Welcome to my annual celebration and recap of the films I loved, those I liked, and some that disappointed. During the year, I watched 248 movies – an assortment of blockbusters, Indies, world cinema and documentaries. With the wide variety of streaming outlets these days, it’s likely that you can track down just about anything on this list that you find intriguing … and some are still playing in theatres!
It was a huge box office year for the movie industry (especially the behemoth Disney Corp), however, a film’s ticket sales have no impact on whether it is included on my list. Instead, these are based solely on my personal opinion … an opinion that has been documented to (at times) differ greatly from both the general public and film critics.
Many entertaining and/or interesting movies get lost in the shuffle of today’s comic book flicks, superhero movies, sequels and remakes (although some of these are quite fun as well), so it’s likely you can find something below that you’re willing to give a shot – perhaps even something a bit outside your typical movie zone!
As I’m not a big fan of ranking movies (enjoyment tends to be relative to mood), you’ll find the list divided into sections along with links to my full reviews. For those who have followed in the past, you will note that only one documentary is mentioned in the top 19; however, you’ll be happy to see a separate category with 19 documentary recommendations. Don’t be shy about commenting with your favorite movies of the year – or with any recommendations you might have for me!
The Top 5 of 2018
These are the 5 movies I consider the best of 2018. Four of the five were produced (mainly) outside of the United States, and should you have an aversion to subtitles, I can only say these are worth a little extra effort. Four of the five were also inspired by true stories.
COLD WAR (Zimna wojna, Poland)
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow up to his Oscar winning IDA (2013) is a remarkably intricate and emotional love story set across 15 years, numerous countries, and a foreboding political backdrop. A gut-wrenching performance from Joanna Kulig makes this one of the most emotional topsy-turvy stories of the year, as well as one of the most striking to look at.
Based on a true story and titled after the actual travel guide “Negro Motorist Green Book”, this one is part road movie, part buddy film, and part social awakening. Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen (beefed up and playing against type) are so good in their roles that this story of racism and disparate personalities becomes quite enjoyable. The color palette and music add to the full dimensional experience.
Filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron wrote and directed this mostly autobiographical look at his childhood in Mexico, and the vital role his housekeeper played in raising him and keeping the family together. Newcomer Yalitza Aparicio will capture your heart as she balances the challenges of her personal life with her duty to the family for which she works. Many beautiful quiet moments plus a few jolts.
THE FAVOURITE (Ireland)
A physically frail Queen Anne suffers from a multitude of afflictions, not the least of which is her attraction to Lady Sarah Churchill and her servant cousin Abigail. It’s an odd triangle replete with vicious backstabbing, sinister plotting and the quest for power … and three deliciously nuanced performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone. This is no stodgy costume drama.
THE GUILTY (Den Skyldige, Denmark)
No other film generated this level of tension and suspense, and it’s incredible to note that this is director Gustav Moller’s first feature film. Jakob Cedergren stars as a detective assigned to the emergency call center, and the film focuses almost entirely on a single case that puts us on the front lines of danger, turmoil and the risks of first reactions.
The 14 Next Best
These are the 14 movies that landed just outside the top 5. The topics covered include: race, religion, romance, music, love, pregnancy, family life, space travel, morality, a magical bear, and a couple of childhood icons – one a nanny, the other a TV personality.
