From grim dramas to breathtaking action films, 2018 was a great year to go to the movies. It was a year of seismic changes in the cinematic landscape as Marvel’s Black Panther was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, showing that superhero films could be serious fare, too. However, it was also a year where more idiosyncratic films, such as The Favourite, found an audience. Regardless of your sensibilities, 2018 had something for everyone.
This list continues StudioBinder’s ongoing series to review the best films of the last decade. For this article, I’m running through my opinions on what I believe to be the best movies of 2018. Filmmakers, consider this the definitive list of movies you need to check out next.
BEST MOVIES 2018
The Death of Stalin is one of the more unusual films to come out in recent years. It’s a satirical look into the final days of Joseph Stalin and the ensuing power struggle to control the Soviet Union. It’s a brilliant film with more than a couple of parallels to our current political state, and while the events presented within are exaggerated, you’ll find yourself more than once thinking, “Wait, did this really happen?”
For those with a political-oriented sense of humor, it’s a must-watch. It’s bitingly funny with one-liners flying so fast you may not catch everything. The film excels in how it strips away the mystique often associated with politics and brings those in power down into the dirt.
BEST 2018 MOVIES
19. First Man
How do you make a movie about something everyone knows is successful? You make it about the tragedies a central American figure experienced along the way and his quest to make those tragedies mean something. Everyone remembers the momentous occasion of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, but they may not know what Armstrong’s home life was like or the names of the astronauts who gave their lives along the way. First Man becomes a critical look at our history.
Ryan Gosling may not have given as flash of a performance as some of the Oscar nominees that year, but for my money, he gives the best performance of the year right here. His ability to portray a broken man doing everything he can to make NASA’s project succeed. It’s a haunting portrayal of an American hero and makes him seem more human than what history would have you believe.
2018 BEST MOVIES
A war vet is hired by a senator to rescue his daughter from a child prostitution ring. While it sounds like the premise of a Liam Neeson film, You Were Never Really Here is one of the more stylish thrillers to come out in recent memory, punctuated by a kind of rapid momentum to take you on this brutal journey. Ultimately, it’s the journey of one man’s attempt to do right by the world in a world insistent on violence.
While there’s ample bloodshed, the film isn’t so much concerned with that as it is for the trauma of childhood abuse. It can be abstract at times but rest assured there’s beauty in the darkness. It may not be what you’re expecting, but it burns itself onto your psyche long after it’s over.
BEST MOVIES OF 2018
Support the Girls is a far more optimistic film, but it never ignores the reality of womanhood in America. Lisa Conroy is the manager and surrogate mother for a group of girls working at a sports bar, and over the course of one trying day, learns what she wants to do with her life. All of the women struggle, but one thing unites them: they love working together.
The film is a wonderful portrait of sisterhood and how women can find support and empathy anywhere. While sports bars like Double Whammies (the movie equivalent to a Hooters) may be designed by capitalism to keep women down, they manage to find a way to make the system work for them. The film doesn’t sugarcoat any realities of being a woman in the modern world, but it does leave you with the hope that support is possible.
GOOD MOVIES OF 2018
16. Ben Is Back
The opioid crisis has the potential for overly maudlin films. While Ben Is Back never shies away from the unfortunate realities of drug addiction, it does so with understated performances from Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts, who is the best she has been in years. The film never succumbs to melodrama, providing one of the best looks of addiction ever put to film and how said addiction impacts everyone in the addict’s life.
It’s one part family drama and one part thrilling hunt. The film manages to capture addiction on both the micro and macro level, at times showing how it can permeate into a single family’s life while also showing partly how this crisis in the first place when Ben’s mother confronts the doctor who prescribed him the drugs initially. Hedges and Roberts carry the film, making for essential viewing for anyone who loves an addict.
BEST RATED MOVIES 2018
Avengers: Infinity War easily could’ve collapsed under the weight of its own ambitions. Yet somehow, it succeeds. It weaves together multiple storylines, making the Marvel Cinematic Universe finally feel like a universe where what happens in one planet has a devastating impact on another. The superhero fights are as cool as they’ve ever been, but the real standout is the portrayal of the villain Thanos.
It’s rare for villains in modern blockbusters to stand out in any significant way. The last time a villain made this kind of impact on the zeitgeist feels like it was Heath Ledger’s Joker. Thanos is fully realized, and while you don’t agree with his motivations, it makes sense. He’s technically the protagonist of the film, providing for a film that insights as much philosophical discussion as it does praise for awesome fights and funny jokes.
