Now that we are officially halfway through 2018, Here are 25 of our favorite movies (so far…).
In limiting the list to just 25 selections, we had to make some very difficult cuts but what you will find is a collection of movies from the extravagant blockbusters to small indie films. Reflecting the diversity of our staff there is something here for everyone. The influx of streaming and other services have made most of these films readily available either at home or at your local cinema so we highly encourage you to escape the heat by enjoying any of these fantastic films.
Note: The following is unranked and presented in alphabetical order. Only films that had their US-wide release in the first six months of the year were eligible.
A Quiet Place
Silence is deadly but in John Krasinski’s debut feature A Quiet Place, silence is the only virtue keeping humans alive. Working with real-life partner Emily Blunt, the pair costar as parents trying to survive a world where unknown creatures hunt based on the sounds emitted by their prey. Though not quite as gripping (or culturally significant) as Jordan Peele’s Get Out or even this year’s Hereditary, A Quiet Place still manages to create a tense atmosphere that will have you on the edge for much of its runtime. Krasinski to his credit understands the magnetism of Emily Blunt and appropriately leans on her to drive home the film’s biggest moments. Whether his follow up (if he even decides to do one) can match his debut effort remains to be seen but he showcases enough ability particularly in the way he builds the film around the family unit rather than making the monsters the stars (like so many horror films have a tendency to do) that some minor plot holes and pacing issues can be forgiven. – Nate Lam
Visually inventive and conceptually challenging Annihilation is the sci-fi follow up to Alex Garland’s feature debut Ex Machina. Much of the media attention on this side of the pond (the UK) was swamped by the film’s controversial distribution – straight to Netflix with no theatrical release because Paramount believed the movie to be “too intellectual’ for general audiences, perhaps incited by the backlash around Darren Aronofsky’s mother! which was an unsuccessful endeavor for the studio. With a predominantly all-female cast of Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez, Annihilation is a functional sci-fi thriller with some questionable writing and character development, but stands out through its mesmerising, surrealist imagery, diverse and talented cast, and an experimental, jaw-dropping final act that is astoundingly bold and risky for a film of Annihilation’s budget. A wordless sequence of wonder and terror towards the end of the film will undoubtedly one of the most memorable cinematic moments of the year. – Ethan Kruger
Avengers: Infinity War
After 10 years and almost 20 films, the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have ranged from monumental crowd-pleasers (Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy) to needless, forgettable filler (Iron Man 2, Ant-Man). Avengers: Infinity War is the definitive culmination of everything that the MCU has been building towards, and finally delivers a satisfying payoff. For a series that has been notorious for having an over-reliance on forced humor, a fear of commitment towards dramatic stakes, and weak, underdeveloped villains, this film strikes the perfect balance of humor and dramatic heft, with one of the most menacing, layered villains that the series has ever had with Thanos (Josh Brolin). With the number of characters and diverging storylines that this film has to balance, the structure at times does feel as if you’re binging through an entire season of a television show rather than watching a contained two and a half hour movie, but that factor only adds to the expansive climactic nature of the film as an event, despite feeling structurally uneven. For a franchise that has had a tendency to feel largely disposable, this latest entry treats its characters with the weight and pathos that reminds us why these heroes have left such a strong impact on moviegoers over the past decade, and why we are continuously willing to follow them throughout multiple movies, even the ones that haven’t been all that great. – Mike Pisacano
Oversaturation and the need for continuous universe building over the past 10 years have led to justifiable criticism of the superhero genre as being stale where everything from the plot to the visual aesthetic and score all bleeds together into one indiscernible mass. Black Panther challenges that perception by fleshing out the world of Wakanda as a vibrant landscape blending African influenced culture/spirituality with advanced future tech. The desire to craft Wakanda as a living breathing society in it and of itself then gives credence to the divergent philosophies that drive the conflict. Exploring these notions generates an empathy – a level of humanity- beyond the spectacle of the action most notably in villain Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Director Ryan Coogler sees the mythos of the Black Panther as more than just tools in the grander Marvel machine which is why the film rises above its peers. Still, the film remains guilty of most Marvel affair in its forced humor and lackluster third act, however, Coogler shows so much love for the material that even Marvel’s biggest detractors can’t help saying “WAKANDA FOREVER”. – Nate Lam
