by Rob DiCristino
My favorite movies of 2018 are about pain, loss, insecurity, obsession, insanity, fragility, mortality, and — more than anything else — humanity. There are plenty of social parallels I could draw between an influx in movies concerning these topics and the first full production cycle since the establishment of our new political landscape. All media is reactionary, and those reactions help us cope with and contextualize the real-world brutality around us. Really, though, assigning some kind of grander purpose to these picks is self-obsessive nonsense. I picked these movies because I connected with them! Maybe you did, too.
Honorable Mentions: These five, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Mandy, The Night Comes for Us, First Man, Wildlife, Unsane
10. Revenge (Dir. Coralie Fargeat)
9. Hereditary (Dir. Ari Aster)
The Witch and The Babadook, but its stark and uncompromising portrayal of grief and insanity reminded me more of The Shining or even my beloved Silence of the Lambs. It’s about the way resentments solidify over generations and cloud our ability to empathize and connect with those we love. It’s weird and risky and absurd. It’s also really, really scary. The images and tonal movements Aster creates are on par with the very best of the genre. You know, the horror genre. The genre this movie belongs to.
8. You Were Never Really Here (Dir. Lynne Ramsay)
7. Annihilation (Dir. Alex Garland)
Ex Machina was unceremoniously dumped by its studio earlier this year and left to those of us willing to champion its complex and vulnerable ambition to anyone who would listen. I can only hope its cult status will build and (like 2001: A Space Odyssey) we’ll collectively catch up to its brilliance over time. While its shifty structure and haunting images invite a variety of interpretations, I settled on mine after only one viewing. I felt it in my bones right away. There’s something very comforting about that, I think, to feel a movie like Annihilation without having to think about it. It’s about our human instinct toward self-destruction, a physical and emotional process from which we never entirely recover. When we cross key thresholds, we come back changed at a cellular level. We can rebuild, but we’re never truly the same again.
6. A Star is Born (Dir. Bradley Cooper)
5. Mission: Impossible: Fallout (Dir. Christopher McQuarrie)
Mad Max: Fury Road was released in 2018. Does it really feel like that, though? Box office success aside, have we really seen the level of conversation in the film community that Fallout deserves? Maybe the Mission: Impossible series is just a victim of its own success. Rather than dissecting and admiring the gears and pulleys that make this piece of mad genius tick, rather than celebrating the ways in which it humanizes an unkillable action hero, rather than analyzing its masterful composition of completely preposterous spectacles, it feels as though we as a popular culture have offered Fallout little more than a polite golf clap. “Good work,” we seem to say. “Keep it up.” It’s unfair, isn’t it? Maybe it’s just me.
4. Paddington 2 (Dir. Paul King)
3. First Reformed (Dir. Paul Schrader)
Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle — a violent malcontent stalking the streets of New York — has more connectivity to the world around him than Ethan Hawke’s Ernst Toller, a Reformed church reverend whose military past and grief over his lost son have stripped him of his faith. As he struggles to attract sufficient attendance to keep his small church afloat, Toller is drawn into the complicated lives of environmental activists, megachurch CEOs, and a terrified (and unexpectedly pregnant) young woman played with grace and beauty by Amanda Seyfried. First Reformed has been referred to as “Grown-Up Taxi Driver,” which I can get behind. Paul Schrader is still angry, still existentially terrified, but now he’s trying to save our souls.
2. Eighth Grade (Dir. Bo Burnham)
1. Suspiria (Dir. Luca Guadagnino)