Ranked: The Best Movies of 2018, According to Critics

0 They Shall Not Grow Old
2018 was the year many long-held Hollywood myths were upturned. They Shall Not Grow Old: Warner Bros.

If 2018 is remembered for anything, other than A Star is Born’s “I just wanted to take another look at you” line, it might be as the year many long-held Hollywood myths were upturned.

After years of mainstream studios mostly hiring majority-white casts, it was often films with predominantly non-white actors which were raved over by audiences and critics alike. Black Panther led the charge in February, quickly becoming the top-grossing superhero film of all time in North America.

Crazy Rich Asians became the first mainstream U.S. movie to feature a predominantly Asian-American cast in decades; it wound up grossing many times its budget. Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Steve McQueen’s Widows were also solid box office successes, hopefully paving the way for more stories from outside white America in 2019.

Read more: The 25 Highest Grossing Movies of 2018

It was also the year of the surprise hit film. A year ago, there was little hope that the fourth iteration of A Star is Born, led by a pop star in real-life career limbo, would be much good at all. In the end, the film made almost $200m at the U.S. box office alone and is surrounded by a strong Oscar buzz, thanks in part to its offbeat, meme-worthy charm.

The similarly over-the-top musical Bohemian Rhapsody, cursed by production problems and a critical mauling, also managed to surpass all expectations, pulling in some $630m worldwide.

One thing, however, was not a surprise—franchises and superheroes continue to be a surefire way for studios to make money. Of the ten highest-grossing movies of the year so far, all fit into one or both of these categories.

The critics took a very different view to audiences, however. Using data from critical review aggregation websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, as well as user-submitted reviews from IMDb, we’ve found the twenty best-reviewed movies of 2018 (and only two of them feature superheroes).

1 hereditary
Hereditary: Windy Hill Pictures

20. Hereditary. Total score: 80.7%
Metacritic score: 87. Rotten Tomatoes score: 82. IMDb score: 73. Directed by Ari Aster. Starring: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Alex Wolff  
Plot summary: When Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter's family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.
What the critics said: "Hereditary feels like an endless drawing out of that queasy, shocking, falling dream sensation, as the ground beneath the Graham family, and the viewer, crumbles." Andrew Whalen, Newsweek

2 BlacKkKlansman
BlacKkKlansman: Focus Features

19. BlacKkKlansman. Total score: 80.7%
Metacritic score: 83. Rotten Tomatoes score: 83. IMDb score: 76. Directed by Spike Lee. Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier  
Plot summary: It's the early 1970s, and Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan.  
What the critics said: "For all its revelations of racist rot at the core of American society, Lee also offers a clear, specific, and wondrous, if wary, view of change that's possible because, at one time and to some extent, it actually happened." Richard Brody, New Yorker

3 Can You Ever Forgive Me
Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Fox Searchlight Pictures

18. Can You Ever Forgive Me?. Total score: 81.3%
Metacritic score: 87. Rotten Tomatoes score: 81. IMDb score: 76. Directed by Marielle Heller. Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells  
Plot summary: Melissa McCarthy stars as Lee Israel, the best-selling celebrity biographer (and cat lover) who made her living in the 1970s and 80's profiling the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estée Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. When Lee found herself unable to get published because she had fallen out of step with the marketplace, she turned her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack (Richard E. Grant).
What the critics said: "Melissa McCarthy's bid for dramatic cred is just nasty enough to be enjoyable, thanks hugely to Richard E. Grant's gleeful turn as a dimwitted but high-spirited end-of-the-line party boy who befriends our heroine just as she touches bottom." Matthew Lickona, San Diego Reader

4 BlackPanther
Black Panther: Marvel Studios

17. Black Panther. Total score: 81.3%
Metacritic score: 88. Rotten Tomatoes score: 82. IMDb score: 74. Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o  
Plot summary: Black Panther follows T'Challa who, after the events of "Captain America: Civil War," returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. However, when an old enemy reappears on the radar, T'Challa's mettle as King and Black Panther is tested when he is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk.
What the critics said: "Whether or not this is the best film Marvel Studios has made to date—and it is clearly in the discussion—it is by far the most thought-provoking." Christopher Orr, The Atlantic

