At 2018’s halfway point, we had no trouble coming up with 10 standout titles from the past six months.
Here are the best films we’ve seen so far this year 2018.
1. Black Panther
Is Marvel’s most successful movie yet also it’s very best? Quite possibly.
Ryan Coogler’s stunning superhero drama transcends mere cinema, becoming not just a pop-cultural phenomenon but a full-on movement. As a film first, though, it’s big, bright, bold, intense, awe-inspiring, evocative, and deeply profound, especially in its cultural clash between our hero T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Killmonger (an Oscar-worthy Michael B. Jordan), the African-American mercenary whose barely contained rage, driven by the oppression of black people in the U.S., makes him one of the most complex and tragic antagonists of our time. Wakanda forever.
2. A Quiet Place
John Krasinski’s third directorial effort is his finest to date — a supernatural thriller that exploits its central gimmick for lean, mean suspense. In an America ravaged by vicious monsters with excellent hearing, humanity must stay completely silent to remain undetected. That scenario is the starting point for the story of a family (led by Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt) trying to survive in the aftermath of a horrific tragedy. Bolstered by excellent performances and a script that doesn’t overstay its welcome, A Quiet Place exploits sound and silence for consistent, canny scares.
3. Paddington 2
It was true in January and remains true today: 2018’s finest sequel is Paddington 2.
Returning director Paul King resists the urge to force his gentle ursine star into a bigger, louder adventure, instead keeping Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) and his adopted family grounded in a richly emotional story that makes room for plenty of veddy British humor, scene-stealing supporting turns from Hugh Grant and Brenden Gleeson, and inventive storybook-style visual tricks. Audiences may have slept on this gem during its stateside theatrical release, but it should enjoy a long afterlife as a children’s bedtime movie
4. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Even in these divisive times, almost every American can agree that Fred Rogers is a gosh-darned national treasure. For more than three decades, the soft-spoken minister turned broadcaster entertained and educated millions of children through his iconic PBS series, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Director Morgan Neville traces the arc of Rogers’s life with plenty of surprising revelations and a sweetly sentimental appreciation for the good works he performed on a daily basis. Bring tissues, because there will be tears
5.Avengers: Infinity War
Let’s be honest, Infinity War isn’t the best Marvel film, but it is, without a doubt, the MCU’s crowning achievement … and not simply for breaking nearly every box-office record.
After 10 years and 18 films, the Kevin Feige-led Marvel Studios successfully crafted a shared universe that allowed for Dr. Strange, Iron Man, and Spider-Man to plausibly team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and fight Thanos. Whether the contractually questionable “deaths” at the end of the film worked for you or not depends on your ability to suspend your disbelief. But with the shape of the MCU fundamentally altered — at least for the time being — we left the theater wondering just how the Avengers will eventually save the day.
It may seem crazy to mention Paul Schrader’s latest film, First Reformed, in the same breath as his seminal screenplay for Taxi Driver, but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more fitting comparison when the credits roll. The story of a priest (Ethan Hawke) coming to terms with the world we live in, this small-scale story slowly builds to a shocking conclusion with devastating implications. It’s Schrader’s first full-fledged masterpiece of the 21st century and a hell of a left turn from the film that preceded it, his little-seen (and totally crazy) crime movie, Dog Eat Dog.
7.Sorry to Bother You
Rapper Boots Riley makes the leap to feature filmmaking without missing a beat. While the gleefully absurdist, and pointedly political, Sorry to Bother You — which opens in theaters July 6 but has been playing the festival circuit since January — displays the influence of wild social satires like Putney Swope and Being John Malkovich, it has its own distinct voice that speaks directly to our present day. With Get Out‘s Lakeith Stanfield as his muse, Riley deftly (and hilariously) explores the intersection between race, class, culture, and power in Trump-era America, building to a final twist that you definitely won’t see coming.
Here’s a movie that fulfills its most necessary requisite of being uproariously funny no matter how high-concept it goes while also managing to remain socially relevant. As three parents (the reliably amusing John Cena, Leslie Mann, and Ike Barinholtz) embark on a midnight run to prevent their prom-going teenage daughters (the excellent Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, and Gideon Adlon) from losing their virginity, we’re asked why females are held to such a different standard when it comes to their sexual awakenings. Come for the butt-chugging scene, stay for the touching coming-out story.
Alex Garland is one of science-fiction cinema’s most original and daring voices as evidenced by Annihilation, a film that begins in the somewhat traditional territory before venturing off into uninhibited insanity.
Grief-stricken biologist Natalie Portman joins a team of experts (including Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh) on a trip into a hot-zone known as “the Shimmer,” where mutated horrors await. Garland imbues his hypnotic material with a heavy dose of profound existential dread, and the finale is so deliriously out-there that it achieves a measure of trippy 2001-grade terror and wonder.
10. Incredibles 2
It’s not as incredible as its 2004 predecessor, but they can’t all be Toy Story 3. Brad Bird’s long-anticipated Parr family reunion is, however, a worthy follow-up that starts just moments after the first and feels — stylistically and tonally — perfectly in tune with the original film. Bird and company counter the fact that the freshness of seeing an animated superhero family has waned with the emergence of Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) handling the bulk of the crimefighting while Mr. Incredible handles more domestic battles at home. The real star of the show, though, is Baby Jack-Jack. Give this tot a spinoff or, better yet, have him fight The Boss Baby.