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Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2018

It’s Top 50 films time! As a quick refresher, I base my annual list on the films I see during the calendar year that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically/digitally during the year. This is not the best films that played festivals in 2018. Nor is it the best films that came out in theaters or digitally in 2018. These are my favorite films that I saw for the first time in 2018 that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/digitally.

I’ve endeavored to mention if the film is available or yet to come out. VOD means it’s available for rent across all the normal platforms (Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, etc.) and I’ll try to note if it’s free anywhere yet.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

50. Deadpool 2
Twice as self-referential as the first one and nearly twice as funny. It’s no surprise that the comic book movies that don’t take themselves seriously are the ones I’m most drawn towards.

49. First Man
Well I clearly wasn’t as into this rather by the book bio-pic as I had hoped, but it makes the list for its visceral filmmaking.

48. Nossa Chape
This documentary about the tragic plane crash that killed most of Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense and the subsequent rebuilding is directed by the Zimbalist brothers who are known for the two excellent documentaries The Two Escobars and Favela Rising. No word yet on US distribution for this SXSW premierer.
More in my SXSW Dispatch at Screen Anarchy

47. White Rabbit
This fun little Sundance indie is a real charmer. I could see a series version do pretty well. It’s available now on VOD and free on Prime Video.
Vivian Bang-starrer WHITE RABBIT is a surprising and lovely indie, packed with laughs and charm. Love the EastsideLA scenery throughout. Another strong feature from Lola Versus director Daryl Wein.

46. Three Identical Strangers
This fascinating documentary about triplets separated at birth is interesting for all kinds of reasons I don’t want to spoil. It’s out on VOD now.

45. The World Before Your Feet
I almost didn’t watch Jeremy Workman’s weird-sounding documentary about a guy walking around NYC. I’m glad I did as it is a real treasure. It’s playing in limited theaters now from Greenwich Entertainment.
Totally charmed by SXSW docu THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET about a dude who decides to walk every block of NYC. I’d totally join him for an afternoon. Worth seeking this little movie out. Beautiful poster too.

44. American Animals
Love director Bart Layton and his docu-esque take on fiction filmmaking. The caper gone wrong elements of this one are all kinds of fun. It’s on VOD now.
AMERICAN ANIMALS is gripping crime drama, as much about the act of crime as the particular caper itself. Great docu elements from The Imposter director Bart Layton.
More in my Sundance Dispatch at Screen Anarchy

43. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
This contained indie thriller makes many very smart moves and keeps you pretty off balance throughout. RLJ bought it out of Toronto so it should hit theaters or VOD soon.
THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK is a pitch-perfect, ultra tense contained drama. Great lead performance by TIFF18 superstar James Badge Dale.

42. The Happytime Murders
This much-marketed puppet comedy got pretty nasty reviews but I had tons of fun with the smart writing and wacky sense of humor. Give it a chance, I say. It’s on VOD now.
THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS is hilarious. Genuinely laughed harder than any other movie I’ve seen this summer. Gonzo raunchy humor in a classic gumshoe package (but you know, with puppets).

41. Fahrenheit 11/9
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the latest from Michael Moore as much as I did. It’s not a perfect film by any means but the parts that work are just oh so delicious. It’s on VOD now.
When it’s at its best, Michael Moore’s FAHRENHEIT 11/9 is a soaring, poignant, and very funny exploration of the ills of 21st Century America and what got us here. At its worst, it’s self-indulgent and scattered. Much more best than worst, I’m happy to say.

40. If Beale Street Could Talk
The new one from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins is a good example of a really well-made film that didn’t make any mistakes but just didn’t grab a hold of me. But it is worth a mention and a watch for sure. It’s still in theaters from Annapurna.

39. Crazy Rich Asians
It’s somewhat rare for a summer romcom to crack my T50, but C.R.A. is a rare summer romcom. Keep ’em coming!

