It’s crazy to believe that this is the fifth year I’ve talked about my favorite movies of the year. While my picks in the past have been vastly different from each other, the movies that stuck out to me in 2018 were eerily similar in certain aspects. They come from the same two years, three of them can be interpreted as rom-coms, and two of the movies are Netflix originals. A little weird, right?
I read through 2017’s favorite movies post in preparation for this (check out 2014, 2015, and 2016), and back then, I wrote that the year’s favorites weren’t actually personal standouts. Basically, they’re not very likely to make my list of all-time favorite movies, and I still agree with that statement today. I haven’t watched any of those movies since last year, but looking over the list, I understand why they meant so much to me at the time. A favorite movie doesn’t necessarily have to remain a tried and true love affair your whole life. As long as it means something to you at a certain point, it’s worth remembering and valuing.
Last year, I also talked about reading more books than movies. That happened again this year, but for the first time, I watched screeners of movies for work quite frequently. At the time of writing this, the last three movies I’ve seen were all screeners I watched ahead of their actual premiere dates. I always feel delightfully sneaky getting to watch these before most people, but on the other hand, keeping up with TV and movies for work also means I’m less likely to watch a film in my free time.
In the end, I think I’ve become pickier with movies, but I did genuinely adore the ones listed below (as always, these are movies I watched for the first time in 2018, not necessarily ones released this year). Will they become lifelong favorites? I can’t say for sure, but treat yourself and try one of them out if you think they’ll suit you!
1) Moonstruck (1987) – Seen January 13, 2018
As I said in my post about Moonstruck earlier this year, the romance involving Nicolas Cage was the only thing I didn’t get about this movie, but the rest of its world and storyline totally made up for it. Brooklyn widow Loretta casually accepts a slightly loveless marriage proposal from her beau, but when her fiancé sends her to visit his estranged little brother, her feelings for the younger man grow complicated.
Old New York feels very familiar to me because three of my grandparents were born and raised in city boroughs. I’m also from Long Island, where the older generations are packed with people who grew up in Moonstruck‘s generation of Brooklyn. This movie’s characters felt like home to me, and the romance of its cozy Italian restaurants (and admittedly John Mahoney’s slightly sleazy professor) definitely surpassed its romantic relationship. At the end of the day, I’d much rather have tiramisu and an old-school maître d’ at my side than Nicolas Cage.
2) Set It Up (2018) – Seen June 22, 2018
Okay, I get that To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was adorable and kindhearted, but I think Set It Up just mirrored my life’s circumstances at a time when I most needed it. The very John Hughes-ian TATBILB is something that would’ve benefited me in high school when I was in love with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Now as a 23-year-old, it just made me a little sad that I didn’t have a sweet high school romance like that. Meanwhile, Set It Up followed a New York City assistant aspiring toward big editorial dreams, and while the main plot detailed her and another assistant’s scheme to set up their bosses with each other, her struggle in understanding her worth as a writer was so relevant to me.
Set It Up was also a New York story exploring sides of the city not often seen in film. It shows Yankee Stadium, the High Line, and millennial takes on rooftop parties. Did I mention that it also somehow made pizza look like the sexiest thing ever? When it comes to Netflix romantic comedies, this movie is just the one to beat for me.
Also, as a fun side note: Set It Up leading man Glen Powell also appeared in one of last year’s most beloved films, Hidden Figures. He was briefly a contestant on one of my favorite childhood shows, and I just love that he’s a legitimate actor now!
3) Broadcast News (1987) – Seen July 1, 2018
One of my college minors was broadcast journalism, and it was through those classes that I discovered a love for news production. This movie was mentioned in one of our textbooks during my senior year, and I finally got around to watching it this summer. Holly Hunter plays a news producer reaching the prime of her career as her best friend and traditional news junkie colleague Aaron feels threatened by the arrival of Tom, a handsome anchorman who lacks serious news experience.
I love stories about media before the internet. Even though it’s about a time so distant from cable news and Twitter, Broadcast News still manages to feel incredibly relevant today. It also has a touch of old-fashioned romance, and I like to think of it as When Harry Met Sally meets All the President’s Men.
4) Dumplin’ (2018) – Seen December 4, 2018
If you’re looking for something undeniably sweet and gentle, you need to check out Dumplin’ stat. Willowdean is a plus-size teen coping with grief when she’s inspired to join the local beauty pageant her mother runs and protest its picture-perfect world. Equipped with an irresistible Dolly Parton soundtrack, the movie focuses more on understanding each other and accepting yourself than it does on the cattiness of pageantry and teenage girls, which I loved.
Although it’s contemporary, Dumplin’ has a timeless feel to it that’s reminiscent of dozens of other coming-of-age movies. Jennifer Aniston is delightful in her former beauty queen role, while Danielle Macdonald is smart and lovable as the Dolly-loving Willowdean. If handled badly, the story could have turned so toxic and nasty, but I was so touched by this. It also gets bonus points for being a female-directed movie based on a woman’s novel and written for film by another woman.