The science fiction genre brought a lot of momentum into 2018 and while this year has not been as solid as 2017 there’s still plenty to love from the last twelve months. As the year draws to a close I’m kicking off my Best of 2018 series by examining one of my personal favorite genres and the genre that gave me my number three best film of 2017, “Blade Runner 2049”. In 2018 we’ve seen everything from fighting robots to giant sharks, space outlaws, dinosaurs, video game worlds, and a shimmering alien paradise on Earth. Now it’s time to take a look at which films explored the possibilities of science, technology, the unknown and the future of humanity the best. So, to kick off my Best of 2018 series these are my picks for the Top 10 Science Fiction Films of 2018.
For this list I looked at any movie that was primarily considered a science fiction film or that fit science fiction more than any other movie genre over the course of 2018. This is part of a series of lists I will be posting throughout the month of December exploring the best in each genre of film from the past year.
Movies on this list can fit into other genres, however each film from 2018 can only apply to one “best of” list so if you do not see a movie you think should have been recognized here maybe it will be acknowledged in a list still to come.
While they may fall under the science fiction banner comic books movies and films more geared towards fantasy will NOT be on this list. They’ll get their own time to shine later this month. So for example “Avengers: Infinity War” won’t be on this countdown because it’s considered a comic book movie even though much of it takes place in space.
If you’d like to read my reviews of these films I have added a link to their names so all you need to do is click and you can read my thoughts from their releases earlier this year.
What is your favorite science fiction movie from 2018? Let me know in the comments below. Stay tuned for more of my Best of 2018 series in the coming weeks.
10. “Pacific Rim: Uprising“
There were a LOT of sequels in 2018 but few were as divisive as “Pacific Rim: Uprising” which came out five years after Guillermo del Toro’s celebrated original. Even so “Uprising” proved to be harmless science fiction fun and escapism even if it in no way met the stellar expectations set by its predecessor. It’s nothing special, but it’s also nothing truly insulting to viewers as you get exactly what you’re looking for, giant robots fighting giant monsters. Probably the movie’s greatest strength is that it never takes itself too seriously while also working in some character driven storylines to give it even the smallest bit of heart. If I had to sum up “Pacific Rim: Uprising” in one word it would be “inoffensive”. It’s a harmless piece of middle of the road science fiction fun that reminds us that badass robots fighting badass monster can still be cool.
9. “The Meg“
Honestly not a film I thought I’d be putting on one of my end of the year lists but low and behold here it is. “The Meg” was slated to be one of 2018’s biggest box office bombs but it overcame these early expectations to become one of the years biggest monster hits. And you know what, it was a hell of a lot of fun. I mean it’s not really that hard to make a film about a prehistoric shark attacking mankind cool, but “The Meg” does just enough to be more than simply another shark movie. Despite bland effects drawing into question where the $135 million production budget was spent, “The Meg” offers adrenaline driven action and an engaging thrill ride if you go into it expecting nothing but simple shameless cinematic fun. “The Meg” is a surprisingly enjoyable if very imperfect reminder that sometimes it’s fun just to watch movie to be entertained.
Dwayne Johnson has made a career of starring in middle of the road action flicks and he had a few such movies in 2018. One of those offerings was “Rampage”, based on the popular video game series of the same name. Like “Pacific Rim: Uprising”, “Rampage” proved to be a harmless bit of fun and escapism and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find it really entertaining. It’s actually pretty fun even if it is filled with CGI, clichés and a subpar at best script. Of all the video game movies I’ve seen in my time I’ll admit “Rampage” came the closest for me to matching the charm of its source material. This movie does everything it needs to do to keep you entertained even if it does so through the most basic pandering. It’s far from a great film but “Rampage” has its moments and I’m not going to lie I’d be more than happy to see where this goes in the future if Warner Bros. decides to turn this into a franchise.
Simultaneously one of the best science fiction films and one of the biggest disappointments of 2018 you either loved or hated “Solo”. It’s a film that has grown on me since I first saw it as rewatches have opened up my eyes to its hidden charm. After all the hype and its chaotic production the final product chronicling the origin of “Star Wars” outlaw Han Solo may not be everything we hoped for but it’s enough. There are some notable performances and some legitimately fun scenes spread throughout this film that still give it enough charm to stand on its own even if it fails to reach the heights of its predecessors. “Solo” may not be anything special but it earns its place in the lore of “Star Wars” and even though it was considered a small flop due to its $300 million budget this feels like the kind of movie that will find more appreciation in years to come than anyone, including me, was willing to give it upon its release.
