2018 in review: The best of a bad year in movies

At the mid-way point of 2018, I thought we were poised for one of the better moviegoing years in recent memory. Now at year’s end, I can only call it … average. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of good films — just very few great ones. But of those happy few, there were some real standouts. Compiled with fellow critic Francis X. Friel, this list is inherently incomplete — films like The Favourite will probably bump something off but had yet to be screened at the time of writing, while others like Death of Stalin and American Animals narrowly missed the cut — but it’s still a reasonable overview of a perfectly acceptable year at the movies. — Scott Douglas

1. BlacKKKlansman. Messy though it often is, the force and energy of this film may be the purest distillation of what a Spike Lee Joint can be: a fit of pure rage that just happens to be one of the most entertaining movies of the year. -FF

2. Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Who doesn’t love Fred Rogers? Morgan Neville’s heartwarming portrait of this national treasure would’ve made this list even if it hadn’t prompted a popular renaissance in docs in general — but it did, so, bonus points. -SD

3. Sorry to Bother You. If anarchic surrealist satire sounds like your cup of tea, look no further than Boots Riley’s directorial debut. Bizarre, prescient and a hell of a lot of fun, I can guarantee that you’ll never look at horses the same way again. -SD

4. First Reformed. When writer/director Paul Schrader puts out a new film, you go see it. Apparently, not a lot of people got the memo. And that’s a shame, because this spiritual successor to Taxi Driver demands — and deserves — a bigger audience than it found. –SD

5. If Beale Street Could Talk. Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Oscar-winner Moonlight may be even better than its predecessor, and is clearly a labor of love that’s unfortunately timely despite the age of James Baldwin’s source novel. –SD

6. Shoplifters. A small scale but deeply-felt screed against the traditional, “normal” nuclear family that doubles as its own mirror reflection, arguing that love (and shoplifting) are mostly all you need. -FF

7. Hereditary. Merciless and almost excruciating at times, Hereditary presents a tale of such immense grief and sorrow that the absolutely bonkers (and much-hyped) finale feels like a relief. -FF

8. Filmworker. Leon Vitali’s stories about working alongside his best friend, mentor and “kid from the Bronx” Stanley Kubrick illuminate what is so often overlooked when discussing artistic geniuses: making great art is a full-time job and often a gigantic pain in the ass. -FF

9. The Other Side of the Wind. Orson Welles’ final feature, which saw a long-overdue release this year, never would’ve worked in its own time. It proves with every weird, jittery jump-cut and branching narrative thread just how revolutionary this huge middle finger to Hollywood really was. -FF

10. Vice. If you loved The Big Short and hated Dick Cheney, Adam McKay’s fact-based comedy is a must see. Expect  Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell to earn some awards nods for their respective turns as Cheney and W. –SD

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