37 movies to watch in the second half of 2018
As summer draws to a close, you can officially start eyeing every movie in theaters as potential "Oscar bait." This year in particular has an impressive slate of upcoming films, from movies about superheroes and supervillains, to a Halloween reunion, to director Steve McQueen's first movie since 12 Years a Slave. Whether you're looking for a laugh, want to be brought to tears by a classic romantic tragedy, or hope to see something totally unique, there is truly a film for everyone.
Get your Moviepass ready, and let The Week be your guide to what to see at the movies in the second half of the year.
1. Christopher Robin (Marc Forster, Aug. 3)
Disney has spent several years now waving its magic "live action" wand at classic animated movies, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is the latest to get the treatment. Ewan McGregor stars as a grown-up Christopher Robin, who is reunited with his childhood stuffed animals, including Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings), Tigger (Chris O'Dowd), and, of course, Eeyore (Brad Garrett). While movies like Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella work well in live-action, it's not quite clear how this is going to translate on screen — the scruffy toys are a bit terrifying, with some people half-joking that Christopher Robin looks more like a horror movie than a sweet tale about an adult reconnecting with his inner child.
2. The Meg (Jon Turteltaub, Aug. 10)
The Meg looks completely out of control, but hey, this is what you have Moviepass for. This story is basically Jaws on steroids, starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, and Rainn Wilson. It looks to be one part drama about stopping an ancient deep sea monster and one part comedy, which is honestly a relief, because it would be hard to take this premise with any sort of straight-faced seriousness. While The Meg might not exactly be high art, it is trashy good fun, and why would you want to turn that down?
3. BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, Aug. 10)
Director Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing) has never been afraid of being provocative; his last feature, 2015's Chi-Raq, was a divisive adaptation of Lysistrata, about women withholding sex from their husbands and boyfriends to stop gang violence in Chicago's south side. Lee's latest, BlacKkKlansman — about a black police detective who decides to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan — has been widely praised, winning the prestigious Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival. Jordan Peele (Get Out) is a producer, and John David Washington and Adam Driver star in this feature, which will surely remind everyone why Lee is one of the greatest living American directors.
4. Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, Aug. 10)
Everything I've heard about Madeline's Madeline, which premiered at Sundance, says you're either going to love this one or hate it. If the zany, tells-you-nothing trailer gets you pumped up rather than freaked out, then you might want to consider checking this one out in theaters. Actress Helena Howard makes her debut as Madeline, a member of a physical theater troupe who is pushed to excavate her relationship with her mother (Miranda July) in her art. Indiewire is calling it "one of the boldest and most invigorating American films of the 21st century," and you certainly won't see anything else like it this season.
5. Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu, Aug. 15)
Based on the bestselling 2013 novel by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians is about New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who travels to Asia for the first time with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), only to learn he comes from one of the wealthiest families in Singapore. Naturally, there is trouble — Nick's mother is none too pleased by her son's choice in a partner, and plenty of other women would love to bump Rachel out of the picture if it means getting with the most eligible bachelor this side of the Pacific. While the novel lets the names and brands do the talking (a trio of dogs are called Trump, Astor, and Vanderbilt), opulence is less startling on the big screen, where billionaire characters frequently abound — it will be the relationships that hopefully make this adaptation sing.
6. Operation Finale (Chris Weitz, Aug. 29)
Anytime there is a Labor Day-adjacent release of a Holocaust movie, you can tag it as "Oscar bait," although in a time when even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is defending Holocaust deniers' right to have a say, these sorts of films begin to feel more and more important. Based on a true story, Mossad agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) is tasked in 1960 with tracking down Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), the architect of Nazi Germany's "final solution," which resulted in the deaths of millions of Jews. Operation Finale's release was actually moved up because screenings went over so well with test audiences, so you can likely expect to see this film getting nods come 2019.
7. The Little Stranger (Lenny Abrahamson, Aug. 31)
"The first time I saw Hundreds Hall" is a beginning as chilling as "last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again" to readers of Sarah Waters' gothic horror novel, The Little Stranger, which is being adapted by the director of 2015's Room, Lenny Abrahamson. The question will be if The Little Stranger can break from the conventional haunted house tropes (the ominous trickle of strings in the trailer is not encouraging) in this story about a country doctor (Domhnall Gleeson) called to see a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother, a housemaid, once worked. Like 1940's Rebecca, this is a story about class and servants and changing times, although the similarities do not end there.
