I’m a filmmaker, not a paid critic, so there are many movies I haven’t seen—notably, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, plus scads of non-English language films (which tend to be widely released in the U.S. after the awards season). More accurately, these are personal favorites, but lists like this are always labelled “Best,” right? So I caved.
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Possibly my favorite film of 2018, Buster captures that uniquely Cohen Bros blend of quirky humor (“Is this your first hanging?”) and pathos to tell five unique stories of an Old West that exists only in the Cohenverse.
- Game Night – Game Night, arguably the funniest movie of 2018, features some cringe-inducingly hilarious moments from Rachel McAdams (who knew?) and Jason Bateman (we knew).
- Isle of Dogs – The work of another wildly original filmmaker, Wes Anderson, Isle is oddly delightful, especially if you’re one of those who can say with me (altogether now), “I love dogs!”
- Eighth Grade – A nomination-starved gem, 8G focuses painfully, laughably and hopefully on the brilliant performance of teen actress Elsie Fisher.
- Green Book – Some critics considered Green Book too artificially “feel good” for its subject matter (a gay black man in the 1960s South). So, sue me, but I felt good, particularly after watching Mahershala Ali’s masterful performance.
- A Small Favor – This (very R-rated) comedy-drama-mystery-action mash-up was one of the most unexpectedly original films of 2018. Blake Lively and the always-inspired Anna Kendrick tease and shock us from start to finish.
- Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Biopics are hard to pull-off, because real life lacks the tidy plot-structure of fiction. But this movie finds an effective emotional core; and Melissa McCarthy reminds us that she really, really, really can act, as can the terrific supporting cast.
Best Action Movies
- Black Panther – A true phenomenon, BP may not be the greatest drama ever made, but it’s certainly one of the best action fantasies ever. What’s not to love?
- Ready Player One – An underrated Spielberg film? Yes, IMHBCO (In My Humble but Correct Opinion). Ready’s pop culture bells and whistles obscured for some the coming-of-age story at its core. I liked and cared about these characters.
- Mission Impossible: Fallout – Like the previous MIs, Fallout starts off predictably, and then manages to take some cool didn’t-see-that-coming turns–something MIs cousins, the Bond movies, could learn from.
- A Quiet Place – Not a classic, but a fresh twist on the genre. Beautifully acted and directed by the team of practically perfect in every way Emily Blunt (to borrow a line from another movie) and her multi-talented hubbs, John Krasinski.
- Solo – If they’d checked their expectations at the concession stand, I suspect more people would have enjoyed this well-made backstory. Perfect? No. Fun? Yes.
- Avengers: Infinity War – A dependable good-time-at-the-movies popcorner. Hey, not every action fantasy can be a Panther.
To read Part Two: Dramas and Honorable Mentions, click here.