2018 was a depressing year—not for cinema, for me (and—dang it—wasn’t 2017 a rough one too?). As of December, I have watched roughly twice as many films, if not more, than I have in any previous year and probably broke a personal lifetime-record amount of time in front of a TV or cinema screen.
I attribute this to several things. Most prominently, finding myself deeply depressed, anxious, overwhelmed and generally discouraged about life. I was stagnant, paralyzed and afraid, and movies served as a temporary escape for me. (It’s worth noting that I don’t believe this is necessarily always a bad thing. Letting one’s mind get lost in a story for two hours can be lovely, inspiring and quite restorative.) But in my case, I was using movies (and junk food, and marijuana) as salves for my sadness and as distractions from the things in my life that I didn’t want to deal with, the things I was terrified to address head-on (still am).
Another facet that played into this was my “decision” in January 2018 to go ahead and become a director myself, despite the fact that I had only one short film under my belt, almost no other film experience, no notoriety, very few connections and have been in the same non-film related job for twelve years. “Oh, I’m doing my homework,” I told myself. “I’m educating myself in filmmaking by watching a wide array of great and terrible films, learning a little something from each of them.”
This ended up being more or less true, actually, and despite bad habits and generally feeling like a lazy, worthless shit of a person, I did learn a great deal and filled half a notebook with notes on film stocks, aspect ratios, lens brands and types, notable lines of dialogue, quotes from director interviews, camera movement ideas, color-grading observations and more. Also I wrote a feature length script so maybe it isn’t all for naught.
All that to say, I watched a lot of movies this year, and while my reasons for doing so are arguably unhealthy, it was a lot of fun and I do believe I grew as an artist and a storyteller because of it. Movies mean a lot to me. I think they can be powerful and inform our experience. I think they can communicate great truths. And I really do want to, and intend to, make more of them. Perhaps even good ones.
But for now, here’s what I saw this year, in chronological order, with a few annotations on the particularly great or horrific ones.
About Time, 2013 - (Director) Richard Curtis - 7/10
The Shape of Water, 2017 - Guillermo Del Toro - 8/10
Silence, 2016 - Martin Scorsese - 9/10
Prince of Darkness, 1987 - John Carpenter - 8/10
The Color of Money, 1988 - Martin Scorsese - 7/10
People, Places, Things, 2015 - James Strouse - 4/10
Brawl in Cell Block 99, 2017 - S. Craig Zahler - 9/10
The Island of Doctor Moreau, 1996 - John Frankenheimer, Richard Stanley - 2/10
Heavy Metal, 1981 - Gerald Potterton - 4/10 film overall, 9/10 animation
Phantom Thread, 2017 - Paul Thomas Anderson - 7/10
Child’s Play 3, 1991 - Jack Bender - 6/10
The Running Man, 1987 - Paul Michael Glaser - 7/10
Blade Runner 2049, 2017 - Denis Villeneuve - 9/10
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948 - John Huston - 8/10
Gremlins, 1984 - Joe Dante - 8/10
Moonstruck, 1987 - Norman Jewison - 9/10
M*A*S*H, 1970 - Robert Altman - 6/10
Annihilation, 2018 - Alex Garland - 7/10
Dark Star, 1971 - John Carpenter - 8/10
Night of the Living Dead, 1969 - George A. Romero - 8/10
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, 1985 - Steven Spielberg - 4/10
The Soultangler, 1987 - Pat Bishow - 7/10
Good Time, 2017 - Josh & Benny Safdie - 9/10
A Ghost Story, 2017 - David Lowery - 9/10
The Deer Hunter, 1978 - Michael Cimino - 6/10
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, 1981 - George Miller - 9/10
Friday the 13th, 1980 - Joseph Zito - 6/10
Carnosaur, 1993 - Adam Simon - 5/10
The Omen, 1976 - Richard Donner - 6/10
Red Heat, 1988 - Walter Hill - 5/10
A Stupid and Futile Gesture, 2018 - David Wain - 5/10
The Lawnmower Man, 1995 - Brett Leonard - 6/10
Paris, Texas, 1984 - Wim Wenders - 8/10
Buddha’s Palm, 1987 - Taylor Wong - 7/10
Nocturnal Animals, 2016 - Tom Ford - 8/10
Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982 - Amy Heckerling - 6/10
Duets, 2000 - Bruce Paltrow - 7/10
Carlito’s Way, 1993 - Brian De Palma - 6/10
48 Hours, 1982 - Walter Hill - 8/10
Night Shift, 1982 - Ron Howard - 8/10
Screamers, 1995 - Christian DuGuay - 5/10
Wizards, 1977 - Ralph Bakshi - 5/10 story 9/10 animation
Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2017 - Jon Watts - 8/10
You Were Never Really Here, 2017 - Lynne Ramsey - 6/10
Heat, 1995 - Michael Mann - 7/10
