see what others have chosen. I just didn’t want to be swayed one way or the other. Glad we have a couple in common but I haven’t seen A Quiet Place, ROMA and First Reformed (I almost saw this yesterday but wanted something less dark for the end of the year viewing).

    I wasn’t impressed by First Man at all though, didn’t even crack my Honorable Mentions. I did love Claire Foy in it, but then again I just love her generally 🙂

    • Hey Ruth! Can’t wait to see what our lists have in common. I’m wondering if Wildlife and Leave No Trace may be on yours also? 🤔

      Didn’t care for First Man? I adored it. I think I just appreciated that it bypasses the temptation to make it into a big flashy popcorn biopic and really dug down into the man himself. But I can see where that may not work for everyone.

      • Hi Keith, I haven’t seen Wildlife yet but really curious about it. Yeah, I wish I liked First Man more but then again I’m not a big fan of Gosling generally. Btw, my top 10 list is up now 😉

      • I’m with you on Gosling for the most part. The guy just doesn’t have a ton of range. Oh, and thanks for the heads-up. Checking yours out now!

      • I thought it was thought provoking for sure. Definitely one if my favorite movies of the year, probably woulda have been 21 if I went farther with my list.

      • Thought-provoking indeed. I thought the ending finished the film on just the right note. And there was still plenty of room for interpretation.

  8. I wanted to include “First Man” but too much shaky cam kept me from seeing it a second time. I also exclude films that I don’t see in a theater, so “Bird Box” and “Paddington 2” got left out. The Mission Impossible franchise may be the most consistently excellent film series of the last 30 years. “Fallout” was terrific. We only had one crossover but I can’t find fault with your choices. Happy New Year.

    • Happy New Year to you too my friend. The Mission: Impossible is kind of incredible. These last three films have gotten better each time. Not sure how they top Fallout. As for the shaky camera in First Man, you aren’t the only one that has struggled with that. I can definitely see it being an issue. For me it added to the intensity of the scene. But my son (who did love the movie) mentioned it being a little disorienting.

  9. Hello Keith – happy new year and hope all’s well with you. I’ve not been around to comment too much but I do drop in from time to time, and as ever it’s nice to see your top twenty. When I do get round to doing mine I think 10 of the films you’ve selected will be in my top 20, too. (I think Leave No Trace, First Reformed and Roma will be in my top 5, but I’m not sure yet as to the order!)
    I think it was an excellent year for independent or arthouse releases, but I was disappointed with the blockbusters, overall, although there are a few biggies from near the end of the year that I’ve yet to see. Anyway – here’s to a good 2019!

    • Hey Sty! ALWAYS great to hear from you! It has been a while. I hope everything is going great and a very Happy New Year to you as well.

      Ten picks shared out of twenty is really good for these lists. Especially thrilled to hear you mention Leave No Trace. I see that as criminally overlooked movie. What about Wildlife? Have you had the chance to see it? I recently watched it a second time and it cemented it’s spot on my list. What a debut for Dano.

      I liked several of the blockbusters but (as my list makes pretty obvious) only one blew my socks off. A couple almost made my 11-20, but when considering the wealth of great films they had to contend with…well it wasn’t even close.

  10. Ah, I still need to see First Reformed. Major fan of Ethan Hawke. Shame that it hasn’t been released in theatres here. Hopefully some Oscar buzz will change that.

    Excellent list of movies there anyway; MI: Fallout was a genuinely solid instalment. And you already know that I loved Buster Scruggs!

    • Oh I get so frustrated at how often ‘limited releases’ will skip by my area. Over the years I’ve missed out on some big award winners in the theaters simply because of that. Hopefully you can see First Reformed soon. Hawke will blow you away.

      Did you happen to see Wildlife? It’s a film that has flown under a ton of radars. It is so, so, so good!

      • Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance, but I’ve heard many good things about it. And Zoe Kazan is an amazing writer!

      • This really opened me up to her writing. Such a fantastic and deeply human perspective. And I think Carey Mulligan will blow you away. Sooo good!

  11. I am going to use your list to help me catch up! As I haven’t seen 8 of the films, I think some of it is due to UK release. First Reform had the smallest release ever! I didn’t get a chance to make it to my closest independent cinema for that one.

    • Not to get on a soapbox but release schedules drive me nuts! It can be so frustrating. For instance weren’t Three Billboards and Shape of Water 2019 releases in the UK?

      • It does my head in! They were Jan then Feb releases 2018. I used to wait until March time to do my lists but a few years ago decided to just do my year list as no one was really bothered to read them by then.

        I wish I could do the London Film Festival as they get all of the great films which usually go to to the awards in October!

  12. Boy oh boy was M:I-Fallout a surprise treat! I also really enjoyed it. One of my Top 3 experiences at the theater for sure. It was absolutely exhilarating.

    Your list made me realize that I’m further behind than I thought I was! Like Caz said above, I should use your Top 10 as my starting point. Ha. Each year seems to bring more and more films. Did you see Blindspotting by any chance? I heard some good things, but totally missed it in theaters. I think it was another limited release that swiftly vanished (or never arrived) in my area.

    • I did see Blindspotting. It’s one of several that I’m up in the air on. Really liked a lot about it but felt I missed out on what others seemed to love about it. Really need to see it again.

      Do you have a good independent movie theater near you? There is one about 60 Miles (one way) from me. But even they can’t get all of the buzz-worthy indies.

  13. Great list of films I really need to see First Reformed I rented it but the disc was broken. I respect First Man but wasnt a fan of it. I will need to revisit that one

  14. Paddington 2 is a 2017 movie (although I still really love it). (Similarly, The Lost City of Z is a 2016 film – not 2017.)
    The only 2018 film I’ve seen is Skyscraper, which is among my all-time favourites.

