Even though we’re only halfway through the year, the last six months have offered up cinematic treats aplenty — well, maybe except for Sicario: Day of the Soldado.
Unfortunately, there are some great films that too few of us have seen to merit inclusion on this list, like Sorry to Bother You (though we can’t wait to check it out when it hits theaters this Friday). There are also some outstanding films that just couldn’t make the cut — tip your hat to A Quiet Place, American Animals, Hearts Beat Loud, and First Reformed. Without further ado, though, here are Fandor’s favorite films of 2018, so far:
10. Love, Simon
Greg Berlanti’s take on the classic John Hughes formula is inclusive, sweetly funny, and so sincerely rendered that it’s impossible to direct any cynicism at its tried-but-true story. As the first LGBTQ+ rom-com produced by a major Hollywood studio, Love, Simon opens the door for more stories like it to break into the mainstream, and it does so with heart and warmth.
Ari Aster‘s debut feature isn’t your typical horror outing, trading the genre’s conventional jump scares for a family drama with deviled thorns where its soul should be. Hereditary isn’t just scary; it’s horrific, and Toni Collette’s turn as a woman consumed by grief (and maybe something even worse) is one of the more singularly Oscar-worthy performances of the year. After Daniel Kaluuya’s Best Actor nomination for getting Out, will the Academy recognize another horror film in an acting category? For the love of Paimon, let’s hope so.
Some sequels are worth waiting fifteen years for, and you can bet that Incredibles 2—with its one-two punch of action and Pixar pathos—is one of them. Director Brad Bird once again showcases why he’s one of the best action craftsmen working today with sequences that transcend most modern superhero fare. Sorry, Marvel, but this animated charmer will be the summer’s best super-powered sequel.
An arthouse jazz-riff on Taken directed by Lynne Ramsay, starring Joaquin Phoenix, and scored by Jonny Greenwood sounds too good to be true, but here we are: You Were Never Really Here wholly delivers on its promise of violent surrealism. Ramsay wields her tonal mastery like a bloodied hammer — there’s no escaping the sweep of the film’s profound sadness. That is, until she leaves us with a final note of hope, and reminds us that there’s beauty to be found in darkness and that it’s worth clinging to.
6. Eighth Grade
Through its nuanced and sincere exploration of adolescence and the internet, Eighth Grade effectively completes A24‘s holy trinity of coming-of-age treasures, joining the ranks of Moonlight and Lady Bird. That’s no small feat, especially considering that the film is writer-director Bo Burnham’s debut feature. Here, Burnham fuses his signature humor—acerbic and bleak, but ultimately optimistic—with a cinematic fluency that renders the former YouTuber an exciting new voice. He and the film’s breakout star, Elsie Fisher, form a duo that’s bound to steal audiences’ hearts when Eighth Grade comes out later this month.
Frequent collaborators Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman follow up Juno and Young Adult with another moving-though-melancholy dramedy, this time focusing on a harried mother of three, Marlo (Charlize Theron), and her postpartum depression. Theron turns in yet another powerhouse performance with her honest portrayal of motherly weariness, something cinema doesn’t often portray. Cody’s script offers more surprises than one would think, and they’re all purposefully clever. Likewise, Reitman’s direction puts us fully in Marlo’s shoes — by the end of it all, we’re exhausted for her. Tully made us call our moms, and for that, the film deserves every plaudit leveled at it.
In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, writer-director Desiree Akhavan follows up her 2014 debut, Appropriate Behavior, with a film that’s just as funny, but darkly so. Here, Akhavan follows the story of a teenage trio sent to “God’s Promise,” a gay-conversion therapy camp. Akhavan is also an actress, so it should be no surprise that this film is filled with standout performances from its stars, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, and Forrest Goodluck. With the film a month away from its theatrical release, we can’t wait for audiences to catch this gem.
3. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
A truly timely film doesn’t just capitalize on a relevant topic, but rather contributes genuine and meaningful commentary to a contemporary issue. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Morgan Neville’s chronicle of the life of Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers to most), is one such film. Though at times hagiographic, the documentary beautifully elucidates the empathy at the core of Rogers’ television work. These days, with many social and political structures driven by closed-mindedness and hatred, there’s more value than ever in recalling the wisdom of everyone’s favorite neighbor.
In Ryan Coogler‘s blockbuster hit, CGI showdowns are just a means to an end; the film is an intimately constructed dialectic, weighing the ideologies of the titular Wakandan king (Chadwick Boseman) against those of his Oakland-born counterpart, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Richly-sketched and powerful female characters enrich the conversation, an approach that too many blockbusters unfortunately forego. Black Panther ends with an African nation vowing to offer its talents and resources to the world, and empowering clarion call for audiences everywhere.
1. Paddington 2
As one of the eponymous CGI bear’s handmade jars of marmalade, this family-friendly flick is as sweet as they come. Even though Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) ordinarily brings out the best in his neighbors, this story finds him wrongfully convicted of theft and sentenced to hard prison time. What follows is Charlie Chaplin-esque set pieces rendered with visual creativity that most blockbusters can only dream of. Underneath this film’s lighthearted hijinks lies an informed social commentary on a number of issues, from Brexit and xenophobia to prison reform, and yet it still finds a way to end with Hugh Grant dancing through a musical number in a pink jumpsuit. Inspiring and hilarious in equal measure, Paddington 2 makes an earnest and much-needed plea for kindness and decency.