5 Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace: Bleecker Street

16. Leave No Trace. Total score: 81.7%
Metacritic score: 88. Rotten Tomatoes score: 85. IMDb score: 72. Directed by Debra Granik. Starring: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Jeff Kober
Plot summary: Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie), have lived off the grid for years in the forests of Portland, Oregon. When their idyllic life is shattered, both are put into social services. After clashing with their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland. The film is directed by Debra Granik from a script adapted by Granik and Anne Rosellini.
What the critics said: "Debra Granik directs with a touch that's as gentle on the audience as bees are to Tom. There is not a move, cut, sound, or deliberate stretch of silence that in some way doesn't advance and inform the plot." Scott Marks, San Diego Reader

6 tom-cruise-mission-impossible-fallout
Mission: Impossible - Fallout: Paramount Pictures

15. Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Total score: 82.7%
Metacritic score: 86. Rotten Tomatoes score: 83. IMDb score: 79. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames  
Plot summary: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF team (Alec Baldwin, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames) along with some familiar allies (Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan) are in a race against time after a mission gone wrong. Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett, and Vanessa Kirby also join the dynamic cast with filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie returning to the helm.
What the critics said: "Mission: Impossible - Fallout is an unrelentingly consistent action movie, with not a single sequence wasted before the next big stunt." Andrew Whalen, Newsweek

7 Brady Jandreau as Brady Blackburn
The Rider: Sony Pictures

14. The Rider. Total score: 83.3%
Metacritic score: 92. Rotten Tomatoes score: 84. IMDb score: 74. Directed by Chloé Zhao. Starring: Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau   
Plot summary: Based on his a true story, The Rider stars breakout Brady Jandreau as a once rising star of the rodeo circuit warned that his competition days are over after a tragic riding accident. Back home, Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for a new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America.
What the critics said: "Jandreau, acting opposite his real-life family members and friends, disappears into a role largely based on his own experiences, oozing empathy from his pores." Chandler Levack, Globe and Mail

8 A Star Is Born
A Star Is Born: Warner Bros.

13. A Star Is Born. Total score: 83.3%
Metacritic score: 88. Rotten Tomatoes score: 81. IMDb score: 81. Directed by Bradley Cooper. Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott  
Plot summary: Cooper portrays seasoned musician Jackson Maine, who discovers and falls in love with struggling artist Ally. She has given up on her dream to become a successful singer, until she meets Jack, who immediately sees her natural talent.
What the critics said: "This movie has everything: a swept-off-your-feet romantic fantasy, an underdog-makes-good journey, a wrenching substance abuse drama, and an industry cautionary tale combined." Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed News

9 Cold War
Cold War: Amazon Studios

12. Cold War. Total score: 83.7%
Metacritic score: 90. Rotten Tomatoes score: 83. IMDb score: 78. Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc  
Plot summary: Cold War is a passionate love story between a man and a woman who meet in the ruins of post-war Poland. With vastly different backgrounds and temperaments, they are fatefully mismatched and yet condemned to each other. Set against the background of the Cold War in 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris, it's the tale of a couple separated by politics, character flaws and unfortunate twists of fate - an impossible love story in impossible times.
What the critics said: "An aching film on such exquisite pains of impossible love, Paweł Pawlikowski's Cold War concurrently swells your heart and breaks it." Tomris Laffly, RogerEbert.com

10 thetale-lauradern
The Tale: HBO Films

11. The Tale. Total score: 84.3%
Metacritic score: 90. Rotten Tomatoes score: 90. IMDb score: 73. Directed by Jennifer Fox. Starring: Laura Dern, Elizabeth Debicki, Ellen Burstyn  
Plot summary: Based on the filmmaker's own story, The Tale is an investigation into one woman's memory as she's forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.
What the critics said: "The Tale is lit up by a clarifying anger, but it has a stirring, inspiring streak-it's about mastering a story by finding the right way to tell it." Emily Nussbaum, New Yorker

11 Free Solo
Free Solo: Greenwich Entertainment

10. Free Solo. Total score: 84.3%
Metacritic score: 83. Rotten Tomatoes score: 84. IMDb score: 86. Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin.  
Plot summary: A stunning, intimate and unflinching portrait of the free soloist climber Alex Honnold, as he prepares to achieve his lifelong dream: climbing the face of the world's most famous rock, the 3,000ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, without a rope.  
What the critics said: "Free Solo is about getting dangerously close to the edge, where some people feel most alive. We get to experience that thrill secondhand, and that's enough." Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out