2018 was quite a year for movies.
Powerhouse franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the “Halloween” movies enjoyed milestone installations. Horror gave us innovation and surprises with “Cam” and “Hereditary.” Sony begged us not judge their ability to use Spider-Man properties on the merits of “Venom,” alone.
This list is the best of the best. The top players in a strong field. These are my Top 10 Films of 2018. Let’s do this.
With “Annihilation” it was love at first sight. And not just because of Oscar Isaac, though he makes any movie that much easier to love.
“Annihilation” seduced with bizarre and beautiful visuals, intrigued with its storyline, and captured with a wonderful blend of stunning sci-fi and gripping body horror. “Annihilation” was one of the first films, of substance, that I viewed in 2018 and it has held me.
While the jury may be out on some elements of the plot and the ending may leave something to be desired, it can’t be denied that “Annihilation” was truly something unique and beautiful with the staying power to hold my attention for the long haul.
Coming in the closest second, so close that even now I debate whether or not it truly belongs at #1, is the very hyped (and deservingly so) “Hereditary.” This critic could go on for hours in lamentation of the state of the horror in the mainstream and could wax poetic on those examples of the genre that just get it right.
“Hereditary” would be the primary object of my affections.
Goddamn, I loved this movie. It’s a smart film, meticulously researched, and nurtures an atmosphere of dread and anxiety that one does not see very often in contemporary horror. There’s a mastery of the classic elements of fear, combined with an edgy (almost experimental) approach. A career-defining performance from Toni Collette is the cherry on top to a DAMN fine film and breath of fresh air in a sometimes formulaic genre.
3. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
There’s a sick satisfaction in being proven wrong. When I first saw trailers for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” I was skeptical. I wondered if this was a film we actually needed. I questioned whether or not it would be any good.
But, as a fan of Spider-Man and, especially, the “Shattered Dimensions” game, I was intrigued and it didn’t take long for me to be totally seduced on the innovation of the animation alone.
This film is superb. Masterfully animated. Incredible use of the medium that leans fully into the vast array of styles and tones that the various incarnations of Spider-Man have existed in. But, “Spider-Verse” is more than just a pretty face. We’ve got some of the best characters in recent memory. Every Spider-Man, every villain, every side character is fully fleshed out, well written, and voiced to perfection.
“Spider-Verse” swung in, at the 11th hour, to shoot its way to my top three of the year. Slow clap. Well done.
If, by this point, you’re reading this and thinking I have a slight horror bias I just want you to know that you’re goddamn right and it doesn’t stop here. 2018 was a phenomenal year for unique and well-executed horror.
“Cam,” a Fantastic Fest favorite of mine, was released on Netflix in November to very little fanfare. There is so much to unpack with this one.
As far as technology-driven films go, “Cam” has a firm and authentic grasp of web culture and the anxieties of the technological era. On top of that is a beautiful layer of respectful and truthful representation of sex work. Every bit as intriguing and titillating as you can imagine, without choking on the male gaze and fetishization. It’s a fine balance, perfectly struck.
Pair all of that with a thrilling mystery and you’ve got a damn fine watch. On this list, because it deserves recognition.
Last horror film in the Top 10, I promise.
I’m human. I’m not immune to hype. And I was hyped AF for the 2018 “Halloween.” The more skeptical among you may argue that “Halloween” got to ride in on the coattails of the original. Well, the same could be said for “Halloween 4” and that never made a Best Of list ever.
“Halloween” does exactly what it needs to do. Jamie Lee Curtis does an incredible job with a character arc that makes sense and fits beautifully into current societal narratives of female trauma and the dual-identity of victims living in fear and in strength. For a garden-variety slasher flick, “Halloween” has quite a bit to say. Well executed and packed with executions.
6. “Black Panther”
Not only are we dealing with one of the most exciting and unique installments in the MCU.
Not only are we looking at a superb cast doing the most with the material.
