The 10 Best Movies of 2018 (That You Can Stream Right Now)

A Best-of List for Holiday Season Homebodies

By Sam Eichner ·
Jojo Whilden/Netflix

In this day and age, it's simply not possible for the normal movie-watching person to watch every single great movie that comes out in a given year.  That's why, for this year-end list, I've narrowed the field. 

These are not the 10 best movies I've seen this year, although some of them would certainly be included on that list. But these are the ten best movies I've seen this year that you can stream right now, either by renting or with a subscription (movies only available to buy were disqualified). And given how much time you're bound to be bundled up inside with not much else to do except eat and relax and avoid talking to your irritating brother-in-law, we thought that limitation might prove helpful.

Good luck out there. 

(For more streaming guides, check out our list of nine non-traditional Christmas movies to add to your holiday season rotation and monthly Netflix report card.)

10. Unsane

The master Steven Soderbergh does wonders with an iPhone in this sparse yet unforgiving psychological thriller about a woman (Claire Foy) involuntarily committed to a mental institution, after she submits paranoiac complaints about a stalker. Foy may earn an Oscar nomination for her role in First Man, but rest assured, this was the her most compelling performance of the year. Lucid, beguiling and full of rage, her calculating visage teeters perilously on the edge of lunacy. Through Foy, Soderbergh begs the question: under what circumstances would you, too, begin to question your own sanity? 
Where to watch: Included with Prime

9. Madeline's Madeline

In Josephine Decker's experimental film, the director of an eccentric theater group (Molly Parker) begins to eat away at the border between performance and reality, (mis)appropriating the life of a burgeoning young actress (Helena Howard) and her volatile relationship with her mother (Miranda July). The movie takes as its subject the notion of storytelling—who has the right to use others' stories, and how. It simmers along, humming with tension, until it reaches its devastating climax—the most searing monologue of 2018—and jubilant conclusion. Howard's performance exists in a category all its own; unpredictable, discomfiting and intensely physical, it's like nothing else I saw all year.
Where to watch: Included with Prime

8. Let the Sunshine In

The French director Claire Denis's latest might be the most melancholic rom-com of the year (or ever). Juliette Binoche plays a meandering, middle-aged woman, full of ennui, navigating a series of romantic (and less romantic) relationships. The movie is, at times, blissful; at others, heart-wrenching. Denis (and Binoche) renders her mess of love and love lost impressively real. The ending is not an ending at all, but a suggestion that life merely marches on—a rebuke to the pat conclusions of the genre. 
Where to watch: Rent on Prime

7. You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay's brutal, offbeat noir—starring the always-excellent Joaquin Phoenix, as an army vet bringing down a cabal of pedophilic politicians—excavates its characters' personal trauma, and makes us all complicit. (You can read my review here.) 
Where to watch: Included with Prime

6. Private Life

Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn star as a faintly bohemian New York couple so desperate to have a child, they enlist their precocious, college-aged niece to donate her eggs. Acerbic and deceptively poignant, it's an unsparing portrait of a marriage, a film at once about the sacrifices we make as adults and the child-like extremes to which we'll go to experience fulfillment—artistic or otherwise. 
Where to watchNetflix

5. The Other Side of the Wind

Orson Welle's final movie is a raucous affair orbiting around the screening of a once-beloved director's unfinished, experimental picture gone awry, replete with enough meta flourishes to keep any self-respecting Welles fan satisfied. It's a tornado of a film, blustery and out-of-control, with an indelible performance from Welles's friend and peer, John Huston. If it feels unlike anything you've seen this year, that's because it quite literally is: the film remained incomplete for decades before finally being released on Netflix last month. 
Where to watch: Netflix

4. Juliet, Naked

2018 was a banner year for romantic comedies, in large part due to a pair of star-making Netflix movies, Set It Up (great fun) and To All the Boys I've Loved Before (good, if ultimately not all that funny). But the best of the year was much smaller in terms of buzz, though much wider in thematic scope. Juliet, Naked, starring Ethan Hawke, the tragically underrated Rose Byrne and Chris O'Dowd, is remarkable for the originality it brings to the conventions of the genre. Duncan (O'Dowd) is obsessed with an enigmatic, washed-up folk singer, Tucker Crowe (Hawke). When his longtime girlfriend, Annie, fed up with his interest in Crowe (and disinterest in her), writes a scathing review of Crowe on a forum, the musician emails her back. They strike up a pen-pal relationship that soon blossoms into something more. While the film hits familiar rom-com beats, it does so with an easy naturalism that belies the genre's more typical sentimentality. The characters are never stock, their messy lives actively resisting the boxes other directors might force them into. It's a film about second chances, about easing the fixation we have on our past, however intense, in order to make way for the future. Most of all, it's funny, and not just in the cool, banter-y way most rom-coms are; it emanates genuine warmth. To watch it is to feel just a little bit more hopeful about love. 
Where to watch: Rent on Prime

3. Roma

Alfonso Cuarón's latest film has been widely hailed as a masterpiece. It makes sense. Watching Roma, one undoubtedly gets the sense that he is in the hands of a master craftsman, whether it's during the scene of a riot or the way the camera scans a home. The plot is somewhat unremarkable: it follows a live-in maid named Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) from a village outside Mexico City working for an upper-class family in the eponymous neighborhood, circa 1971, who gets pregnant from a boy she mistakenly assumes will support her. And yet Cleo's own story often persists on the margins of a larger story, about the family for whom she works—the father who leaves, and the mother who's forced to stay. She is both a part of the family and not—the children adore her—and thus the experience of watching Roma is from the outside looking in, watching Cleo but also watching everything going on around her: the shows on TV, the violence in the street, a tense exchange between mother and eldest son. The movie collects itself over the first hour or so and unfurls in the climax, as Cleo's fate collides with the machinations of the city, of nature; the resolution, when it hits, is both heartbreaking and tender. In Roma, Cuarón limns Cleo's life—her social status and womanhood—on a universal scale.
Where to watchNetflix (on December 14th).

2. First Reformed

Paul Schrader's career-culminating meditation on faith and sex and violence (and climate change) is both prosaic and poetic, decidedly still and sublime. With his story of a radicalized small-town minister, the film is as urgent as it is timeless, wrestling with nothing short of the meaning of life itself. Equally important: Ethan Hawke, without question, delivers the best performance of his career.
Where to watch: Included with Prime

1. Minding the Gap

I've seen three skateboarding in 2018, which is three more than I'd probably see any other year. Mid '90s, Jonah Hill's directorial debut, is perceptive about the ramshackle community skateboarding provide for boys, as well as what those boys feel like they have to go through to be accepted—as both skaters and men. It's far better than Crystal Moselle's needlessly overwrought Skate Kitchen, which deals with similar issues from a female perspective. But Minding the Gap effortlessly captures the adolescent yearning Hill and Moselle try so desperately to recreate. It's a deeply personal documentary of three friends growing up in broken homes in Rockford, Illinois, and it's about skating—insofar as skating is a way to escape their home life, and an activity during which they're free from the demands of eking out a living in a town modernity has left behind. It's also, quite simply, about boys rushed into becoming men, learning who and how to be without fathers to show them. A truly one-of-a-kind documentary, with  footage stitched together over the course of many years, Minding the Gap is a singular accomplishment—and easily the most affecting film I saw all year.
Where to watch: Hulu

Sam Eichner

Sam Eichner likes literature, reality television and his twin cats equally. He has consistently been told he needs a shave since he started growing facial hair.

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