Top 25 Movies of 2018

This is my Best Movies of 2018 list (along with a second opinion from Liz and Eric Sweeney). Please keep in mind that this list is highly subjective and may have a few dumb movies on it. Even then, there are still a handful of movies that I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet (especially: The Rider, the Favourite, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, Widows, and Burning). Also, this year’s favorite movies are in mashup form if that’s your preferred manner of taking in best of lists.

1. Leave No Trace

Ben Foster has made a career out of great performances in movies people never see, and while this film will only further that peculiar curse, roles like this and 2016’s Hell or High Water cement his status as a Sean Penn successor of sorts. Foster’s troubled patriarch is a bit of an afterthought though as Thomasin Mckenzie’s revelatory debut as Foster’s daughter Tom is really the standout of the film, a film that is so firmly steeped in empathy and compassion. In a year when inhumane acts and bullying were championed by the powers that be, this compassion generator completely won me over. Hats off to director Debra Granik for this film, her first in eight years since she launched Jennifer Lawrence’s career with 2010’s Appalachian misery fest ‘Winter Bone‘. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “A father and his thirteen year-old daughter are living an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon, when a small mistake derails their lives forever.”

Best Scene: Same thing that’s wrong with you, isn’t wrong with me

Watch This If You Like: Winter’s Bone, A less whimsical version of Captain Fantastic, Living in the woods to duck creditors

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

2. Infinity War

The culmination of ten years of Marvel’s diligent universe building yields their best film to date, a pastel equivalent to the Dark Knight that nails enough beats to be near comic book movie perfection. I get that the emotional weight of the film wasn’t there for some that rightfully questioned the permanence of the third act (or just didn’t care about these characters in general) and I know it has swung around to being unpopular to gush about Marvel movies these days, but I genuinely enjoyed this film. I think it’s a superb, albeit overstuffed, blockbuster if such a thing exists. I mean, when was the last time (other than A Quiet Place) a film’s ending completely silenced an entire theater? (Trailer)

Synopsis: “The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.”

Best Scene: Snapocalypse

Watch This If You Like: Captain America:Civil War, Perfect balance, Movies without Hawkeye

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%

3. Blindspotting 

Relevant, vibrant, lyrical, and overflowing with confidence, this Oakland-centric buddy comedy born of Hamilton standout Daveed Diggs and real life best friend Rafael Casal‘s minds, traces the story of Collin, a recently paroled felon, and Miles, his volatile, but loyal best friend. Blindspotting is raw in a way that creates some hit or miss moments, but at its best the film is a mesmerizing study of gentrification, masculinity, racism, and personal identity. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “While on probation, a man begins to re-evaluate his relationship with his unstable best friend.”

Best Scene: No one is misreading you

Watch This if You Like: Oakland, socially conscious buddy comedies, great hip hop soundtracks

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

4. Roma 

Simultaneously a technical marvel and a deeply intimate tale about a maid working in a wealthy household in Mexico City amidst the turmoil and unrest of the 1970s, director Alfonso Cuaron’s eighth film is a mini masterpiece. Easily his most personal film to date, an apparent love letter to the women who raised him, Cuaron scales back on the spectacle of prior films like ‘Gravity’ to create a saga about everyday moments. While I’m sure it’s a treat to see on the big screen, Roma is available to stream on Netflix right this second, so there’s no excuse for missing out on this special film. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “A story that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s.”

Best Scene: (tie) Crib shopping/Ocean commotion

Watch This if You Like: Classic films, Family hugs, Next level camerawork

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

5. Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson’s ninth film (which, when uttered aloud, loosely translates to “I Love Dogs”) is arguably the best of his late stage career (along with Grand Budapest). It stands as a fitting showcase of his scrupulous brand of whimsy and idiosyncratic wit. This film is a joy. I wanted to watch it again the moment it ended. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.”

Best Scene: Spots Reveal

Watch This If You Like: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Dogs, A + voice work

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

6. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

This documentary did a number on me. It was released at a moment in time when cynicism and being a cold hearted bastard seemed to be in vogue, so it was jarring to watch a film that focused on a figure of pure benevolence. Despite his reputation, I appreciate that the filmmakers still scrutinized Fred Rogers as a human being, not just as an infallible figure of nostalgic goodness. Seeing his personal struggles and growth actually made him an even more endearing figure by the end of the film. So much crying in the theater when the lights came up. Not a dry eye in the house. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “An exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children’s television host, Fred Rogers.”

