The Top 10 Films Of 2018, Plus A Few Extras As 2018 comes to an end, movie critic Bob Mondello takes a look at the year's best films.
NPR logo

The Top 10 Films Of 2018, Plus A Few Extras

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/681287002/681287003" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Top 10 Films Of 2018, Plus A Few Extras

The Top 10 Films Of 2018, Plus A Few Extras

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/681287002/681287003" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Superheroes have helped push movie ticket sales to a record $11.8 billion this year. Money isn't everything, though. Even in Hollywood, quality also counts. Here's critic Bob Mondello with his list of the year's 10 best films plus a few extras.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: The world outside movie theaters was pretty chaotic this year so when a film called "Chaos" came along, it felt right. The title is actually "Capernaum," which translates as chaos, and it's about a 12-year-old who tells a judge in Lebanon...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CAPERNAUM")

ZAIN AL-RAFEEA: (As Zain, speaking Lebanese).

MONDELLO: ..."I want to sue my parents."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CAPERNAUM")

ELIAS KHOURY: (As judge, speaking Lebanese).

MONDELLO: "Why?", wonders the judge.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CAPERNAUM")

AL-RAFEEA: (As Zain, speaking Lebanese).

MONDELLO: "Because I was born." Quite the indictment. Had Charles Dickens lived in modern-day Beirut, he might have dreamed up the kid in "Capernaum," who steals food to care for an infant as life takes cataclysmic turns. This surprisingly hopeful epic was crafted around its star, who'd never acted before. No movie this year hit me as hard emotionally. But a close second was the year's swooniest love story, "If Beale Street Could Talk."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK")

STEPHAN JAMES: (As Fonny) You ready for this?

KIKI LAYNE: (As Tish) I've never been more ready for anything in my whole life.

MONDELLO: Barry Jenkins started working on "Beale Street" at the same time he was writing and directing his Oscar-winner "Moonlight." That one got made first. This one's more polished and lush, based on a James Baldwin novel about lovers in 1970s Harlem confronting a world that's stacked against them. Also set in the 1970s, Alfonso Cuaron's gorgeous black-and-white epic, "Roma," which tells the story of a middle-class Mexico City household much like the one the filmmaker grew up in. It centers on Cleo, the maid who cared for the kids, and it surrounds her with breathtaking camera work, including a stunning five-minute continuous shot at a beach that packs in more drama than most films do in their whole running times. Another film torn from real life, "The Rider," is a modern-day Western with a hero who's a real discovery. A freak rodeo accident left him with terrible injuries and orders from his doctor.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE RIDER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As doctor) No more riding. No more rodeos. If you don't stop, your seizures are going to get worse.

MONDELLO: This is a little like telling him not to breathe. The film has footage of its leading man being thrown in a real rodeo. The scar on his head, the plate in his head are real. So is his determination, which makes "The Rider" an exhilarating ride. Nothing is real in Wes Anderson's "Isle Of Dogs," a movie whose title you have to pronounce carefully or it turns into, I love dogs, which, after you see the film, will almost certainly be true. Anderson makes contraptions as much as he makes movies, little cinematic worlds conceived almost like dollhouses. This one is about a place called Trash Island where hungry, grouchy puppet dogs approach each new bag of garbage spoiling for a fight.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ISLE OF DOGS")

EDWARD NORTON: (As Rex) Wait a second. Before we attack each other and tear ourselves to shreds like a pack of maniacs, let's just open the sack first and see what's actually in it. It might not even be worth the trouble.

BRYAN CRANSTON: (As Chief) Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Maybe.

NORTON: (As Rex) A rancid apple core, two worm-eaten banana peels, a moldy rice cake, a dried-up pickle, mushed-up rotten gizzard with maggots all over it.

CRANSTON: (As Chief) OK. It's worth it.

MONDELLO: Though "Isle Of Dogs" has a political subtext, it's nothing dogmatic. More bark than bite, let's say. That's five. Two very different 13-year-old girls and their relationships with their fathers are the subject of the next two. The comedy "Eighth Grade" centers on Kayla, whose dad dotes on her, much to her occasional annoyance.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EIGHTH GRADE")

ELSIE FISHER: (As Kayla) Can you not look like that, please?

JOSH HAMILTON: (As Mark) Like what?

FISHER: (As Kayla) Just, like, the way you're looking.

HAMILTON: (As Mark) Looking at the road?

FISHER: (As Kayla) You can look at the road, Dad. I obviously didn't mean that. Just, like, don't be weird and quiet while you do it.

HAMILTON: (As Mark) Sorry. Hey, how was the shadow thing?

FISHER: (As Kayla) No. You were being quiet, which is fine. Just, like, don't be weird and quiet. 'Cause, like, I look over at you and I think you're about to drive us into a tree or something, and then I get really freaked out and then I can't text my friends. So just, like, be quiet and drive and don't look weird and sad.

HAMILTON: (As Mark) OK.

MONDELLO: So he smiles.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EIGHTH GRADE")

FISHER: (As Kayla) That's worse.

