Drama is always one of the busiest and most crowded genres in all of film every single year. It’s also responsible for producing some of the best films of any given year and in 2018 this was no different. Drama films made up some of the best pictures in 2018 and with the year coming to an end it’s time to take a closer look at what the genre had to offer. Whether these films focused on the human experience, romance, nostalgia, culture or the way of the world today all of the movies featured on today’s countdown were considered near perfect productions when I reviewed them making this the only Best of 2018 list where EVERY entry received five stars on Cinema Spotlight. So, this truly is a collection of some of the year’s best products. With that in mind let’s take a look at the best films from one of the most active genres of the last twelve months. These are my picks for the Top 10 Drama Films of 2018.
For this list I looked at any movie that was considered primarily a drama picture. This is a very broad genre that includes any original story or adaptation of a previous work meant to be taken seriously in its depiction of its story. There can be elements of other genres worked in, such as comedy for some levity, but all of these films were more serious stories rather than trying to be amusing or suspenseful. Biographical pictures will not be featured on this list as they got a list of their own.
That said, as always, each film can only appear on one Best of 2018 list so if you don’t see a movie you liked here you can check out the rest of my Best of 2018 series to see where your favorite films landed. This is all part of a series of countdowns that will lead to my picks for the 20 best films of 2018 on New years Day.
As I said, drama is very expansive so it’s possible, hell it’s very likely that a few popular or beloved films from 2018 didn’t make this list. So I turn it to you, what is you’re favorite drama film of 2018? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list!
10. “Phantom Thread”
While officially released on Christmas of 2017, “Phantom Thread” had most of its run in 2018 and went on to earn six Oscar nominations winning one for costume design. More importantly though this story about an obsessive couturier who falls for a young waitress that threatens his dedication to his work is the final film for legendary multi-Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis who retired from acting after its release. He went out with a bang turning in another awesome performance in the lead role. The style of “Phantom Thread” is absolutely beautiful, and the narrative presents us with a cast of interesting characters while touching on the dangers of obsession. By the end of it all there’s a slight Shakespearean vibe to how the central relationship plays out as it explores how far an obsession of romance and one’s own ego can go. This quality makes for a solid drama feature that kicked off 2018 in literal style.
9. “Creed II”
The original “Creed” film in 2015 was an awesome return to form for the “Rocky” franchise and made Michael B. Jordan a household name. Now three years later we get a sequel that continues Creed’s story by also connecting it to Rocky’ legacy as Creed must face off against the son of Ivan Drago, the man who killed Creed’s father Apollo. It’s a pretty straightforward sports drama but one that provides a lot of suspense and emotional depth despite its predictability. We don’t only get to understand Creed’s inner struggle we also get to see his opponent’s and by the time the big fight comes around it’s hard to route against either fighter because both have something to fight for. “Creed II” builds on everything its predecessor established becoming a powerhouse sequel that may even be superior than the first. “Creed II” is proof that sometimes a spinoff franchise can truly work if handled correctly.
This one was a fun one for me because I am a 90s kid and grew up enjoying everything that decade had to offer. “Mid90s”, a film directed and written by Jonah Hill, explores a young teenager’s life as he tries to find his place 90s Los Angeles. Skateboarding, video games and a lack of social media immerse viewers in a world of the not-to-distant past where the youth had to actually work for an identity. The characters are amazing in this movie and the performances of fledgling actors like Sunny Suljic succeed in capturing the experience of growing up during that decade with noone to spoon feed who you needed to be or how the world works. “Mid90s” is an inspired look at the simple factors that defined growing up in a different time and touches on an era of American that is often lost in translation between the rebellious 70s and 80s and the technologically advanced 2000s and 2010s. For a guy like me it’s the perfect flashback but for everyone else it’s an awesome coming-of-age drama like few films that have come before it.
7. “Love, Simon”
Homosexuality is a common theme in films nowadays with characters being written in a more diverse fashion thus making the LGBTQ community part of the norm. This is all well and good except it’s not as prevalent in movies targeting a younger demographic, or at least it wasn’t until now. “Love, Simon” sought to change the landscape of teen dramas in 2018 and it succeeded. Telling the story of the titular Simon who is a closeted gay high schooler that meets an anonymous classmate online and tries to deduce who his new crush is, “Love, Simon” forces the main character to endure not only the prejudices against his sexuality but also the destructive nature of high schoolers in general in a social media age. It also goes so far as to delve into how keeping his secret from friends only leads to more problems for him and those he cares about. It’s an engaging story that handles its subject matter with taste and tact while offering the current generation of youth the first true teen picture about this kind of sexual identity.
