The Silver Screen Savers: The Films That Made Us All Feel Seen And Heard In 2018

From "Black Panther" to "A Wrinkle in Time," and everything in between.

Read about all of A Plus' 2018 Game Changers of the Year here.

Looking back at the entirety of 2018 in regards to the entertainment industry, one idea stands out among all other trends: diversity. Not just diversity, though, but proving that diversity isn't only good for people to see but that it pays off at the box office — meaning that it both gives people what they want and is a good business decision for the future, too.

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That's why we've decided to honor a group of people we are calling the Silver Screen Savers. The means that the movies they have made — and the success of those projects — has left a lasting impact on the film industry and, by honoring them, hope that more doors can be opened for others in Hollywood. Three of these directors we are celebrating are Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, and A Wrinkle in Time director Ava DuVernay.

We explore these three people and their three brilliant films below, adding in a few other movies that broke the mold in some way during the past year. There are wins for women, wins for people with disabilities, wins for the LGBTQ community, wins for people of various ethnic backgrounds, and wins for actors and actresses of all ages. Here are the 11 big screen gems worth celebrating from 2018 and why they're important:

"Black Panther"

No film can come close to being as impactful as Ryan Coogler's Black Panther in 2018. It follows T'Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, the new king of Wakanda and the latest iteration of the claw-clad hero, who finds his reign challenged by someone surprisingly close to him. As of now it's the No. 1 top-grossing film of the year in the U.S. (making more than $700 million here) and is second only to Avengers: Infinity War in the worldwide box office rankings for the year (making nearly $1.35 billion across the globe). It inspired one man to raise a ton of money so kids everywhere would be able to see it and was a true moment of seeing just how much representation matters. It wasn't the first time we've seen a Black superhero embraced in pop culture, but it certainly meant a lot to many people. It got fans signing up to vote, proposing at screenings, and even snapping their retainers. It made a star out of leading man Boseman and even got one cast member opening up about coming to terms with their African name. It was a celebration of all things Black and left a pawprint on the year truly like no other piece of cinema. Better yet? There's actual Oscar buzz around it even though it came out in early 2018.

"Book Club"

Featuring a cast of actresses between the ages of 65 and 80, Book Club proved that age is just a number when it comes to leading ladies. The Bill Holderman-directed rom-com featured a cast of legends — including Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen — and not only depicts women of a certain age but allows them to be sexual beings who can be just as kinky as the characters in Fifty Shades of Grey (the novel that spurs this book club's romp-filled adventures). Book Club took in nearly $90 million in comparison to its $10 million budget, which is certainly nothing to scoff at.

"Crazy Rich Asians"

After Black Panther, no other film had a bigger splash this year than Jon M. Chu's Crazy Rich Asians. Based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, it provided a monumental moment of representation for Asian Americans by it being the first major Hollywood studio film with a modern-day story centered around an Asian-American lead. Crazy Rich Asians — which featured an incredible ensemble — meant a lot to many people and inspired Twitter threads from journalists, celebrities of Asian descent such as Mindy Kaling, and even its own cast. On a budget of $30 million, this rom-com has certainly made its money back by earning nearly $175 million (as of this writing). Like Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians was a win for diversity not only on the screen but at the box office as well.

“Halloween”

If there's a movie that subversively tackles the #MeToo and Time's Up era we live in, that film would be Halloween. The direct sequel to the 1978 slasher classic of the same name from John Carpenter follows Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) a full 40 years after that fateful night she came face to face with Michael Myers. It's a moment for her to confront the trauma directly and take charge of a tragic thing that happened to her. Not only that but when Halloween smashed box office records its opening weekend, Curtis called out a few of its achievements: it is the biggest horror film opening with a female lead and is the biggest movie opening with a female lead over 55. So far, as of this article's publishing, David Gordon Green's Halloween has made nearly $160 million on a $10 million budget.