    • I love it. “Fallout” has been my #1 since I walked out of the theater. I did watch it again before doing this year’s list just to see if my enthusiasm was justified. It was!

      Are there any others in my Top 10 that you’re high on?

      • WHERE DO I START?! I could totally fuck with A Quiet Place. Krasinski went old school Spielberg and I found it refreshingly innovative. Kinda groaned at the ensuing discourse a bit. Some dismissed the whole parenting story offhandedly even when Krasinski himself has gone at length to say that was what drew him to the project, but I digress…

        I’m obsessing over Roma the way everyone’s stanning Bird Box, though I wouldn’t try to start any kind of Roma-challenge, or memes. First Reformed and First Man were also particularly absorbing. They didn’t quite crack my top 10, but only because there were so many great films to choose from. Would’ve made for less of a headache, but “Top 15” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

      • I can honestly say if it wasn’t for that parenting angle and its stirring look at grief and guilt I wouldn’t be as high on “A Quiet Place”. But man I really fell for it. Roma is pretty incredible and unlike anything else I saw in 2018. Do you think it has enough umph to grab Best Picture? I kinda do.

  15. I saw 1 film from your Top 10 and 2 from your 11 to 20 so can’t say I have much opinion on this. Annihilation was more of a disappointment for myself. As for The Guilty, I had some issues with it which seems to have faded as I think about it more which is always a good thing. Just caught up with A Quiet Place which would make my Top 10. However, you have given me a huge push to catch up with MI: Fallout in top priority.
    Probably my blockbuster in the Top 10 would be The Meg as well as Netflix Original All the Boys that I’ve Loved Before. Searching would make it also. Other films would be indie films not yet widely released like Pledge, Tigers Are Not Afraid, Firecrackers, Sticks and Stones that I saw on the festival circuit. And I’m not sure whether these are out yet but Burning, Ash is Purest White would as well. If it was more relatable to the general audience, Donnie Yen’s latest film Big Brother would have made it but its more for a Hong Kong audience.

    • Glad you loved A Quiet Place too. I’m telling you, that thing stuck with me mainly as a father of a son and a daughter. The whole family element was great. I hated to leave off Searching. SOOO good. As for M:I – Fallout, it is exactly what I want every blockbuster to be. Breathtaking action but a compelling story and characters I love.

      Are you familiar with Wildlife and Leave No Trace? Both are small films that (sadly) won’t get the Awards attention they deserve. But sooo good.

      • Awesome. Leave No Trace absolutely crushed me. Wildlife has easily one of the very best performances of the year from Carey Mulligan. Also 2018 seemed to be full of young breakout performances. Both of these films feature one.

    • Oh I love that movie. It’s a testament to how good the year was when Paddington 2 wasn’t even in my Top 10. It’s such a sweet and funny movie. And how about Hugh Grant? What a hilariously good performance.

      • Good question. I think he has always had a sly sense of humor but this is straight comedy and he kills it. It’s one of my favorite supporting performances of the year. And that end credits dance number! Hilarious!

  16. Excellent list and a 2018 sum-up! Out of all of these, I saw The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Quiet Place, two films which I found brilliant! I have some catching up to do, especially with Wildlife and First Reformed. You’ve piqued my curiosity there…

    • I really glad to hear from someone else who liked Buster Scruggs. I haven’t heard much enthusiasm for it. Wildlife is exceptional. Recently rewatched it and was once again blown away. Not sure if you’re a Carey Mulligan fan but she gives a phenomenal performance.

  17. Woo! We have three of the same films (Roma, A Quiet Place and First Reformed) in our top 10 😀 Such a splendid year for film isn’t it. I love how you went for Mission Impossible as your number 1, seems like a passion vote but not without reason. Mission Impossible was definitely thrilling and groundbreaking in its own right. I am intrigued by Wildlife, Leave no trace and The Guardians which I haven’t heard of…haha I always love these indie gems. Great list Keith!

    • Oh you must see Leave No Trace and Wildlife. Talk about two brilliant films. Leave No Trace is such a quiet yet heartbreaking story. Wildlife is Pail Dano’s directorial debut and I’m stunned it hasn’t earned more Awards attention.

      As for Mission: Impossible, I genuinely feel it is a perfect blockbuster. Thrills galore but a strong immersive story and it never shortchanges its characters. It also reminds us that sometimes traditional effects and stunt work beats anything a computer can generate. And this is the film that thoroughly convinced me that Stunt work deserves an Oscar category.

  18. I agree with BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE, A QUIET PLACE, ROMA and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 6. I liked APOSTLE, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, FIRST MAN, LEAVE NO TRACE and THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, but I didn’t love them. I didn’t like SICARIO 2.

  19. A Quiet Place was such a good film! 100% wish it was higher on the list but glad it made the list, I feel like that movie if often overlooked, I think it’s better than Bird Box

  20. Happy to see praise for Fallout and First Reformed which I also have in my top 15. I quite liked Custody. the ending was powerful though I think the story lost its subtlety in the last act, when compared to the opening scene. Interesting you include a film (The Guardians) which I’ve not heard of, demands further investigation.

    • I absolutely love Fallout. It’s the perfect blockbuster IMO. The Guardians is such a beautiful film. I rewatched it recently and it held up wonderfully. Hope you get a chance to check it out.

  21. Have you seen Mile 22 starring Mark Wahlberg? It was one of the better films of 2018 in my opinion! Most certainly worth the watch. Great list also!

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