Who said all the good movies come out in the fall? At 2018’s halfway point, Yahoo Entertainment had no trouble coming up with 20 standout titles from the past six months. From Marvel-ous blockbusters to smaller-scale fiction and nonfiction stories, here are the best films we’ve seen so far this year.
20. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Maybe it was a mistake to release Solo so soon after The Last Jedi, or maybe it was simply bad marketing (and, no, it wasn’t the “Soylo” Boycott), but Han Solo deserved better than the box office he received. A fun, light adventure featuring everyone’s favorite Wookie and his human, Solo dove deep into Star Wars lore and nostalgia, crafting the best version of Han Solo’s origins. (And we can say that with some authority, since we’ve read all the Legends novels.) Where Rogue One favored fan service and plot over consistent characters, Solo let its charismatic characters carry audiences along a pulpy adventure. There’s a good chance we won’t get a sequel, but we certainly wouldn’t mind a Lando film starring Donald Glover. — Adam Lance Garcia
19. Three Identical Strangers
This year’s entry in the always popular “stranger than fiction” subgenre of documentaries recounts the unlikely story of Eddy Galland, David Kellman, and Bobby Safran, three separated-at-birth brothers who met one another for the first time as grown-ups. That’s already a fascinating hook for a feature film, along with the fact that the reunited triplets rode the wave of early-’80s tabloid television to become media sensations. But the real story of Tim Wardle’s impeccably paced account reveals itself midway through the narrative, as the brothers’ attempts to research their own origin story leads them down dark — and in some cases tragic — paths. — Ethan Alter
18. Game Night
Thanks to a killer cast (Rachel McAdams! Jason Bateman! Kyle Chandler! Jesse Plemons!) and a rock-solid screenplay that they should teach in comedy screenwriting courses, Game Night is one of the most consistently enjoyable major studio comedies in recent memory. Right from its opening sequence, this tale of an ordinary game night that spins wildly out of control sets itself apart with a distinct visual style and clever camera trickery that never lets up. Also, the sight of McAdams singing karaoke into a loaded gun belongs on her career highlights reel. — Brett Arnold
17. The Endless
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead return to the stomping ground of their indie debut Resolution for a head-spinning supernatural/sci-fi drama about two brothers (played by the writer-directors) who decide to revisit the remote California UFO sex cult they abandoned years earlier. Such a premise might imply an ensuing tale of unspeakable horrors, but the filmmaking duo instead take the story in wholly unexpected directions, even as they ground their story in the believably prickly relationship of their sibling main characters, whose own frayed bond is central to the film’s time-space convolutions. Like their prior efforts, it’s risk-taking but confident genre cinema. — Nick Schager
16. The Rider
Chloé Zhao’s no-budget indie could almost be called a documentary because of the way it films non-actors in their native territory in South Dakota. But a more accurate description is that it’s a dramatization of actual events that just so happens to star the people — including former rodeo rider Brady Jandreau — on whom the story is based. By any definition, The Rider is a beautiful and devastating account about what happens when people follow their dreams only to have them slip away for good. — B.A.
Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s illuminating look at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka the Notorious RBG) succeeds in both facets of its two-pronged approach: It celebrates the judge’s long and groundbreaking career, and it provides a reverential look at how the Brooklyn native became a feminist (and pop-culture!) icon. As a bonus, the hit doc is a charming love story between the tireless justice and her supportive late husband, Martin D. Ginsburg. This is a big year for RBG at the movies: In the fall, we’ll see Oscar nominee Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) portray Ginsburg in the biopic On the Basis of Sex. — Kevin Polowy
The creative forces behind the bold, bracing dark comedy Young Adult — writer Diablo Cody, director Jason Reitman, and star Charlize Theron — reunite for another searingly incisive dive into one woman’s troubled psyche. Theron plays Marlo, a harried mother of three in desperate need of at least one good night’s sleep. Enter the titular “night nanny” (Mackenzie Davis), who helps Marlo get some rest while also awakening potent memories of what her life was like pre-parenthood. Cody’s unnervingly unsentimental script deftly navigates fault lines that real moms and dads have almost certainly experienced, making Tully a difficult but ultimately cathartic watch. Just maybe not on Date Night. — E.A.
13. Deadpool 2
The first Deadpool was the surprise hit of 2016, and the self-aware sequel does all it can to double down on everything its predecessor did, all while admitting to the audience, “Yes, we know this isn’t as good as the original, but let’s be honest … what sequel is?” While the controversial opening scene of the film left a slightly sour taste in our mouths, Deadpool 2 finds its voice in Act 2, thanks to the antagonistic team-up of Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin, who apparently is now required to be in every Comic Book Cinematic Universe. The movie also ends with what might be the most meta (and best) post-credits sequence we’ve ever seen. — A.L.G.
12. You Were Never Really Here
Joaquin Phoenix’s collaboration with Scottish auteur Lynne Ramsay provides further proof that he may be the best American actor working in cinema today. As a haunted military veteran now working as a for-hire man-of-action capable of finding and rescuing missing young girls, the actor exudes volatile intensity and soul-deep hurt that works in perfect concert with Ramsay’s efficiently expressionistic direction. You Were Never Really Here is violent not only literally but emotionally and builds toward nightmarish confrontations that are almost as bracing as its leading man’s unforgettable performance. — N.S.
Ari Aster’s nightmare-inducing first feature is one of those heavily hyped festival debuts that you assume can’t possibly be as great as everyone says it is. Except in this case, the movie delivers. While general audiences were thrown for a loop by the deceptive marketing (resulting in the movie’s D-plus Cinemascore), horror fans will love that the film isn’t a typical jump-scare horror programmer. Instead, Hereditary is a movie about grief, family, and the inevitability of your genetics — can you ever truly outrun what’s in your blood? Oh, yeah, and the third act is pure satanic insanity. — B.A.