“The Hate U Give”

With social issues such as Black Lives Matter and the Colin Kaepernick-started NFL protests dominating headlines in recent years, it seems like The Hate U Give has perhaps the most cultural relevancy of any movie on this list. The George Tillman Jr.-directed film is based on the YA novel of the same name by Angie Thomas and follows a high school student (Amandla Stenberg), who witnesses a police shooting and the aftermath that follows in the teen's community. A lot of times people think of these hard conversations as ones that adults should be having when, in reality, it's important that we include children as well. The Hate U Give does just that.

“Love, Simon”

Even before Love, Simon hit theaters there was a huge amount of excitement from fans online. The coming out movie is based on the novel of the same name by YA author Becky Albertalli and provided a moving moment of LGBTQ inclusion in film. Directed by Greg Berlanti, Love, Simon has some important historical significance: it's the first major Hollywood studio film to focus on gay teenage romance. Some asked if we still need gay rom-coms like this and — at least according to this writer — that answer was proven to be (and always will be) a resounding YES. Plus, it made us fall more and more in love with Jennifer Garner because of that scene.

“Ocean’s 8”

For those who loved the Ocean's franchise but wanted a little more girl power, Ocean's 8 was exactly what we needed. It featured an all-star cast — Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, and Awkwafina — and, like another movie on the list, taking a genre usually dominated by men and putting women, diverse ones at that, in the driver's seat. The Gary Ross-directed popcorn flick earned nearly $300 million worldwide and gave us a Met Gala (albeit a fictional one) that we oh so deserve. Will there be an Ocean's 9, though? That remains to be seen.

“A Quiet Place”

Another horror hit for the year, John Krasinski's directorial debut A Quiet Place was a monstrous win, earning more than $340 million worldwide on a $17 million budget. It is praised for utilizing sound — much as the title suggests — in a totally unique way. A big part of that was the way it included a deaf actress, Millicent Simmonds, whom the former The Office star fought to cast. By bringing in Simmonds, a teen girl with a disability, and using that disability as a way to further the storytelling, not limit it. When we talk about diversity — in film or otherwise — we often fail to mention disabilities, so A Quiet Place brought that to the forefront. Krasinski and wife Emily Blunt shine in the movie, but it's their young co-star who truly got everyone talking.

“Searching”

Within the same month we got Crazy Rich Asians, Searching debuted and gave us another breakthrough moment for Asian-Americans in film. It is a thriller directed by Indian-American director Aneesh Chaganty starring John Cho — making him the first Asian-American actor to front a mainstream thriller. That's not the only reason why Searching is worth watching. It also told its edge-of-your-seat story almost entirely via technology, such as smartphones and computer screens, to amp up the story of a father's desperate attempt to find his missing daughter. It paid off and was a win for indie filmmaking, raking in more than $70 million worldwide on a $1 million budget. 

“Widows”

From director Steve McQueen, Widows flips the heist genre on its head — much like Ocean's 8 did — by depicting a group of women who attempt to pull one off to settle a score with a crime boss after their husbands are killed during a job. This one, however, puts a woman of color in the lead by catapulting Viola Davis into the spotlight as leading lady, and adding a diverse crew consisting of Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo — thereby differentiating itself from its source material, a British TV series of the same name from the mid-80s. There's a lot of Oscar buzz around this one, for Davis, specifically, so we'll see how Academy voters embrace this one (or not).

“A Wrinkle in Time”

Ava DuVernay's take on Madeleine L'Engle's classic novel, A Wrinkle in Time made history because it was the first time a woman of color directed a live-action film with a budget of more than $100 million — with DuVernay joining a small club that includes White female directors Kathryn Bigelow and Patty Jenkins. It was a major win for diversity onscreen, featuring female characters of various backgrounds with Reese Witherspoon, Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey, and Storm Reid as our young heroine, inspiring one fan to make sure other other young women interested in STEM careers were able to witness the spectacle on the big screen. As it is the only movie on this list that was directed by a woman, though, it further drives home the fact that we need to see studios trust in what female directors can do and give them the worldwide platforms where they can shine.

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