With 2018 almost in the books, it’s time to reflect on some of the movies that stood out the most and left the biggest impact. This article focuses on my Top 10 favorite films of 2018. These are not necessarily the best films of the year, but they are the ones I enjoyed most, ones that stayed with me and I’d happily re-watch in an instant.
***Warning: This article contains light spoilers about the following films.
10. Christopher Robin
While Christopher Robin certainly follows the common trope of an overly serious adult rediscovering his inner child and the importance of family, the film also achieves a unique tone that elevates it above the tropes. This is partly accomplished through the movie’s overarching lesson. Pooh says, “Sometimes doing nothing leads to the best of something.” The movie brings this message to life by showing how Christopher Robin learns to use his imagination again and focus on the things that really matter.
In a world that constantly encourages people to keep constantly busy–never letting a moment go to waste or be unproductive–this lesson is more important than ever. The movie brims with additional seemingly simplistic, yet profound lessons. “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been,” says Pooh, a beautiful way of capturing the importance of living in the present.
There are certainly funny moments, but also uplifting and even a couple genuinely sad moments. It’s an effective blend and surprisingly mature for a story about Winnie the Pooh characters. Some folks were highly critical of the aesthetic used for Pooh and his friends, but it actually works quite well for a live-action adaptation in a world of somewhat muted colors. Pooh and company look a bit frayed, showing that Christopher isn’t the only one who’s changed over the years. Also, Ewan McGregor is a phenomenal actor and does an excellent job of portraying Christopher Robin and his character development.
BlackKklansman tells an incredible true story in a way that is powerful, intense, and at certain points humorous. It it easily one of the best films directed by Spike Lee in years. John David Washington and Adam Driver quickly establish a natural dynamic. Their performances demonstrate how Driver is one of the best actors out there–nailing every facet of a character completely different than Kylo Ren–and that Washington is one of Hollywood’s brightest rising stars.
The film does a beautiful job showing how there is no hierarchy of oppression. Much of the danger presented by the Klu Klux Klan comes from their widespread violent hatred directed at so many different groups of people. Driver’s character Flip Zimmerman is forced to confront that when he realizes that even as a fairly non-religious Jew, the KKK hates his true identity just as much as they’d hate a Black man. It’s important to defend the culture and heritage of yourself and others in the face of blind and dangerous hatred.
The one overarching issue of the film is that it somewhat oversimplifies a complex narrative. Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley was at the forefront of this criticism, highlighting that it’s an oversimplified and false narrative that practically all cops are allies in the fight against racism. This is a dangerous narrative in a time where police brutality and prejudice is integral to the systematic racism that still exists.
This certainly doesn’t ruin the movie or take away from the remarkable story or outstanding acting, but it does cause it to be a little lower on this top 10 list.
8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is arguably the purest comic book movie to ever be made. The overall aesthetic and stunning animation style feels like it’s been lifted straight from the pages of a comic book. The film also brings to life many of the best Spider-Man characters and storylines to ever exist in the comics, many of which more casual audiences were unfamiliar with before seeing the movie.
While Peter Parker does play a significant role in the film, it’s a wise choice to have the story truly revolve around Miles Morales. Fans of the comics have loved this character for a while, and it’s about time he was brought to the big screen.
Kids and adults can equally enjoy this movie. A great example of this is in the film’s humor. Kids quite simply will find Spider-Ham hilarious since he’s a talking pig. Adults can find delightful humor in the fact that Spider-Man Noir is fascinated by a Rubik’s Cube because he comes from a universe where he can only see black and white.
The one downside to this approach is that there is sometimes an inconsistent tone to the movie. Slapstick humor catering to the younger audience is overdone when Miles first discovers his powers, but there’s some truly dark and mature themes concerning the backstory of Wilson Fisk and the shocking reveal of the Prowler’s identity.
While there are quite a few villains to contend with in the movie, the film also provides surprising maturity with the fact that the true antagonistic forces are the characters’ insecurities. These insecurities are more crippling to Miles and the Peter Parker from another universe than any of the actual villains they face. Their true character growth occurs when they overcome their insecurities, not when they defeat the bad guys. Even Fisk is defined by his insecurities as he fails to accept that it’s not any Spider-Man but himself who is truly responsible for the deaths of his family.
