I planned to post this list before the new year began, but I unexpectedly had off the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s, and I took advantage by refusing to open up my laptop for days.
There were a handful of movies I wanted but failed to see during 2018. Luckily there’s still plenty of time before awards season to do so. In previous years, I’ve ranked my top five favorite movies of the given year. This year, however, will be different. I don’t think there has been a year where I’ve seen more movies than 2018, so I decided to rank all 44 I saw. The word “rank” is such an annoying way to describe this exercise because in reality I enjoyed most of these movies immensely, and picking one over another is tiresome. But for the sake of it all I put them in a specific order as a sort of recommendation as to which ones to watch.
I see movies to learn something and to appreciate the artistic creativity of some truly inspired humans. Mostly I watch movies to feel something and to be entertained. It doesn’t have to just be sadness, although the best kind of movies will make you feel the most hopeful kind of sad in the world, at least the movies I gravitate towards. This list includes plenty of dramas mixed in with the occasional crowd pleaser. I had previously written about some of the movies listed below, so I included an already published excerpt or a link to the post.
Please forgive me for missing out on some movies that I imagine were truly wonderful. I’ll catch up eventually.
44. Uncle Drew – I barely had any expectations for this one. It ended up being a truly enjoyable experience. Lisa Leslie was great.
43. The Greatest Showman – Despite featuring one of the better movie soundtracks of the year, it’s hard to get past the actual life of PT Barnum, who was truly scum of the earth.
42. Ant Man and the Wasp – A funny Marvel movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.
41. The Land of Steady Habits – A Netflix movie based on a novel by Ted Thompson creates a nice viewing experience. It tells a story about Anders (Ben Mendelsohn), who opts for early retirement, even though he’s financially unstable. The divorced father of Preston (Thomas Mann) meets a woman named Barbara (Connie Britton) as he tries to navigate is overly, mostly self-inflicted complicated life.
40. Set It Up – Another Netflix original that might be the most genuine rom-com of the year.
39. Incredibles 2 – I could watch Jack-Jack fight the raccoon for days.
38. Tully – It’s a movie I appreciated greatly. Honestly, though, I had a difficult time relating to it. And the ending was bizarre. Mackenzie Davis was tremendous as Tully.
37. Game Night – This could have been the most fun I had at the movies all year. Jesse Plemons couldn’t have been better as the creepy neighbor.
36. Private Life – Saratoga Springs, specifically Yaddo Gardens, makes an appearance towards the end of the movie, which means it’s worth checking out for that reason only. It’s on Netflix. It’s star-studded with Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti playing Rachel and Richard. The married couple has had difficulty getting pregnant, which leads to an unusual relationship with Giamatti’s niece, Sadie (Kayli Carter)
35. Bohemian Rhapsody – You didn’t really learn anything new about Queen. But it was a fun time because Queen rocks. Rami Malek crushed it as Freddie Mercury.
34. Annihilation – This movie should probably be higher on this list. It’s just been so long since I’ve seen it that I cannot remember every thing that happened. It’s on Hulu now, so be sure to check it out. I know I will have to give it a re-watch.
33. Beautiful Boy – I don’t think there was another movie on this list that I had higher expectations for this year. I wasn’t disappointed in the movie or anything. Addiction movies are hard to do, especially ones based off true stories. I read the book David Sheff wrote about his son’s meth addiction earlier this year. He writes about it openly and honestly. Steve Carrell does a tremendous job as David Sheff in the feature film. It’s an impossible situation for a father to go through, unfathomable, really. The movie goes back and forth far too many times, which certainly confused an audience with little or no background knowledge. That’s a major criticism I had of the film. But it was jaw dropping to see the amount of people in tears as the movie ended. A powerful movie with strong performances.
32. Heart Beats Loud – For some reason, this movie flew under the radar. It’s a terrific, uplifting father-daughter movie as Frank Fisher, played by Nick Offerman, makes music with his daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons) the summer before she moves cross country to begin college.
31. Never Goin’ Back – This fairly raunchy comedy follows two high school drop-out best friend, Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Camila Morrone), in Texas. They have one goal in mind: to celebrate Jessie’s birthday at the beach. But problems occur when Jessie’s dumb brother lands them in jail.
30. Blockers – I’ve watched this movie three times. It’s hilarious but it also has a lesson about letting your kids grow up. Also, the homie Chad, played by Jimmy Bellinger, wears a fedora. He really wears it.
29. Boy Erased – Based on the heartbreaking true story, Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is sent to a gay conversion camp after his pastor father and caring mother (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) hear a rumor about him fooling around with a boy in college. It’s a brutally tough movie to watch at times.
