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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20. Roma

Roma

The most moving scene in Alfonso Cuarón’s follow-up to his Oscar-scooping effort Gravity occurs early on, before all the eye-popping stuff at the end. The boy growing up in 70s Mexico, read by most viewers as an autobiographical stand-in for the director who would one-day film Harry Potter go off and get demented, leans back on a stone tablet and tells his maid, named Cleo and played by Yalitza Aparicio, his dreams. They are the silly dreams of children, the kind of stuff the Spielbergs of the world consider very profound. Does Cleo have dreams? Cuarón has no idea and mercifully, while following along what Cuarón imagines of his maid’s life and foibles, he makes no attempt to find out. How many of our beloved auteurs have ever been guided by such self-awareness, such humility? Cleo silently walks through this life without dreams, newspaper front pages happen in front of her, follows a romantic melodrama along involving a boyfriend who eventually leaves. Like most people in the world, every day of her life is an unsentimental hell for which few days are better than any other. And you, who watches Italian neo-realist classics at the Forum, dare to have dreams! Cuarón makes a film that looks just like those old fables, so perfect you might think he’s doing some kind of homage, but in Cuarón’s black and white classic, there are no kids chasing after a bike or whatever and that absence is beautiful. And best of all, it’s on that content pit Netflix. But do take a pause between the autoplay stand-up specials and the latest season of Narcos to watch Roma. We will be watching Roma in a hundred years on tiny, blinking, cracked screens as our earth beats its last, hot breath. (Andrew Karpan)

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19. You Were Never Really Here

You Were Never Really Here

It’s difficult not to look at someone funny when they don’t have You Were Never Really Here as one of their films of the year. What could have been an overwrought opus of heavy-handed social commentary and fetishism of violence at the hands of a male helmsman instead becomes an intimate and melancholy study of a hitman in the magic hands of the perpetually ignored director Lynne Ramsay. Joaquin Phoenix glides through the picture energized by Jonny Greenwood’s ragged score and Ramsay draws out a brilliantly naturalistic performance from him, as believable a portrayal of the lone gunman type as you’ll see. What’s incredible is the way she draws away from the violence, refusing to glorify it as many films of this ilk do, and from that, the impact is greater. Your mind is forced to do the work. More movies should do that. (Charlie Brigden)

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18. Widows

Cynthia Erivo Widows

Steve McQueen’s rollercoaster ride — a twisting and turning heist film — is one hell of a good time. An elevated popcorn thriller with a dedicated A-list cast including Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya, and Colin Farrell, the story of three hardened and newly husband-less women forming an unlikely alliance to get what’s rightfully theirs is complete with the fun of any heist film, but with the skill and artistry of a director like McQueen. Widows is cold as ice and thrives on its depiction of its female characters as both deeply flawed and often unlikeable – and this only works to the film’s advantage. During a year where many women have begun voicing their desire for less amicable depictions of female film characters, Widows brings you more than one who could be defined simplistically as “difficult” but end up entirely empathetic because of it. Complete with a chilling performance from Kaluuya as the stone-cold menace of a henchman to Brian Tyree Henry’s politician Jamal Manning (Tyree Henry has also had quite a standout entire year itself), and a plot that brims with surprises and political commentary, neither of which feel cheap or exploitative, Widows heightens its own genre and leaves you both breathless and begging for more. (Brianna Zigler)


17. Private Life

Private Life

In the vein of Juno and Away We Go, Tamara Jenkins’ Private Life deals with the business of babies–having them, and not–with compassion, charm, and surprising realism. Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti star as a couple wading their way through a confusing, disappointing sea of fertility treatments and adoption paperwork. The two are working doggedly to have a child, and we can sense the weariness in their bones, along with the feather-light excitement when their step-niece appears, spontaneous and vibrant and fertile with potential. As much about passions and expectations as it is about parenthood, the film is a rich, rewarding slice-of-life picture that is poised to become one of 2018’s best hidden classics. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

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16. Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Won't You Be My Neighbor? Still

Fred Rogers believed that kids are smart, capable of thinking through complex problems with empathy and a lack of cynicism. If there’s one message of Morgan Neville’s splendid and heart-wrenching documentary, it’s that we, as a culture, no longer believe in the potential of every single person. Not the way Mr. Rogers did. And that might be part of why things don’t seem like they’re going so well for humanity these days. Maybe the answer is love. To see Fred Rogers tell it through his words and actions, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion. (Neil Miller)