LIST OF THE BEST MOVIES OF 2018
Hereditary doesn’t scare you with something jumping out of a corner. It burrows into your consciousness, making you witness the horrors of family and how sometimes, we’re incapable of escaping that what we’re born with. You never feel completely at ease watching Hereditary as the next brutality may be just around the corner to expedite your heart rate.
Of course, part of that terror comes from brilliant direction and a haunting score. Toni Collette also provides an outstanding performance as a mother trying to keep it together after her mother passes away. Her performance is hypnotic and will keep you transfixed to the screen. The film also has one of the most horrifying, brutal images I’ve ever seen on film, which I fear has been permanently seared into my memory. You’ll know it when you see it.
GREAT MOVIES 2018
Roma is a deeply personal film, capturing a very specific moment in time and place. Alfonso Cuarón tells the story of an indigenous nanny working for a wealthy family against the backdrop of political turmoil in Mexico. The film follows a year in her life as she goes through a pregnancy, and the family she cares for undergoes its own sort of upheaval.Roma bursts with energy and life in every frame. The film feels like the most accurate portrayal of life during this time you could muster. But while it’s set in the 70s, the connections it draws between those in power and those in servitude feel just as pertinent as ever. With Roma, you get to bear witness to a master storyteller at work who brings you on a journey rather than sending you straight to a destination.
BEST MOVIES FROM 2018
Widows is a film of contradictions. On paper, it comes across as a gritty action film about women needing to clean up the messes left behind by their husbands to protect themselves and their families from the enemies they’ve made. On deeper reflection, it’s a showcase of a mourning process that doesn’t always give you the catharsis you’re searching for, expertly directed by Steve McQueen.
This all resulted in one of the most sophisticated action films ever made. The film is steeped with social commentary, diving headfirst into everything from police brutality and class division. It’s also commandeered by fine performances from some of the best actresses working today. It manages to be both popcorn entertainment and a thought-provoking rumination on death all at once.
BEST MOVIES 2018 REVIEW
11. Black Panther
Just when you think the superhero genre runs out of steam, Black Panther comes out to make general audiences excited again. It hits many of the same beats as your average Marvel film, but it manages to feel wholly different at the same time. It’s a far more intelligent superhero film than it has any right to be, and with big action set pieces and great writing, it’s one of the most compelling superhero movies to come out in the last decade.
Director Ryan Coogler manages to exercise a great deal of creative control, providing some fantastic shots as well as a vibrant depiction of Wakanda that feels lived in. When all is said and done, the film provides a profound cultural message in a time when the culture needs it most, making it feel like an essential film rather than something coming out to appease shareholders.
10 BEST MOVIES OF 2018
10. A Star Is Born
Another remake of A Star Is Born had no right to be this good. It features brilliant performances from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, providing some of the most intense chemistry put to film. The two play off one another wonderfully when their relationship is great and when it’s in the dumps. It makes for a captivating film that holds your attention through the simple details of a relationship in flux.
The film provides one of the most haunting portrayals of the downfalls of fame. It shows how the concept of celebrity can erode every facet of a person’s well-being and how for one person to make it big, other people have to suffer. Of course, this film would be nothing without the brilliantly catchy songs, which will have you begging to own the soundtrack after the credits roll.
RANKING THE BEST 2018 MOVIES
Sorry to Bother You is one of the most refreshingly original films to come out in the last few years. It’s an anti-capitalistic allegory about one man’s journey from call center employee to big shot. The first half of the film will have you thinking you know where the film is going and what it will have to say about labor relations, but then it takes a surprising turn into absurdism. The reason this turn works so well is that the absurdism plays directly into the hands of the themes the film wants to convey.
Despite the twists and turns, the film never flies off the rails. Director Boots Riley maintains total control over the vision he wants to tell the audience. In the years to come, I firmly believe this will come to be one of the most important films to come out of the 2010s.
2018 BEST MOVIES, RANKED
Mandy is not so much a film about the plot but a film about a mood and intensity. When a cult ruins a couple’s quiet, secluded life in the woods, Red Miller, played to perfection by Nicolas Cage in one of his greatest roles, sets out for revenge. Mandy captures the aesthetic of 70s grindhouse films that takes full advantage of Cage’s idiosyncrasies as an actor and allows him to go all-in on a tale of hallucinatory violence.
The film isn’t interested in speeding through to give you violent release too quickly. It takes its time, often spending far longer than you would expect on singular moments. The movie itself feels like a nightmare, coming through like a specter to remind you of the trauma of experiencing unimaginable loss.
