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The 40 Best New Movies on iTunes

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A quick look at the top movies on iTunes will tell you that popular doesn’t always equal good. What we give you here is a list of the best new movies on iTunes (2018 or newer). There are blockbusters like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War for sure, but we’re also recommending excellent indie films like First Reformed and brilliant docs like Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. iTunes has an enormous catalog of movies, but this guide should help you find something brand new to rent or buy that you’ll love.

You can also check out our guides to the best movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Hulu, Showtime, Cinemax, YouTube, on demand, at Redbox and in theaters. Or visit all our Paste Movie Guides.

Here are the 40 Best New Movies on iTunes:


40. The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Year: 2018
Director: Eli Roth 
Each of the following statements are true: 1) Eli Roth made a film based on a 1973 children’s novel. 2) The film stars Jack Black. 3) It’s a blast. Who knew? Roth sinks his teeth into material that exudes a joie de vivre for the horror that’s central to his work: It’s a movie very much in love with skeletons, spirits and haunts, with the titillating fear they instill in audiences, and the distinct pleasure found in getting spooked out. It’s not scary, per se, though meeker members of its core demographic may find a few of its pieces genuinely frightful. (Leering hobo demons with forked tongues and curved, overlong fingernails can have that effect on people.) Think of the movie as akin to a funhouse, because who doesn’t like fun, especially when “fun” is defined as “Kyle MacLachlan plays a zombie wizard” and “Black bickers and banters with Cate Blanchett like an old married couple in a 1940s screwball comedy”? The film’s at its best when focused on this dynamic, but eventually, a Big Bad™ must rise and a battle must be fought. Here the plot stays lively, too, especially with MacLachlan hamming it up as Jonathan’s former friend-turned-nihilist with bad designs for mankind. (We learn that he saw some shit in World War II, which takes us back to a mutation of the movie’s grief element—PTSD changes a person.) But as delightful as relentless CGI monster mayhem is—and there’s plenty to go round as The House with a Clock in Its Walls rolls through its final act—it’s the lovely character work that makes the story memorable. Roth and his cast pack a surplus of exuberance into a children’s fantasy mold that’s by now grown musty. Maybe putting that mold in the hands of a horror auteur is the best way to abate it. —Andy Crump / Full Review


39. Deadpool 2
Year: 2018
Director: David Leitch
 Deadpool 2 is at its best when it cheerfully doesn’t give a shit. The more it cared, the less I did. Likewise, Ryan Reynolds is an actor who is simultaneously full of shit and completely aware he’s full of shit, which, as harnessed by Deadpool, gives us superhero movie that sits outside itself, cheerfully tweaking itself in the nose. I’m not sure I need Deadpool to constantly be killing people to enjoy him; I think I’d enjoy Reynolds’ interpretation of Deadpool even if he were hosting a game show, or playing in a chess tournament. He’s welcome entertainment and company for two hours, no matter what, probably more. In turn, the movie never stops leaping around and jumping for your attention, in a way that’s more winning and affable than it probably should be. A lot of this is Reynolds, but the expanded cast brings plenty to the table as well. Zazie Beetz of Atlanta is certainly the standout of the X-Force crew, as a mutant whose talent is “being lucky,” which doesn’t sound like a superpower but certainly feels like one when you see it in action. (It might actually be the best superpower.) Rob Delaney has a delightful small role as the least gifted but most relatable member of X-Force. And Josh Brolin as Cable gives the film an added gravitas that it doesn’t necessarily need but certainly doesn’t hurt. But this is Reynolds’ show: He is grandmaster and main event of this circus, all by himself. —Will Leitch / Full Review


38. A Simple Favor
Year: 2018
Director: Paul Feig 
Everything we know going into A Simple Favor suggests one of those Hitchcockian mysteries that blurs the lines between homage and emulation. Its premise and tone are right out of the Master of Suspense’s beginners’ playbook: Through a series of unfortunate choices or just plain bad luck, an average Joe or Jane, whom the audience projects themselves onto, gets sucked into a dangerous mystery that throws them completely out of their element and threatens their lives, leaving them with only their wits and survival instincts to get out of this madness unscathed. Director Paul Feig immediately eases us into this mood of light intrigue through a Saul Bass-inspired title sequence full of sliding split screens and uniformly pleasant colors, aided by peppy ’60s-ish French pop to smoothe out the intensity of the film’s thriller elements. Feig is primarily known as a comedy director who has a knack for improvisational R-rated banter between neurotic, but confident, female characters, and in A Simple Favor those characters participate in in a missing person thriller/mystery. Feig finds a way to keep it all fun and light, injecting well-earned humor even during the uneasiest moments. He can actually get away with capping a nerve-racking Mexican standoff with a slapstick dick punch. As messy and predictable as its plot can get, A Simple Favor is an engaging throwback to the aforementioned tongue-in-cheek mysteries, drawing much of its energy from the chemistry between Kendrick and Lively. It need not be anything more than that. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


37. Upgrade
Year: 2018
Director: Leigh Whannell
Lovers of high-concept, low-budget sci-fi cinema would have been perfectly content were Upgrade not much more than a narratively streamlined, giddily hyper-violent vigilante revenge fantasy, sort of a Death Wish: Cyberpunk Edition. Turns out it’s also sophisticated enough to leave the audience with some intriguing questions about how much power we can give artificial intelligence before it decides that we’re a nuisance, taking full control. Of course, the premise of AI as existential threat is the bedrock for plenty of science fiction, with the most recent example in Alex Garland’s great Ex Machina. With Upgrade, we get a Cliff’s Notes version of this concept, examined in an understandably superficial but original way, and we get to watch a bad guy’s head split in half. That’s the textbook definition of a win-win. Writer/director Leigh Whannell has proven to be an efficient genre storyteller, having been the Bernie Taupin to James Wan’s Elton John, writing for Wan’s Saw and Insidious franchises, even directing the third Insidious. Here, he pushes the limits of his hard-R confines when it comes to painting the walls with the gooey crimson stuff. As the writer of three Saw movies, Whannell spent a good chunk of his professional life coming up with increasingly messed up ways to off people, and he demonstrates that expertise here. It’s always fun to see an action flick with full-blown horror gore, especially when said gore is achieved through practical effects and top-notch choreography. With Upgrade, he confirms he’s a formidable voice in modern b-movies. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


36. Love, Simon
Year: 2018
Director: Greg Berlanti
Love, Simon is the latest entry in the fairly minuscule collection of movies geared towards young LGBTQ people, but it’s in how main character Simon (Nick Robinson) self-actualizes which seems to establish the film firmly in the present. The ironies of Simon’s very liberal family, accepting friends, etc. are no match for deeply rooted anxiety and a proclivity to want to create some sort of identity online, a version of himself only he and one other, his anonymous pen pal Blue, can know. Love, Simon is not the first queer teen movie (though it’s being touted as if it is), and it’s not even the first queer film to explore digital identities, but the film is nonetheless of interest because of the way that it uses digital spaces to project who Simon wants to be and and what Simon wants gay desire to look like. Simon, brusquely masc-performing and part of a dream middle class family, can exist as an ostensibly more honest version of himself in the digital realm, while writing to an anonymous person named Blue, whom he found by way of a "confessions"-like blog. Love, Simon’s connection to You’ve Got Mail is crucial because of how it articulates the line between artifice and authenticity: Simon, and Blue for that matter, are no less honest for carving out an identity online in which they feel safe enough to reveal an "authentic" part of themselves. The internet has evolved rapidly since Nora Ephron’s film, but the same rules apply. Love, Simon is one of a few very recent queer films that has its protagonist use the internet to imagine who they could be, or who they think they should be. For Simon and Blue, an email thread can be the queer space they need to explore what "being yourself" really means. —Kyle Turner


