2018 is shaping up to feature a bumper crop of films, capable of winning over the hearts of audiences and critics alike, using craftsmanship and artistry along with the usual loads of action and spectacle.
From quirky historical comedies to unexpectedly brilliant animated offerings, these are the very best films 2018 has to offer so far.
Young actress Anya Taylor-Joy has been busy carving out a niche for herself as a modern-dayscream queen, earning starring roles in critically acclaimed fright flicks The Witch and Splitin just the last few years.
So, it’s no surprise first-time writer-director Cory Finley recruited her for his debut black comedy-thriller Thoroughbreds. And with the help of his clockwork script and understated, tension-generating direction, he was able to score a winner on his first outing.
The plot follows a pair of reuniting friends as they scheme to assassinate one’s stepfather, and critics were impressed with Finley’s ability to bring a classical feel to the film, which had a nice balance of darkness and humor about it. After Thoroughbreds, it’s clear auteur Cory Finley will be one to watch.
Writer-director Alex Garland has made a name for himself with dark, cerebral sci-fi thrillers that aim for a realm beyond simple entertainment.
After penning the screenplays for such well-received flicks as 28 Days Later and Dredd, he made his directorial debut in 2015 with Ex Machina, which earned him his first Academy Award nomination and a whole lot of interest in what would come next.
His sophomore feature Annihilation proved that the buzz surrounding his first outing was not a fluke. Adapted from Jeff Vander Meer’s 2014 novel, the mind-blowing, genre-subverting story makes good use of Garland’s talent for atmosphere not to mention its roundly excellent cast.
Headed up by Natalie Portman and featuring Tessa Thompson, Oscar Isaac, and JenniferJason Leigh, Annihilation follows a team of scientists who dare to explore the Shimmer, an anomalous area in which the very concept of reality doesn’t seem to apply.
The film received massive praise for its stunning visuals and sweeping metaphors, and it was celebrated for being a film that challenged expectations that left viewers perplexed and still massively entertained.
Isle of Dogs
Animated films don’t get much quirkier than Isle of Dogs, a stop-motion feature from the King of Cinematic Quirk, Wes Anderson. The film follows a young Japanese boy in a near-future dystopia on the hunt for his dog, who – along with all other dogs has been quarantined on an island after an outbreak of disease.
The film features voice performances by Bryan Cranston, Ed Norton, Frances McDormand, HarveyKeitel, Tilda Swinton, and Yoko Ono, to name just a few. Apart from a few stray dissenters, reviewers were generally won over by the phenomenal work of the cast and by the film’s meticulous artistry.
Even if Anderson’s works aren’t necessarily your cup of tea, Isle of Dogs is a must-watch- if for no other reason than to witness Bryan Cranston channeling Walter White in dog form.
Whether or not it was any good, Love, Simon was destined to be important, since it was the first major studio Hollywood film to focus on a gay teen romance.
Fortunately, director Greg Berlanti delivered a film that’s notable for more than just thatreason. it’s also a funny, disarmingly sweet rom-com that had audiences bawling and laughing out loud.
Working from a 2015 YA novel, the script is populated with strongly drawn characters, and actor Nick Robinson earns praise for his leading role among a cast that includes JenniferGarner, Josh Duhamel, and Alexandra Shipp.
The film has been noted for its modern soundtrack, diverse cast, and uplifting, feel-good storyline.
This 90-year-old World War I story about British officers pinned down in a dugout over several days has been brought to the screen many times over.
But while Journey’s End might not seem like the kind of movie that might interest modern audiences, director Saul Dibb and screenwriter Simon Reade, along with an amazing cast, have crafted it into a meditation on war and death that feels surprisingly timely.
As a Butterfield stars as Raleigh, a young officer under the command of Sam Claflin’salcoholic and unstable Captain Stanhope, as the soldier grapples with what it means to follow orders under the specter of near-certain doom.
Claflin’s performance was widely praised, as was that of Paul Bettany as a mild-mannered officer who exhibits grace under pressure. The film’s period production design was also deemed excellent, as was Dibb’s command of mood and atmosphere.
It might be a movie we’ve seen plenty of before, but Journey’s End is still as riveting today as it was in its original incarnation.
The Death of Stalin
Scottish writer-director Armando Iannucci is perhaps best-known stateside for his workon the HBO series Veep, and he’s taken that penchant for political satire to a whole new realm with The Death of Stalin.
This adaptation of a French graphic novel provides an inside look at the chaos, humor, and horror surrounding the demise of the Russian dictator.
It may seem an unlikely subject for a farce but the pitch-black comedy has been garnering the kind of eye-popping reviews normally reserved for prestige pictures, with some reviewers labeling it a masterpiece.
