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In some ways, 2018 was the year that superhero and comic book movies collided with, well, 2018. This year was a peak for the capes and cowl genre but it was also a year where the standout films reflected not just the best traits of the movie art form, but connected us with the world outside our window and to each other, even while transporting us into impossible realms.
But there was more to the movies that Heat Vision loves than just superheroes. Isle of Dogs showcased some of the best that the art of stop-motion has to offer. Halloween was scary and fun and successfully resurrected a horror villain. Incredibles 2 had inventive and thriller set pieces and made stretchy powers cool. And Solo: A Star Wars Story didn’t deserve the fate it met.
Now, let’s get into the Heat Vision Top 10, shall we?
The family movie of the year. If your family has a prince from Hell in the closet. The feature debut by Ari Aster centers on a woman who, in the wake of the loss of her secretive mother, sees her family unravel not just due to grief, but to the slow insanity of realizing that a demonic possession is underway. The movie is creepy and chilling as it slowly draws you into its tragedy, with little scenes that send jolts of shivers through your body. The acting is top-notch, though it’s Toni Collette who delivers one of the best performance of the year as the mother at the center of it all.
A blend of the World War II action movie with the zombie horror tropes, this flick was a B-movie dream, filled with gung-ho American troops, a French village, Nazi experiments and unstoppable humanoids. Director Julius Avery throws a slick sheen on the proceedings, Wyatt Russell channels his dad from the John Carpenter era and Jovan Adepo is the heroic glue holding everything together. The movie was underrated and overlooked when it was released but, secret fun fact: it is the highest testing movie ever to get made from JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot banner.
8) Paddington 2
Coming back for seconds is always a tricky proposition, but director and co-writer Paul King was able to concoct a delightful souffle as charming as his first movie. The lovable English (by way of Peru, of course) bear is back, still finding the good in people, even when all seems lost and he’s framed and imprisoned. King’s dioramas and miniatures delight, the clever story has finely tuned setup and payoffs, and Hugh Grant as a criminally spotlight-craving actor steals every scene he’s in. Magical.
Another thought-provoking and complicated offering from Alex Garland, the filmmaker behind the excellent Ex Machina. This time, Natalie Portman stars as a depressed and grief-stricken biologist that is part of an all-female mission into The Shimmer, a mysterious irradiated zone that affects the body and, more dangerously, the mind. The bear scene is insane, the plant scene is tragically beautiful and the doppelganger dance trippy.
#MeToo meets 21st century grind house in the best way with this France-America co-production from Coralie Fargeat that stars a fearless Matilda Lutz as a mistress who is raped and left for dead in the middle of a desert by her married boyfriend and his sleazy friends. But like a blood-soaked phoenix rising out of the ashes, Lutz is a simmering then exploding volcano embodying the suffering of womankind and paying it back in kind. Stylish, flashy, brutal and extreme.
5) Mission: Impossible – Fallout
What is really impossible is that here we have a 20-year-plus studio franchise that seems to be getting better and better. Christopher McQuarrie manages to outdo his Rogue Nation entry with Fallout, easily the best action movie of the year. The visceral and hard-hitting nature of the stunt work — the bathroom brawl, the Paris motorcycle chase, the helicopter hunt — feel real because they are real and they take your breath away. Tom Cruise finely ages into an action hero with bumps and bruises, and Henry Cavill cocks his fists like no one else. And there’s nothing like the satisfying grin after seeing the IMF team pull off a twisty bait and switch.
4) Avengers: Infinity War
A movie 10 years in the making featuring a cast of thousands, give or take 50 percent. Going from the farthest reaches of space to New York’s Greenwich Village, Anthony and Joe Russo cannily juggle Asgardian gods, aliens, billionaires, African royalty, an idealistic teen and more, giving every single hero at least one moment to shine while also giving nuance to a universal threat in the form of the mad god Thanos. And giving us one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the year with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man dematerializing before our very eyes. Epic in every best sense of the word.
3) A Quiet Place
This movie executes everything so right it’s hard to know where to begin. The high concept of almost no talking thanks to aliens that prey using sound. The drama of a family dealing with loss and birth. The idea of parents who will stop at nothing to save their kids. Emily Blunt taking the concept of Sigourney Weaver’s alien fighter Ripley into 2018. John Krasinski, playing her onscreen husband and also directing the film, infuses the well-worn alien invasion genre with inventiveness and real emotion.
2) No number two…because we have a tie!
1) Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Both are really excellent movies that tell really good stories really well. Panther gave us the most realized Marvel villain ever in Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, and dealt with ideas such as wealth distribution and themes such as past sins revisiting the present. It showed us a fictional nation that not only felt real, but one that we wished we could visit. Wakanda Forever, indeed.
With Spider-Verse, the boldest movie on the list, you can feel the love the filmmakers and producers have for the hero, distilling decades of stories into something that is fresh and modern, thrusting not just Spider-Man but superhero movies into the future while embracing the past. And don’t get us started on the astonishing storytelling and visuals, a gorgeous blend of CG and hand-drawn styles. Easily the best animated movie of the year, and one of the best in general.
But both also transcend their original intentions to be mere movies by becoming something bigger. They just don’t push the art form itself but broke ground for race, for representation, for inclusivity, for reflecting many people’s hopes and for being acts of inspiration.
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