8. City of Lies (Brad Furman, Sept. 7)
Once one of the most popular actors in the world, Johnny Depp has unfortunately fallen a long way since his peak — today his legacy is marred by allegations of spousal abuse and reckless spending. In City of Lies, he returns to the true crime genre as Los Angeles Police Department Detective Russell Poole, who is tasked with solving the murder of The Notorious B.I.G. A reporter (Forest Whitaker) is also determined to get to the bottom of the case. It has been more than two decades since the death of Biggie Smalls, but City of Lies will perhaps serve as a reminder to audiences and cast alike that there is no running from the past.
9. Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, Sept. 14)
Mandy is a revenge film the likes of which you've never seen before. Earning rave reviews at Sundance and the respect of director Guillermo del Toro, the film follows the aptly named Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) as he exacts his revenge against cult leader Jeremiah Sand, who has stolen away his wife, Mandy (there is a chainsaw sword fight, do you really need anything more?). This is about much more than hacking evil bikers to death, though; The Village Voice's takeaway is that "the only thing keeping the world from turning into an unholy carnage fest is the power of love." Beautiful.
10. The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Eli Roth, Sept. 21)
For a magical movie this fall that isn't Harry Potter-related, look no further than The House with a Clock in Its Walls, based on the classic children's novel by John Bellairs. Young Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) is forced to live with his uncle in a creepy old house after his parents die, although Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black) is more than initially meets the eye: He's a warlock. With the assistance of the neighborhood witch, Florence Zimmermann (a well-cast Cate Blanchett), Lewis begins to train in magic he will soon need in order to shut down the lingering influence of black magic practitioners Isaac (Kyle MacLachlan) and Selena (Renée Elise Goldsberry). Jack Black has done a lot of voice acting recently, so it's exciting to see him return to the live-action young adult genre, where he seems to thrive.
11. Smallfoot (Karey Kirkpatrick, Sept. 28)
It's always refreshing to see an animated film that isn't a sequel to something else, which is part of what makes the cute concept of Smallfoot — about the Yeti community discovering that terrifying human "smallfoots" are real — so much fun. Sure to be a hit with fans of Monsters, Inc., Smallfoot is also padded with stars: Channing Tatum! Common! Danny DeVito! LeBron James?! With blessedly not-ugly animation (sadly, an increasing rarity), this feature comes from the Warner Animation Group, which also did the widely-loved Lego Movie. Mom and dad, you'll want to hop on this sled before there's inevitably a Smallfoot 2 and Smallfoot 3.
12. Venom (Ruben Fleischer, Oct. 5)
There are more than enough movies about superheroes, so it's about time DC and Marvel started making them about supervillains, too. While we await news on whether Gotham City Sirens is still a go on the DC side, Marvel brings us Venom, about investigative journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), who becomes the vessel for an alien that gives him sticky, lizard-like superpowers. The character of Venom is a mainstay from the Spider-Man universe (which tends to have some really great, tortured, complex villains), and I can't wait to see his origin story given its own movie. Crossovers with the Spider-Man films could come in the future.
13. A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper, Oct. 5)
Bradley Cooper directs and acts in this third remake of the classic 1937 film A Star Is Born. This time the old pro is a grizzled country singer (Cooper) who discovers Lady Gaga. Or rather, he discovers Ally, a gifted singer who is about to give up on her dreams, although when Gaga opens her mouth to sing, it's hard to suspend your disbelief that anyone would have passed her up (Beyoncé had originally been in talks to participate, which would have made it all the more unbelievable). But anyone familiar with A Star Is Born knows that the blooming love story between the veteran musician and the new talent careens nowhere good fast. This looks like a fun, if perhaps unambitious, update on the classic.
14. Bad Times at the El Royale (Drew Goddard, Oct. 5)
Looking a little like if Inherent Vice met Clue, Bad Times at the El Royale is the ensemble movie of the fall, featuring Jeff Bridges (a priest who is evidently not a priest), Dakota Johnson (a Southerner), Cailee Spaeny (her sister), Jon Hamm (a vacuum salesman), Cynthia Erivo (a singer), Chris Hemsworth (a cult leader), and Lewis Pullman (the concierge), who all meet at a hotel straddling the California-Nevada border. If that doesn't sound crazy enough, just consider that all of this is in the hands of writer-director Drew Goddard, who has demonstrated playfulness with genre in his work on The Cabin in the Woods, The Martian, and even as a writer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Throw your expectations out now.
15. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, Oct. 5; Netflix release to follow)
Netflix yanked all its films from the Cannes Film Festival this year in protest of an antiquated rule requiring eligible movies to receive French theatrical distribution, which means no one has yet seen Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón's newest work, Roma. Coming off of 2014's Gravity, which earned him an Oscar for best director, Cuarón returns to Spanish language filmmaking with this autobiographical film set in Mexico City in the 1970s. Roma stars Yalitza Aparicio as a live-in housekeeper, and will premiere at the New York Film Festival in October, with a Netflix release at a subsequent (yet unspecified) date. In my book, Cuarón hasn't had a misstep yet — Children of Men is one of my favorites, and his adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the best in the series — so I can't wait to at last be seeing some new work.
16. First Man (Damien Chazelle, Oct. 12)
Hollywood didn't know what hit it after La La Land landed in 2016, and now the same director-actor team of Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling are joining forces again to tell the story of Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon. Spoiler alert: He makes it. But as the trailer shows, this is far more about the journey leading up to the mission than the suspense of whether Neil will take one small step for mankind. Alas, no one will be crooning "City of Stars" on the moon; First Man looks like a straight drama, although it's certainly gunning for an Academy Award.
17. The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr., Oct. 19)
The sweet little girl who played Rue in The Hunger Games has grown into the force of nature at the heart of The Hate U Give. Amandla Stenberg is 16-year-old Starr Carter, who walks the line between the black "ghetto" neighborhood where she lives and the rich, white neighborhood where she goes to school. After witnessing her best friend Khalil (Algee Smith) get shot by a police officer during a traffic stop, Starr must wrestle with both sides of herself and find her voice. Based on the bestselling young adult novel by the same name, the film joins powerful Black Lives Matter works like Fruitvale Station and this summer's Blindspotting. It also stars Insecure's Issa Rae, Common, and Regina Hall.
18. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller, Oct. 19)
Melissa McCarthy is having a big year, starring in Life of the Party in the spring, puppet crime film The Happytime Murders in the summer, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? this fall. While the latter is still a comedy — it is based on the true story of biographer Lee Israel who, unable to make rent, takes to embellishing and selling letters from famous authors — it also marks a more dramatic turn for McCarthy, who isn't usually so toned down. I'm looking forward to how this works for her; seeing her as the frumpy Lee Israel in the trailer, you can't help but laugh and also feel desperately sorry for her character. Richard E. Grant stars as Lee's partner in crime, Jack.
19. Mowgli (Andy Serkis, Oct. 19)
Disney isn't the only studio that can make live-action versions of beloved animated classics. Mowgli is the long-anticipated film based on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, about a boy (Rohan Chand) raised by wolves in the thick Indian jungles. Other creatures also become his teachers — Baloo the bear (voiced by director Andy Serkis) and Bagheera the panther (Christian Bale) — and his frightful enemies, like tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). This is the sophomore feature by motion capture king Andy Serkis, who you might know better for his work in front of the camera — as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series. Based on the trailer, you're definitely going to want to see this one as big as possible; all the animals are CGI, and it's an impressive case of movie magic. (You can see what it looked like before the visuals were added here.)
20. Halloween (David Gorgon Green, Oct. 19)
What if Boyhood was a horror film? Halloween (2018) is a sequel to John Carpenter's 1978 slasher film of the same name, and it will reunite original actors Jamie Lee Curtis (who plays Laurie Strode) and Nick Castle (the masked killer Michael Myers) for a final confrontation four decades after the bloody Halloween night in the original film. Carpenter, who wrote the famous soundtrack for the 1978 version, is back as composer, and David Gordon Green is directing. This is an intriguing experiment, and much more exciting than the usual parade of tired reboots. Expect it just in time for — you guessed it — Halloween.
21. Burning (Chang-dong Lee, Oct. 26)
I have long been a huge fan of Korean director Chang-dong Lee (Poetry, Secret Sunshine), and his newest film has generated a ton of buzz on the festival circuit this year. American audiences will recognize Walking Dead star Steven Yeun, who plays a wealthy man in this thriller about a frustrated actor (Yoo Ah) who meets, and develops feelings for, a woman (Jeon Jong-seo) claiming she is a long-lost friend. Based on Japanese author Haruki Murakami's short story Barn Burning, this was the highest-rated film ever on Screen International's Cannes critic grid. Look for it in theaters across the country in November, with an initial New York City release on Oct. 26.
22. Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer/Dexter Fletcher, Nov. 2)
Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, had faced early backlash from fans who accused its promotions of erasing the lead singer's sexuality and tip-toeing around his death from AIDS. A new trailer seeks to dispel some of those fears, and also shows off a jaw-dropping performance by Rami Malek as Mercury. Tracing Queen's rise from the band's early days to its famous Live Aid reunion show in 1985, Bohemian Rhapsody looks to honor Mercury's legacy. Any concerns I had about it have been replaced by excitement.
23. Suspria (Luca Guadagnino, Nov. 2)
Well this is a strange follow-up to Call Me By Your Name. Director Luca Guadagnino returns this fall with a remake of the 1977 cult horror ballet film Suspiria, which is about as far from a slow-burning, Sufjan Stevens-scored teen romance as you can possibly get. Thom Yorke of Radiohead is signed on to do the soundtrack, and Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, and Jessica Harper (who was also in the original, in a different role) will star. While the '77 Suspiria, by Italian director Dario Argento, is a favorite for midnight screenings across the country, the new one is being portrayed by Guadagnino as more of an "homage" than a remake. Whatever it is, get me there fast.
24. Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton, Nov. 2)
If you are looking for something a little more like Call Me By Your Name, consider Boy Erased, although be warned — it is not as happy or accepting a story. Based on the fantastic memoir by Garrard Conley, this is the true story of a young man forced into gay conversion therapy by his parents. "Jared Conlon" (Lucas Hedges) lives in Arkansas, where his father (Russell Crowe) is a Baptist pastor and his mother (Nicole Kidman) is a devout Christian and devoted wife. The two threaten to shun their son when they discover he is gay, and Jared struggles to understand his sexuality while confronting the head therapist (portrayed by director Joel Edgerton). This one will definitely exercise your tear ducts, if the trailer is anything to go by.
25. Widows (Steve McQueen, Nov. 16)
Steve McQueen returns this year with his first film since Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave in 2013. Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn assisted on the screenplay, about four widows (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo) who decide to take matters into their own hands after their husbands are killed in a failed heist. The film is set in "contemporary Chicago," and McQueen tends to do his best work in period films — his movie about the Irish hunger strike, Hunger, is incredible — so I'm a bit wary about this huge change of pace and would be happy to be proven wrong.
26. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (David Yates, Nov. 16)
Harry Potter movies will apparently never not sell tickets, and that is why we have Eddie Redmayne returning as Newt Scamander in the latest installment in this spin-off series. Another film that perhaps unwisely stars Johnny Depp — as Gellert Grindelwald, a dark wizard who was captured at the end of the last Fantastic Beasts film — The Crimes of Grindelwald also has Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore and Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange. J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay, making this a must for fellow Harry Potter completionists, and three (!!!) more films are already expected in this never-ending series, with the next due in 2020.
27. Creed II (Steven Caple Jr., Nov. 21)
When he's not busy trying to get President Trump to pardon long-dead boxing champions, Sylvester Stallone reprises his role as Rocky Balboa. The original Creed film (directed by Black Panther's Ryan Coogler, who serves as executive producer on this sequel) was brilliant, telling the story of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) as he follows in the footsteps of his dead father, Apollo Creed. And because the first was so good, it is hard not to get pumped up about the whole team getting back together for the sequel. In this movie, Creed trains with Rocky to fight the son of Ivan Drago, the man who killed his father in the boxing ring. Tessa Thompson returns as Creed's girlfriend, Bianca.
28. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, Nov. 23)
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has made some of the oddest movies in recent years (The Lobster, Dogtooth), and The Favourite looks to have his same signature dry humor — this time applied to the court of Queen Anne in the 1700s. Cousins Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) jockey for the affection of the ailing and irascible queen (Olivia Colman), and the power that comes with it, in absurd and amusing ways. There is a lot of shrieking, some duck racing, and something mysterious having to do with a rabbit. Don't say I didn't warn you.
29. Mary, Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke, Dec. 7)
Speaking of queens, another historical drama comes out two weeks later, this one directed by Josie Rourke. The story follows Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan), who becomes queen of France at 16. When Mary is widowed just years later, she decides to return to her homeland, Scotland, to fight for the English throne — even if it means taking on her rival, Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). Ronan blew me away in last year's Lady Bird, and while this is a big departure, I can't wait to see her flex her acting chops in new ways.
30. Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, Dec. 7)
Under the Silver Lake received pretty middling reviews after its premiere this spring, and there are rumors that it might be getting re-edited in order to address some of the criticisms. But with a prime December release date, studio A24 is clearly hoping this movie goes over better with general audiences. Director David Robert Mitchell's last film was the popular horror flick It Follows, and Andrew Garfield stars as the lead in this labyrinthine movie, which sees Sam turning Los Angeles upside down while trying to locate his neighbor, Sarah (Riley Keough), who has vanished without a word of goodbye.
31. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Dec. 12)
To be entirely honest, the first time I saw this title I thought it was a joke. But no! Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an animated Spider-Man adventure story, about Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), who is training with Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man, to be Spider-Man. Confused? Miles explains in the trailer: "In your universe, there's only one Spider-Man. But there is another universe." The comic book-inspired animation looks fantastic, and the jokes in the trailer elicited genuine chuckles from me. While I am still solidly convinced that in the future, every movie made will be some sort of Spider-Man movie, I'm reluctantly pretty excited about this inspired take on the comics.
32. Mary Poppins Returns (Rob Marshall, Dec. 19)
Everyone's favorite magical nanny returns this year in the form of Emily Blunt, with Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda playing Jack, a lamplighter and former apprentice of the original movie's chimney sweep Bert. Even Dick Van Dyke makes an appearance in the movie, which has a new crew of children for Poppins to care for. Colin Firth and Meryl Streep (who is perfectly cast as Poppins' cousin) also have roles. It all sounds super‐cali‐fragil‐istic‐expi‐ali‐docious.
33. Bumblebee (Travis Knight, Dec. 21)
It's been a minute since we had a new Transformers movie, and this spin-off gives fan favorite Bumblebee a movie of his (its?) own. Like any self-respecting '80s teen, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) wants a VW bug, and she unwittingly stumbles on Bumblebee in a junkyard only to discover he's a whole lot more than she bargained for. The trailer is pretty cute (and includes a thwarted Rickrolling), setting the tone for this friendship-oriented prequel, which takes place two decades before the first Transformers movie. While this is the only Transformers film yet to not to be headed by director Michael Bay, it is in good hands with Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings).
34. Welcome to Marwen (Robert Zemeckis, Dec. 21)
Incredibly, Hereditary is not the only movie this year to feature a lead character obsessed with making miniature dioramas of scenes from their life. In this Christmas release by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Castaway), artist Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) suffers amnesia after being attacked and is forced to slowly put the pieces of his life back together by building a miniature world in which he stars. Also, something about Nazis? Real life and the realm of the miniatures increasingly intersect in this feel-good comedy that has, blessedly, nothing to do with witch cults.
35. Aquaman (James Wan, Dec. 21)
The Shape of Water this is not. Fans got their first look at the new DC Comics movie, Aquaman, in July in the form of an extremely meme-able poster, featuring a half-naked Jason Momoa as the titular king of Atlantis. The film also stars Amber Heard as Atlantean warrior Mera, Willem Dafoe as Aquaman's mentor, and Nicole Kidman as the queen of Atlantis. As the sixth film in the DC universe (which is occupied by the likes of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman), Aquaman is set to take place after the events in Justice League. Curiously, horror director James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw) is attached as director, which potentially means this film could go some dark places.
36. Capernaum (Nadine Labaki, by end of year)
This Lebanese film is getting rolled out in December in order to be Oscar eligible, and it definitely seems to be the right fit for the foreign-language category. Shot in Beirut with non-professional actors, Capharnaum is about a 12-year-old street hawker who takes his parents to court for bringing him up in such a horrible world. While that might elicit an eye roll, critics who have seen the film assure that director Nadine Labaki "generally avoids the usual grandstanding" while portraying the children's "struggle to survive in an adult-made hell." Political, powerful, and important, it will be hard to beat this with the Academy voters.
37. Cam (Daniel Goldhaber, by end of year)
POSTER POSTER POSTER POSTER i love it so much pic.twitter.com/T7myQQcUVb
— daniel goldhaber (@chronopictures) July 17, 2018
One of the most exciting films to come out of Montreal's genre film festival, Fantastia Fest, Cam is the story of Alice (Madeline Brewer), a successful cam girl obsessed with her popularity — there is almost nothing she won't do to make her name climb the charts. Then one day Alice finds herself locked out of her account and replaced by ... herself. Or rather, replaced by her online persona, Lola. With a script written by a former cam girl (Isa Mazzei), and The Love Witch's Samantha Robinson playing one of Alice's rivals, Cam has drawn comparisons to the work of David Lynch. This identity theft thriller is scheduled to be released by Blumhouse — which is responsible for some of the smartest horror around, from Unfriended: Dark Web to The Purge — later this year.