Featuring a stellar international cast which includes Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev and Michael Palin as the title tyrant, the ambitious film hit the sweet spot with critics who praised it for being surprisingly timely and whip-smart.
A Quiet Place
John Krasinski might be best known for his comedic timing in The Office, but he’s proven himself to be much more than just quick-witted, thanks to his directorial debut of the unnerving original horror film A Quiet Place.
Directing from a screenplay by the writing team of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, Krasinskistars along side his real-life wife Emily Blunt in the tale of a family plagued by mysterious creatures which hunt using sound, forcing their family into a tense and silent existence.
The film has been widely praised for its daring conceptual framework and the cast’s creative and strong performances. Most importantly, the film is searingly bleak and maddeningly scary, so even beyond it spure ambition, the movie is a treat for horror junkies of all stripes.
After ten years of blockbuster features, it’s no surprise that Marvel Studios is still churning out quality superhero movies, but Black Panther took things to a new level altogether.
Director Ryan Coogler joined forces with writing partner Joe Robert Cole to create a story that, with star Chadwick Boseman in the lead, managed to surpass even the highest creative expectations and stunned even the most optimistic box office watchers with its massive ticket sales.
The film has been heralded for its importance to black audiences in offering a representative hero and celebrating African culture, and on top of that, the story structure was astonishingly good.
Black Panther explores themes of alienation and loss more effectively than a comic book film has any right to – particularly by way of Michael B. Jordan’s conflicted villain Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, who has been cited as the MCU’s best villain ever thanks largelyto Jordan’s towering performance.
Based on the beloved children’s character, the first Paddington film was a surprise critical darling and a moderate hit at the box office.
Its success made a follow-up inevitable, but Paddington 2 does not suffer the sequel slump- thus far, the film has not earned a single negative review, which gives it the rare distinctionof a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Some reviewers couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that the film out did even its for midable predecessor. With the talented Ben Whishaw reprising the title role alongside an appropriately British cast that includes Hugh Grant in many, many disguise.
Paddington 2 ramps up the whimsy, adventure, and earnestness of the original and with comparable box office returns,a third installment is all but assured.
Avengers: Infinity War
Even the eye-popping box office success of Black Panther was only a warm up act for Avengers:Infinity War, which has shattered as many box office records as it did hearts.
As the first part of the culmination of Marvel’s three phase mega-arc, the powerful Infinity Stones are collected by the Mad Titan Thanos with the goal of eradicating half of all life in the universe.
Infinity War brought together nearly every important character introduced in the MCU thus far and fans responded by putting up the kind of box office numbers which made it one of the top worldwide hits of all time.
While the movie didn’t earn the wide spread critical adoration enjoyed by Black Panther. Positive reviews recognized it as a singularly Herculean feat of storytelling, one which takes time to deliver meaningful arcs for characters we’ve come to know and love overthe years – and, notably, for its villain.
Josh Brolin’s motion-capture performance as Thanos moved some critics to declare the Mad Titan the MCU’s best villain ever, and especially given the film’s amazingly dark cliffhangerending the only one to ever pose a true threat to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Said ending was a sticking point for some reviewers, who dubbed it a half-movie, butperhaps their tune will change when the as-yet untitled Avengers 4 debuts in May of next year.
Jason Reitman is a man who knows his way around thoughtful, engaging comedy. The director of hits such as Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air returned in 2018 with Tully, which reunited him with screen writer Diablo Cody.
With her famously quippy dialogue, the story centers on Charlize Theron’s over burdened mother figure, who forms an unexpected bond with her unusual nanny, played by Mackenzie Davis.
While even positive reviews were quick to point out the screenplay’s contrivances, criticswere uniformly won over by another outstanding performance from Theron, whose comedic chopsand chemistry with Davis carried the film.
Even negative reviews had to give the actress credit for her passion and skill, and mostreviewers agreed that Tully was a welcome return for the dream team of Cody and Reitman.
While the film may not have burned up the box office, it seems like a candidate fora strong second life once released to video.
Fans of Ryan Reynolds’ Merc With a Mouth eagerly awaited the sequel to 2016’s ridiculously huge, comparatively low-budget R-rated hit Deadpool and Reynolds, along with incoming director David Leitch didn’t disappoint.
Those who were even vaguely familiar with the original knew what they could expect interms of insane action and over-the-top vulgarity, particularly with the introduction of the time traveling cyborg Cable.
But many of them weren’t ready for the surprising amount of character building and emotion brought along this time around.
Zazie Beetz and Josh Brolin both arrived as immediate fan favorites, and Deadpool’s assembly of the mutant superhero team X-Force is said to give the new series a stronger foot holdin franchise land and an emotional payoff that surpasses its predecessor.
It’s the rare sequel that lives up to, let alone surpasses the original, but some criticsare calling Deadpool 2 a cut above the phenomenal first run.