2018 has been, well, an overwhelming year to say the least. And, unfortunately, for all of us normal people, who view movies as a nice escape, the cinema has been a bit underwhelming. While this isn’t wholly surprising (usually those big time favorites come out in the later months or in prime summer blockbuster season), it is a bit disappointing to lack those huge heavy hitters and clear end-of-year front-runners. But luckily, we still have gotten a solid crop of original stories, big budget sequels, universe defining events, and good-luck-sleeping-tonight horrors. We present to you our top 10 movies of the year…so far.
Following up Ex Machina (my personal favorite movie of 2015) is a tough move. Doing it in a melded (INTELLECTUAL) scifi-horror based on a book that a lot of people thought would be hard to translate is even tougher. Luckily, Alex Garland pulled through yet again. From the start of Annihilation, you know you’re in for something a bit more than your typical alien invasion nonsense. Is it even an invasion? Is it even aliens? Are people just crazy? We get the bits and pieces of backstory without fully understanding this place our lead, Natalie Portman, is headed. Something is always off, from the first time we meet her thought-to-be-dead husband to the moment our squad of characters enter “The Shimmer”. It’s tough to describe this movie without ruining it, and it really deserves to not be ruined. It’s a thrill ride that makes you think, it doesn’t give you all the answers, and it can terrify you. It has the single most frightening thing I’ve seen in forever (no shade at Hereditary), and it’s not what you’d think it would be. That single moment won’t ever be as scary ever again but that doesn’t diminish its effect. It succeeds by riding the momentum and a theme the movie had built throughout: You don’t know what to expect. And there’s nothing more terrifying than that.
The last 20 minutes are a masterclass in filmmaking. Drowning the audience in silence and then engrossing their senses with an eerie score and intriguing, mind-bending visuals, leading to a sequence that deserves a place in the list of best climaxes in the 21st century. You’ll be googling the hell out “Annihilation…what does it mean” once the credits roll, and you won’t want to wait to watch it all again.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
It’s almost unfathomable to think about how much time, effort, and delicate care that went into building to Avengers: Infinity War. When Iron Man released in 2008, I don’t think Marvel had any idea how much success the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” would have over the next ten years. Since its release, we’ve been introduced to countless heroes, villains, and worlds, and it all has been building to this. Bringing together a ridiculous EIGHTEEN MOVIES of world-building, Infinity War had every right to blow it, but the Russo Brothers brought us one of the most polished and fun movie blockbusters of all time.
Infinity War made us empathize with a villain, gave each character time to shine, set up future installments, all while feeling like it had its own story to tell. This should have felt like a stepping stone, a filler movie, a movie you have to sit through before you get to the REAL end-game, but it didn’t. A sharp and witty script, tight pacing, and unbelievable action setpieces all combine to give followers of this universe a fulfilling “beginning-of-the-end”. For the first time in 10 years, we have no idea where the MCU is headed, and it’s a thrilling feeling.
3. A Quiet Place
If you would have told me “Jim from The Office” would star in one of the best horror movies we’ve ever seen, we might have believed you. If you told us he also directed it as well? Nah. John Krasinski proved himself as a very competent director with his innovative work on A Quiet Place. A movie where the characters are unable to talk for 90% of the runtime could very well end up a disaster, but Krasinski’s work had us on the edge of our seats for the full 90 minutes.
The riveting story, the storytelling ‘hook’, and an innovative monster gave both critics and audiences a fresh and much needed piece of horror. The use of sound here (or lack thereof) to build tension has never been used more effectively. The audience in our theater (both during and after the show), seemed afraid to make a sound. Krasinski, alongside real life partner Emily Blunt, obviously didn’t have to work too hard for their on-screen chemistry, but their relationship with the children in the film was very genuine. At its core, this is a movie about family, but it just so happens it’s a terrific horror movie as well.
4. Game Night
Mainstream comedy has been on a bit of a downturn in recent years, but it appears to be hitting an upswing this year, starting with this gem. The through line for a lot of these movies in the top 10 has been exceptional visuals and creative camerawork. A simple idea, a murder mystery wrapped inside a game night of typical middle aged friends, could leave a bit to be desired. But the directors work in movements, shots, and CGI that reflect many different games that we’ve all played in our lives (a personal fave is the GTA-style third person steady shot behind a swerving car). It’s got an entertaining-as-hell cast, with a gut-busting weirdo performance by Jesse Plemons. Not all the jokes land, and a subplot or two might feel pointless, but you’ll still be dying at the parts that work and thrilled at the twists and turns involved. At the very least, it has the funniest and best thought out use of product placement ever.