35. Three Identical Strangers
Year: 2018
Director: Tim Wardle
Tim Wardle’s Three Identical Strangers revisits the endless nature-versus-nurture debate with the incredible story of Robert Shafran, Edward Galland and David Kellman, perfect strangers who discovered in the early 1980s that they looked eerily similar and were, in fact, triplets who had been separated at birth. With flashy precision, Wardle quickly recaps how they found one another—two of the brothers serve as the film’s lively talking heads—and sets the audience up for a happy ending about long-lost siblings finally reconnecting. But even if you’re not familiar with the actual events, Three Identical Strangers clearly intends to trip us up with its feel-good opening, paving the way for a tale that gets odder and sadder as it goes along. It’s best not to know much going into Three Identical Strangers, but Wardle’s slickly tells his juicy story for maximum dramatic impact and compulsive watchability. (Not a surprise that the montages of the brothers’ rising celebrity are scored to super-catchy pop hits of the era.) And when storm clouds begin to form on the horizon of this happy tale, the film cannily replays some of the same cheerful archival footage that had been presented earlier, giving it a darker new meaning as the men’s joyful reunion suddenly becomes more complicated. Three Identical Strangers can be too polished and cookie-cutter for its own good—the movie will air on CNN, and I could occasionally feel where the commercial breaks would appear—but nonetheless Wardle fixes his eye on the ways that people are forever shaped by their childhood, and how those years can do untold damage that’s only fully experienced later in adulthood. —Tim Grierson


34. Ant-Man and the Wasp
Year: 2018
Director: Peyton Reed
Admittedly, in the past decade superpowers have been as reliable a source of the “action” in action movies as a certain thickly accented, Austria-born bodybuilder named Arnold was in the 1980s. But with all due respect to vibranium shields, high-tech suits of armor and Uru hammers, few things provide the pure “action fuel” of the shrinking/enlarging Pym particles in Ant-Man and the Wasp. “Normal” fight scenes become a yo-yo-ing spectacle of kinetic uncertainty. Trucks become skateboards. Pez dispensers become major plot developments. And it all contributes to the fun and spectacle any good action film demands. Of course, there’s much more going on in the MCU’s second film revolving about Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas)—the continued development of the Quantum Realm, some welcome rebalancing of screen time to give Lilly’s Wasp her dues, etc.—but in terms of action that keeps the viewer delighted and excited, Ant-Man and the Wasp provides some of the year’s best. —Michael Burgin


33. MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A.
Year: 2018
Director: Steve Loveridge
MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. is a candid look at the singer Maya Arulpragasam, popularly known as M.I.A.—a film that has been a long time coming. About ten years ago, the “Paper Planes” star turned over hours of home videos to director Steve Loveridge. What happened after that could almost form the basis of its own documentary—at one point in 2013, Loveridge declared that he “would rather die” than keep working on the project—but what has emerged is an uncommonly unadorned look at a young artist growing up before our eyes. Think Amy without the crushing heartbreak—although that’s not to say that M.I.A.doesn’t have its share of sobering moments. “He took all of my cool out,” the musician told Billboard after the film’s Sundance premiere. “He took all the shows where I look good and tossed it in the bin. …I didn’t know that my music wouldn’t really be a part of this. I find that to be a little hard, because that is my life. It’s not the film that I would have made.” Her assessment is inaccurate—among M.I.A.’s highlights is its booming version of her galloping Kala track “Bamboo Banga”—and it also fails to appreciate how much care Loveridge has taken in shaping his story about a young woman reconciling her family history with her own burgeoning political awareness. As her fans no doubt know, M.I.A. was born in London but grew up in Sri Lanka, where her father Arul formed the revolutionary organization the Tamil Tigers. Arul’s activities became a cloud over her head during her early career—perhaps burnishing her reputation as a musical rebel but also inspiring protests from those who labeled him a terrorist—and M.I.A. chronicles in nearly real time how the performer educates herself on Sri Lanka’s political strife and incorporates it into her daring, electric music. In recent years, M.I.A. has fallen out of critical favor for myriad reasons—the furor over her decision to flip off the camera during the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, her inability to repeat the phenomenal success of “Paper Planes”—but the film makes no attempt to rehabilitate her career. Instead, Loveridge, who went to art school with M.I.A., is after something far more profound: mapping the risks and rewards of being a potent but imperfect political artist in an age when sensationalism is everywhere and nuanced rhetoric is, sadly, in short supply. It’s a sign of M.I.A.’s unfinished maturation that she can’t quite grasp the gift her friend has given her. —Tim Grierson


32. Smallfoot
Year: 2018
Director: Karey Kirkpatrick
Sergio Pablos is best-known as the sole creator of the Despicable Me franchise, which has grossed more than $3.5 billion dollars for Universal Pictures. So it’s no surprise that Warner Brothers wanted some of that magic, commissioning a film based on Pablos’ book Yeti Tracks about a village of giants living atop a secluded Himalayan mountain, following the dogmatic religion which denies the existence of anything below. When one young Yeti, Migo (Channing Tatum), sees a plane crashing with a human—a Smallfoot—bailing out with his parachute. When he tells the villagers, their leader the Stonekeeper (Common) tries to convince him not to believe his own eyes. The devout Migo has to wrestle between his faith and evidence to the contrary. What follows is an adventure into a world that has been hostile to the Yeti, an unlikely friendship and a discovery of a difficult truth. A desperate and unethical nature documentarian Percy (James Cordon) is trying to get his own proof of Bigfoot, and the two worlds inevitably collide. There’s plenty of humor to go with the film’s heart, giving kids and adults to plenty to enjoy. —Josh Jackson


31. The Gospel According to André
Year: 2018
Director: Kate Novack
Oh, to spend a day with legendary, luminously sincere fashion editor André Leon Talley. For most of us poor unfortunates, that day will never come. For Kate Novack, that day came in 2016, lasted the entire year, and provided the structure of her new film, The Gospel According to André, a portrait of Talley and his irresistible grandeur. Partway through, an acquaintance describes him as “a towering pine tree of a guy,” which doesn’t quite do justice to his folkloric image. The Gospel According to André is very much about Talley’s experiences, being his life, times and philosophies, and less about his experience, being his accomplishments as a journalist and fashion icon. Novack never shies away from opportunities to bask in his warm presence and the obvious joy he takes in his profession. He’s a man full of stories. At 68 years old, he’s practically made of them. And Novack could have focused the film on fashion alone. But late in the film she throws a gut punch in there, a hushed sequence from November 9th, as Talley watches the morning news in silence, then goes for a shave and a haircut. His eyes are liquid with words unspoken. He is cleaned up in keeping with his code, its own form of stoic defiance. We cut to him live-blogging the inauguration with Maureen Dowd, back to work but in somber context. Beauty and style retain meaning, and yet the film’s lingering message cares for neither. Talley rose above Jim Crow as a young man. Novack’s documentary leaves us with the sobering thought that decades later, still he must rise. —Andy Crump


30. Revenge
Year: 2018
Director: Coralie Fargeat
In Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge, patience is a virtue of both storytelling and of vengeance. The film may have places to be, people to meet and blood to spill, but Fargeat takes her time all the same. She can afford the build up, in no small part because the build up is as pleasing as the payoff. "Pleasing" may seem at best an ignorant qualifier for a rape-revenge movie, but denying the pleasure of Revenge’s deliberate, exquisite filmmaking would mean denying Fargeat’s strength of vision, of that rare rape-revenge movie directed by a woman rather than a man. The innate ugliness of Revenge is crystallized by the shift in perspective. Not to knock I Spit on Your Grave, I Saw the Devil or The Virgin Spring, but seeing this particular niche through the eyes of Fargeat and her star, Matilda Lutz, gives the material a unique resonance without abandoning the genre’s underpinnings. Fargeat has more or less built Revenge to function as a feature-length chase sequence. This, along with the desert sands and sweltered aesthetic, will likely call to mind Mad Max: Fury Road for many. For others, the firmly French love of excessive gore places the story in the territory of movies like Inside, Haute Tension and Irreversible. Revenge could take place anywhere: Arizona, California—possibly Morocco, where the bulk of shooting took place. The elasticity of the film’s geography feels fitting. What happens to Lutz’s character can happen to any woman anywhere. —Andy Crump / Full Review


