Here is my annual top 10 list of movies, ranked according to mainstream standards. In other words, weird movies are allowed in this list, but I attempt to rank 2018 releases according to their general merit, intended for people who don’t specialize in the genre. Provocative cults film like Sorry to Bother You and Mandy can (and did!) make this list, but they will not automatically be catapulted to the top, and when ranked by mainstream standards they may even show up in a different order. Stay tuned for the top 10 weird movies of 2018 at a later hour.
2018 Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): BlackKklasman, Black Panther, Border [Gräns], Double Lover [L’amant double], Eighth Grade, Game Night, Madeline’s Madeline, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Night is Short, Walk on Girl, November, Paddington 2, A Quiet Place, Science Fair, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Suspiria, Thoroughbreds, Widows, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, You Were Never Really Here
10. Free Solo: This documentary follows rock climbing legend Alex Honnold as he attempts to become the first person in history to climb Yosemite’s 3,000 foot tall El Capitan using nothing but his limbs and his wits. A fellow climber compares the feat to an Olympic competition, except that if the athlete gives anything less than a gold medal performance, he dies. My pick for doc of the year; breathtaking views, drama, and a good reminder that excellence is abnormal.
9. Incredibles 2: Mr. Incredible takes a turn as a house-husband when his wife Elastic Girl is chosen as the spokeswoman in a campaign to rehabilitate the image of surperheroes; an evil plan is afoot, and the Incredibles’ newest arrival reveals his superpowers. Superior fluff that benefits greatly from its sleek, James Bond-inspired retrofuturist design. Nice baby/raccoon battle, too. Brad Bird made this sequel an incredible(s) 14 years after the original. Don’t worry if you don’t remember the first one too well; I never even saw it, and I loved this one.
8. Mandy: Read the Certified Weird entry! A lumberjack takes revenge on the Manson-like hippie cult that killed his true love, Mandy. The prophesied Nic-Cage-kills-bikers-and-hippies-while-tripping-on-acid fantasia you’ve been waiting on is here. Somehow, the 92% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes translated into 0% consideration during awards season; horror movies are starting to break out of the critical ghetto, but sadly, midnight movies probably never will.
7. First Reformed: Counseling a troubled environmentalist parishioner slowly leads a minister at a “tourist church” (an intense Ethan Hawke) into the very depths of despair he preaches against. Challenging and thought-provoking character study aimed at cinephiles.still has it. God’s lonely man, indeed.
6. Sorry to Bother You: Read the Certified Weird entry! When telemarketer Cassius Green learns to use his “white voice,” he shoots up the corporate ranks, becomes a “power caller,” and is asked to compromise his principles in a shocking way. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, rapper Boots Riley crafts a fresh, surreal capitalist satire; it gets wild and threatens to jump the tracks, but always stays funny. A Boots up America’s ass.
4. Annihilation: Read our review! As her husband, the only survivor of an expedition into a bizarre phenomena referred to as the Shimmer, recuperates, a biologist enters the region in search of answers. ‘s sophomore feature reminds one of ‘s philosophical science fiction, but with Hollywood pacing, maximalist CGI effects, and even jump scares, and includes a psychedelic set piece near the end that brings to mind ‘s . It’s not quite the masterpiece those comparisons suggest—but it is in the ballpark.
3. The Favourite: In England circa 1710, two female rivals scheme to manipulate the vulnerable Queen Anne. A sardonic and nearly perfect satire of political ambition, marred only slightly by‘ heavy layers of style (ultra wide-angle lenses and intrusive music) where a straightforward approach would have worked better. Still, we’d better hope the critical success here doesn’t go to Lanthimos’ head and move him towards the mainstream; we’d hate to lose his much-needed cinematic weirdness.
2. Hereditary: Read our review! A family with a history of tragedy and mental illness finds occultism to be the latest threat to their harmony. The grief-stricken drama of the film’s first half is so intense that the turn to horror comes as a relief. It’s psychological and emotional depth earns it justified comparisons to The Shining and (especially) Rosemary’s Baby. Hard to believe this is a debut film (from Ari Aster, whom we will obviously be keeping an eye on from here on out).
1. The Death of Stalin: Extremely funny satirical treatment of the maneuverings of the surviving Politburo to become the next Premiere of the Soviet Union after Josef Stalin unexpectedly dies of a stroke. The fact that Stalin is a Cockney and Kruschev speaks with a Brooklyn accent adds a necessary level of unreality to an authoritarian “comedy” that could easily have gone too dark—here, any character or extra can die at any moment. Watching