Because good movies don’t wait for awards season.
Good movies don’t wait for awards season, which means loving movies is a year-long gig. You’re probably used to seeing best-of lists pop up at the end of the year, but when you wait that long, too many good ones inevitably get lost in the shuffle. There are just too many good movies these days, and whether they land in theaters, head straight to video or pop up on your favorite streaming network, there’s always a new release to get excited about, no matter what time of year it is. With that in mind, we’re casting a wider net and kicking things off early with our best movies of 2018 so far, from big-hype blockbusters to indie horror, studio comedy, animated gems, and everything in between.
We’ll keep this list updated throughout the year — and goodness knows there’s plenty to look forward to as 2018 wears on — but for now, check out our recommendations for the must-watch movies of the year below. And if you’re looking for even more recent movies to tune into, be sure to check out our Best Movies of 2017 as well.
This movie could have gone horribly wrong and instead it comes out as one of the funniest movies of the year. Blockers teetered on being a patriarchal, sex-negtive, regressive comedy, and instead it cleverly uses its premise—parents trying to stop their kids from having sex—and makes it about parents’ fear of their kids growing up and leaving. Sex isn’t painted as the villain in Blockers, and once that’s out of the way and the motives are reframed, you have the room to just send out hilarious gag after hilarious gag. The movie is painfully funny from start to finish, and I’m still chuckling over a throwaway line from Hannibal Buress. You’ll know it when you see it. – Matt Goldberg
A brawling Giallo throwback by way of gender-bent Taxi Driver, Cold Hell is a kinetic, kickass crime thriller of the highest order with a thick sweaty sheen of underworld grime. Violetta Schurawlow delivers a breakout performance as Özge, a bitter cabbie in Vienna, where she spends her nights picking up crass and cruel customers, fuelling her inner rage with each new pickup — rage she doles out daily in her Thai boxing club. When she comes home after another gruelling night at the wheel, she witnesses a gruesome murder, and when the murderer witnessess her too, he sets his sights on Özge as his next victim. Except, she is the last woman on earth you want to mess with. Rooted in racism, gender and religion, Cold Hell has more to say than your average pulpy thriller, and directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Stephan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters), it’s got style to spare, but the film never loses sight of the entertainment factor, delivering one propulsive, bone-breaking action set-piece after the next and spinning it all together in one lurid tale that feels pulled right from the pages of a dime store paperback. — Haleigh Foutch
Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema have a habit of churning out comedies with high concepts and big name casts to mixed results, but Game Night is an absolute delight. The comedy marks the second directorial effort of Vacation helmers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who were just coming off their work co-writing Spider-Man: Homecoming—an experience that clearly informed how they approached this particular film. The story follows a game night between friends gone wrong, and it plays out as a semi-comedic spin on David Fincher’s The Game. It works really, really well as Daley and Goldstein are able to keep the plot compelling with various twists and turns, while the ensemble led by Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman rise to the occasion and mesh incredibly well. Then we have Jesse Plemons giving the ultimate “creep” performance of the decade. – Adam Chitwood
There’s no denying the talent that six-time Oscar-nominee Wes Anderson has put on display for more than 20 years. And neither is there any denying the capabilities of the A-list cast assembled for this stop-motion film, Anderson’s spiritual successor to 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. The artistry is on-point, the dialogue and delivery are vintage Anderson, and the musical selections are absolute crowd-pleasers. The story, on the surface, is straight-forward: A gang of rejected dogs roam Trash Island in order to find a lost member of the pack and reunite him with his human owner. But what makes Isle of Dogs a must-watch movie is not the laughs it generates, but the tough conversations it ignites thanks to Anderson’s misplaced cultural commentary.