5. Black Panther
This movie might deserve to be #1 due to Killmonger’s haircut alone (pictured above). In a crowded genre, Marvel took a chance on what ended up being an extremely culturally important film here. Our lead character, T’Challa, didn’t astound viewers in his brief introduction in Captain America: Civil War, which meant this movie could have easily been a flop. Obviously, the lack of lead-in didn’t matter. With an extremely compelling villain, a charismatic cast, and a truly vibrant world, it’s no wonder that Black Panther destroyed the box office. Although we feel like we’ve seen this story before (The Lion King comes to mind), it still managed to keep us entertained throughout.
6. Incredibles 2
As we posted in our full written Incredibles 2 Review, Brad Bird and company pulled off the impossible task of living up to 14 years of hype. The Parr family are rejoining all of us in a very different landscape than when we first met in 2004. “Superhero Fatigue” wasn’t even a term that was coined yet, and the biggest release we had in the genre so far came that year in the Toby Maguire Spider-Man 2. Many years later and some of us are feeling the fatigue and dreading the next Netflix Marvel series we feel obligated to slog through. Enter: Incredibles 2, with a ridiculous visual upgrade, snappy action, and a story that lets the entire Parr family shine. Somehow, Incredibles 2 feels just as fresh as the first, even in a genre overcrowded and bloated with dull genre cash-in’s like Suicide Squad. Mediocre villain aside, this movie should be on the top of your ‘must watch’ list this summer.
Touted as the scariest movie in, well, ever(?), Hereditary was out here ruining audience’s lives since Sundance. It arrived to outstanding critical scores yet poor audience scores, but that’s probably just another case of misleading marketing from A24 (although, this certainly wasn’t as misleading as It Comes At Night). We wouldn’t rank it as the scariest movie, but it certainly registers high in the fucked up department. It contains scenes that might ruin you for quite awhile, and it keeps your palms sweaty from start to finish. A precise eye from the director and incredible use of camerawork bends your mind and expectations in ways that can terrify. It utilizes grief and familial strife and dynamics to placate a wrenching family drama as the heart of everything that happens. If it was just that, it would work just as well. It just so happens there is something sinister going on too. It isn’t as scary as put forth, but it is one of the most terrifying and disturbing films we’ve ever seen. You’ll have trouble sleeping for a bit.
8. Love, Simon
Honestly, we we’re ready to hate this film just because the lead, Nick Robinson (Simon), was such a little prick in Jurassic World*. Upon viewing, however, we were treated to a very relatable (in a sense) high school dramedy. While we didn’t go through any of the direct conflict’s that Simon did, everyone had their share of secrets in high school. I dare say each member of the supporting cast was stripped straight out of our friend group during those awkward teenage years. While we’re too old to have been swept up in the drama of social media in those days, Love, Simon proved to be an extremely relatable watch, with a ton of heart, and serves as a refreshing and important entry into the fun-high-school-romcoms catalogue.
*Editor’s Note: Ahem, not “we”. Nick Robinson was golden in Kings of Summer. He has always had a pass for that unfortunate JW role.
A dark comedy in the truest sense. You’ll laugh out loud at things while also just saying “what the hell is this”. Another film, from a first-time feature length director, with solid visuals (having the leads be rich white girls in a large mansion makes that a bit easier) and a knack for leading the viewer’s eye. It has elements of a thriller, the score is powered by strings in what we’d expect from a typical suspenseful flick, but those elements never overpower the clearly comedic effect things are meant to have. Anton Yelchin shines in his final role (RIP), but the two leads are the standouts. Anya Taylor-Joy excels as she registers a believable yet captivating character arc, while Olivia Cooke plays a sociopath better than most. A lot of actors fall too into the manipulative effect, while Cooke rather goes for the lack of emotion and interest. But we always can tell what is going on with her and that things are working in that character’s head. A tough thing to do when you aren’t supposed to feel anything. It’s criminally underseen, but it might be a mainstay in (at least my) top 10 for the year.
10. Deadpool 2
For a movie that no one expected to be good, really, and had it’s own share of “this is for uncultured swine” detractors, Deadpool is one of the more beloved superhero characters in movies today. And, with Deadpool 2, Reynolds and Co. now have one of the more beloved superhero franchises in movies today.
DP2 picks up where it left off, with a blend of fun action and constant wisecracking. A comedy sequel is hard, and it’s even harder when your main penchant for laughs is making fun of the very thing you’re doing yourself. The shtick is easy to run into the ground, and I’m sure #hardcoresmartpeople will say it has been, but it works shockingly well, providing an entertaining and laugh-filled ride. It isn’t without its faults, but a certain penchant for emotional beats helps boost those downsides. It uses “Take On Me” in a sequence that might just make you cry.
What’s your favorite of the year so far? Let us know in the comments, or all over social media, we’d love to hear from you!