MONDELLO: "Eighth Grade" is the first film written and directed by Bo Burnham, a musician, comedian and one-time YouTube sensation. The 13-year-old in "Leave No Trace" lives way off the grid in a forest with her dad, until...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LEAVE NO TRACE")

BEN FOSTER: (As Will) This is not a drill.

MONDELLO: Discovered, they try to disappear. Dad's a veteran with post-traumatic stress. Daughter is happy and self-possessed, as social workers soon discover.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LEAVE NO TRACE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As social worker) Who taught you how to read?

THOMASIN MCKENZIE: (As Tom) My dad teaches me.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As social worker) You're actually quite a bit ahead of where you need to be.

MCKENZIE: (As Tom) We didn't need to be rescued.

MONDELLO: "Leave No Trace" treads softly, breaking not a twig. But, boy, do you know it's been there. "Shoplifters" treads loudly, though its characters would also prefer not to be noticed by social workers. They're a made-up family of Japanese thieves who adopt a 5-year-old runaway and make a hugely appealing case for the notion that family bonds are stronger when you get to choose your family. The bonds in "The Favourite" aren't strong at all. In fact, they're forever shifting as two women compete for the attentions of an 18th-century British monarch.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FAVOURITE")

RACHEL WEISZ: (As Lady Sarah) I hope that you haven't found your time with the queen too tedious.

EMMA STONE: (As Abigail) Not at all. And if it gives you rest, I'm happy.

MONDELLO: It does not give her rest, especially when the queen starts playing games.

OLIVIA COLMAN: (As Queen Anne) I've sent for some lobsters. I thought we could roast them and then eat them. Hello.

WEISZ: (As Lady Sarah) Hello. I hope you have three. You sent for Abigail to try and make me jealous, I think.

COLMAN: (As Queen Anne) Perhaps.

MONDELLO: Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Olivia Colman make a feast of "The Favourite," a comedy of manners that has no manners at all. The royal court of Wakanda is considerably more unified, but then it has vibranium to unite its people.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK PANTHER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) I give to you Prince T'Challa, the Black Panther.

MONDELLO: Yes, it's a Marvel origin story, but with vibrant new textures, fabrics and rhythms to go with characters who are mattering to audiences in ways few superhero sagas even contemplate. That's 10, which is an arbitrary number, and I have time left so let's squeeze in a few more. Another superhero gets a stylish reboot in the coolest animated film of the year, "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE")

SHAMEIK MOORE: (As Miles Morales) Who are you?

HAILEE STEINFELD: (As Gwen Stacy) I'm Gwen Stacy.

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) How many more spider-people are there?

NICOLAS CAGE: (As Spider-Man Noir) Hey, fellas.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #5: (As character) Hello.

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) This could literally not get any weirder.

MONDELLO: Also weird, the true story of an African-American cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan by joining it, as chronicled in Spike Lee's blistering social comedy, "Black KKKlansman." Ethan Hawke is harrowing as a troubled priest in "First Reformed." Viola Davis is a force to be reckoned with in "Widows." And an aging action franchise had its best outing in a while, with Tom Cruise apparently taking its title, "Mission: Impossible - Fallout," literally, falling out of planes, helicopters and buildings, and breaking an ankle in the process.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT")

REBECCA FERGUSON: (As Ilsa) What the hell is he doing?

SIMON PEGG: (As Benji) I find it best not to look.

MONDELLO: Kids tried not to look as their parents contemplated divorce in the moody, low-budget film, "We The Animals" and also in the bigger-budget drama, "Wildlife," with Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WILDLIFE")

CAREY MULLIGAN: (As Jeanette) Talk to your father. Tell him not to act like a fool.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL: (As Jerry) I am not being foolish.

MULLIGAN: (As Jeanette) Your father is leaving us to go and fight those wildfires.

ED OXENBOULD: (As Joe) What? Dad, why?

MONDELLO: The guy who could have reassured them all, if they'd just turned on the TV, is the subject of the year's most popular documentary, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?")

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (As child) Mr. Rogers?

FRED ROGERS: (As himself) Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (As child) I want to tell you something.

ROGERS: (As himself) What would you like to tell me?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (As child) I like you.

ROGERS: (As himself) I like you, my dear. Thank you very much for telling me that.

MONDELLO: Others of the year's best foreign films include "Burning," a mystery-romance from Korea, and "The Captain," about a German World War II deserter who discovers that clothes make the man and the monster. And let me end with an airplane movie, by which I mean, a delectably vicious comedy I would never have seen if it hadn't been the only option I hadn't seen on a flight - Sally Potter's star-studded "The Party," about a celebratory dinner gone spectacularly wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE PARTY")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #7: (As character) I could kill you.

BRUNO GANZ: (As Gottfried) You need to let the anger out.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #8: (As character) Shut up, Gottfried. Your cliches are unbearable.

MONDELLO: That's 11 more films, plenty to savor as we head into a new year that's looking kind of sequel-heavy - "Toy Story 4," "Rambo V," "Star Wars 9." Here's hoping it surprises us, anyway. I'm Bob Mondello.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.