Here’s a little trivia about the year in movies, at least through the first three months: prior to this weekend, there have already been 156 movies released in theaters. And that’s not counting films like The Cloverfield Paradox or Mute that made their debuts on streaming platforms like Netflix. This means that we’re only 1/4 of the way through 2018 and all of us are way behind already. It also means that before you jump on Twitter and put us on blast for choosing the “18 Best” of such a young year, consider the fact that the following list represents less than 10% of the films that opened in theaters to this point.
In determining the Best Movies of 2018 So Far, we asked our team of writers to stump for their favorite films of the year. What you’ll find is that it delivered some impassioned pleas in support of movies big and small. On this list, you’ll find the under-the-radar success stories right next to the most mainstream hits of the year. It’ll be interesting to see how many of these movies remain at the top of our list by the time the year is over, but we have a long way to go. For now, let’s enjoy all the best times we’ve already had watching movies in 2018.
18. Den of Thieves
While no one who watched and loved Den of Thieves is under the illusion that it’s anything more than a B-grade Heat clone, it more than hits the spot when it comes to fulfilling cinematic junk food. If Michael Mann’s masterful crime opus is the equivalent of eating out in a five-star restaurant, then Christian Gudegast’s scuzzy counterpart is like the naughty portion of fries you devour at 3 am in a drive-thru parking lot. Gerard Butler plays a character called Big Nick, and he gleefully lives up to the moniker by barraging through every scene like a hulkish brute, fueled by toxic masculinity and nicotine. But he has a cheeky twinkle in his eye the entire time, perfectly straddling that line between macho tour de force and self-aware bonehead. Overall, Den of Thieves ticks off every box in the crime-thriller handbook, but it does so with so much beer gut bravado that you can’t help but admire its seedy charms. – Kieran Fisher
17. Ready Player One
By all counts, Ready Player One should’ve been Spielberg’s biggest misfire. A divisive marketing campaign, casting controversy, and a novel that has the wildest opinions from all-time novel to all-time stinker, this is no Jaws. But this is Steven Spielberg, so why did we ever doubt him? Ready Player One allows Spielberg to go back to his prime where he was making many of the movies that Ready Player One references. By going back to the 80s, he has made a tight film about connecting with others in the digital age and how it is easy to get lost in the vast world of the internet. The cast is great, with Mark Rylance and Simon Pegg standing out as the creators of the Oasis. The Oasis can make your wildest dreams come true, but at what cost? While the movie never reaches the heights of Spielberg classics, it is one of the few pure fun movies has made in the last decade. That is something to cherish for sure. – Max Covill
While it’s far from a perfect film, Steven Soderbergh’s latest Unsane captures the fear of predatory men that women face every day unlike any film before it. Claire Foy gives a great performance as Sawyer, a woman trying to move on from her stalker and begin anew. This constitutes a horror movie just as much as any other film following a demented man capable of killing. What makes Unsane truly terrifying is that Sawyer is left completely helpless to a horrible man even with countless people around her claiming to want to help her. David is capable of looking and acting like a “nice guy” to fool the rest of the world, just as so many of them do. It’s a slow-moving thriller that is obvious about its iPhone use, but when it starts getting gross, boy does it ever. – Emily Kubincanek
15. Cold Hell
These days it’s depressing to read the news and find out that more women have been abused by abhorrent men. But Cold Hell is a movie for those of us who are fed up with gross dudes and crave violent catharsis. Directed by the Oscar-winning Stefan Ruzowitzky, it tells the story of a woman who struggles to make ends meet, but doesn’t have any problems when it comes to beating the living shit out of any scummy creten who disrespects her. There’s also a serial killer on the loose who’s murdering Muslim women, but when he encounters our heroine he gets more than he bargained for and then some. Cold Hell is one big “Fuck Yeah!” of a movie that takes a powerful stance against abusers and bigots, all through the lens of an exhilarating genre flick with lots of brawling, bloodletting, and car chases. – Kieran Fisher
