In a year filled with surprises and controversies, at least we could take solace in movies. And there were some damn good movies that premiered in 2018. Some were good without necessarily being good — but others were undeniably, irrevocably great, whether or not they win awards (many of them have or will) or broke box-office records (many of these did).
From superhero epics to biopics to horror to animation, there was plenty to get excited about on the big screen this year.
A Quiet Place
Who would have figured John Krasinski had a penchant for horror? The Quiet Place is a monster movie in which the monsters take a back seat to parents’ love for their family. What will you give to stay alive? What will you risk to save your kids? Everything we know about this world and its dangers are learned via context clues — no one’s waxing poetic about the rules and by the time we meet the monsters, we know this family well enough that they feel like our own.
Avengers: Infinity War
An epic in every sense of the word, this truly universe-spanning space opera was the satisfying, thrilling and even moving culmination of a decade of carefully crafted world-building and evolution. And yet, even with all the eye-popping spectacle, Infinity War came down to the characters we've grown to love over the past 10 years and how they deal with loss and sacrifice.
It’s hard for a movie to live up to the hype (heck, it was a small miracle that Infinity War wasn’t a letdown). But, Black Panther’s accomplishment was much more impressive. It didn’t just need to be an amazing entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — it needed to be an Important Film. It was all this and more, mixing top quality MCU heroics with groundbreaking, blockbuster representation, and possibly one of the greatest, most charged villains of all of film with Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger. Oh, and the soundtrack still slaps.
Prosaic in one scene and poetic in the next, director Damien Chazelle's First Man chronicled our first "giant leap" with a terse intimacy befitting its hero, the enigmatic Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling). The film's final half-hour, as Apollo 11 makes its historic Moon landing under Armstrong's command, achieves a sense of profound wonder perhaps unseen on the screen since Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Forget all the retconning and rebooting: Director and co-writer David Gordon Green took this iconic horror franchise back to its roots, crafting a direct sequel to the original film that not only made Michael Myers scary again, but re-introduced a badass Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) as the horror heroine for the age of #MeToo.
Almost 15 years after The Incredibles hit theaters in 2004, the world finally got a sequel. Luckily, time didn’t diminish the joy in watching the Parr family come together again. This time around, Helen (aka Elastigirl) gets the spotlight while her husband Bob (aka Mr. Incredible) takes a back seat. Adding new heroes to the mix and a tech-themed villain was just the update the franchise needed for 2018.
And, just like last time, Edna Mode steals the show.
Ralph Breaks the Internet
The original Wreck-It Ralph was a fun, colorful sugar rush of nostalgia. This sequel, six years in the making, was a surprisingly astute feature about the modern world and the exhaustion of living online. Ralph may have gotten stuck in the internet for a time, but at least he had a goal and was able to get out; we're all still here, chasing the algorithm.
Forget found footage; the next big trend in meta-filmmaking is going to be Screen Life, which sees the action play out entirely on the surface of digital screens. Director Timur Bekmambetov coined the term and produced Searching, a thriller about a missing teenager directed by Aneesh Chaganty and starring John Cho that was one of the most compelling, gripping movies of the summer.
Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley’s film used nightmarish magical realism to tell a stylish, funny tale about code-switching, the evils of capitalism, and why you — yes, you, reading this, right now — should organize your workplace. Seriously, movies are great and all, but you should form a union.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Miles Morales’ first time out on the big screen has been hailed as a triumph — for diverse storytelling, for character-driven plot, for artistry, for sheer creativity. Peter Parker has always been revered as relatable and it’s a moniker that seems to follow the Spidey suit, as Into the Spider-Verse is a movie people will be talking about for years to come as one of the best (if not the best) Spider-Man movies of all time.
Hands-down and tongues-up the best movie of the year.
OK, maybe that's an exaggeration. But the critical slaughtering this movie received reflected not what was up on screen, but what most critics went in expecting to see. In actuality, it's a quirky, funny, oddly charming romp through San Francisco with a dazzlingly weird and very committed performance from Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock and his alien symbiote. Michelle Williams seemed like she was in a different movie entirely, but that's fine — Venom was Eddie's real love interest all along.