Top 10 Films of 2018 – by Media Matters Reviewers

As promised, here’s our annual list from most of our Media Matters reviewers, reflecting a pretty good year for film! Read and enjoy (or argue in the comments!) and file or bookmark this post for your film viewing queues! Several lists count down from ten meaning the best pick is last, others don’t prioritize their lists. But always fascinating what Mennonites are loving in the realm of film. Lists posted in the order they were received.

(As always forgive the various list formatting of our beloved quirky reviewers. But don’t miss their descriptions/rationale for vote and placement.)

Vic’s Top 10 Films of 2018

Counting down from ten:

10. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Fred Rogers wanted to make the world a better place by speaking honestly with children. This moving and inspiring documentary by Morgan Neville, about TV’s greatest hero, is highly recommended to everyone.
9. Eighth Grade. Bo Burnham’s wise, compassionate and life-affirming drama about the life of a 14-year-old girl in today’s social-media-obsessed environment has perhaps the best father-daughter scenes ever filmed.
8. Blindspotting. This raw (language warning!), insightful, and always quirky film about life in a black neighborhood in Oakland treats every character with empathy and compassion. Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada and written by the two lead actors, Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal.
7. Leave No Trace. Speaking of treating characters with a unique level of compassion, Debra Granik’s magical film is remarkable for the positive way it portrays every single character in the film. A marvellous quiet study of relationships and community in the 21st century.
6. If Beale Street Could Talk. A gorgeous poetic film from Barry Jenkins about a young black woman whose fiancé is wrongly imprisoned in late 1960’s New York City. Based on a novel by James Baldwin, it is the year’s best film about the black-American experience.
5. Cold War. Filmed in gorgeous black and white, this haunting masterpiece from Pawel Pawliowski is a passionate love story that takes us from Poland to Paris and back between 1949 and 1964.
4. Roma. Easily the best film made in 2018 (maybe in this century), Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece gives us a glimpse of life in the Colonia Roma neighbourhood of Mexico City in 1970/71, seen through the eyes of a young Mixteco woman who gets pregnant while working as a live-in maid. The cinematography is sublime.
3. Green Book. Peter Farrelly’s film addresses racist attitudes without tackling systemic racism, a minor infraction for a light film like this. However, insofar as the film misrepresents a well-known musician (Don Shirley), it deserves some condemnation. Nevertheless, Green Book was the best time I had at the cinema in 2018, with astonishing chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.
2. Annihilation. Slow-paced, dream-like, thought-provoking, intense and gorgeous, the latest film by Alex Garland is sci-fi at its best. It’s all about self-destruction, especially at a biological level, which doesn’t sound too exciting, but I was riveted from start to finish.
1. First Reformed. When one of his church attendees asks Reverend Toller whether God will forgive us for what we are doing to the planet, Toller’s wrestling with God takes on an even darker tone. Brilliant theological drama (one of the best theological films of the century) from Paul Schrader, with a terrific performance by Ethan Hawke.

Gordon’s Top 10 Films of 2018

Every year, I come to January having seen many good films and pondering which to name in my top 10. Also, each year, I come to this list knowing of films unavailable to me so far, that might very well be on my list if I had the chance to see them. I think of three right away: Burning, Cold War and Shoplifters. But I must go with what I have seen. So here is my list, as of today:

