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THE BEST MOVIES OF 2018 (SO FAR)

May 13, 2018
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MARVEL STUDIOS/EVAN LOCKHART/THRILLIST
Updated On 05/09/2018 at 06:33PM EST

What are the best movies of 2018? Everyone asks in December, but we’d rather tell you them now with a rolling ranking, updated on the regular, featuring the best of the best movies that we 100% recommend. This is not a top 10 list. This is all the best movies of 2018. No mixed bags, interesting trainwrecks, or blockbusters that boast big box-office tallies. Just the true greats — movies big, small, and from around the world.

Your time is precious, and so is your money, but you need to see these 2018 movies. (And don’t forget to check out The Best Movies of 2017 either.)

The Best Movies of 2017
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NETFLIX

11. Roxanne Roxanne

Released: March 23
Cast: Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco
Director: Michael Larnell (Cronies)
Why it’s great: The traditional musician biopic, with its rags-to-riches beginning and its fall-from-grace conclusion, is a genre that’s always in need of a remix. Roxanne Roxanne, a stylish chronicle of Queensbridge rapper Roxanne Shante’s rise to fame in the 1980s, isn’t the most formally adventurous take on hip-hop’s early days — the “life on tour” scenes and a corny appearance from a soon-to-be-famous young rapper named Nasir feel like standard showbiz fodder — but director Michael Larnell has an eye for period detail, an ear for needle drops, and enough patience to let his performers shine on (and off) the mic. With humor and wit, Adams keeps you invested in every aspect of Shante’s journey, from her early battles with her disapproving mother (Long) to her harrowing fights with an abusive boyfriend Cross, played with tenderness and menace by Moonlightbreakout Ali. Like Shante’s best rhymes, it’s a tale told with dazzling craft and unwavering confidence.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix (watch the trailer)

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NEON

10. Gemini

Released: March 30
Cast: Lola Kirke, Zoë Kravitz, John Cho, Greta Lee
Director: Aaron Katz (Land Ho!)
Why it’s great: In last year’s Personal Shopper, Kristen Stewart played a young woman tasked with acquiring outfits, jewelry, and accessories for a celebrity, and eventually she found herself in the midst of a ghost story. Gemini, which stars Kirke as a personal assistant to Kravitz’s famous actress, is set in the same wealthy universe of fame-adjacent underlings, but instead of taking a supernatural route it stumbles down the path of a a low-key stoner noir. (Like a less dude-centric take on Inherent Vice or The Big Lebowski.) Katz’s version of a murder mystery in Los Angeles isn’t sweaty or sunny. He envisions the city as a chilly, neon-drenched world of small transactions, petty squabbles, and the occasional violent outburst. It’s the perfect backdrop for this sly comedy of careful negotiation.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

Netflix

9. The Ritual

Released: February 9
Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton
Director: David Bruckner (V/H/S)
Why it’s great: In the increasingly digitized world, the woods are often presented as a place to escape to and the prospect of “getting lost” is seen as a chance for self-discovery. The Ritual, a horror film where a group of middle-aged men embark on a hiking trip in honor of a dead friend, understands the tension between natural beauty of the outdoors and the unsettling panic of the unknown. The group’s de facto leader Luke (an understated Spall) attempts to keep the adventure from spiralling out of control, but the forest has other plans. (Maybe brush up on your Scandinavian mythology before viewing.) Like a backpacking variation on Neil Marshall’s 2005 cave spelunking classic The Descent, The Ritual deftly explores inter-personal dynamics while delivering jolts of other-worldly terror. It’ll have you rethinking that weekend getaway on your calendar.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Netflix (watch the trailer)

