The Top 20 Films of 2018, Ranked!
As we do every January, we here at Flickchart are bringing you our Top 20 films from the previous year. Unlike many best-of lists, however, these are not just our picks for the best films of 2018. These are the Top 20 films from the year as decided by the global aggregate rankings of our nearly a quarter-million users. The more you rank, the more you help decide what the best films from each year, decade, and genre are.
Without further adieu, here’s the best of last year, as the list stands right now.
20. Sorry to Bother You
When trailers for this were first released, it looked like a biting satire about the pressure for African Americans to “act white” in order to gain respect. That’s a great concept and worth exploring on film, and this looked like a fun, interesting take on that. What we actually got, though, was something so much bigger, weirder, darker, and more creative than those trailers ever conveyed. We follow our main character (in a near-perfect performance by Lakeith Stanfield) as he gets himself in deeper into this strange world which seems more and more divorced from our reality, and yet there’s more than a thread of truth throughout that refuses to go away, no matter how bizarre the plot details get, and that blend of absurdism with uncomfortable realism is what makes this movie an incredible watch and a wild ride. – Hannah Keefer
19. Game Night
Game Night absolutely succeeds as an absurd black comedy. It’s got a strong cast at the top of their craft – notably Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams in the leads, and a particularly unsettling Jesse Plemons – and a strong premise that feels fresh and ripe for a lampooning such as this.
Yet where this movie truly feels remarkable is in the strong production value that’s gone into presenting what could otherwise have been a pretty standard, enjoyable, yet easily forgotten comedy. Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, and cinematographer Barry Peterson create some truly impressive shots, including a pulse-pounding car chase that features some noticeably unique camera angles, and some single-take shots that would be at home in any big-budget action movie. Game Night is a strong, exciting and truly funny reminder that no movie need feel “disposable” when the right amount of care, effort and joy of movie-making goes into its construction. – Nigel Druitt
18. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Documentaries infrequently make into “Top __” lists for a year. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is an exception to the rule this year due to the quality of the film’s content and its subject: Fred Rogers. Those who grew up on a healthy dose of PBS and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood will never forget him. His small but important educational kids’ TV show covered a wide range of topics from the simple to the grownup. This documentary from Morgan Neville is a great reminder of the man and his love of young children. For those only familiar with him within the context of his TV show, this film brings to light his motivations and how he was not that different from what was presented on the screen. He was not a man without controversy or critics, however. Everyone to an extent is a product of their time. As such, some blame has been placed on Mr. Rogers for raising a “snowflake” generation. This film’s deeper look at the man and his teachings reveals his true intentions. There are valuable principles that he hopes each young child – and everyone else – knows to be true. Tears are sure to flow at times while watching this magnificent remembrance of Fred Rogers. – Andrew Kendall
17. First Man
Damien Chazelle has become a master of telling stories as much with sound as picture. With Whiplash, he was able to build tension and excitement through a simple drum kit, and in La La Land, he showed how love can succeed and fail thanks to music. For the first time with First Man, Chazelle moves outside the realm of music, yet still tells just as much of the story through sound. When Neil Armstrong takes off for space in rickety, faulty machines, Chazelle makes sure the audience hears every loose screw, every siren blaring and every potential cause of death that Armstrong himself hears. Ryan Gosling embraces the silent stoicism that he’s become skilled at utilizing as Armstrong, and this quiet performance also speaks volumes about Armstrong’s mental space during this legitimately insane period in space travel. Chazelle’s tremendous use of sound – and the lack of it – makes him one of the most fascinating filmmakers today, as First Man is just as much about what we’re hearing as it is about what we’re seeing. – Ross Bonaime
16. Eighth Grade
In a year where representation was a key talking point throughout society, especially in cinema, a stand-up comedian told a story he was never supposed to have the right to tell. Perhaps more to the point, he shouldn’t have been able to tell it, because Bo Burnham has never been an eighth grade girl, and you’re supposed to write what you know. But Burnham’s shrewd instincts about the inner lives of modern tweens made Eighth Grade resonate with audiences of all ages.
