I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas!
Now it’s time to turn our attention to 2019 and with that my look at the best films of 2018 continues. We had plenty of opportunities to explore the world of fantasy this year from magic to superheroes and beyond. That’s my focus for today’s entry in my Best of 2018 series. Last year I two separate lists completely devoted to comic book films and fantasy respectively, but this year I decided to combine them into one list focusing on the best fantasy films of 2018. These are the films that helped us embrace the child-like wonder or adventure only our imaginations could possibly understand. So let’s take a look at some of the most awe inspiring and imaginative worlds, characters and stories Hollywood has offered over the last year. These are my picks for the Top 10 Fantasy Films of 2018.
For this list I looked at any movie that could be considered part of the fantasy genre. That includes movies that delve into the world of magic, alternate realities and worlds, or, of course, comic book movies. Films based on popular children’s characters and literature also apply as well. Fantasy should not be confused with science fiction as I already did a list for that genre for 2018. You can read about the best of those films from 2018 here. This list is simply about fantasy movies and a genre that captures our imaginations and the possibilities beyond the norm of society or the reality we think we know.
As with all of my lists in my Best of 2018 series each film can only make ONE list so if you didn’t see your favorite movie from 2018 here you may want to check out my other Best of 2018 lists as they come about to see where your favorite movie lands. All of this will lead to my picks for the Top 20 Films of 2018 on New Years Day.
What is your favorite fantasy film of 2018? Let me know in the comments below. If you’d like to read my reviews of the movies on my list I have attached links to each of their names. Now, on with the countdown!!!
While here were several films left off this list that got a better score than “Venom”, this divisive superhero flick actually got BETTER the more I watched it after its home release. By far a middle of the road film “Venom” was one of the best surprises of 2018 and while it’s not great (it only got three stars from me) Tom Hardy provides a unique and fun take on the anti-hero while the style and story takes me back to the somewhat corny superhero classics I loved growing up with in the 90s. It’s a movie that does everything it has to and while it doesn’t offer a whole lot more that’s actually plenty to capture the fun spirit of Venom as a character. Despite the speculation that this would be a train wreck of a movie “Venom” proves that not every superhero film has to be dark and gritty or over the top. It plays just fine somewhere in between the extremes we’ve come to associate with the genre. While it might not have gotten as good initial score in hindsight it’s a more fun movies and one that stuck with me for a long time.
9. “Every Day”
By far one of my favorite romantic dramas of 2018, this was a hidden gem that played to a niche audience but deserved much more attention than it initially got. “Every Day” is based on the 2012 novel of the same name and features a young teenager Rhiannon who falls in love with an entity named A. I say “entity” because A is not a physical being. Instead A jumps to a different body every day acting as a different person from one day to the next. This means that Rhiannon can’t fall in love with A physically. She can only fall for who A is as a person. I’ve seen a lot of neat teen-targeted fantasies in my day but “Every Day” just has that something special that left a big mark on me after I saw it in theaters. The story feels fresh and contains some nice morals and messages that the age demographic needs to see, especially today in a world where image seems to be everything. Somewhere underneath all the sappy romance is an engaging and inventive love story worth experiencing.
8. “Ant-Man and The Wasp”
Marvel had another big year in 2018 especially with its three entries into the MCU. Considering the more serious tones of “Black Panther” and “Infinity War”, “Ant-Man and The Wasp” was a nice change of pace when it hit theater and remains a solid sequel to one of the MCU’s most entertaining products. “Ant-Man and The Wasp” shows what happened to Scott Lang after “Captain America: Civil War” and before “Avengers: Infinity War” as he teams with The Wasp on a mission to stop a new enemy called Ghost and help retrieve the original Wasp, Janey van Dyne, from the Quantum Realm. Like its predecessor, “Ant-Man and The Wasp” offers great humor, a fun adventure, relatable and well-acted characters and even a solid villain although one could argue there’s actually no true villain in this film at all. It’s biggest flaw is that it’s maybe TOO much like the first film but after the epicness of the first two MCU films we got in 2018 it was nice to see something on a smaller, more grounded scale and leave it to a film about a man who can shrink to ant size to give us exactly that.
Another pleasant surprise of 2018, “Aquaman” is an action epic that takes us under the seas to the world of Atlantis and explores the titular hero’s rise to becoming a king after the events of 2017’s “Justice League” as he takes on his arch enemies, his brother Orm and the pirate Black Manta. While it’s far from perfect and much more fun action flick than insightful thematic picture “Aquaman” has no shame turning up the humor and fun to a new level for the DC Extended Universe and the entire franchise is better off for it. It might not shine as brightly as 2017’s “Wonder Woman”, but “Aquaman” is proof that the DCEU is starting to find its footing and get on the right track. I’ve seen this movie twice now to close out 2018 and I can’t wait to see it again. It imaginative and packs great visuals as well as a charming lead proving not everything about the DC has to be gritty and dark. If this is where future films are headed count me in for the next big thrill ride DC has to offer.