Annually there are the billion-dollar blockbusters, the indie festival darlings and the small pool of Oscar contenders. We see these coming well in advance thanks to marketing and critical buzz but occasionally the movies still have room to surprise. This is the case with Book Club, a film that is disarmingly charming especially for those dismissive of it based on its premise. Following a book club that gets a reinvigorated lease on life after reading 50 Shades Of Grey, Book Club utilizes its stacked cast of Hollywood veterans (Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen among others) to deliver one of the year’s most underrated comedies. Covering issues like sexism, ageism, and sexuality with tact, If anything, Book Club is a stern reminder to studios that you don’t need extravagant franchises or elaborate premises to make a great movie. Just put some Hollywood legends in a room together and watch what happens. – Nate Lam
The Day After
Hong Sang-Soo has become something of an indie/festival darling and a regular on our Best of lists in part because of his prolific output and consistency. The Korean director returns with another deceptively simple human drama The Day After. Once again The Day After sees a man who struggles with fidelity at its center but through gorgeous black and white imagery and multiple long takes that drink in the emotional energy around each frame, Hong is able to reinvigorate tired subject matter. Never asking for forgiveness or even seeking redemption in any way, Hong delves into a complex contemplation of feelings and attraction. By way of excellent writing (which remains Hong’s greatest strength) he constructs a film that would almost function better as individual vignettes rather than one loosely conjoined plot but the observations he makes suggest that perhaps there is more to things than meets the eye. – Nate Lam
The Death of Stalin
The brilliance of director Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is its ability to bring out the laughs from a source material that is not really funny at all; how could it be? After all, this is a movie about the Soviet dictatorship and the political squabbling that took place to assume control of millions of Soviet citizens. But Iannucci has taken these historical events (albeit with some inaccuracies and artistic license) and drawn out the inherent absurdity and ridiculousness of them, making this a very amusing and funny film. He doesn’t insert jokes per se, rather he has the characters and situations showcase their utter foolishness which creates laughter. As Mel Brooks once said “ If you stand on a soapbox and trade rhetoric with a dictator you never win…That’s what they do so well: they seduce people. But if you ridicule them, bring them down with laughter, they can’t win. You show how crazy they are” And with that master touch, we realize that all of this is also quite tragic. For though all these events were ridiculous, still they happened and still, they led to widespread oppression and death. Iannucci thus proclaims that even the most “clownish” of leaders can still have a firm power on all those they rule. – Michael Vecchio
The latest installment in Aardman Studio’s celebrated stop motion animation filmography, Early Man, is a light-hearted and fun adventure at the movies. While it is not a runaway classic like the Wallace and Gromit series or Chicken Run, this movie still charms with good entertainment for children and some clever jokes for the adults. Stop-motion animation may be an acquired taste for some, but Aardman has continuously shown that even clay figures can be masterfully brought to life in the hands of experts. Though this movie doesn’t break any new ground in the animated field, it remains a testament to the very hard work of animators to make these types of films come to life. For an undemanding, charming, funny and just plain pleasant excursion at the movies, Early Man surely fits all the criteria. – Michael Vecchio
Produced as a vehicle for Paul Schrader’s theories on “transcendental” filmmaking, First Reformed ‘s esoteric and spiritual interiority often feels cold, poignant, and natural. Beyond it’s meticulously composed visuals, subdued performances from Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried, and reserved camerawork, a greater accessible truth for today’s social climate is tackled. By exploring the effect of isolation and disenfranchisement, First Reformed finds a thesis behind every day of contemporary small-town America; people are confused, lonely, and ready for action regardless of the ramifications. Beyond the appeal of the protagonist’s environmentalist leanings, the film attempts to find a psychology behind the need for a political cause. Instead of allowing a newfound concern for politics to become a beautiful ideal, writer Paul Schrader turns ideological passion amidst emptiness into a vessel for the worst of society to act out. – Grayson Lazarus