A lot of it is there in the writing, but Eighth Grade wouldn’t be the authentic document it is without one of the year’s true acting finds: 15-year-old Elsie Fisher, who stammers her way through the kind of portrait of teenagerdom we rarely get in the movies. Fisher has had TV and voice work before, but nothing could have prepared us for the skills she shows here. She averts her eyes, she ums and uhs, she tries to shrink into corners, but she also demonstrates the type of bravery that gets young people through these turbulent times of forging their identities. The hilarities, absurdities, disappointments and embarrassments of the age are all laid bare. Burnham has also not been a father, but actor Josh Hamilton, playing the dad raising Kayla by himself, lends Burnham a similar helping hand. Through his dorky attempts to find a mid-point between father and friend, Hamilton is endearing and vulnerable, demonstrating that you never really mature out of struggling with life’s changes and uncertainties. – Derek Armstrong
15. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo is a children’s movie. I think a lot of the haters missed this fact, hungry as we all are for films which sophisticatedly carry forward the myths of our various franchises. In the midst of all this grand saga-ing, it’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that we still need morally simple characters doing exciting things and being funny. For its first few decades, that is what Star Wars did best; that is how it managed to gather an entire species into its target demographic. And despite Han Solo being one of the universe’s most morally ambiguous characters, both in this film and before, that does not take away from his moral simplicity: He is clearly one of the Good Guys; even the most doe-eyed six-year-old could tell you that. Moreover, that same six-year-old could tell you that in a galaxy which is violently sifting itself into Good Guys and Bad Guys, it is the Heroes they make movies about.
Solo does not achieve any great pinnacle of Campbellian epic, nor is it immune to the spotty plotting that results from having cool scenes that you still need to try to link together somehow (this is no doubt due to its infamously inconsistent directorial vision). But those of us who go to space operas looking for the height of Western Art are not going to be receptive to the raucous, ballsy fun that these films can be. Solo is a return to a time when kids movies were bold and unapologetic; it offers no sophomoric lessons nor shies away from exactly the kind of braying rudeness that grown-ups hate and kids love (mostly because grown-ups hate it). Every review of Solo finds a way to squeeze in the word “smirk”, but this film is not a smirk. This film is a grin and a high-five. – Doug Van Hollen
14. Ready Player One
We’re currently at a time that’s ripe for nostalgia. We have TV shows like Stranger Things and Cobra Kai, films like Summer of 84 and Mandy…and then there’s this recent novel called Ready Player One. It celebrates and reveres all things pop culture-related from the 1980s in a way that both allows a way in to a character’s passions, but also as a perfect plot framing device. One of the premiere purveyors of that culture was Steven Spielberg – who was astoundingly tapped to helm the cinematic version of this virtual adventure story. It’s a little bit Willy Wonka, a little bit Steve Jobs, and a whole lot of gaming/music/movies/TV culture all blended together on top of a story of unrequited love and adventure. It shouldn’t work on paper or on film, but somehow it all works – both in its depiction of a fairly bleak future where we are all addicted to the digital world, and showing just how much more appealing the virtual world can be. Also, any Kubrick fans would be doing themselves a disservice to miss a giant nod to the master filmmaker sandwiched in the center of the middle act. It’s fun, it’s visually spectacular, and it’s chock-full of references to so much of what we love. – Nathan Chase
13. A Star Is Born
For over eighty years, the story of A Star is Born has been told over and over again. The story of a young artistic hopeful being mentored by and falling in love with a troubled star has been reimagined plenty of times. Somehow, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut with this latest take on A Star is Born manages the story to feel as essential as ever by simply acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of the past. For the first time in these films, Cooper pays homage to what came before him, an idea that this type of story will be around for ages. As Sam Elliott says near the end of the film, “Music is essentially twelve notes between any octave. Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story told over and over. All the artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes.” With phenomenal performances by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, a fantastic debut from Cooper behind the camera and an appreciation for the films that led the way, A Star is Born has Cooper playing those twelve notes as good as anyone that came before him. – Ross
The best actress performance of the year still resides within this powerful horror film. Toni Collette puts on a showcase of grief, anger, fear, and terror in Ari Aster’s Hereditary. Inspired by the recently departed Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, and other psychological horror in a similar vein, this terrifying film explores ideas of how family can affect us and the tensions and rifts brought about from wounds in these relationships. Some of the scariest scenes are not the ones involving supernatural histrionics, but brutal and honest fights between mother and son. That said, the supernatural in this film is depicted in some of the most brutal, white-knuckled means I’ve seen in a long time. Aster’s long takes increase the tension and leave you rattled. Hereditary is a beautiful film to look at, which is unfortunate when all you want to do is look away. One of the best horror films made this decade, and maybe all-time, Hereditary is a must-see from 2018. – Connor Adamson
