The Best Little-Known Movies of 2018

February 18, 2019

You’ve probably already started seeing them everywhere. Lists like this one have become an integral part of the festivities. I know people who are more excited about the end of year Spotify list than actual Christmas.

But the movie ones get boring pretty quickly. Yes, we’ve all seen A Star is Born, couldn’t The New York Times, Vulture, The New Yorker, and whoever just issue a joint statement or something? Instead, big media is repetitive, and yes, I said it, boring.

(Seriously though, if you haven’t seen A Star is Born yet, go watch it, it’s freaking amazing).

What was I saying? Ah yes, instead of sending more people to watch Black Panther (who hasn’t seen Black Panther at this point?), there are movies that have been left out of the public eye – and undeservingly so.

I hope this list will help balance things a little bit, and that it would be a reference for some of you to catch-up on the amazing gems 2018 has given us. Yes, that, and don’t forget to watch A Star is Born.

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9

This is quite the movie. It’s based on the true story of Brady Jandereau, an ex-rodeo star who suffered from an injury that took him away from riding horses. This is the best part, in the movie, he actually plays himself. His friends in the movie are his real-life friends. And the horse taming scenes are real wild horses being trained (by him). The line between reality and the filmmaking process is so thin here. An absolutely mesmerizing movie, directed by Chinese filmmaker Chloe Zhao. The Rider. Don’t miss it. *

8

Leave No Trace is the amazing new movie from the director of Winter’s Bone, Debra Granik. It’s the story of a father and his daughter who live completely off the grid in a national park in Portland, and their quiet quest to not be separated and remain off the grid. It’s not the sensational, tear-jerker story that you’d expect something with this premise to be. Rather, and like Winter’s Bone, it chooses a humane and realistic approach to the subject matter. The decision to live outside society is almost irrelevant to this movie. More so, its inevitability for certain people with certain mindsets is what is interesting. A stunningly quiet movie, really well-acted too.

7

This film really satisfied my craving for an original thriller, despite the fact that I spent most of it thinking about how Logan Marshall-Green looks like a budget Tom Hardy.

He plays a guy whose wife is killed during a violent mugging that also leaves him paralyzed in the aftermath. When a billionaire approaches him with an Artificial Intelligence solution that would “upgrade” his body, he has a chance to take vengeance.

This is Robocop meets Ex Machina meets Blade Runner. It’s original, low-budget without feeling low-budget, and honestly just so thrilling. It gives the genre of sci-fi a much needed upgrade.

6

This is an amazing documentary but be warned, the main character has some weird characteristics.

By coincidence, an art collector stumbles upon an undiscovered collection of sculptures and paintings that can only be described as the work of a genius. There was almost no reference to the artist, but upon research the collector finds that they are by a man called Stanislav Szukalski. He traces him down and finally locates him living anonymously in a California suburb. 

The documentary, Struggle: The Life And Lost Art Of Szukalski, is a collection of tapes from numerous interviews in the 1980s between the collector and Szukalski. He was helped by George DiCaprio, who would later produce this movie with his son Leonardo (!). 

In these interviews it becomes clear that Szukalski is pure genius. The funny thing is that he seemed to be well aware of this fact himself. 

Remember the weird characteristics I mentioned in that first sentence? Here we go. Szukalski’s past is full of a lot of antisemitism, sexism and bigotry. 

The question that lingers is how exactly can this forgotten-genius story be reshaped by the discovery of his twisted opinions. Can the artist be separated from the art? It’s a personal matter for the people who found Szukalski and later made this movie. It might never get as personal for you, but this movie will sure try to provoke an answer.

5

When asked about starring in First Reformed, Ethan Hawke said it’s the kind of role he would have never dared to audition for 10 years ago. This is coming from the same goatee icon who did Gattaca 22 years ago, and Training Day 18 years ago. 

Needless to say that his performance in this movie is exceptional, and we hope that it will be rewarded with an Oscar. The film centers around his character, a reverend of a church in New York, who is trying to help a couple with marital issues (deciding the fate of a pregnancy). Instead, he uncovers a deeper story and becomes unexpectedly involved. 

Religion intersects with ethical questions on activism, abortion, and environmental issues. I know that sounds like a lot, but First Reformed delivers on everything. The writing by Paul Schrader is delicate yet ensures that the movie keeps a gripping pace.

4

This movie opens with a guy called Tarzan, saying in a Russian accent: “I called my friend Michel, and I said can I buy a submarine, a used one?” Two days later he calls me back “with, or without missiles?”

Operation Odessa is the crazy true story of how the FBI, Pablo Escobar, and the Russian Mafia were played by three outsiders in a $35 Million submarine deal. The deal itself is only the culmination of the movie, as it involves crazy stories such as going to post-Soviet Russia, borrowing helicopters for $500 a day and landing the helicopter in the center of a city to ask for directions. A crazy, fun, and really well-made movie.

3

An intimate look into the rich yet short life of Alexander McQueen, the British fashion icon. I didn’t know much about him prior to watching that movie, and that didn’t matter. His story of a tormented genius transcends fame and even time. In art and in fashion, McQueen’s journey was celebrated by everyone but him.

This is the type of movie where after you watch it, you need a good hour of Wikipedia searches and Youtube interview viewing. It’s powerful and will introduce you to an entire world that is the impact of Alexandre McQueen when he lived.

2

Before you press play on this movie, I highly recommend you take deep, deep breaths. The suspense in it grows in such an incremental way that you will be out of breath before you know what happened. And it doesn’t use anything other than amazing acting and an amazing story to achieve all of this. One man, in the equivalent of a 911 police center in Denmark, and a room. That’s it. He receives a call that turns his night around and puts him in front of very important questions on his ethics and how far he can go to help the people that call him. This movie feels like it was made on a $100 million budget, but the reality was very far from that. It doesn’t even believe in budgets. Grab someone next to you and go watch it so that you can discuss it after.

2018
1

Alfonso Cuaron is a master storyteller, Academy Award-winning director, and the man behind masterpieces such as Y Tu Mamá También, Gravity, Children of Men, and perhaps more importantly, the (uncontested) best Harry Potter movie (Prisoner of Azkaban, of course). In Roma, he tells a different story. His own.

Building on events from his childhood, he tells the story of a young domestic worker in the Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood. You get tales of class struggle, family dynamics and sexism in 1970s Mexico City.

The first hour is slow but so beautiful. All it does is prepare you for the events to come, and those who stick it out will be handsomely awarded. 

This is a stunning, wise and deeply personal movie. It’s everything we should ever ask from filmmakers at their prime.

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