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The 14 Best Indie Movies of 2018 So Far

The year is far from over, but there are already several movies in theaters worthy of celebration.

“Annihilation”

Paramount Pictures

Yes, we know: It’s only May! There are eight months and many more movies coming out this year. However, the end of the year is a tricky time to survey the best movies released over the previous 12 months, since there’s often so much to consider. As an alternative, we’ve decided to get a jump on the process and keep you posted as the list keeps growing. Below, you’ll find our current favorites among the films that have either opened theatrically this year or become available on other platforms (yes, Netflix releases count). We see a lot of movies early, primarily on the festival circuit, and so we’ve included films at the end of our list that are “on deck” for inclusion — but only if we know for certain that they’re coming out this year.

Note: While some films on this list were released by studios, they were initially developed as independent projects.

Want to gripe about our choices or suggest others? Drop us a line at editors@indiewire.com.

1. “The Death of Stalin

Armando Iannucci’s Soviet satire takes the “In the Loop” and “Veep” creator’s scathing tone into “Dr. Strangelove” terrain with a madcap look at scheming despots jockeying to take over the country. (Review)

2. “Annihilation

Alex Garland’s heady sci-fi thriller wasn’t a theatrical hit, but it deserved attention for following up on “Ex Machina” with another mesmerizing look at the nature of human identity. (Review)

3. “Paddington 2”

The latest exploits by the furry city slicker outmatched expectations with a heartfelt adventure about theft and incarceration, mining more universal poignance out of the material than even fans of the children’s books could have anticipated. (Review)

4. “The Rider”

Chloe Zhao’s Cannes-acclaimed tale of a South Dakota bronco rider recovering from an accident is a delicate, understated achievement. (Review)

5. “A Quiet Place”

John Krasinski’s mostly silent monster movie is a riveting survival story that owes as much to its intricate sound design as the script itself. (Review)

You Were Never Really Here, Joaquin Phoenix in Lynne Ramsay’s film

“You Were Never Really Here”

Alison Cohen Rosa | Amazon Studios

6. “You Were Never Really Here”

Lynn Ramsay’s existential hit man drama is a poetic look at a broken man (Joaquin Phoenix, never better) who finds some measure of comfort in his gunslinger skills. (Review)

7. “Disobedience”

Sebastián Lelio’s British drama finds two former lovers (Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz, in peak form) rekindling their romance under the constraints of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community where their relationship is considered taboo. It’s a tender, moving look at forbidden love. (Review)

8. “Zama”

Argentine master Lucrecia Martel tackles her most ambitious subject to date with this eerie and darkly funny look at a Spanish diplomat adrift in Colonialist Latin America. (Review)

9. “Thoroughbreds”

Cory Finley’s delightfully vicious debut is a pitch-black comedy about two rich, white, teenage girls who discover that empathy is the only thing they can’t afford. “American Psycho” meets “Heathers” (in broad strokes, anyway), this twisted chamber piece offers a blistering portrait of privilege gone wild. (Review)

10. “Love After Love”

Andie MacDowell gives the performance of her life in Russell Harbaugh’s stunning drama about a family dealing with the way things change after someone dies, and also the ways in which they don’t. Like a traditional melodrama that’s been thoroughly filleted and then pounded flat, “Love After Love” bristles with an honesty that few films about grief have ever found the strength to show. (Review)

“Love After Love”

11. “Foxtrot”

Israeli director Samuel Maoz’s brilliant followup to his debut “Lebanon” takes a seemingly dreary story of loss and crafts a wonderfully unexpected hodgepodge of insights into intergenerational Israeli frustrations. (Review)

12. “A Fantastic Woman”

The other great Sebastián Lelio film from this year, the Oscar winner features first-time actress Daniela Vega in a breakout role in the rare movie about a trans person that — for better or worse — feels of its time, and not at least a half-step behind. (Review)

13. “Lean on Pete”

A searching, violently unsentimental coming-of-age drama about all the things we have to offer one another, Andrew Haigh’s “Lean on Pete” isn’t the kind of heartwarming indie that its opening moments might lead you to expect. Sure, it’s a boy-and-his-horse story, but it’s also the kind of film that only the creator of “45 Years” could make. (Review)

14. “Isle of Dogs”

At heart, for all of the Wes Anderson wizardry, this is just a very simple story about a boy and his dog. And the dogs he meets while trying to find his dog. And maybe also the lady dogs those dogs want to hump. And don’t forget about the vast robot conspiracy that’s threatening to doom them all. (Review)

On deck: “The Tale” (May 26; HBO), “Hereditary” (June 8), “Eighth Grade” (July 13), “Mandy” (Summer TBD) “Madeline’s Madeline” (August 10), “Relaxer” (Summer 2018), “We the Animals” (August 10)

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