Underappreciated movies you missed in 2018

In a perfect world, movie lovers' pockets would always be lined with enough cash to buy tickets to every single film that ever screened in theaters, and all the blood, sweat, and tears writers, directors, and actors pour into making said movies would be recognized and applauded. Unfortunately, we live in the decidedly flawed reality that makes seeing and appreciating every movie pretty much impossible. And with blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Venom, and the Halloween reboot grabbing everyone's attention in 2018, it can sometimes seem difficult to even head to the cinema to catch something that isn't a big-budget bonanza. 

Year after year, a ton of incredible films are released only to end up going largely unnoticed, and 2018 is no different. But don't worry about missing out on all the future classics slipping under the radar — we've got the scoop on the very best. Here are some of the most underappreciated movies you've already missed in 2018. 

I Kill Giants

Adapted from writer Joe Kelly and artist J. M. Ken Niimura's graphic novel I Kill Giants, Danish director Anders Walter's adaptation stars The Conjuring 2 actress Madison Wolfe as the pint-sized but plucky Barbara Thorson, an oddball outsider who constantly has her head in the clouds, a pair of bunny ears on top of her blonde mop, and a Norse war hammer in her bag. You see, Barbara fancies herself a killer of giants, and is convinced that a horde of them — along with a flurry of other fantasy creatures — are coming to Earth and that she's the only one who can vanquish them when they arrive. But Barbara's introversion, middle school ostracism, and obsession with Dungeons & Dragons aren't the only things that foster her overactive imagination. The young dreamer uses her world of fantasy as a means of escaping the difficulties she faces at home. 

Blending together an impactful coming-of-age tale, themes of grief and denial, gorgeous magical realism, solid CGI, and captivating performances from Wolfe and supporting actors Imogen Poots, Zoe Saldana, and Sydney Wade, I Kill Giants is a magnificent monster movie that's monstrously moving. Critics have applauded it as "never less than engrossing," and you'll agree.

Thoroughbreds

Murder is on the menu in writer-director Cory Finley's Thoroughbreds, a black comedy thriller that centers around childhood friends Lily (The New Mutants' Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Ready Player One's Olivia Cooke) reuniting to cook up a devious plan. Though both are suburban born and raised, Lily's years at boarding school and an illustrious internship have turned her into a prim and proper goody-two-shoes, whereas Amanda's unidentified mental disorder has turned her into an emotionless outcast with a smart mouth and stinging wit. Opposites attract in this case, and the two end up fueling the worst in one another as they bond over a shared contempt: They both hate Lily's tyrannical stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks), and resolve to bring him to a grisly end. Lily and Amanda's scheming leads them to recruit drug dealer Tim (Anton Yelchin, an actor we sadly lost in 2016), whom the girls manipulate into becoming their personal hitman. The murder mission takes more than a few unexpected turns, arriving at an end you likely won't see coming. 

Rarely do first-time creatives get their debut as right as Finley did with Thoroughbreds, a darkly alluring, "delectable chocolate-covered razor blade" that "drip[s] with malice and deadpan wit." Most everyone agrees that Thoroughbreds has the potential to be a classic, and despite the film's lack of big-budget promotion and pre-release hype, the handful of viewers who did see it in theaters were left "squirming, laughing, and gleefully entertained."

The Endless

If a "Certified Fresh" label on Rotten Tomatoes is hard to come by, a 100-percent approval rating is a near impossibility. The Endless snagged that coveted score after it opened in a limited run on April 6, but was buried by its box office competition, John Krasinski's A Quiet Place, which debuted to $50 million that same weekend.

The fourth collaboration between filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who follow up their Lovecraftian cult classic Spring, The Endless is a perception-twisting thriller that takes one terrifying moment — brothers Justin (Benson) and Aaron (Moorhead) receiving a cryptic video from members of a UFO death cult they were once a part of — and springboards into the insane. 

Rather than burning the tape (a decision the dim-witted characters of The Ring would have benefitted from) and getting on with their lives, Justin and Aaron decide to head back to the exact place they narrowly escaped a decade earlier in hopes of finally getting the closure they couldn't in their youth. Upon arrival, the siblings are affronted with more than just the reminder of their past; as incomprehensible horrors start surrounding the camp, Justin and Aaron are forced to reconsider if the cult was actually preaching truth.

A slow-burning horror that shocks in its second half but frightens the whole way through, The Endless is Edge of Tomorrow meets Annihilation meets 10 Cloverfield Lane, and is an underappreciated movie you'll wish you had paid more attention to before learning about it here.

Lean on Pete

Toplined by burgeoning young star Charlie Plummer as 15-year-old Charley Thompson, director Andrew Haigh's Lean on Pete takes everything that made Willy Vlautin's touching novel of the same name so touching and spreads it beautifully across the silver screen for the world to see. Well, at least for some people to see, since most mainstream audiences missed out on Lean on Pete due to it being released at the same time A Quiet Place crept into theaters. It's a film festival darling and a favorite among critics, but has gone seriously underappreciated by casual moviegoers.