Spawn, 1997 - Mark A.Z. Dippe - 6/10
Johnny Mnemonic, 1995 - Robert Longo - 6/10
Avengers: Infinity War, 2018 - Joe & Anthony Russo - 9/10
D.C. Cab, 1983 - Joel Schumacher - 5/10
Hannibal, 2001 (unfinished) - Ridley Scott - N/A
Solo, 2018 - Ron Howard - 2/10
Hellraiser II: Hellbound (unfinished) - Tony Randel - N/A
Little Shop of Horrors, 1986 - Frank Oz - 4/10
Hereditary, 2018 - Ari Aster - 8/10
Loving Vincent, 2017 - Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman - 4/10 story 10/10 animation
Saturday Night Fever, 1977 - John Badham - 9/10
First Reformed, 2017 - Paul Schrader - 10/10
Tightrope, 1983 - Clint Eastwood &Richard Tuggle - 6/10
Deadpool 2, 2018 - David Leitch - 8/10
Dogville, 2003 - Lars Von Trier - 8/10
Ghost in the Machine, 1994 - Rachel Talalay - 5/10
Incredibles 2, 2018 - Brad Bird - 8/10
Point Break, 1991 - Katheryn Bigelow - 8/10
Ant Man & The Wasp, 2018 - Peyton Reed - 7/10
The Killing of a Sacred Deer, 2016 - Yorgos Lanthimos - 9/10
Suspiria, 1977 - Dario Argento - 7/10 story, 9/10 atmosphere & color
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, 2018 - J.A. Bayona - 7/10
Sorry to Bother You, 2018 - Boots Riley - 1/10 Fuck this movie. Yes, I understand it, and Yes, still hate it. This movie can “S” my “D.”
The King of Comedy, 1983 - Martin Scorses - 8/10
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, 2018 - Gus Van Zant - 8/10
Batman & Robin, 1997 - Joel Schumacher - 2/10
Logan Lucky, 2017 - Steven Soderbergh - 8/10
Alien: Covenant, 2017 - Ridely Scott - 8/10 I was quite taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed this. Far stronger narrative and execution overall than Prometheus.
Mother!, 2017 - Darren Aronofsky - 9/10 Wow. Deeply upsetting and disturbing, but beautifully done.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (unfinished), 2017 - Luc Besson - 2/10 Oh, lord… Unbelievable visuals, but painfully bad dialogue and wholly disjointed plot.
Talk Radio, 1988 - Oliver Stone - 8/10 Damn, what a film. Seek this one out. It’s really something. Every bit as relevant today as thirty years ago.
Eighth Grade, 2018 - Bo Burnham - 6/10 A series of emotionally affecting moments, but it did not work for me as a cohesive film. Love you though, Bo.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017 - Martin McDonagh - 9/10 Pitch perfect.
True Romance, 1993 - Tony Scott - 4/10 Tarantino’s script has its moments and Gary Oldman’s brief inclusion is stellar, but the protagonists are irritating as shit.
The Big Sick, 2017 - Michael Showalter - 9/10
Mission Impossible: Fallout, 2018 - Christopher McQuarrie - 7/10 Tom Cruise FALLS. OUT. OF A PLANE.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, 2017 - Rian Johnson - 8/10 Having no stake in the matter, I actually thought this was pretty damn decent. Franchises need new life breathed into them.
Star Trek: Beyond, 2016 - Justin Lin - 6/10
The Florida Project, 2017 - Sean Baker - 10/10 My mind continues to mull over this movie. Inconceivable how well it works for its simplicity. Really a thing of beauty.
Platoon, 1986 - Oliver Stone - 6/10 Apocalypse Now is a better Vietnam War film.
JD’s Revenge, 1976 - Arthur Marks - 5/10
Free Fire, 2016 - Ben Wheatley - 1/10 It baffles me that A24 put this out, easily their weakest movie. High-Rise sucked too. This is an emotionally vacant, plotless piece of shit. All aesthetic, no emotional core. Garbage.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, 2018 - Mike Newell - 5/10 My wife wanted me to watch this with her. It was “cute.”
The Dark Crystal, 1982 - Jim Henson, Frank Oz - 6/10 story, 10/10 puppetry & art direction
The Thing, 1982 - John Carpenter - 10/10 Umpteenth time seeing this. A flawless movie from start to finish.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (unfinished), 2001 - Steven Spielberg directing Stanley Kubrick’s script - 4/10 This seems like it should have been a no-brainer winning combination and I very much wanted to like it, but it was painfully bad. Disjointed, too playful and silly, the tone was all wrong. Couldn’t bear to finish it.
Election, 1999 - Alexander Payne - 8/10 Payne is one of my favorite directors and is a fellow Nebraska native. Despite that this film is billed as a Comedy, it is remarkably smart and is a starkly honest political satire. Even more relevant today.
Blackkklansman, 2018 - Spike Lee - 8/10 Wild, brutally honest, important. His best film.
The Matrix Revolutions, 2003 - Wachowski Sisters - 5/10 Every couple of years I revisit this movie, thinking that magically over time it will get better, except that it doesn’t. The weakest chapter in the trilogy.