7. Ant-Man and the Wasp
In a year when the Marvel Cinematic Universe had already released the smash hits Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp was sadly overshadowed. It’s a shame because Ant-Man and the Wasp is both a superb superhero film and sequel. Hope van Dyne receives the spotlight she deserves as the Wasp.
Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd share a natural chemistry that makes all scenes between Ant-Man and Wasp a delight to watch. Their performances, the script, and so much else makes it one of the funniest MCU movies to date. There is also a tremendous amount of heart to this story, especially concerning the relationship between Scott and his daughter Cassie. Supporting characters from the first film like Cassie and Luis take on bigger roles. They make contributions to the story and feel more like fully formed characters rather than just serving as comic relief or as the source of the protagonist’s motivations.
Even though for the most part the movie tells its own story, the movie does provide some essential contributions to the larger MCU. One of these is that it makes the Sokovia Accords truly matter again for the first time since Captain America: Civil War. The post-credits scenes also offer some powerful connections as it provides the first glimpse of how the devastating end of Avengers: Infinity War affected the world beyond what fans already knew. It also set up the essential role Ant-Man will play in Avengers: Endgame.
One way in which the movie struggles is with its villains. With Killmonger, Thanos, Vulture, and many others in recent installments, the MCU has been killing it with their villains lately. This was no the case in Ant-Man and the Wasp. There is no central antagonist. They go with a few different ones, but none end up being that effective. Considering so much of the story revolved around her fate and rescue, it was also a bit of a disappointment that there wasn’t more of Janet van Dyne in the film, especially considering she was played by the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer.
6. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Without a doubt, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has many flaws. That being said, it hits the #6 spot on this list because it is still a highly enjoyable film and in certain respects further enriches the Potterverse. It’s always a delight to return to this magical world and it’s fascinating to gain further insight into in a time period and locations that haven’t received much exposure before.
Eddie Redmayne continues to nail his nuanced performance as Newt Scamander, an unconventional and refreshing protagonist. He has wonderful chemistry with some of his cast mates, particularly Dan Fogler and his character Jacob Kowalski. Some fascinating new characters were added to the Potterverse, particularly Leta Lestrange who also had fantastic chemistry with Newt and quickly made audiences invested in her. There are wonderful Easter Eggs like a glimpse of the Philosopher’s Stone in Nicolas Flamel’s home.
The movie fails to meet its potential, though, because of two glaring problems. The first is that Johnny Depp is never charismatic or believable enough as Gellert Grindelwald, something which negatively affects other aspects of the movie like the arc of Queenie Goldstein. The other issue is that the movie spends way too much time trying to set up future installments and character arcs, and not enough time focusing on the story and characters at hand. For more of my thoughts, read the official review I wrote for FanSided!
5. The Leisure Seeker
It is truly a shame that The Leisure Seeker didn’t get more attention as it is a phenomenal film. Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland are at their very best in these roles, sharing a natural chemistry and bringing nuanced older adults to life on the big screen. Their outstanding performances offer a ride that is all at once touching, hilarious, uplifting, and at times deeply sad.
There are not enough depictions of complex older adult characters in entertainment, making it all the more refreshing to see Mirren and Sutherland making their characters a reality. The ending is neither uplifting nor depressing, but instead incredibly bittersweet. The movie doesn’t settle for a simplistic “Live life to the fullest and everything will work out” mentality.
The only downside in an otherwise fantastic movie is that there’s a plot twist that doesn’t feel quite earned and instead feels like a forced attempt at adding some unnecessary drama.
4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo: A Star Wars Story provides a true sense of adventure while opening audiences’ eyes to new corners of a galaxy far, far away. It’s a nice change of pace to have a story that doesn’t rely on a conflict between Jedi and Sith or decisions that will either save or doom the galaxy. It’s fun to see a smaller-scale conflict in the criminal underworld. It’s also intriguing to see the Empire at a stage when they have firm control of the galaxy, yet they aren’t used as the story’s primary antagonists.
