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In August 2015, FX Networks president John Landgraf coined the term “peak TV” during a confab with the Television Critics of America; during that same discussion, he predicted that by the time 2017 rolled around, “we’ll begin to see decline coming” in the number of television series produced. TV critics still view the loquacious Landgraf as some sort of a soothsayer, but the fact of the matter is that he could not have been more wrong with his prediction.
As the onslaught of television production continues unabated, a small but fervent tribe has begun advocating for the superiority of movies, as a medium, over TV. One of the arguments goes something like this: Why commit 10-plus hours of your life to watching some overcooked, formulaic show dish out plot at a snail’s pace when you can instead devour a crackerjack film that’s (almost always) wrapped up inside of two hours? Hard to argue with the math there, but the appeal of movies cannot simply be boiled down to the efficiency of storytelling. Rather, it comes down to this: movies have greater potential to conjure the kind of mood and atmosphere that completely envelops and transports a viewer, regardless of whether you’re watching on your couch or in a pitch black theater with dozens of strangers.
Whether or not you’re Team TV or Team Movies, there’s no denying that it’s more appealing than ever to give yourself over to the transformative power of cinema without even having to leave the comfy confines of your home. The Decider staff voted and came up with the following list of the 10 best movies (and 5 honorable mentions) that became available to purchase, rent or stream in your home during the calendar year 2018, regardless of the film’s original year of release. In other words, although you might have caught Lady Bird at a film festival or your local multiplex sometime in 2017, Greta Gerwig’s phenomenal directorial debut made our 2018 list because this was the year it became a home-viewing phenomenon. This rationale also serves to explain why an undeniable blockbuster like A Star Is Born is missing from our list; that film won’t see an official, non-bootleg home release until 2019 (at which point it will probably cement itself into our Best Of 2019 list.)
Our list shows off the depth and breadth of the cinematic offerings that captured our attention in 2018, running the gamut from mega-budget Marvel superhero blockbusters (Black Panther) to completely under-the-radar romantic comedies all but abandoned by the traditional Hollywood studio system (Set It Up). Enjoy, and be sure to let us know what you think about our list by either commenting below or tagging us on social media (@decider on Twitter, @deciderdotcom on Instagram).
WRITTEN BY: Mark Perez
DIRECTED BY: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
No movie brought me more joy this year than the delightfully deranged ensemble comedy Game Night. Starring Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Jesse Plemons, and a host of other scene-stealers, the film follows a game night gone horribly awry when a fake kidnapping mystery meant to be played for fun turns into an actual kidnapping. What elevates Game Night from good to great is the strength of the screenplay. It’s one of the tightest, funniest screenplays I’ve seen in a long time. Every single line, joke, and bit is payed off throughout the film. The stellar writing, creative directing, and A+ comedic performances from everyone involved (but especially Plemons) combine to make Game Night the must-see movie of 2018.—Josh Sorokach
Where to stream Game Night
WRITTEN BY: Katie Silberman
DIRECTED BY: Claire Scanlon
Set It Up was the rom-com revelation of the year. The Netflix original film proved that with an insanely attractive cast, a predictable yet fun enough plot, and a saucy pizza scene, the romantic comedy genre was truly thriving in 2018. Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch’s chemistry seeped through the screen as the two frustrated assistants on a mission to make their bosses (Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu, respectively) fall in love. Set It Up is light, silly, and most importantly (especially to Netflix), one of the most rewatchable films of the year.—Lea Palmieri
Watch Set It Up on Netflix
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Ol Parker
This is a rare case where the sequel is better than the original. Mamma Mia 2 isn’t trying to be anything it’s not, and that’s exactly why it’s so wonderful. For the two and a half hours you’re absorbed into this ABBA-tastic world, you can forget about all your worries; it’s truly an escape. Lily James shines like the star she is and it’s virtually impossible to NOT fall in love with either a young Bill, Harry, or Sam. Mamma Mia 2! Here We Go Again gives you the origin story you never knew you needed and pairs it with the most iconic costumes that could ever exist. This movie is loads of fun and will make you feel the best you’ve felt all year (I promise.)—Lauren Garafano
Where to stream Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
WRITTEN BY: Ryan Coogler, Joe Robert Cole
DIRECTED BY: Ryan Coogler
Considering just how many superhero movies are churned out every year, it really takes a special film to stand out from the crowd of crusading crimefighters. Black Panther–Marvel Studios’ first film with a non-white lead and the first superhero movie with a black lead since Blade sheathed his swords in 2004–stood tall, stood proudly, and stood out. Assisted by production designer Hannah Beachler and costume designer Ruth E. Carter, director Ryan Coogler created the world of Wakanda–a tactile world filled with rich details that set it above the blockbuster franchise this film is nestled within. And within just one movie, the Black Panther team created characters the likes of which we’ve never seen on screen: the sarcastic genius Shuri, the loyal warrior Okoye, the passionate rebel Nakia, the righteously angry Killmonger. Black Panther was more than a movie. It was–and still is–a moment.—Brett White