Best Scene: Mr. Rogers and Officer Clemons

Watch This If You Like: Adult Crying

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%

7. Minding the Gap

My runner-up for best documentary of the year is brought to you by…Hulu? While the first fifteen minutes of Minding the Gap threaten to devolve into a cursory CKY style portrait of skate punks, it gradually morphs into a poignant examination of the cyclical nature of domestic violence, racial identity and tribe socialization. Shot in Rockford, IL by UIC grad Bing Liu, this is a must see for any Midwesterner. It’s tough to find a more impactful scene from 2018 than Bing Liu confronting his mother about past torment and abuse at the hands of his stepfather. The editing and narrative convergence in that sequence are devastating. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust-Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship.”

Best Scene: Confronting the Past

Watch This if You Like: Mid90s, Hoop Dreams, Real Talk

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

8. A Star is Born 

I haven’t seen any of the previous iterations of A Star is Born, so I’m going to go ahead and say this is the best version yet because that’s the sort of uniformed hyperbolic comment this review needs. Unsurprisingly,  Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are both on point as the film’s pair of star crossed lovers. They’ll probably have awards heaped on them come Oscar season, and it’s hard to argue they don’t deserve them. But new revelation? Sam Elliot crying is really heartbreaking. Who knew seeing the Malboro Man get choked up could be so emotional? Maybe pencil him in for Best Supporting Actor just for that one exchange? Even more heartbreaking though? That shot of Bradley Cooper’s real life dog Charlie whimpering during that spoiler redacted moment. Not cool, movie. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “A musician helps a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.”

Best Scene: All you gotta do is trust me

Watch This If You Like: Walk the Line, Duets, Faux musicals

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

9. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

A shocking jump in quality for the Mission Impossible franchise  (improving upon the perfectly innocuous Rogue Nation) finally propels it into action masterpiece territory. This is the first time since Mad Max: Fury Road that stunt work in a film had real weight and verve to it. After Infinity War, this is easily my favorite action movie of the year. Give me whatever vitamin water Tom Cruise is chugging, because that man can still run like the wind at 56. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.”

Best Scene: The Last 30 Minutes

Watch This If You Like: Bourne Franchise, Tom Cruise running, Movies where you think Wes Bentley is going to be the bad guy but he turns out to just be some dude

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

10. Free Solo/The Dawn Wall

Having two movies tie is definitely cheating, but the internet is a lawless place filled with memes, bacon, and entitled opinions, so there’s not much you can do about it. Regardless, Free Solo and the Dawn Wall are first-rate documentaries about rock climbers attempting to conquer supremely difficult routes on El Capitan (Yosemite’s most famous climbing wall). Free Solo focuses on the world’s best free climber, stoic superhuman Alex Honnold, as he attempts to climb El Cap without ropes. Free Solo’s counterpart, the Dawn Wall, chronicles scrappy climbing duo Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen as they try to send the eponymous, nearly featureless sunlit swatch of the mountain. The central figures of each respective film are quite different (even though they’re good friends in real life) and possess varying motivations for their maddening drives, so it’s a disservice to lump them together, but it’s also an unavoidable double feature pairing. Either way, even if you’re not into rock climbing you should still check out these films, as their harrowing stories trump the limitations of the esoteric sport. (Free Solo: Trailer) (Dawn Wall: Trailer)

Synopsis: (Free Solo): “Follow Alex Honnold as he becomes the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall. With no ropes or safety gear, he completed arguably the greatest feat in rock climbing history.” (Dawn Wall): “In an unbelievable story of perseverance, free climber Tommy Caldwell and climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson attempt to scale the impossible 3000ft Dawn Wall of El Capitan.”

Best Scene: The Boulder Problem/The Side Traverse

Watch This If You Like: Meru, Touching the Void, Yosemite

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%/100%

11. Annihilation

Alex Garland’s attempt to adapt Jeff VanderMeer’s unfilmable book yields a cerebral sci-fi thriller about a group of scientists journeying into the mysterious “Area X”, a shimmering patch of swamp land that has claimed all previous explorers. Part sci-fi horror, part…well…maybe this is just pure sci-fi horror now that I think about it. I mean Screamy Bear is pure nightmare fuel. He was definitely designed in a workshop by people who have seen some shit. Regardless, if you dig nebulous, visually arresting sci-fi, Annihilation is just the movie for you. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.”

