To All the Netflix Movies We Loved This Year.
2018 was truly the year that Netflix became a serious player in the realm of original films. Past features like Beasts of No Nation and Mudbound were certainly notable, but this year Netflix graduated to the Adult Table with a diverse and impressive slate. It ranged from highly anticipated titles from auteur filmmakers to more traditional films from genres that don’t get as much exposure anymore (long live the romcom!). 2018 was even the year Netflix surprise released The Cloverfield Paradox after the Super Bowl, a film that Paramount sold to the streaming service ahead of poor box office tracking.
So as this critical year comes to a close, the Collider.com staff put our heads together to come up with a tried and true Top 10 list of the best Netflix original films released this year. Now, this is not a list of all movies on Netflix, only those distributed by Netflix and thus billed as a “Netflix Original.” The results are maybe somewhat surprising in terms of order, but we feel pretty confident this holistically represents the best that Netflix had to offer in 2018 by way of original feature film content.
Behold, the top Netflix movies of 2018.
Cam is the kind of smart, sex-positive horror movie you always hope you’ll get to see, but far too rarely do. Penned by former cam girl Isa Mazzei and directed by her longtime collaborator Daniel Goldhaber, Cam not only offers a judgment-free look at the lives of sex workers, it offers one with respect. And while sex is a big part of Cam, this isn’t a movie about sexuality, this is a tense thriller about ambition, identity, and survival in the internet age. Madeline Brewer stars as Alice, a successful cam girl driven to climb to the top of the ranks when she logs on one day to find she’s been replaced by a cheerful doppelganger who’s taken her face and her career. From there, Cam follows Alice down a surreal rabbit hole as she tries to discover who’s behind her new web clone and how to reclaim her life, building a growing sense of unease and sick helplessness as Alice’s reality drops out from under her. Mazzei and Goldhaber are a dynamite creative team, creating a dazzling and disorienting plummet through the pitfalls of internet identity and the intensity of ambitious careerism that’s as colorful and ambitious as its leading lady. — Haleigh Foutch
Filmmaker Paul Greengrass has made a habit out of adapting true-life tragedies into stirring feature films, but always with an eye towards the betterment of humanity. 22 July is one such film, as it harrowingly recounts the 2011 attacks in Oslo carried out by a far-right terrorist. In the end, 77 people were dead and the perpetrator was taken alive, with Norway’s progressive judicial system left to figure out how to reconcile these horrid acts with the rights it affords its criminals. The first 30 minutes or so recounts the act itself in extremely unsettling fashion, but the meat of the film takes place during the aftermath, juxtaposing the recovery of one of the victims with the trial of the terrorist. Greengrass draws clear delineations between these acts and the political world we live in today, making the film all the more necessary to experience. – Adam Chitwood
The hardest part of compiling a list of the best fight scenes of 2018 was trying not to give every single slot to The Night Comes For Us. Writer/director Timo Tjahjanto‘s import from Indonesia reunites Iko Awais and Joe Taslim—co-stars in Gareth Evans‘ The Raid movies—for an action flick so deliriously violent and stylishly frenetic there are points I was shocked it wasn’t an animated film. Taslim plays Ito, an enforcer for the South East Asian Triad who turns on his gang and has to outrun the death sentence now hovering over his head, not to mention the Triad’s assassin of choice, his old friend Arian (Uwais). It’s a tight two-hour thriller plot-line that’s almost secondary to the blood-soaked set-pieces cooked up by Tjahjanto and his stunt coordinators—Uwais, Muhammad Irvan, and Very Tri Yulisman—that see glass breaking, bones snapping, bullets flying, and nary a bit of CGI in sight. Careful with this one, folks. The Night Comes For Us is one of those adrenaline-spikers that should come with a warning. – Vinnie Mancuso
Any time Martin Freeman gets a chance to act in an original flick that’s not a big-budget adaptation or a detective series, I’m more than happy to check it out. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Freeman would be the leading man in Cargo, a survival horror tale set in the Australian outback.
You’d be forgiven for feeling a bit worn-out on the post-apocalyptic zombie sub-genre, but there’s every reason to put that feeling aside when it comes to Cargo, a tightly focused thriller that’s less concerned about shaking up this particular sub-genre and more intent on delivering solid performances. It’s the interactions between the humans–strangers all, some sharing the same race and gender, some not–that drive home both the decency and innate inhumanity mankind is capable of. There are some Colonialist aspects of the storytelling that aren’t fully fleshed out, to be honest, but Cargo delivers a creepy take on “zombies” and really makes you feel for the protagonists, a rare feat in this horror sub-genre. – Dave Trumbore
There’s a lot of talk about Netflix making “the kinds of movies studios don’t make anymore,” and never was this more prevalent than within the romantic comedy genre in 2018. Netflix released a slew of solid romcoms this year, and two of those made our list. Set It Up is probably the more traditional of the two—a throwback to the romcoms that dominated the 90s and 2000s, but no less sweet. Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell made for an instantly iconic duo, and while the film is sufficiently flirty, romantic, and funny, Katie Silberman’s script doesn’t ignore the issues that women face in the workplace, threading a fair amount of social relevance throughout this insanely rewatchable dalliance. – Adam Chitwood
Not only has The Ritual been on a bunch of our “Best Horror” lists this year as a solid horror movie in its own right (or is it rite?), it delivered one of the most original and memorable movie monsters in quite some time. I wrote about the creation at length back in February as an excuse to talk up the design of the Norse mythology-infused monster, created by Keith Thompson, a concept artist for Guillermo del Toro who has worked on Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Pacific Rim, The Strain, and Crimson Peak.
