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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30. The Death of Stalin

Death Of Stalin

The Death of Stalin is what you get when you put Fawlty Towers and The Inner Circle in a blender. Look, sometimes it’s easiest to tackle the darker chapters of human history with one-liners. Director/co-writer Armando Iannucci (of Veep fame) takes us to Moscow, where, wouldn’t you know it: Stalin dies. His jackal pack of cronies descend, left to scheme and suss out the Soviet spoils. After all, Russia needs a new leader and its anyone’s game. The whole cast shine, but none brighter than Jason Isaacs’ medal be-decked, trigger-happy Gregory Zhokov who epitomizes the film’s tightrope walk between farce and facts. And really, if 2018 has taught us anything goddamnit it’s that there is a mighty, terrifying, and goofy gulf between power and the powerful. Sometimes you have to meet horrifying absurdity halfway with jokes about firing squads and Gulags. (Meg Shields)

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29. Cam

Cam Netflix

The long-drawn doppelganger dilemma takes on a new frightening new shape, in the acclaimed horror from first-time writer-director duo Daniel Goldhaber and Isa Mazzei. By utilizing her own experiences working as a cam girl, Mazzei crafts both a chilling depiction of the endless fear of being usurped by our double while also a humanizing the experiences of sex workers, as lead character Alice Ackerman embarks on a nightmarish war against a replica of herself. Alice pines for the status of #1 cam girl on the site she uses to stream live shows from her home studio (vomited in pink with eerie, otherworldly vibes akin to the Red Room of Twin Peaks), where she occasionally fakes her own suicide in an attempt to gain more tips and increase her popularity. Just as it seems like Alice has finally reached the popularity tipping point she has pined for so painstakingly, there’s a hitch in her journey to success; she turns on her computer one morning to find that a girl who could be her own twin is posing as her. Such begins Alice’s battle over her very identity.

Working as wildly affecting horror that can’t help but get under your skin, while also being unmistakably committed to its characters, the film does not shy away from revealing the stigma of being a sex worker. Alice lies to her mother about her profession before its revelation in a scene that is equal parts humiliating and heartbreaking, while she deals with invasive questions from the useless police she comes to for help, who only desire to demean and exploit her. Cam is fast-paced and fraught with tension, as we watch Alice fight against both herself and the treatment of others both within her profession and outside of it. It is an ultimately rewarding horror experience if you’re looking for horror that values the lives of its characters as much as it does creeping the hell out of you. (Brianna Zigler)

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28. Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace

This deceivingly-titled, understated gem from Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik, in fact, leaves a profound impression on its audience. Shepherded by two stand-out performances (Ben Foster at his career best, and breakthrough Thomasin McKenzie in a stunning debut), Leave No Trace is a film about misfits – which means, of course, that it’s also very much about those on the other side of that rigid conformist divide, too. Uprooted from their tranquil makeshift existence in Portland’s rainforest, a veteran father (Foster) and his teen daughter (McKenzie) oscillate between that lifestyle binary, Foster’s character continually asserting a clear preference on behalf of a daughter who grows increasingly unsure whether the off-grid, unplugged life is really for her. Despite that deepening generational gulf, Granik gives melodrama a wide berth, favoring nuance and subtlety instead, an approach that allows her film to be many things at once: coming-of-age movie, capitalist critique, nature porn. Whichever of its facets you latch onto, Leave No Trace proves itself sublime. (Farah Cheded)

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27. Burning

Ben Burning

Burning may take its title from Ben’s (a year best performance from Steven Yeun) interesting hobby (which I won’t spoil), but it is also significant in another way: Burning is one of the most brilliant slow burn films of the last decade. With a two and a half hour runtime, director Lee Chang-dong’s latest work almost feels never-ending. Any viewer will slowly become consumed by its unsettling atmosphere, just as Jong-soo (Yoo Ah-in) does with Ben. The film’s protagonist is Jong-Soo, a young working-class writer who re-connects with a woman who grew up in the same neighborhood as him, the enchanting Hae-Mi (Jeon Jong-seo). She lives in a shoe-box apartment –seemingly alone, though, she insists she has a cat– and is an aspiring mime. When she returns from a trip to Kenya with a new friend in tow (Ben), Jong-soo isn’t sure what to think. But his feelings of jealousy over Ben and Hae-mi’s confounding relationship quickly subside and an obsession with the shroud of mystery surrounding Ben’s Gatsbyeque lifestyle quickly takes over. Buckle-in for one of the most enigmatic cinematic love triangles of 2018. (Madison Brek)


