We’re halfway through an already-strong year for movies. GQ staffers and writers pick their favorites.
Jesus Christ, I love First Reformed. As a movie that centers on the slow death of Earth, it’s a certified downer—A24’s marketing strategy included the “First Reformed Challenge,” aka drinking a cocktail of whiskey and Pepto Bismol in reference to the habits of the film’s main character—but it’s also a transcendent, ultimately hopeful feature. Think of The Lord of the Rings—you know, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world besides the will of evil.” And if you, unlike me, don’t have a crippling soft spot for movies about religious conundrums, the end of the world, and put-upon priests, just know that Paul Schrader’s latest film also features an incredible turn from Cedric the Entertainer, and an ending that’s wilder than anything else you’ll see all year. —Karen Han, GQ contributor
You probably don’t need me to tell you Black Panther is great, because based on the massive box-office numbers it pulled, you almost definitely saw it. But damn: How great is Black Panther? I don’t have enough space here to list every praiseworthy thing about this Ryan Coogler blockbuster, so I’ll shout out the visual splendor and sheer imaginative power that went into creating Wakanda. Throw in the absurdly stacked supporting cast—which includes one of the genre’s all-time greatest villains—and it’s clear that Black Panther is simply Marvel’s best movie, and a textbook example of how a well-crafted blockbuster can infuse its thrills with a vital, cathartic, and long-overdue political message. —Scott Meslow, GQ culture critic.
One of my favorite tricks is when you see a movie you think is about one thing but it’s really about something else. Going into Thoroughbreds, I thought it was a movie about two spoiled rich girls who try to kill one’s stepdad. But it’s really a movie about how the lower classes, whether they’re actually lower class or just upper-middle class, have been conditioned to do anything for the rich, and then think it’s the rich doing them a favor. The movie is truly funny, and dark, and suspenseful, and for days afterward I was spouting theories about class and upward mobility and how female friendship is so easily weaponized to anyone who would listen. Please watch it so I have someone to talk to. —Jaya Saxena, GQ entertainment writer.
The Incredibles 2
The Incredibles 2 might be, pound for pound, the best action movie I’ve seen this year. When Elastigirl chases the runaway train on her two-piece motorcycle? Thrilling. The Incredibles vs. possessed supers battle on the mega-yacht? More clever with its super power team-ups than anything that happens in Infinity War. The first Incredibles was a Watchmen-inflected deconstruction of superheroes. The sequel leans all the way in the other direction to, instead, deliver one of the 2018’s best superhero movies in a year with a lot of great ones. —Kevin Nguyen, GQ senior editor.
The aliens are here! But in the subtle, creeping way of Arrival and Contact, where an extraterrestrial presence brings terror that’s beyond anything our tiny minds can comprehend. In Annihilation, that’s way scarier than any little green men with guns. Natalie Portman spearheads a troupe of scientists into The Shimmer—an iridescent bubble which is raging trippy biological warfare in Florida, splicing DNA and messing with the minds and memories of all who enter. It’s a crime that this only got a limited theatrical release; the kaleidoscopic cinematography and stomach-churning soundtrack deserve it. Stream it but turn the bass up. —Owen Myers, GQ contributor.
Emotional dramas about men of the cloth coming to terms with Earth’s mortality and cerebral sci-fis about scientists who journey deep into the heart of an alien unknown are all well and good, but sometimes you just need to watch a movie about a guy who fights a bunch of people on a train while trying to save his family from a sinister crime cover-up. Fresh from his fabulous woman-vs.-shark movie The Shallows, Jaume Collet-Serra was back again earlier this year with another exciting thriller that revels in the simplicity of its concept. In The Commuter, Liam Neeson plays an ex-cop everyman who rides the train every day to and from work, until one day he’s accosted by Vera Farmiga in full villainess mode, who tells him a bunch of money is his to keep if he can just find the one person on the train who isn’t supposed to be there. At first, Neeson thinks it’s a joke, but he quickly realizes that he has no choice but to play along. The Commuter is like Non-Stop combined with Murder on the Orient Express, and has one of the best “single take” fight scenes I have ever seen involving an axe, a gun, and an electric guitar. —Emma Stefansky, GQ contributor.
