While assembling the big “best movies of 2018” list last week, I was struck (as I usually am) by the sheer volume of noteworthy movies to choose from in 2018 — how many of them could have just as easily made that top 30+ list, had I been in a different mood or chosen to shift in a particular direction. So with that embarrassment of riches in mind — as well as the fact that many of your are on some kind of a break, with a remote control or mouse in hand and all sorts of extra time to kill — here are 20 more great movies from 2018, an extended list of runners-up, all sharing the common trait of availability at this very second via one of your subscription streaming services. Watch ‘em now, thank me later.
The latest brainy sci-fi adventure from writer/director Alex Garland (Ex Machina), adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, is a bit of a puzzle — a journey into an unknowable heart of darkness, relayed by a perhaps unreliable sole survivor (Natalie Portman), who takes on the dangerous mission out of grief-fueled desperation. Her rich backstory is emblematic of what makes the picture so special: there are effects and monsters and the whole bit, but Garland is far more concerned with the unexplored corners of his characters’ psyches. And that is in dangerously short supply in mainstream cinema.
Black Panther (Netflix)
Ryan Coogler’s entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe grossed a staggering amount of money, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise: here was, for once, a sui generis filmmaker marshaling the limitless resources of a big-budget franchise to tell a story that wasn’t just about servicing said franchise. (Frankly, there are huge swaths, like the Bond-esque casino sequence, that barely feel like a superhero movie at all.) But it also gets the blockbuster job done, delivering big action beats and inspiring hero moments with an offhand ease that shames the lumbering likes of Coogler’s contemporaries. The key to its high grosses is simple: when you bother making one of these legitimately great, audiences will keep coming back to see it again.
Blame (Amazon Prime)
Youth is a genuine benefit in the realm of high school movies, which document a world that changes with lightning speed, so this tricky drama from 20-year-old filmmaker Quinn Shephard feels, in spots, like a dispatch from the front lines. She also stars, as a troubled teen trying to navigate her judgmental classmates (there’s a Carrie element to this story — scenes where you know her humiliation is eminent, and it’s worrying) while falling for the substitute drama teacher (Chris Messina), who casts her in The Crucible. Shephard’s filmmaking is as assured as her acting, which is saying something; she’s good throughout, but has a moment near the end of such vulnerability, innocence, and pain, it sort of takes your breath away. Blame is a touch overlong, and I’m still not sure if the ending is a masterstroke or a cop-out (or both). But I know this much: this is a thoughtful and compelling work, announcing the arrival of a genuinely exciting new talent.
One of the best Twilight Zone stories — in both the original show and its mid-‘80s reincarnation — was the one about the guy who accidentally calls his own telephone number, and is shocked when he picks up on the other end. Director Daniel Goldhaber and screenwriter Isa Mazzei give that concept a 21st century spin with this story of a webcam performer (Madeline Brewer, brilliant) who wakes up one morning and discovers she can no longer access her channel and audience — and someone who looks and sounds exactly like her has taken it over. It’s a tricky role for Brewer, who has to play both selfish and sympathetic, often simultaneously; she becomes aware of her contradictions as she spends quite a bit of time (probably too much) in the act of watching herself. Dark and disturbing, with a portrait of cam-girl culture that seems verrrrry authentic.
Disobedience (Amazon Prime)
We can put aside our true selves, our dreams and our desires, but they have a way or roaring back to life when we least expect it. That’s what happens in this emotionally overwhelming drama from co-writer/director Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman), telling the story of a love triangle from years ago that’s suddenly, forcefully reignited — and resituated. Leilo builds tension like a thriller-maker, mining emotions buried and things left unsaid, while paying considerable attention to the social formalities that necessitate such secrets. And every performance is a gem, though Rachel McAdams is particularly vivid as a Jewish Orthodox wife who discovers a fire still burning inside her.