The delightfully fresh comedy Game Night about a casual neighborhood game night gone disastrously awry benefits by keeping the audience on its toes. A collection of faces mostly notable for their work on television (including standout performances from Friday Night Lights alum Jesse Plemons and Kyle Chandler reunited once more) highlight the cast but they all pale in comparison to show stealer Rachel McAdams. Playing the uber-competitive Annie, McAdams’ comedic timing generates some of Game Night’s biggest laughs born out of part unmatched enthusiasm and part blissful ignorance. Meanwhile, directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein inject their own flair parodying the ridiculous twists and turns of a classic Hollywood thriller while simultaneously paying homage to the genre (including a Fincher esque tracking shot midway through the movie). – Nate Lam
Hearts Beat Loud
Following 2017’s Band Aid and 2016’s Sing Street, Hearts Beat Loud is this year’s offering of charming, whimsical music-based Sundance indie comedy, which in all honesty, is a genre that deserves to have just as many entries per year as superhero movies do. Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons play a father/daughter duo who, on a whim, write and record a song, titled “Hearts Beat Loud”, which inexplicably becomes a hit on the indie music stations. From there, they contemplate the possibilities of taking their music career further, as well as the other various factors in their lives that would make this dream an unrealistic option. The chemistry between every different combination of actors, whether they be Offerman and Clemons, Offerman and Toni Collette, or especially Clemons and Sasha Lane, is just absolute magic on all fronts. It’s a beautifully uplifting, yet also vaguely melancholy expression of pure passion within the midst of coming to terms with letting go of the things that you hold close and venturing on into new areas in life. Also, keep an eye out for any Best Original Song nominations from this film come next Oscar season. – Mike Pisacano
At its best, Hereditary turns the minutia of trauma into a discomforting palette to base a slow burn horror-mystery about a family coming apart. Both the minor regrets and major insecurities of the main characters are turned into a series of sickening expressions of misery. Grief is made as terrifying (and certainly more palpable) as any ghost or conventional monster that could manifest by the conclusion. Here, the meaning of the film’s quietly elaborate and formally masterful horror can be felt in the moment, as opposed to a greater truth to be taken from thoughtfully analyzed subtext. More than a story with a satisfactory ending, it functions as a collection of intensely moving and disquieting sequences. – Grayson Lazarus
The 14-year wait for the highly anticipated and fan-requested Pixar sequel Incredibles 2 is a fun, action-packed adventure that we all would have expected it to be, however not as thematically rich as the original film. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) is given the spotlight this time around as part of a campaign to strengthen the public perception of superheroes. Her storyline features some of the most visually stunning and creative action sequences including a motorcycle chase and her encounter with the film’s admittedly underwhelming antagonist, The Screenslaver. It gives many of the beloved characters from the original their moments to shine (Jack-Jack might be the MVP of the movie) and gives us new characters with inventive powers that add a new layer of dynamic excitement to the action as well (Voyd is a goddess). This is also still probably the best Pixar sequel that doesn’t have the words “toy” or “story” in the title. – Mike Pisacano
Isle of Dogs
Nobody’s style is better suited to the medium of stop-motion animation than Wes Anderson’s, who’s meticulously crafted framing, use of colour, and physical comedy not only translate perfectly into this form but are even enhanced, with Anderson being gifted with complete precision and control over the slightest movement, over every inch of landscape, over the individual muscles of a subtle facial expression. Anderson flexes these abilities to their very limit, and the level of detail in every frame of this film is unparalleled to any other stop-motion I have seen. This Japanese dystopia looks fully realized and beautifully designed while considering just how much time, effort and precision must have gone into every second of this film are difficult to fathom. The star-studded cast helps to bring these inanimate sculptures – predominantly dogs – to life; frequent Anderson contributors are present such as Bill Murray, Edward Norton, and Jeff Goldblum, along with the likes of Brian Cranston, Greta Gerwig, and Scarlett Johansson, all of whom do an excellent job of crafting personality and individual character solely through the use of their vocal chords. Isle of Dogs is no deviation for Wes Anderson, but working with a much higher level of control than in his other stop-motion effort Fantastic Mr. Fox allows his beloved motifs to thrive. – Ethan Kruger
Let The Sunshine In