38. Colette
A good period piece is oh so enjoyable and if it’s in Belle Époque Paris, Oi, oi! It’s on VOD now.
COLETTE is all class and charm. Lovely and captivating filmmaking through and through.
More in my Sundance Dispatch at Screen Anarchy

37. Vox Lux
Natalie Portman gives a stellar performance in this offbeat vision of fame. Oh and it’s so much better than A Star is Born. Neon has it in theaters now-ish.
Brady Corbet’s Natalie Portman-starring pop star pic VOX LUX is a heady exploration of fame and tragedy and society and a whole bunch of other stuff I need to spend a lot more time thinking about. But I am pretty sure I really liked it.

36. People’s Republic of Desire
This stranger than fiction documentary about a bizarre social media phenomenon in China is a very enjoyable watch. It’s also pretty frightening for society. Check it out on VOD now.

35. The Predator
This is exactly the kind of midnighter I love; fun and action-packed. Of course, it also helps to see it with 20 friends at TIFF’s Midnight Madness. It’s on VOD now.

34. Eighth Grade
Charming, charming, charming. It’s already out on VOD.

33. Leave No Trace
Debra Granik’s first dramatic film since Winter’s Bone has much of the same realism magic along with great performances. It’s on VOD now and free on Prime Video.
Debra Granik’s LEAVE NO TRACE is a superbly told father-daughter tale that will leave you feeling very emotional, regardless of if you are either.

32. On Her Shoulders
I’m sure the filmmakers behind this documentary about Yazidi activist Nadia Murad were pretty pumped when she won the Nobel Peace Prize after the film premiered but before it came out. It’s an excellent movie and it’s on VOD now.
Learned a ton from the inspirational docu ON HER SHOULDERS. Fascinating and important.
More in my Sundance dispatch at Screen Anarchy

31. Don’t Leave Home
Michael Tully’s offbeat thriller is really well done with an awesome central performance by Anna Margaret Hollyman. It’s one worth seeking out on VOD.
Michael Tully’s DON’T LEAVE HOME is super creepy. Great production design and wonderful performances by Anna Margaret Hollyman & David McSavage. Big fan of this one.

30. The Unicorn
Such great work by pal Robert Schwartzman on this indie romcom with all kinds of fun actors showing up throughout. Check it out when The Orchard puts it out next month.
THE UNICORN is a total joy. Wacky and wild relationship comedy overflowing with fantastic performances (especially Beck Bennett as a male stripper). Robert Schwartzman a genuine directing talent.

29. The Wind
This Toronto midnighter marked the emergence of truly talented director Emma Tammi. Check it out when IFC Midnight puts it out later this year.
Western horror THE WIND is an ultra confident first narrative feature from Emma Tammi. Super well-earned scares. The Witch comparisons are justified.

28. Upgrade
I had all kinds of fun with Leigh Whannell’s innovative action/sci-fi popcorn indie. It’s well written and has damn cool effects. This is exactly the kind of movie I would have rented over and over again as a 12-year-old, staying up late with my pals, too much soda, and a giant pack of red vines.

27. The Rider
Any movie that completes the Sundance/Cannes/TIFF triumvirate deserves a watch. I managed to not get around to it until I saw it on a plane but still respected the heck out of the filmmaking. It’s on VOD or free on Starz.

26. Science Fair
Pulling off a good multi-character documentary takes a lot of skill (and great characters). This look at kids in the world’s biggest science competition is exactly that. You can see it on VOD now.
More in my Sundance dispatch at Screen Anarchy

25. Under the Silver Lake
A24 premiered this super offbeat crimer by It Follows director David Robert Mitchell in competition at Cannes but has yet to release it stateside. It’s weird and pretty great but the comparisons to Inherent Vice are tough to avoid.

