The year’s top 10 movies
“Alfonso Cuarón has built a career making beautiful films, but Roma is his most gorgeous and moving,” said Stephanie Zacharek in Time. “Like a portrait of a loved one painted from memory,” Cuarón’s subtitled black-and-white film borrows details from the director’s 1970s childhood in Mexico City to tell the story of a nanny of indigenous heritage who raises another family’s children while nurturing dreams of her own. By getting viewers to think about everyone who made us who we are today, “Roma is an ode to the power of memory, as intimate as a whisper and as vital as the roar of the sea.”
2. First Reformed
A jagged existential thriller written and directed by the screenwriter of Taxi Driver, First Reformed “rolls over you like storm clouds coming in from the horizon,” said Adam Graham in The Detroit News. Ethan Hawke plays a small-town pastor who suffers a crisis of faith when a radical environmentalist gets him thinking more deeply about global warming and mankind’s culpability. The suspense burns so slowly as he edges toward a breakdown that the “dizzying” finale “leaves you rocked and gasping for air.”
3. The Favourite
Yorgos Lanthimos’ feminist twist on the British period drama “feels miraculously naughty and new,” said Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz play cousins and rivals scheming to become court favorites of Olivia Colman’s bored and daffy Queen Anne. The Favourite is “a modern-day viper’s nest, peppered with sex, betrayal, and some of the bitchiest put-downs since Bette Davis dragged on a cigarette and rolled her eyes in All About Eve.”
4. Eighth Grade
Comedian Bo Burnham’s coming-of-age story about an unpopular middle-schooler “turns the genre inside out,” said Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. During the last week of eighth grade, Elsie Fisher’s Kayla has to deal with all the bullying and “vicariously mortifying” social awkwardness you might expect. But Burnham’s “deeply compassionate” portrait stands out because of its heartfelt respect for his young heroine, “whose anxieties are outstripped only by her own dazzling self-belief.”
South Korea’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film “lingers long in the senses,” said Ty Burr in The Boston Globe. An aspiring writer falls in love after reuniting with a childhood acquaintance, only to be sidelined when she hooks up with a wealthy rival played by an icy Steven Yeun. Burning slowly morphs into a “beautifully cryptic” horror movie as it contemplates sex, class, and masculinity. “It’s the kind of film where you obsess over what it means, the better to avoid thinking about how it makes you feel.”
6. Sorry to Bother You
“Some movies are so uncompromising in their visions that they create a whole new category,” said Eric Kohn in IndieWire.com. Such is the case with Boots Riley’s debut feature, a “zany” satire on racial politics and the evils of capitalism. Lakeith Stanfield stars as a telemarketer from Oakland who begins advancing quickly in his company once he starts affecting a “white voice”—provided by David Cross. “The results combine the surrealist eccentricities of Michel Gondry with the polemics of a Spike Lee joint.”
7. The Rider
“The Rider is the Western of the new century,” said Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune. Lakota cowboy Brady Jandreau more or less plays himself: a rodeo rider from South Dakota who suffers a severe brain injury but hopes to ride again one day. “Subtle, elemental, and powerfully beautiful,” the docudrama takes its time showing the horse whisperer working in his element, and in doing so, “it takes you to a striking part of America and American myth you may not know.”
8. If Beale Street Could Talk
Director Barry Jenkins has once again delivered “the love story of the year,” said K. Austin Collins in VanityFair.com. Jenkins’ follow-up to his Best Picture–winning Moonlight adapts a James Baldwin novel about young lovers in 1970s Harlem who are torn apart when the man is wrongly accused of a crime and sent to prison. Full of sweeping music and sentiment, Beale Street is “a lush, inventive melodrama of the kind American directors rarely make anymore.”
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
9. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy’s best movie since Bridesmaids “proved she’s far more than a punch line,” said Johnny Oleksinski in the New York Post. The comedic actress was perfect for the part of Lee Israel, an irascible New York City writer who started forging celebrity letters to pay for her cat’s medical bills. The movie, based on Israel’s memoir, “has a lot of laughs,” but “it hits hardest as a drama about human desperation and survival.”
“No narrative film released in 2018 asked more of its audience than Lucrecia Martel’s Zama,” said Adam Nayman in TheRinger.com. This “slow-motion comedy” about a Spanish diplomat wasting away at a remote colonial settlement in 1700s Patagonia mines both cringe humor and existential horror from its protagonist’s boredom and deflated masculinity. “Zama is challenging stuff, but if cinema is about being transported to another place, Martel is unrivaled as a guide.”
Our rankings are based on those of 16 sources, including Artforum.com, The Detroit News, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire.com, HuffingtonPost.com, IndieWire.com, The New Yorker, The New York Times, TheRinger.com, RollingStone.com, Time, VanityFair.com, Vox.com, and The Washington Post.