2018 is now well underway, and that means it’s time to start getting excited about this year’s slate of big screen releases.
With several major blockbusters – including the latest instalments in several of your favourite franchises – and star-studded dramas scheduled for the year ahead, there’s a lot to look forward to.
Here, I’ve pulled together a rundown of the 10 movies I think you can’t afford to miss in 2018 – along with a few honourable mentions you should definitely try to squeeze in, as well!
It’s always hard to whittle down an entire year’s worth of promising films to just 10 entries – even after leaving out movies like The Shape Of Water, which have already opened in the US. So before we get on with the list proper, it only seems fair to give a quick shout-out to a few films that just missed the cut.
Firstly, there’s A Wrinkle In Time, based on the popular novel of the same name and helmed by Ava DuVernay, which looks set to be a notable entry on the 2018 calendar for several reasons. Not only is it the brainchild of a very talented female director, it boasts a strong, diverse cast – including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Chris Pine – and stunningly distinctive visual style. If the first teaser trailer didn’t quite sell the film, the calibre of the cast and crew involved is more than enough to fuel anticipation for this one.
Secondly, there’s Mary Poppins Returns. On the face of it, this belated sequel to the 1964 Julie Andrews classic isn’t worth getting too enthused over. After all, it’s yet another follow-up to a beloved movie that arguably no one was asking for, and it’s hard to escape the sense that this is Disney wringing every last dollar out of of its wider library of properties. But that overlooks the pitch perfect casting of Emily Blunt in the title role, supported by a stellar supporting roster – Meryl Streep, Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer – which elevates this one into the category of “definitely worth a look”.
Lastly, there’s Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2. The first Wreck-It Ralph was a pleasant surprise: a disarmingly heartfelt adventure that managed to address themes of self-acceptance and the positivity of being different, all whilst delivering inventive fun and a staggering number of video game easter eggs. Not much is known about the sequel, Ralph Breaks The Internet, but with many of the original cast and crew back on board – most notably, leads John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman – another enjoyable outing seems assured.
10. Alita: Battle Angel
The teaser trailer for Alita: Battle Angel proved divisive online. Some commentators praised director Robert Rodriguez’s attempts to emulate the “big-eyed” look of the film’s manga source material, whilst others were turned off by the CGI-heavy nature of the visuals.
It’s true that Alita’s hyper-stylised aesthetic is reliant on digital effects – which are far from subtle – but Rodriguez appears to be interested in imbuing proceedings with real heart. He’s also working from a script co-written by producer James Cameron – who knows a thing or two about how to craft a quality action flick.
Whether or not the movie will be a hit with hardcore fans of Yukito Kishiro’s original tale – which follows a female cyborg’s attempts to rediscover her past – remains to be seen. But either way, it’s certain to be a breathtaking visual feast with more emotion than your typical big budget effort.
9. Everything X-Men-Related Fox Has Scheduled
The first of two “cheat” entries on this list, I’ve bundled together every X-Men-related flick that Fox is releasing this year – mostly to limit things to only 10 items! What impresses most about the films starring Marvel’s merry mutants this year is just how varied they are.
Fans of traditional superhero spectacle will no doubt be eagerly awaiting X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which promises a more faithful, suitably epic adaptation of the classic comic book storyline. Those who got a kick out of the irreverent romp that was Deadpool can expect more of the same from the sequel – which welcomes Josh Brolin’s Cable into the fold.
But most intriguing of all is The New Mutants, the first big screen foray into the horror movie genre for the franchise. Whether or not Josh Boone’s fresh take on the source material – which features Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams and Stranger Things’ Charlie Ross Heaton – ends up connecting with audiences remains to be seen. But the fact that Fox is continuing to experiment with one of their most lucrative properties deserves serious kudos, regardless.
8. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Solo: A Star Wars Story – which explores the early days of everyone’s favourite smuggler from a galaxy far, far away – has proven to be an undeniably troubled production. From the initial sceptical fan reaction to relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich taking on the Han Solo role from Harrison Ford, through to the firing of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, things haven’t exactly gone smoothly.
And while the departure of Lord and Miller – whose subversive wit and energetic filmmaking style would have brought something new to Star Wars – is disappointing, there’s still plenty about Solo to get excited about.
For starters, replacement auteur Ron Howard is a safe pair of hands, suggesting that audiences can expect a well-told (if decidedly more traditional) story. Then there’s the acting stable who have signed on to appear, with big names like Emelia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson and Paul Bettany rounding out the principal cast. Finally, there’s the Star Wars factor, which is almost always more than enough to entice people into theatres!
7. The Incredibles 2
2004’s The Incredibles was a massive critical and commercial success for Disney/Pixar, raking in over $600 million at the box office and netting the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Moviegoers have been clamouring for another adventure starring the superpowered Parr family, and in 2018, they’re finally going to get it!
With original writer/director Brad Bird back in the director’s chair and all the main cast on board, all signs point to another highly entertaining outing. This time around, the Incredibles take on the villainous Underminer (introduced at the end of the first film), even as they simultaneously attempt to maintain “normal” lives as well.
