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Mar 12 2019

Nathaniel's (Belated) Top Ten List of 2018

by Nathaniel R

Given that we're two months into a new year,the best cinema of 2018 is receding in our mind's eye,still shimmering but moving out of focus.But so much vivid color and feeling remains.Before we are fully blinded to its beauties (until,that is,they are "old films"and we can revisit) by a whole new batch of cinematic images to obsess over,here's one last post to honor the year that was.Here's your host's choices for the 25 best films of 2018.

This year's HONORABLE MENTIONS are a varied bunch taking us from horny self-discovery in Swedish woods to a trash-heap island in Japan.Strangely,grief was the year's most defining theme across genres as diverse as horror,tragicomedy,bopics,thrillers,character studies,and romantic dramas.

The films are listed in loosely ascending order,though we always reserve the right to change our minds where lists and rankings are concerned:

  • Paddington 2(Paul King,UK) If all franchises were crafted with this much heart and warmth and wit,Hollywood wouldn't feel souless at all.
  • Border(Ali Abassi,Sweden) A refreshing oddity which totally commits to its own hybrid identity as its protagonist discovers hers.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse(Ramsey,Persichetti,and Rothman,US) If all superhero movies were this fun,inclusive,and inventive,they'd deserve their now automic success in the marketplace.
  • First Man(Damien Chazelle,US) A nation's epic ambitions paired with a marriage's intimate drama.So elegantly crafted.
  • Burning(Lee Chang-dong) as elusive and mysterious as a cat that doesnt want to be seen,until it saunters boldy into sight to stare you down.
  • First Reformed(Paul Schrader,US) The year's most disturbing drama.Hard to shake and necessary.
  • Widows(Steve McQueen) Overstuffed and strangely paced,but reverberating with provocative ideas and juicy characters.
  • Capernaum(Nadine Labaki,Lebanon) For all that urgency and visceral feeling,not to mention one of the great child performances.
  • Support the Girls(Andrew Bujalski,US) for its ramshackle charms and subtle character-portrait
  • Hereditary(Ari Aster,US) What a calling card debut,from that dollhouse opening shot all the way through that psychotic break ending,a new horror classic.

RUNNERS UP.Oh,if there were room in the top ten for all of these...

  • Isle of Dogs(Wes Anderson,US) Anderson was born for this medium,his compositional whimsy sparking to and surprising with the animated form.
  • Western(Valerie Grisebach,Germany/Bulgaria) A hypnotic rethinking of an American genre to address a European conflict
  • Disobedience(Sebastian Lelio,Ireland/UK/US) A beautifully acted drama of faith and sexuality and redemptive childhood bonds.
  • Cold War(Pawel Pawlikowski,Poland) Like Viktor,we can't get Zula or the ever-shifting music out of our heads.Even better on second viewing.
  • Wildlife(Paul Dano,US) An underappreciated but promising directorial debut.Deeply felt with a sensational star turn at the center.


We the Animals
(Jeremiah Zagar)
The Orchard.Aug 17th
94 minutes

While it bears some traditional flaws of the "first feature"-- the influences are baldy obvious for one -- there's a feral beauty and humane heft to this coming-of-age story about a young queer biracial boy living in poverty,the film's succession of images brilliantly pulling him further and further away from the family as it goes until he's all but flown away.Kudos to the writer/director for adapting what should have been an unfilmable (but amazing) memoir with such cinematic zest.

A Simple Favor
(Paul Feig)
Lionsgate.September 14th
117 minutes

The first thing me and my best friend did when we got out ofA Simple Favorwas make a plan to see it again with our other best friend who we knew would absolutely love it.We all went again the next week and the new convert immediately started making plans to see it with another friend of his.Emily (Blake Lively) would hate this urge to share her movie,but if she wants to slip by unnoticed,she needs to stop being such a fucking legend.It's a great central tension for this tetchy,stylish,strange,and very funny movie that's constantly in-fighting about what kind of movie it's going to be.Is it a comedy?A thriller?a mystery?aspirational real estate/wardrobe/girl-power porn?winking modern noir?It's all of these things and it wears each of them almost as well as Blake wears a suit.Paul Feig is a great comedy director,and absurdly reliable when it comes to directing actresses to their very best feature film performances.He's already accomplished that with Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids...though McCarthy just outdid herself again) and Rose Byrne (Spy).Now he can add Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick to that list.

