Brady Jandreau in a scene from "The Rider." (Sony Pictures Classics) (AP/AP)
Express Senior Arts Writer

1. “The Rider”

Oh, good. A story about a rodeo rider from a director I’ve never heard of. This should be JUST GREAT. And you know what? It turned out to be much, much more than just great. Brady Jandreau, an actual cowboy (as in, not an actor), stars in a story loosely based on his life, in which his character has to decide whether to return to the sport he loves after a near-fatal accident. Chloe Zhao, who wrote and directed, created an intensely quiet, stunningly beautiful examination of American masculinity. I have remembered how this movie made me feel through the entire year. No movie lover can ask for anything more than that.

2. “Roma”

3. "First Man’"

4. “Annihilation”


This image released by Disney shows a scene from Marvel Studios' "Black Panther." After a down year in 2017, the box office has been back in a big way, and headed toward a record, thanks to the massive successes of films like Disney's "Black Panther," ''Avengers: Infinity War" and "Incredibles 2." (Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios-Disney via AP)

5. “Black Panther”

Full disclosure: I knew “Black Panther” was going to be good, because Ryan Coogler doesn’t make bad movies. I just didn’t expect it to be as phenomenal as it was. “Black Panther” isn’t only one of the best superhero movies of all time, but it succeeds on every cinematic level. No other movie this year created a world with the visual depth of Wakanda; no other superhero movie, Marvel or not, has presented such nuanced and complicated characters. Sure, Ryan Coogler doesn’t make bad movies. Ryan Coogler makes great movies.


Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius Green and Danny Glover as Langston star in "Sorry to Bother You." (Peter Prato / Annapurna Pictures)

6. “Sorry to Bother You”

Two surprises in one! In this biting satire, a black man finds wild success as a telemarketer for a not-so-vaguely sinister company in the not-too-far-off future after he begins using his “white voice.” It’s a great, clever conceit. Then comes the movie’s second act, in which the stakes get raised and the story goes absolutely bonkers in the best way. “Sorry to Bother You” will make you laugh and punch you in the stomach — often at the same time. There’s never been anything like this movie, and I doubt there will be again.

7. “The Favourite”

8. “Widows”


This image released by Sony Pictures Animation shows characters, from left, Peni, voiced by Kimiko Glen, Spider-Gwen, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld, Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney, Miles Morales, voiced by Shameik Moore, Peter Parker, voiced by Jake Johnson, Spider-Man Noir, voiced by Nicolas Cage in a scene from "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (Sony Pictures Animation via AP)

9. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

When I first saw the trailer for this animated film, I assumed it was going straight to video because did theaters really need ANOTHER Spider-Man movie? (No.) Then, 20 minutes into the movie, I realized I was looking at something groundbreaking. Newbie webslinger Miles Morales must work with five other Spider-People (all drawn in their signature styles) to save the world. The visual innovation is backed by a clever, emotional story about how we all can be heroes — and why it’s important that we are.


Elsie Fisher in a scene from "Eighth Grade." (Linda Kallerus/A24 via AP)

10. “Eighth Grade”

In “Eighth Grade” there is no quest; it’s just Kayla (Elsie Fisher, who in a weaker year for actresses would be getting serious Oscar buzz) attempting to survive her last week of middle school. The expected awkwardness abounds — and is heightened by the ubiquitous presence of social media — but what’s surprising is the amount of empathy writer-director Bo Burnham builds not only for the sometimes-obnoxious Kayla, but for those of us who know we were awful in middle school. It’s rare that identifying with a character makes you more forgiving of yourself.