29. Unsane
Year: 2018
Director: Steven Soderbergh 
Sawyer (Claire Foy) knows she’s not crazy. In Unsane, she’s a young woman who’s recently moved from Boston to Pennsylvania, working an office job she doesn’t much like and enduring not-so-subtle sexual come-ons from her creepy boss who really thinks they ought to spend more time together. When she FaceTimes with her mother during her lunch break, she tries to put a positive spin on everything: Yes, I’m fine, I’m doing well, how are you? But even before she goes on a date that evening, taking the guy home but then having some sort of emotional breakdown before they can sleep together, there are signs that all is not well with her. Very soon, things will get much worse. The umpteenth film from Steven Soderbergh—like his previous two, the kinky thriller Side Effects and the Southern-fried crime comedy Logan Lucky—is a capital-G genre flick, happily luxuriating in its own pulpy proclivities. But it’s also his strongest in a while, in part because its deceptively dashed-off tone is tied to a stronger thematic hook than he’s allowed in a while, and guided by an expertly measured performance from Foy as Sawyer, a woman who refuses to be pegged as hysterical, no matter how much the world wants to slap that straitjacket on her. Sawyer’s in trouble in Unsane, but she never seems helpless—the movie’s black-hearted joke is that, really, she’s always been dealing with guys who are trying to metaphorically imprison her. There’s a weary, sarcastic cackle to the performance that practically spits in the eye of any patronizing damsel-in-distress concerns the audience might have. Shot on an iPhone 7 Plus and supplemented by drone cameras, this psychological thriller brandishes its slightly warped, fisheye-lensed aesthetic, plunging the viewer into a queasy, disorienting mindset from the start. In turn, Soderbergh’s vision of a smart woman eternally held down against her will has a wonderful, nasty kick to it. Sawyer insists she’s not crazy, but that might not matter if the world has already decided she is. —Tim Grierson / Full Review


28. Fahrenheit 11/9
Year: 2018
Director: Michael Moore
Watching Fahrenheit 11/9 is like walking into an intervention only to find out that the meeting is about you. It’s not unreasonable, with Michael Moore at the helm, to expect another liberal circlejerk that exposes our president for the racist, misogynist, criminal, traitor, etc. he is. The past three years have been chock full of “epic takedowns” of #45 in the form of op-eds, TV talking heads and documentary material, offering Americans and the rest of the sensible world a placebo to make them feel self-satisfied and moderately sane. Do we really need our smug thoughts about the terrifying direction in which the country is going pumped back into our heads like an ouroboros of ideology? What Moore offers instead is a stern finger pointed at us, all of us. Our inactivity against and complicity in the slow-moving moral corrosion of our political system resulted in Donald Trump. Fahrenheit 11/9 is a painful but necessary sit-down with the American people to tell us that we all fucked up, that we need to get to work if there’s any hope to save this experiment called democracy. Moore’s film is surprisingly light on bashing He Who Should Not Be Named. What could he say that we don’t already know? All we get out of him is a brief moment where he calls the current POTUS a “malignant narcissist.” That’s more than enough. This is no conspiratorial doc demonstrating how Russia put him in power, either. What it is about is how we remain silent as the world dies around us—sometimes literally, as in the case of the Flint water crisis. In turn, this is the most engaging and emotionally effective Moore doc since Bowling for Columbine. Partly this has to do with the clear immediacy he demonstrates in letting us know that the liberal promise of America is on life support, sparking an urgent fire in his wit and editing that’s missing from his more recent work, but mostly the success of the film is, instead of indicting the rich and powerful, he connects with his audience personally. Everyone can share some of the blame, and should carry some of the burden if there is any hope for course correction. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


27. The Endless
Year: 2018
Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Brotherhood’s a trip. Just ask Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, the horror filmmaking duo responsible for 2012’s Resolution, the “Bonestorm” segment in 2014’s VHS: Viral, and, in the same year, the tender creature romance Spring. Their latest, The Endless, is all about brotherhood couched in unfathomable terror of Lovecraftian proportions. The movie hinges on the petulant squabbles of boys, circular arguments that go nowhere because they’re caught in a perpetual loop of denial and projection. If the exchanges between its leads can be summed up in two words, those words are “no, you.” Boys will be boys, meaning boys will be obstinate and stubborn to the bitter end. Though, in The Endless, the end is uncertain, but maybe the title makes that a smidge obvious. Brothers Aaron and Justin Smith (played, respectively, by Moorhead and Benson, who gel so well as brothers that you’d swear they’re secretly related) were once members of a UFO death cult before escaping and readjusting to life’s vicissitudes: They clean houses for a living, subsist primarily on ramen, and rely so much on their car that Aaron’s repeated failure to replace the battery weighs on both of them like the heavens on Atlas’ shoulders. Then, out of the blue, they receive a tape in the mail from their former cultists, and at Aaron’s behest they revisit Camp Arcadia, the commune they once called home. Not all is well here: Bizarre bonelike poles litter Arcadia’s outskirts, flocks of birds teleport from one spot to another in the time it takes to blink, Aaron and Justin keep having weird déjà vu moments, and worse: There’s something in the lake, a massive, inky, inexplicable presence just below the surface. (Its image is only seen on camera once, but once is enough to make an impression.) Woven through the film’s eldritch dread are Moorhead and Benson. Their characters are locked in a cosmic struggle with a nameless adversary, but the narrative’s gaze is focused inward: On the Smiths, on brothers, on how far a relationship must stretch before it can be repaired. Intimacy is a staple element of Moorhead and Benson’s filmograpy. Here, the intimacy is fraternal, which perhaps speaks to how Moorhead and Benson feel about each other. They may not be brothers themselves, but you can’t spend your career making movies with the same person over and over again without developing an abiding, unspoken bond with them. —Andy Crump / Full Review


26. Where Is Kyra?
Year: 2018
Director: Andrew Dosunmu
Kyra (Michelle Pfeiffer) has almost nothing left except for her mother. Back living at home in New York with no job and only the social security checks her mother lets her cash, everything is falling apart, Kyra herself falling into darker and darker recesses of her mind. Nigerian photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu spins Where Is Kyra? as not only a treatise against an oppressive capitalist system—much of the film is spent watching as Kyra schleps from one business to another in search of work nowhere to be found—but as a horror film about depression and, ultimately, possession. Dosunmu’s spaces are dark, clammy and claustrophobic, transforming both the apartment Kyra and her mother live in and Brooklyn itself into haunted houses, barren of joy and containing little else but ghosts and the distant remnants of possibility. With cinematography from Bradford Young, Kyra’s life is shrouded in blacks, greys and navys, Kyra sometimes barely discernible in the faint light. The worst parts of Kyra’s mother, and the worse parts of herself—deviousness, alcoholism, codependency—consume her entire identity, propelling her to do what financially stable people would consider unthinkable. Where is Kyra? may, in fact, be a monster movie: The unseen creature in the dark is poverty, caused by an unjust system, unseen and menacing. —Kyle Turner