Anderson’s provisioning of his own skewed take on foreign cultures in his films is not a new trend; see The Darjeeling Limitedand, to a lesser extent, The Grand Budapest Hotel. But in this age of cultural awareness and social media presence, it’s hard to hide behind cute talking dogs and silly animated sequences. Watching Isle of Dogs with this in mind raises some interesting questions about cultural appropriation, the pervasive appearance of the Great White Savior, and just who or what exactly the dogs themselves are supposed to be stand-ins for, ie The Other. There’s a lot of conversational topics that can be sparked up from this film, whether Anderson intended all of them or not. – Dave Trumbore
Between the source material, Greg Berlanti, and that rock solid ensemble, it was clear that Love, Simon had loads of potential, but the end result far exceeded my expectations. Berlanti brilliantly blends very familiar high school dramedy qualities with Simon’s (Nick Robinson) more unique situation – a perspective and experience we haven’t seen enough of on the big screen. By doing that, he allows the viewer to get comfortable so that by the time we’re firmly connected to and rooting for Simon, it further highlights how challenging and important it can be to embrace who you are when some of your qualities aren’t considered social norm. Further amplifying Simon’s journey throughout the film is every single supporting player around him. Every supporting character in this movie is memorable, serves a purpose, and enhances the big picture. Love, Simon is a highly enjoyable and moving story that’s a pleasure to watch and rewatch, and has a lasting effect that’ll keep your heart full between viewings. — Perri Nemiroff
As of this writing, Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata had recently passed away. Though often outshined by the slightly more prolific Hayao Miyazaki, Takahata’s contributions to the famed film studio have influenced generations of artists, filmmakers, and creators alike. One such influence can be seen in the spin-off production company Studio Ponoc, whose first animated feature Mary and The Witch’s Flower promises big things ahead for the heir apparent.
Adapted from Mary Stewart’s novel “The Little Broomstick”, Mary and The Witch’s Flower captures all of that story’s magical elements and theme of self-discovery in a way that only an anime-styled movie can. Studio Ghibli’s style is very apparent here and it will take some time to see how Ponoc differentiates itself in order to stand on their own, but it’s clear that their grasp of story and eye for iconic creature creations is a strength. Seek out Mary and The Witch’s Flower to acclimate yourself with Studio Ponoc and get a jump on the next Ghibli-esque obsession. – Dave Trumbore
Taylor, who co-directed Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Cage is clearly having the time of his life in the anarchic horror movie, which follows a suburbia gone to hell when a mysterious mass hysteria descends on the parents of the population, giving them an unquenchable desire to murder their own children. It’s a perfect perversion of the natural order, and everyone on board has a blast with the concept, hamming it up and leaning into the tastelessness with giddy glee. Taylor knows exactly what kind of movie he’s making, keeping the run time trim and delivering a number of camp-horror sequences that keep the audience grinning and squirming throughout, including a doozy of a cameo from Lance Henrikson and the best use of Selma Blair‘s talents in a decade. Mom and Dad is a midnight movie to boot and it works so well because it never tries to be anything else. — Haleigh Foutch
It’s a little weird that Steven Spielberg’s ode to the 80s became one of the most divisive films of the year, but here we are. Whether you love or hate Ready Player One, the craft and technical wizardy on display are undeniably terrific. It feels like Spielberg’s a kid in a candy store when he’s untethered to the laws of physics, as he creates unique and exciting shot compositions inside the OASIS, resulting in jaw-dropping set pieces like the chase sequence and the [SPOILER] set piece. Thematically it feels like Spielberg’s intent gets a little muddled, but ultimately the film works as a piece of pure popcorn entertainment. It’s a silly movie filled with silly fun, aimed at a younger demographic. It’s nowhere near as substantial as Lincoln or even Bridge of Spies, but Ready Player One still maintains the high level of craft we’ve come to expect from The Master. – Adam Chitwood
Not all of the best movies of the year made their way into theaters. Case in point, Netflix’s original horror feature, The Ritual. On the surface, this is a pretty standard horror script: A bunch of dude-friends get together for a camping getaway only to stumble onto an ancient ritual site and get killed, one by one, by a monstrous creature. But dig a little deeper and this story becomes much more harrowing.
