I have been tasked with the tough decision of making my Top Ten Favourite Films of the year. This is never an easy venture. As a self proclaimed film buff/cinephile I find I constantly fall in love with films and my lists just keeps piling up as the year goes on. I’m also that kind of person who if you ask about my favourite movie, food, ice cream place I will give you a top 3-20 list because I can never choose just one.
I feel like I saw a lot of films this year but comparing my list to others I may have missed a lot of the buzzworthy films because they didn’t make my list. I also still have so much to catch up on regarding films that came out in 2018. I apologize in advance as my list will definitely not match others but I’m confident in saying these titles shouldn’t be looked over either.
Here we go:
10. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
One of the last films of 2018 that I managed to catch and did not regret it one bit. Not only is the animation quite spectacular but it incorporates a bunch of different styles, some sweet graphics and graffiti. I also found the story to be entertaining and funny. It was really cool to have Miles Morales star in this Spidey flick because we’ve seen the Peter Parker story so many times already. Bit by a radioactive spider in the subway Miles Morales an Afro-Latino teenager suddenly develops super powers that turn him into Spider-Man. But then he meets Peter Parker and soon 4 other Spider-Men/Women/Pig show up from other universes that show him he’s not alone. This film is about finding yourself, making lasting friendships and family. The soundtrack for this animated movie is also pretty lit. Can I say that? It’s lit!
9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
There were a lot of impressive documentaries this year but nothing beats Won’t You be My Neighbor? which is about the beginnings of Mr. Rogers and how he came to be a staple in children’s television for 33 years. I grew up with Mr. Rogers myself as he was one of the few television programs my strict, Latina grandmother approved. I feel like I’m a kinder person because of the simple, moral based lessons he taught and stories he told. I learned some interesting facts about him like how he was an ordained minister and came from a wealthy family and was a lonely child himself growing up. It was a beautiful documentary I ended up seeing twice because I enjoyed it so much. If like me you were lucky enough to catch some Mr. Rogers Neighborhood programming growing up you’ll enjoy the nostalgia of learning what it was like to work for Fred Rogers, be on set and the origins of Daniel Striped Tiger. You will need some tissues handy though.
A dark humoured, based on true events film by veteran filmmaker Spike Lee about African-American police officer Ron Stallworth played by John David Washington who successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of fellow cop who happens to be a Jew. Although Ron is behind the voice who speaks with them on the phone Flip Zimmerman played by Adam Driver plays Ron in person and eventually becomes the the cult leader. This film is a fantastic ride of hilarious, disturbing and incredibly clever. Also it tragically links the events of this film based in the early 1970s to that of what’s going on in modern day America right now. A must see of 2018 for sure and that Prince song at the end is just perfection.
7. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
This character-rich and striking cinematography film that is compiled of six short films told in story book manner by the genius Coen Brothers is worth a view. All the stories are quite tragic with a sprinkle of dark humour and a life lesson that may be hard to watch at times. I love my dark humour clearly! All of them are based in the Old Wild West in 19 century post-Civil war era. The anthology also speaks to modern day even though it’s set in the past and the cast is incredible. Some stories resonate and are more engaging than others but overall it’s beautifully done. Look out for performances by Zoe Kazan, James Franco, Tom Waits and Liam Neeson. You have no reason to miss out on this one as it can be found on Netflix as well!
I’m a huge horror fan! However I’m also a bit of a snob when it comes to my scary content. I want well thought out story lines and characters, clever and shocking gore and a satisfying, unpredictable ending if possible. I’m not much into slasher films which is why Halloween is not making this list – sorry, not sorry – but Hereditary is a MUST mention for me. This film is a slow burn I would compare to 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby. The film starts in a much slower pace and intensifies as you watch but climaxes at the end and leaves you thinking about what you just saw for days after. The film revolves around the death of the matriarch of the Graham family who happened to be a very secretive woman in life. The film begins to unravel when her daughter played by the talented Toni Collette begins to uncover the cryptic and disturbing secrets about her ancestry and tries to outrun the sinister fate her family has inherited. There is a lot of disturbing imagery and the ending was something I would not have predicted completely although I did begin to catch on. It still gets a pass and if you’re a horror buff you need to watch this one.