I’m a huge fan of this franchise and I have to admit that this is not what I expected or what I really wanted out of the second film in the “Jurassic” reboot trilogy. However “Fallen Kingdom” received a good grade from me not out of nostalgia or fan bias but because I honestly felt like it was the first movie since the original to really pose legitimate questions about the fate of the dinosaurs as a volcano threatens their lives. It’s far from the “Jurassic” sequel we deserved and one could argue it’s a step back from the quality of “Jurassic World” but for what it’s worth “Fallen Kingdom” IS a much better sequel than either “Lost World” or “Jurassic Park III”. With that in mind I think it’s a more redeemable film than many others have been willing to admit even if part of my appreciation for it stems from nostalgia alone.
Three years after “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” teased the conclusion to this dystopian trilogy based on James Dashner’s young adult novel series we finally got the final film and it was worth the wait. Originally slated for 2017 an extreme injury to lead actor Dylan O’Brien during a stunt forced production to halt and left fans waiting maybe too long for this third entry to bring everything around. What we got in the end was a fun conclusion filled with action set pieces and some emotional and powerful character arcs that offered true closure for the series. That final letter at the end of the movie still gets me every time and that opening train chase scene is just as epic even after several rewatches. It’s admittedly an acquired taste and “The Maze Runner” trilogy may be one of the last great YA adaptations we’ll see for some time, but overall it was a decent end to the trilogy worth the wait.
The newest entry on this list I was so excited by how good this movie was when I saw it a few weeks ago. We FINALLY have a decent “Transformers” movie to embrace free of Michael Bay (although he is still a producer). “Bumblebee”, which will receive its wide release this weekend, is truly better than every “Transformers” film that came before it combined and is filled to the brim with personality and charm. While there are plenty of clichés it’s easy to overlook them in favor of the fun story, great action and source-accurate character designs as well as a screenplay which FINALLY does its lead human character justice. With focused direction and an actual respect for the source material, this origin story of one of the franchise’s most endearing characters hits all the right notes and it’s a pleasure to finally add a “Transformers” film to a “Best of” list for a change.
3. “Ready Player One”
The visually stunning “Ready Player One” was one of the most creatively designed movies of 2018. With Steven Spielberg at the helm this exploration of an expansive virtual gaming world was based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel and explored everything from gaming culture to movie and pop culture nostalgia without sacrificing story. It turned out to be quite the cinematic adventure with fun characters, great atmosphere, and high stakes that kept viewers invested from start to finish. What’s more this film feels like an improvement over the book, which I did read in preparation for its release. The pacing is better and the references feel more focused and deliberate which makes for a much more immersive journey into the virtual world of the OASIS than the book offers. Overall it’s an awesome thrill ride and one of the year’s best in the genre as well as a return to form for Spielberg.
While some have called “Upgrade” a body horror film it’s much more science fiction than anything else. Melding aspects of body horror, action, thriller and science fiction together into one this story follows a quadriplegic who is implanted with experimental technology that allows him to walk again and take revenge on those who left him crippled and his wife dead, but at a price. This leads to numerous kick ass fight scenes, an interesting examination of the limits or lack thereof of artificial intelligence and an exploration of the idea of free will. The movie was filmed on a minimal budget which forced director and writer Leigh Whannell to get creative and use camerawork and more simplified sci-fi concepts to get by. This resulted in immersive, chaotic and outstandingly choreographed fight scenes that literally jumped off the screen. It’s one of the year’s best action and science fiction films that proves less can truly be more.
Occasionally a movie will leave a mark on me as a viewer that lasts for weeks and months after its release. “Annihilation” was one of those films for 2018 and I’ve known for a long time that it would be tough for any film in science fiction to beat this film this year. This has to be one of the year’s most criminally underappreciated movies. Melding classic science fiction elements with new age arthouse style, “Annihilation” provides a fun and engaging journey into the depth of an altered section of Earth that all leads to a stunning finale that forces the viewer to interpret the work for themselves. Maybe this film was too sophisticated for some or maybe others found it pretentious, but they don’t know what they’re missing. “Annihilation” is further proof of the talent of director and genre specialist Alex Garland and packs some of the most amazing and eye catching visuals of any movie this year or even the last few years. In my opinion it’s not only the best science fiction movie of 2018 but one of the best movies of the year overall.