What better way to begin 2019 than my own belated list of the best movies of 2018? I know, I’m a little late, but it was for a good reason as my picks for this list went right down to the wire. So, without further ado, here’s a distraction from those unrealistic new years resolutions as I countdown by ten best movies of 2018. You can find the first part of our best-of list here, and our worst-of lists here and here.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
This animated wonder isn’t just the best superhero movie of the year (and it just edges both Infinity War and Black Panther), it’s also the best Spider-Man movie of all time. Into the Spider-Verse combines the superhero origin story of Miles Morales with some mind-bending science fiction to bring us as many different iterations of this iconic superhero as possible. Spider-Verse gives the character the Lego treatment, meaning there is plenty here for fans of practically any version of the character as well as a surprisingly emotional through-line about loss.
It’s well-known to readers of this site how much I hated Venom so you’ll be happy to know that I have the perfect antidote in the form of Upgrade. From the mind of Saw and Insidious co-creator Leigh Wannell, Upgrade is the movie that Venom should have been. Starring noted Tom Hardy lookalike, Logan Marshall-Green, Upgrade swaps the symbiote for a chip that houses an artificial intelligence named STEM that can basically turn you into a superhero. Upgrade is a brutal, bloody, and darkly hilarious sci-fi action movie that kicks Venom’s ass on a tiny fraction of the budget.
The Little Stranger
Where’s the love for The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger? It’s a haunted house story based on a Booker Prize-nominated novel and directed by Lenny Abrahamson whose last film was the Oscar-winning Room. Add in a talented cast that includes Domnhall Gleesson, Ruth Wilson, and Will Poulter and you clearly have a winner. Except The Little Stranger went completely under the radar with many critics deriding that lack of scares, despite the fact that it dealt in some Hereditary-level dread. The Little Stranger is perhaps the best kept secret of 2018, but it’s on both my and Lousie’s lists so hopefully that is enough to catch your interest.
Thanks to the terrible decision to forgo a cinematic release outside of the US for Alex Garland’s Annihilation, I had to settle for watching this masterpiece on the biggest TV I could find. Annihilation is one of those rare sci-fi/horror crossover that is does both genres justice. This film has a host of treasures as it uses its premise to tackle themes of depression, self-destruction, and even forgiveness, all of which is brought to life by an amazing cast including Natalie Portman, Oscar Issac, and Gina Rodriguez who basically stole the movie.
On Chesil Beach
Based on my and Louise’s favorite Ian McEwan novel, On Chesil Beach is an intimate story of a couple coming of age together only to find that they are completely unprepared for the reality of this situation. Told in flashbacks as well as the day of their wedding the couple, played by Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howe, try to fight through the societal pressures of an England that is on the brink of a sexual revolution that comes too late to save. It’s a stunning and subtle tragedy.
Paul Thomas Anderson continues to be one of the best directors in the medium with Phantom Thread, an almost anti-romance movie played out to the backdrop of the fashion industry. Daniel Day Lewis, in what he says is his final role, dazzles as the temperamental dressmaker, Reynolds Woodcock, but this film belongs to the women, as Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville playing Reynolds’ lover Alma, and his sister, Cyril respectively are the true stars here.
At the end of the year, I desperately didn’t want to be one of those critics who told you that Heridtary was one of the best horror films of the year, but guess what? It’s the best horror movie of the year, it might be the best horror movie of the decade – even if you hated the story, you can’t deny that the performances from Toni Collette and Alex Wolff were some of the finest of the year.
Lady Bird is an almost perfect companion piece to On Chesil Beach – the two films, through Saoirse Roman’s characters, illuminate what coming of age meant in their various time periods and settings. Where Chesil Beach’s approach was narrower, Lady Bird broke the mould and expanded the frontier for a genre that has been so dominated by teenage boys losing their virginity, and instead offers a wider variety of small, deeply personal experiences that somehow leave the film feeling more universal than exclusive, in the best way possible.
Mission Impossible: Fallout
In a blockbuster season that was saturated with effects-driven tentpole superhero movies, Mission Impossible: Fallout basically did a Fury Road – leaning on the excitement that practical stunts and effects can deliver to elevate a mostly cookie-cutter premise into the best Mission Impossible film to date. What lifts it to such heady heights? Aside from being a greatest-hits of the best action of the series, it adds a few awesome new tricks to the roster – from the bathroom fight to the helicopter third act, this is spectacular action at its finest.
You Were Never Really Here
This is a very, very hard film to write about – I want to describe the visual mastery, the formative control Lynn Ramsay displays over the camera, Joaquin Phoenix giving a career-best performance (and given his career, that really means something), but nothing will do it justice. You Were Never Really Here takes a tried-and-true premise, and elevates it far beyond the 21st-century Taxi Driver it might seem at first glance.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via Variety)