25. McQueen
Year: 2018
Directors: Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui
The first fashion collection from Lee Alexander McQueen, titled “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims,” announced an artist who wasn’t going to play around. Models walked down the runway, horror on their faces, sometimes stumbling out onto the catwalk, the garments as provocative as textiles as the shows were transgressive. This was McQueen’s MA graduation collection from 1992, and he was 23. More than 25 years later, directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui have achieved the nearly impossible, crafting a documentary almost as stunning as the artist it profiles. While McQueen, structured around the fashion “bad boy”’s five most important shows in his career, could be argued (rather reductively) to follow a “tortured genius” narrative, perhaps what makes it such ravishing filmmaking—biographical documentary filmmaking, at that—is not only its ability to embody and manifest the same kind of indenciary qualities as the works of McQueen, but that it actively probes at the ways in which mental illness and addiction shaped his life and work, without resorting to cheap sentimentality. McQueen is a moving testament to a once-in-a-lifetime artist, and, even moreso, an examination of just how human his art was. —Kyle Turner


24. Teen Titans Go! to the Movies
Year: 2018
Directors: Aaron Horvath, Peter Rida Michail
With Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, the long-running Cartoon Network series joins the ranks of still-running animated series that were deemed popular enough to get a movie of their very own. Much like The Simpsons Movie and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the show’s creators use the opportunity to distill and put on display what has made the show so popular in the first place. The result is one of the funniest “superhero” films of the year, and one that allows Robin and company to join Deadpool—Statler and Waldorf style—on the balcony poking fun at the clichés, blindspots and foibles of the current Big Genre on Campus. The premise of “Robin wants his own movie. What must he do to get one?” is all the framework directors Horvath and Peter Rida Michail need to support a sustained skewering of the current frenzy of superhero moviemaking. Its main goal is to be a fun, family-friendly movie, and in this it’s wildly successful. If you’re looking to convert a skeptic of the TV series—or even just looking to extract an admission it’s not all bad—this is your best bet. If you’re an older fan of the DC universe, the movie, like the series, possesses its share of deep cuts and obscure character references to chew on and enjoy. And if you really enjoy seeing the characters and conventions of a genre mocked and subverted, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies has you covered there, too. —Michael Burgin. / Full Review


23. Crazy Rich Asians
Year: 2018
Director: John M. Chu
Chinese-American professor of economics Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is Chinese-American, and the adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s best-selling book Crazy Rich Asians starkly makes that point, repeatedly. Rachel’s college best friend Peik Lin (an ebullient Awkwafina) calls her a “banana”: “Yellow on the outside, white on the inside,” and attaches a superlative when she says this. Her mother (Tan Kheng Hua), on the occasion of finding out Rachel will be traveling to Singapore to meet her hunky boyfriend’s family, tells her a somewhat uncomfortable truth: “You are Chinese, you speak Mandarin, but in here,” she says, pointing to Rachel’s heart, “You are American.” It is a bittersweet, but rather perceptive observation, one that finely articulates a compounded sense of otherness Rachel feels throughout the film, particularly once the plot gets rolling and Rachel realizes that her debonair Nick Young (Henry Golding) is the son of an obscenely wealthy Singaporean family who leans heavily on traditional Chinese family values and matriarchy. She is middle class, raised by a single mother and, as everyone has been quick to point out, Chinese-American. If Crazy Rich Asians is not as barbed in its satire about the bourgeoisie as one might want in a cultural landscape where it has become more popular to be vocally anti-capitalist (or at least skeptical of capitalism as a system and ideology), it nonetheless sparkles in its in-jokes about Asianness and Chinese families and the interconnectedness of other Asian people. In the skin of a very competent romantic comedy, it is slickly directed by Chu, whose strength in making champagne on a beer budget lies not in the objects on display in and of themselves, but in the color correcting and cinematography by Vanja Cernjul. However, in its keen and sensitive and moving observations about the uncertainty in being Asian-American, it’s always drifting, and Wu’s incredible ability to convey all those ideas wordlessly is what makes the film more than just about a material China girl. —Kyle Turner / Full Review


22. Thunder Road
Year: 2018
Director: Jim Cummings
As a man in the midst of a nervous breakdown—finally broken by the recent death of his mom—Officer Jim Arnaud can’t quite keep his shit together any longer. As played by writer-director Jim Cummings, he’s not only a man untethered, he’s a man flummoxed by the sheer inexplicability of human existence, far from equipped, as we all aren’t, to face whatever conflagration of cosmic coincidences that have conspired to ruin him—to make his ex-wife such an asshole, his daughter so aloof, his mother so dead. Cummings is an exceedingly likable presence, and Jim Arnaud is, for lack of a better descriptor, a good person, but Thunder Road is about how being a good person hardly matters when the hidden rhythms and equations of the quotidian do nothing to make life fair for those who seemingly play by its rules. Throughout, Cummings directs himself with a pastiche of tones, sometimes uncomfortably intimate, even woozy, sometimes frozen at a distance, bearing witness, like a pitying Wes Anderson, to the fearful symmetry of this poor man’s life. All of it is funny, all of it acutely painful. Meanwhile, Arnaud carries an intensely beleaguered good nature about his misfortune, willing to challenge everything unfair in his life if only he knew how, stymied to the point of apoplexy. No other actor this year could best summarize this year with an unintelligible stammer, his words not quite able to catch up with his brain, but only because he has no words, because his brain can’t quite catch up with the purposelessness of all the mundane shit he’s got to suffer. —Dom Sinacola


21. Let the Sunshine In
Year: 2018
Director: Claire Denis
Making love is better when you’re in love. For Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), a painter living in Paris, the former comes easily and the latter vexes her. She has no trouble meeting men, falling for them, sleeping with them. They practically stumble into her orbit, then into her embrace, and she into theirs. When your sex life is rich but your love life poor, life itself tends gradually to lose overarching meaning, and the search for meaning is the engine driving Claire Denis’ new film, Let the Sunshine In, an ostensible romantic comedy that’s light on both but rich with soulful ennui. Not to say that Denis and Binoche don’t make us laugh, mind you, but what they’re really after is considerably more complicated than the simple pleasures the genre has to offer. Let the Sunshine In is a sexy film, a free, loose, yet rigorously made film, and yes, it’s occasionally a funny film, but primarily it’s a painful film, that pain deriving from primal amorous cravings that unfailingly slip through Isabelle’s fingers like so much sand. The film strikes us as straightforward when boiled down to its synopsis, but Denis layers conflicting human longing upon its rom-com framework. The blend of artistry and genre is breezy and dense at the same time, a film worth enjoying for its surface charms and studied for its deeply personal reflections on intimacy. You may delight in its lively, buoyant filmmaking, but you’ll be awed by the breadth of its insight. —Andy Crump / Full Review


20. Blindspotting
Year: 2018
Director: Carlos López Estrada
Movies like Blindspotting, kitchen sink movies in the business of tackling as many subjects and relevant social issues as they can squeeze into two hours, tend to risk overstuffing: They try to be about everything, so end up being about nothing. Let Blindspotting serve as an object lesson in keeping the sink tidy and organized, its "about everything" narrative built around an anchor, being Oakland, that holds the "everything" in place, from police violence, to gentrification, to cultural appropriation and code switching, to workaday prejudice and systemic racism. Blindspotting is about Oakland first, the contemporary woes weighing Oakland down second and the overarching problems of the time we live in a close third. Above all else it is about the vigor of Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, its co-leads and authors, who, having spent nine years writing the script, have finally realized their vision, an ode to their hometown and a timelapse snapshot of America. The film is uplifted by Diggs’ and Casal’s raw talent as storytellers, poets and MCs—Diggs’ hyperkinetic rapping is one of the film’s best merits—but its backbone is a product of the emphasis put on its backdrop. —Andy Crump


