This list is in alphabetical order, because they’re all winners!
A Quiet Place (PG-13, 90 mins)
Every time I go the movies, people are loud, use their phones, or bring their crying children This time, however, was the only one where you could’ve dropped a needle in the theater and everybody would have heard it. That tells you everything you need to know. “A Quiet Place” is hands down the most suspenseful and gripping movie of 2018!
Beautiful Boy (R, 120 mins)
This film is based on real events, and the performances of Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet moved me to tears. Both seem to get better with every movie they make and this one marks the preliminary pinnacle of their careers. This heartfelt drama portrays the never-ending vicious cycle of drug abuse and its effects on the family — a perfect balance of authenticity and emotions.
Boy Erased (R, 115 mins)
Multi-talented Joel Edgerton becomes more and more a guarantor for quality films, and this time he wrote the script, directed, co-produced and acted in a key role. As controversial as gay conversion therapy camps are, there aren’t many films that deal with the subject matter. It would have been easy to make it dramatic, political and sensationalistic, but Edgerton went for an approach that focused on emotions and familial bonds. Fantastic acting, plus an important story, plus flawless film-making equals a perfect movie experience!
Destroyer (R, 121 mins)
This is a really intense thriller with one of the bravest performances from Nicole Kidman, who already excelled last year in “Boy Erased.” She is barely recognizable and carries the whole film with her intense portrayal of an undercover cop with a troubled past. Great direction by Karyn Kusama, who is one of the many female filmmakers who didn’t get enough attention last year. “Destroyer” is a dark crime story with a complex script, making it my favorite thriller of 2018.
Hearts Beat Loud (PG-13, 97 mins)
This movie is about family, love and music. The drama happens in the background, often off-screen, so the audience can enjoy the wonderful performances (acting AND musical) of Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons. If you’re sick of drama, superheroes, violence and foul language, this is your film — my personal feel-good-movie of 2018!
Isle of Dogs (PG-13, 101 mins)
Wes Anderson is in a class of his own. Few directors are able to combine fantasy, quirky ideas and untamed creativity while maintaining a visual identity like him. And when he does animation, he is finally in full control of his world, without any limits! All of this paired with a fantastic all-star voice cast, and it’s about dogs! What more can you want? For me, this is one of Anderson’s best movies, and clearly the best animation of 2018. Sorry Spideys!
Mid90s (R, 85 mins)
Wow, what a debut! Jonah Hill, who is best known for silly comedies, but also has two Oscar nominations under his belt, took his experience and told the story he wanted to tell for most of his life. This film, about a group of “kids” skating through Los Angeles in the ‘90s, is so full of soul, you can tell throughout the movie how much heart Hill put into each frame. With a great cast and so many references to ’90s skate culture, this film immediately had a place in my heart, and of course, on this list.
Ready Player One (PG-13, 140 mins)
At the premiere at SXSW, Steven Spielberg said he didn’t make a film, but a movie, and I can only agree. What could have easily been the film-equivalent of a BuzzFeed list of ‘80s references turned out to be a true spectacle. Yes, the book is better, but Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, the original author, made sure to adapt it true to the source, while making sure the audience doesn’t get bored during a session of “Dungeons & Dragons.” Especially for people who grew up in the ’80s there is so much nostalgia to experience, and it’s worth watching several times!
Roma (R, 135 mins)
A movie about a maid in Mexico City in the ‘70s? That sounds rather uneventful, but what Alfonso Cuarón, director of masterpieces like “Children of Men” or “Gravity,“ pulls out of his hat is simply stunning, to say the least. Captivating cinematography (also from Cuarón) in black and white provide the visuals for one of the most intense dramas of the year. It doesn’t happen often that a movie from another country gets Oscar nominations for best picture, best director, best cinematography AND best foreign language movie. Let that sink in, and watch it ASAP!
Shoplifters (R, 121 mins)
I went to see this film without knowing much about it, and I was not prepared for how emotionally complex and relevant it would be. The film explores the meaning of family on a deeper level and amazes with quiet moments full of intensity. Not too light and not too sad, “Shoplifters” is a well-balanced drama that will stick with you for quite a while after watching. Also, coming from Japan, this is a very unusual story and definitely not your typical domestic drama. Brilliant film!
Sorry to Bother You (R, 111 mins)
Another strong directorial debut on my list, rapper Boots Riley wrote and directed this funny version of 2017’s hit “Get Out.” Although just as relevant, this movie is reminiscent of works from Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze. It’s weird, it’s hilarious, it’s socio-critical and it shows how much talent Riley has. I can’t wait for his next film!
The Old Man & the Gun (PG-13, 93 mins)
There is good news, and there is bad news. Bad news first: This might be Robert Redford’s last movie as an actor. The good news? If it is, he goes out with a bang. He plays the serial bank robber Forrest Tucker with so much charm and smirk; it really should have been honored with an Oscar nomination. There aren’t many movies like this nowadays — a wonderful script full of witty dialogue and breezy pacing. This comedic crime drama biography, which is also based on real events, was one of my most favorite films of 2018 . Go check it out!
The Rider (R, 104 mins)
This would have been another opportunity to celebrate an excellent film from a female filmmaker: Chloé Zhao from China wrote and directed this drama about changing a life’s perspective. It is fascinating how much feeling she has for the American back-country and the people living there. Also amazing: the main actor Brady Jandreau, in his debut performance, plays himself: he was actually a rodeo cowboy who had to cope with his new life after a career-destroying injury — just like his character in the movie. Stunning film with brilliant cinematography!
Vice (R, 132 mins)
Christian Bale did it again! The acting chameleon makes an impossible transformation and portrays former vice president Dick Cheney from his 20’s into his 70’s with a focus on the years of the second Bush administration and the aftermath of 9/11. The make-up department helped a lot with this, but the way Bale moves and talks creates a perfect illusion, and top actors like Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell and Steve Carell, among many others, have to work really hard not to be outshined. With the perfect combination of politics, education and biting satire, this is by far the best political movie of 2018.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (PG-13, 94 mins)
I didn’t grow up in the United States, so I never heard of Mr. Rogers before seeing this excellent documentary. Millions of Americans have fond memories of this kind man, and this film shows how seriously Fred Rogers took his juvenile audience — he actually listened to them. In times where TV programs for children are mainly an advertising platform for the newest toys and video games, a program like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is deeply missed. It’s a shame that the Academy didn’t nominate this gem for the upcoming Oscars because this moving documentary is by far the best one of 2018 .