The real horrifying part of this tale is the backstory that frames the friends’ journey; without going into spoilery details, it suffices to say that The Ritual hits you with some real-world horror when you least expect it.The rest of the telling, specifically focusing on Rafe Spall’s character Luke, is colored by these earlier events and every choice the men make is cast in the shadow of those shared experiences. That’s a level of meaning that your average horror script fails to deliver. Add in the fact that the movie’s monster design is one of the creepiest and most original terrors in years and you have yourself a bona fide, contemporary horror classic. – Dave Trumbore
While The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling premiered on HBO, it’s still technically a movie released in 2018—and it’s great! Directed by Judd Apatow, the four-hour doc chronicles the life of the comedian who passed away suddenly in 2016. The film doesn’t simply go through Shandling’s life step by step, but is instead focused on contextualizing who Garry was and why he did what he did through personal diaries he kept for decades. Apatow interviews close friends, collaborators, and family members to get inside Garry’s head, along the way charting the massive impact he had on the world through It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, The Larry Sanders Show, and his penchant for mentoring up-and-coming comedians. In analyzing some of Garry’s shortcomings, the film strikes upon profound life lessons in tactful and extremely emotional ways, and in this regard it stands as one of Apatow’s best directorial efforts yet. – Adam Chitwood
You’d be hard-pressed to find a feature film debut that’s sharper than Cory Finley‘s pitch black comedy Thoroughbreds. Take one part Heathers, one part American Psycho and throw some throw a dash of Equus on that fire and you’ve got a sense of what you’re getting into with Thoroughbreds. Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke star as two affluent, WASP-y high schoolers who used to be best friends, and when circumstance drives them together again, they chart a course to violent murder. Tightly-scripted with delicious deadpan delivery, Thoroughbreds is funny as it is dark, and a fascinating rumination on toxic teenage friendships. — Haleigh Foutch
I hope you’re ready to talk about A Quiet Place! Not just right now when it’s new and buzzy, and not just at the end of the year when it’s popping up on Best of 2018 lists. (And who knows? Maybe even Academy Award prediction pieces as well.) A Quiet Place is a cinematic and genre achievement that’ll be discussed, analyzed and celebrated for years to come. It’s a movie that fires on all cylinders. It boasts a chilling core concept, stellar performances oozing with emotion, and technical elements that bring it all together in a way that makes it a transcendent viewing experience. A Quiet Place doesn’t let you sit back and watch the scenario play out. You are wholly consumed by the atmosphere and sound design to the point that you – the moviegoer – are terrified to make even the slightest sound. It’s a standout film that no doubt will make John Krasinski a hot commodity as a director and also continue what genre successes like Get Out, IT, The Witch and more have recently highlighted; horror is a genre where style, craft and ingenuity can thrive. A Quiet Place helps break the mold and pave the way to more widespread and prestigious recognition. — Perri Nemiroff
Soderbergh’s gonna Soderbergh. As a filmmaker who’s never content to play it safe, Steven Soderbergh decided to tackle big ideas with small means in Unsane, a new psychological horror movie shot entirely on an iPhone (though admittedly with some big-budget lenses and software). The shooting format may seem like a hacky gimmick, but in Soderbergh’s hands, it works, bringing an unusual intimacy to the skewed story of gnawing paranoia and society’s absurd reluctance to believe women. Claire Foy continues her rise to the top as Sawyer Valentini, a young businesswoman who relocates to a new city after a terrifying experience with a stalker. When she starts seeing him everywhere again, she begins to question her own reality, and after a too-honest therapy session, she accidentally commits herself to a mental hospital where she may or may not be trapped with the man she’s trying to escape. Soderbergh plays with your mind, and that’s half the fun, but it’s the way he pokes and prods at the experience of anxiety and entrapment that makes Unsane such an effective trip down the rabbit hole. It can be a bit blunt and schlocky at moments, but when Unsane digs at a nerve, it usually hits, making for an extremely unnerving experience. — Haleigh Foutch
Filmmaking duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead made a name for themselves with their pensive, emotional horror movies Resolution and Spring, which took two very different approaches to character-driven indie horror with a healthy dose of Lovecraftian madness. With The Endless, Benson and Moorhead take their technical and creative accomplishments to the next level, crafting a complex but complete realm of mythology and cosmic horrors where two brothers are forced to confront and reconcile with both spiritual and intimate truths when they make a return visit to the cult they escaped as kids and discover there may be more to their beliefs than they once thought. Surprisingly funny with a creeping sense of dread, The Endless is a heartfelt, clever and unique trip through the otherworldly. — Haleigh Foutch
It’s been too long since the last Lynne Ramsay film (We Need to Talk about Kevin), but her latest feature shows she’s lost none of her bite or ferocity. In the hands of a lesser director, You Were Never Really Here would just be Taken with Joaquin Phoenix, but Ramsay turns the picture into a fascinating portrait of violence and madness. The brutality is absolutely gut-wrenching, but Ramsay never loses the thread of her protagonist, who has been consumed by a lifestyle he never really wanted and no longer knows how to escape. The film also features one of Phoenix’s best performances, making full use of both his vulnerability and his viciousness. – Matt Goldberg
Inarguably one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies ever, and arguably the best thus far, director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is a thrilling, moving, thoughtful, and challenging piece of blockbuster filmmaking. The superhero pic doesn’t skimp on the heroics or humor we’ve come to expect from the MCU, but the Creed and Fruitvale Station filmmaker also threads a strong thematic needle of what it means to be black in America vs. what it means to be African, exemplified by the struggle between Wakandan King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and the film’s antagonist Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). That’s not the only theme at work, as the film also traverse issues relating to isolationism, escalation, and gender dynamics, and Black Panther gives us one of the most complex superhero “villains” to date with a positively incisive performance from Jordan, resulting in a surprisingly emotional viewing experience.