19. First Man
Year: 2018
Director: Damien Chazelle
We first meet Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as a remote, almost chilly flyboy who is less Maverick than a willful, stoic technician. The year is 1961, and he and his wife Janet (Claire Foy) are paralyzed by the malignant tumor attacking their daughter Karen’s brain. When she dies, the family barely holds itself together and, in fact, Armstrong joins NASA in large part because the couple’s mourning is tearing them both apart. From there, we follow many of the familiar contours of the NASA story and Armstrong’s part in it, as he digs himself deeper and deeper into his work—and removes himself further and further from his family—in an obsession with … what, exactly? One of the movie’s slyest, most daring and affecting conceits is that we never quite know what’s going on with Armstrong, and neither does anyone else in the film, not least of all Janet, who is left raising two increasingly difficult boys while her husband buries himself in his work, perhaps to hide the grief that consumes him. It just turns out that work is something that’s going to change the world. This would seem like a bit of a turn for director Damien Chazelle, whose Whiplash and La La Land barely seem to exist in the same universe of Neil Armstrong and the space race. But his lyrical intensity, his ability to find the hard edges of his story while still being able to leave us in awe, is a perfect fit for this material. The space sequences, of which there are three major ones, are like musical numbers of their own, with Chazelle plunging us into the terror of what’s happening, the utter sense that, for all the technical know-how and noble intentions, everything could explode at any minute without anyone having the slightest idea why. These were, after all, experiments, and with those experiments came tragic failures. Chazelle is able to ground us with the details while making sure, when it all clicks together, that it can still soar. Chazelle has shown the ability to lift us off our feet before, but this is a major step forward. —Will Leitch / Full Review


18. Support the Girls
Year: 2018
Director: Andrew Bujalski
As Hooters fades more and more from the American consciousness, locations closing everywhere and the urges of its typical past patrons transmogrified into more sinister, shadier proclamations online, the concept of the “breastaurant,” a bygone signifier once as prevalent off highways as Cracker Barrel, provides for yet another sign of service industry jobs in decline—and a perfect subject for Andrew Bujalski, a filmmaker emerging as America’s great bard of the working class. Over the course of one harrowing day at Double Whammies, Manager Lisa Conroy (Regina Hall, bastion) goes about her run-of-the-mill duties—standing up to volatile customers, training new waitresses, dealing with a seemingly inept cable guy—in addition to organizing a car wash fundraiser for an employee and her shitty boyfriend, serving as whipping girl to the restaurant’s shitty owner (James LeGros, male insecurity personified) and generally navigating the shitty reality of what her job is and what it represents. Isn’t she better than this? Bujalski, wonderfully, answers “no,” because she’s very good at her job, and her staff adores her—led by pitch-perfect performances care of Haley Lu Richardson and rapper/artist Junglepussy—and work is work is work. And what are any of us supposed to do when increasingly the fruits of our labor are taken from us, devalued or dragged through the street, squashed or screamed into oblivion, our jobs both defining us and dooming us to a lack of any real definition. Support the Girls understands the everyday pain of those contradictions, without judgment standing by our side, patting us on the back, knowing everyone has to do what everyone has to do anymore. —Dom Sinacola


17. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Year: 2018
Director: Morgan Neville
Morgan Neville’s winning portrait Won’t You Be My Neighbor? withholds darkness. Which makes sense since the Oscar-winning director of 20 Feet From Stardom has turned his attention to Fred Rogers, a kindly TV personality who entertained a couple generations of kids with his benign PBS program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of his landmark show, so expect plenty of tributes over the next several months. Appropriately, as an official chronicling of the man’s life and legacy, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? isn’t remotely innovative. We get polished interviews from colleagues, family members and Rogers’ widow. There are plenty of clips from his show, as well as other archival material. There’s a gimmick-y recurring use of animation to illustrate parts of his story that’s the only truly cloying element of a film that mostly eschews mawkishness. And yet, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a stunningly moving film that also feels just the teensiest bit radical. That word will be used a lot during this golden anniversary for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, as his fans remind everyone that, rather than starring a smiling square who couldn’t have looked less manly, the show was actually a pretty progressive program that frankly discussed everything from race relations to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Neville accentuates Rogers’ unembarrassed sweetness as an example of his principled stand against bigotry and injustice, making the case with conviction and gusto. At my True/False screening, the audience was warned before Won’t You Be My Neighbor? that we ought to have Kleenex in hand to prepare for what we were going to experience. I’m an unashamed movie crier, but I resent being prepped for how I should feel about a movie I’m about to see. And yet, the warning was warranted: The tears elicited from Won’t You Be My Neighbor? are a testament to Neville’s tasteful, loving (but not fawning) depiction of a decent, unassuming man. The movie’s not just a balm in the age of Trump—it’s an opportunity for viewers to reconnect with their own decency, and Neville’s gentle skill at arguing for goodness ends up being a minor miracle. —Tim Grierson


16. Cold War
Year: 2018
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War gets especially personal, building a bittersweet romance over the course of the 1950s, a love that first ignites, then smolders, between two people as their lives intersect through the decade. Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is a musical director touring rural Poland, and young singer Zula (Joanna Kulig), an ambitious enigma posing as a village girl. Her voice bewitches everyone in earshot, Wiktor most of all, and he is captivated by her talent and beauty. Turns out, Wiktor is Pawlikowski’s father, Zula his mother, or at least versions of them. Cold War doesn’t trace the precise steps Mom and Dad took through the title period—the discontent felt between Russia, its foreign allies and its neighboring states, the resultant tension and turmoil that permeated Europe—but he dedicates the film in their memory nonetheless. This is Pawlikowski’s monument to his parents and to an era. In the camera’s eye, guided by cinematographer Lukasz Zal (collaborating with Pawlikowski anew after 2014’s Ida), time and heritage are inextricably linked to each other. Ennui and the search for reprieve from oppressive institutions weigh down the 1950s, interrupted on brief occasion by bursts of joy expressed through dance, music, culture writ large and lovemaking. All of the things that make life worth living, in other words. Wiktor and Zula aren’t alone in their pursuit of better days: Everyone, whether fleshed out or left to mingle in the movie’s margins, is seeking more for themselves. Pawlikowski leaves it to the viewer to determine for themselves the fate of his Cold War proxy parents, and to glean purpose from the film’s gaps in time, its reticence, and even its black-and-white palette. Married with the Academy ratio, the color scheme makes the film feel classic, but Pawlikowski’s desire to plumb his past makes it timeless. —Andy Crump / Full Review


15. BlacKkKlansman
Year: 2018
Director: Spike Lee 
BlacKkKlansman begins, in vintage Spike fashion, with a big Oliver Stone-esque set piece featuring a racist “scholar” named Dr. Kennebrew Beaureguard (Alec Baldwin) delivering a demented, bigoted speech straight to the camera, but then, for a brief while, the movie settles down to tell its real-life story. In 1970s Colorado, a man named Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, son of Denzel) joins the police department and, after dealing with discrimination within the force itself, decides to go undercover and take down the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, talking to its members on the phone while using his white, Jewish partner Flip (Adam Driver) to serve as his in-person representative. The two slowly infiltrate the Colorado KKK and end up corresponding with the KKK’s grand wizard, David Duke (Topher Grace), who becomes so infatuated with Ron that he comes to Colorado to meet him. Meanwhile, Ron falls for a local radical (Laura Herrier) and attempts to figure out whether he can square the circle of being a good police office and a conscientious, vigilant black man. This is a Spike Lee movie, so the straightforward story you might have gotten from Get Out’s Jordan Peele—who was originally going to make this film as his follow up but instead produces here—keeps taking all sorts of detours, mostly with the intent of reminding you that there’s a direct line between the shithead Klansmen of this time period and the shitheads in Charlottesville…and the White House itself. Lee shook himself out of his brief academic torpor with 2015’s Chi-Raq, a wildly unfocused but deeply passionate movie, and he evolves further here, his outrage and sadness seeping out of every frame. It can be a little on the nose sometimes—one discussion of racism in the Oval Office is so overt you half expect the word “TRUMP” to just start flashing on the screen—but Spike Lee is at his best when he’s on the nose. Lee is too urgent, too furious, to have time to lull you in with subtlety and nuance: When the house is on fire, you don’t worry about what kind of hoses you have, you just spray that shit with everything you have. Lee is shaking with rage at what he sees in the world right now, and for crissakes, he should be. His excesses don’t just seem powerful; they’re necessary. You can sort out all the particulars later: The house is on fire right now. —Will Leitch / Full Review