A STAR IS BORN
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
MARY POPPINS RETURNS
PADDINGTON 2 (UK)
THE SISTERS BROTHERS
WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR (documentary)
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Worth Seeing (43)
Depending on your movie preferences, any of the films below could be worth your time, and you’ll likely find them interesting, entertaining or both:
A FANTASTIC WOMAN (Best Foreign Language Oscar winner last year, Chile)
A PRIVATE WAR (true story of Marie Colvin)
A QUIET PLACE (horror) no review
ALL ABOUT NINA (comedy-drama)
ANNIHILATION (science fiction/horror) no review
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (superhero sequel)
AVENGERS: INFINTY WAR
BEAUTIFUL BOY (gut-wrenching drama)
BLACK PANTHER (welcome to Wakanda)
BLAZE (true story of musician Blaze Foley)
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Freddie and Queen)
BOMB CITY (a true story hate crime)
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (losing/finding Winnie the Pooh)
CRAZY RICH ASIANS (hugely popular cultural comedy)
CREED II (Rocky, Creed, and Drago in the ring)
FOXTROT (Israel, tragedy of war)
GAME NIGHT (twisted comedy-drama) no review
KEEP THE CHANGE (romantic-comedy)
LEAN ON PETE (coming of age)
LEAVE NO TRACE (father and daughter off the grid)
LOVELESS (Best Foreign Language Oscar nom last year, Russia)
LUCKY – couldn’t bring myself to write review and say goodbye after Harry Dean Stanton’s cinematic farewell
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (royal cousin rivalry)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT (terrific action with Cruise)
MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE (tragically ignored adventure)
ON THE BASIS OF SEX (early days of RBG)
OPERATION FINALE (the hunt for Adolph Eichmann)
SHOPLIFTERS (Japan, family drama)
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (bonkers look at race and power)
STAN & OLLIE (warm tribute to Laurel & Hardy)
SUMMER 1993 (Spain, family drama)
SWEET COUNTRY (Australia, 1920’s western)
SWIMMING WITH MEN (UK, middle-aged crisis comedy)
THE CAPTAIN (Der Hauptmann, Germany, WWII docudrama-black comedy)
THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES (Kurt Russell as Santa) – no review
THE INSULT (Foreign Language Oscar nom last year, Lebanon)
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST (gay conversion therapy drama) no review
THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN (Redford’s fitting farewell to acting)
THE WIFE (a woman finds her voice)
VICE (political satire on Cheney’s power)
WHITE BOY RICK (true story of a teenage FBI informant)
WILDLIFE (overlooked family drama)
For those of us who love a good documentary, there are more outlets than ever to find and watch the best. Below is a list of some of my favorites from 2018:
A GREATER SOCIETY (senior citizen power in Broward County)
AMERICAN CHAOS (the search for Trump supporters)
DAUGHTERS OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS (a profile of the squad’s director)
EATING ANIMALS (our diet from industrial farming)
FREE SOLO (Alex Honnold climbs El Capitan)
GENERATION WEALTH (the excesses of our society)
HAL (profile of the often overlooked director Hal Ashby)
HORN FROM THE HEART: THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD STORY (bio of powerful musician)
KING COHEN: THE WILD WORLD OF FILMMAKER LARRY COHEN (the maverick filmmaker)
ON HER SHOULDERS (a courageous woman tells her story) no review
RBG (Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg in her own words) no review
SCIENCE FAIR (International Science and Engineering Fair)
SEARCHING FOR INGMAR BERGMAN (legacy of the iconic director)
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE (fashion icon Andre Leon Talley)
THE MILLIONAIRES’ UNIT (Yale students in WWI)
THE RECKONING: HOLLYWOOD’S WORST KEPT SECRET (the casting couch)
THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD (dramatic colorized WWI footage and stories)
THIS IS CONGO (M23 rebellion)
UNDER THE WIRE (Marie Colvin via Paul Conroy)
Oddities and Unclassified (9)
There are a few films that simply defy traditional description and classification, but may just appeal to those of you with quirky or off-beat tastes:
ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE (the aforementioned apocalyptic Christmas musical)
HOTEL ARTEMIS (where criminals go for healthcare)
ISLE OF DOGS (Wes Anderson’s canine adventure)
MID90s (skateboarding for friends)
MR. ROOSEVELT (romance and a cat, not romance with a cat) no review
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (Coen Brothers in 6 part harmony) no review
THE DEATH OF STALIN (Russian political satire)
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (Orson Welles at his strangest)
WELCOME TO MARWEN (a true story with sadness)
This annual “Elder” category does not represent the worst movies of the year, but rather those that didn’t live up to the promise or hype … leaving me disappointed in the final product.
THE FRONT RUNNER – actually delivered what it promised: the story of Gary Hart’s Presidential campaign. The problem is that it’s just not a very interesting story.
WIDOWS – many critics have this on their “best” list, but what I saw was a very well-acted mish-mash of every known social and racial issue disguised as a heist movie.
PRIVATE LIFE – a popular Netflix movie with characters so unlikable that I sincerely hoped they wouldn’t become parents. (no review)
The movies I missed in 2018 that I hope to catch up with in 2019:
AT ETERNITY’S GATE
MINDING THE GAP
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS (doc)
It is my hope that you found something on this list that intrigues you to the point that you’ll give it a shot. Of course, you can always find my full reviews at https://moviereviewsfromthedark.com/ Feel free to pass this along to any fellow movie lover, and let me know your favorite movies of 2018 … and what you are excited to see in 2019.
SEE YOU AT THE MOVIES!