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The Best Movies of 2018 So Far

We’re only one-quarter of the way through 2018, but we’ve already seen a bunch of movies that we love. Here is a list of the best movies of 2018, so far.
Best Movies Mid Year
By  · Published on March 30th, 2018

9. The Death of Stalin

Death Of Stalin

Armando Iannucci’s commentary on the state of political affairs in the world never ceases to entertain. With the help of then-future Doctor Who Peter Capaldi in 2009, he delivered a searing satire about the relationship between the United States and Britain with In the Loop. He then spent five years working out emotions and frustrations with the chest-straining hilarity of VEEP on HBO. This year, he’s reached back into 1950s Russia for a story of backstabbing, power-hungry men bickering and maneuvering their way through the aftermath of Joseph Stalin’s life. As he’s wont to do, he assembles a sublime cast including Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, and the brilliant Simon Russell Beale (as the formidable Lavrenti Beria). It’s silly with purpose and absurdly serious work from Iannucci, whose knack for finding delight in the most horrible political acts of men remains unrivaled. Basically, if you think there’s chaos in the real Washington right now, you should see what the Russians were like almost 70-years ago. – Neil Miller

8. The Endless

The Endless

No one with fewer Oscars than Guillermo del Toro briefly called Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s breakout horror hit Spring “the only Lovecraftian film that has blown me away.” So Messrs. Moorhead and Benson give Lovecraft another nod at the start of their follow-up, The Endless. Horror with emotional muscle, they create Annihilation on a nickel: large, bulbous, fucked-up worlds you can sit down and cry in. Two brothers (Moorhead and Benson) return to a cult, previously ran away from, to satisfy depression, nostalgia. High school sucked, but there you are at a reunion a decade later. “That place is not what you think it is,” one brother warms. Things are not that bad and then much worse than remembered. They run and you get scared. Longtime fans of the duo will be satisfied at the pleasing nod to their debut, 2013’s Resolution, and the world is as pretty as Alex Garland’s shimming plants. But really, this is a masterpiece of post-Primer indie weirdness, as good as the genre gets, chock full of scrawled formulas and feelings. Moorhead tells us they’re thinking of “building a deeper mythology” to this world of magic and science, so hook your wagon now kids. – Andrew Karpan

7. Bomb City

Bomb City

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there seems to be something about our current political moment that inspires movies about small-town punks. From Green Room to The Ranger, young, leather-clad anarchists who fight against unjust systems and are quietly becoming a mainstay in independent cinema. This probably explains why Jameson Brooks’s Bomb City feels so absolutely vital. Retelling the story of a violent – and deadly – conflict between a group of high school athletes and punks in Amarillo, Texas, Bomb City walks audiences through the events leading up to the parking lot brawl, depicting Amarillo in 1997 as a city deeply divided by tradition and class. Bomb City reminds us that the prejudices we see in the world have always and will always find an outlet, be it race, religion, or culture. Here’s to not pretending like violence in small-town America is anything new. – Matthew Monagle

6. Flower


A teenager who fills her days blowing men who should know better and then blackmailing them sees her life’s plan — raising money to bail her dad out of jail — interrupted by the arrival of a soon-to-be stepbrother. He’s awkward and homely, but his past is about to change her future in unexpected ways. This blend of comedy and affecting drama is a highly atypical coming of age tale, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Zoey Deutch is so ridiculously endearing here despite her status as a problem child, and she keeps you holding on as the story takes nervously entertaining zigs when you expect it to zag. Like the film itself, she refuses to follow the formula and instead leaves viewers wholly unsure where both will end up. – Rob Hunter

5. Game Night

Game Night

Friends gathering for another boring game night find their minds blown and their lives endangered when one of their own is kidnapped. Or is it all part of the game? Studio comedies have lost quite a bit of shine over the years to the point that most are barely worth being excited about anymore. We had little reason to suspect anything different from Game Night as its directors’ last film was the abysmal Vacation reboot, but sweet Jesus to they get every last beat right this time. The script is smart, witty, and frequently uproarious, the ensemble cast is aces across the board with a standout performance by Jesse Plemons, and the various action sequences are viscerally exciting. Most surprising, aside from it being funny as hell, is its energetic and constantly surprising camera work. It’s the best comedy of 2018 so far and the best studio comedy in years. – Rob Hunter

