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The Best Movies of Summer 2018

We were lucky enough to see a lot of great movies this summer. Here are the very best of them.
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By  · Published on September 8th, 2018

20. We the Animals

We The Animals

Bad dads haunt the work of Jeremiah Zagar. His debut, an almost unbearably intimate documentary called In a Dream, chronicled his own: a painter and sculptor who leaves the filmmaker’s mother midway only to come crawling back in the film’s final act. We the Animals is Zagar’s first narrative feature and is an adaptation of Justin Torres’s queer, stream-of-conscious coming of age novel of the same name. Zagar bathes the story of three children and their feckless and unsure parents (Looking’s Raúl Castillo and Sheila Vand, who led in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) in forests of light and creates an ambitious piece of art that radiates the dark fire of body heat. In its most haunting scene, the children descend on Castillo’s negligent portrayal of fatherhood, at first playfully and then with small fists that reveal repressed hurt and rage. Like many indie directors, Zagar’s visual style and love of filming trees leans on Malick and, at one point, riffs directly on Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight but the story underneath is wholly original in its dark, unsentimental and blindingly personal portrayal of poverty, betrayal and unconditional love. When Zagar picked up Torres’s novel, as he told Vulture last month, he knew no one else could tell its story: “No one’s ever seen this family on screen, and this is a family like my family.” (Andrew Karpan)

19. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was a surprise favorite that came at the tail end of my summer movie season. Although I enjoy the first Mamma Mia! heaps, it was never an all-time staple. I might not have even seen Here We Go Again in theaters if my best friend wasn’t incredibly keen to watch Colin Firth sing and dance *endearingly* terribly. (To be clear, it was marvelous!) But Here We Go Again genuinely transports you to an absolutely perfect, indelible summer brimming with opportunity and optimism that no mishap can shake; forgive the hyperbole, but that’s like a new plane of existence in the shit-show of real life in 2018. With showstopping costumes, choreography, and charisma, the film flows with a fluid spatial awareness that disregards rigid cinematic narrative logic. Set pieces meld into each other as they would in a glitzy stage show. The songs *are* the story. And that only makes it the perfect fantastical antidote to cynicism. The more audience members sing along, the more delightful the movie becomes, and it definitely begets repeated viewing for a fuller experience every time. So, light on plot and heavy on escapism, Here We Go Again is the ultimate exercise of imagination and wonderment from start to finish, and one of my most ideal summer movies ever. (Sheryl Oh)

18. Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians

Jon M. Chu’s smash hit romantic comedy features the first all-Asian cast in nearly 30 years. With stellar performances from Constance Wu, Henry Golding, and Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians will have you repeating the words of Ali Wong: “Asian men are the sexiest! They got no body hair from the neck down. Oh my God, so smooth!” (Hans Qu)

17. Hearts Beat Loud

Hearts Beat Loud

Too often films about simple relationships feel compelled to grow and expand their story unnaturally in a misguided effort to reach an audience, but that’s not necessary when the characters work. This ridiculously sweet, fun, and heartfelt tale of a father and daughter who release a song to Spotify could easily have gone off the rails, but writer/director Brett Haley (along with co-writer Marc Basch) keep the stakes realistic and human. The focus here is this father/daughter relationship, and the filmmaker couldn’t have hoped to find a better pair than Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons to bring them to life. The film is joyous, positive, and goddamn delightful from beginning to end, and like some other recent music-focused gems (Sing Street, We Are the Best) it works as a sensory balm for the times. See it, love it, and find yourself humming its main tune days and weeks later. (Rob Hunter)

16. The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Miseducation Of Cameron Post

A lesbian coming-of-age drama that grapples with the hurt the LGBTQ+ community has faced in the name of Christianity, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is kind of like the way more serious cousin of But I’m A Cheerleader. The film follows a teenager in the ‘90s (Chloe Moretz) who is sent to God’s Promise conversion camp, where she meets several other young people, each with a different relationship to religion, sexuality, and the family that sent them there. It’s a movie that builds quietly and deliberately in a series of sequences that are so raw and emotional–despite the protagonist’s much-debated internalization–that you almost want to look away. This is a simple story on some level, refusing to make the expected caricatures out of camp workers who are for the most part more clueless than evil, and providing only the most tenuous resolution. But hidden in its moderation is a pitch-perfect and beautiful portrayal of the messy, confusing, tough work of self-acceptance. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

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