Best Films of 2018

2018 has been a wild year for film, from wildly entertaining sequels (see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and Paddington 2) to Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest in dry, yet tragic, humor to a horror film featuring tongue clicking, a nut allergy, and dead pigeons. It has been year for powerful women, both in front of and behind the camera, from the women of Annihilation to Crystal Moselle and her look into the world of women skateboarders. It has been a year to interrogate representations of masculinity, from Joe in You Were Never Really Here to Reverend Toller in First Reformed. It has been a year of terror, love, laughter, and exhaustion, both literally and cinematically. The films of 2018 truly captured the strange and turbulent atmosphere that has thrown us all into a state of near-constant anxiety.

The Much Ado team has relished in this anxiety, seeing many of 2018’s best, and worst films with the help of film festivals such as Cannes, NYFF, and BFI, MoviePass (RIP), and AMC Stubs A-List. After much deliberation, Letterboxd rankings, and last-minute trips to the cinema, we present Much Ado’s top 25 films of the year.

You can find individual lists of the writers and our best films of the year video at the end of the post.

1. The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos


A year without a Yorgos Lanthimos film is a year not well lived. He is, to me, a director full of surprises and not just because of the strange subject material of his films. I haven’t watched a film of his that didn’t make me feel stimulated and delighted at first, then melancholic a few hours later. His films stay with me long after viewing, waiting their turn at the corner of my mind, like the tragedy waits at the corner of his films. Which is why it’s no surprise to me that The Favourite is Much Ado’s top choice for the film of the year.

When I first heard about The Favourite, it sounded like someone read my “Lesbian Period Film Ideas” journal and decided to turn it into a film. The Favourite has everything! Lesbians, Rachel Weisz topping Olivia Colman, lavish costumes, fisheye lenses that make you feel claustrophobic, best use of the word cunt, rabbits that represent dead children of a sad woman, Emma Stone’s big eyes, the list goes on. The women are cunning but also loving, their words cut so sharp that you’d think they are on RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s as funny as you’d expect it to be, until it isn’t.

Lanthimos prepares you for the tragedy to come. He drops signs of trouble in the corner of his fisheye lens, almost out of sight. In this fight for power that is one step away from ridiculousness, a lover’s compliment, or insult, is there to remind you that what you’re watching is more than “cat fight”. In one of the best scenes of the film, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) tells an angry Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) that love is honesty and every hurtful truth she told Anne is the proof of her love. As the audience waits for Anne’s response, all witty comebacks and hilarious scheming disappears, and we realise all this power play is rooted in one sad woman’s desperation to be loved but only in her own terms.

The Favourite will surely provide us with enough memes to last for years and the gays discussing whether they’re a Weisz or Stone, but it’ll also be the film, like all other Lanthimos films, that’ll make you ask, “Should I be laughing at these people’s tragedy?” And the answer is that Yes, in Lanthimos’ world, tragedy is damn hilarious.


2. You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsay


While Lynne Ramsay’s latest film made a big splash at Cannes 2017, it was released in early 2018 with little fanfare. As we’re caught in the middle of awards season, You Were Never Really Here proves to be one of the most overlooked films of the year—and that’s quite a shame, as it is the strongest directorial effort by far. Following a jaded war veteran named Joe on his rescue mission to save a teenage girl from human trafficking, he finds himself in the middle of a web of corruption in his town. The narrative is remarkably layered, simultaneously a meditation on living with trauma, then a powerful deconstruction of the traditional male hero, an anti-action film. Lynne Ramsay’s fragmented, detail-oriented imagery is a great match for the screenplay, perfectly representing the abstractness of Joe’s traumatic flashbacks.

It is especially admirable that a film touching on such difficult subject material could still be so respectful and humane. Above all the ghosts that haunt Joe’s past, the breakdowns and heavy breathing, there is an aura of cathartic peace, and even a sense of humor that characterizes the film. I found myself never wanting to leave its quiet, reflective moments. Ramsay masterfully uses every element of filmmaking to create a symphony of sight and sound. She is in full command of every cut and pulse of this captivating, empathetic journey. Joaquin Phoenix’s gives a beautiful, subdued dramatic performance, giving a minimalist character like Joe incredible depth. While I feel it isn’t getting the attention it deserves, I’m so excited to see where Ramsay goes from here.  It’s a beautiful day.


3. Eighth Grade, dir. Bo Burnham


We all joke about our teenage years being the absolute worst, but no on-screen depiction has ever felt as accurate as Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. Thirteen-year-old Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) may preach the necessity of self-confidence in her shrilly online blogs, but in reality, every day of her school life is an anxiety-ridden struggle. The other kids vary from being outright mean to just ignoring her, she has no friends to speak of, and social media serves as a constant reminder of the perfect alternate reality that she should be living.

What makes Eighth Grade almost too realistic, though, is the fact that Kayla is an absolute brat. Her endearingly embarrassing father (Josh Hamilton) tries his very hardest to boost her up and make her feel loved, but this is not the attention that Kayla seeks. Burnham’s refusal to allow Kayla to wallow in the status of victim is a striking choice, creating a balance between empathy and irritation that mirrors any mature adults reaction to teenage self-obsession. Eighth Grade is a film which may well represent your own past — with added modern tweaks — in all the ways you don’t want to think about.


4. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desiree Akhavan


Of all the films that came out this year, my most beloved was this understated study of navigating adolescence under the entrapment of a centre focused around ‘fixing’ the sexualities of teenagers. The story told here, by Desiree Akhavan in her second feature, is that of the eponymous Cameron (a wonderfully measured Chloë Grace Moretz) who is led to believe that the relationship she has formed with her best friend, and of course, the prom queen, is a ‘sin’ that must be purged by becoming a disciple of ‘God’s Promise’.

What emerges from this — this kind of unimaginable cruelty disguised as saviourism — however, is a solidarity that acts as a balm for all that Cameron and her friends are told. As a result, the work that has come before which The Miseducation of Cameron Post is perhaps most reminiscent of are the John Hughes movies of the eighties. Much like the characters found in The Breakfast Club, the kids at the centre of The Miseducation of Cameron Post are united in their battle against their world. In contrast to Hughes’ features, however, is the fact that none of the teenagers at God’s Promise are straight. Rather, it is precisely because of their ‘shared struggle with sin’ that Cameron, Jane (Sasha Lane), and Adam (Forest Goodluck) band together — and it is largely down to this as to why Akhavan’s film is so precious to me. I had waited years to find a coming-of-ager in which I, as a lesbian, would see myself in the protagonist. For all the Andies and the Claires of Hughes’ movies that I came across in my adolescence, I still longed for a lead character that would mirror my own feelings for women. The Miseducation of Cameron Post gave me exactly that — and, for it, I owe Akhavan everything.


5. Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino


One of the more controversial entries on this list, Suspiria is a messy, blood-soaked tribute to feminine chaos. Loose ends and meandering plot lines make Luca Guadagnino’s latest a difficult film to appreciate for those looking to find concrete sense in the madness, but there’s so much slick filmmaking here that it’s remained a favourite with many Much Ado critics. A brisk departure from the 1977 original, Suspiria takes the themes of its predecessor and paints a graphic portrait of a witches-coven-slash-dance-academy in 1970s Berlin. When American Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) enrolls, she finds herself caught up in the inner workings of the school, as the lines between the powerless and powerful blur irrevocably.

Carnal desire and gruesome butchery run riot in this depiction of raw female passion; the heart and soul of the film is found not in the elegance of the dancers, but in the destruction of their restraint. Guadagnino incorporates just the right amount of yonic imagery to keep film professors buzzing for years to come (if that’s not an advertisement for the film, I don’t know what is), with every frame feeling as if it is crafted specifically to tell its own story. With this much content, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed, but as the ending sinks in, and the lights come up, there remains an understanding that Suspiria (2018) is one film that you will never forget.


6. Annihilation, dir. Alex Garland


I love women and sci-fi, so needless to say I knew Annihilation was going to be a 2018 favorite for me before I even set foot in the theatre. Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novel and directed by Alex Garland of Ex Machina fame, Annihilation attempts to unravel the mystery of a strange, iridescent border called the Shimmer that has suddenly appeared. A team of five women, played by Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Gina Rodriguez, are sent into the Shimmer to discover its secrets. We love a film that passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.

Each woman brings their own power and knowledge to the team as they try to understand the beautiful, and terrifying, creatures they find. It is a visually stunning film, filled with strange hybrid animals, including a mutant bear that can imitate the screams of humans, and an alien creature that reminds us terrified students of Lacan. While it deviates greatly from its source material, Annihilation is an admirable addition to the horror-sci-fi genre, which is why it is so disappointing that it received such a limited theatrical run. Films like Annihilation display the creativity happening in the genre and how a little more support can go a long way in earning them wider recognition.

-Mary Beth

7. First Reformed, dir. Paul Schrader


After the dark and dismal days of The Canyons and The Dying of the Light, Paul Schrader has returned to something like divine greatness with First Reformed. The religious drama, starring a superb Ethan Hawke as a small town chaplain living a solitary life following the death of his son, hits many of the same notes as Schrader’s big break, Taxi Driver—the psychological complexity, the calculated risk-taking, the dark, comic absurdity. Hawke’s Reverend Toller is essentially a buttoned-up Bickle, desperate to save something, or someone, from a world as black as ink. Yet First Reformed is still a work all its own, and it’s the greatest film to grapple with climate change since, well, ever.

Watching the film feels like racing against three different clocks—Toller’s illness, Toller’s radicalism, and rising global temperatures—all tick-ticking down to some ominous deadline, and the experience is as unsettling as it is thrilling. And even with a trippy, heavy-handed sequence that guides us through polluted cities and garbage barges, Schrader manages to transform a potentially trite science-versus-religion tale into one that’s stylish, delicate, and confounding. The velvety cinematography of Alexander Dynan also makes the film a visual treat—the image of Toller standing amidst a hazardous wasteland during a lavender dawn deserves an award alone.

Although its third act threatens to make a caricature of Hawke’s Reverend Toller and his desperate cause, First Reformed ultimately evades this problem, choosing painfully fascinating questions and lurid, can’t-look-away violence in place of big revelations or moralizing conclusions. Paul Schrader always said he wouldn’t make a film that explored the religiosity of his upbringing, but thank God he did.


