The 50 Best Movies of 2018

We used science, technology, math, and heart to assemble this definitive list of the best movies of 2018.

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40. Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times At The El Royale Chris Hemsworth

There is no escape. You can run, you can hide, you can arm yourself, but sooner or later, consequences will arrive at your doorstep. In Bad Times at the El Royale, that consequence is a shirtless, muscle-bound Chris Hemsworth spinning to a groovy beat while carelessly snacking on a slice of pie. Don’t stare into the sun; he will blind you. Drew Goddard jumps genres from the gleeful monster mash of Cabin in the Woods to the equally gleeful game of Clue, but ya know, the punchlines here are less jokey and more bloody. On top of a stunning collection of eclectic guest-stars, Bad Times at the El Royale is a gorgeous feast of production design and cinematography. Few films this year had as much fun with their sets like this one. (Brad Gullickson)

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39. Isle of Dogs

Isleofdogs

Wes Anderson admirers have never seen such frames packed as tightly or intrinsically as the ones seen in Isle of Dogs. His latest stop-motion animation is a feast that’s easy to choke on, but if you take your time to chew, breathe between bites, and digest the imagery, the banquet rewards a hungry palate, especially for those craving seconds. A young boy ditches the comfort of the mainland for an island of refuse in an effort to track down his dog discarded by a terrified society. He partners with a pack of mongrels, and together they scour the wasteland so they can experience the love of a master tangentially. As with all Anderson movies, the film is a mixture of cold and warmth, and your mileage may vary based on your tolerance for fetish. (Brad Gullickson)

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38. Game Night

Game Night

Comedies really only need to deliver on one thing — the comedy — but what Game Night presupposes is, what if it delivered more? The result is a very funny, terrifically performed, high-concept comedy that also features exciting action beats, sharp cinematography, and an overall look that constantly ties into its game night theme. It’s the best studio comedy in a decade and one of the very few that retains its laughs and personality after multiple rewatches. (Rob Hunter)

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37. Wildlife

Carey Mulligan Wildlife

We all knew Paul Dano could act better than most actors, but this year we found out he could write (with the help of Zoe Kazan) and direct better than most writers and directors, too. The film traces the turbulent marriage between Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Jeanette Brinson (Carey Mulligan), in 1950s Montana, as it fractures and their teenage son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is left to handle it like the only mature adult on screen. Mulligan is an absolute revelation in her fiery, commanding portrait of a woman sick of adhering to her role as the traditional housewife to a proud, whimsical man in Gyllenhaal, who shifts consummately between puppy-like shame and volatile anger. It’s a small movie that sits on top of a rumbling volcano always ready to burst. Wildlife is nothing short of brilliance. (Luke Hicks)


36. Thunder Road

Cummings Thunder Road

We’re all just trying to do the best we can. Sometimes we don’t even have the faculties to contend with our family let alone society, but there we go, out into an apathetic world flapping our gums, stumbling, fumbling, and bungling everything up. Writer/Producer/Performer Jim Cummings slides between hilarity and tragedy in the span of a breath. He carries that dizzying sensation from the first scene of the film to the very last beat, and never allows the experience to become exhausting. Thunder Road painfully/delightfully captures the forced march of life, and you will exit the display having witnessed the arrival of extraordinary talent. (Brad Gullickson)

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35. The House That Jack Built

House That Jack Built

When I first heard of Lars Von Trier’ latest, it was in a vague hiss of online rage: this film is degenerate, scabrous trash – stay clear. Something about it reveling in female pain…something about a Cannes walk-out. I wasn’t surprised, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t really care. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Von Trier’s stuff, but never enough to stump in the way film bros are wont. Then lady film folks I admire on Twitter starting singing the film’s praises. Hm. I managed to catch a one-night-only screening of the director’s cut and it is with a heavy heart that I must confess The House that Jack Built slaps very hard. Did the film make me squirm? Yeah, it’s about a serial killer that shit shouldn’t be comfortable. I’d be sad to think folks didn’t give Jack a fair shot on the grounds of offense. The House That Jack Built isn’t one of the best comedies of 2018 because it makes light of the deplorable actions of a shitty man, but because it makes fun of them. Which, in my depraved opinion, makes Von Trier’s self-indulgence a lot more entertaining than some of the other directors’ on this list. This film isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s totally fine. (Meg Shields)

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34. Minding the Gap

Minding The Gap

Writer, director, and subject of the film, Bing Liu is responsible for one of a few standout documentaries this year that challenge the arbitrary glass ceiling placed over docs, which keeps them from competing for Best Picture. It’s a disquieting story about the connection, growth, and fractionalization of three boys with shared experiences growing up in torn, abusive homes in a rundown Chicago suburb. Minding the Gap is like a magnum opus despite being Liu’s first directorial feat. The film spans over a decade of footage of the three skating, hanging, and debating while Liu addresses the resurfacing and recycling effects of abuse head on with raw force. It feels as personal as it is accomplished, relatable as it is exceptional. (Luke Hicks)

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33. Madeline’s Madeline

Helena Madeline

Give your soul to the dance is associated with Suspiria, but Madeline’s Madeline, directed by Josephine Decker truly embraces the phrase. Everything about the film is energetic, immersive, and downright raw. Throw away everything you think you know about storytelling in a film as Madeline’s Madeline constantly twist the ideas of what is possible. Helena Howard’s performance is downright chilling and rivals some of the best performances of not just this year, but this whole decade. Madeline’s Madeline is not only one of the best films of the year, but an incredible discovery of what is still possible in modern filmmaking. (Carl Broughton)

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32. Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians Constance Wu

Every day of 2018 felt like it had some sort of seismic change. Sometimes it was in our pop culture, more often it was in our politics. But of all the seemingly seismic shit that happened in 2018, there were a select few movies that dominated the conversation. Crazy Rich Asians became one of those movies in the late Summer. It was not only important to a community that had been hungering to see themselves in a massively successful Hollywood blockbuster for a while, but it’s also a very slick and fun globetrotting romantic comedy. In a year that saw the phrase “Extra” began to flourish in our lexicon, CRA was the most extra movie around. (Neil Miller)

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31. Cold War

Cold War

What is love? Paweł Pawlikowski has spent much of his career asking questions about the politics of borders, the suffering of expatriates like himself and the search for forgiveness inside the texture of history. The latter of which had been the material for 2013’s Ida, a dreary slog that gave Pawlikowski the idea to suddenly ditch shaky-camera indie for a new style: precisely minimal black-and-whites that, in their 4:3 aspect ratio, give every shot the effect of a Mapplethorpe polaroid. A good move! Pawlikowski develops this precision further into what is his masterpiece, a study of how total love can feel, with a historical sweep as epic as a Márquez novel. Like Márquez, he uses history to make a sentimental argument, namely that two lovers, played by Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig, can summon the bitterness of the conflict around them, the ground level suffering forced by the mutual dictates of East and West. There is so much sadness and betrayal in this movie, they might as well be spies and not musicians struggling to make art inside the grim machines of a haunted continent. Here are the soldiers who fight the war that never burns hot. But watching it as a Soviet chic-dressed critique of the long-dead Bloc is silly and self-congratulatory; instead, Pawlikowski speaks earnestly about our own borders, the walls we’re building right now between lovers and families alike. (Andrew Karpan)


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