If you’re not familiar with the film, it follows a group of friends reconnecting for a camping trip, only to be beset by horrors on all sides. Now that sounds like a pretty basic horror-movie script, but I’m being purposefully vague in order to let the plot’s twists and turns play out in their own time. Said horrors are portrayed both viscerally in stomach-churning sequences and in a more metaphysical sense as psychological trauma. The cast, anchored by Rafe Spall, delivers solid performances across the board, but the real gem here is The Ritual’s movie monster. Check your pride at the door and bow before it, if you know what’s good for you. – Dave Trumbore
If a movie like this was dropped into theaters, it probably would have disappeared. It’s a light, frothy, teen romcom. In the 80s, John Hughes could print money with a movie like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but today the teen audience is now looking to Netflix, and the streaming service delivered big with an adaptation of Jenny Han’s novel of the same. The story follows Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), who, when unsent letters are mailed out to the boys she’s liked in the past, stages a fake relationship with heartthrob Peter (Noah Centineo) in order to try and win the affections of her real crush, Josh (Israel Broussard). It’s an incredibly sweet, funny, and lovely movie that’s already got a sequel in the works. I can’t wait. – Matt Goldberg
Private Life is a beautiful, heartbreaking film, somewhere between comforting and devastating — like crying into a pint of ice cream. Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti star as the world’s most likable couple; a pair of theater and literature intellectuals who dedicated their lives to their careers and find themselves facing down the hard fact they might not be able to have children. With aching sympathy, Private Life follows their path through an endless parade of fertility therapies, adoption interviews, and potential surrogates as the loving couple fling themselves and their rapidly draining bank accounts at one slim chance after the next. Hahn gives one of the finest performances of the year as a woman increasingly desperate to achieve the family she put off so long, and Giamatti is reliably a force on screen, bantering and bickering with Hahn with perfectly tuned wit and warmth (and just the right bit of sadness). Tamara Jenkins‘ direction and story are remarkable for their simplicity, which demands such tender, nuanced attention to detail, and serve as a graceful reminder that the banal heartbreaks of life can be just as gripping as any space drama or superhero epic on the market. — Haleigh Foutch
In many ways, Roma signals the future of Netflix’s original film content. Writer/director/cinematographer/editor/producer Alfonso Cuarón has said that traditional distributors couldn’t guarantee a very wide reach for this black-and-white Spanish-language period drama, and thus he agreed to let Netflix distribute the film worldwide on its streaming service. The debate rages on over the theatrical release (or lacktherof) of this astonishing cinematic achievement, but the fact remains that this remarkable film is currently available to watch by millions of people at the same time.
Oh yeah, and as for the film itself, it’s masterful. Cuarón stretches the limits of what cinema can achieve in opting for a uniquely objective POV as he presents this intimately personal story of a family falling apart. Through Cuarón’s stunning cinematography, we the viewer are invited to simply observe. But also though Cuarón’s masterful technique, a sense of empathy builds and builds until it crescendos into a flood of emotions during the film’s final act. – Adam Chitwood
As of this writing, there are a few Coen Brothers’ movies on Netflix including No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, and The Big Lebowski, but if you want to get a crash course in the recurring themes of the Coen Brothers’ filmography, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs isn’t a bad place to start. While it’s not the Coens’ best movie, it’s pretty darn good as the six western stories revolve around themes of unforgiving fate and mortality. Some may see the Coens as nihilist, but these films show they live in a strict moral universe where randomness does have a heavy hand, but our choices can lead to swift and serious outcomes. The tones of the shorts vary wildly from the madcap “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” to the deeply melancholy “Meal Ticket”, but all are worth watching and will only deepen your love of the Coens’ filmography. – Matt Goldberg
For the rest of Collider’s end-of-the-year content, go here, and check out some more of our lists below:
The Collider Staff is a diverse collection of talented writers who bring a wealth of experience, thoughtfulness, and knowledge to their analysis of entertainment. Whether you want a searing hot take on the MCU or you still can’t get over that ‘Game of Thrones’ finale, Collider’s writers always approach the world of entertainment with a keen eye and a ready mind.
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Top 10 Netflix Movies of 2018, Ranked – Collider
To All the Netflix Movies We Loved This Year.