28. Anna and the Apocalypse – A Christmas zombie musical is a rather peculiar premise, but Anna and the Apocalypse proves to be an amusing, witty and heartfelt tale about a Scottish town during a zombie apocalypse. There’s plenty of irony in the song lyrics and the script itself as you learn about Anna and her family and friends. It’s typical high school politics with hyperbolic malicious administrators, butthead jocks who insult helpless geeks and the overly confident friend-zoned best friend of the pretty girl protagonist. The music is perfect with jams like Hollywood Ending, Break Away, Turning My Life Around and I Will Believe.
27. Love, Simon – Based on the best-selling novel, Love, Simon tells a story about a high school senior afraid to come out to his family. Once he finds out another boy at school is gay, he decides to reach out to him anonymously. It’s a heartfelt, awe-inspiring movie that’s definitely worth a watch.
26. What They Had – I wrote about this movie in November: https://feelingjustswell.com/2018/11/11/what-they-had-spoilers-of-course/
26. First Man – This is another movie that should be higher. Damien Chazelle directed the hell out of this Neil Armstrong bio-pic. The first man on the moon has a heckuva story to tell. The moment Armstrong mourning his daughter on the moon will break you.
24. Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson makes another dynamic animated movie. This is another I saw earlier this year, which means it’s probably in need of another viewing. It’s about the unbreakable bond between human and dog.
23. Avengers: Infinity War – I am not an obsessed superhero fan. I mention that later about Black Panther. It’s a stunning movie, nonetheless.
22. A Star Is Born – Lady Gaga is pretty much all that needs to be said.
21. Searching – One of the cooler movie experiences of 2018. I wrote about it in September: https://feelingjustswell.com/2018/09/08/searching-beware-of-spoilers/
20. Creed II – The original Creed is one of the best in the Rocky franchise. With a new director, it was going to be hard top it, but Creed II does a solid job trying. Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson have wonderful chemistry as Adonis and Bianca. If it ends up being Sylvester Stallone’s last appearance as Rocky, it ended perfectly. The soundtrack couldn’t have been better, too.
19. Thunder Road – Jim Cummings wrote, directed and starred in this overlooked gem of a film. Cummings plays Officer Jim Arnaud who recently lost his mother. It’s based on a short film Cummings made where he delivers an abnormal, theatrical eulogy. That’s how the full-length film begins. Cummings puts his heart and soul into this dark comedy. It’s a work of true genius. Arnaud battles with his ex-wife over custody of their child, Crystal. Nobody sees the world quite like Arnaud, who is atypical in word and deed.
18. The Death of Stalin – One of the funniest movies of the year. It’s dark comedy at its best.
17. Thoroughbreds – It’s a quick watch. It’s also Anton Yelchin’s final film, and he plays this creepy adult who sells drugs to high school kids in suburban Connecticut. Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) were childhood best friends, growing apart after Lily’s dad died. But they rekindle their friendship during tutoring sessions at Lily’s expensive house. That’s when Amanda meets Lily’s stepfather. Lily hates him, which prompts Amanda to suggest murdering him. It’s an incredibly acted film. It’s drawn comparisons to American Psycho. It’s a film that’s surprisingly funny, given the nature of the topic, while also diving deep into personality disorders.
16. Hereditary – The expectations for this movie were through the roof. After screenings various outlets called it the “scariest movie ever.” The movie, the first feature by Ari Aster, is damn near perfect. But please don’t expect to be scared out of your mind. It’s not that type of horror movie. It’s scary, though. It has one of the more messed up, unsettling scenes you’ll ever see. Toni Collette kills in her role as Annie Graham, but it’s the son, Alex Wolff, who gleams.
15. Bodied – Joseph Kahn directed this clever film about political correctness in rap battles. Progressive college student, Adam (Calum Worthy), wants to write a thesis paper about battle rap. He befriends Behn Grymm (Jackie Long), who is one of the best battle rappers in the country. The two form a friendship, but it’s put to the test as Adam becomes a sensational battle rapper himself.
14. BlackKklansman – Inspired by true events, Spike Lee takes an audience back to the 1970s where Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) goes undercover because Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) wants to infiltrate and and expose the KKK in Denver. The ending is eye opening.
13. The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Based on a book and set in 1993 Montana, Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is sent to a conversion camp after being caught with the prom queen in the backseat of a car. Cameron’s parents were killed in a car crash years ago, so it’s her aunt that sends her away. It’s one of two mainstream movies released in 2018 dealing with gay conversion. Boy Erased, which I mentioned before, being the other. Cameron Post didn’t get the exposure that Boy Erased did, but obviously I enjoyed it more. It also has one of my favorite scenes of the year:
12. Black Panther – There’s truthfully not much to say about a movie that shattered box office records. I’m not this superhero fanatic, but I am a big Ryan Coogler fan, relishing over Creed and Fruitvale Station. It’s a near masterpiece of a film.