In terms of the characters, the film does a wonderful job portraying the bromance dynamic between Han and Chewbacca. Alden Ehrenreich has an impressive performance which pays homage to Harrison Ford while also making it his own. Donald Glover is perfect as a younger Lando Calrissian. Emilia Clarke makes Qi’ra a more complex and mysterious character than anticipated, leading to stunning development and an even more stunning appearance of a fan-favorite character. L3-37 is both hilarious and insightful. The character of Enfys Nest is also taken in an unexpected direction that connects to Rogue One and opens up the door for many more compelling stories in the future. Considering all the behind-the-scenes drama that occurred, Ron Howard did a remarkable job pulling this film together.
Solo is a lot of fun, but it does seem like more of a surface level movie compared to recent Star Wars films. The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi left were fun but they also grappled with some complex questions and ideas. Solo doesn’t do that as much and as such doesn’t wow as much as other Star Wars films from the last few years.
3. Ralph Breaks the Internet
Ralph Breaks the Internet achieves the rare feat of a sequel being even better than its predecessor. Wreck-It-Ralph was clever, but the sequel takes that cleverness to a whole new level, while also further developing the delightful relationship between Ralph and Vanellope.
The visual rendering and world-building used for the Internet is so self-aware, which allows the humor and overall story to truly resonate with audiences. Perhaps the best example of this is the Disney princesses scene and Vanellope’s song that follows, all of which taps into the cultural conversation that’s surrounded Disney princesses for years. The Disney princesses scene is also enriched by the fact that most of them were voiced by the original voice actors from their respective movies.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is also surprisingly mature as the primary antagonist essentially ends up being a manifestation of Ralph’s insecurities. That surprising maturity is furthered with how Ralph and Vanellope ultimately decide to proceed with their close friendship despite having different aspirations and places that they want to call home.
2. Black Panther
Black Panther is arguably the most important superhero movie of all-time. The tropes of white, male-dominated superhero stories are shattered not only through the representation of Black superheroes and villains, but also through the representation of Black female characters.
Without a doubt, Black Panther provides the best female representation to date in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Okoye, Nakia, and Shuri all receive significant focus and development. Okoye as the warrior, Nakia as the covert spy, and Shuri as the brilliant scientist all provide positive representation in different ways. It’s also wonderful to see them working together rather than falling into the trope of female characters constantly bickering and fighting among themselves.
The use of Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross also breaks a common trope. As an outsider to Wakanda he acts as a bit of comic relief while also stepping up to be an unexpected hero that helps save the day. That role is generally reserved for the token Black, Hispanic, or Asian character. Black Panther turns the trope on its head by having one of the only movie’s white characters take on that role instead.
The villains are also a highlight of the movie. Andy Serkis is brilliant as the psychotic Ulysses Klaue, and the movie culminates Klaue’s story in a thoroughly unexpected way. Michael B. Jordan’s performance and the writing of Erik Killmonger is even more intriguing, though. Killmonger’s motivations largely rest in trying to fix the systematic injustices in place to oppress Black individuals around the world. This is a real-world issue that resonates with audiences. Killmonger’s motivations are completely understandable, but it’s his cruel and violent means of trying to fix the problem that make him a villain. His tragic backstory and motivations make him one of the most sympathetic and well-developed cinematic super-villains to ever exist.
1. Avengers: Infinity War
Everyone knew Avengers: Infinity War was going to be epic. What made the movie even better than anticipated, though, was the impressive amount of character work that it did. A common concern leading up to the release was that there would be too many characters, ultimately leading to none of them really receiving any development or arc. While that is the case for some characters, many of them actually undergo a significant amount of development, particularly Gamora, Thor, Rocket, Wanda, Vision, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Doctor Strange.
Even more impressive is the character work done with Thanos, who despite wanting to wipe out half the universe comes across as a surprisingly grounded figure. His concerns of the suffering caused by overpopulation and starvation are logical. He truly believes what he’s doing is right and for the greater good, but obviously his methods of dealing with these issues are insane and make him a villain. Further fleshing out his relationship with Gamora also humanizes him further.
What makes Infinity War truly special, though, is how it ultimately rejects the formula that most MCU movies follow. Many beloved characters perish and for once the heroes do not emerge victorious. The stakes feel real and there’s a true sense of genuine loss and heartbreak that’s been missing from most MCU movies.
What were your favorite movies of 2018? Sound off in the comments!
Top Image Credit: Sony Animation Studios