Best Scene: Screamy Bear

Watch This If You Like: Body horror, Trippy visuals, Under the Skin, Nightmares

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

12. First Man 

Neil Armstrong’s taciturn demeanor in the face of nearly suicidal firsts reminded me a lot of Alex Honnold’s conquest in Free Solo. They’re odd figures to lump together, but there’s something about the way they carry themselves and the way they confound the women in their lives with their dry apathy toward death that makes me believe they could have been kindred spirits. The more obvious pairing of Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling once again produce reliably good results, but it’s Claire Foy who really shines in First Man. She just chews everyone up in this movie. I still have to yet to see her turn as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, but I look forward to witnessing her first class brooding as Sweden’s most famous tattooed hacker. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.”

Best Scene: Moon Walk

Watch This If You Like: Apollo 13, Claire Foy scolding NASA techs, Awesome musical scores

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

13. Black Panther

Black Panther is slightly tarnished by some bad cg, but otherwise gets everything else right, bringing a compelling villain to the Marvel universe (something the franchise desperately needed) and introducing a strong cast of supporting characters (especially seen in Shuri and Nakia). Not to mention that it represented such an important cultural touchstone, once and for all proving the masses wanted diversity in their blockbuster entertainment. Kudos to director Ryan Coogler for once again knocking it out of the park. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “T’Challa, heir to the hidden but advanced kingdom of Wakanda, must step forward to lead his people into a new future and must confront a challenger from his country’s past.”

Best Scene: (Tie) Killmonger in the Astral Plane/A Plea to M’Baku

Watch This If You Like: The Holy Coogler/Michael B. Jordan Trinity (Creed, Fruitvale Station, Black Panther)

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

14. Crazy Rich Asians

I wish more romantic comedies were this good.  Crazy Rich Asians is fun, surprisingly poignant at times, and genuinely invests you in its vast cast of characters (especially Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh). After a rousing success at the box office and plenty of source material left to mine for sequels, be on the lookout for book 2, ‘China Rich Girlfriend‘ in movie form at some point in the near future! Hooray for diverse entertainment infiltrating the mainstream box office! (Trailer)

Synopsis: “This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family.”

Best Scene: (Tie) The Wedding/Mahjong Showdown

Watch This If You Like: Solid Romantic Comedies, lavish weddings, exotic destinations

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

15. Creed II  

Creed II is a worthy sequel. It maintains a lot of the momentum and character relationships of the first film, all while expanding the scope just enough to justify the continuation of the franchise. Having said that, the film clearly lacks Ryan Coogler’s deft touch after he departed the series to work on Black Panther. But at the end of the day, the training montages were on point, the antagonists had arcs and nuance, and no one can mumble through life lessons better than Stallone. If they can maintain a consistent quality level like this, I’m game for a few more entries in the Creed saga. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa, heavyweight contender Adonis Creed faces off against Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago.”

Best Scene: Training montage in the desert

Watch This If You Like: Creed 1, Warrior

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%

16. Upgrade

Now this is how you make a b-movie on a budget. Write a clever ‘Twilight Zone’ like yarn, populate it full of assassins with gun hands, add in a few effective twists, and you’ve built a successful dirt cheap b-movie. Upgrade is the film Venom desperately wanted to be, but it failed miserably in its attempt to imitate Upgrade’s gleefully unhinged mayhem. And not only did Upgrade usurp Venom in the quality department with only a fraction of its budget, but they did it with discount Tom Hardy (Logan Marshall-Green) too! They even saved money in the Tom Hardy department! (Trailer)

Synopsis: “Set in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when Grey, a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem.”

Best Scene: Permission to help?

Watch This If You Like: B-Movies, District 9, Gun Hands, Logan Marshall-Green (I feel bad for calling him discount Tom Hardy. He’s a perfectly fine actor. He just has the stigma of being a big dumb dumb in Prometheus, along with 95% of that cast)

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

17. Hearts Beat Loud

What a pleasant little film filled with great actors and catchy songs. There’s not much else to say. Kiersey Clemmons and Nick Offerman are wonderful. Ted Danson and Toni Collette should be in everything. And you should really be watching this right now instead of reading this inarticulate review. Go! Now!  (Trailer)

Synopsis: “A father and daughter form an unlikely songwriting duo in the summer before she leaves for college.”