11. The Favourite – This was the last movie I saw in 2018. Director Yorgos Lanthimos shoots the movie in such a unique and enticing way. I know next to nothing about filmmaking, but you could tell the different approach Lanthimos took with The Favourite. The story itself isn’t that interesting to me. It’s set in early 18th century England where a love triangle, featuring Queen Anne (played by Olivia Colman), her close friend Lady Sarah (played by Rachel Weisz) and a new servant Abigail (played by Emma Stone), cause problems. The movie features plenty of hilarious scenes. A tremendous experience with award-nominating performances by the three stars.
10. Leave No Trace – A father (Ben Foster) returning from war bonds with his daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) a nature reserve in Oregon. Will wants to be there for Tom, but he’s having difficulty getting back on his feet. It’s a truly inspirational and heartbreaking story about survival and sacrifice. McKenzie absolutely shines, and Foster delivers another tremendous performance. Watch it on Amazon Prime now.
9. Mid90s – Jonah Hill perfected his first directed movie. The length of it, barely 80 minutes, makes it such an easy yet potent watch. He’s able to pack the movie with only the necessary scenes, which is nearly an impossible task, especially for somebody directing the first time. Hill had always been inspired to tell a skating story since it made up most of his childhood, even if he wasn’t any good. I tend to lean towards dramatic movies because real lessons tend to be addressed. Mid90s might be a incapacitate movie because of the soundtrack, the 90s’ references and the skating. But it’s also an important movie showcasing friendship and apathy.
8. First Reformed – Ethan Hawke plays a priest in upstate New York. You learn about crappy things that happened to Reverend Ernst Toller throughout the film, which led him to his present situation. He runs this old church that’s mostly used for historic tours and its gift shop. Sundays, however, a few attend mass. A couple, Mary and Roger, played by Amanda Seyfried and Van Hansis, befriend Toller early. Roger worries about how the human population treats the world, and that theme continues as Toller faces difficult questions, especially his relationship with the much larger and financially well-off church nearby. It’s a dark often disturbing movie that makes you think on a number of levels. The final scene might be the strangest in movie history, though.
7. Sorry to Bother You – One of the funkiest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s science fiction as its finest with formidable political undertones about corporate oppression. Tessa Thompson and Lakeith Stanfield shine as Detroit and Cassius Green. It’s a story that makes you laugh hard, but it’ll certainly make you ponder.
6. After Everything – No movie made me feel quite like the end of After Everything. The final 10 minutes might be the most painfully real scene of the year. Two 20-somethings, Eliot (Jeremy Allen White) and Mia (Maika Monroe), fall in love under an unusual circumstance. It’s days after meeting on a subway platform where Eliot finds out he has cancer. The first person he tells is Mia, because he wanted to tell a stranger. It’s then a relationship unwinds. First-time directors (Hannah Marks and Joey Power) do a tremendous job of highlighting what it’s like to begin a modern relationship. Emojis are sent, the screenwriting on point. It quickly becomes this serious thing as Eliot fears his life will be almost over. No real spoilers here, though. Just watch it.
5. A Quiet Place – Movies that drag on become a nuisance. This movie is direct and clear and short, creating an ideal viewing experience. The story itself, creatures that can’t see but have enhanced hearing, hence the title A Quiet Place, provides tense moments from the beginning. John Krasinski had a flawless directing debut. It’s on Amazon Prime, so stream it.
4. Eighth Grade – I wrote about Eighth Grade hours after watching it: https://feelingjustswell.com/2018/07/28/eighth-grade-the-movie-not-the-year-2007/
3. Lean on Pete – Here’s what I wrote about Lean on Pete after watching it this summer: https://feelingjustswell.com/2018/07/12/lean-on-pete-yes-there-are-spoilers/
2. You Were Never Really Here – This movie can be seen on Amazon Prime right now. I strongly suggest watching it. The ever-talented Joaquin Phoenix plays a man named Joe, who has returned from war as a hired gunman. Joe must track down a missing teenage girl. It’s an enthralling, jaw-dropping experience based on a novel by Jonathan Ames.
1.The Rider – It tells a true story about Brady Jandreau, a rising rodeo circuit star who suffers a life-changing accident. Chloé Zhao discovered Brady several years ago and knew she wanted to make a movie based on his life. Zhao used all non-actors, which makes her cinematic achievement most impressive. I usually do not cry often during movies, but I wept as The Rider ended. Brady tells his autistic sister: “I believe God gives each of us a purpose. For a horse, it’s to run across the prairie. For a cowboy, it’s to ride.” I won’t ruin the ending. It’s worth watching on your own.