11. Isle of Dogs
Wes Anderson has once again delved into stop-motion animation with his latest film, Isle of Dogs. Set in a futuristic Japan where disease-ridden canines have been banished to a remote island, a young boy journeys there to attempt a rescue of his beloved dog. Upon his arrival, a quintet of dogs happens upon him and they search together for the lost pet. All the staples of Was Anderson’s films are present here including some of his casting favorites such as Edward Norton and Bill Murray. They voice the English-speaking dogs along with the likes of Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, and Scarlett Johansson. The Japanese characters, however, speak their native language and are voiced suitably by Japanese actors. Their dialog is either appropriately subtitled or translated by another character for the audience’s benefit.
Though Wes Anderson is well known for the technical aspects of his filmmaking (such as tracking shots and symmetry within the frame), his charm in storytelling is what really sells this movie. The relationship between man and his best friend has long been explored in film, and here is another great example. This heartwarming tale in the the same stop-motion style as his previous work, Fantastic Mr. Fox, is well worth your time, and its place on this list. – Andrew
Despite the trend of female-led films taking off in recent years, Annihilation came and went in the theaters without much of an impact. This is quite a shame, as the latest from director Alex Garland is a phenomenal entry into the sci-fi genre. Natalie Portman stars and joins the main cast with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anya Thorensen, Tuva Novotny, and Tessa Thompson. As five professionally qualified team members, they take an expedition into the “Shimmer”, a mysterious and slowly expanding bubble of influence from the epicenter of a meteor strike. All previous expeditions have failed so there’s little hope for this latest one and as such, the theme of self-destruction is brought to the forefront. Each woman brings her own unique life experiences into the Shimmer, and each is affected by and reacts to it differently than the next. Alex Garland’s sophomore film (following Ex Machina), doesn’t rely on fantasy elements to make the material more appetizing to less-than-steadfast science fiction fans. It’s ready to grab your attention and not let go until long after the mind-blowing climax of the film. This film bombing at the theater was a gross injustice, and it well deserves its place among the Top 10 of this year. – Andrew
Roaring back from the semi-obscurity of cinematic experimentation, Spike Lee has delivered his most popular and well-regarded film of the 21st century, as well as the year’s most typographically challenging title. The audacious appeal of BlacKkKlansman is all there in that title – that’s two uppercase K’s and one lowercase – as Lee loosely adapts the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black Colorado police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan over the phone in the late 1970s, with the help of a white officer who played him in person. Lee’s film is a marvel of balancing apparent conflicts. It’s a historical film that feels extremely of the moment. It’s a drama about serious subject matter that is frequently uproarious. It’s a sobering look at hatred that masquerades as a type of genre fantasy. Lee’s approach could seem overstuffed in lesser hands, but he swirls it all together into a work of bracing vitality, one that is as angry as any Lee film but possesses a keen awareness of film’s function as escapism and entertainment. It’s also chock full of the camera techniques that Lee has made his trademark over the course of more than three decades in the business. And casting Denzel Washington’s son in the lead role was no mere favor to a respected collaborator. John David Washington shines as the pulse of a film that manages to have it all ways at once, proving that charisma clearly runs in that family. Adam Driver excels in supporting him, functioning as the other half of the character they’ve created to undermine an organization of unparalleled hatred. In this, Lee demonstrates an outlook that’s so optimistic, it’s almost quaint: Maybe blacks and whites working together – in the police department, no less – can really change the world. – Derek
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp
The Ant-Man subfranchise is in many ways Marvel’s most intelligent. It resists the temptation towards ever-increasing stakes and ever more outlandish dastardly schemes, instead finding drama in small (GET IT?) human dramas with petty pissant (GET IT??) villains who aren’t trying to destabilize world geopolitics or gamma-radiate the nine realms or whatever, but who are simply evil capitalists with hearts of stone. This film, even more so than the previous one, reminds us that the wellspring of superhero fiction has always been the fight of the “exceptional every man” against the rotten bums we read about every day in the Daily Planet who are trying to shortcut and subvert the American Dream. I mean, the central plot of Ant-Man and the Wasp is about an arms dealer wanting to steal a specific piece of tech. How adorable!
