List: Top 10 Movies of 2018 (Ryan McQuade)
Within a jammed pack year of joining this website, joining the Extra Film podcast, to getting married to the love of my life, to losing one of the closest people I’ve ever known, to becoming the proud father of a beautiful puppy, it has been a eventfully, game changing year in my life and while all these things were going on, the year in film was slowly become one of my favorites. The year that was 2018 will go down as the best year of the decade for films with the 2010s. Not only was it one of the best years in terms of movies from week to week, but the quality of the films and the elevation of genres throughout the year was extraordinary. From starting off the year with Paddington 2 to ending the year with If Beale Street Could Talk, I’m still catching up with films because of the consistent richness that was 2018. This was pound for pound the best year for Foreign Language films, Documentaries, Independent films as well as a very solid year for big blockbuster movies. It was also rich in films that shaped or changed the way I thought about the world around, with some films making me want to become a better overall person by the closing credits. I don’t know how 2019 could top 2018 but I will be interesting in seeing how it try to top the best year in film since 2007.
We do encourage you to listen to Episode 308 to hear more about our picks, but as we do every year, listed here is my Top 20 of 2018.
10. Won’t You Be My Neighbor
While They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a great investigative doc into the life of Orson Welles, Won’t You Be My Neighbor is one of the most moving, charming, important documentaries of the decade. The documentary about Fred Rodgers is more about the man and his philosophy than about the innocent show he was making. As stated in the film, Fred Rodgers was a revolutionary and he was completely ahead of his time. By the end of the film, there is a clip from one of the major news networks taking show at his work, blaming this generations “laziness” on Mr. Rodgers and that’s wrong because sufficed to say, I wish we had someone like Mr. Rodgers around that was deeply religious and faith based and innocent but also radical and talk about things no one else wants to talk about on TV, let alone on a children’s program, and by the end of the film, all I could do is marvel at the life that was Fred Rodgers. Director Morgan Neville is the new king of documentaries, and I’m fascinated in what subject he will tackle next. Click here to listen to our full review.
9. Leave No Trace
This was my first introduction to the main podcast, and who’d of thought that Debra Granik long awaited follow up to Winters Bone would connect with me in such fantastically layered and real way. The two lead performances here from Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster are so authentic that I felt like they were really father and daughter. Thus their connection, their bond is so real to me. It takes the ideas of something like Captain Fantastic, a film I enjoy a couple years ago, and expands them into a discussion over the treatment of veterans, what a home and a family should be and what personal independence is. I wasn’t a fan of Winter’s Bone but I was a huge fan of this movie and I hope it doesn’t take almost another decade to get another film from her about people that we never get to see a lot and the lives that they live. Click here to listen to our full review.
8. The Rider
This was the film that took me so long to see this year and from the moment it starts, I was hooked. I love how Chloe Zhao makes this film almost feel like a bio-pic/documentary within this narrative structure, it’s as real as it could get and feels like something that is personal to everyone that is making it. This movie can strikingly beautiful but also being touching as well as you watch Brady slowly but surely try to put his life back together. It is a film about someone trying to continue their life and live out their dreams but also about coming to an understanding about needing to know when it is time to let things past and move on and find a new passion. This is all he knows and all he thinks he has, and by the end of the film, he realizes that their might be more than that eight seconds. It truly a special film and its one that I will regret the most not seeing on the big screen this year. Click here to listen to our full review.
Alfonso Cauron’s most personal film of his career is his most visual striking film since Children of Men. The simple story of a maid taking care of a wealthy family in Mexico is not only beautiful from what you are seeing but the story feels so real and from the heart that you can’t fall in love it. It did take a while for it to get going for me, but once this movie gets into it mid act twist, this movie goes on another level and left me wanting to see it again. I wasn’t able to see it on the big screen but that didn’t stop me from loving. Thank you Netflix for giving Cauron a chance at making his vision come true. Click here to listen to our full review.