26. If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk Cover

Barry Jenkins has done it again. If Beale Street Could Talk, Jenkins’ long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s Moonlight, is an adaptation of the 1974 novel of the same name by literary legend James Baldwin. Baldwin’s novel marries social commentary and love story in a single dizzying narrative, and Jenkins handles his source material with care, wrapping his two leads up in tenderness even as their reality threatens to tear them apart. Tish (KiKi Layne), young and newly expecting, must fight to free her fiancé, Fonny (Stephan James), from prison on false, racially charged rape charges. For just over two hours, we hand our hearts over to this film, and it takes good care of us, despite the obstacles placed in our couple’s way. Jenkins casts Tish and Fonny in lovely slow motion and wide-eyed portrait shots, all in complementary colors that glow in the twilight of New York. Even as their circumstances twist and turn, we place our trust in them, and in love, to see us through. (Megan Sergison)


25. The Rider

The Rider

Writer/director Chloé Zhao has created a singular work of art in her portrayal of Brady Blackburn, a rodeo bronc rider in South Dakota who must reexamine his life and community after a near-fatal ride. The film is gorgeously shot and breathtakingly told, somehow meek and strong as steel all at once. It’s a rare experiment on film in the sense that it is told from the perspective of narrative fiction but is plain and true at heart. Brady, Wayne, and Lilly Blackburn are really Brady, Tim, and Lilly Jandreau, a real family (of non-actors) going through everything we see them go through on screen. The physical, emotional, and mental trauma is palpable and nothing short of spectacular in display. This is the kind of film that you genuinely learn something from—the kind that rewards your soul for engaging. (Luke Hicks)

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24. Avengers: Infinity War

Infinity War

This was the year I finally understood the appeal of the MCU. This time last year I was experiencing superhero fatigue and needing a break from these crusaders. But then Black Panther and Infinity War came along, beat my ass back into shape, and reminded that the MCU is the most impressive franchise to ever grace Hollywood. In many ways, Infinity War marked the beginning of the end of an era for Marvel movies as it’s the culmination of 10 years worth of stories drawing to a close. At the same, it also served as a reminder that this is a franchise that’s still operating on an impressive creative high and we can expect it to stick around for years to come. And the best part? Infinity War is merely the calm before the storm that is Endgame. (Kieran Fisher)

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23. Revenge

Revenge

Coralie Fargeat’s feature debut takes every trope from the rape/revenge horror subgenre and flips it on its head. Jen (Matilda Lutz), having been whisked away to a cliffside house in the middle of the desert by her wealthy, older boyfriend, is unexpectedly joined by two of his hunting pals. Jen is raped by one of the men and then brutalized and left for dead by all three. What they don’t realize is that Jen survived what should have killed her and she’s not content to let them get away with it. Under Fargeat’s deft direction, Revenge subverts the male gaze that is so common in many of these films. By not showing the rape Fargeat avoids sexualizing the violence and exploiting Jen’s trauma. Her camera is more interested in what happens next: Jen’s revenge — a bloody, visceral rampage that will satisfy any horror fan’s desire for well-crafted violence. Anchored by an outstanding performance by Lutz, Revenge is one of the most surprisingly cathartic horror films in years and it’s absolutely one of 2018’s best. (Anna Swanson)

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22. The Night Comes For Us

Night Comes For Us

This is, quite simply, the best action movie to come out of any year since The Raid 2. Timo Tjahjanto’s latest collaboration with Iko Uwais is an odyssey of brutality and carnage the likes of which most other action movies dream of being, yet lack the demented imaginations to accomplish. Joining Uwais are Joe Taslim, Julie Estelle, and some other badasses who were willing to punish each other and themselves for our entertainment. This is some grueling mayhem, folks, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the best action movies ever made. That’s not even hyperbole. This savage flick has raised the bar, and Tjahjanto might be the only director capable of overcoming the high standards he set with this masterpiece. (Kieran Fisher)

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21. A Quiet Place

Rewind Horror Quiet Place

Everyone is rightly impressed with John Krasinski’s aural creature thriller, but it’s not even his first big swing from the director’s chair. He kicked off his filmography with an adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and delivered a film that someone is bound to “discover” next year for its 10-year anniversary. You just watch. For now, we have the opportunity to celebrate his work with his better half, Emily Blunt, and a cast of kids who show up and deliver. A Quiet Place is a clever, thoughtful thriller that ended up being the best non-Cloverfield but almost-Cloverfield movie of the year. All jokes aside, we’ve got our eye on you, Jim from The Office. You keep making movies like this and we’re gonna have to keep watching them. (Neil Miller)

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