  1. Roma. This black-and-white film by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón is set in a section of Mexico City in 1970-71 and presents a domestic drama in which the main character is Cleo, a Mixtec woman who keeps the household running. Beautifully shot, the film alludes to themes of colonialism yet refuses to speak for Cleo. It builds our empathy by presenting her life in its complexity.
  2. The Rider. This account of rodeo riders on a South Dakota reservation is so fact-based that it almost qualifies as a documentary. Chloé Zhao uses nonprofessional actors and stunning cinematography to produce an authentic and moving view of life there.
  3. Leave No Trace. This excellent film by Debra Granik not only tells a good story with complex characters but subtly confronts our way of life, so distant from nature. While the film moves slowly at times, the camera keeps us in the story, and we feel the beauty and menace of nature.
  4. First Reformed. This haunting film by Paul Schrader is shot in what he calls a “transcendental style,” influenced by major filmmakers Bresson and Dreyer. It follows an alcoholic Protestant minister (Ethan Hawke) who undergoes a spiritual and psychological crisis. The film addresses the major issue of our time, climate change, and takes some creative chances that work. Hawke’s performance is outstanding.
  5. Minding the Gap. This documentary takes an honest look at poverty and domestic violence but also shows the courage and strength of young people who face that head on. Three young men in Rockford, Ill., who were beaten by their fathers, find solace in skateboarding.
  6. Happy as Lazarro. This Italian film is told like a fable, set initially in a village that seems timeless, where peasants work essentially as slaves to a wealthy landowner. The title character is a kind of holy fool (with hints of St. Francis) who happily does whatever task he is asked to do. He bonds with a young nobleman. Director Alice Rohrwacher plays with the concept of time and uses some magical realism in this beautiful portrayal of innocence.
  7. If Beale Street Could Talk. This moving film by Barry Jenkins, whose Moonlight is one of the best films of the past five years, is based on James Baldwin’s novel. It portrays a young African-American couple in Harlem whose lives are upended when he is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned. The scenes that reveal the rage toward racism that Baldwin wrote about are stronger than the love story, which is shown in flashback.
  8. Can You Ever Forgive Me? This film features Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel, a biographer whose books no longer sell. Hard up for money, she creates fake letters by famous writers and sells them to collectors. This unlikable curmudgeon eventually wins our sympathy as she tries to make her way out of poverty. She connects with a drinking buddy (Richard Grant), who helps her in her scheme. Eventually, the FBI catches them. McCarthy and Grant are wonderful here.
  9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This documentary about Fred Rogers, the children’s television host, shows how radical and Christian Rogers’ show was. A Presbyterian minister, he addressed various issues with the message of unconditional love, in contrast with today’s climate.
  10. Blindspotting. This powerful, energetic film follows two childhood friends—one African American, one white—in Oakland, Calif., and delves into the complexities of racial identity. Its use of rap and humor amid terrible events is ingenious.

Matthew ‘s Top 10 Films of 2018

2018 was much better than 2017 in this writer’s opinion. I enjoyed engaging and original movies like Annihilation, Black Panther, Eighth Grade, A Star is Born, and Juliet, Naked, and they didn’t even make the list!

10. Sorry to Bother You. I’ll be honest: I still don’t completely know how I feel about this film, but no other film – other than First Reformed – made me think about it long after I left the theater. This absurdist satire’s look at race and power was truly original.
9. Paddington 2. If you’re rolling your eyes at this selection, you haven’t seen this movie. Despite appealing to a younger demographic, this film doesn’t just use sight gags and prat falls wrapped in special effects. Instead, it’s an honest look at acceptance of others’ differences.
8. Love, Simon. This movie is one that my whole family could agree on this year as a great family film. Simon tries to navigate high school and the realization that he is gay. It’s heartfelt and funny.
7. The Favourite. A cleverly written, dark comedy, The Favourite features surprising turns and an outstanding cast.
6. Lean on Pete. Sure, it probably helps that it was filmed in Portland, where I live, and is based on a novel by local hero Willy Vlautin. But the story of 15-year-old Charley, who endures multiple tragedies but finds hope in a horse named Pete, is one of the best coming-of-age stories in recent memory.
5. A Quiet Place. I do not gravitate to the horror genre at all, but this movie uses sound brilliantly with both emotional and suspenseful effect.
4. If Beale Street Could Talk. After writing/directing the Oscar-winning Moonlight, Barry Jenkins returns with a slow-but-moving adaptation of James Baldwin’s book. This look at 1970s Harlem through the eyes of a young couple examines the struggles of African Americans at the time but translates to today’s racial climate as well.
3. The Guilty. This Danish film takes place in real-time in a police dispatch center, as a disgraced officer tries to help what he thinks is abduction. It’s gripping with a slow burn that manifests itself in surprising ways.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Don’t write this movie off as just another comic book superhero movie. It’s witty, original, beautifully animated, and proves that superheroes can come from any demographic, even pigs. With all due respect to Black Panther, Into the Spider-Verse was the superhero film of the year.
1First Reformed. Very provocative and well done, this movie follows the struggle of a priest who is coming to terms with his own health and his own faith. This movie has lingered with me since I saw it.

Jerry’s Top 7 Films of 2018

Green Book is also a well made film, but the issues around it keep it off of my list. Maybe seven is a better number and I mixed categories all over the place in my choice including animation and documentary. What strikes me is the quality of my first choices. Who would ever think that I would put an action hero movie on my list, but there it is.

7. First Reformed.  I wish it had fixed some narrative flaws, but it tried to say something and kept me on edge as he wrestled with his own inner failures and depression.
6. Isle of Dogs. For animation
5. Roma.
4. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Hey we all need a Mr. Rogers moment.
3. If Beale Street Could Talk.
2. Black Panther.  I have placed an action hero even close to this high on my list before.
1. BLACKkKLANSMAN. This is a vote for Spike Lee and his contribution over time in addition to this film.

Films that made all four of these reviewers’ lists:

If Beale Street Could Talk
First Reformed

Films that made three of our lists:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Roma

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