Paramount Pictures

8. A Quiet Place

Released: April 6
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
Director: John Krasinski (The Hollars)
Why it’s great: It’s reasonable to be skeptical of John Krasinski’s tastefully composed, PG-13 rated, Michael Bay-produced horror contraption. There was little in his previous two directorial efforts, the indies Brief Interviews With Hideous Men or The Hollars, that suggested Jim from The Office was a budding genre filmmaker. And yet: A Quiet Place is a top-notch roller coaster in the Spielberg-ianmold. After sound-hating monsters take over the planet, a husband (Krasinski) and wife (Blunt) live a life of extreme caution with their two children, protecting them in a carefully maintained world of hushed whispers and relative silence. As you’d guess, the monsters have other plans. The political allegory component of the story isn’t particularly compelling — it’s been interpreted as a commentary on the hysteria of Trump era — but as a movie about parental anxieties, it’s steely and effective.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

The Best Movie That Takes Place in Every State
Lionsgate

7. The Commuter

Released: January 12
Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows)
Why it’s great: The last thriller from the team of Neeson and Collet-Serra was Non-Stop, a bracing and clever whodunit on an airplane. The pair are back in high-octane Agatha Christie mode with The Commuter, a mystery that begins with Farmiga’s chatty passenger Joanna presenting Neeson’s haggard ex-cop (and loyal transit-enthusiast of the title) Michael MacCauley with a bizarre hypothetical: If you could perform a seemingly insignificant task that would have disastrous consequences for another commuter in exchange for a generous financial reward, would you do it? It’s a convoluted twist on Richard Matheson’s “Button, Button” short story, which was adapted into a classic Twilight Zone episode and the bonkers Richard Kelley movie The Box, but Collet-Serra is less interested in the moral dilemma. Instead, he simply wants to strip the giant locomotive — and his star’s lumbering frame — for parts, finding Hitchcockian tension in each padded seat, empty corridor, and nervy patron. It’s action filmmaking as controlled demolition — and the best train potboiler since Steven Seagal’s Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.
Where to see it right now: Stream on Amazon Prime; rent on iTunes, Amazon Video, VUDU, and YouTube (watch the trailer)

Bleecker Street

6. Unsane

Released: March 23
Cast: Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple
Director: Steven Soderbergh (Logan Lucky)
Why it’s great: Following the easy-going camaraderie of his hillbilly heist comeback Logan Lucky, the newly un-retired Soderbergh is back to subverting genre expectations again with this mental health thriller. Reportedly shot through the lens of an iPhone, which gives the film a discombobulating and flat look, Unsane follows Sawyer Valentine (Foy) as she gets checked into a hospital’s psych ward against her will and does battle with an insurance system that wants to drain her bank account with little regard for her wellbeing. (You could call it a quasi-sequel to Soderbergh’s pharma-thriller Side Effects.) The reveals that come in the third act will leave some viewers shaking their heads in disbelief — the story sets up narrative turns it doesn’t follow through on — but this isn’t a movie looking to be reduced to a single twist or slogan. It’s a story as layered, inscrutable, and prickly as Foy’s commanding lead performance. You can’t look away.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

IFC Films

5. The Death of Stalin

Released: March 9
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin
Director: Armando Iannucci (In the Loop)
Why it’s great: The verbose, scatological insult comedy of Iannucci, the creator of HBO’s long-running political satire Veep, somehow fits the backroom dealing of 1950s Soviet Union like a snug fur hat. When Stalin dies in the middle of the night, his middling underlings — including Nikita Khrushchev (Buscemi) Georgy Malenkov (Tambor), and Vyacheslav Molotov (Palin) — are left with organizing his state funeral and scurrying to consolidate power. The put-down’s are as riotously funny as you’d expect — “You smell like rendered horse, you burning asshole!” deserves a ceremonial medal — but the silly physical comedy, particularly in the early scenes where the men discover Stalin’s corpse, is even better. Iannucci remains a master of finding humor in the bleakest scenarios imaginable, exposing the petty human foibles behind history’s greatest horrors.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