If there is a common element among most of the films on this list, it’s that women are absolutely crushing it both in front of and behind the camera in 2018. In the case of Let The Sunshine In (Un Beau Soleil Intérieur) it is a matter of both with French cinema royalty director Claire Denis and star Juliette Binoche (in a stunning performance) joining forces. A meditation on the state of modern romance (particularly as one gets older), Denis navigates the choppy waters of dating, sex, and romance with equal parts humor and serious intelligence. Thus it becomes the closest Denis will ever come to making a romantic comedy without actually making a romantic comedy. Because Let The Sunshine In never grasps at the fantasy aspect of a rom-com so much as it is interested in the realities of romance. In reality, there is plenty of disappointment, heartbreak and (to borrow a colloquial millennial term) fuck boys but there are also moments of unexpected joy, love, and passion. In the end, though, all you can really do is “try to let the sunshine in” and hope for the best. – Nate Lam
Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless draws inspiration from Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From A Marriage both depicting the complex entanglements of strained relationships. Examining the state of a marriage in shambles, we see the effect this has on the child caught in between it all. When that child mysteriously disappears, the contempt between the couple is amplified even further as they grapple with the loss of their son. Zvyagintsev maneuvers the cold desolate Russian landscape with an equally unflinching touch accomplishing this with minimal interference like a fly on the wall observing these people as they grapple with tragedy. The result is an emotionally draining experience but Loveless stays with you because of it’s unforgiving nature. So often movies feel the need to present the happy ending or at least offer some degree of optimism but reality does not always offer such luxuries. – Nate Lam
Notable for being a mainstream Hollywood wide release film which centers on a protagonist who is openly gay (at least, to the audience), as well as being directed by a gay man, Love, Simon’s merits extend far beyond its surface-level representation. While the movie itself is a very light, breezy teen comedy not too dissimilar from the countless others that we’ve seen millions of times before, but where it may fall into cliches and stereotypes as far as genre, plot points, and archetypes, it manages to avoid doing the same in its portrayal of its characters. Simon is such an extremely sympathetic protagonist who you truly want to see succeed and achieve everything that he sets out to do. Even throughout his personal journey of self-discovery, he outright acknowledges that he does not want to become a stereotype. Simon’s story could have very easily been a pandering attempt at earning brownie points from the LGBT community, however the film is fully aware of the social importance of the story that it is telling, and treats its subject matter with respect while still crafting a funny, heartfelt teen romance story from a perspective that we rarely ever see. – Mike Pisacano
It may be impossible to find a movie that will truly please, or have something, for everyone, but Paddington 2 is perhaps the closest we can get. Like its predecessor, this is a film with a tremendous heart and a persistent spirit of goodwill to all. It’s a wonderful reminder in a world of cruelty that love does indeed triumph if we look for it. Paddington Bear is mischevious, curious, but always well intentioned and his escapades are wonderful excursions for young children and adults alike. This is a delightful movie that will surely melt the iciest of hearts and please a wide spectrum of viewers with good light entertainment with a noble message at its core. – Michael Vecchio
There is something about revenge that makes it a compelling narrative theme. Perhaps it’s the search for justice and righting the wrongs of the past or it’s simply because we like seeing people pushed to their limits. In any case, Coralie Fargeat’s directorial debut appropriately titled Revenge is a visceral action thriller that sees a young woman transform from object of desire to victim then finally to badass killing machine. Timely given the current state of affairs Fargeat never shies away from the horrors that befall the characters. As we witness the heinous acts that set the plot in motion, we equally experience the comeuppance exacted on these men – one brutally violent event after another. Yet Revenge never feels like a fetishization of violence despite its graphic nature but rather becomes an empowering display of the strength. – Nate Lam
Set It Up
Netflix may be continuing their ascent as the media industry’s omnipotent force, but their original movie releases tend to be a little hit-and-miss, with only a small handful threatening to contend with the releases of other studios. Premieres of the wonderful Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories caused controversy at the Cannes Film Festival, while Rachel Morrison became the first female cinematographer to win an Academy Award for Dee Rees’ Mudbound. It is a surprise then, that the next Netflix Original to earn its place on this list of successes would be little more than a run-of-the-mill, low-budget rom-com. TV comedy director Claire Scanlon’s debut feature Set It Up doesn’t deviate from the archetypal structure and overly cute nature of its genre contemporaries, but where it stands out among an over-congested crowd is in the casting of its leads, up-and-coming stars Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell (last seen on-screen together in Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!). The chemistry between the pair is palpably naturalistic and endlessly enjoyable to watch, as they find themselves unintentionally drawn to each other while undertaking an elaborate plot to make their demanding bosses fall in love with each other. With this intriguing premise and a fun supporting turn from Lucy Liu, Set It Up may not change the world, but it serves as great comfort viewing that will leave you longing for more (and if reports of are sequel are true, this may well become possible). – Ethan Kruger