And then there’s the women of Wakanda, as Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Ramonda (Angela Bassett) fill out a delightfully dynamic ensemble filled with complex and engaging female characters. We’ve come to expect enjoyable experiences from Marvel movies, but never have we been presented with one as rich and invigorating as Black Panther, which transcends the genre as one of the best films of the year so far, period. – Adam Chitwood
If you could bottle pure joy and turn it into a movie, it would look something like Paddington 2. I almost get mad when I think of all of the people that didn’t see this movie in the theater, and then I calm down because that’s what Paddington would do (he might give them a hard stare, though). The film is a pure delight from start to finish and it carries a great message about what it means to not just be a good person, but the importance of treating other people with kindness. The fact that the message doesn’t come off as mawkish or maudlin is a minor miracle, and 2018 will be hard-pressed to find another movie that leaves the audience feeling so uplifted. Plus it features Hugh Grant giving one of the best performances of his career. – Matt Goldberg
Although it was sold more as action movie, Annihilation is far more comfortable in the mold of twisted, mind-bending sci-fi. The plot involves five female scientists headed into an alien phenomenon called “The Shimmer” only to discover the rules of time and biology start to become warped within. It’s a truly terrifying movie (screambear is one of the more horrifying creations ever put to film), but one with a lot on its mind about the nature of decay, self-destruction, and the possibility of rebirth. Writer-director Alex Garland has crafted the best kind of sci-fi with Annihilation: the kind that keeps you talking about the movie long after the credits have rolled. – Matt Goldberg
Yes, this movie will likely make you cry, but as you’ll also see from Morgan Neville’s moving documentary about Fred Rogers, crying is more than okay. What makes Won’t You Be My Neighbor? such a powerful look at Rogers’ life is that it’s really about his ideas. Rather than simply doing a cradle-to-the-grave hagiography about the beloved children’s entertainer, Neville drills down into the ethos of Rogers’ work. While not all viewers will agree with Rogers’ conclusions, we respect them because we respect him because he taught us to respect each other. The most important question the documentary asks isn’t “What would Fred Rogers do?” but “What would you do?” So wipe away those tears and be the person Rogers knew you could be. – Matt Goldberg
First Reformed is not an easy movie by any stretch, but it is one of the best movies of the year. Paul Schrader’s meditation on faith and despair follows a priest (Ethan Hawke) of a small congregation who is begins falling further into hopelessness as he attempts to council a pregnant wife (Amanda Seyfried) and her activist husband (Philip Ettinger).
Schrader allows the audience to sink into the despair with its priest, but it’s never a punishing experience. Rather than try to emotionally eviscerate the audience with bleakness, First Reformed is almost a conversation with the elements that cause despair from global warming to institutions of faith that seem more designed for profit than for spiritual care. And yet despite its lofty ambitions, it’s never preachy or overbearing. First Reformed can be dark and disturbing, but there’s still light in the darkness. – Matt Goldberg
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The Best Movies of 2018 So Far – Collider
Because good movies don’t wait for awards season.