Note from the editor: Salt Lake Film Review contributor Matt Bullions took a slightly different approach in his ratings for last year’s best films. Instead of a standard top ten, he lists fifteen movies that he believes rose above the rest.
1. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant give two of the year’s best performances in a film about two lost souls that connect and what truly makes an artist. Brilliantly directed and written, all aspects of this production are miraculously on the same level as the performers.
2. Love, Simon
A sweet, very well-acted and sneakily subversive John Hughesian tearjerker rom-com from the perspective of a gay teen. Something that’s been done a hundred times, executed in a way that makes you feel like you’re seeing something you’ve never seen before.
Canned theatre about young, wealthy female sociopaths. A clever script and committed performances by up-and-comers Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy. A biting character study with a thoughtful and clever twist.
4. A Star is Born
This is a story that lives or dies based on the chemistry of its two leads and how they play off each other, and Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are absolutely electric. It’s big and grand but rejects the Hollywood razzle-dazzle for something more gritty, raw and honest.
5. Anna and the Apocalypse
An absolutely brilliant comedy horror zombie musical/coming of age film/Christmas movie. What a time to be alive, indeed. It’s scrappy, energetic, bonkers, brilliant, and a complete joy to behold.
6. The Favourite
Looks like a stuffy period drama, but is really this mean, off-kilter, anachronistic thing that’s meant to amuse you and deeply unnerve you. It does both with success. Paired with three excellent, award-worthy turns by its central actresses.
Toni Collette giving the performance of her career in a slow-burn prestige horror film. Less about the jump scare, and more about the menacing tone and tension. Dark, forbidding and ultimately shocking.
Earns a spot on this list simply because of how groundbreaking and effective it is. This is a missing-person thriller told in a way that hasn’t been done before, to this extent. It’s an innovative, well-acted nail-biter.
Ambitious, atmospheric, perfectly acted, masterfully shot and edited. It’s at once mesmerizing and dreamlike and then snaps you into a world of devastating horror.
10. A Simple Favor
The most fun I had at the movies this year. Thematically, the film sits comfortably between bizarre psychothriller, biting suburban satire, and an earnest story about the complexities of female friendship.
11. Ben is Back
One of the most powerful dramas I’ve seen this year, and one of the best Julia Roberts performances of her career. An emotionally tense drama about he lies we tell ourselves to cope with trauma in life.
12. Eighth Grade
A teen coming-of-age movie that escapes many of the tropes so often associated with them. This is really a film about anxiety, and what it does to the brain. It does everything in such an understated, nuanced way, and newcomer Elsie Fisher is a star.
13. American Animals
A nuanced, clever heist drama that feels like half a documentary. About a group of young, entitled kids who get in over their heads. Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, and Evan Peters, particularly, are giving stellar performances.
14. Mary Poppins Returns
Grand, sweeping, full of spectacle and totally charming. While Disney has found financial success in remaking old classics, none of them find the old-fashioned golden era Disney magic as successfully as this does.
15. Hearts Beat Loud
Indie Sundance-y dramedy with committed performances and an undeniably authentic vibe. Nick Offerman shines in an all-too-rare lead role. I downloaded the soundtrack when the end credits were still rolling.