From the dog days of January to the blockbuster summer months, 2018 has been an exceptional year at the movies. It's been especially notable for horror thus far, but every genre has been well-represented. We've seen tons of new sequels and remakes, but only one made my list of the best movies of the year (so far). Here's what I've got after (almost) six months:
10. Incredibles 2
A marvel of visual filmmaking, Incredibles 2 also tells a well-crafted story about gender reversals, being yourself, and the woes of parenting. It's not a revolutionary superhero movie. It simply borrows and enhances old ideas and makes them new again, thanks to writer/director Brad Bird.
9. American Animals
The best heist movie of the year so far, American Animals toys with the documentary genre to recreate a true story. Mixing interviews with the actual culprits with a recreation narrative, director Bart Layton (who did something similar with his last film, The Imposter) has made a smart genre mashup that works with the help of a stellar young cast (Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan).
8. Isle of Dogs
The most detailed, deadpan funny movie of 2018, Isle of Dogs combines more of writer/director Wes Anderson's favorite things: dogs, Japan, young love, and makes them ours. The simple tale about a boy searching for his dog is elevated by Anderson's usual sense of symmetry and melancholy. And the voice cast of A-listers doesn't hurt.
What Annihilation does about as well as any movie is world creation. Set in a present where a mysterious electromagnetic field, called "The Shimmer," is expanding slowly, threatening to engulf the States, Annihilation follows the scientists who explore it. Inside, they find what was once our world is being changed on a molecular level... with horrifying results. The story, based on the book of the same name, is hugely ambitious and, somehow, director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) pulls it off onscreen.
A legitimate shocker, Hereditary will make you feel unsafe from start to finish. Along with A Quiet Place, it's the year's must-see horror movie. The violence is unyielding and vicious as a family is cursed after their grandmother's death. But see it for Toni Collette, above all. She makes the film much scarier than it should be with an otherworldly performance.
5. First Reformed
From Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, First Reformed sputters at the end a bit, but most of it is so good it can't be ignored. Ethan Hawke plays a priest in the midst of a spiritual crisis whose humanity overcomes his disillusionment with the church.
4. The Death of Stalin
Armando Iannucci's (Veep) latest satirical masterwork might be his best yet. Buoyed by an exceptional cast (Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, Paddy Considine) that kills every scene, The Death of Stalin is set in the days after the title event as the former Soviet Union's leaders scramble to stay in power.
From Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult), Tully is another sharp, awkward, and honest look at American life in all its dysfunction. Charlize Theron gives a brave performance (she gained 50 lbs. for the role) as an exhausted mother who welcomes a new night nanny into her life. How the story reveals its secrets is not only cinematically satisfying, it reeks of truth as well.
2. The Rider
It's always exciting to discover a hidden gem, and that's The Rider this year. Director Chloé Zhao's modest, mesmerizing tale of a brain damaged rodeo star suffering through a life of poverty and disappointment is made all the more authentic by its cast of non-actors. And they're only part of what makes The Rider memorable. It's a portrait of a place, and a country, just as much as it is of a family.
1. You Were Never Really Here
Director Lynne Ramsay only makes feature films once every six or seven years so we must be thankful when they come around. Her latest, You Were Never Really Here, is true visual storytelling. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as a hitman with a damaged past, the movie follows his hunt for a kidnapped girl, but the story is psychologically driven by his inner struggle, brought to life through Ramsay and Joe Bini's furious editing. I haven't stopped thinking about it all year.