Where to stream Black Panther
WRITTEN BY: Sofia Alvarez
DIRECTED BY: Susan Johnson
If you aren’t still swooning over To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, you might be a robot. The charming film adaptation of the YA novel from Jenny Han is a near perfect teen romance that gave us crushes on both Lana Condor as Lara Jean Covey and Noah Centineo as ultra heartthrob Peter Kavinsky. The two devise a plan to indulge in a fake relationship to avoid other love interests in their lives, but of course find themselves in over their heads — and also in a steamy hot tub scene, ooh la la! To All The Boys capitalizes on everything great about teen romances, and is so damn good it will even give you hope for love, and the world in general.—L.P.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Greta Gerwig
The quiet brilliance of Lady Bird cannot be overstated. Greta Gerwig’s dramedy follows a high school senior named Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) as she attempts to escape her hometown of Sacramento for New York City. Like most coming-of-age stories, Lady Bird focuses on friendship, romance, and teenage angst, but Gerwig’s film rises above the rest with its moving portrait of mother-daughter relationships. Every time I watch Lady Bird, I notice something new: a breathtaking shot, a great line-read from Laurie Metcalf, a subtle music cue. These aren’t big things, but they matter immensely, especially in a film so focused on genuine, everyday moments. Now, go call your mom.—Claire Spellberg
Where to stream Lady Bird
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Originally conceived as a TV series for Netflix, the Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology movie set in the brutal Old West. From a sociopathic singing gunslinger to a scheming showman to the actual grim reaper, each of the six segments focuses on the theme of death coming in different and shocking ways. While some may say the stand-out tale is “All Gold Canyon” starring Tom Waits as a old prospector determined to strike it rich, the real gem is “The Gal Who Got Rattled,” which features a stunning confrontation involving a band of Comanches, the leader of a wagon train (played by a scene-stealing Grainger Hines), and a tragic lady named Alice (a heartbreaking Zoe Kazan). Also starring Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, and Tyne Daly, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs feels so authentic that you can actually feel trail grit in your teeth and smell death in the air.—Karen Kemmerle
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Ari Aster
Hereditary means you harm. It wants to mess you up. And it will, if you give yourself over to its intensity. It’s a movie that gets its power from the fact that it is foremost a family drama. Annie (Toni Collette) grieves the death of her mother but is beset by something deeper. Similarly, there’s something off about her withdrawn daughter. Before it’s all over, her entire family will be wrapped up in a madness and horror that is both external to them and yet has been lurking in a shadow all along. Director Ari Aster keeps so much unsettling detail on the edges of the frame, in shadows, or in fleeting microseconds before cutting to something else. Something very wrong is happening; the panic-inducing music on the soundtrack is sure of it and Toni Collette’s Oscar-caliber performance is forever reacting to it. But Hereditary doesn’t show its cards until sanity and the laws of physics have pretty much left the building.—Joe Reid
Where to stream Hereditary
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Alex Garland
Alex Garland is no stranger to futuristic questions of self and identity. He played in that sandbox in writing the adaptation for Never Let Me Go and in his directorial debut Ex Machina. In Annihilation, he takes a team of women into an unknown, possibly alien place: a soldier, a psychologist, a first-responder, two scientists. And one by one, we see this alien space begin to dismantle them. It’s heady stuff and would amount to little more than existential noodling (wankery, if you were feeling less generous) if the film weren’t anchored by the performances of some fantastic actresses; in particular, Natalie Portman is full control of her powers as a movie star and an actress of uncommon daring. Garland builds to an unforgettable finale that manages to impress itself on the viewer like a scar, even if it’s not super clear what’s actually happened. Annihilation is a movie that demands a second viewing and hugely rewards it, too.—J.R.
— Joe Reid
Where to stream Annihilation
WRITTEN BY: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee
DIRECTED BY: Spike Lee
When Spike Lee punches, he doesn’t hold back. From John David Washington’s equally terrifying, charming, and hilarious portrayal of Ron Stallworth to the film’s sleek and simmering cinematogrpahy, there are a hundreds of reasons why BlacKkKlansman deserves to stand among the best films of the year. But it’s the film’s haunting final minutes, which contrast the horrors of this story with present day footage of neo-Nazis, that elevate it from a great film to a savage work of art that captures life in 2018.—Kayla Cobb
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Crazy Rich Asians, Eighth Grade, Mandy, Avengers: Infinity War, Private Life
Where to stream BlackKKlansman
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The Best Movies Of 2018 (That You Can Watch At Home) – Decider
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Catherine Called Birdy’ on Amazon Prime Video, A Medieval Coming-of-Age Story Built for Today’s Teens