Aisle Seat: the 20 Best Films of 2018

Still from “Leave No Trace.”

The films are ranked roughly in order my preference. I’ve linked to the official trailers for each film. These are largely stories about outsiders and outcasts, people who have been pushed to the very margins of society, from the Alaskan outback to a desiccated landscape in northern Italy. They are also films about work in the fractured days of late capitalism, in kitchens and call centers, on Christmas tree farms and film sets, gleaning herbs from median strips of highways, cutting mushrooms from the floors of old-growth forests or shoplifting in Tokyo.  “Leave No Trace” was immaculately filmed in a patch of forest near Estacada,  Oregon that I’ve walked through probably 50 times over the last 25 years. Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” is the most savage indictment of American capitalism since “The Big Short,” and much funnier. “First Reformed” is Paul Shrader’s best film in 20 years. Maybe his best film period. If Peter Jackson’s lugubrious take on Tolkien was the price we had to pay to see “They Shall Not Grow Old,” his chilling documentary on World War I, then I guess it was worth it. “Roma” didn’t live up to the hype. Perhaps no film could. It’s still one of the most riveting cinematic experiences of the year. “Hold the Dark” and “Happy as Lazzaro” both contain enigmatic cameos by wolves. “Hereditary” and “Lean on Pete” pivot on shocking death scenes. “You Were Never Really Here” is one of the most violent films in years, but “Free Solo” is the most terrifying. I wanted to like “Blackkklansman” more than I did, but its hard to root for the cops and the FBI, even when they are pranking the likes of David Duke. Still the last five minutes of edited footage from Charlottesville should be mandatory viewing for anyone seeking to enter the US, just in case they want to change their minds. I should note that this list is a work in progress because there are several films that probably should be included that haven’t screened in Oregon City yet (even on Netflix), including Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Lucretia Martel’s “Zama,” Frederick Wiseman’s “Monrovia, Indiana,” Robert Greene’s “Bisbee ’17,” Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum,” and Jean-Luc Godard’s “The Image Book.”  

1) Leave No Trace, dir. Debra Granik (BRON)

2) Sorry to Bother You, dir. Boots Riley (Significant Productions)

3) First Reformed, dir. Paul Shrader (Killer Films)

4) They Shall Not Grow Old, dir. Peter Jackson (House Productions)

5) Roma, dir. Alfonso Cuarón (Netflix)

Still from “Free Solo.”

6) Hale County This Morning, This Evening, dir. RaMell Ross (Sundance Institute)

7) Burning, dir. Chang-dong Lee (Pine House)

8) Free Solo, dir. Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (National Geographic)

9) Blackkklansman, dir. Spike Lee (40 Acres and a Mule)

10) 24 Frames, dir. Abbas Kiarostami (CG Cinema)

Still from “Lean on Pete.”

11)  Hereditary, dir. Ari Aster (PalmStar)

12) Filmworker, dir. Tony Sierra (True Studio)

13) Private Life, dir. Tamara Jenkins (Netflix)

14) Lean on Pete, dir. Andrew Haigh (A24)

15) Hold the Dark, dir. Jeremy Saulnier (Netflix)

Still from “Happy as Lazzaro.”

16) King in the Wilderness, dir. Peter Kunhardt (HBO)

17) Happy as Lazzaro, dir. Alice Rorhwacher (Opus Films)

18) You Were Never Really Here, dir. Lynne Ramsay (Amazon)

19) Shoplifters, dir. Hirokazu Koreeda (Fuji)

20) Minding the Gap, dir. Bing Liu (POV)

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3