We’re already six months into 2018, and it’s proven a pretty big year for movies. The international box office has already passed $6 billion – a new record – thanks in no small part to Marvel gangbusters Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, the latter of which became only the fourth film to pass $2 billion. Many rival tentpoles didn’t fare so well, although we still got the likes of Deadpool 2, Ready Player One and Incredibles 2. Outside of superheroes, horror’s current wave has continued, with A Quiet Place and Hereditary in particular showing in very unique ways that tension is still a key appeal.
Some of 2018’s biggest movies are still to come, both in terms of major studio releases – Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Creed II, Aquaman – and more awards-focused fare – First Man, BlacKkKlansman, Suspiria – but halfway through it’s definitely not been lacking in conversation-starters.
It’s a Screen Rant tradition at the end of the year for the editorial team to collect together their favorite movies from the past twelve months, and in 2018 we’re extending that to a mid-term report: halfway through the year, how are things shaping up? As always, we’re less interested in what’s perceived as “best” and more “favorites“. What left a great emotional impact on the people who bring you Screen Rant every day? For full-length reviews of all of 2018’s great releases so far, you can check out the review archive, but here are the top picks from the editors.
Screen Rant Top 5 (ranked by number of mentions, tiebreakers decided by top picks):
Honorable Mention: Avengers: Infinity War
Despite a number of high-profile sequels that I was excited to see, my favorite movies of 2018 (so far) have been smaller-scale surprises – films that, frankly, I knew little about before sitting down in the theater. On top is A Quiet Place, which delivered immersive world-building, sincere characters, and terrifying sci-fi monsters. John Krasinski created a horror-thriller concept that I’m eager to revisit and a post-apocalyptic Earth that I’d love to see explored further. Meanwhile, in spite of waining enthusiasm toward Marvel origin movies, Black Panther injected a fresh angle, characters, and tone into the MCU – re-energizing my interest in seeing what the studio intends to produce in Phase 4. Hereditary was the heady psychological horror palette cleanser I needed after a month of underwhelming but not terrible franchise films (Solo, most notably) – while Love, Simon was a refreshing feel-good story that, in spite of increasingly polarizing times, told an uplifting journey of acceptance and inclusion. Last: Game Night – which subverts expectations and playfully toys with its audience throughout (and features one of the absolute best furniture gags I’ve ever seen in a film).
Honorable Mention goes to Avengers: Infinity War – a film I’ve enjoyed talking about more than I enjoyed watching; however, as the first part of a two-part story, I’m excited to see how (and if) Marvel intends to cap-off Phase 3 of the MCU.
Honorable Mention: Avengers: Infinity War
Whereas in previous years I’ve been spoilt for choice even at the midway point (I had 15 honorary mentions in our 2017 Best of list), I’ve found 2018 to be a bit flat. There’s been a lot of good but not too much great (which makes me question why I suggested we do this). Thankfully, I got the five – and it’s a scary set.
My Top 3 are, in some form, all horrors. Annihilation only got a Netflix release in the UK, so I missed it on the big screen, but nevertheless… blimey. Alex Garland’s made something that earns 2001: A Space Odyssey and Stalker comparisons yet is hauntingly original; the entire lighthouse sequence is the scariest thing I’ve seen this year. And I saw Hereditary, which walked the knife-edge of Sundance hype perfectly. It’s a movie so confident it pulls two plot pivots and still works (and not a single jump scare). Ghost Stories is a knotted anthology horror with old-school British sensibilities that is (and I don’t use this word often) masterfully executed, showing how well-worn tricks can still terrifying. Throughbreds is more a thriller, a Highsmithian tale of two young sociopaths finding their way into adulthood (it also has Anton Yelchin’s final live-action performance).
I couldn’t really decide what to put at #5 – after expectations for it to fail, I was stunned how balanced the moving parts of Avengers: Infinity War were (and how empathetic Thanos was) – but in the end went with the movie I’ve waxed lyrical about the most: Game Night sees studio comedies embracing joke-a-minute style over the over-worn setpieces of Apatow, but not skimping on assured filmmaking.
Honorable Mentions: Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp
Now that we’re well and truly into the modern trend of superhero movies in Hollywood, a number of studios are hitting their stride, and that’s particularly evident with the comic book films that have been released thus far in 2018. Black Panther is my personal favorite of the superhero movies that have hit theaters so far this year, largely because it’s something very different to what we’ve seen before in the genre. It may have taken Marvel Studios 10 years to release the first black-led movie in the MCU, but Ryan Coogler knocked it out of the park. Further, comic book movie sequels like Deadpool 2 and Ant-Man and the Wasp prove how different superhero films can be – and the genre is all the better for it.
