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10 Best Movies of 2018 So Far

From superhero parents to supernaturally haunted kids, black comedies to ‘Black Panther’ – the greatest films to hit theaters so far this year

10 Best Movies of 2018 So Far

What if they cut off the year in movies at half time and we had to pick the best of 2018 only from those films that opened before July 1st? True, there was a lot of crap out there, from Action Point and Fifty Shades Freed to Gotti and Superfly. But don’t panic: It only seems like everything sucked. There were more than a few bright spots that could be glimpsed amid the Hollywood muck.

In fact, director Ryan Coogler looks likely to lead the charge to make Black Panther the first Marvel epic to persuade Oscar voters sit up and start casting ballots. Toni Collette (Hereditary), Ethan Hawke (First Reformed), Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place) and Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here) are already being touted for acting awards. And if non–live-action films get better this year than Brad Bird’s The Incredibles 2 and Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, then we’re in for an animated renaissance. Here, in alphabetical order, are my picks for the 10 best movies of 2018 so far.

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‘Black Panther’

Marvel’s first black superhero epic is not only the pride of the MCU – sorry, Avengers: Infinity War – it’s the best movie of the year so far (and by far), as well as the first comic-book adaptation to have a real shot at winning the Best Picture Oscar. Virtuoso director Ryan Coogler marshals a killer cast, led by Chadwick Boseman as the king of the fictional African country of Wakanda – a regent who doubles as a crimefighter disguised as a panther. And deep bows to the women of this advanced nation, played by Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett, all of whom help Coogler achieve a heroic triumph that feels revolutionary. 

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‘The Death of Stalin’

It would have been hard to predict that the comedy of the year – no contest – is a farce carved out of the demise of kill-happy Russian dictator Joseph Stalin. But that’s Armando Iannucci for you. The British political satirist behind In the Loop and HBO’s Veep tops himself in this absurdist tale that might be sheer political lunacy – if Trump and Kim Jong-un weren’t pulling the same mine’s-bigger-than-yours shit in the here and now, that is. Iannucci has put together a peerless class of acting clowns, and as Nikita Khrushchev, Steve Buscemi should be sparking awards talk from here to the Kremlin. Ditto the movie.

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‘Disobedience’

Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams give unforgettable performances as two women who fall in love and into bed (their sex scene is already a sensation). The hitch comes because these lovers are expressing a carnal-and-beyond attraction in an Orthodox Jewish community where same-sex relations are forbidden. Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio digs deep into the nature of disobedience and the passions that demand it. 

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‘First Reformed’

Paul Schrader’s masterpiece about a crisis of faith stars Ethan Hawke as a parish pastor who picks up the soul-sickness of a suicidal eco-terrorist he’s supposed to be counseling. Only the man’s pregnant wife (Amanda Seyfried) opens up the possibility of hope. Blending harsh reality with surreal flights of imagination, Schrader hits a late-career pinnacle. 

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‘Hereditary’

Can you inherit evil and even pass it on? That’s the core question that first-time feature filmmaker Ari Aster asks in this horror show that won’t play by the clichéd rulebook. Toni Collette gives an Oscar-caliber performance as Annie Graham, an artist who works in miniature in an attempt to control what’s haunting her. Fat chance. Annie’s husband (Gabriel Byrne), their stoner son (Alex Wolff) and shy daughter (Milly Shapiro) will learn the hard way that the scariest demons are prowling right at home. 

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‘Incredibles 2’

It took Brad Bird 14 years to give us the sequel to The Incredibles – and it’s totally worth the wait. Superheroes are still illegal, but the Parr family is eager to change minds. This time, Mom/Elastigirl (voiced by the sublimely feisty Holly Hunter) does the heavy lifting while Dad (Craig T. Nelson) stays home with the three kids. Timely much? The villainous Screen-slaver thinks lazy citizens need to save their own asses instead of relying on superheroes. Does the baddie have a point? 

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‘Isle of Dogs’

Wes Anderson’s exquisite stop-motion gem about quarantined canines doubles as a stinging political metaphor. Detractors claim that Anderson’s Japanese influences amount to cultural appropriation. Hooey. His blend of technique and compassion amounts to nothing less than a true work of art.

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‘A Quiet Place’

John Krasinski earns major props as a filmmaker by sustaining an atmosphere of clutching suspense in this terrifying thriller. A monster apocalypse has wiped out most of civilization. A family of four – Krasinski and his wife, Emily Blunt, play the parents – can only stay alive if they don’t make a sound. Noise brings out the worst in monsters. And this virtually silent film has brought out the best in the actor-turned-director. It’s a tour de force. 

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‘The Rider’

Beijing-born filmmaker Chloé Zhao defines poetry in motion in this tale of a Lakota cowboy, played by South Dakota bronco buster and horse trainer Brady Jandreau, who gets kicked in the skull and can no longer do the job he loves. Zhao’s lyrical film cuts to the core of what makes us human.

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‘You Were Never Really Here’

If you still need proof that Joaquin Phoenix is one of our finest actors, go directly to this brilliant tale of a war-vet-turned-assassin who finds a kind of salvation by trying to save a kidnapped girl. Phoenix and Scottish writer-director Lynne Ramsay are artists at their peaks.