Best Scene: Father/Daughter Concert

Watch This If You Like: Begin Again, Sing Street, Jam sessions

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

18. Paddington 2 

Paddington continues to be the kid’s version of a Wes Anderson movie with this near perfect sequel about a lovable bear and his troubling obsession with marmalade. Hugh Grant turns in an inspired performance basically playing a washed up version of himself. Compliments to Grant for poking fun at his career trajectory in this relatively ego free role as the film’s disguise-heavy antagonist. Other notables: Brendan Gleeson should also be in everything, kudos to whomever came up with the Paddington goes to prison story arc, and Paddington 2 is the obvious runner up to ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ for 2018’s warm hug of a movie award.  (Trailer)

Synopsis: “Paddington, now happily settled with the Brown family and a popular member of the local community, picks up a series of odd jobs to buy the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, only for the gift to be stolen.”

Best Scene: Cell block Paddington

Watch This If You Like: Heartwarming prison movies, Marmalade, Paddington 1, Wes Anderson for kids

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

19. Hereditary

No one can shepherd supernaturally bothered children better than Toni Collette (not that the end result is always great, but show me an actress with more experience). Collette, the criminally underrated Australian actress, deserves awards recognition for her role as the unstable matriarch of the Graham family. Despite her powerhouse performance, I’m not a huge fan of the third act of this film, but there is still enough craft on display for it to crack my top 25. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.”

Best Scene: Dinner table debate

Watch This If You Like: The Wicker Man (1973), The Babadook, The Witch, The Shining

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

20. Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade is a tough watch. It’s packed with so many cringey middle school moments that leave you squirming in your seat. Director Bo Burnham perfectly captures the awkwardness and uncertainty of stumbling through your early teen years, wisely choosing to focus on small moments that seem like mammoth undertakings to the film’s shy protagonist Kayla. Elsie Fisher is fantastic in her screen debut and props to former classmate Drew Whede for shooting a great looking film. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school.”

Best Scene: Chicken Nugget Date Night

Watch This If You Like: A Middle School version of the Office

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%

21. BlackKklansman

Spike Lee produces an angry and timely film about detective Ron Stallworth’s attempt to infiltrate the KKK in the late 1970s. Equal parts comedy and drama,  BlackKklansman is Lee’s best movie in years, anchored by John David Washington and Adam Driver as Stallworth and Flip Zimmerman, Stallworth’s partner and proxy for Klan meetups. Ultimately, the final product is a cutting and thought provoking meditation on institutionalized and overt racism, balancing how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go as a society.  (Trailer)

Synopsis: “Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorado Springs, CO, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events.”

Best Scene: Phone call reveal

Watch This If You Like: Spike Lee movies, well made comedy-dramas

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

22. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The third Netflix movie featured on this list is the Cohen Brothers western anthology, a collection of six stories (four of which are masterfully told) of the somber, macabre, and melancholy. The ending of the penultimate short ‘The Gal Who Got Rattled’ is a proper gut punch, punctuated by the conclusion of the perfectly bleak ‘The Mortal Remains’. This is A-level Cohen grimness at its best. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “Six tales about life on the American Frontier following: a wagon train, a bank robber, an elderly prospector, a perverse pair of bounty hunters, an ambitious impresario and a singing gunslinger named “Buster Scruggs”.”

Best Short: (Tie) The Gal Who Got Rattled/The Mortal Remains

Watch This If You Like: Cohen Brothers Movies, Bleak Netflix movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

23. Game Night

Game Night is no more discernible than diluted high-concept comedy peers like Blockers and Tag, and yet it still edges out the competition due to a sharper script and the inclusion of Jesse Plemons and that dog. That’s really what it comes down to; Jesse Plemons decided to be in this movie and not Tag. A rousing endorsement indeed. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves entangled in a real-life mystery when the shady brother of one of them is seemingly kidnapped by dangerous gangsters.”

Best Scene: Anytime Jesse Plemons is on screen

Watch This If You Like: Horrible Bosses, The comedy version of ‘The Game‘, Jesse Plemons

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%

24. Black ’47

Black ’47 is a barebones Braveheart inspired revenge thriller set during the Irish famine. It may not be more than a mere genre exercise, but Black ’47 still checks a lot of my bias boxes as a faux revenge Western in Ireland starring Hugo Weaving. This movie is so damn bleak that it’s almost comical at times. Everything is a gray rainy bummer. I love it. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “Set in Ireland during the Great Famine, the drama follows an Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad, as he abandons his post to reunite with his family. Despite experiencing the horrors of war, he is shocked by the famine’s destruction of his homeland and the brutalization of his people and his family.”