6. “Mary Poppins Returns“
Disney attempted to recapture the magic of one of their most beloved classic pictures in 2018 and, for the most part, they did just that. Great acting, new and memorable music and a story that blends animation and live action flawlessly, “Mary Poppins Returns” proves its titular nanny to be just as timeless as ever and while the film is very derivative of its predecessor that does not take away from the fun and joy it brings to your heart. The story explores Mary Poppins’ return to help the Banks children at an older age, as well as Michael’s own children, showcasing her magic, charm and penitent for teaching life lessons through creative means for a new generation both on and off the screen. Some may balk at the mere idea of this film in favor of the original that came around over 50 years earlier, but “Mary Poppins Returns” is truly a worthy successor and a great film all on its own. It’s a magical journey no matter how familiar it is that just barely misses out on my top five fantasy films of 2018.
5. “Paddington 2”
I knew early on when I saw “Paddington 2” in January that this would end up being in the running as one of my favorite films of 2018. For now, it will have to settle for one of my favorite fantasy films of the year. While this second adaptation of Michael Bond’s legendary Paddington Bear character was released outside of the United States in 2017 it was one of the first great films released for American audiences at the start of 2018 and even nearly twelve month later is still a joy to watch. This sequel follows the titular bear as he tries to retrieve a pop-up book to give his Aunt Lucy only for a series of misadventures to pit him against an out-of-work performer looking to profit from the same book. It’s a story that feels stripped right out of the “Paddington” series and packs a whole ton of charm, adventure, and fantastical elements in a way that can satisfy any viewer of any age. I didn’t appreciate Paddington as much as other children did, but after seeing both movies based on this delightful little bear I can see why the character and his charm have become legendary.
4 “Deadpool 2”
Now for something a little less family friendly. “Deadpool 2” brought Ryan Reynolds’ now iconic take on the Merc with a Mouth back to the big screen for another go, this time with a larger budget and a new director. Like “Ant-Man and The Wasp”, “Deadpool 2” didn’t necessarily up the ante compared to its predecessor but it matches the fun and comedic wit of the first movie so well that it also earned the same five-star rating I would have given the original back in 2016. This story shows a more emotional side to the titular hero as Deadpool is forced to deal with the loss of a love one which eventually leads him on a journey to protect a young mutant from the time traveling Cable. I actually found “Deadpool 2” to be even more fun than the original in some ways and the story to be much more action packed as it appropriately ups the stakes for an anti-hero that needed something new to fight for. “Deadpool 2” is the kind of sequel that the first film needed and deserved and is not only a great fantasy and comic book movie, but a great comedy and action offering as well.
3. “I Kill Giants”
This one fell under the radar in a big way in 2018 and that is a real shame. “I Kill Giants” had a very small theatrical release run. In fact, it was so limited I had to watch it months later on home video, but I was glad I did. “I Kill Giants”, based on the graphic novel of the same name, reminded me a lot of one of my favorite movies of 2017, “A Monster Calls”, in that both films use fantasy elements to tackle the inner demons and emotional strife of a youth experiencing a personal crisis. Whether the giants are real or not remains up for interpretation throughout the film, but n matter what you believe the symbolism they represent strikes a chord that cuts right to the soul by the end of the film. Powerful performances and a story that plays out with conviction to its emotional core help make “I Kill Giants” one of the most criminally underappreciated works of the last year. It’s a fine reminder of how fantasy can sometimes be much more pleasant than reality and how the imagination can help us through the darkest of times.
2. “Black Panther”
“Black Panther” was THE runaway success story of 2018 raking in the dollars, dominating the box office and giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe its first African American-led superhero film in a year loaded with movies embracing social commentary about race relations. The story follows the titular hero in the wake of “Captain America: Civil War” as he takes his father’s thrown, but not without a challenge from one the best MCU villains to date, his cousin Killmonger. I loved this movie and still do even after all these months as it contains one of Marvel’s most layered stories and memorable cast of characters that help it rise above the predictability and genre clichés it embraces all too shamelessly. While the CGI isn’t as smooth as I originally thought in hindsight, its themes are timely and uncompromising, its hero and villain are fun to watch, the sets, costumes and stories are incredible, and the action is top notch making it possibly the greatest standalone film in the entire MCU and one of the best superhero movies ever made. However, while I might be in a minority it was another Marvel movie that superseded “Black Panther” in my book.
“This is the epic showdown the Marvel Cinematic Universe has built up to for ten years. After 18 previous films set the stage for the ultimate Marvel villain Thanos to make his mark, the tenth anniversary of the MCU brought us the biggest cinematic spectacle of a generation, “Avengers: Infinity War”. Bringing together all of the previous heroes from past MCU movies (expect for Ant-Man and Hawkeye) “Infinity War” sees two factions of heroes take on Thanos and his “children” to prevent their crusade to collect the Infinity Stones and wipe out half of the universe with the snap of a finger. With high stakes, a great conflict and a villain that has sparked debate among fans as the potential righteous of his goal “Infinity War” is the perfect culmination of everything this extended universe has built up to and definitely one of my favorite films of 2018. “Black Panther” might get all the love and respect but for me it’s “Infinity War” that was the superior film at the end of the day showcasing literally everything we’ve come to love from a comic book fantasy in one amazing package.