24. Destroyer
I’m rather surprised that Annapurna hasn’t gotten more awards love for Nicole Kidman’s performance in this gritty LA crime thriller. If gritty crime thriller sounds good to you, go see this one (still in theaters now).
Karyn Kusama’s DESTROYER is a strong entry in the “gritty LA cop crime drama” genre. Fans of HEAT and TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA will be on board. Nicole Kidman is remarkable.

23. First Reformed
Ethan Hawke cements his position as one of the best working actors with his moving performance in this Paul Schrader pic. It’s on VOD and free on Prime Video.

22. At First Light
I was a big fan of this indie sci-fi thriller at SXSW, even though I don’t think I met a single other person that caught it. You can catch it now on Netflix.
Favorite film of SXSW so far is the awesome indie sci-fi thriller FIRST LIGHT. Great performances and super charming 80s studio sensibility. Don’t miss this one.

21. Green Book
I was pretty surprised by how great this one is, even if it is total awards bait.

20. The Dawn Wall
One of two fantastic El Capitan climbing docs (they even show up in each other’s movies), this one focusing on Tommy Caldwell is just as worth a watch as it’s more popular cousin Free Solo. It’s on VOD now.
More in my SXSW Dispatch at Screen Anarchy

19. Blindspotting
Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal give fantastic performances in this personal and damn fun Oakland indie. It’s on VOD now.
Wow Carlos Lopez Estrada’s BLINDSPOTTING is an exceptionally strong start to the festival. Biting wit, cutting commentary, genuine laughs. Daveed Diggs a star. High bar set for US Dramatic Comp.

18. Sorry to Bother You
This Gondry-esque comedy by Boots Riley endures even after the Sundance shine has faded. Check it out on VOD or free on Hulu now.
Boots Riley’s SORRY TO BOTHER YOU is fabulously absurd. It’s jam packed with hilarious and really excellent performances. Plenty to unpack under all the weirdness, as well.
More in my Sundance Dispatch at Screen Anarchy

17. Border
This Foreign Language Oscar entry from Sweden did not make the short list of 9, but that should not discourage you from checking it out. It’s weird and oh so wonderful. It’s still out in limited theaters from Neon now.

16. Operation Odessa
This docu about a dude in Florida with a solid connection to post-USSR Russia is just way too wild to describe. Check it out and you’ll be happy you did. It’s free on Showtime.
There are a lot of good documentaries at SXSW. Easily the wackiest and wildest is Showtime’s OPERATION ODESSA. Too bizarre to make up and a total blast to watch.

15. Bohemian Rhapsody
Rami Malek’s performance is worthy of all the praise this rather excellent movie is receiving.

14. Let Me Fall
My super indie discovery of the year is this teen addiction drama from Iceland. I’ve been singing its praises since Toronto but still no word on a US distributor.
Wow big discovery in Baldvin Z’s incredible Icelandic teen drug drama LET ME FALL. It’s kind of like Blue is the Warmest Color meets Trainspotting. Ultra dark but totally affecting with remarkable performances by two relative newcomers. Don’t miss it.

13. Minding the Gap
I’m so happy to see all the love that this small town USA docu has gotten and with an appearance on the Oscar Docu shortlist, it all means great things for Bing Liu’s career. You can catch it on Hulu now.
MINDING THE GAP is a wonderful snapshot of the struggles of moving into adulthood amongst a group of middle American friends. Very mature filmmaking.
More in my Sundance dispatch at Screen Anarchy

12. An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn
You either love the movies that Jim Hosking (The Greasy Strangler) makes, or you hate ’em. Consider me concretely in the love camp. And give us more! You can catch this on VOD now.
AN EVENING WITH BEVERLY LUFF LINN is just pure joy. All the goof of Greasy Strangler but with surprising heart. Jemaine Clement & Aubrey Plaza are magical together.
More in my Sundance dispatch at Screen Anarchy

11. Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
Admittedly I don’t see a ton of animated films, but I think this is the highest one has ever ranked on my list. It’s awesome Saturday morning-turned-blockbuster fun.
INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE blew away my expectations. Super fun with some of the coolest animation I’ve seen. Also maybe the years best credits sequence? This might be the first comic flick that has made me want to read the books.