8. If Beale Street Could Talk, dir. Barry Jenkins


Director Barry Jenkins’ latest film, an adaption of a James Baldwin novel of the same name, has moved critics and general audiences alike as it portrays the love story of Tish and Fonny and the former’s quest to free her soulmate. Jenkins offers the masses a love story in all senses of the word. The love oozing from every moment that Tish and Fonny share only makes the scenes they don’t that much more devastating. Watching a family work tirelessly to free their child from one of the most unjust circumstances imaginable brings a wave of warmth while simultaneously shaking at the horrific situation black people are far too familiar with. A mother doing the best she possibly can to help her daughter as she prepares to become a mother herself. The film is about love and the consequences that come along with caring for another person so deeply, and Jenkins is the best person to illustrate this powerful story.

Nicholas Britell’s score can’t help but make you want to fall in love and sob at the same time. Stellar performances from an unbelievably talented cast, including Regina King, Brian Tyree Henry and newcomer Kiki Layne, bring Jenkins’ vision to life with such grace as the colorful cinematography and costume design leaves you yearning for more depictions of black people in this brilliant manner.


9. Hereditary, dir. Ari Aster


2018 has been a wild year for horror, as a certain article from Vogue will claim. But the best horror film of the year is without a doubt Ari Aster’s Hereditary, a film about generational trauma, grief, guilt, and the complicated nature of motherhood. Perhaps it is a divisive claim, but there is no doubting that its commercial success and unconventional plot has helped put horror back on the map for more mainstream audiences.

Hereditary is about the slow, violent, and inevitable destruction of the Graham family at the hands of a deceased grandmother. As they try to maintain normalcy in the face of grief, unseen forces only make their lives more troubling and difficult, chipping away at their sanity. At the core of Hereditary’s success is Toni Collette’s spellbinding performance as Annie Graham. Her iconic monologue at the dinner table, as well as her ability to portray the raw emotions of a grieving mother, has secured her best actress nominations from some critics circles. While I think her performance is Oscar-worthy, and I am biased as a horror film fanatic who can’t stop thinking about Hereditary, this is sadly a film that will slip under the Academy’s radar. This is a harrowing film that grabs you, twists you around, screams in your face, and doesn’t let go even as the credits start to roll.

-Mary Beth

10. Skate Kitchen, dir. Crystal Moselle


Unlike some films depicting life as a young woman, Skate Kitchen phenomenally portrays the importance of female friendship for every girl and the yearning for this companionship. Director Crystal Moselle coolly tells the story of a skater girl gang drifting their way through New York City during the summer and it doesn’t hurt that the actors are friends and members of the real Skate Kitchen. The girls have a chemistry that will be familiar to most women whether they skate or not, adding to the film’s special nature. On the other side of building these essential friendships, the empowering feature demonstrates the obstacles that can arise within tight-knit groups but still makes a point to show how friends can withstand most issues that come along.

While the film, at its core, is dedicated to young women and their ability to create such monumental bonds with each other, it also bluntly addresses the lack of respect for girls who skate and girls who express any desire to do so. Much like the real group, Skate Kitchen wants its audience to skate or do whatever is their passion despite the countless naysayers.


11. Burning, dir. Lee Chang-dong


Lee Chang-dong’s masterfully crafted Burning is shrouded in mystery. Yoo Ah-in plays Jong-su, an aspiring writer who doesn’t really write much (I feel you). He meets the alluring Hae-mi (Jun Jong-seo) and immediately becomes infatuated with her. They begin a casual relationship until she abruptly leaves to Africa in search of what she calls the ‘Big Hunger’. When she returns, Jong-su’s place as the object of her affections is usurped by the mysterious Ben (Steven Yeun). There’s something strange about Ben though, and Jong-su becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering his secrets.

Burning a tricky puzzle to decode, if such a thing is even possible, but it never fails to be thoroughly engaging. In this rich tapestry, Lee Chang-dong ruminates on everything from the futility of male entitlement to class inequalities to psychopaths. It demands patience but it’s not much of a difficult task — Burning’s sumptuous slow burn culminates in an explosive climax that stays with you. I saw Burning seven months ago, and I still think about it frequently.

In a genius parallel to his character, the real star of the film is Steven Yeun who delivers one of the best performances of the year. Though not addressed, his Americanness adds to the intrigue — subtle details like Ben’s formal manner of speaking Korean will fly over the heads of most viewers, but it only accentuates his disturbing opaqueness. [Insert flame emojis]


12. Roma, dir. Alfonso Cuarón


Roma is a technically perfect film. Its climax is a breathtaking, tear-jerking masterclass in composition. Its sound design transforms dogs barking in the distance and water splashing along concrete into a symphony of life. Its camera always knows exactly where to look, how quickly to move, to capture every sweeping landscape and slight emotion with perfect clarity.

Through all this big-screen grandeur, it would be so easy for Roma to drown itself in itself—and in less skilled hands, it may have done just that. But with Alfonso Cuarón at the helm, creating the most personal work of his entire career, Roma is as sharply focused and intimate as it is grand, and it never for an instant loses sight of the woman at its center.

That woman is Cleo (played by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio), a young, indigenous Mexican maid to an upper-middle-class family living in Mexico City in 1970, a time of state-sponsored violence against political dissidents. Cleo is thoughtful and deliberate, always tending to the needs of her employers, Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and Antonio (Fernando Grediaga) and their four children. But she is also keenly aware of her own needs and limitations, even as the line between work and life becomes more and more blurred.

