Debate Club: Best Genre Films 2018

Debate Club: The 5 best genre movies of 2018

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Dec 26, 2018, 3:00 PM EST

Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.

This was a terrific movie year, with both fantastic big-budget blockbusters and daring, inventive indies. (And some movies that somehow combined both.) And 2018 also featured some of the most original, stunning genre movies we’ve seen in a while.

Sure, there are still always going to be Transformers movies. But with alternatives like these, we’ve never been more fortunate. (And, heck, even Bumblebee wasn’t that bad.)

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in First Man

First Man

Hardly a straightforward biopic — this Neil Armstrong is chilly and removed, and he and the film deliberately hold the audience at a distance — Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to La La Land tackles one of the most amazing accomplishments in human history in tight, measured and deeply human terms.

It gets the little details right — about grief, marriage, parenthood — but the movie truly soars when it heads to the heavens, including that trip to the moon, which is flabbergasting even if you didn’t see it in IMAX. (But, boy, if you did...)

Audiences may have expected something more transparently stirring, but what Chazelle gave them was so much more.



Viola Davis heads a world-beating cast in this tense, unexpectedly emotional heist film.

There are so many stories in Widows — so many characters whose lives we come to know — that we get the sense of a varied community of individuals all grappling with the same societal and political issues. Daniel Kaluuya makes for a powerfully unsettling enforcer. Colin Farrell is a perfectly oily politician. Elizabeth Debicki is a revelation as a woman who’s tired of just being treated as a pretty face. And Davis shows steeliness and vulnerability as a grieving widow facing an impossible task.

Director Steve McQueen has documented man’s inhumanity to man in films like 12 Years a Slave and Hunger, but who knew he was a crackerjack popcorn-flick auteur as well?



Horror can be such a subjective film genre as everybody has different things they’re scared of.

But Ari Aster’s Hereditary has scares that feel universal, even primal; it’s a film that gets under your skin and never stops crawling around in there. Hereditary makes you uneasy for the first 90 minutes... and then makes you want to run screaming out of the theater. And in a film of many great performances, most notoriously Toni Collette’s tortured mother, let’s remember Gabriel Byrne as the dad who thinks that if he can be the stable member of the family, it will all work out. He is... not correct.

Annihilation The Shimmer


Based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, writer-director Alex Garland’s enigmatic sci-fi/horror mash-up sends a group of scientists (led by Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh) into an eerie realm known as “The Shimmer." Others have gone in, but no one’s come out. (Actually, that’s not true. Portman’s husband, played by Oscar Isaac, returned, but something is clearly, terribly wrong with him now.)

Annihilation builds on the promise of Garland’s Oscar-winning Ex Machina, showcasing his ability to craft thoughtful, mind-bending genre films. This underrated gem is terrifying and awe-inspiring in equal measure.

Mission Impossible Fallout

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Building on the themes and plot points of 2015’s Rogue Nation, Fallout proves that Tom Cruise isn’t interested in slowing down one iota, once again putting Ethan Hunt through one white-knuckle action sequence after another, all for our entertainment.

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie made this summer’s best blockbuster by focusing on character, which adds an emotional heft to every one of the amazing spectacles Fallout has in store for us. Watch Tom jump. Watch Tom shoot. Watch Tom drive a motorcycle. Watch Tom fly a helicopter.

And, most importantly, watch Tom run. And run and run.

Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.