10. Shirkers
The top Sundance movie on the list is Sandi Tan’s super charming, super indie documentary about her long lost friend-made film from when she was a teen in Singapore. This one is also on the Oscar Docu shortlist and is available on Netflix now.
Sandi Tan’s SHIRKERS is a powerhouse of a documentary that will speak to every filmmaker and every artist’s soul. This mature, personal film is a true triumph of over two decades of work.
More in my Sundance dispatch at Screen Anarchy

9. Burning
Lee Chang-dong’s Korean drama is just stellar. It’s dark and haunting and features extremely impressive performances. You’ll be thinking on this one for a while. Well Go has it in limited theaters as they angle for a Best Foreign Language Oscar nom now.

8. The Wedding Guest
I’m a huge Michael Winterbottom fan and he continues to impress me. His upcoming film from IFC stars Dev Patel and the stellar Radhika Apte and features both incredible scenery and a taut plot. Look out for this one soon.
No one does road trip movies better than Michael Winterbottom. His latest, THE WEDDING GUEST, is more In This World than The Trip. It’s also excellent and the kind of movie that rewards you for going in knowing very little.

7. Vice
So devilishly good. Christian Bale might be the best working actor today and his portrayal of Dick Cheney is quite possibly his most impressive work. Add in Adam McKay’s wild sense of humor and you get one awesome flick.

6. Free Solo
The second Yosemite climbing doc on the list (see #20) is quite possibly the years most hair-raising thriller as well. If nothing else, this is just a beautifully made documentary. If you can (and you might still be able to), see it in theaters before it hits VOD soon.

5. The Biggest Little Farm
You’d be excused for not hearing about the number one documentary on my list yet (which is over one-quarter docs this year). It hasn’t been released theatrically yet, but at every festival it has played it has earned droves of new fans. This story of a family that opens a regenerative farm in Southern California is something really special. Go see it as soon as you can (and then go see it again).
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM is a truly marvelous documentary. Emotional and educational in equal parts. It’s like Planet Earth for regenerative farming. Absolute highest recommend.

4. Shoplifters
Koreeda’s beautiful tale of a family of ne’er-do-wells in Japan is worthy of all the plaudits it has earned, including the rather large plaudit of winning the top dog Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s still in theaters now.

3. Suspiria
This is the best horror movie of the year and perhaps the best horror movie of many years. I’d trust Luca Guadagnino to direct pretty much any horror movies from here out, no matter how cherished. Considering Tilda Swinton’s remarkable performance, it’s also a real accomplishment that Dakota Johnson gives one of the strongest performances of the year. It’s still in theaters but should be on Amazon pretty damned soon.
The new SUSPIRIA is just plain awesome! Exactly my kind of horror – deep, smart, and super stylish. There are layers of this one that are going to be dissected for some time.

2. Roma
It was a close call as Alfonso Cuarón’s film truly is a masterpiece. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen twice and it’s such a damned shame that the vast majority of people will see it on a TV. If you get the chance, please see it in theaters as the cinematography and composition is an absolute work of art.
Difficult to come up with a word that does ROMA justice other than “masterpiece.” The title may be the Mexico City neighborhood where the film takes place, but it sure feels just as much like Cuarón’s nod to Fellini. Just gorgeous.

1. The Favourite
So how do you top Roma? Well for my list, you make a movie with biting wit, gorgeous costumes (and hair and makeup and sets), innovative cinematography, and a wonderfully historic setting and story. As far as I’m concerned, this movie was made especially for me. Nailed it!

Sooo… What do you think?

Posted by enderzero at 5:12pm on Jan. 10, 2019  

1 comment

  1. Gayle K Smith says:

    Glad to see The Favourite on top! Visually beautiful, smart and curious!

    Jan. 10, 2019 at 6:30pm