14. Zama
Year: 2018
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Early in Lucrecia Martel’s Zama, her dreamy intent and languid images begin to nestle into place. First we witness Spanish corregidor (“mayor”) Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho, whose eyes bear lifetimes of disappointment and resignation) on the shore of a nondescript river, in charge of a desolate Spanish colonial outpost in the middle of nowhere South America, though he seems to be more inhabiting it than litigating its quotidian. Catching a group of native women bathing, he steals a glance but is immediately found out, chased from the beach. Slapping one of the women to assert his dominance, Zama’s violent reaction feels preposterous, the response of a person with no control over himself, or his lot in life. This land rejects this sad man. Director Lucrecia Martel and cinematographer Rui Poças (whose worked with Miguel Gomes and, recently, with João Pedro Rodrigues on the exquisitely pretty The Ornithologist) dedicate nearly every frame to Zama’s melancholy maundering, though rarely allowing him the dignity to ever be the most interesting figure in any particular shot, that is, when they aren’t up close, searching his lined mug for something representing courage or assertiveness. Stranded in a thankless government job, not so much forgotten by the system as just avoided, Zama is a colonist renounced by both the colonized and colonizers. Zama is literally post-colonial: Colonists negate Diego de Zama’s colonialism by negating him, an equation Martel and Poças externalize by photographing with foreboding beauty the jungle around the pathetic man, reducing him to a meaningless, replaceable figure amidst effortlessly mighty landscapes. “Do you want to live?” Zama’s asked at the end of the film. He doesn’t respond. With her third film, Lucrecia Martel wonders, in wide swathes of unmitigated wilderness and weird, inexplicable poetry, just how far one’s wants can go. Bewitching and masterfully rendered, Zama is an elegant, ravishing, often delightfully strange achievement. It is reportedly the result of an interminable production process, of a difficult and substantial edit, of a novel that resists adaptation. It wants little more than to reach out in all directions, to peer into the void, knowing deep down that the void can’t be bothered to peer back. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review


13. Avengers: Infinity War
Year: 2018
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Avengers: Infinity War is epic in a way that has been often aspired to but never fully grasped when it comes to the translation from comic book panel to the Big Screen. It’s what happens when moviemakers take their source material seriously, eschewing unnecessary melodrama even as they fully embrace the grandeur, the sheer spectacle, of it all. (And if there’s one lesson Disney has learned, it’s that if you focus on the viewer experience, the product lines will take care of themselves.) For every frenetic fight scene in Avengers: Infinity War—and there are plenty of them—there are myriad character interactions and emotional beats the audience has been prepped for by the previous films (okay, maybe not 2008’s The Incredible Hulk). As a result, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have ample room to riff and play as characters meet for the first time or see each other again. Some of the interactions are easy to anticipate (if no less enjoyable)—the immediate ego clash between Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange and Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, for example—but our familiarity with these characters adds resonance to nearly every scene and every line, as the vestiges and ripples of emotional arcs laid down in the last decade’s worth of movies bolster even the smallest moment. —Michael Burgin / Full Review


12. Sorry to Bother You
Year: 2018
Director: Boots Riley
Sorry to Bother You has so many ideas busting out of every seam, so much ambition, so much it so urgently wants to say, that it feels almost churlish to point out that the movie ends up careening gloriously out of control. This is rapper and producer Boots Riley’s first movie, and it shows, in every possible way—good, bad, incredible, ridiculous—as if he didn’t know if he’d ever be able to make another one, so he threw every idea he ever had into this. There are moments in Sorry To Bother You that will make you want to jump giddily around the theater. There are also moments that will make you wonder who in the world gave this lunatic a camera. (Some of those moments are pretty giddy too.) The former far outnumbers the latter. Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius, a good-hearted guy who feels like his life is getting away from him and thus tries his hand at telemarketing, failing at it (in a series of fantastic scenes in which his desk literally drops into the homes of whomever he is dialing) until a colleague (Danny Glover, interesting until the movie drops him entirely) recommends he use his “white voice” on calls. Suddenly, Stanfield sounds exactly like David Cross at his most nasally and has become a superstar at the company, which leads him “upstairs,” where “supercallers” like him go after the Glengarry leads. That is just the launching off point: Throughout, we meet a Tony Robbins-type entrepreneur (Armie Hammer) who might also be a slave trader, Cassius’s radical artist girlfriend (Tessa Thompson), who wears earrings with so many mottos it’s a wonder she can hold up her head, and a revolutionary co-worker (Stephen Yeun) trying to rile the workers into rebelling against their masters. There are lots of other people too, and only some of them are fully human. It’s quite a movie. —Will Leitch / Full Review


11. The Death of Stalin
Year: 2018
Director: Armando Iannucci
You can trace that dynamic from The Thick of It, through In the Loop and Veep, and then especially in his new film, The Death of Stalin, whose subject matter can be inferred from a mere glance. The Death of Stalin marks a major temporal departure for Iannucci, known for skewering contemporary political embarrassments and turmoil, by taking us back to 1953 Russia. Years out from the Great Purge, the country remains in the grip of widespread fear fomented by nationalism, public trials, antisemitism, executions, mass deportations and civic uncertainty. Iannucci asks us to laugh at an era not known for being especially funny. That’s the give and take at the film’s core: Iannucci drops a punchline and we guffaw, then moments later we hear a gunshot, accompanied by the sound of a fresh corpse hitting the ground. Finding humor in political violence is a big ask, and yet Iannucci’s dialogue is nimble but unfailingly harsh, replete with chafing castigations. We howl with laughter, though we can’t help feeling bad for every poor bastard caught on the receiving end of trademark Iannucci verbal abuse, which typically means we end up feeling bad for every character in his films. He spares no one from insult or injury, even when they’re lying dead on the floor, soaked in their own piss. A tale of mortal sins as well as venial ones, The Death of Stalin adds modern urgency to his comic storytelling trademarks: As nationalist sentiment rears its ugly head across the globe and macho authoritarian leaders contrive to hoard power at democracy’s expense, a farcical play on the political clusterfuck that followed Stalin’s passing feels shockingly apropos. It takes a deft hand and a rare talent to make tyranny and state sanctioned torture so funny. —Andy Crump / Full Review


10. Incredibles 2
Year: 2018
Director: Brad Bird
Incredibles 2 starts right where the first film ended, with the costumed Family Parr reacting to the arrival of the Underminer (John Ratzenberger). Their scuffle with the villain gains the attention of Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk)—or more precisely, allows Deavor and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), to gain the attention of the Parrs. The siblings want to bring supers back into the light, using Winston’s salesmanship and Evelyn’s tech to sway public opinion back to the pro-super side. To do so, they want to enlist Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) as the tip of the spear in their charm offensive, leaving Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) on the sidelines for now. (She tends to fight crime in a manner that results in less property damage than her husband, after all.) This sets up a second act that’s firmly by the numbers in terms of story development—watch the husband try to succeed as a stay-at-home dad!—yet no less enjoyable. Bob’s attempts to handle teen romance, Jack-Jack’s manifestation of powers and, horror of horrors, “new” math will strike a chord with any mom or dad who has ever felt overwhelmed by the simple, devastating challenges of parenthood. (The family interactions, one strength among many with the first film, remain a delight in the sequel.) Meanwhile, we get to watch Elastigirl in action, as she encounters, foils and matches wits with the film’s mysterious villain, Screenslaver. As in the first film, watching Helen Parr do the hero thing is also quite the delight—she’s resourceful, tough and, above all, a professional. Watching Elastigirl operate almost makes one feel sorry for the criminals. Delving more into the plot would do the film a disservice—suffice to say both villainous and family challenges are faced, and it takes a village, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) and Edna Mode (Bird) to emerge victorious. Whether you enjoy Incredibles 2 as much as the original will likely depend on your opinion of the latter, but regardless, you’ll be happy both exist. And in today’s sequel-saturated environment, that is practically a superheroic achievement in itself. —Michael Burgin / Full Review