Marvel Studios

4. Black Panther

Released: February 16
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira
Director: Ryan Coogler (Creed)
Why it’s great: Coogler’s deft balancing of a high-tech spy gadgetry, ceremonial palace intrigue, fantasy action mayhem, and subversive political critique is unparalleled in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe that Black Panther springs from. In the same way Creed, his propulsive and knowing reboot of the Rocky franchise, paid tribute to and upended boxing iconography, Coogler’s take on superhero-dom is both pleasing and probing. Basically, he’s got Soundcloud jokes, rhino battles, and takes on imperialism. The larger ideological conflict between the new king T’Challa (Boseman) and the American revolutionary Killmonger (Jordan) has been seen before in the pages of history books and comics, but it’s never been given this type of eye-popping, brain-scrambling, heart-pounding blockbuster treatment.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

Every Movie and TV Show Coming to Netflix in March
Paramount Pictures

3. Annihilation

Released: February 23
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson
Director: Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Why it’s great: Writer Jeff VanderMeer’s hallucinogenic, Kafka-like science-fiction novel proves to be fertile ground for filmmaker Alex Garland in this unsettling and surreal adaptation. Garland doesn’t stick to the book’s plot but he keeps the core concept: A team of women, including Portman’s grief-stricken biology professor, venture into a quarantined territory of Florida known only as “Area X” to investigate a series of unexplained phenomena and disappearances. The journey quickly turns perilous and it becomes clear that group won’t make it out alive. Working in the same white-knuckle register as John Carpenter’s The Thing, the movie unnerves and stuns in equal measure. Refusing to provide the type of puzzle-box solutions viewers have been trained to look for, Garland leaves us with psychedelic images: grotesque animal hybrids stalking their prey, quizzical humans transforming into flowers, and shiny doubles performing interpretative dance moves. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, it dares to dream in a language we can’t quite comprehend.
Where to see it right now: Streaming on Netflix outside the US, out on VOD/Blu-ray on May 29 (watch the trailer)

Sony Pictures Classics

2. The Rider

Released: April 13
Cast: Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau, Cat Clifford
Director: Chloé Zhao (Songs That My Brothers Taught Me)
Why it’s great: The gritty authenticity of The Rider, which casts real-life horse wrangler Brady Jandreau as an injured rodeo star trying to find his second act, is perfectly balanced by a yearning poetic quality that never feels cloying or manipulative. Zhao’s camera captures Jandreau, his family, and his friends in moments of pain, contemplation, and relaxation, treating a trip to a treatment center or a shared joint with the same degree of curiosity. Everything matters and has weight in this study of masculinity and ego. It’s a naturalistic vision of the West that’s grounded in specific details, like the slow-and-steady work of breaking a horse. At the same time, Zhao gives the movie an almost old-fashioned sports movie narrative: Will Brady, a gifted and young athlete, ever ride again? If he doesn’t follow his dreams, what remains? Why keep going? These are questions that gather existential power with each seemingly low-stakes scene.
Where to see it right now: In theaters (watch the trailer)

Amazon Studios

1. You Were Never Really Here

Released: April 6
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette, John Doman
Director: Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Why it’s great: You’ve seen hitman movies, but you’ve never seen Lynne Ramsay’s hitman movie. The Scottish director, who many first discovered with 2002’s elliptical nightlife odyssey Morvern Callar, can take a John Wick-ian premise and invest it with new meaning by reframing it from an askew angle. This crime story, adapted from a novella by Bored to Death writer Jonathan Ames, is about an ex-soldier named Joe (Phoenix) who finds himself tasked with recovering a kidnapped girl amidst a sinister political conspiracy involving human trafficking. The tone of creeping dread and fixation on violent revenge recalls Taxi Driver, last year’s X-Men shoot-em-up Logan, and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive or Only God Forgives; there should be nothing new to see here. What makes it so special? Between Phoenix’s muted performance, Jonny Greenwood’s string-drenched score, and Ramsay’s expressive jump-cuts, every image crackles with energy, style, and possibility. It’s a death-obsessed movie vibrating with life.