NOT ONLY is every creative, every visual, and every piece of the score working beautifully together. But it’s a film that meant so much to so many.
What we have here is a phenomenon.
One cannot deny the cultural impact of “Black Panther.” This film was a shake-up and that, alone, makes it more than worthy of recognition. Pair that with all the things I mentioned above and its place in this list is obvious. Wakanda forever!
7. “Isle of Dogs”
Call me sentimental, I’ll answer. It’s hard to keep from loving a movie about man’s best friend. It’s especially hard when it comes wrapped in a charming Wes Anderson package.
This film was sweet and quirky and interesting to watch. The star-studded cast gave delightfully understated performances as a pack of lovable pooches. The influence of Japanese cinema was enough to tickle the sense of any cinephile but, most importantly, “Isle of Dogs” was made for the dog lover.
Call me sentimental, again, but I can’t help but love a film that reminds me how much I love my dog.
What it lacks in finesse it makes up for in suspense. Not unlike “Black Panther”, this film gets brownie points for cultural impact. What we witnessed earlier this year was the successful culmination (Part II of it, anyway) of one of the great cinematic experiments.
A huge fear I had, going into “Infinity War” was that it would suffer from “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen.” The MCU is defined by large personalities and characters strong enough to single-handedly maneuver their own distinct films and storylines.
My fears were instantly alleviated and this film took me for a ride!
9. “The Favourite”
“The Favourite” snuck up on me. I’m just minding my business and along comes all the buzz about this decadent period piece starring Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz as courtly rivals and the great Olivia Colman.
That’s a pretty delicious premise, to begin with, but what really makes “The Favourite” a 2018 favorite is that all that richness comes in layers. The stunning top level of gorgeous setting and costumes rests on great intrigue and a story that feels naughty to watch. This all rests on the shoulders of the incredible cast.
Now, what if I told you that “The Favourite” is just packed full of fodder for deeper analysis. What do you want to talk about? Feminine power? Courtly politics? Where desire and power meet? LGBTQ representation in historical drama? “The Favourite” has it all!
10. “Bad Times at the El Royale”
Some say it was overhyped. I say, “Yeah, but… c’mon!”
Reminiscent of Tarantino back when he was really good (think “Pulp Fiction”), “Bad Times” did one of my favorite things: bringing unique and fascinating characters into a mysterious and cool location and throwing dynamite into the mix.
Jeff Bridges had me feeling all the things. Jon Hamm was doing his best Don Draper (which is exactly how I like my Hamm). The mid-century El Royale was aesthetic AF and all woven together with masterful dialogue.
Chris Hemsworth both seduced and spooked in a role that was both outside the box and eerily suited. I’d check in, again!
To be perfectly square, 2018 presented a strong field of movies. The races for ranking were tight and the great work rolled steadily on, through the entire year. In no particular order, here are those films that were not quite Top 10 material but definitely worthy of honorable mention:
From the premise alone to the very direct callout of the alt-right presence in 2018, “BlackKklansman” was the “take no prisoners” film of the year.
Solid performances and an interesting story may not have been enough to go the distance against some of the other 2018 films, but it’s enough to keep you thinking and to earn my respect. This was a good one.
“A Quiet Place” came out the gate early as a prime example of 2018’s great year for unique horror. The film has been fondly preserved in my memory on the basis of concept, alone.
Rock solid performances from John Krasinski and Emily Blunt add the necessary weight to take “A Quiet Place” from being just another cool horror to being a truly great film.
Nostalgia always gets a gold star, here on Shuffle. “Christopher Robin” was a sweet and sincere return to the screen for the silly old bear.
Arguably one the prettiest and rich films of the year, this critic is quite glad that the beloved residents of the Hundred Acre Wood were cute instead of creepy. (Very real concern I had, going in.)
2018 was a great year for movies. Here’s looking at you, 2019!
Featured image credit: Marvel Studios
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.