Our 20 Must See Films of 2018

Here is the first working list of the 20 most important films (excluding documentaries) of 2018, selected for their innovation, quality, & depth. Not all are considered to be “best films” per se, but instead carry the day with their cultural impact & utility for understanding the human material.

Some selections are subjectively driven, although I never ignore my objective grid to better hone the quality of my palate.

Some pack the indelible swords of emotion that leaves leaves unfurled and the test of maturity to be discovered by posterity.

Some are simply technical masterpieces of pace & direction: unbending in its resolve to piece together the prerequisite elements for artistry.

Discussion & disagreement welcome.

And so, without further ado . . .



First Reformed

The Other Side of the Wind

Cold War





Eighth Grade

The Endless

We The Animals

Scarred Hearts


First Man


Madeline’s Madeline

Wind Traces


Thunder Road

*list subject to change

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Vazante, You Were Never Really Here, Wildlife, The House That Jack Built, Nancy, At Eternity’s Gate, Galveston, & Happy as Lazzaro.

Day 1

Shoplifters (Kore’eda), Cold War (Pawlikowski)


A slow, richly developing quintessential piece of Japanese filmmaking that makes no apologies for its tempo and harbors little cause for the interest of entertainment. Brooding in its non-compliannce with the American tropes of family living, director Hirokazu Kore’eda weaves a technically sound story about the sacrificial self-giving of a family all too eager to accept children in need, while remaining self-aware that their utopian vision of survival can only last so long and that their decisions could find little solace in good intention.

Winner of the top prize at Cannes and Japan’s entry for Best Foreign Film, Shoplifters is a story of a family who survives the elements of poverty by finding meaning in the humanity of others, while demonstrating their won heart of compassion despite the insufficiency of means. And still, at its core is a story of consequential self-justification that finds characters exploiting others and becoming lost in the monetary necessities of life.

In the end, forced to face the necessary realities of crime and punishment, the film rightly makes no apologies for destroying that vehicle of good intention.




Where Richard Linklater took nearly twenty years to develop a growing relationship between his romantic interests in an overflow of allowance for the progress of time to take its course. And, where Tornatore in Cinema Paradiso tackled a similar theme with nostalgic brilliance and competence in composition (Ennio Morricone). Here, in Cold War, we see the same brilliance spanned over a course of some 30-years, combining elements of state-sanctioned conversion of the purity of sound into the reverberating chatter of propaganda. A brilliant weaving of French New Wave with hints of Chazelle’s La La Land, Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Kieslowski’s Blue in its instrumental use of music, dialogue, and storytelling.

And, at its center is a romance between the dissonance of two explosive affections set against the background of the Cold War in the 1950s in Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris — bound at the core by fate and yet made to entertain the mundanity of second options until time and geography are brought into submission. Described beautifully by Peter Bradshaw in his excellent review: “[t]he wounded love at its centre surfaces from the depths of cynicism, exhaustion and state-sponsored submission and fear.”

Director Pawel Pawlikowski has made an absolutely brilliant film that will be heralded as the new standard in Polish filmmaking.

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