9. Leave No Trace
Year: 2018
Director: Debra Granik
It takes all of Leave No Trace before anyone tells Will (Ben Foster) he’s broken. The man knows, perhaps ineffably, that something’s fundamentally wrong inside of him, but it isn’t until the final moments of Debra Granik’s film that someone gives that wrongness finality, that someone finally allows Will to admit—and maybe accept—he can’t be fixed. Why: Granik affords us little background, save tattoos and a few helicopter-triggered flashbacks and a visit to the hospital to acquire PTSD meds all implying that Will is a military vet, though what conflict he suffered and for how long remains a mystery. As does the fate of Will’s deceased wife, mother to teenage girl Tom (Thomasin McKenzie). As does the length of time Will and his daughter have been living off the grid, hidden within the more than 5,000 acres of Portland’s Forest Park, a damp, verdant chunk of the city’s northwest side overlooking the Willamette River. As does the pain at the heart of Leave No Trace, though it hurts no less acutely for that. Toward the end of this quietly stunning film, Tom shows her father a beehive she’s only recently begun to tend, slowly pulling out a honeycomb tray and tipping a scrambling handful of the insects into her cupped palm without any fear of being stung. Will looks on, proud of his daughter’s connection to such a primal entity, knowing that he could never do the same. Will begins to understand, as Tom does, that she is not broken like him. Leave No Trace asserts, with exquisite humanity and a long bittersweet sigh, that the best the broken can do is disappear before they break anyone else. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review


8. Lean on Pete
Year: 2018
Director: Andrew Haigh
Lean on Pete flows with such gentle beauty that it may be hard to grasp precisely what it’s about or where it’s going. But the power of writer-director Andrew Haigh’s sublime drama is that it can support myriad interpretations while remaining teasingly mysterious—like its main character, it’s always just a bit out of reach, constantly enticing us to look closer. Based on Willy Vlautin’s 2010 novel, the movie is a smashing introduction to Charlie Plummer, who was the kidnapped John Paul Getty III in last year’s All the Money in the World. Here, he plays Charley Thompson, a 15-year-old living with his drinking, backslapping dad (Travis Fimmel) in Portland. Charley has a sweet face and a soft-spoken manner—when he talks, the last few words evaporate into the air, as if he’s too shy to even be bold enough to enunciate—but early on, we get a sense that there’s a craftiness underneath that demeanor. The first indication is his willingness to lie about his age to Del (Steve Buscemi), a craggy horse owner who reluctantly takes him on as a caretaker for his elderly racehorse Lean on Pete. Charley doesn’t know a thing about horses, but he’s anxious to find something to do now that he’s in a new town with his father, their reasons for leaving Spokane unspecified but clearly dispiriting. Familiar narrative tropes emerge in Lean on Pete: the boy-and-his-dog drama, the coming-of-age story, the father-and-son character piece, the road movie. Haigh breezes past them all, seeking something more elliptical in this deceptively slim story. With the patience and minimalist command of a Kelly Reichardt, he doesn’t dictate where his film goes, seemingly letting Charley’s restlessness call the shots. The boy’s journey gathers force and poignancy as it moves forward, and the more we understand about Charley the more unknowable he becomes. Along the way, we meet other people and see other worlds—the life of young military veterans, the reality of homelessness, the grind of the low-rent racing circuit—but Haigh views it all with the same unassuming compassion we see in Charley’s quiet eyes. —Tim Grierson / Full Review


7. Mandy
Year: 2018
Director: Panos Cosmatos
More than an hour in, the film’s title appears, growing lichen-like, sinister and near-illegible, as all great metal album covers are. The name and title card—Mandy—immediately follows a scene in which our hero forges his own Excalibur, a glistening, deformed axe adorned with pointy and vaguely erotic edges and appurtenances, the stuff of H.R. Giger’s wettest dreams. Though Red (Nicolas Cage) could use, and pretty much does use, any weapon at hand to avenge the brutal murder of his titular love (Andrea Riseborough), he still crafts that beautiful abomination as ritual, infusing his quest for revenge with dark talismanic magic, compelled by Bakshi-esque visions of Mandy to do her bidding on the corporeal plane. He relishes the ceremony and succumbs to the rage that will push him to some intensely extreme ends. We know almost nothing about his past before he met Mandy, but we can tell he knows his way around a blunt, deadly object. So begins Red’s unhinged murder spree, phantasmagoric and gloriously violent. A giant bladed dildo, a ludicrously long chainsaw, a hilarious pile of cocaine, the aforementioned spiked LSD, the aforementioned oracular chemist, a tiger, more than one offer of sex—Red encounters each as if it’s the detritus of a waking nightmare, fighting or consuming all of it. Every shot of Mandy reeks of shocking beauty, stylized at times to within an inch of its intelligibility, but endlessly pregnant with creativity and control, euphoria and pain, clarity and honesty and the ineffable sense that director Panos Cosmatos knows exactly how and what he wants to subconsciously imprint into the viewer. Still, Mandy is a revenge movie, and a revenge movie has to satiate the audience’s bloodlust. Cosmatos bathes Red (natch) in gore, every kill hard won and subcutaneously rewarding. There is no other film this year that so effectively feeds off of the audience’s anger, then sublimates it, releasing it without allowing it to go dangerously further. We need this kind of retribution now; we’re all furious with the indifferent unfairness of a world and a life and a society, of a government, that does not care about us. That does not value our lives. Mandy is our revenge movie. Watch it big. Watch it loud. Watch yourself exorcised on screen. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review


6. You Were Never Really Here
Year: 2018
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Lynne Ramsay has a reputation for being uncompromising. In industry patois, that means she has a reputation for being "difficult." Frankly, the word that best describes her is "unrelenting." Filmmakers as in charge of their aesthetic as Ramsay are rare. Rarer still are filmmakers who wield so much control without leaving a trace of ego on the screen. If you’ve seen any of the three films she made between 1999 and 2011 (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar, We Need to Talk About Kevin), then you’ve seen her dogged loyalty to her vision in action, whether that vision is haunting, horrific or just plain bizarre. She’s as forceful as she is delicate. Her fourth film, You Were Never Really Here—haunting, horrific and bizarre all at once—is arguably her masterpiece, a film that treads the line delineating violence from tenderness in her body of work. Calling it a revenge movie doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like a sustained scream. You Were Never Really Here’s title is constructed of layers, the first outlining the composure of her protagonist, Joe (Joaquin Phoenix, acting behind a beard that’d make the Robertson clan jealous), a military veteran and former federal agent as blistering in his savagery as in his self-regard. Joe lives his life flitting between past and present, hallucination and reality. Even when he physically occupies a space, he’s confined in his head, reliving horrors encountered in combat, in the field and in his childhood on a non-stop, simultaneous loop. Each of her previous movies captures human collapse in slow motion. You Were Never Really Here is a breakdown shot in hyperdrive, lean, economic, utterly ruthless and made with fiery craftsmanship. Let this be the language we use to characterize her reputation as one of the best filmmakers working today. —Andy Crump / Full Review