Downsizing, 2017 - Alexander Payne - 5/10 So many good elements, somehow, do not add up to a good picture. Very disjointed, lopsided, tonally off.
Let the Corpses Tan, 2018 - Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani - 3/10 Visually very interesting, but waaaaaaaaaay too French for my tastes.
Barry Lyndon (unfinished), 1975 - Stanley Kubrick - N/A I have tried three times to watch this movie, and every time, I’ve turned it off after about an hour. Technically interesting from a filmmaking side, but painfully boring.
The 6th Day, 2000 - Roger Spottiswoode - 7/10 I’ve made it a personal goal to watch every Schwarzenegger movie. Silly, explosive early 00’s fun.
Citizen Kane, 1941 - Orson Welles - 8/10 One of his few good films before he became a self-absorbed, grossly overweight, arrogant hack.
Chinatown, 1974 - Roman Polanski - 10/10 This movie continues to reveal its brilliant qualities and careful nuance every time I rewatch it.
Eraser, 1996 - Chuck Russell - 6/10 Remember what I said about Schwarzenegger?
Hold the Dark, 2018 - Jeremy Saulnier - 8/10 Saulnier is killing it. He has made and is going to make some great films in his life.
Free Solo, 2018 - Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi - 8/10
Iron Warrior, 1987 - Alfonso Brescia - 4/10 So silly.
Parenthood, 1989 - Ron Howard - 7/10 Great cast, very funny.
Unsane, 2017 - Steven Soderbergh - 7/10 Soderbergh’s ability to pull off widely diverse genres and tonal approaches amazes me.
Mandy, 2018 - Panos Cosmatos - 8/10 WHOOOOOOOOAAAAAA!!!!! A. BLAST.
Midnight Cowboy, 1969 - John Schlesinger - 8/10 A beautiful picture.
Straw Dogs, 1971 - Sam Shepard - 8/10 Unsettling in all the best ways. A very bizarre and controversial film, especially for its time.
Dressed to Kill, 1980 - Brian De Palma - 7/10
Isle of Dogs, 2018 - Wes Anderson - 9/10 The story was a bit strange to me but this is a technical masterpiece. I can’t believe it was made by humans. Visually perfect.
Beyond the Black Rainbow, 2010 - Panos Cosmatos - 7/10 Amazing aesthetic, sound design, visuals and music. Closing scene is unfortunately very weak and half-assed compared to the rest of the picture.
Empire Records, 1995 - Allan Moyle - 7/10 Silly 90’s feel-good fun. If you enjoy High Fidelity or School of Rock, this one is worth a watch.
Europa (Zentropa), 1991 - Lars Von Trier - 8/10 The more I reflect on this film, the more brilliant I realize it is. Unique and technically impressive use of actors interacting with front and rear projection, also an interesting mix of film stocks.
Legend (unfinished), 1982 - Ridley Scott - N/A UN-BE-LIEVABLY BAD. Tom Cruise and Tim Curry as the Devil?!? This should have been great! How did this movie get made? Painful to watch.
S is for Stanley, 2016 - Alex Infascelli - 8/10 If you love Kubrick, watch this.
Magnum Force (Dirty Harry 2), 1973 - Ted Post - 8/10 One of the best in the series.
The Enforcer (Dirty Harry 3), 1976 - James Fargo - 5/10 The worst in the series, haha.
Good Guys Wear Black, 1978 - Ted Post - 3/10 I wanted to see young Chuck Norris kick some tail but, unfortunately, he does not kick many tails in this one. Like a bad TV movie.
The Boss of It All, 2006 - Lars Von Trier - 8/10 Von Trier makes a comedy. Smart as a whip, irreverent, satirical, great.
Suspiria, 2018 - Luca Guadagnino - 9/10 Standing ovation.
Ready Player One, 2018 - Steven Spielberg - 7/10 This. Movie. Is. Bonkers.
Fantastic Beasts 2, 2018 - David Yates - 2/10 story, 8/10 CGI Went to this with some Harry Potter fanatic friends. Incredibly weak material, a thousand new characters no one gives a shit about, Hollywood trying to squeeze more dollars out of a franchise by watering it down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. To be clear, the HP films and books are great, but this is not.
Fellini Satyricon, 1969 - Frederico Fellini - 4/10 story, 8/10 aesthetic Crazy, crazy, crazy. Has some amazing visuals and set pieces. Bizarre, sacrilegious, wild. More interesting as an important piece of filmmaking history than it is as a film.
Epidemic, 1987 - Lars Von Trier - 8/10 I’ve been watching through all of Von Trier’s films this year. While they don’t all land as great movies, he always does something unique and approaches each film as a wholly new thing. I think he’s an utter genius who exists in a caliber all his own and each of his films has taught me something.
The House That Jack Built, 2018 - Lars Von Trier - 9/10 So much to unpack here. I could (and might) write an essay about all the layers of this film. Evidence of a filmmaker at the peak of his craft and comfortability. Brutal, but very lovely as well.