Roma is Cuaron’s film, through and through—he wrote, directed, produced, and for the first time in his feature-length career, shot the movie himself. Because of this, and because it’s his return to Spanish-language film after almost 17 years working in English, Roma feels fantastically honest and true to Cuarón in a way we’ve never seen before. Yet, the vibrantly personal nature of the film is complicated by the same thing that allows it to flourish—the semi-autobiographical nature of its script.

By almost any standard, the film is a triumph and a “love letter”—to Cleo, to Mexico, to women, to life. And while it’s a beautiful, delicate letter indeed—and by far the best film I’ve seen the year—we have to remember that the subject of love letters are not their authors, and it’s worth considering the author’s position when evaluating its contents. For now, I’m eagerly awaiting the next chance I get to sit back down with this movie and live in its big, big world once more.


13. Cold War, dir. Paweł Pawlikowski


Oy oy oy! After his Academy Award winning film Ida, we’ve all been waiting for Polish director Paweł Pawlikowski return and oh boy does he deliver with Cold War. Set during the Cold War (shocking) and shot in 4:3 aspect ratio that’ll make you swoon, the film tells the story of two lovers who are as opposite as the black and white like the film itself yet match so well together that any moment they’re not with each other, loss pours out of the screen. Cold War will leave you aching with its exquisite agony, but the view is much better.


14. Wildlife, dir. Paul Dano


As one of Paul Dano’s biggest hype men, his directorial debut Wildlife was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and it did not disappoint. With Dano and long time girlfriend Zoe Kazan, the power couple behind the script adapted from Richard Ford’s novel of the same name, there was little doubt that this film would not touch some deep, personal part of myself. The film’s story spools out slowly and subtly. Dano uses the vast, all-consuming landscape of the Montana mountains to not only show the vastness of the environment, but also of the unapproachable space between our characters as their lives begin to separate.

As incredible as Paul Dano is as a first time director, it is Carey Mulligan’s enigmatic performance that truly makes the film what it is. Playing a young wife and mother in the 1950s who never truly wanted to be either of those things, Mulligan begins to unwind as she tries (and sometimes fails) to navigate the lines between freedom and responsibility.

There is a strange thing that happens in every child’s life when you realize that your parents are actually just people who do not have everything figured out the way you were so convinced they did when you were young. This film takes this slow, troubling, and sometimes terrifying realization and allows it to ruminate within our main character Joe at the same time it is ruminating within us. I look forward to more films with Dano at the helm, because his vision and passion are evident within every single shot of this film.


15. Lean on Pete, dir. Andrew Haigh


Andrew Haigh has pretty much made a career out of making audiences (read: me) feel a lot of things, and his fourth feature Lean on Pete is no different. Taking the grounded style of his previous efforts Weekend and 45 Years to the wild west, this tender tearjerker follows 15-year-old Charley (Charlie Plummer) who finds a kindred spirit in the titular racehorse. “You can’t get attached to a horse,” he is told by jockey Bonnie (Chloë Sevigny), but it’s too late. Yet to be corrupted by the harsh world he lives in, Charley’s optimism is put to the test when he travels to Wyoming with Pete by his side. Charlie Plummer is devastating in a breakthrough performance made all the more remarkable for its sensitivity and subtlety. Every quiver in his soft voice pierces like a dagger.

The film is a striking deconstruction of the western genre — the open plains are often associated with freedom and independence, but the expansive wide shots of vast deserts seen in Lean on Pete only serve to communicate Charley’s overwhelming loneliness. The desert here is a much colder one, but the film never feels emotionless. Blending classic western tropes with realism, Lean on Pete depicts a melancholic, deeply empathetic portrait of the American working class.


16. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? dir. Morgan Neville


Won’t You Be My Neighbor? doesn’t try to re-invent the documentary formula, but damn if it doesn’t get the formula just right. The insightful, earnest, and deeply resonant tear-jerker from Morgan Neville follows the life of the late Fred Rogers, host and showrunner of the influential children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—yet it’s not so much about Fred Rogers the man as it is about the philosophy he birthed and tried his hardest to live by through his work.

Neville knows, as all documentarians should, that the best way into a person’s life is through the world they build for others. By taking this approach, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? evades all the myth-making and sentimentality that once seemed inevitable in reflecting on the life of someone as venerated and impossibly good as Rogers, resulting instead in a film overflowing with true emotion and poignant, necessary lessons for the American future. If you’re anything like me, or the millions of Americans who grew up with Rogers in their life, this one will make you weep. Nostalgia aside, it’s just powerful to listen to someone tell a child, and tell you as a spectator, that you’re special, your feelings matter, and you’re loved just the way you are.


17. Thoroughbreds, dir. Cory Finley


When it comes to Thoroughbreds, the extraordinarily self-assured debut of Cory Finley, the first word that springs to mind is not necessarily ‘unsettling’ or ‘delicious’ — though, Thoroughbreds can certainly be described as both. But, rather, it is ‘control’. Every single aspect found in this tale of two teenage girls and their homicidal tendencies is meticulously controlled, from the dialogue to the collected exteriors of the twosome at the centre of it all.