(If you'd like to compare this to an Oscar ballot,here then,is where the best picture nominees would begin...given the Academy's annoying sliding scale)

(Spike Lee)
Focus Features.August 10th
135 minutes

ThoughBlacKkKlansmanis set in the 1970s,Spike Lee's first molotov cocktail is to explode the timeline immediately with a 1939 film clip.Later a 1915 clip and finally,after spinning a great yarn,a 2017 clip.Aided considerably by longtime collaborators on fire like Terence Blanchard on score,and Barry Alexander Brown in the editing room,and a fine cast eager to dig into his tonally challenging heavily embellished but TRUE where it counts story,the celebrated auteur has made one of his very best films for the right now by engaging with multiple back thens and cinema history itself.Some period pieces are just contemporary films in drag and this Spike Lee Joint is unfortunately timely.Let's hope it's not timeless.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?
(Marielle Heller)
Fox Searchlight.Oct 19th
106 minutes

Okay so I have this "friend"who is a writer and queer and lives in NYC and has been known to hang out at the bar Julius.He obsesses over dead legends and he struggles with feeling lonely and past his prime and that worries that maybe he has to [Jane Curtin voice] 'get out there and find another way to earn a living!' And his cat died two years ago and...and...I can't keep up this charade anymore.I'll turn myself in.The "friend" me!No,YOUrelate toCan You Ever Forgive Metoo much!

(Jason Reitman)
Focus Features.May 4th
95 minute

There is not a better or more surprising dream-team working in the movies than the Jason Reitman + Diably Cody + Charlize Theron triumverate.The brilliance of their first collaboration,Young Adult,went largely unnoticed and misinterpreted at the time but the film quickly developed a cult following and has aged spectacularly well.Tullymet the same immediate fate and will,with any luck,find its devout audience and age just as beautifully ...even if it doesn't want to.While not as rowdy or as acidly funny asYoung Adult,Tullyis even more profound about the universal experience of growing up;what we cling to,what we let go,who we are when we do.May these three artists make one movie together every six years.It will be the best stealth franchise of all time.

(Alfonso Cuarón)
Netflix.November 21st.
135 minutes

A shameful confession: As the year wore on and the kudos piled up I began to resentRomafor becoming a Goliath when it was such a remarkable David.Such is the insanity of awards season which makes everyone a little bonkers (even those who claim not to care about it) and in its most basic form tends to heighten opinions one already held sometimes too the point of distortion.Now that the crashing waves of gold have receded,we return to sanity and remember and recognize that though we dont feel all that personally attached toRoma,the evidence that Alfonso Cuaron did,as he built this epic monument to the woman who helped raise him,is written on every sublimely beautiful frame.It's a glorious spectacle and a major moment in this auteur's deservedly loved filmography.

(Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Magnolia Pictures.November 23rd
121 minutes

Koreeda is a magician.When I think ofShopliftersI struggle to remember individual scenes or character particulars (two things I generally recall well in movie fandom) or anything really other than the massive cumulative effect of it all.His soul-stirring treatise on the nature of family is seemingly modest in execution but invisibly masterful all the same.It's a great film possessed by true heart and forceful humanity.When the movie ended I felt briefly abandoned,like the courts had separated us because apparently you're not allowed to live in movie theaters?Bureaucracies will never understand chosen families and people and places which feel like home,even when you don't technically have one.

For reasons unbeknownst to me -- I just follow the muse -- I'm singing the rest of the top ten to you.Maybe cuz giddiness that this long belated post and therefore the entire film year is wrapped?

Eighth Grade
(Bo Burnham)
A24.July 13th
93 minutes

(to the tune of "Born Free")

Eighth Grade,was painful to sit through
Cuz it was painful tolivethrough
Eight Grade,it echoes your heart
Eight Grade,insightful and so true
Elsie and Bo will astound you
"Gucci"these two will go far.

A Star is Born
(Bradley Cooper)
Warner Bros.October 5th
136 minutes

(to the tune of "Born this Way")

"There's nothing wrong with lovin' remakes,boo"
She said,"When Bradley made it perfect,babe"
"So hold your head up girl and rank it at two,
You cried like Sam in driveway"
Beautifully shot by the way!
"Shallow"s a tight track,Movie Stars are born this way!

The Favourite
(Yorgos Lanthimos)
Fox Searchlight.November 23rd
119 minutes

(to the tune of "Favorite Things")

Mudbath moustaches
And royal duck races
Wedding night handjobs and Abigail's two faces
French whore vajujus and rabbits (seventeen!)
These are a few of myFavouritescenes

When Queen Anne barfs!
When Sarah's quips sting!
When Harley strokes his cane!
I simply rememberThe Favourite's my thing
Cuz Lanthimos is insane.

