Can you believe we're almost at the halfway point of 2018 already? Six months in, we've already seen a generous helping of genre films that have either lived up to or blasted past expectations, let us down with a thud or divided fans so bitterly (hello there, Solo: A Star Wars Story) that the rifts may never heal properly.
But make no mistake, there have been a number of movies unveiled in the first half of 2018 that have cemented their place among the year's best, even with efforts still to come like Ant-Man and the Wasp, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, The Meg, The Nun, The Predator, Venom, Halloween, Suspiria, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Aquaman, Bumblebee, Mortal Engines and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
For now, however, check out our list of what has already made a mark and see which ones you agree with, which you don't, and which you need to catch up with. Some of our favorites include films that were legitimately groundbreaking, as well as others that met or exceeded the hype around their release. And if something you felt was deserving didn't make the cut, state your case below.
Here are the best sci-fi, horror and fantasy films of 2018 so far (in order of release):
Paddington 2 (January 12)
A delight for adults and children alike and even better than the captivating first film, Paddington 2 follows the beloved talking bear on a new adventure that finds him in the middle of everything from a prison break to a runaway train. Throughout it all he remains his graceful, earnest and honest self, bringing everyone around him together in ways they don't always expect.
An excellent cast (led by Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington, along with Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson and a hilariously villainous Hugh Grant) and terrific visual effects are the final touches on the kind of heartwarming escapism we don't always realize we need right now.
The Ritual (February 8)
Theatrically released in the UK but premiering on Netflix in the U.S., The Ritual is one of the better horror movies you never heard of this year. Based on a novel by acclaimed British writer Adam Nevill, the story follows four friends who embark on a hiking trip in the Swedish mountains in honor of a fifth friend, who suggested the trip but was killed beforehand in a robbery. As they probe deeper into the woods, however, the quartet are pursued by a presence they can't explain.
The four friends (led by Rafe Spall of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) have an effortless chemistry and also project genuine anger and grief, while director David Bruckner creates an ever-tightening spiral of dread and unease almost as soon as they enter the woods. The menace is original and the movie is frequently quite frightening, even if it ends a bit abruptly. The Ritual is not going to change the world, but it's a worthy entry in the subgenre of movies that do everything possible to keep you out of the wilderness.
Black Panther (February 16)
A groundbreaking movie in almost every way, Black Panther shattered preconceptions and box office records on its way to becoming a genuine cultural phenomenon. Focused and often visionary direction by Ryan Coogler, fantastic performances by the entire cast and complex motivations/themes all contributed to Marvel's most sophisticated and political film to date — an unabashedly Afro-centric experience that nevertheless resolutely calls for engagement with the world around us.
Special kudos must go to Michael B. Jordan's richly layered Eric Killmonger and the women of Wakanda, all fierce warriors to the last. Is Black Panther perfect? No — it's got some middle act sag and a sketchy CG finale — but it accomplishes its mission in ways better than anyone could have imagined.
Annihilation (February 23)
Alex Garland's second feature as a director after his excellent Ex Machina finds him adapting Jeff VanderMeer's eerie novel about a team of women researchers who probe a mysterious zone that is turning a stretch of North American coastline into an alien, haunted landscape. Different from the novel in incident but faithful in tone, Annihilation is the rare sci-fi drama that promises to be "mind-bending" and actually is.
Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny are the women who comprise the team, the all-female cast coming at a perfect time culturally even if audiences didn't flock in droves to see the movie. But Annihilation will be discussed for a long time: its challenging themes, unsettling imagery and frightening implications make it one of the best sci-fi films of recent years.
A Quiet Place (April 6)
Who would have thought that quiet, unassuming Jim Halpert from The Office could make such an intense horror/sci-fi rollercoaster? John Krasinski directs and stars (alongside wife Emily Blunt) in this terrifying tale of a family who try to survive in a world overrun with hideous aliens by staying silent — since the predatory creatures detect their victims by sound alone.
