There were a lot of films made about race in 2018, some of them better than others. This one is easily the best, not just because it takes more risks other than the typical ideological narrative about race from either the left or the right, but because this film is led by two excellent characters, well-acted by two very talented actors. Also, this isn’t a film just about race, it’s also about gentrification, and how the American Dream can feel dead in the midst of it. Not always an easy watch, but this is an intriguing, fascinating, and even entertaining film that slipped under most people’s radar, but is worth checking out.
7. The Death of Stalin
The funniest film of 2018. Veepcreator Armando Iannucci manages to take one of the darkest periods of recent human history, and turns the whole thing into a giant farce. Because after all, they say the best way to deal with a crappy situation is to laugh at all the absurdities of it. Watching these power hungry tyrannical people vie for the highest position in the Soviet Union Game of Thrones style, all the while acting like characters straight out of The Officeresults in some truly hysterical moments. This is a real treat for anyone who’s a fan of dark comedy and satire.
6. Isle of Dogs
This film takes a standard “boy and his dog” story, and retells it in such a fresh and interesting way. It seems like Wes Anderson and stop-motion are a match made in heaven, as his quirky humor, as well as his storybook aesthetic, translates to the new medium perfectly. The animation is stunning, and it surprisingly manages to make an island of literal trash visually exciting. The characters are entertaining, it’s emotionally impactful, and it’s one of the very few Western animated movies for adults that’s also not chockful of adult elements (it actually earns its PG-13 rating).
5. The Favourite
This period piece drama about power struggle and rivalry is devilishly entertaining, and almost revels in how wicked it gets. On a visual level, the film is simply incredible to look at, with its set and costume design, and is well complimented by its incredible script, with witty dialogue, a perfectly written rivalry, and heavily flawed, but still fascinating characters. Yorgos Lanthimos is definitely one of the most unique voices in film currently, and this film is easily his most accessible, without stripping away what makes him so different.
4. Leave No Trace
There really is no better way to describe this film than beautiful. This is a surprisingly multi-layered, as well as emotionally complex experience, and one of the very best character driven dramas I’ve seen in a good long while. And Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie both give incredible performances. It’s a simple story about extraordinary events, with subdued, but still marvelously effective execution.
3. You Were Never Really Here
This is a jaw-droppingly cold, and bone-chilling vigilante drama, that manages to have the feel for both an arthouse film, and more conventional film simultaneously. Joaquin Phoenix gives an incredible performance, managing to give such an archetypal character a large amount of depth, often with little or no dialogue. Director Lynne Ramsay masterfully uses her skills to tell the story visually, while keeping the film flowing. Every second feels important in this thriller that feels both slow and brisk at the same time. It’s a truly unforgettable experience that will take your breath away.
2. Mission: Impossible- Fallout
One of the greatest action films ever made. Most action films are lucky to have at least one exhilarating moment that truly takes your breath away. This one has several. But more than just the incredible action and stuntwork, is the well plotted story, that manages to tell a surprisingly complex and complicated spy story with such skill and finesse, that it’s still easy to follow. This is just so seamlessly entertaining. Also, this film contains one of the greatest action climaxes in the history of cinema. Not every great film needs to be a deep, thought-provoking drama, but can also be a summer blockbuster hell-bent on thrills, with little surface level. All you need is insanely talented and dedicated individuals who want to provide the audience with an entertaining ride they’ll never forget.
1. The Rider
Easily takes the cake for the most fascinating film of the entire year, and a lot of that is because of the real-life story behind this film. Having people who are not actors play fictionalized versions of themselves is always a huge risk (as The 15:17 to Paris proves) but when it works, man, it really works. This film is fascinating because it’s an interesting character study not just of the characters, but of the actors portraying themselves. We watch as the main character struggles with the reality that he will not be able to ride in a rodeo again, something that perhaps the real actor was still struggling with while filming the scene. Director Chloé Zhao knew exactly what to focus on, and how to get great performances out of people who are not actors. This is an engaging, emotionally gripping, and fascinating film experience, that highlights the very best of what cinema can truly accomplish.