And,yes,this meansthe 19th annual Film Bitch Award nominations are completeat last!(You can also see a list ofeverything screenedin vague ever-changing order of preference at my letterboxd page orthe review pagehere on the site.While we're sharing links please do follow us on Instagram won't you?)

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Reader Comments (42)

I think my number 1 is a tie between Roma (which I found to be almost spiritual experience) and Can you ever forgive me?(I had the same thought leaving the cinema as well - IT'S ME!

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Lewis

I love your list!I don't see as many movies as most on these threads,but my list would go something like:

1.The Favourite
3.Can You Ever Forgive Me?
6.Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
7.Black Panther
9.You Were Never Really Here

Special mention for Suspiria,which I know was a mess,but I really enjoyed it.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJJM

The Favourite was my top film of 2018 too!

March 12,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

A Simple Favour is such an inspired choice.I really mean that.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered Commenternon-internet personality

It's THE FAVOURITE for me too.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDg

My Top Ten

1.First Reformed
3.The Favourite
5.You Were Never Really Here
6.Eighth Grade
7.First Man
8.Can You Ever Forgive Me?
9.The Rider
10.Minding the Gap

March 12,2019 | Unregistered Commenterjames14

Here's mine:

1.The Favourite
2.First Reformed
5.Leave No Trace
6.First Man
7.Isle of Dogs
8.If Beale Street Could Talk
10.Can You Ever Forgive Me?

I need to watch Eighth Grade again.I thought it was painful to sit through,but I recognize it was intentionally painful,so maybe I need to see it one more time with that in mind.

As for A Star is Born,I've seen it four times by now and it's always the same reaction: absolutely lovely until they perform Shallow in front of an audience,and from there it goes downhill (in terms of pacing and plot mechanics,and Rafi Gavron sinks the film every time he's on screen).There's also a scene with Sam Elliot that has always bothered me (as good as he is in the film),where he tells Ally that Jack's disease was his fault and no one else's.It's uncomfortable because addiction is a disease and I feel the film is leaning toward the idea of addiction being a disease,but then we hear Bobby tell Ally that Jackson is to blame.The message feels a bit confused.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

My personal Top 10:
2.The Rider
3.A Ciambra
4.Leave No Trace
5.First Man
6.The Death of Stalin
7.Summer 1993
8.Cold War
10.I Am Not a Witch

On another day,Can You Ever Forgive Me?,The Strange Ones,The Wife,Widows,Burning,The Third Murder

March 12,2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

"First Man"should have been a bigger hit

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

In no particular order:
Hale County This Morning This Evening
Minding the Gap
Can You Ever Forgive Me
Black Panther
Black Klansmen
First Reformed
Sorry to Bother You
A Star Is Born
Leave No Trace

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMarshako

Great list as always.
1) Roma
2) The Favourite
3) First Man
4) Shoplifters
5) Cold War
6) Eighth Grade
7) First Reformed
8) Blackkklansman
9) Burning
10) Hereditary

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterLSS

After the 91st Oscars' violent ending (Close losing not Green Book winning) I wanna be done with 2018.亚博主页

March 12,2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Our lists our pretty similar,if you include your honorable mentions.I'm glad you have A Star Is Born so high!

Here are mine...I find it too tough to put films in order

Favorite film:
First Reformed

Ten Runners-Up - in alphabetical order:
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Crazy Rich Asians
Eighth Grade
If Beale Street Could Talk
Paddington 2
A Star Is Born
Support the Girls

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

First Reformed was my favorite.Of the year.Of the decade.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Love your list!

First Reformed and Shoplifters are the standouts to me from 2018 as things go.

Richter Scale: I took that comment from Sam Elliott's character about addiction as being a big brother who's hurting at what has happened to his little brother.Not sure if it's the film's POV,if you see what I mean (but it may be).

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

1.A Star Is Born
2.The Favourite
3.First Man
5.Can You Ever Forgive Me?
7.If Bale Street Could Talk
8.A Simple Favor
9.Crazy Rich Asians
10.Mamma Mia!Here We Go Again

I went back and forth with Star and Favourite being my #1,but in the end....Gaga's performance of I'll Never Love Again at the end gave me Barbra teas and I am IMMENSELY here for it.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Better late than never Nathaniel lol.Hope you are feeling better and here's to a 2019 film year just as good as 2018!