In the hands of lesser artists than these, this would devolve into little more than colorful vigilantes with magic belts. But the innovation of this film, and the current age of comic books movies overall, is to tie this extrinsic struggle to complex emotional and familial themes to which we all can relate. These strange, almost archetype-less characters all seem to glow with a sense of distinctive humanity that elevates them above what we have come to expect of multiplex popcorn fare. The surrealism of giant bugs and inter-quantum realities ceases to alienate us when the movie both acknowledges their weirdness and gives us comfortable, funny, heartwarming tour guides through it all. Combine this level of storytelling sophistication with the greatest innovation in car chases since the invention of San Francisco, and you have a remarkable film that ticks like a watch and can still laugh at itself. Incredibly satisfying. – Doug
7. Incredibles 2
Fourteen years later, it’s like no time has passed at all. Both within the movie and without, for part of the greatness of writer/director Brad Bird’s “Super” sequel is how it picks up mere moments after The Incredibles ended, and is of consistent enough quality that one can almost feel like they’re still watching the same film.
Yet the time is right for Incredibles 2 to turn the original on its ear somewhat. In 2004, comic book movies were on the rise, with such critically-applauded films as X2: X-Men United and Spider-Man 2 in the recent rear view. But while Christopher Nolan had not yet created his Dark Knight trilogy, and Iron Man was still four years away from launching a multi-billion-dollar Cinematic Universe, The Incredibles presented a world in which superheroes had been outlawed, shunned by society. As the intervening years have seen such a meteoric increase in the popularity of the subgenre, it’s almost poetic that Incredibles 2 should be about overturning such abolishments. The Incredibles – an animated epic in two parts – is now about embracing our heroes, and reminding us that the Parrs are some of their most shining examples. – Nigel
6. Deadpool 2
In case there was any doubt about how this would go, DP’s brazen declaration of “Fuck you, Wolverine” in the film’s opening seconds not only sets the tone, but sets up one of the running gags: Outraged at being upstaged by (spoiler!) Hugh Jackman‘s death scene in Logan, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) vows that he’s going to top it…despite the fact that he’s basically immortal. It’s enough to make this viewer wish that Jackman hadn’t hung up his claws quite yet; I’d really like to see these two guys mix it up in the same movie.