Another horror makes my top 10 by Greek-Canadian director Panos Cosmatos and his latest psychedelic-thriller titled Mandy. This film is a wild ride! Based in 1983 in the Northwest Pacific couple Red Miller and Mandy Bloom live in a glass house in the middle of nowhere by Crystal Lake. Their loving and peaceful existence is destroyed when a crazy biker gang, cult and their sardonic leader Jeremiah Sand try to kidnap Mandy and kill Red but only fuel his taste for vengeance. He sets out to kill the cult and biker gang and enters a phantasmagorical journey that is visually hallucinatory, beautiful and at times cheesy and gory AF. Starring Nicolas Cage as Red this character is tailor made for him and one of his best roles in film yet. The soundtrack is also stunning! A revenge film that filled me with shock and joy both times I watched it.
4. Eighth Grade
This realistic coming-of-age film by Bo Burnham caught my attention immediately when I first heard about it. I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age film and main protagonist Kayla is incredibly endearing, relatable and resembles a true 13 year old in modern day America. The film doesn’t venture far from every day issues she faces daily and highlights her insecurities as she struggles her way through her final year of elementary school before entering high school as tries to discover who she is. I wrote a review about this film earlier this year you can check out here! It highlights further what I loved about this film and why you need to check it out.
I have enjoyed many of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman’s collaborations in the past so when I heard about Tully I was intrigued. This film was not what I expected nor how it was unfortunately advertised. It takes an interesting look at motherhood, sometimes too honest, realistic, unflinching and difficult to watch at times. However there is a lot of warmth, some good laughs in between and beautiful performances by Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis. I wrote a more thought out, spoiler free review of this film you can check out here! This film is about more than just motherhood and concentrates on losing who you were and your relationships before having children. It’s definitely worth a watch… maybe even two because of the stellar twist ending!
2. Isle of Dogs
I’m a lover of anything Wes Anderson makes. Isle of Dogs is an animated joyride into a world where canines are no longer seen as man’s best friend due to an outbreak of a disease that only affects dogs. They are exiled to an island used as a garbage dump where they must fend for themselves. The film is based in future Japan and has beautiful stop motion animation, fun, quirky characters and an impressive – as always – voice cast comprising of Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton and Yoko Ono. The film is classic Anderson at his best and really resonated with me. It has a coming of age sub plot with character Atari, a 12 year old boy looking for his dog companion who was sent to the island and an epic journey that involves an unexpected friendship and many adventures into the unknown of Trash Island. There was a bit of controversy surrounding the possible appropriation of this film with many calling it a “white man’s fantasy of Japan” and because I am not Japanese myself I cannot comment on it but I personally enjoyed it. I thought it was a beautiful, fictional story that happened to be set in a fictional city in Japan that highlights real issues on politics and immigration. Anderson himself has even stated that the movie is strictly fantasy and would never suggest that it is an accurate depiction of any particular Japan but a tale heavily influenced by films by Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Kurosawa and co written by Kunichi Nomura.
This film was probably the most anticipated on my to watch list during the Toronto International Film Festival. After a failed attempt to get tickets I rushed this film twice before finally being successful and getting my own chance to view it. Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron’s 7th feature film follows a live-in housekeeper named Cleo who works for a middle class family. The film chronicles a year as the family and Cleo face unexpected changes in the household, Mexican landscape they live in and her own personal life. The film is a semi-autobiographical take on Cuaron’s upbringing in Mexico City and captures the raw and real situations going on in the 1970s. The film is completely in black and white and is achingly beautiful, tragic and hopeful. As a Latin American woman myself who has been fortunate enough to spend a majority of my summers growing up in El Salvador where my parents are from this film was both familiar, fantastical and nostalgic. It reminded me of home and the hardships I would see not fully understanding myself at that age I saw them what exactly was going on until I got much older and would reflect back. This film was my absolute favourite of 2018 and would recommend it to everyone.
As hard as this list was to comprise I do have some Special Mentions!
1.The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man: Another incredibly fun and inspiring documentary on the legend Bill Murray who lives his life in pure spontaneity. The man doesn’t even own a cell phone! He has ONE landline you can reach him at where he may or may not get back to you. It was a documentary I needed to watch when I did and had the pleasure to see during the 2018 Hot Doc Festival in Toronto.
2. Love, Simon: I’m a sucker for rom-coms and this was so well done. Everyone deserves a love story but for 17 year old Simon who is gay and struggles coming out to family and friends this is more complicated for him. This film is beautifully told through Simon’s eyes as we follow his life choices – both good and bad – and bravery as he discovers who he really is. A modern romance also brews online with an anonymous classmate who is also currently struggling to come out to his family and friends as Simon tries to find out who he is.
3. Black Panther: What can I say about this film? It was not only an incredibly enjoyable superhero movie but with a bold, auteurist twist, amazing cast and also proves yet again diversity sells in Hollywood.