Once again we find ourselves at the end of another long year filled to the brim with all kinds of different films. Just like in any other year, there were a few that didn't quite live up to their reputation, but there were still plenty of great films to choose from, so at long last, here are my picks for the ten best films of 2018:
10. Three Identical Strangers – Starting off the list is one of the best documentaries of the year, “Three Identical Strangers.” On its outset, it appears to be the simple story of how three triplets managed to find each other at the age of 19, which obviously turns their world completely upside-down, but as the film proceeds, the tale gets deeper and darker as it explores the reason behind their separation, turning this documentary into a riveting and compelling mystery. As others have already said, it plays just as well as, if not better than, any fictional mystery, one that will ultimately leave you shocked when the answer is finally revealed.
9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – On the other end of the spectrum is what many have already called the best documentary of the year, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” As if you couldn’t tell from the title, this is the incredible true story of Fred Rogers, host of the long-running kids show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” It’s a remarkable and heartfelt look at his life and legacy, told through interviews with the people who knew him best (family, friends, co-workers, etc.), covering his early years in television right up through his groundbreaking hit show. As one of millions who grew up with the show, the film is an absolute delight, not only for the fascinating behind the scenes tidbits, but also for getting to see just how influential his work was to millions of people. This is simply a can’t-miss documentary, one which you’ll more than likely be seeing win an Oscar next year.
8. Ruben Brandt, Collector – Next up is one of the strangest animated films you will ever see, and is most likely the most obscure film on this entire list. In fact, I had never heard of this Hungarian work before I popped in the screener, but based on the strong buzz from the few that had seen it, I decided to give it a go and ended up being rewarded with one of the best films of the year. It’s best described as a Picasso fever dream, told through unique, beautifully-drawn animation and skillful execution. The story, which concerns a therapist who has nightmares involving paintings, works of art that he eventually helps steal with help from his patients, is compelling and exciting, while the whole design of the production helps pull you right in to it. It’s certainly one of the more original films you’ll see from 2018, and it’s one that’s not easily forgotten afterward.
7. Love, Simon – Here’s one that kind of crept up out of nowhere. Based on a book with one of the oddest titles possible (“Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli), the film tells the story of a young man in high school who is a closeted homosexual, but is outted by a fellow classmate, causing his whole life to change. It’s a sweet coming-of-age story, featuring some solid writing and a great cast, with a particularly stand-out performance from Nick Robinson as the titular Simon. It’s a shame this little gem hasn’t been getting more attention during the awards season, but hopefully it’s one that more people will go back and discover, for it’s more than likely that they’ll be just as taken with it as everyone else was.
6. First Man – After Academy Award winning director Damien Chazelle wowed critics and audiences with his masterful musical “La La Land,” all eyes were on him for what he could possibly deliver next. Turns out his ambition didn’t come down in the slightest as his next project was this compelling film about Neil Armstrong’s journey to become the first man to walk on the moon. Driven by outstanding performances from Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, and filled to the brim with mesmerizing special effects, incredible music, and, of course, brilliant direction, the film may not pack any punches when it comes to its well-known narrative, but when it comes to showing us that journey, the film is nothing short of spellbinding. Don’t be surprised in the least if the film ends up walking away with the Oscars for Visual Effects, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing.
5. Stan & Ollie – Another really big surprise was this little flick about the final tour of comedy icons Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. As far as the narrative goes, there’s not much more to it than that, coupled with them clashing every now and again while waiting for their next picture to come together, but what really makes this a stand-out film are the stunning performances from Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly (the latter of which earned a Golden Globe nod, while both would easily be worthy of an Oscar nod). Their chemistry together is flawless, making them both that much more believable in their respective roles. This is simply a film where you sit back and watch great actors inhabit their parts to remarkable effect, with the results being one of the best films of the year.
4. Green Book – In a very similar vein, “Green Book” was a rather pleasant surprise that originally didn’t seem like it would amount to very much. Again, we have a somewhat simple story that tells of a currently-out-of-work bouncer that takes on the job of driving a black pianist during his tour of the Deep South in the 60s. However, what turns out to be a fairly predictable story of an unlikely friendship ends up being elevated by two outstanding performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali (both of whom earned Golden Globe and SAG nods, and are very likely to earn Oscar nods). Furthermore, just because you can pretty much tell where the story is going to go, it doesn’t make it any less compelling to watch, especially as both characters develop over the course of the tour. This is another one where you shouldn’t be surprised when it ends up earning several Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.
3. Searching – In a typical year, I’ll spend a part of December going back and trying to watch as many last-minute movies that I missed throughout the year that have had really good buzz. One of the very last films I binged for the year was a little flick called “Searching,” which I knew practically nothing about, but which I had heard nothing but great things about. What followed was a shocking and emotional mystery that had me hooked for each and every twist of the story. It’s told entirely through technology outlets (computers, cameras, etc.), but this is the only detail I’ll give, for it’s a film that truly works best the less you know about the narrative going in. Suffice it to say, its mystery will have you guessing until the very end, until which you will no doubt be as riveted as everyone else who’s experience it.
2. Roma – Now we come to what has been the single most lauded film of the year thus far: Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma.” Already the winner of over a dozen Best Picture awards, and even more Best Director awards, it’s a film that’s a lot easier to admire for its artistic qualities as opposed to its narrative, but my goodness what a beautiful film Cuaron has fashioned. On that basis alone, it’s easily one of the best of the year. It’s the kind of film that you can easily find yourself getting lost in thanks to Cuaron’s remarkable cinematography and direction, both of which he seems almost certain to win Oscars for. Furthermore, like with other entries on the list, just because the story is a little simplistic doesn’t make it bad, for it’s still a compelling tale as we follow a maid and the family she takes care of in 1970s Mexico. This could very well be the next winner of the Best Picture Oscar, which would not only make it the first foreign language film to win, but which would also make it the best pick of the last few years.
1. The Favourite – When it came time to pick this year’s favorite, it once again felt like nothing even came close to the top film, with this year’s pick being Yorgos Lanthimos’ lavish dark comedy “The Favourite.” Featuring a trio of brilliant performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone, this is the tale of two women vying to be Queen Anne’s favorite companion. With a splendid script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, and luscious cinematography, production design, and costume design, the film is not only gorgeous to behold, but also thoroughly entertaining as these two women fight for dominance. It’s one of those films that’s simply a sheer delight from beginning to end, which, when combined with its other qualities (including the single best ensemble of the year), makes it a pretty easy choice to name it as the best film of 2018. Expect multiple Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress (x2), to follow.