Amanda (Olivia Cooke) and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) are the sociopathic ‘thoroughbreds’ that the title alludes to — a pair of privileged, and subsequently disaffected, childhood friends who are brought together again, initially so that neither are alone. Eventually, though, Lily and Amanda come to realise that they can stir in one another their darkest thoughts and indulge in the intoxicating joys of scheming. After repeatedly testing their boundaries — sometimes by forcing one another to hold their breaths for as long as they can underwater — to measure the extent to which the other is capable of violence, they decide that they are prepared to murder Lily’s stepdad. Together, they tease out in each other their innermost desires for bloodshed and their leniencies towards apathy. Their dynamic is engaging and refreshing and the relationship between the two makes for a fascinating exploration of friendships in girlhood; in this sense, Thoroughbreds shares a house with Heavenly Creatures, though themes of queerness are certainly presented far more subtextually in the former.

Alongside Cooke’s and Taylor-Joy’s work, we are also given Anthony Yelchin’s wickedly comedic performance in what would be his final appearance on screen. As a result, Thoroughbreds serves as a melancholy tribute to Yelchin’s talent and allows us to reflect on the magnetism he possessed in every film he touched.

Dark, ambitious, and executed with great precision. Thoroughbreds is a treat to be devoured as Amanda and Lily indulge in their own twisted actions.


18. Paddington 2, dir. Paul King 

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While 2018 has had its share of polarizing cinema (Suspiria, Vox Lux, The House that Jack Built, etc.), the one film’s high quality that every critic can agree on this year is Paddington 2. Picking up a few years after the first left off, the Internet’s favorite gay leftist bear of color is now living his best life with his adoptive family, the Browns. Through a series of wacky misadventures, Paddington ends up in what seems to be the prison from The Grand Budapest Hotel, framed for a theft he did not commit, much like the plot of The Grand Budapest Hotel!

The script’s melding of interpersonal conflict (the polite little bear’s rigid morals), personal conflict (fear of familial abandonment), and extrapersonal conflict (the post-Brexit political landscape of England) is handled expertly —this should be taught in screenwriting classes instead of Chinatown. This is a real opinion that I have and I will not be taking criticism!

And while we’re on the subject of wacko takes that I am absurdly dedicated to my belief in: Hugh Grant should earn a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as villainous theater nerd Phoenix Buchanan. Written specifically for Grant himself, he delivers a tour-de-force of a comedic performance by shedding (or, perhaps, embracing) the plastic vanity that defined his prolific career as a rom-com heartthrob. Grant’s impeccable accent work, inspired cravat-clutching, and glitzy end credits musical number not only provides unflappable support to the rest of the cast — especially his scenes with our beloved Sally Hawkins — it elevates the entire production to a level of near-flawlessness.


19. Tully, dir. Jason Reitman


There is always something powerful about a film that makes me want to immediately call my mom and tell her I love her. Tully, the newest collaboration between Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, seemed to place a hand around my shoulder and tell me that everything was going to be alright in the end.

One of the most beautiful things in this world that is often overlooked in popular cinema, is the idea that being ordinary is still extraordinary. Too often, films become focused on some spectacular person who did something incredible that nobody else could have done, or was thrown into a crazy adventures because it was somehow their destiny. That can be uplifting, but the thing is that not everybody in the world is bound for international fame and glory. Some of us do not even want that! Some of us just want to be good parents or good spouses or good people.

It is not that Charlize Theron in Tully is not extraordinary, but that you do not need to do anything spectacular to prove that you are. Tully says having a simple personal goal of “be happy” is an alright thing to strive for. In fact, it is important! It takes a kind of strength and exudes a kind of beauty that is too often overlooked and underappreciated.


20. The Tale, dir. Jennifer Fox


What can I say about The Tale? It was nothing short of excellence. A portrait of the process of discovering the brutality of the past. Jennifer Fox wrote and directed her way into an unknown agony that somehow has been shoved deep down and attempted to bring it out in the open. It was her way to mend a part that had been manipulated by its surrounding. This is arguably the first film of the #MeToo era that tackled sexual assault in an indefinite narrative, meaning that trauma doesn’t come forward with all of the details from the get-go. Its pace is burning slow, appearing to the surface of our memory.

Jennifer Fox really weaves a tale of her own with conviction, that she is not a victim. She wants to own what’s left of the abuse that she thought was a lovely memory. Up until she discovers the end of the road, and looking back, the big picture changed. The picture gets clearer and clearer, and what is presented there is a horrifying, nauseating reality. Much of the emotional clarity here is provided by leading actress Laura Dern, who plays Jennifer Fox. She gets lost in the role with her feet still on the ground, navigating the ‘tale’. It was a tremendous performance that needs to get its due now. Props also have to be given to Isabelle Nélisse who plays Jennifer Fox at the age of 13. How she breathes into this role and communicate with Dern’s older Fox is something that only few of her peers could match.


21. Shirkers, dir. Sandi Tan


Singaporean filmmaker Sandi Tan realized she had fallen in love with cinema when she and her cousin Vicki in Florida set up a clandestine video taping syndicate just so she could watch Blue Velvet.

This is the first time in my life that I have seen a work of art so accurately document the stark reality of the relationship between my fellow Asian women and filmmaking, and I connected with Shirkers on a profound level I previously never knew existed. Rarely seeing yourself represented on-screen in the American films that you devote so much of your life to is excruciatingly alienating, and it is not coincidental that the vast majority of these films are made for and by straight white men. Shirkers demolishes the false ideation of what a cinephile “should” look like, and demonstrates the devastating firsthand experience of what it looks like when men in power stifle the voices of women —particularly women of color— in art.