In the meantime, though, we get a sequel that is, of course, very much in keeping with the tone of the original. New characters played by Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz and Thanos himself, Josh Brolin, help keep things fresher, and a bigger budget and capable direction from Atomic Blonde‘s David Leitch mean that the action is bigger, bolder and pretty satisfying. Just one tip for Reynolds and his co-writers: You can officially stop making gags about X-Men Origins: Wolverine next time. – Nigel
5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The world is chock full of comic book movies, all of which are being tied into some interconnected franchise. The announcement of a solo animated Spider-Man film by Sony, and one based on a multiverse concept where Peter Parker is only a supporting character, seemed crazy. Bigger comic book movie fans were perplexed at why this would happen, and casual fans were likely confused as to whether this connected to another movie. All of these concerns are forgotten once you see the film. Beautifully animated and with a fairly original take on the comic book film, Into the Spider-Verse proves that superhero films still have plenty of room left to be creative and unique. The focus on a newer Spider-Man, Miles Morales, should please long-time fans of the character and people tired of the Peter Parker story. The different character allows differing themes of family and choice to resonate. And the film isn’t afraid to get crazy and allow the full zaniness of comicbookdom to be unleashed. This feels like the most comic-booky film we’ve seen, seamlessly integrating speech bubbles and visual sound effects when needed. The film is still taking theaters by storm and for good reason; it is truly one of the best films of 2018. – Connor
4. A Quiet Place
Over the last decade, a lot of the most creative and innovative storytelling has come from genre films. A Quiet Place is a great example of that. On its face it’s an post-apocalyptic horror movie about a family hiding from the aliens that have taken over the planet. What sets this story apart from many others in the same vein is that these aliens here are blind but have such a good sense of hearing that a single sound can alert the horde and bring them down upon you. Our central family walks barefoot and plays board games with cloth pieces and communicates only in sign language. The family’s oldest daughter is deaf, so navigating this new world where there must be total silence at all times comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The almost-totally-silent film is most likely a new experience for many moviegoers (even silent classics are usually accompanied by a musical score) but by centering a deaf character, someone for whom this silence is everyday life, not an interruption, the film encourages us to think differently of deafness in the world around us. Even if the monsters are defeated, Regan’s world won’t “go back to normal” – the silence remains her normal, just without fear. And in fact, her father’s consistent attempts to return her hearing with his technological tinkering, coupled with her rejection of them, make an important point about how living in a silent world is not tragic or nightmarish – at least in a world not centered around sound. And besides all that, it’s just a darn good thriller. – Hannah
3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
We’re 22 years and six movies in. How the heck does Mission: Impossible still manage to feel fresh?
I was initially a little disappointed when I learned Christopher McQuarrie was back to direct the sixth installment. After all, part of the fun of this franchise has been the different voices behind the camera for each film. Then I remembered that 2015‘s Rogue Nation is my favorite M:I film so far, and I felt a lot better. In a lot of ways, Fallout is less Mission: Impossible 6 and more Rogue Nation 2, especially given that it picks up right where the previous film left off. While, to my mind, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor, that’s no slight; this could easily be regarded among the best action films of any year it decided to release.
Look no further than the third-act helicopter chase. As the sequence continues, the stakes escalate and the impossible-ness of it all reaches gloriously ridiculous heights, this movie-goer was grinning from ear to ear in the theater. Popcorn entertainment doesn’t get a lot better than this. When’s the next mission, Tom? – Nigel
2. Black Panther
It’s possible that Black Panther has been talked about more than any other film in 2018. “What does this mean for representation in film?” “Does it deserve major awards consideration?” And so forth. This cacophony of chatter has bombarded us all and we seem to have lost sight of one simple fact…the movie is a joy to watch. It has all that we expect from a superhero movie, but it is also one of a kind. It is clear that Ryan Coogler and his team had a vision of Wakanda as a utopia of abundant life and technological wonders rooted in real African culture and they made it come alive for audiences on the big screen. The cast is excellent and features a number of powerful women who constantly upstage the titular hero. Even the common complaint for MCU films about lousy villains is not an issue in Black Panther, because Killmonger has understandable motives that will resonate with the audience despite his brutal methods. The script highlights a number of topics that are relevant in our real world just as much as the fantastical one of the film, so it gets you thinking in between the bombastic action sequences. Black Panther might not deserve all the accolades people want to heap on it, but it also doesn’t deserve all the backlash it has received. It was what the world wanted and so much more. – Ben Lott
1. Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Infinity War sitting as the best film of 2018 may be a sign of its absurd box office grosses and immense popularity. The final move of the beautifully-created CGI character Thanos (in a grandiose performance from Josh Brolin) in the film has become the source of memes, jokes, and immense speculation. The film’s presence has been hard to avoid if you are a fan of movies. But it’s hard to deny that massive achievement that Infinity War is; a space opera hearkening back to the Greek tales of gods and forces of nature battling it out for the fate of humanity. Its grand, sprawling nature may be overwhelming to those who haven’t kept up with the previous 20+ entries in this cinematic universe, but for those who have seen them all, Infinity War is the crown jewel and fulfills all the promises given to us with the first Avengers film. With part two just a few short months away, this may feel like the first half of a Lord of the Rings–scale epic. But it’s full of dazzling action scenes, gravitas, and some genuinely emotionally powerful moments. Seeing all of our pop culture heroes from the past ten years come together to face a great and foreboding threat is perhaps the best blockbuster experience we’ve had, and that’s saying something. – Connor
These are films that may not have hit our best-of list for the end of the year, but they are ones that resonated with our writers, and movies we feel are worth your time.