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15. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Mi Fallout

It’s the end of the year, so you might hear a little bit about this guy who keeps trying to die for our sins. And if it weren’t for some meddlesome religious connections, he sounds like a pretty good dude. 56-years-ago, he was born in Syracuse, New York. His name is Tom Cruise. And if he also wasn’t Weird IRL, he’d be known as the most perfect movie star ever created in a lab (or so we assume). Fallout is the latest in a long line of Mission: Impossible movies that rule. Just like its predecessors, it turns everything up to another level. Sorry Spinal Tap, these dials go to like 14. And we’ll continue to watch because it’s the highest-wire, most insane cinematic experience every time. We’ll even watch the one they inevitably have to finish with a CGI Tom Cruise after the real one falls off a building or whatever. All of them. Forever. (Neil Miller)

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14. Shoplifters

Shoplifters

Family is what you make it, and while the idea may seem simple or trite it’s a truth that carries real weight in Hirokazu Koreeda’s latest delight. Alternately funny, sweet, and heartbreaking, the film sees a family cobbled together from the discarded, and it’s a beautiful thing from mischievous beginning straight through to a finale that lifts your hopes even as it crushes your heart. Performances are aces across the board, but be prepared to fall in love with Sakura Ando. (Rob Hunter)


13. Blackkklansman

Blackkklansman

Spike Lee is at his best when he’s fired up. Here, he was really pissed off and had something to say about it. With BlackKlansman, Lee addressed America’s disturbing racist history, chronicling everything from slavery to Charlottesville and coming to the conclusion that bigotry is still costing lives. While much of the movie was spent mocking those who hold such abhorrent views and encouraging us to laugh at him, the comedy didn’t downplay the fact that racists — as stupid and narrow-minded as they are — are always out there committing atrocities. The final scenes are the biggest gut-punch any movie hit me with this year as myself and a bunch of strangers watched the end credits roll in unified shock, tears, and uncomfortable silence. However, Lee loves cinema and desires to entertain as well, and that’s present here. BlackKklansman also works as a buddy comedy that’s very slick and accessible despite the dark nature of the subject matter. A truly unique movie. (Kieran Fisher)

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12. Suspiria

Suspiria

In the first of Suspiria’s seven parts, a young girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) unravels in the confines of a psychoanalyst’s office, moaning, gasping, barely clinging to sanity. “Sie sind Hexen,” she mutters. “They are witches.” The man looks on in fear: that’s about all they can do in Luca Guadagnino’s homage to Dario Argento’s 1977 classic. Mortez’s character soon vanishes, and young ingénue Susie (Dakota Johnson), all big eyes and ambition, flees Mennonite Ohio to take her place at the Markos Dance Academy. Here, she draws the eye of artistic director Madame Blanc (the most prominent of Tilda Swinton’s three roles), who takes her under the wing of one of her sweeping dresses. Under Blanc’s tutelage, Susie’s strengths develop beyond the avant-garde contortions of Blanc’s Volk dance and delve into the otherworldly. Guadagnino’s rendition is a heavy contrast to Argento’s vision, thematically dense and draped in a palette of winter colors. His vast array of narrative threads coalesce a wild, horrific, ecstatic climax, which features Johnson at her bone-chilling best. Suspiria speaks to raw power lying dormant, to women capable of more than the mind can comprehend. After all, they are witches. (Megan Sergison)


11. Hereditary

Collete Hereditary

With all the emotional upset of The Babadook, master-class paranoia of Rosemary’s Baby, and climactic bodily gross-outs of any number of Cronenberg classics, Hereditary is a throwback one-two punch of terror and horror. Ari Aster’s overwhelmingly intense debut feature walks the line between literal horror and psychological drama, ultimately delivering a bit of both. Toni Collette is harrowing and brilliant as a diorama-making mother haunted by a family history of tragedy, while Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff make unforgettable impressions as her two unwitting kids. Aster’s story is uniquely horrifying in that it presents disturbing moments early and often, as immortalized by A24’s heart monitor challenge, so that by the time the credits finally roll around you’re ready to leap from your seat and spend the next few days (or months) trying to scrub these images from your brain. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

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