The Day After
What a cinephile blessing to be living through the Hong Sang-soo renaissance, this current creative spout for the Korean auteur who’s been releasing multiple masterpieces a year. So far, my top two favorite films of 2018 are both Hongs—Claire’s Camera and The Day After, tied—but the former, boasting the international star power of French acting grande dame Isabelle Hupeprt, seems to have eclipsed the latter, its (unofficial) companion piece, which was released two months later and shares a star in Hong muse Kim Min-hee. Here, Kim plays a newly hired employee of a small publishing company, unaware that she’s stepping right in the middle of an infidelity minefield (she’s the replacement for another woman who had an affair with the boss). As the politeness of new coworkers wears off, the film, shot in black and white, unveils its raw emotions in unfiltered, snotty weeping, slaps, screams, and freely pouring soju (a Hong trademark). The web of lies and miscommunication make for borderline slapstick comedy, but the frequent ruminations on spirituality mark this one of Hong’s most philosophical films. Perhaps that’s why watching The Day After almost feels like a religious experience. —Kristen Yoonsoo Kim, GQ contributor.
Do you like nostalgia? Do you miss nice things and simpler times, but want some context and depth to your memories of bygone eras? Do you like crying so hard you feel like you might heave in the middle of a press screening in a basement theater near Bryant Park (sorry, that one was just me I guess)? This tight, beautiful documentary about Fred Rogers tha god will take your heart, spike it into the pavement, and stomp all over it. You’ll leave knowing more about the show that may’ve defined your earliest days of development, and you’ll walk away with newfound reverence for the man behind all the make-believe. At a bare minimum, you’ll want to reevaluate your life in search of the quieter moments we all seem to have left behind. Isn’t that enough to ask of a movie? —Brennan Carley, entertainment associate.
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Love, Simon doesn’t subvert the tropes of its genre, but that only makes it feel more revolutionary—it’s a sleek, mainstream teen movie which just happens to have a gay lead character. Though the plot follows Simon (Nick Robinson) as he tries to track down his anonymous gay email buddy, this is no basic love story. Performed with immense charm by a talented and commendably diverse young cast, it’s a warm and witty film about friendship, identity, and self-acceptance. —Nick Levine, GQ contributor.
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The film’s “twist” dominated conversation around Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman’s unromantic ode to parenthood, but there’s a lot more going on in Tully than just unraveling the mystery of its titular Mary Poppins-esque hero. Charlize Theron, who has made a habit of giving her all, gives her all as Marlo, the run-down mother of three. Cody and Reitman have helped each other evolve over the years, and this funny, charming, unsentimental view of parenthood, of partnership, of the unspectacular miracle of kindness, is their best work yet. —Tom Philip, GQ entertainment writer
Generally speaking, I hate when people tell me to see a comedy because it’s so funny and hilarious, I swear. This is absolutely the worst way to sell me on a comedy because it jacks up my expectations and I’ll constantly wonder why my ass is still attached to my body, when I was promised that I would be laughing so hard it would slide right off. Game Night, however, is the rare comedy that is as funny as I was told it was, and almost guaranteed to be a cult fave in a couple years once people finally get around to seeing it. The story of a game night that goes horribly wrong when a staged kidnapping turns out to be a real one, the movie is also tremendously clever, taking actors that you already knew were funny (Sharon Horgan) actors you suspected were funny (Jesse Plemons) and actors that have been criminally underused despite being proven as very funny (Rachel McAdams) and finds unexpected ways to mix and match them all while taking them on a twisty ride on par with most thrillers. There’s also a great dog. (That’s how you pitch a comedy, by the way: Go see Game Night. It has a great dog.) —Josh Rivera, GQ entertainment writer.
Who knew a wee British bear and a delightfully dancey, no-career-fucks-to-give Hugh Grant would be the perfect salve for living through 2018? With love and lots of sweeter-than-marmalade moments, Paddington 2 gently massaged my world-worried mind with its utter affection for humankind and Paddington’s evidence-based philosophy that, “If we are kind and polite, the world will be right.” Watching Paddington work odd jobs (and consequently end up in the slammer) to buy a pop-up book of London for his dear Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday in this latest adventure, the followup to 2014’s eponymous charmer of a film, was easily the most heartfelt, spirit-lifting two hours I’ve spent in a theater this year. Besides, I dare you to try to hate a movie that scored a record-breaking 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, because of course it did: It’s a goddamn delight, and the Band-Aid this broken world needs. And yes, I’m still crying, shut up- Chris Azzopardi, GQ contributor.