Otherwise, 2018 has been a good year for comedies, particularly romantic comedies. Netflix’s Set It Up is one of, if not the best romcom of the last few years, and will hopefully inspire the streaming service to help revive this particular genre that has fallen by the wayside as action blockbusters take center stage at the box office. Further, Love, Simon brings a fresh new voice to romcoms as it follows a gay high school student navigating coming out and falling in love for the first time. And, while Sorry to Bother You isn’t a romantic comedy, it is one of the more wildly hilarious comedies I’ve seen in a long time, infusing elements of sci-fi and political commentary for a unique vision from director Boots Riley.
The last of my top 5, Upgrade, is a sci-fi/action thriller that flew under the radar in the first half of 2018. With bold visuals and an interesting science fiction concept, though, it’s a fun one to talk about and rewatch.
Honorable Mention: The Director and the Jedi
Pixar and Lucasfilm were my gateways into the world of movies, and I’m happy to say their latest offerings did not disappoint. Incredibles 2 felt like a natural continuation of the original, building off its threads and themes while delivering great action. Plus, Jack-Jack was a scene-stealer. Solo was a lot of fun at the theater and improved upon a second viewing. Alden Ehrenreich did a terrific job stepping into the iconic role and made Han his own. Considering the production woes, the film came across pretty seamlessly and I look forward to revisiting it.
Wes Anderson always delights me with his films, and Isle of Dogs was no exception. As a dog lover myself, I found the story to be extremely poignant, and the animation was top-notch. The first half of the year also offered some surprises in the form of A Quiet Place and Game Night. The former is one of the best-constructed thrillers I’ve seen in some time, dialing up the tension with plenty of emotion to boot. Game Night was just a wild ride buoyed by strong comedic performances and some visually-interesting set pieces.
If there’s a common link among my favorite movies of 2018 thus far, it’s that most of them have something meaningful to say about the state of the world today and explore challenging issues (colonialism, for example) using everything from zombie movie and high school comedy tropes to the MCU and children’s book characters. Game Night is the exception in that respect, but it’s also one of the most creatively inspired studio comedies in awhile – one that actually recognizes how funny Rachel McAdams can be.
Honorable Mention: Super Troopers 2 (for actually delivering similar laughs).
The Korea sequences of Black Panther alone guarantee its spot on this list, and after The Last Jedi a return to the not-so-contemporary, not-so-pop-culture, old-fashioned melodrama and myth of Solo: A Star Wars Story was a welcome one. I also didn’t know how much I had missed Spielberg’s heart or the boundary-pushing visuals of Avatar until Ready Player One arrived.
But it’s Tomb Raider that showed why the shrinking mid-tier of adventure movies is such a shame, delivering a strong script, direction, choreography, and flawless action performance from Alicia Vikander (that never tries to convince me it’s a “blockbuster”). There’s no beating A Quiet Place, though, grabing the top spot on premise alone… and delivering one of the most singular theater experiences I’ve ever survived.
Picking my favorite movies of 2018 so far was tough, because there haven’t actually been a lot of standouts so far (I’m basically pinning all my hopes on Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake to turn things around this summer). As a horror nut, it’s no surprise that my top two movies of the year so far are both horror movies: Hereditary, an absolutely masterful exercise in making me curl up in my seat like a coward; and A Quiet Place, which demonstrated what’s possible when you have an effective core idea and a director who knows what to do with it.
Unless Ant-Man and the Wasp, Venom or Aquaman offers up some serious competition, Black Panther will end up being my favorite superhero movie of the year. It was simply a solid, well-paced two hours of comic book-based entertainment, and while Deadpool 2 had its flaws, that X-Force skydiving scene alone earns it a well-deserved spot on the list. And for Game Night – well, it had a dog in it, so I couldn’t leave that one out.
Honorable Mention: Deadpool 2 (I think it improved on the original in every way)
2018 is off to a crazy start. My top pick, Game Night, I didn’t even see in theaters, but the buzz definitely caught my interest, and the movie exceeded the hype when I finally watched it at home. Daley and Goldstein took a great concept and took it to the next level with a flare I like to call “Edgar Light,” with smart camera moves including a perfectly executed tracking shot. Performances were also top notch and Jessie Plemons proves he needs to be in a lot more movies.