Best Scene: Man at a Crossroads

Watch This If You Like: Famine Braveheart, People singing Gaelic folks songs in dilapidated hovels while it rains, Bumming yourself out

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

25. The Meg

The novelty 25th slot is always reserved for a shark movie of sorts because I remain irrationally terrified and mesmerized by those oversized fish. Although it seemingly ran unopposed for the shark slot this year, the Meg receives the honor all the same. It may not be a great movie by any standards, even shark movie standards, but it’s a perfectly watchable duel between a giant shark and Jason Statham. There are times the CG looks so bad you’ll think this was made for TV (who the hell okay’d that sub rescue opening?), but it works as serviceable shark entertainment, mostly held together by Jason Statham’s talent to make passable crap. People forget Jason Statham used to be an Olympic diver and was in three Transporter movies, so I totally believe he could kick a prehistoric shark in the face. (Trailer)

Synopsis: “After escaping an attack by what he claims was a 70-foot shark, Jonas Taylor must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible.”

Best Scene: Beach Buffet

Watch This If You Like: Deep Blue Sea

Rotten Tomatoes: 46%

Honorable Mentions: A Quiet Place, Cargo, Bad Times at the El Royale, Searching, Sweet Country, First Reformed, Ant-Man and the Wasp, The Endless, Incredibles 2, Nossa Chappe, MandyHalloween, The Ritual, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Bird Box, You Were Never Really Here, Thoroughbreds, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Science Fair, Sorry to Bother You, A Simple Favor, Outlaw King, Juliet Naked, Mountain, Hold the Dark, Apostle, Deadpool 2Slice, Harry Potter and the Johnny Depp Casting Mystery

Still Have Not Seen: The Rider, Burning, Shoplifters, The Favourite, Mary Poppins Returns, Widows, At Eternity’s Gate, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Hate U Give, If Beale Street Could Talk, Thunder RoadThree Identical Strangers, Wildlife, RBG, On the Basis of Sex, Mirai, Lean on Pete, Overlord, Boy ErasedA Prayer Before Dawn, The Kindergarten Teacher, Adrift, Mid90s, Damsel, The Guilty, Suspiria, Bohemian Rhapsody, Anna and the Apocalypse, The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Most Disappointing: The Predator – Let’s be honest, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom could be in this slot since it’s easily the worst Jurassic anything ever made, but Predator slightly edges JW2 out because of Shane Black’s involvement. His presence in the Predator franchise raised expectations for what turned out to be a complete misfire of a movie. Nothing works. The banter is awful. The action is muddled and confusing. The twists are aggressively dumb (weaponizing autism? What?). And by the time the shockingly tone deaf ending rolls around, I didn’t care enough about anyone left alive to process that it suddenly turned into a toy ad. This movie is basically the equivalent of being kicked in the shins repeatedly by someone you’re deeply infatuated with. Whereas Jurassic World’s backslide into ‘dumb clone kid dooms humanity by unleashing dinos into the world because they’re clones like her and have feeling too’ territory had its groundwork laid out by Jurassic World 1’s block headed approach to storytelling. So, no real surprise there. Either way. Both these movies are stupid trash fires and should be shunned.

Best Performance: Toni Collette in Hereditary, Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster in Leave No Trace, Daveed Digs and Rafael Casal in Blindspotting, Yalitza Aparicio in Roma, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born, Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place, Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here, Elsie Fischer in Eighth Grade, Hugh Grant in Paddington 2, Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther, Martin Freeman in Cargo, Olivia Cooke in Thoroughbreds, Jesse Plemons in Game Night, Josh Brolin in Avengers: Infinity War, John David Washington and Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman

Best Random Character: Julian, the little kid from Halloween. If they would have killed Julian, I honestly would have just shut the movie off. He was the best. Now, if only they had listened to him when he said Michael Meyers was in his closet… (Runner Up: Gabe aka Chicken Nugget Date Night kid from ‘Eighth Grade‘)

Most Anticipated 2019: Star Wars: Episode IX, Avengers: Endgame, Us, ParasiteSpider-Man: Far From Home, ArcticCaptain Marvel, Glass, John Wick: Chapter 3, Ad Astra, Godzilla: King of Monsters, The Irishman, Little Women, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Hobbes and Shaw, It: Chapter Two, Lego Movie Part 2, Gemini Man, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Death on the NileDark Phoenix, The New Mutants, Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Dead Don’t Die, High Life, Shazam!

