I never get to see all of the movies that I want. I still have The Florida Project as a tab on my computer. I missed my chance to see Bad Times at El Royale and now I have to wait until January 1 before it’s available to stream. I also really want to see Buy Me a Gun but it’s only played at a couple of film festivals so far. Also, The Favourite, which I hope to see next week. Like I said, too many 2018 movies I haven’t seen yet. But without further ramble, below are the sixteen movies that I did enjoy seeing this year. The Grinch is included at the very end, as I’m seeing a matinée for it tomorrow, and am certain I’ll enjoy it.
It’s also worth noting that I usually see a movie or two every year that I don’t care for. This year, I didn’t see any movies that I disliked. I’m not a super strong critic but it’s good to know that no films in 2018 wasted my time.
Dir. Steve McQueen
My girlfriend was given a $100 gift card to a movie theater in the Chicago suburbs. We made plans to see The Grinch. Upon arrival, the theater wasn’t showing The Grinch. The nerve. Instead, we saw Widows. I was already looking forward to seeing it but this film exceeded my expectations. Great twists, great acting, great explosions, great heists, great all around. Icing on the cake that the entire thing was filmed in Chicago. And an awesome cameo from hip-hop duo The Cool Kids.
Dir. Carlos López Estrada
I saw this movie on an airplane, and like all in-flight entertainment, I was hesitant. After I saw it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The comedy feels natural and the drama feels all too realistic. Up until last week when I saw Widows, this was my favorite film of the year. Strong message, laugh out loud scenes, incredible acting, and one hell of a Bay Area soundtrack.
03. Paddington 2
Dir. Paul King
Paddington will warm your cold heart. What a delightful film from start to finish. I haven’t even seen the first one, but it didn’t matter. This movie works just fine on its own. It involves pink prison wear, a hot air balloon escape plan, a chase on a train, and enough marmalade to make you salivate with hunger. Paddington 2 deserves every Academy Award.
Dir. Alex Garland
I read Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy last year and was beyond excited to see Annihilation in theaters. While it has very little overlap with the book (Garland stated that his film was meant to resemble an adaptation of a dream), the movie is incredible on its own. It’s poetic, ambient, spiritual, and terrifying. Now that I know I won’t analyze it and compare it to the book, I need to see it again.
05. Sorry to Bother You
Dir. Boots Riley
What a whirlwind. What a clusterfuck. Sorry to Bother You is unlike any movie you’ll ever see. The first 2/3 contains some of my favorite scenes ever. Full of magical realism and hallucinatory storytelling, the movie takes a turn for the…apocalyptic and bizarre near the end. It held my attention and I left the theater pleased, but it went in a direction I didn’t necessarily adore. The message(s) throughout, though, will punch you right in the face.
06. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
A Western anthology told in six parts. This film will seem very familiar if you’ve seen any work by the Coen brothers in the past. Perhaps closest in style (humor and song) to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, this collection of vignettes is absurdly dark. Almost no one makes it out alive. Certain stories can be funny while others are too grim to crack a smile. Some of the vast landscapes in this one are absolutely stunning. Also, for anyone fed up with James France, he gets hanged in this movie. Twice.
07. Incredibles 2
Dir. Brad Bird
Yes and yes and yes. I saw this movie just the other day and found myself kicking and punching the air around my couch. It’s equal parts a trip down memory lane (how is the first one fourteen years old?!) and an action adventure that never slows down. Stunning visuals, quality jokes, and enough explosions to keep you glued to the screen. Also, Jack-Jack totally steals the show.
08. Isle of Dogs
Dir. Wes Anderson
Before 2018 started, I expected Isle of Dogs to be closer to the top of my end of the year list. It was a good movie, but not great. I expected more from Wes Anderson. The whole thing felt so very rushed. That being said, I need to watch it again. It was still a visual treat and better than most of the movies I saw this year, but it’s no Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Dir. Jeff Tomsic
Here’s a film where I had zero expectations. It turned out to be a fast-paced comedy that was fun to watch and easy to digest. Plenty of raunchy one-liners (Hannibal Buress really takes the cake here) and enough adventure to keep you on your toes. This is one to watch once the boys are back in town and you all just returned from the bars.
10. Ready Player One
Dir. Steven Spielberg
Another movie where I had very low expectations. I recall this film getting a particularly high amount of criticism upon the release of its trailer, but I had a blast watching Ready Player One. It reminded me of National Treasure if it was stuck in a video game. Fun and playful. One to watch if it’s on TV.
11. Ocean's 8
Dir. Gary Ross
I love heist films. All heist films. Ocean’s 8 is no exception. Perhaps not as enjoyable as Ocean’s 11, it’s definitely better than both 12 and 13. The all female cast do a great job taking a bunch of diamonds during an extravagant event. Before pressing play, you should already know what you’re getting into.
12. Game Night
Dir. John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
My partner and I had free tickets to see Game Night, and when we arrived, every seat was taken but the front row. So, we snuck in to see I, Tonya. While that movie was fine, I found myself let down at not seeing a Jason Batemen comedy. Fast forward a few months later and I enjoyed Game Night from the confines of my couch. It’s funny and holds your attention the whole time. Like Date Night, but better.
13. Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Dir. Stefano Sollima
This movie was a bit of a let down, but I still enjoyed watching it. The first Sicario film is exceptional (and that soundtrack!). This one, Day of the Soldado, is good, not great. Benicio del Toro is bad to the bone and certainly holds the film together. I needed to watch something violent and gritty after finishing Narcos: Mexico and this one held me over for a couple of hours.
14. A Quiet Place
Dir. John Krasinski
A near-silent film, A Quiet Place is one to watch without any outside noise. Watch it once your neighbors are asleep. It’s a pretty engaging thriller made all the more impressive by John Krasinski writing, directing, and acting as the lead. My friend saw it in the theaters and said he felt uncomfortable reaching for his popcorn and making noise.
15. Bohemian Rhapsody
Dir. Bryan Singer
At the bottom of my list is Bohemian Rhapsody. Good enough to make the list, but not good enough to praise. Yes, I did find myself returning home and reading all about Queen (as well as watching their Live Aid performance), but the entire biopic felt very rushed. They went from forming Queen to recording to being superstars in about five minutes. That was the era that I wished would have been more of the focal point. The rise is always more enjoyable than sitting pretty on top. I’ve said enough. Queen rules.
N/A - The Grinch
Dir. Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier
I’m seeing this movie tomorrow and I’m certain I’ll enjoy it. I couldn’t allow myself to leave it off of this list even though I haven’t seen it yet. I already know the story, and sure, it might not top Jim Carrey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but when Christmas meets 3D animation, I’m always on board. I see you, Arthur Christmas.