Meshing surrealism with realism, Tan has forged this intimate documentary from the fires of her own personal hell. Decades ago, she and her friends worked their asses off to make their own feature-length independent arthouse film called Shirkers. Following in the experimental footsteps of auteurs David Lynch and Nobuhiko Obayashi, these teenage girls (!!!) created a starry-eyed, revolutionary vision that would have no doubt earned a spot in the Criterion Collection. But the American man that Tan had trusted to direct and subsequently send to the editing bay mysteriously disappeared with over 70 reels of footage. When these invaluable artifacts were eventually recovered, the sound was missing. The footage was useless. The women were silenced, just as they have been throughout history, both cinematic and societal. By recording her own personal narration and searching for much-deserved answers, Tan takes back the artistic voice that was unfairly poached from her. Stream now on Netflix.

– Mia

22. Shoplifters, dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda


Kore-eda’s films are a trap. He lures you in with hot chocolate and warm hugs, earns your trust and make you think “Everything is going to be okay.”. Just when you get comfortable, he throws you off a bridge and watches you drown in sadness. With Shoplifters, he does exactly that once again. Following his Golden Lion nominee film The Third Murder, Kore-eda once again goes back to exploring meaning of family with Shoplifters which won Palme d’Or at Cannes this year.

Shoplifters is about a family of six related not by blood, but by circumstances and most importantly, by choice. They are a group of strangers bounded by love instead of birth, surviving in poverty with the power of their connection, and well maybe, occasional thief. Their house is small and so claustrophobic that any scene outside feels like Kore-eda giving the audience a moment to breathe.

Shoplifters is now in cinemas, see with your family at your own risk.


23. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, dir. Ol Parker


Over the summer, I saw Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again five times in theaters. Just like young Donna Sheridan (Lily James), I was also aimlessly stumbling through the miasmic haze of post-grad life. But unlike me, Donna doesn’t succumb to her fear of the future. She waves goodbye to her best friends and jet-sets off to Paris and Greece, where she allows her bountiful spontaneity to manifest itself in the form of sleeping with three hot guys. One of these suitors miraculously ages into Colin Firth, who later on appears with an entire brigade of ships while belting “Dancing Queen.”

And that’s silly! This movie is absolutely ridiculous! Until suddenly it’s not, and you’re sobbing your eyes out for the entire last act. In present day, Donna’s friends and family are grappling with the loss of their treasured, overall-wearing matriarch — a dark turn for such a famously upbeat franchise. Yes, it is in fact possible for bad things to happen in the MMCU (Mamma Mia! Cinematic Universe), but the characters always manage to counter these ups-and-downs with an impassioned ABBA song and a well-choreographed dance.

Much like Before Sunset (yes, that is what I choose to compare this to), Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has become one of my go-to escapist films to turn to whenever I begin to feel my conviction in the serendipitous parts of life slipping through my fingers. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that there is nothing less desirable than a world without romance, by visiting a dreamscape brimming with nothing but.


24. Madeline’s Madeline, dir. Josephine Decker


One of the more avant-garde films of 2018, Madeline’s Madeline is a challenging, extraordinary film that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. Josephine Decker’s direction fully immerses you in Madeline’s head, manipulating familiar imagery and sound design to overload on the specific details to transport you into an in-between space— where art and artist, performance and action, persona and person, manipulation and homage, abusers and mothers merge and intersect. And this is the space where Madeline lives, this is her world.

Helena Howard gives one of the bravest performances I’ve ever seen, she’s nothing short of brilliant as she switches through different faces to the people in Madeline’s life. Her performance is so enthralling that I genuinely became concerned of where she existed in relation to Madeline; it is a daring achievement to lose oneself into the character as Howard did here. In a time where artists are always looking to become the most controversial, the most talked about, and the most provocative, Madeline’s Madeline is subversive in pointing out the emotional implications of the relationship between art and exploitation. It perhaps isn’t the easiest film to watch on this list, but it holds its place as a statement to modern art.


25. Widows, dir. Steve McQueen


After his Oscar-winning film, 12 Years a Slave back in 2013, Steve McQueen is back. He reminds us of his masterful filmmaking and the discourses that come from his works. This time, he gives us Widows, based from the 1983 British TV series of the same name. The film is penned by McQueen himself and Gillian Flynn (who we all know deserved an Oscar for Gone Girl). The stars are all here: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson. From the title itself, it already brims with layers. Are these women *the* widows? Why were their husbands killed? Why does the poster look like that? Why there are so many people in it? What is it about?

Widows is marketed as a heist film, which is essentially true. But underneath all of the crime and the darkness and the thrilling overtone—it is a drama drama. There is so much to dissect from class and race differences to the complication of gender roles. Many people considered the film to be feminist because of the four women as the leading roles, but many of them are also wrong. Widows is a lot of things, and these things intersect with one another with gripping premonitions, birthing an emotional blow that is both upsetting and full of yearning. Above all, the film is inherently about loneliness and the sacrifice that you’d make in order to renounce it.


