The Best Little-Known Movies of 2018

UPDATED June 13, 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.

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.

User rating: 80/100. Staff rating: 88/100.

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.

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 89/100.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is not only the best rom-com on Netflix, it’s one of the best rom-coms in recent memory, period. It has all the originality and freshness of Juno, the inclusiveness and relevancy of The Big Sick, and the sweetness of all your favourite 2000s romantic comedies. Lara Jean is a high-schooler who’s never been in a relationship and who, instead of communicating her feelings to her crushes, writes them letters that never get sent. Her world is turned upside down when those letters do end up in the hands of their recipients. Her first relationship, however peculiar, comes out of the incident. The acting is top notch, the characters are lovable and well-written. Just go watch it, OK? It’s a true triumph and an innocent-fun movie, there is no scenario in which you will be disappointed.

User rating: 80/100. Staff rating: 90/100.
6.

McQueen

2018

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.

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 90/100.

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.

User rating: 60/100. Staff rating: 90/100.
4.

ROMA

2018

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.

User rating: 72/100. Staff rating: 90/100.

Capernaum is both the highest-grossing Middle-Eastern movie of all-time and the highest-grossing movie in Arabic of all-time.

This Oscar-nominated masterpiece is about a 12-year-old kid in Lebanon who leaves his negligent parents and tries to make it in the streets on his own. It’s a tale of grinding poverty as experienced by a boy with a good heart and more resilience than one can fathom.

An acting tour de force by the child actors keeps the movie engaging throughout the grittiness and asks some hard questions about parental failures and parental love with the bigger regional political questions hovering silently in the background. Tough but ultimately uplifting – a movie to discuss.

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 90/100.

Shoplifters is the Winner of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival from Japan. It’s about a poor family made of small-time outlaws who live from shoplifting amongst other petty crimes. They take in a new girl they find outside in the cold and introduce her to their otherwise happy family. But when the second-youngest member of the family finds himself teaching her how to shoplift, he faces a moral dilemma that threatens the fabric of the family.

From renown director Hirokazu Koreeda, and if you don’t know who that is – I really recommend checking out his other movies. Namely, Still Walking, Like Father, Like Son and After the Storm.

Koreeda is often referred to as the best Japenese filmmaker alive, and Shoplifters is solid proof that he deserves that title. Its affecting story and slow-burning nature are sure to stay with you for a long time.

User rating: 0/100. Staff rating: 91/100.
1.

Cold War

2018

Cinematography is a big part of Cold War, the story moves through stunning shots of the Polish countryside and later on an incredibly delicate portrait of Paris. All of that would be a waste if you watch it on an iPhone, so I really recommend watching this on as big of a screen as you can get your hands on.

In 1950s Cold War Poland, a band of folk musicians find themselves used as a tool for Soviet propaganda. Their travel through the country is hijacked by this agenda, but it remains an incredible journey. It goes through different seasons and aesthetics uncovering lost Polish songs and poems.

The leader of the band falls in love with one of the dancers, and the limits imposed on the couple under communist rule make them seek alternatives. Cold War is a statement on how far artists go for their art, especially when they become constrained not only by politics but by romance.

It’s a poetic yet quiet movie that doesn’t scream its point but rather invites you to come to your own conclusions.

User rating: 100/100. Staff rating: 92/100.