Throw in the sharp humour, cleverly choreographed action, and retro-cool sensibilities of the original Incredibles – not to mention another smooth soundtrack by the always-brilliant Michael Giacchino – and The Incredibles 2 can’t arrive soon enough!
6. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
The follow up to Colin Trevorrow’s smash hit fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, Fallen Kingdom – helmed by J.A. Bayona, taking over from Trevorrow – continues the sequel trilogy’s narrative.
Changing tack to focus more on the preservation of the dinosaurs at the centre of proceedings – who until now have largely been treated as movie monster fodder – the new film offers up a novel spin on an increasingly stagnant formula.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard continue to handle the male and female protagonist duties in Fallen Kingdom, and fans of the earlier movies will be excited by the news that Jeff Goldblum is also set to appear (albeit only as a brief cameo).
5. Ready Player One
Steven Spielberg calling the shots on a film based largely around pop culture nostalgia – sounds pretty much perfect, right? If you answered “yes” to this question, then you’re going to want to see Ready Player One, Sir Steve’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling 2011 novel of the same name.
Set in a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) where Earth’s population predominantly spends its time jacked-in to a virtual reality known as OASIS, Ready Player One follows a young gamer in his attempt to win a treasure hunt with life changing – and potentially deadly – stakes.
Bursting at the seams with nods to a plethora of iconic film, television, video game and comic book franchises, and bolstered by a cast of newcomers and respected veterans, you better be ready for Ready Player One!
4. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald
Now that 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has banished any concerns that the Harry Potter film franchise could continue without the presence of the boy wizard himself, anticipation for the sequel, The Crimes of Grindelwald, couldn’t be higher.
Eddie Redmayne is back in the quirky shoes of magizoologist Newt Scamander, joined once more by Katherine Waterson’s crimefighting Auror Tina Goldstein for an outing that shifts at least some of the action to Paris.
The new movie also promises to delve deeper into the relationship between Johnny Depp’s dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald and a younger Albus Dumbledore – portrayed by Jude Law in an inspired bit of casting – which anyone familiar with their history will agree is sure to result in (literal) fireworks!
3. Everything Marvel Studios Has Scheduled For Release
As hinted at earlier, here’s the second cheat entry on this list – but seriously, with everything that Marvel Studios has planned for 2018, it was impossible to leave anything out! Marvel has three releases headed our way this year, all of which look pretty amazing.
Kicking things off is Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, which sees Chadwick Boseman reprise the role of the regal African superhero after blowing audiences away in Captain America: Civil War. He brings with him a predominately African-American cast – including Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan – and based off the teaser trailer, the finished product will stand out amongst the increasingly crowded big screen cape and tights crowd.
Hot on the heels of Black Panther comes Avengers: Infinity War, which is inarguably the biggest comic book movie of the year – if not ever! The culmination of all the groundwork Marvel Studios has laid since Iron Man way back in 2008, Infinity War unites virtually every major character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe against Josh Brolin’s intergalactic tyrant, Thanos. Our first glimpse at the film was suitably epic – think The Lord of the Rings, only with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, instead – not to mention emotional, courtesy of directors Anthony and Joe Russo.
It might seem like Marvel Studios has faltered with its final release for 2018, considering the comparatively smaller scope of Ant-Man and the Wasp, especially given the mixed reaction to the (underrated) original Paul Rudd flick. However, with Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp promoted from love interest to full-blown co-lead – note the double-billing in the title – and a “romantic comedy” vibe underpinning things, this breezy affair should make a perfect date movie!
(Oh, and one last breach of the rules: Sony Pictures Animation and Columbia Pictures has animated film Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse scheduled for 2018; I know it’s not a Marvel Studios release, but it is a Marvel movie, and it looks fantastic – so check it out!)
2. Sicario 2: Soldado
Mexico-based thriller Sicario made quite a splash with critics and audiences alike, and Stefano Sollima’s follow-up to Denis Villeneuve’s original film appears poised to do the same.
Acclaimed screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is again on scripting duties for Sicario 2: Soldado, with Benecio Del Toro and Josh Brolin (him again!) likewise reprising their roles. Although Emily Blunt is sadly no longer attached to Soldado, talented new recruits like Catherine Keener and Matthew Modine should hopefully pick up the slack.
As with before, Sheridan is aiming to marry complex moral and political themes to a pulse-pounding crime flick, and Sollima’s track record of success within the genre suggests this is one juggling act that won’t go wrong!
Unwieldy title aside – which seems almost designed to make people trip up when buying tickets – pretty much everything about Chappaquiddick looks perfectly judged.
The ever-dependable Jason Clarke stars as Senator Ted Kennedy, who in 1969 accidentally drove his car into a tidal channel on Chappaquiddick Island – killing his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. You might think that’s a dramatic enough premise for a film, however things really get compelling when ol’ Ted decides not to call the police for ten whole hours!
Director John Curran and a strong supporting cast – including Kate Mara, Ed Helms and Bruce Dern – all appear to be on stellar form. But Chappaquiddick ultimately looks set to belong to Clarke, who paints a riveting portrait of man desperate to live up to his familial legacy by any means necessary.