Best Films of 2018 video:

Individual Top 20 lists:

Dilara Elbir, Editor-In-Chief

  1. The Rider, dir. Chloe Zhao
  2. The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  3. First Reformed, dir. Paul Shrader
  4. If Beale Street Could Talk, dir. Barry Jenkins
  5. Cold War, dir. Paweł Pawlikowski
  6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Desiree Akhavan
  7. Happy as Lazzaro, dir. Alice Rohrwacher
  8. Private Life, dir. Tamara Jenkins
  9. The Bookshop, dir. Isabel Coixet
  10. Can You Ever Forgive Me?, dir. Marielle Heller
  11. Paddington 2, dir. Paul King
  12. Leave No Trace, dir. Debra Granik
  13. Shoplifters, dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
  14. Unsane, dir. Steven Soderbergh
  15. Let The Corpses Tan, dir. Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani.
  16. Wildlife, dir. Paul Dano
  17. The Death of Stalin, dir. Armando Iannucci
  18. Support the Girls, dir. Andrew Bujalski
  19. How To Talk To Girls At Parties, John Cameron Mitchell
  20. Mission Impossible: Fallout, dir. Christopher McQuarrie

Megan Christopher, Senior Editor

  1. Eighth Grade, dir. Bo Burnham
  2. Shoplifters, dir. Hirokazu Koreeda
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk, dir. Barry Jenkins
  4. Blindspotting, dir. Carlos Lopez Estrada
  5. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desiree Akhavan
  6. Thoroughbreds, dir. Cory Finley
  7. Private Life, dir. Tamara Jenkins
  8. Leave No Trace, dir. Debra Granik
  9. Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino
  10. The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  11. Lean on Pete, dir. Andrew Haigh
  12. Roma, dir. Alfonso Cuaron
  13. A Star is Born, dir. Bradley Cooper
  14. Hereditary, dir. Ari Aster
  15. Tully, dir. Jason Reitman
  16. Assassination Nation, dir. Sam Levinson
  17. Isle of Dogs, dir. Wes Anderson
  18. The Rider, dir. Chloe Zhao
  19. Revenge, dir. Coralie Fargaet
  20. Utoya: July 22, dir. Erik Poppe

Iana Murray, Editor

  1. Cold War dir. Paweł Pawlikowski
  2. If Beale Street Could Talk dir. Barry Jenkins
  3. Skate Kitchen dir. Crystal Moselle
  4. Lean on Pete dir. Andrew Haigh
  5. The Favourite dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  6. You Were Never Really Here dir. Lynne Ramsay
  7. Mirai dir. Mamoru Hosoda
  8. Suspiria dir. Luca Guadagnino
  9. Burning dir. Lee Chang-dong
  10. Shoplifters dir. Hirokazu Koreeda
  11. Shirkers dir. Sandi Tan
  12. Roma dir. Alfonso Cuaron
  13. First Reformed dir. Paul Schrader
  14. Wildlife dir. Paul Dano
  15. Isle of Dogs dir. Wes Anderson
  16. Foxtrot dir. Samuel Maoz
  17. Lover For A Day dir. Philippe Garrel
  18. Madeline’s Madeline dir. Josephine Decker
  19. Widows dir. Steve McQueen
  20. Thoroughbreds dir. Cory Finley

Mary Beth McAndrews, Editor

  1. Revenge, dir. Coralie Fargaet
  2. Hereditary, dir. Ari Aster
  3. The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  4. Skate Kitchen, dir. Crystal Moselle
  5. You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsay
  6. Madeline’s Madeline, dir. Josephine Decker
  7. Annihilation, dir. Alex Garland
  8. Burning, dr. Lee Chang-dong
  9. Eighth Grade, dir. Bo Burnham
  10. The Tale, dir. Jennifer Fox
  11. Mandy, dir. Panos Cosmatos
  12. Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino
  13. Birds of Passage, dir. Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra
  14. Cold War, dir.  Paweł Pawlikowski
  15. November, dir Rainer Sarnet
  16. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desiree Akhavan
  17. Disobedience, dir. Sebastian Lelio
  18. Lean on Pete, dir. Andrew Haigh
  19. Death of Stalin, dir. Armando Iannucci
  20. Cam, dir. Daniel Goldhaber

Cassidy Olsen, Editor

  1. Roma, dir. Alfonso Cuaron
  2. Burning, Dir. Lee-chang Dong
  3. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, dir. Ol Parker
  4. Annihilation, dir. Alex Garland
  5. First Reformed, dir. Paul Schrader
  6. The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  7. Eighth Grade, dir. Bo Burnham
  8. You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsay
  9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Dir. Morgan Neville
  10. Sorry to Bother You, dir. Boots Riley
  11. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
  12. The Tale, dir. Jennifer Fox
  13. A Star Is Born, dir. Bradley Cooper
  14. Widows, dir. Steve McQueen
  15. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, dir. Susan Johnson
  16. Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino
  17. Hereditary, dir. Ari Aster
  18. Isle of Dogs, dir. Wes Anderson
  19. Wildlife, dir. Paul Dano
  20. Hot Summer Nights, dir. Elijah Bynum

Sydney Bembry, Writer

  1. If Beale Street Could Talk, dir. Barry Jenkins
  2. The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  3. Wildlife, dir. Paul Dano
  4. The Tale, dir. Jennifer Fox
  5. Widows, dir. Steve McQueen
  6. You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsey
  7. Tully, dir. Jason Reitman
  8. Support the Girls, dir. Andrew Bujalski
  9. Burning, dir. Lee Chang-dong
  10. Eighth Grade, dir. Bo Burnham
  11. Skate Kitchen, dir. Crystal Moselle
  12. A Star is Born, dir. Bradley Cooper
  13. Paddington 2, dir. Paul King
  14. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desiree Akhavan
  15. Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino
  16. Disobedience, dir. Sebastian Leo
  17. Black Panther, dir. Ryan Coogler
  18. Hereditary, dir. Ari Aster
  19. Vox Lux, dir. Brady Corbet
  20. Ben is Back, dir. Peter Hedges