6. First Reformed
When I wrote my review for Paul Schrader’s bombastic struggle between of man’s relationship between religion and climate change, I struggled myself in getting out words to describe what the movie was doing to me and I think that was the point. This movie challenged me in ways that many films this year did not and leaves you with lasting images that make you question your beliefs and what you are doing to protect this world. I said that Schrader was making a battle cry, with a sermon of a script, and he picked the perfect vessel to deliver that sermon in Ethan Hawke, who gives the best performance of his career and of the year. Click here to listen to our full review.
5. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
What can I say that many have already said about what I think will go alongside Mad Max Fury Road as one of the best action films of the decade. From the helicopter chase, to the motorcycle chase through Paris, to the fist fight in the film, director Christopher McQuarrie takes you on an adrenaline fluid ride with characters we have spent five films with but take the time to give us a story that is built from the bones of the rest of the franchise. Tom Cruise is showing what I believe upon re-watch to give one of the most layered performances of his career and you can really feel when watching this film that this might be the one time Ethan can’t fully complete the mission and save everyone. The film lays down this tension from the get go and never lets go. Long live the best franchise in Hollywood and here’s to 2021 and 2022 when we get to accept our next mission. Click here to listen to our full review.
One of the biggest surprises of the year became also one of the most original story of the year. In a film that follows the last three days of a young man’s probation, we are taken on a world of emotions and a look at the city of Oakland that is a real as any experience in any other major city. This movie is personal and that is because of the script written by the leads of the film in Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, who take their personal struggles and complaints of the city they live in and make them connect within the large world and struggles that many in their communities deal with on a daily basis. With biting humor, tense cultural relevance and the best use of hip hop I’ve seen in film in a long time, this movie is this generations Do the Right Thing and I can’t wait for the next project by these two truly special talents. Click here to listen to our full review.
Between the conversation on race, the two co lead performances of John David Washington and Adam Driver, and the confidence of Spike Lee as a master filmmaker, this film brings us a timely story of the past while connecting it back to our modern times. This is a wakeup call as well as a cautionary tale that mixes in pure nostalgia of the past and style of 70’s Blaxploitation films, in a world that seems so divided and angry, it took Spike Lee to bring it all together and make us laugh and cry but also make us think. Click here to listen to our full review.
2. If Beale Street Could Talk
The love story shown from Kiki Layne and Stephen James is the most romantic realistic relationship I was on screen this year, the family dynamics and their values are perfectly portrayed in a script that is a love letter to James Baldwin. Barry Jenkins balances real life issues of accusations of rape as well as mass incarceration as well as it being about innocence and how the color of your skin doesn’t matter if someone’s mind is made up about you, and he does it all with a tender, loving eye behind the camera. Jenkins along with Nicholas Britell’s score paint a beautiful portrait of these characters and the environment and time they live in. If I had more time to digest this movie, it might have made my number one but I also think this movie will be like Moonlight and only grow in my love for it. Barry Jenkins is the real treasure and is slowly turning into one of the best living filmmakers on the planet. Click here to listen to our full review.
There are so many things I love about this movie: the opening, the empowerment, the political story that is just as interesting as the heist itself. Widows is a deconstruction of a heist movie, taking the genre to new and exciting heights. The best ensemble of the year and twist that, due to the marketing of the film, surprised the hell out of me and then brought this movie to a whole another level. It’s so layered and has a lot going on and while it doesn’t work for everyone, this movie clicked for me at every single moment. By the end of this movie, I wanted to see more, I wanted to be a part of a Chicago world building that hasn’t been as good since The Dark Knight, making that city as much of a character as the actors in the film. If you didn’t see Widows, please see it! I wish more people were talking about this movie because this is a prime example of what we can do when we give visionary directors like Steve McQueen and amazing writers like Gillian Flynn the resources to make not only just a great genre film that is within their style, but a full on masterpiece. Click here to listen to our full review.
To round out my Top 20, here is the rest of my list:
11) Thunder Road
12) The Favourtie
13) Paddington 2
14) The Old Man and the Gun
15) Isle of Dogs
16) Mary Poppins Return
17) First Man
19) Three Identical Strangers
Let us know what you think. Do you agree or disagree? We’d like to know why. Leave a comment in the comment section below or tweet us @InSessionFilm.