Another musical biopic? Maybe on its face, but Ethan Hawke’s Blaze is a different animal. Following the life of Blaze Foley, country singer and song-writer, Hawke explores themes that are likely to be universal to any artist – depicting the struggle between marketability and commercial success against the want to maintain truth and quality. It’s a struggle that has often defined country music history, and an entirely obscure artist like Blaze Foley helps sum up that struggle. Foley’s songs were recorded by far more famous artists like Merle Haggard and he worked alongside greats like Townes van Zandt and Guy Schwartz. Ben Dickey gives a fantastic and authentic performance as Blaze himself and Hawke’s film abandons any idea of a linear telling of Blaze’s life and instead uses the music to tell the story. The film often dwells in depression, common in many of Hawke’s works, but this pain is something fans of country music know well. This film really captures country music as a form while also providing a moving and unique biopic with no contrite ending where the subject learned to overcome his problems and move on. Pain is real in Blaze and doesn’t just get tossed away. – Connor
Burning might be the most perfect film of 2018. It’s horrifying, darkly funny, romantic, heartbreaking, and staggering in its beauty. Director Lee Chang-dong, adapting a short story by Haruki Murakami, tells Burning mostly in long, silent takes, but does this in a way that is always enthralling and captivating. Burning might also be the best example of awkwardness, discomfort and uncertainty in romantic relationships and the inability to fundamentally change who you are in such situations. The relationship between Lee and Shin is nerve-wracking and still beautiful, but it’s Steven Yeun as the mysterious Ben that is one of the finest performances of the year. Every choice Yeun makes as Ben is calculated and terrifying to watch, a performance full of layers that rewards dissection. Burning is a dark and intricately told story that lingers in your brain like a mystery waiting to be unraveled. – Ross
David Gordon Green’s Halloween is a minor miracle. The third film of that name, it establishes a fifth continuity of Halloween as these numerous sequels have a habit of ignoring other sequels at their convenience. As a part of a franchise full of numerous mediocre films that wore Michael Myers down into a parody of himself, fans of the horror franchise waited with bated breathe to see if their beloved slasher would finally get a good sequel. Our patience was rewarded as Green’s film returns to the roots of the franchise and provided a Myers that was finally scary again. With great direction, a revitalized score mixing themes of the past with new inventive methods, and some plain brutal kills, Halloween is finally a horror franchise that wets our pants again. Green’s long takes and willingness to have Michael do some truly brutal actions make a horror film that stands among the best of the franchise. The return of Jamie Lee Curtis, and continuing her character of Laurie Strode in an interesting manner, help give Halloween some more resilient themes and make it stand among the better horror films of the past few years. – Connor
In 2018, it should not be a big deal to have a major studio (in this case, 20th Century Fox) release a teen romance in which the main character is gay. Unfortunately, “should” rarely enters into it when matters of social progress are concerned. The truth was that the release of Love, Simon seemed like a minor watershed in the history of LGBTQ representation on screen, and Greg Berlanti’s film lived up to the historical moment. Perhaps because of this moment, this gay forward film is pretty straightforward, if you will. It’s polished, the stars are beautiful, the high school depicted is pretty standard, the narrative is cleanly structured and perhaps a bit predictable. But the emotions are raw and real, and you may reach for the nearest box of tissues on more than one occasion.