Bintang Lestada, writer

  1. Happy as Lazzaro, dir. Alice Rohrwacher
  2. The Seen and Unseen, dir. Kamila Andini
  3. Madeline’s Madeline, dir. Josephine Decker
  4. We the Animals, dir. Jeremiah Zagar
  5. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, dir. Ol Parker
  6. Paddington 2, dir. Paul King
  7. The Tale, dir. Jennifer Fox
  8. Shirkers, dir. Sandi Tan
  9. Support the Girls, dir. Andrew Bujalski
  10. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, dir. Susan Johnson
  11. Black Panther, dir. Ryan Coogler
  12. The Rider, dir. Chloe Zhao
  13. Burning, dir. Lee Chang-dong
  14. Skate Kitchen, dir. Crystal Moselle
  15. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desiree Akhavan
  16. Eighth Grade, dir. Bo Burnham
  17. Private Life, dir. Tamara Jenkins
  18. Widows, dir. Steve McQueen
  19. Blockers, dir. Kay Cannon
  20. Annihilation, dir. Alex Garland

Charlie Mangan, writer

  1. You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsey
  2. Blaze, dir. Ethan Hawke
  3. The House That Jack Built, dir. Lars Von Trier
  4. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Dir. Morgan Neville
  5. Wildlife, dir. Paul Dano
  6. Eighth Grade, dir. Bo Burnham
  7. Miseducation of Cameron Post dir. Desiree Akhavan
  8. Hereditary dir. Ari Aster
  9. Blindspotting dir. Carlos Lopez Estrada
  10. Ballad of Buster Scruggs, dir.  Joel & Ethan Coen
  11. Upgrade dir. Leigh Whannell
  12. Disobedience dir. Sebastian Lelio
  13. First Reformed, dir. Paul Schrader
  14. Mandy dir. Panos Cosmatos
  15. Madeline’s Madeline, dir. Josephine Decker
  16. Hearts Beat Loud, dir. Brett Haley
  17. Game Night, dir. John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein
  18. Tully, dir. Jason Reitman
  19. BlackkKlansman, dir. Spike Lee
  20. Sorry To Bother You, dir. Boots Riley

Hannah Ryan, writer

  1. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desiree Akhavan
  2. Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino
  3. The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  4. Roma, dir. Alfonso Cuaron
  5. Thoroughbreds, dir. Cory Finley
  6. Lean On Pete, dir. Andrew Haigh
  7. Vox Lux, dir. Brady Corbet
  8. You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsay
  9. BlackKklansman, dir. Spike Lee
  10. A Star Is Born, dir. Bradley Cooper
  11. Isle of Dogs, dir. Wes Anderson
  12. Annihilation, dir. Alex Garland
  13. Black Panther, dir. Ryan Coogler
  14. Hereditary, dir. Ari Aster
  15. Hearts Beat Loud, dir. Brett Haley
  16. Disobedience, dir. Sebastian Lelio
  17. Assassination Nation, dir. Sam Levinson
  18. The Death of Stalin, dir. Armando Iannucci
  19. Tully, dir. Jason Reitman
  20. Game Night, dir. John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein

Tyler “Llewyn” Taing, writer and video editor

  1. Annihilation, dir. Alex Garland
  2. You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsay
  3. Eighth Grade, dir. Bo Burnham
  4. Into the Spider-Verse, dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
  5. Skate Kitchen, dir. Crystal Moselle
  6. First Reformed, dir. Paul Schrader
  7. Shrikers, dir. Sandi Tan
  8. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? dir. Morgan Neville
  9. Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino
  10. Mission: Impossible – Fallout, dir. Christopher McQuarrie
  11. The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  12. Madeline’s Madeline, dir. Josephine Decker
  13. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desiree Akhavan
  14. Thoroughbreds, dir. Cory Finley
  15. Paddington 2, dir. Paul King
  16. Cold War, dir. Pawel Pawlikowski
  17. Burning, dir. Lee Chang-Dong
  18. The Tale, dir. Jennifer Fox
  19. Hereditary, dir. Ari Aster
  20. Searching, dir. Aneesh Changanty

Mia Vicino, writer

  1. The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  2. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
  3. Annihilation, dir. Alex Garland
  4. Paddington 2, dir. Paul King
  5. Tully, dir. Jason Reitman
  6. Shirkers, dir. Sandi Tan
  7. Game Night, dir. John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein
  8. Hereditary, dir. Ari Aster
  9. First Reformed, dir. Paul Schrader
  10. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, dir. Desiree Akhavan
  11. Widows, dir. Steve McQueen
  12. Eighth Grade, dir. Bo Burnham
  13. Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino
  14. Sorry To Bother You, dir. Boots Riley
  15. Unsane, dir. Steven Soderbergh
  16. Thoroughbreds, dir. Cory Finley
  17. Madeline’s Madeline, dir. Josephine Decker
  18. Can You Ever Forgive Me?, dir. Marielle Heller
  19. You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsay
  20. Support The Girls, dir. Andrew Bujalski

1 thought on “Best Films of 2018”

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