Avengers: Infinity War set a new standard for event films while simultaneously improving on a number of my Marvel complaints, namely the stakes and the villain. Annihilation is gorgeous, creepy, atmospheric, and it’s a shame it was hampered by distribution issues. Ready Player One was a shameless celebration of everything that make movies fun and magical, directed by the man that defined that magic for many. And Solo is a fun lower stakes ride through the underbelly of the Star Wars galaxy. The cast nailed their parts (including Ehrenreich), the dark and gritty tone fits Star Wars super well (thanks to the expert eye of Bradford Young), and Ron Howard brilliantly recreated a majority of the movie on schedule without any noticeable seams. Also, Darth Maul is back in live-action (yes, that is an awesome scene)! Hopefully Star Wars spinoffs don’t fade away due to the box office.
I came into 2018 fully expecting to love this year’s entries into the Marvel movie canon from both Marvel Studios and Fox, and so far, I have yet to be disappointed. Raising the dramatic stakes to a level previously unseen within the sometimes too sarcastic MCU, Avengers: Infinity War wowed audiences with amazing action scenes, knockout special effects, and delightful character interactions. Thanos (Josh Brolin) was also one hell of a villain, and would easily be my pick for best big bad in MCU history, were it not for the equally as compelling Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) tearing things up in Black Panther. A milestone for diversity and inclusion within comic book movies, Ryan Coogler’s opus is a terrific film in its own right, and ranks a very close second on this list.
While I probably didn’t laugh quite as often during Deadpool 2 as I did during the original, in many ways, director David Leitch’s sequel bests its predecessor. Great characters like Domino and Cable are added into the mix, the overall story feels more complete and interesting, and Ryan Reynolds’ Merc with a Mouth remains a blast to watch. While the nonsensical killing off of Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) drew some deserved ridicule, the fact that the hilarious end credits scene undid that mistake makes me inclined to forgive and forget. Rounding out the list are two extremely effective horror films, both made on low budgets. A Quiet Place played with tension and suspense in ways Hitchcock would be proud of, while the twisted Hereditary was an all-out assault on the senses of its viewers.
Science fiction is an expansive and everpresent genre, but there has been a lack of hard sci-fi in recent years – and that’s only part of the reason I gravitated towards Annhiliation. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but I love all the questions that arise from watching it. And, if not for anything else, the bear scene alone makes it one of my favorite movies this year (so far). Then, on the opposite end of the sci-fi spectrum is Ready Player One. While this movie is certainly not Steven Spielberg’s best work, by far, I would be lying if I didn’t say I had a hell of a time watching it in IMAX. As a gamer and sucker for nostalgia, Ready Player One hit all the notes for me.
I was late to the party on A Quiet Place, but I’m glad I got to see it eventually. It’s something that’s wholly unique in many ways, including making sound a character in the story, which is what sets it apart from other thrillers out there. So, it’s clear that I love sci-fi movies, but there are also plenty of superhero movies to love. To be honest, I thought Black Panther was terrific and Avengers: Infinity War was enjoyable, but I have no inclination to rewatch them. Ant-Man and The Wasp, on the other hand, is downright awesome, and I can’t wait to see it again. It’s not out yet, but it’s something that everyone – especially comic book fans – should see. But, it’s not my favorite movie of the year (so far); Incredibles 2 is. And that’s because Incredibles 2 is, well… incredible. It’s everything that I wanted and more – and it goes to show that long-awaited sequels can and should be worth the wait.
I don’t want to jump the gun on 2018, but I’m pretty confident I hadn’t seen this many amazing films by the end of June 2017. Annihilation makes me so incredibly grateful to have eyes, ears, and easy access to a cinema while Alex Garland is in his prime. Its long, wordless climax is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on screen – period. Thoroughbreds and Hereditary are vicious and exquisite debuts by stunningly assured directors – a concise love story and a greek horror that you know while watching is already becoming a modern classic. Black Panther and Ocean’s 8 are everything that’s still good about the world in 2018: ground-breaking, warm, and incredibly entertaining. Watching those films in crowded cinemas is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
The back six months of 2018 have their work cut out for them if they’re going to top these films, but I can’t wait for Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Suspiria, Widows, and Aquaman.
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