5. Hereditary
Year: 2018
Director: Ari Aster
Ari Aster’s debut film begins in miniature. Later we learn of the trade Annie (Toni Collette), the film’s family’s matriarch, plies—meticulously designing doll-house-sized vignettes of the many domestic traumas she’s experienced, and still does, throughout her life, not for children but for art gallery spaces—though in the moment, in the beginning of Hereditary, the effect simply alludes to Aster’s ancestral preoccupations. From a tree house, pulling back through Annie’s workshop window, cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski’s camera pans to a tiny recreation of the house we’re currently within, then pushes into the simulacrum of high school student Peter Graham’s (Alex Wolff) bedroom, which transforms into the room itself, perspectives already ruined so early in the film. Father Steve (Gabriel Byrne) enters to give his late-snoozing son the black suit needed to attend his late grandmother’s memorial. Aster’s intent, as is the case throughout Hereditary, is both blunt and oblique: worlds exist within worlds, shadows within that which casts them, or vice versa, reality represented like the rings of a tree or the spirals of DNA holding untold secrets within the cores of whoever we are. Colin Stetson’s brain-churning score rattles the frame’s edges; menace looms—and menace soon unfolds, tragedies upon tragedies. The Graham family unravels over the course of Hereditary, which derives its power from testing the binds that force families together, teasing their strength as each family member must confront, kicking and screaming (or in Collette’s case: making the noise of one’s soul fleeing through every orifice), just how superficial those binds can be. In the absence of a reason for all of this happening, there is inevitability; in the absence of resolution there is only acceptance. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review


4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Year: 2018
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
At some point midway through Mission: Impossible – Fallout—the sixth entry in the franchise and director Christopher McQuarrie’s unprecedented second go at helming one of these beasts—CIA brute Austin Walker (Henry Cavill) asks his superior, CIA Director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett), how many times she thinks Übermensch Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) will put up with his country screwing him over before he snaps. Walker’s question is rhetorical, intended to convince Sloane that Hunt is actually John Lark, the alias of a shadowy conspirator planning to buy stolen plutonium whom he and Hunt also happen to be chasing, but the question is better put before Cruise, the film’s bright, shining star. It’s a question that hangs over this dependably mind-blowing action flick more obviously than any installment to come before: How long can 56-year-old Cruise keep doing this before he, truly and irrevocably, snaps? Fallout never offers an answer, most likely because Cruise won’t have one until his body just completely gives out, answering for him by default. Fallout shows no real signs of that happening any time soon. What it does show is a kind of blockbuster intuition for what makes our enormous action brands—from Fast and the Furious to the MCU—thrive, behind only Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol as the best of the now 22-year endeavor. Where Bird leaned into the franchise as a literalization of its title, redefining the series by balancing the absurdity of what Cruise was impossibly doing (the Burj Khalifa scene is one of the greatest action sequences ever) with the awe of bearing witness to what a human person could accomplish if devoid of all Thetans, McQuarrie considers the two pretty much the same thing. The only reaction worthy of such absurdity is awe—and the only American tentpole films worth our awe anymore are those deemed Mission: Impossible. It’s all so goddamned beautiful. I love these movies. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review


3. Black Panther
Year: 2018
Director: Ryan Coogler
 Black Panther might be the first MCU film that could claim to most clearly be an expression of a particular director’s voice. We shouldn’t go so far as to call it auteurist, because it’s still a Disney movie and (perhaps ironically) a part of that monopolizing Empire—i.e., eat the rich—but Black Panther’s action scenes, especially, feel one with Coogler’s oeuvre. Look only to an early scene in a South Korean casino, in which T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Okoye (Danai Gurire) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) plan to intercept a deal between Klaue and everyone’s favorite CIA milquetoast, Everett Ross (Martin Freeman, lovable) for a vibranium-filled artifact which Klaue stole from some colonizer-run museum with Killmonger’s help. We’re introduced to Klaue through the surprising spryness of his violence—Andy Serkis, too, freed from mocap, is still an amazing presence, even as a gangster shitbag—and Coogler gets on his wavelength, carving out the geography of the casino in long tracking shots, much like he convinced us to love stained, shitty-seeming Philadelphia gyms in Creed by helping us to comprehend the many crevices and corners of each hole in the wall. When the casino brawl breaks out into the streets, morphing into a death-defying car chase (slow motion thankfully kept to a minimum), we feel as if we know exactly what these characters—and this wonderful director—are capable of. His vision for Wakanda—shot by recent Oscar nominee Rachel Morrison as an Afrofuturist paradise—rightly draws its inspiration from an omnibus of natural sources, just the a casino scene affords Morrison the chance to go full Deakins (James Bond references all over this thing), imagining the world of the MCU as Steven Soderbergh might have scoped out Traffic, developing a fully sensual visual language to define the many locations of this world-hopping adventure without resorting to sterile maps or facile borders. If T’Challa’s whole narrative arc concerns the need for him to realize the importance of bringing Wakanda into our globalized world, of revealing its riches to a world that probably doesn’t deserve them, then the vastness of that world, the many different kinds of people who populate it, must be felt in all of its ungraspable diversity. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review


2. Eighth Grade
Year: 2018
Director: Bo Burnham
In Eighth Grade, the feature debut of comedian-singer-songwriter Bo Burnham, you’re either a Kayla (Elsie Fisher) or you know a Kayla from your days as an over-it-all punk-ass. The distinction is key to your experience. The film stages a too-real reenactment of middle school’s rigors, but it’s the people we endure those rigors with who shape our turbulent pubescence. Sure, sitting through Ms. Hawking’s ornithology lessons was hell, but hell’s preferable to striking up conversation with your classmates. Burnham uses the awkward terrain of juvenile social interaction as Eighth Grade’s focal point, painting the daunting exercise of talking to other kids as a stairway to embarrassment. We meet Kayla pre-humiliation, recording clips for her YouTube channel in her room, dispensing life advice in the coltish manner of a newly minted teen. She’s extraordinarily inarticulate, but in her ramblings we find the profound insight only a 13-year-old can offer. “Aren’t I always being myself?” she says to her camera, the sage instructing the benighted. “Well, yeah, for sure.” She’s a self-help layman, but her sincerity is charming. Don’t change who you are to impress others. Words to live by. Kayla, like anyone else trying to stay afloat in the sometimes cutthroat world of middle school, sells out her ideals almost immediately, a defensive posture to deflect her loneliness. Being a teenage girl isn’t easy. Occasionally, it’s perilous. That Eighth Grade so genuinely conveys those difficulties and dangers is miraculous considering its source. Burnham invites us to recall our own adolescence, and also to consider how adolescence has changed in the time of social media. It’s compassionate, radiating retroactive kindness for the children we all were to soothe the adults we are now. —Andy Crump / Full Review


1. First Reformed
Year: 2018
Director: Paul Schrader
What makes a man start fires? What if that person were a man of God? Paul Schrader, now 71, has perhaps spent his entire career as a filmmaker attempting to ask that question, to breach the impenetrable truth of whatever that question’s answer could be, beginning with Blue Collar, a story of auto workers and union members in Detroit compromising their values to survive in the shadow of forces too large and too immovable to compromise themselves. With First Reformed, Schrader’s 20th feature as director, that question absorbs the whole film—not through cries of nihilism, as in his previous, garbage Dog Eat Dog, but as a sustained act of faith: What must the devout do for a world God has abandoned? The question lingers wetly in Ethan Hawke’s eyes as he carries every frame of Schrader’s film. Playing Father Ernst Toller—a minister who in a former life had a wife and a son and a military career, an end brought to all three by that son’s death in Iraq—Hawke has spent the past 20 or so years sublimating the radical tendencies of his iconic slackerdom into a fiercely simmering anxiety, as if the purposelessness of his past malaise has left him stewing on how little he can or could do to change anything in this world. Not only does First Reformed directly butt heads with Dog Eat Dog, but it indulges melodrama without losing its calm. It works in obvious metaphors not for their own sakes, but as seamless extensions of theme. It’s a gorgeous film, mourning the impossibility of being alive as it celebrates that which binds us, a conscious-rattling, viscera-stirring piece of art. And ultimately, it’s a shocking film, powerful images gripping even more powerful fires within the bodies of those unequipped, as we all are, to put them out. —Dom Sinacola / Full Review

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