Jennifer Fox’s The Tale recounts the harrowing series of sexual abuse experienced by the filmmaker herself. Enlisting Laura Dern to play the on-screen version of herself, Fox tackles the ramifications of the past and how one grapples with the damage left in its wake. Without minimizing the impact trauma has on one’s well being, The Tale captures coping as a mechanism of reconstruction. Whether that means reconstructing the past as a means of suppression or reconstructing the self when confronted with harsh realities. Deeply personal journeys like this demand vulnerability and honesty that the tandem of Fox and Dern so gracefully convey. The Tale is by no means an easy watch but in many ways, it is an essential one. – Nate Lam
Nothing brings people together like a good old-fashioned murder. The near-wordless opening scene of Cory Finley’s debut feature tracks a teenager (Olivia Cooke) rummaging her way through an affluent household as a pulsating drum score interjects periodically setting the tone for what’s to come. Reminiscent of Cruel Intentions / Heathers – Thoroughbreds adopts a similarly dark tone turning what seem like innocent teens on the surface into a much more sinister vehicle. As the wheels start to turn, however, Finley starts to lose some of the control over his creation but is largely kept on track by strong performances from Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy (both well on their way to being bonafide stars) and the late great Anton Yelchin (in what would be his final performance). – Nate Lam
The third collaboration between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, Tully is a portrait of a mother’s mid-life crisis brought upon by feelings of being overworked underappreciated, and questioning why we even continue putting ourselves through so much stress. Tully feels like it came from a deeply rooted, personal journey of self-discovery at a time in which you can feel the most lost. It also serves as an example of Diablo Cody’s own personal growth and maturity as a writer when paired against his previous collaborations with Reitman. Even though it does have a stranger twist ending than an M. Night Shyamalan movie, it still manages to remain a charming, optimistic view of adulthood and an advocate for self-love being just as important as care for others. – Mike Pisacano
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
The world can be and often is a dark place; indeed one doesn’t have to look far to see the many despicable things on this Earth and the awful things humans do to each other. Yet just when it seems there’s no hope for humanity, people like Fred Rogers (1928-2003) emerge to remind us of the eternal power of love and simple everyday goodness. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a sweetly sentimental, inspirational and informative documentary on the life and work of Mr. Rogers, and the importance of his message of positivity, encouragement, and hope.
Through archival and behind the scenes footage and interviews of Fred Rogers and those who knew him best (including his wife and children, and the other actors and producers on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), this documentary presents a portrait not just of one of the most genuinely good people who has ever lived, but of why his life mission is needed now more than ever. Love does triumph when we find the room for it, and Fred Rogers always did.
Whether it’s children or adults his message has continued to show why its transformative power matters. Evil may affect the world, but love will always reign as long as we can ask the person next to us “Won’t you be my neighbor?” – Michael Vecchio
You Were Never Really Here
Seven years since her most recent feature film We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lynne Ramsay delivers another equally psychologically disturbing outing with her 2017 Cannes Film Festival darling, You Were Never Really Here. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as a veteran suffering with PTSD who tracks down missing girls for a living, Phoenix gives one of his most emotionally vulnerable and personally subdued performances of his career, which is saying a lot given the sheer variety of his previous roles. Ramsay explores the ramifications of violence from a restrained perspective without ever indulging in the graphic nature of the acts we are witnessing. Every scene is shot with such precision and beauty, including a scene that takes place at a lake, which has the potential to remain one of the most visually stunning and emotionally fulfilling scenes for the rest of the year to come. – Mike Pisacano