Krasinski shows real talent behind the camera and is quite strong in front of it as well, as is Blunt. The simple concept falls prey to some script malfunctions, particularly as the movie barrels toward its ending. But this is still an original and gripping exercise that delves into one of the elemental fears of being a parent: how does one protect one's children in the face of almost certain death?
Avengers: Infinity War (April 27)
Having brought their superheroes together in The Avengers (2012) and set them against each other in Captain America: Civil War (2016), Marvel pits all their characters against the deadly Thanos in this epic galaxy-spanning adventure that is elegantly constructed, full of unexpected humor and riveting action, and provocative in its handling of both its villain and the film's risky cliffhanger ending.
Josh Brolin and amazing motion capture work make Thanos perhaps Marvel's most complex and tormented antagonist to date, his insane quest seasoned with a sense of the tragic. As for the heroes, some get more time to shine than others but the most impressive moments belong to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Taken as a whole, Infinity War itself is a marvelous culmination of 10 years of Marvel movies and an outstanding example of how to lead us to invest so much time into so many characters — and make us care about what happens to all of them.
Deadpool 2 (May 18)
The Merc with a Mouth is back and, uh, Ryan Reynolds is playing him again (just in case you thought they might have recast). Anyone worried about Deadpool being a one-movie joke can rest easy: he's at least got two jokes in him now. But in actuality, Deadpool 2 is funnier, better written and more comic book-y than the first movie by far.
Reynolds is aided by Josh Brolin, fresh out of his Thanos CG pajamas and turning in more anti-hero antics as Cable, and especially Zazie Beetz, who brings real spark and sly intelligence to the role of Domino. The nonstop pop culture and comic book references can get bewildering if you're not up to speed, but Deadpool 2 still manages to be Marvelously entertaining (see what we did there?)
Hereditary (June 8)
Hereditary is either a horror masterpiece or a camp classic — and part of the fun is that it could go either way. We're leaning toward the former: writer/director Ari Aster creates a suffocating atmosphere of dread and unveils some of the most disturbing imagery we've seen since the heyday of J-horror gems like Ring (1998) and Pulse (2001).
But Hereditary's roots lie in the horror of the late '60s and the early '70, and its story of a severely dysfunctional family dealing with unimaginable grief would be searing even without the supernatural curse tightening around them. The whole cast is great, but Toni Collette is especially brilliant as Annie, an artist losing her grip as her family unravels around her. The movie's nightmarish last act will stay with you for a long time.
Hotel Artemis (June 8)
Iron Man Three co-writer Drew Pearce makes his directorial debut with this original dystopian tale about a hospital for criminals that operates secretly in a hotel in downtown Los Angeles, circa 2028. The place is run by an older woman known as the Nurse (Jodie Foster) and her loyal assistant, Everest (Dave Bautista), with the entire operation funded by a slick crime lord (Jeff Goldblum).
The rest of the cast — which includes Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella and Sterling K. Brown, among others — is terrific to watch, and the movie makes good use of its limited budget and locations. It's also derivative in spots, which lessens its impact, but Hotel Artemis still serves up a well-paced "one bad night" narrative with a satisfying conclusion. Plus Foster and Bautista, who's becoming a genuine actor, have a terrific chemistry together that carries much of the movie.
Incredibles 2 (June 15)
The Parrs are back, and even though it's been 14 years since we last saw the superhero family, the long-awaited Incredibles 2 kicks off the very minute that the first film ended and zooms us delightfully back into their universe, where superheroes are illegal — but a mass communications mogul named Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) wants to change that.
With the amazing Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) going out on missions and Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) tasked with staying home to take care of the kids, Incredibles 2 keeps flipping the family and superhero dynamics on their heads while creating another rip-roaring adventure that everyone can enjoy. The animation, action sequences and sight gags are all vastly improved as well, and the revelation of Jack-Jack's powers is a blast. It's like the Incredibles weren't even gone — and we hope they come back again.