“Tully” was built to be a film for the mother of the modern world and as such showcases the struggles of motherhood through the eyes of a woman suffering from a mid-life crisis when a night nanny comes into her life to help her raise her newborn. Charlize Theron turns in an award-worthy performance in the leading role showcasing her tremendous acting range as well as a physical change she herself said had her depressed after filming was completed. The dedication was worth it as she helped sell a dramady that by the time the credits role manages to pull off one of the most unexpected twists of the year, one that had me watching it a second and third time to catch what I missed. In my review I called “Tully” a “real and sincere” picture and while we have seen even more brutally honest films since it’s release this film remains a personal favorite of mine and a no-holds-barred interpretation of motherhood in the modern world.
5. “First Reformed”
Religion and global warming are two of today’s most controversial topics of conversation. Imagine a film that blends those two issues into one dramatic character study? That is “First Reformed”. A highlight film from the 2017 Venice International Film Festival, “First Reformed” finally got a full theatrical release in 2018 and stars Ethan Hawke in one of his best career performances to date as a priest who becomes disillusioned with her own religion and struggles with his own morality as he watches over a dying church. While some might see it as a slow burn of a film “First Reformed” has a lot to say and for those who take the time to appreciate it you just might walk away with a new look at the world and the idea of faith yourself. It’s thought provoking without being offensive and its aggressive without disrespecting those who may disagree with its concepts. It’s a truly fascinating dramatic experience that keeps you thinking long after the credits role.
The drama genre offered one of many films that focused on race relations in the United States in 2018. “Blindspotting” takes its name from the idea that a situation can be seen in two different ways, but someone only chooses to see half of the scenario. The story follows a black man who witnesses a cop shoot another black man who is unarmed. This causes him to realize the state of the world around him and strains his relationship with his white friend who is trying to be “gangster”. Of all the films that attempted to tackle race relations in 2018 this one is one of the best and includes an amazing finale sequence that allows actor Daveed Diggs to sell the film’s message point blank in epic fashion. “Blindspotting” is a brutally honest dramady that is not afraid to force viewers to think about cultural appropriation and their own ignorance. While we also got a similar teen-focused drama “The Hate U Give” in 2018, “Blindspotting” is more mature and deserves much more credit than it actually got.
3. “Eighth Grade”
The directorial debut of one of my personal favorite comedians Bo Burnham “Eighth Grade” did have the benefit of fan bias from me, but it didn’t need it. As what could be the defining coming-of-age film for Generation Z, “Eighth Grade” stars Elsie Fisher in a Golden Globe nominated role as an eighth grader preparing to enter high school. This is a time in life very few if any films have tackled with conviction, but even then “Eighth Grade” takes its examination of a traditionally difficult transition in a young person’s life to a new level by exploring how this shift is even more difficult in the digital age. Theme’s of self-image and self-worth are explored as well as the unfortunate realities of phone addiction and sexual assault. More enlightening than funny, “Eighth Grade” does balance out its serious nature with some humorous insight into America’s up and coming generation and thus became a very deserving must-see for teen and pre-teen young women and should be required viewing for anyone in that age bracket for years to come.
This is about as real and raw as a scripted film can get. In 2018 “Roma” had the honor of defying two limitations I usually set for this blog being a Netflix film in a foreign language, but man was it worth the watch. Directed and written by Oscar winning director Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma” is inspired by his upbringing in Mexico City and follows a housekeeper to a middle-class family in 1970 who deals with an unplanned pregnancy while the world around her goes on in a fantastic showcase of how reality really works. Of all the films on this list this one is the closest we have seen in 2018 to how real life is, using actual world events, great cinematography and a very casual script to sell it all. It almost feels like the perfect documentary, a window into a life we shouldn’t be able to see. It’s intimate and raw making it one of the most immersive and beautiful films of the year by far. Already a Golden Globe nominee, many are hoping this will be the film to break the Netflix curse at the Academy Awards as “Roma” is definitive proof that not all great movies find their home on the big screen.
1. “A Star is Born”
Who saw this coming? Who really thought this movie was going to be as good as it is? “A Star is Born” is the fourth interpretations of what has become a classic Hollywood tale of two musicians who fall in love but are challenged by their individual career paths and vices. Now a five-time Golden Globe nominated picture “A Star is Born” is the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper and not only proves the actor to be a true craftsman behind the camera but also eliminates any doubt that his co-star, Lady Gaga, can’t hold her own on the big screen. With a soundtrack and a story that are both emotionally driven and incredibly effective “A Star is Born” is gripping, it’s inspiring, it’s tear-jerking, it’s mesmerizing, it’s entertaining, it’s literally the whole package and everything a movie of this type should be. It hits all the right notes in more ways than one and save for a few blemishes really feels like a near perfect Hollywood film experience. “A Star is Born” is not only the year’s best drama film, it may very well be one of the best remakes ever made and sets a new standard for future love stories to live up to.