1.First Reformed
3.The Death of Stalin
4.Eighth Grade
5.The Favourite
7.Cold War
8.The Old Man & the Gun
9.Leave No Trace
10.First Man

Honourable Mentions: A Star is Born,Hereditary,If Beale Street Could Talk,Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,Widows,Wildlife

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

MDA I love every one of you picks.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterLuke

It's been a long time since our lists were this similar.

1) Nanette
2) Revenge
3) Tully
4) If Beale Street Could Talk
5) Roma
6) Eighth Grade
7) Black Panther
8) Suspiria
9) Crazy Rich Asians
10) Anna and the Apocalypse

We the Animals,First Reformed,Can You Ever Forgive Me?,The Favourite,and BlackKklansman made my honorable mentions.Shoplifters would be in my Top 10 if I saw it by the time I published.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Looking at this rich list,like every year,reminds me of how Best Picture going back to a consistent Ten nominees nowhere near cheapens the honour.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBobby

It'd be fun to see if the easily best actress of the year (give or take a McCarthy which is actually arguable) comes from your number one film very often.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterHenny

Every year there seems to be one movie that all the gays/film twitteratti love and I don't.Last year it was Lady Bird and this year it's The Favourite (I found it misogynistic,unfunny,creepy).So don't listen to me.That said,it was a great year for films.My top ten:

2.Leave no Trace
4.Sorry to Bother you
(Spike got all the (long deserved) acclaim this year,but I thought these last two comic/horror takes on race and class were so much better written,constructed,and acted.I'm still thinking about both of them,while I forgot BlacKkKlansman minutes after leaving the theatre.)
5.Can You Ever Forgive Me
7.Free Solo
9.A Star is Born
10.First Man

Honorable Mentions: Cold War,Capernaum,Wildlife

March 12,2019 | Unregistered Commenterdtsf

Excellent list.I'm curious: Do you consider documentaries for your year-end list?This was such a great year for them.

Here was my top ten:
1.BURNING (South Korea,Lee Chang-dong)
2.FIRST REFORMED (U.S.,Paul Schrader)
3.ROMA (Mexico,Alfonso Cuarón)
4.THE FAVOURITE (U.K.,Yorgos Lanthimos)
5.EIGHTH GRADE (U.S.,Bo Burnham)
6.SHOPLIFTERS (Japan,Hirokazu Kore-eda)
7.SHIRKERS (U.S.,Sandi Tan)
10.A FANTASTIC WOMAN (Chile,Sebastián Lelio)
You can readmore here.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterW.J.

@Luke - thanks!There were a lot of great movies this year so whittling it down was not easy.

I would be remiss if I didn't also shout-out Minding the Gap,which was by far my favourite documentary of the year.

March 12,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

After the 91st Oscars' violent ending (Close losing not Green Book winning) I wanna be done with 2018.亚博主页I don't care that the better performance prevailed,the ickiness of Green Book and my now having to wait for one of the next two Close competitive nominations for her victory is too much.Good riddance 2018.

March 13,2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Can't wait to see the other winners!My list would probably go—

1.Can You Ever Forgive Me?
2.The Favourite
3.A Star is Born
4.Cold War
8.First Man
10.Isle of Dogs

March 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

I like all of the films on your list,Nathaniel,but one film I truly loved this year that everyone else seemed to hate was Guadagnino's "Suspiria."I have no real affinity for the original,so that may have colored my perception of the remake - but for me,the sound design,the muted color palette,and the costumes are all so elegant and beautiful.The final act felt like an actual descent into hell - I was breathless.It was a cinematic experience unlike any other this year.

March 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

What a rich year,wasn't it?Thank you again for taking the time to make this!It's always a fantastic bookend to the year.

March 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBushwick

I obviously didn't see a lot of movies,but here is my top 10:

1.You Were Never Really Here
2.First Reformed
5.Isle of Dogs
7.A Star is Born
8.First Man
9.A Simple Favor
10.Avengers: Infinity War

March 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

My Top Ten Films of 2018

10.First Man—A misunderstood film that will only grow in estimation.Ryan Gosling is a master of interiority and finally heartrending.

9.Cold War—An instant classic of the romantic genre,the movie seduces you with both sight and sound.

8.Lean On Pete—This forgotten little gem is deceptively quiet,irresistibly human.Charlie Plummer should have been in the Best Actor conversation.

7.BlacKkKlansman—Spike Lee returns with a huge mainstream hit without sacrificing any of his power,humor or ferocity.One of the most powerful endings of any film this year.