4. Thoroughbreds


This is cheating, but I won’t be able to sum up this movie better than Rob Hunter did when he reviewed it at Sundance last year: “Writer/director Cory Finley’s debut, Thoroughbreds, is a wickedly sharp, funny, and suspenseful look at the thin divide between our emotions and our actions, and the film finds fault and value in both halves as brought to beautifully engaging life by two incredibly talented young actors. It’s easy to see inspirations as varied as Heavenly Creatures and Heathers, but Finley makes his film unique in approach and effect.” Come for the confluence of Heavenly Creatures and Heathers, stay for the sublime performances of Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy, with the bonus of seeing Anton Yelchin one more time (even though his character is anything but likable.) – Neil Miller

3. Annihilation


For fans of science in their fiction, Alex Garland’s follow-up to Ex Machina came with the expectation that he’d deliver another incisive rumination on humanity and our relationship to… well, something. For Ex Machina, it was an exploration of our relationship to technology. In Annihilation, it is our relationship to biology and the unpredictability of nature. Once again, Garland’s shines from script-to-screen because he’s mastered three elements of filmmaking: he’s a thoughtful and precise writer, his casting on-point, and he (along with DP Rob Hardy and their VFX collaborators) has a sharp eye for creating drool-worthy, One Perfect Shot-level visuals. The decision to lead his movie with five magnetic women (Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny) is the thing that sticks out most about Annihilation. Even as this movie gets into some weird territory, their performances keep everything appropriately grounded and emotionally honest. It’s the kind of thing film classes will study years from now as they discuss the sci-fi explosion of our generation. – Neil Miller

2. Paddington 2


If you haven’t seen Paddington 2, it might be easy to react with cynicism or disbelief to the news that a family film starring a talking CGI animal is one of Rotten Tomatoes’ best-reviewed films ever. But the utterly earnest, unbridled joy of Paddington 2 is something that has to be seen to believed. Paul King’s second outing with the titular bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) establishes him as a beloved fixture of the Brown family and their cheery London neighborhood – yet it quickly dares to amplify its narrative stakes by putting Paddington in prison, thanks to the machinations of devious washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan (a phenomenal Hugh Grant). The film is anchored by fantastic character performances by Grant and Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles McGinty, a grizzled prison chef with a heart of gold, and brimming with pitch-perfect sequences of physical comedy involving marmalade and disguises. Yet unlike most mainstream family comedies, it’s also marked by a surprising gentleness and discretion – all the humor of Paddington 2 comes from its empathy. King directs with incredible care and warmth that shines through the film’s vibrant, jewel-box frames and has drawn comparisons to Wes Anderson, but arguably rivals him – if only because Paddington 2 is so unabashedly sincere in its affection for its protagonist where Anderson normally maintains a droll, self-assured distance. It wouldn’t even be unreasonable to read the film as a direct argument against xenophobia and mass incarceration. Above all, Aunt Lucy’s advice that “if we’re kind and polite, the world will be right” is a line that all audiences should take to heart. – Aline Dolinh

1. Black Panther

Black Panther

Judging by its box office performance, there was an audience out there waiting for a movie like Black Panther. A massive afro-futurist superhero film with a primarily black cast that builds a world, unlike anything we’ve seen before from Marvel Studios, and populates it with characters with whom we’d spend unlimited time (if possible). But there’s even more to it than becoming the highest-grossing superhero movie of all-time. When you sit down and witness Black Panther in the vacuum of a dark theater, it’s a blast. Ryan Coogler delivers an impressive mix of action and character work, his DP Rachel Morrison (who recently became the first woman to earn an Oscar nom among cinematographers) shoots for maximum grandiosity, and the cast oozes cool. It may have solved Marvel’s villain problem. It definitely gave us a new favorite MCU character (Letitia Wright’s Shuri). And yeah, we’re talking Best Picture (even though it’s way too early to be talking Best Picture). So far in 2018, there aren’t other movies like Black Panther. There isn’t a movie that has found more success at the box office. There isn’t a movie that has found as much success with critics. And there isn’t a movie that has mattered more than Black Panther matters. It’s the best and brightest of a year that’s off to great start. – Neil Miller

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