14. Oh Lucy!
Oh Lucy! is a lot of things. It’s a love story, but it’s also a web of love stories. It’s a clash between cultures, but America and its people are the outsiders. It’s the story of a woman trying to reclaim her life as it crumbles away from her. The film follows Shinobu Terajima as Setsuko, a middle-aged Japanese woman disenchanted with her boring job and single life. She develops a new outlook when she starts to take English classes with a charismatic American named John (Josh Hartnett), but this isn’t the life-affirming story it could be. John is no Manic Pixie Dream Westerner, and Setsuko (or Lucy, as she becomes in class) is not easily saved. Instead the film is a beautiful and intense journey across an ocean and into the hearts of its characters. With dialogue that’s about 70% Japanese and 30% English (and most of that somewhere in between) information is doled out slowly and is sometimes hard to miss, but in a way that’s wonderfully realistic and empathetic. Oh Lucy! is a lot of things, but above all it’s the unique story of a person who doesn’t know she’s broken until she thinks she’s being fixed. – Liz Baessler
13. Isle of Dogs
Wes Anderson’s newest doesn’t stray from what makes him great, but that’s fine. Using a similar stop-motion technique he used for Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson tells the story of a boy trying to find his dog. Well, that is the most basic summary of Isle of Dogs. Isle of Dogs is actually future Japan, with an evil cat-loving family trying to manipulate all of Japan into eliminating all dogs, while treading political waters, and delivering a story of redemption all rolled up into a charming little package. Anderson continues his chippy dialog, his all-star casting ensembles, and his delight for the bizarre. There is even a musical score by Alexandre Desplat that calls back to the Japanese films Wes Anderson drew inspiration from. He might have shown hostility to dogs before, but this is Anderson’s salute to dog lovers everywhere. – Max Covill
12. Before We Vanish
Three aliens arrive on Earth to do a little research before a planned invasion and their somewhat different approaches lead to contradictory behaviors and reactions. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest is at heart a love story, but it entwines its sweetly affecting and warm observations with terrifically cynical conclusions. It’s all very funny when it isn’t busy blowing things up. He teases his horror-related talents with early images of bloody slaughter, but his subtle humor and endless fascination with human communication sit at the forefront of it all. It’s a definite genre-blender, and as such won’t be for everyone, but if you can get on its wavelength the journey is an immensely satisfying and highly entertaining one. – Rob Hunter
11. You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay transforms Jonathan Ames’ novel of underworld sex trafficking into an examination of the effect violence has on the soul. We disappear into the jumbled psyche of Joaquin Phoenix’s hired gun as he hunts down the missing daughter of a New York senator. Nightmares of past experiences flood his every waking thought, and as he brutalizes his way through various henchman, Phoenix deftly conveys emotional narrative without the crutch of exposition. You Were Never Really Here is a terrifying but brief occurrence. At 90 minutes, Ramsay and Phoenix barely have time to drop a brick on the audience’s head before fleeing towards the end credits. The film is as physical a slap as one can get from cinema. Vicious and unforgettable. – Brad Gullickson
10. A Wrinkle in Time
Imagine that the entire universe is working in harmony for the sole purpose of convincing you that you’re worthy of love. That’s a big, bold idea, but then again everything in Ava DuVernay’s ambitious adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic kid’s book is big and bold, from the sky-high production value to the sudden appearance of a 20-foot-tall Oprah with jewels in the place of eyebrows. The movie had big hype surrounding it, and its mixed reviews can be pinned mostly on the convoluted source material. In actuality, DuVernay’s epic–which follows an imperfect girl named Meg (Storm Reid) as she searches the universe for her missing scientist father–transformed L’Engle’s work into something more important, leaving out the more muddled plot points and religious overtones in favor of admirably earnest lessons about self-acceptance and generosity of spirit. The film’s vivid visuals bring a high level of artistry to the often lazy live-action family film genre; the sinister planet Camazotz is haunted by a fearful symmetry that DuVernay captures perfectly, and each of the celestial beings serves several unforgettable looks. Take all this plus casual but groundbreaking representations of diversity (for starters, Meg comes from a multicultural family and her natural hair is part of a significant plot point), and A Wrinkle in Time becomes something rare: a film that every parent can feel good about letting their kid watch a thousand times. – Valerie Ettenhofer