6.Shoplifters—A story about an impromptu family that sneaks up on you and takes your breath away.One of the best ensembles of the year.

5.Can You Ever Forgive Me?—Melissa McCarthy fulfills her dramatic promise in a story about art,what it costs,and what it leaves.Also,destined to be one of the great movies about NYC.

4.First Reformed—Paul Shrader's inevitable triumph,it searches the dark recesses of the soul.This is the movie he has been working toward his entire life,and showcases Ethan Hawke's career-defining work.

3.A Star Is Born—A lovely modern-day fable,etched with great care and delicacy,and featuring stunning performances from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.Melodrama is back and it's cool.

2.The Favourite—The year's most enjoyable bitchfest,played to the hilt by its star trio,under the sharply warped gaze of Yorgos Lanthimos.Queens rule the world.

1.If Beale Street Could Talk—Barry Jenkins has created his own cinematic vocabulary,and it's at once so delirious and highly poignant.The most original film creation of the year.

Honorable Mention: Annihilation,Leave No Trace,Hereditary,Widows,A Quiet Place,The Hate U Give,Game Night

March 13,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Very great list!I did a top 15 and annoyed my friends with it on instagram on Oscar night!

15.Sorry to bother you
14.First Reformed
13.Mission Impossible: Fallout - come at me
11.You were never really here
9.Can you ever forgive me?
8.Cold War
5.Eighth Grade
2.The Favourite
1.Hereditary - this movie ruined my life.

March 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterG

Tyler: I too liked Suspiria - probably not as much as you did,but I agree with you about the final act.I remember telling a friend that I thought that Guadagnino had filmed an authentic vision of hell,and that's how I remember it.

March 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I was so so so disappointed byDisobedience.I'm a Queer!Jewish!Woman!I love Rachels!I am fascinated/repelled/compelled by the ultra-Orthodox (I know them well -- I worked for an ultra-Orthodox company for a decade).So this movie was really made for me,and I found it....okay.I think I'd have liked it better if my hopes had not been so high.

My two favorite movies of the year were BlacKkKlansman and Can You Ever Forgive Me?followed by The Favourite.

March 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

In no particular order (I generally have a hard time ranking things)

Eighth Grade
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
The Favourite
We the Animals
First Reformed

March 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

My top ten movies of 2019:

1.The Favourite
2.Eight Grade
5.American Animals
7.Mission Impossible: Fallout
8.Can You Ever Forgive Me?
9.First Man
10.Isle of Dogs

March 13,2019 | Unregistered Commenterhickory

My top 10:

2.Cold War
3.The Favourite
4.First Reformed
7.First Man
8.If Beale you know
9.Can you ever forgive me?

March 13,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrown Cow Stunning

I almost missed this list - glad I saw the post!Two thoughts:

--When people in the future lament the lack of Oscar buzz for Widows,I will refer them to this list.If Nathaniel R of all people didn't even place it in his top 15,then there are some problems with the film!

--I totally understand your opinion toward Roma.Awards season unfortunately cements some folks' opinions in a way that is detrimental to discussions about the film itself and it's easy to start to resent films where your opinion doesn't quite align with that of the public.I too found Roma undeniably amazing technically but just a bit depersonalized.Maybe it's a feature of the film that it's so distant,but ultimately I came down on the side of thinking it was a flaw for me and it finished just outside of my top ten.

My Top Ten:
2.Cold War
3.Paddington 2
4.A Star Is Born
5.If Beale Street Could Talk
6.Green Book (sry folks)
8.First Man
10.Eighth Grade

March 14,2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

A Star is Born is one of your 5 best films but Bradley Cooper is not one of your 12 best directors?Okay.

Just missing my top 10: Angels Wear White,The Rider,First Reformed,Leave No Trace,Vazante,and Capernaum.
10.Sorry to Bother You
9.The Cakemaker
8.The Favourite
6.Happy as Lazzaro
5.Can You Ever Forgive Me?
4.You Were Never Really Here
3.Cold War
Here's an article about my list:The Best Films of 2018.

March 14,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Woo

Your FilmBitch awards don't show the gold and silver medalists for Best Director!I'm guessing they're Lanthimos and Koreeda.

March 14,2019 | Unregistered CommenterPercy

Oh,you're a brave man to deny Glenn Close the gold medal!

March 14,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Suzanne -- i never said she was my gold medalist.I just said I thought she deserved the Oscar.Which I stand by :)

March 14,2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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