Avengers: Infinity War. Black Panther. Solo: A Star Wars Story. These are among the most-anticipated movies of 2018, with good reason. They’re spectacles that deserve to be seen on the biggest screen possible. They’re also films that don’t need our help to make millions, if not billions of dollars. So instead of telling you go to see X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which obviously, here are some smaller movies — no blockbusters, no sequels — that have a better chance at populating year-end best-of lists than, say, Deadpool 2. Though also see Deadpool 2.
Unsane (March 23)
Steven Soderbergh called off his “retirement” from filmmaking with 2017’s Logan Lucky, the charming hillbilly heist featuring Adam Driver, Channing Tatum, and that damn John Denver song that was in every movie last year. Tatum has become the director’s secret weapon of late, appearing in his last four films, but he’s not the star of Unsane: the iPhone is. Soderbergh filmed his next movie, a psychological thriller about a woman (played by Claire Foy) who’s involuntarily committed to a mental institution, entirely on the Apple smartphone. Hey, it worked for Sean Baker’s Tangerine, which maybe means Soderbergh’s next project has to be set in Florida. Magic Mike XXXL, anyone?
Mary Magdalene (March 30)
You Were Never Really Here (April 6)
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (May 11)
The Sisters Brothers (TBD)
If 2004 was the year of Jude Law, then 2018 is shaping up to be the year of Joaquin Phoenix. The Oscar winner has three movies coming out between March and May alone, with a fourth still to be announced. Honestly, they all sound really good: Mary Magdalene, where he plays Jesus Christ to Rooney Mara’s title character; Lynne Ramsay’s thriller You Were Never Really Here (which won Phoenix the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor); Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, the first movie Gus Van Sant has written and directed since 2007’s Paranoid Park; and The Sisters Brothers, where he and John C. Reilly play sibling assassins.
Tully (April 20)
Young Adult has aged remarkably well, and the talent behind the movie — writer Diablo Cody, director Jason Reitman, and star Charlize Theron — have re-teamed for Tully. Into that winning formula steps Mackenzie Davis as a nanny who forms a bond with Theron’s mother-of-three. Expect Tully to be acidic but loving, and an opportunity for the 17 people who watched Davis on AMC’s dearly departed Halt and Catch Fire to gloat, “I told you she was great.”
Where’d You Go, Bernadette (May 11)
Ocean’s 8 is getting all the press, but don’t sleep on Cate Blanchett’s other movie coming out in 2018. (Actually, there are two others, but one is The Jungle Book adaptation that doesn’t star Scarlett Johansson as a seductive snake, and the other is the latest joint from Eli Roth, which, as someone who paid to see Green Inferno, hard pass.) Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, Where’d You Go, Bernadette stars the Blue Jasmine Oscar winner as a mother who goes missing before a family trip. Blanchett is joined by Kristen Wiig, Billy Crudup, the ever underutilized Judy Greer, Laurence Fishburne, and James Urbaniak, from a script co-written by director Richard Linklater. That’s a lot of talent for production company Annapurna Pictures’ hopeful next breakout hit.
First Man (October 12)
Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to the almost-Best Picture-winning La La Land sends Ryan Gosling into space as Neil Armstrong. What more do you need?
Mary, Queen of Scots (November 2)
Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan are expected to nab Oscar nominations for their career-best work in I, Tonya and Lady Bird, respectively. That’s not the only time they’ll compete in 2018, though: the actresses will share screen-time in Mary, Queen of Scots, a historical drama from in-demand theater director Josie Rourke and writer Beau Willimon (House of Cards). Ronan plays the Scottish queen, while Robbie, in unrecognizable makeup and unflattering wig, plays Queen Elizabeth I. The rest of the cast, including David Tennant, Jack Lowden, and Brendan Coyle, is superb, as well. There is seemingly an inexhaustible supply of movies about British royalty, but with Robbie and Ronan as the headliners, Mary, Queen of Scots should stand out from the crowd.
Widows (November 16)
One of the year’s most promising-sounding films is based on a 1983 British TV series. Obviously. Widows, the show, was about four armed robbers who are killed during a heist, leaving their wives to finish the job; Widows, the movie, is basically the same thing, but it’s directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave). And stars Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, and human seal of approval Carrie Coon.