10. Incredibles 2
It’s not as incredible as its 2004 predecessor, but they can’t all be Toy Story 3. Brad Bird’s long-anticipated Parr family reunion is, however, a worthy follow-up that starts just moments after the first and feels — stylistically and tonally — perfectly in tune with the original film. Bird and company counter the fact that the freshness of seeing an animated superhero family has waned with the emergence of Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) handling the bulk of the crimefighting while Mr. Incredible handles more domestic battles at home. The real star of the show, though, is Baby Jack-Jack. Give this tot a spinoff or, better yet, have him fight The Boss Baby. — K.P.
Alex Garland is one of science-fiction cinema’s most original and daring voices as evidenced by Annihilation, a film that begins in somewhat traditional territory before venturing off into uninhibited insanity. Grief-stricken biologist Natalie Portman joins a team of experts (including Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh) on a trip into a hot-zone known as “the Shimmer,” where mutated horrors await. Garland imbues his hypnotic material with a heavy dose of profound existential dread, and the finale is so deliriously out-there that it achieves a measure of trippy 2001-grade terror and wonder. — N.S.
Here’s a movie that fulfills its most necessary requisite of being uproariously funny no matter how high-concept it goes while also managing to remain socially relevant. As three parents (the reliably amusing John Cena, Leslie Mann, and Ike Barinholtz) embark on a midnight run to prevent their prom-going teenage daughters (the excellent Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, and Gideon Adlon) from losing their virginity, we’re asked why females are held to such a different standard when it comes to their sexual awakenings. Come for the butt-chugging scene, stay for the touching coming-out story. — K.P.
7. Sorry to Bother You
Rapper Boots Riley makes the leap to feature filmmaking without missing a beat. While the gleefully absurdist, and pointedly political, Sorry to Bother You — which opens in theaters July 6 but has been playing the festival circuit since January — displays the influence of wild social satires like Putney Swope and Being John Malkovich, it has its own distinct voice that speaks directly to our present day. With Get Out‘s Lakeith Stanfield as his muse, Riley deftly (and hilariously) explores the intersection between race, class, culture and power in Trump-era America, building to a final twist that you definitely won’t see coming. — E.A.
6. First Reformed
It may seem crazy to mention Paul Schrader’s latest film, First Reformed, in the same breath as his seminal screenplay for Taxi Driver, but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more fitting comparison when the credits roll. The story of a priest (Ethan Hawke) coming to terms with the world we live in, this small-scale story slowly builds to a shocking conclusion with devastating implications. It’s Schrader’s first full-fledged masterpiece of the 21st century and a hell of a left turn from the film that preceded it, his little-seen (and totally crazy) crime movie, Dog Eat Dog. — B.A.
5. Avengers: Infinity War
Let’s be honest, Infinity War isn’t the best Marvel film, but it is, without a doubt, the MCU’s crowning achievement … and not simply for breaking nearly every box-office record. After 10 years and 18 films, the Kevin Feige-led Marvel Studios successfully crafted a shared universe that allowed for Dr. Strange, Iron Man, and Spider-Man to plausibly team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and fight Thanos. Whether the contractually questionable “deaths” at the end of the film worked for you or not depends of your ability to suspend your disbelief. But with the shape of the MCU fundamentally altered — at least for the time being — we left the theater wondering just how the Avengers will eventually save the day. — A.L.G.
4. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Even in these divisive times, almost every American can agree that Fred Rogers is a gosh-darned national treasure. For more than three decades, the soft-spoken minister turned broadcaster entertained and educated millions of children through his iconic PBS series, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Director Morgan Neville traces the arc of Rogers’s life with plenty of surprising revelations and a sweetly sentimental appreciation for the good works he performed on a daily basis. Bring tissues, because there will be tears. — E.A.
3. Paddington 2
It was true in January and remains true today: 2018’s finest sequel is Paddington 2. Returning director Paul King resists the urge to force his gentle ursine star into a bigger, louder adventure, instead keeping Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) and his adopted family grounded in a richly emotional story that makes room for plenty of veddy British humor, scene-stealing supporting turns from Hugh Grant and Brenden Gleeson, and inventive storybook-style visual tricks. Audiences may have slept on this gem during its stateside theatrical release, but it should enjoy a long afterlife as a children’s bedtime movie. — N.S.
2. A Quiet Place
John Krasinski’s third directorial effort is his finest to date — a supernatural thriller that exploits its central gimmick for lean, mean suspense. In an America ravaged by vicious monsters with excellent hearing, humanity must stay completely silent to remain undetected. That scenario is the starting point for the story of a family (led by Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt) trying to survive in the aftermath of a horrific tragedy. Bolstered by excellent performances and a script that doesn’t overstay its welcome, A Quiet Place exploits sound and silence for consistent, canny scares. — N.S.
1. Black Panther
Is Marvel’s most successful movie yet also its very best? Quite possibly. Ryan Coogler’s stunning superhero drama transcends mere cinema, becoming not just a pop-cultural phenomenon but a full-on movement. As a film first, though, it’s big, bright, bold, intense, awe-inspiring, evocative, and deeply profound, especially in its cultural clash between our hero T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Killmonger (an Oscar-worthy Michael B. Jordan), the African-American mercenary whose barely contained rage, driven by the oppression of black people in the U.S., makes him one of the most complex and tragic antagonists of our time. Wakanda forever. — K.P.
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