Liz’s Top Five

1. Won’t You be My Neighbor

There is no need to explain in detail the impact that Mr. Rogers had on most of us. We all went to this movie for comfort in a time of chaos and darkness. Mr. Rogers brought back the light and the feeling of kindness deep in our cold hearts. If you weren’t crying–no, uncontrollably sobbing—by the end, you are a monster. My favorite part of the movie wasn’t necessarily the movie itself, but walking out of the theater and witnessing multiple groups of people standing there, embracing each other. That is the kind of impact Mr. Rogers has.

2. Leave No Trace

While on the topic of kindness and compassion, in a world where we are in a constant state of self guard and distrust, came this. A veteran with mental health issues who lives in a park with his teenage daughter—by choice—in order to separate themselves from modern living and distraction run into trouble after being spotted. The struggle to assimilate back into society is surprisingly met with unending kindness. Mental health and homelessness take a very different light in this film and shows that is isn’t always what it looks like from a view of privilege and judgement, but rather what happens when we as humans act with kindness and only meet someone else’s struggles with understanding and a helping hand.

3. First Man

Confirming that getting to space is one scary motherf*cking task. A solid Justin Hurwitz soundtrack. Equally intense acting from both Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy (I’d like to see them in a staring contest). Anything that has Coach Taylor. This movie about Neil Armstrong and his race to space checks all the boxes for a compelling story that mixes the emotions of what it took both personally and professionally to reach the moon. Apart from the mild nausea I got from the shaking camera effects, everything else was solid as a rock.

4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

I could seriously watch Tom Cruise run all day. Just put it on a loop and bring me food and water for at least 3 days because I’m not budging. As he gets more impressive in his later years, so does the stunt work. I also love Rebecca Ferguson as his sprinting/gun slinging/stunt fighting equal even more. The villain (Sean Harris) makes his return as well, who isn’t my favorite, but I did enjoy having Henry Cavill mixed in with this bunch, especially since he wanted to get in on the stunt work too. It made me respect Tom Cruise just a little more when he wouldn’t allow Cavill to skydive because it meant risking everyone’s lives if he couldn’t do it perfectly. He’s that serious about entertainment vs. risk factor.

5. A Star is Born

Lady Gaga and her talent for moving mountains with her voice deserves some recognition. There are very few singers that can bring me to tears with their performance, but she is definitely one of them. If there were any doubts about her as an entertainer, they can be put to rest after watching this. Bradley Cooper is impressive himself for learning how to sing for the role, but also the dynamic the two have together to tell this story is both endearing and heartbreaking, along with the relationships they have with their family and friends throughout the story and how they evolve both together and apart.

Honorable Mentions

Hearts Beat Loud: Nick Offerman is always a pleasure to watch, pair him with a newcomer Kiersey Clemons and you get a warm and fuzzy film. Extra points for Ted Danson being what I imagine to be himself.

Dawn Wall: I didn’t know much about Tommy Caldwell before seeing this, but the storytelling was just as amazing as the climb itself.

Black Panther: The only superhero movie this year I will applaud, because it went above and beyond what needed to be on screen in this genre.

Crazy Rich Asians: A lot of people hated this movie, but back off. Read the books first then have an opinion. Also, an all-Asian cast … can we just take that as a win?

Creed 2: Michael B. Jordan flipping tires in the middle of the desert and taking a sledgehammer to the dirt. Training montage of the year. Plus, Tessa Thompson can be my hypewoman any day.

Eric Sweeney’s Top Ten: (Eric’s traveling in Asia, so his list is sans blurbs. We’ll get his expanded thoughts and an updated top ten list in January when we do our end of the year review Podcast)

1. Avengers: Infinity War
2. MI Fallout
3. Spider-Man – Into The Spiderverse
4. Game Night
5. A Quiet Place
6. Upgrade
7. Incredibles 2
8. Hereditary
9. Annihilation
10. Isle of Dogs
Honorable Mentions:
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Black Panther
Death of Stalin
Deadpool 2

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