ANALYZING THE BEST MOVIES OF 2018
Yorgos Lanthimos proves himself to be one of the most important film directors of the 2010s with The Favourite. The tale of two women vying for the affections of Queen Anne is told brilliantly in no small part due to a trio of outstanding performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone. The wryly comedic film serves as a humorous look into concepts of masculinity and femininity as they relate to 18th century England and the modern world.Each of the three main characters is handled with the utmost care, making for an intriguing game of cat-and-mouse that will have you constantly questioning who to root for the entire way. Yorgos Lanthimos has once again crafted a tale that questions social norms and niceties, making The Favourite feel like a culmination of his decade’s filmography.
RANKING THE BEST MOVIES OF 2018
First Reformed is a haunting film. It follows a priest tormented by alcohol and the death of his son when he’s asked by a parishioner to help her depressed husband, who does not believe they should bring a child into this insane world. It all leads to a cataclysmic finale that you would expect nothing less from the writer of Taxi Driver.First Reformed is an important film that has a lot to say about religion, politics, and society at large. It’s filmed beautifully but at the same time feels distant and cold. And Ethan Hawke delivers the finest performance of his career. It’s a film that lingers with you, and in a way, no other film feels quite as uniquely “2018” as this one due to the timeliness of what it has to say about the world around us.
TOP 5 BEST MOVIES OF 2018
Annihilation is a sci-fi film worthy of being ranked up there with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner. It brings a group of scientists into a fantastical and nightmarish realm where our protagonist sets out to find out what happened to her husband and what could happen to the world. The film brings elements of horror and sentimentality for an unnerving experience that is uncompromising in its vision.
It’s a film that both fascinates and haunts the viewer. There are moments of brutal intensity as well as contemplative moments about the state of humanity. It’s an ambitious film that makes you angry that not all films try to reach such grand heights.
BEST MOVIES FOR 2018
4. Eighth Grade
While some films reach for universal truths, Eighth Grade looks inward to tell the story of an introverted, awkward eighth-grader trying to navigate a turning point in her life. It’s a simple story, but that only makes its cinematic impact more significant. You feel just as tense watching a young girl go off to a pool party as you would about a film with monsters lurking behind the corner. Eighth Grade makes this awkward time in life feel exactly how it does when you’re there in that moment: like every interaction holds the utmost significance.
I love Bo Burnham as a comedian, and as a director, he shows why his standup is so great. He’s in tune with these kinds of universal experiences practically everyone has to go through. He then mines it both for its comedy and its tragedy. Every eighth-grader needs to watch this movie to know they are not going through this time alone.
THE 3 BEST MOVIES IN 2018
The Mission: Impossible series has quickly gone from just another action film series to setting the bar for all action movies to come. The real set pieces they managed to carry out for this film are nothing short of extraordinary with a team literally jumping out of a plane to shoot the famous “halo jump” sequence. It’s the best action movie since Mad Max: Fury Road with stunts that will make your jaw drop.Mission: Impossible - Fallout is the reason movies are made. It thrills. It stuns. It’s a wonder the filmmakers were able to put a team together willing to take on such an ambitious project.
BEST MOVIES IN 2018 TO WATCH
How many movies can you possibly make about Spider-Man? You can make as many as you want when they’re as good as Into the Spider-Verse. It’s not just a major achievement for the superhero genre but for the animation industry as a whole. The visuals here are nothing short of amazing. Everything looks vibrant, forsaking realism with imaginative wonder.And that’s not saying anything about the writing, which is genuinely impressive for what’s ultimately a Sony kids’ film. All other Spider-Man films insist “With great power comes great responsibility.” But with Spider-Verse, the message is “We all have the power to do good, so we all have a responsibility to do good.” It’s profound and just a delight to watch.
THE BEST MOVIE OF 2018
BlacKkKlansman is Spike Lee doing what Spike Lee does best: making entertaining movies with deep political allegories at their core. This film isn’t subtle about its message, but the themes still resonant in today’s world. Whereas other films dealing with race tend to make racial issues a personal issue that can be fixed through getting to know one another (see 2018’s Green Book), BlacKkKlansman makes it clear up until the final frame that this is a systemic problem that takes more than one man to fix.Lee’s rage is on full display, but that doesn’t stop him from also infusing his masterpiece with wit and heart. If there’s one film from 2018 everyone, regardless of race, gender or creed should watch, it’s BlacKkKlansman.
The Best Movies of 2019
We now get into the final year of the 2010s. 2019 was full of surprises at the theater, but which film do you think will take the top spot. These films are the freshest in our memories, so time may tell how the ranking holds up in the years to come. For now, continue reading to see the next part of StudioBinder’s series to rank the best films of the 2010s.