5. Ben Is Back
Ben Is Back provides another example of a film that brings to light a critical issue, this time in the form of opioid addiction. In the span of 24 hours, Ben Is Back tells the story of one boy’s experience with drugs that could easily apply to so many Americans dealing with addiction. While keeping the story specific to one family, the film also educates and resonates in its coverage of causes of addiction, family responses, differing opinions around harm reduction, governmental policy, and moral reckoning with addiction and the immoral behaviors to which it leads. Though painful to watch, Ben Is Back tells its story with an incredible amount of heart, and for that that pain is worth it.
4. Alex Strangelove
Alex Strangelove combines some of the best elements of high school movies with a creative and brilliantly executed coming out story. Set in today’s world of increased LGBTQ visibility, particularly for young people, Alex Strangelove shows what it looks like to define one’s own sexuality with the help of a supportive community and readily available information about sexuality. I believe that this movie is going to significantly impact young people simply by telling a story that needs to be heard- and it’s also funny, relatable, and incredibly sweet.
3. Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians provided one of the most noteworthy box office stories of the year. First propositioned by Netflix, the film’s creators refused to release the film via streaming services and instead chose a late summer box office debut. As a result, the first all-Asian cast in 25 years achieved immense box office success, leading to predictions of the return of the rom-com as well as greater opportunity for American movies that feature characters of color. Crazy Rich Asians deserved this success: along with a lot of humor and glamour, the film delivers main characters that are likeable and strong, and it explores real issues of family approval in multi-cultural relationships. It’s a fun ride and a meaningful one, whether or not the viewer’s life looks like what’s onscreen.
2. Black Panther
Black Panther reminded us that superhero films in 2018 can be about so much more than beating the bad guy. The film visually stuns with its setting in Wakanda, an imagination of what Africa could be without colonialism. Technology is cutting edge, culture is vibrant, and the country’s success begs the question of whether it’s best to provide foreign aid or protect itself in isolation. The almost entirely black cast marks an enormous success for diversity of racial representation onscreen and the film’s characters offer differing opinions on what it means to protect and support other black people. An exciting superhero movie rests atop critical social commentary, fantastic world-building, and marvelous acting.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody
You don’t have to love Queen to appreciate Bohemian Rhapsody. Centering mainly on Freddie Mercury, the film tells a rise and fall story of the band Queen. Whether viewers are into the band, music in general, or American popular culture, the film provides fascinating insight into the inspiration for and development of many of the band’s hits. As someone born after the band’s heyday, it’s amazing to see the inception of something that I cannot imagine the world without. Beyond the cultural importance, though, the film offers an underdog story of a man who is proudly and beautifully unique, and who has an immense capacity for love that gives new life to the tunes that we’ve all heard so many times.
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