Nick Robinson ably fills the shoes of Simon, a closeted suburban kid who begins anonymously corresponding with another student at school who has made an online confession of his sexuality. The correspondence is eventually discovered, blackmail ensues, and the lives of Simon and his friends, as well as their unconfessed affections for one another, are all thrown into a blender. The plot details of Love, Simon are not as important as the honest ways the film explores the various characters’ reactions to Simon’s revelations, unwitting and otherwise. Especially touching are the reactions of his parents – warts, hesitations and all. Berlanti probably would have preferred to give us something more eccentric and rougher edged than Love, Simon, but you can’t argue with the end result of his approach, which was a film that spoke both to people in Simon’s circumstances, and those who strive to make it easier for anyone who might be. A gay main character in a 2018 teen romance shouldn’t be a big deal, but if it has to be, thank goodness for films like Love, Simon. – Derek
One asks different things from different movies. When I’m watching a flick about a giant monster destroying a city, all I’m asking for is a fun time, and Rampage has that. Before Warner Bros. create a massive kaiju “cinematic universe” from 2014‘s Godzilla and 2017‘s Kong: Skull Island, they’ve already essentially given us Kong vs. Godzilla in Rampage. Throw in charismatic mega-star Dwayne Johnson, and you’ve got a recipe for fun, and aside from Malin Akerman‘s ridiculously over-the-top, Bond-like villain, this works well. In fact, it’s a lot like the video game upon which it is based: pretty silly, but an enjoyable time, as long as you’re willing to shut your brain off and go for the ride. – Nigel
It feels like Tully is going to be ignored during this coming awards season. Maybe it came out too long ago, and is being forgotten. That’s a real shame, because the writer/director team behind the Oscar-winning Juno have crafted another gem.
At first, I expected that Tully might be another foray into Juno‘s brand of quirk. Happily, it’s a very different flavor entirely. Diablo Cody’s script is thoughtful, emotional, and much less filled with oddball dialogue, and Jason Reitman‘s direction is spot-on.
But this movie is really a showcase for great acting. Ron Livingston‘s beleaguered dad and Mackenzie Davis‘s free-spirited titular night nanny, yes, but this movie belongs to Charlize Theron. As Marlo, the exhausted mother of three desperately seeking respite from her harried life, Theron commands the screen and reminds us why she already has an Oscar. It’s a performance that deserves to be remembered. – Nigel
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
In this Netflix-exclusive that has already become what all great Joel & Ethan Coen films become — a cult hit — the greatest brother duo in Hollywood return to the epic, mythic setting of the American West. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a magnum opus for the Coens, and not just in terms of its length and scope. Thanks to their authorial flair, the film is a gold mine of quirky, quotable comedy (“Almost all animals are larger than President Pierce”) and a well of deep sorrow for the cruelties and tragedies that characterized life on that ol’ dusty trail. The six different segments are tied together by the dramatically-rich theme of death, and they are enlivened by music from the cast and from composer Carter Burwell. Tom Waits hums his way through his segment as a stubborn prospector, but non-singers such as Tim Blake Nelson and Brendan Gleeson also provide enjoyable tunes that are respectively funny and haunting. Nelson has the title role, and Harry Melling (previously best known as the chubby bully Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter movies) is a revelation as an armless and legless orator, but it was Zoe Kazan‘s appearance as “The Gal Who Got Rattled” that generated the most internet discussion. Some wished that her segment had been expanded into a full feature film, and certainly the Coens could do it, but as it stands Buster Scruggs is an ideal example of the anthology format thanks to its diversity of tone and coherence of vision. – David Conrad