Lean on Pete follows Plummer's Charley and his onscreen father Ray, played by Travis Fimmel, as they settle down in rural Portland, yearning for a clean slate and a bandage from the wounds of the past. As Ray spirals further into himself, Charley discovers companionship and camaraderie at a racetrack, where he becomes the new attendant to a weathering racehorse named Lean on Pete and befriends the horse's owner, Del Montgomery (Steve Buscemi), and his jockey Bonnie (Chloë Sevigny). 

But don't let the premise fool you: Lean on Pete is no light-hearted movie about a young boy and the love he feels for an aging horse and his new pals. As critics have proclaimed, the film is a "haunting tale of survival," a "heartbreaking look at a marginalized America" that's "likely to leave you in tatters." 

Goldstone

Take everything you've learned about Australia from Crocodile Dundee, internet jokes about riding (surprisingly hostile) kangaroos to school, and the throw-a-shrimp-on-the-barbie restaurant chain Outback Steakhouse and toss it in the bin. Goldstone, from multi-talented writer-director-composer-cinematographer Ivan Sen, presents the Australian Outback in an intimate, thrilling new manner.

Set in the titular town of Goldstone, the movie follows Indigenous Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson) as he rocks up to the tiny mining outpost (all that seems to be there is a diner, a jail, and a brothel) to aid young policeman Josh (Alex Russell) and Goldstone's mayor (Jacki Weaver) in investigating the disappearance of a Chinese tourist who vanished from the bordello many believe she was being held at against her will. An already complex case turns tense when Jay's identities as an Aboriginal and as a law enforcement officer ruffle the feathers of both the racists of Goldstone and the town's Aboriginal residents, who resist officials of color. And when Jay discovers that Josh and the Mayor may not be as innocent as they'd like others to believe, the gripping noir narrative takes yet another unexpected turn.

Released to high praise but underwhelming box office Down Under in 2016, Goldstone made its theatrical debut in the United States in March of 2018, where it performed much the same: while critics adored it, the raw, sun-blasted pic didn't get as much attention as it deserved.

Gemini

Neon's neo-noir thriller Gemini lives up to the split personality implication of its title, as you're never really sure of the true intentions of its leading lady. The woman in question is Jill LeBeau — portrayed by Gone Girl and Mozart in the Jungle actress Lola Kirke. LeBeau is the assistant to Hollywood It girl Heather Anderson, played by Mad Max: Fury Road and Big Little Lies star Zoë Kravitz. One evening, Jill discovers Heather dead from a gunshot wound, slumped in pool of blood in her otherwise immaculate multi-million dollar mansion, and she decides to embark on a mission to dive deep into the mystery of her former boss' murder — and into her own petrifying demons that draw a wave of suspicion and a ton of pointed looks her way. Can Jill stay a step ahead of the relentlessly determined Detective Edward Ahn, played by Star Trek franchise star John Cho, who senses she's the one who committed the heinous crime, or will the skeletons Jill has long kept shoved in her closet finally break free? 

Written, directed, and edited by award-winning independent filmmaker Aaron Katz, Gemini has found a predominantly positive audience with critics, who've dubbed the kaleidoscopic film "a piece of clean, confident visual storytelling" and a "shimmering puzzler" that "warp[s] into an unlikely detective story in the Cold Weather vein." If that description doesn't entice you to catch this seriously underappreciated movie, we aren't sure what will.

Bomb City

One part pulpy crime story, one part heart-grabbing drama, Bomb City is a brilliant little film that made a bang without the general public even noticing. The Jameson Brooks-directed film follows Brian (Dave Davis), a punk music-obsessed teen from Amarillo, Texas who sticks out like a mohawk-adorned thumb in his conservative town. Thankfully, there are a number of other punks out there, who view Brian as a sort of mouthpiece for the movement. Sadly, there are an equal number of jocks — preppy football players that basically moonlight as bullies — who regularly clash with the punks. Tensions bubble below the surface, then explode in a violent altercation that comes with a fatal consequence. 

A native of Amarillo, nicknamed "Bomb City" for having one of the United States' only weapons assembly and disassembly plants, director Brooks based Bomb City on the real-life story of 19-year-old Brian Deneke, a punk who was killed in a furious fracas with the Texas town's seemingly clean-cut jocks. Not only does the film present the tragedy of Brian's death in a truthful and harrowing light, it also serves as a reminder that the American justice system isn't always moral and that not everyone is as unassuming or as aggressive as their outward appearance may suggest. As Danielle White of The Austin Chronicle aptly puts it, "The film's message, which it wields like a war chain, is a timeless one: Don't be such a d*** to people because they look different from you."

Unsane

You may think you know director Steven Soderbergh, but you've never seen him like this before. The mind behind films like Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Logan Lucky, and the hidden '90s gem The Limey casts aside the traditional trappings of filmmaking and embraces B-movie mojo with Unsane, a psychological horror-thriller pic shot entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus

The Crown actress Claire Foy leads the ambitious film as Sawyer Valentini, a financial analyst who moved away from her hometown in an attempt to evade her longtime stalker, David Shrine (Joshua Leonard). Even hundreds of miles away from one another, Sawyer is still experiencing the effects of David's torments, and admits to her therapist that she's had self-destructive thoughts. That confession grants Sawyer a one-way ticket into a mental institution, where she's held for 24 hours of observation. As if inadvertently checking herself into a psychiatric hospital wasn't nightmarish enough, Sawyer is soon forced to confront her darkest fear while trapped inside the institution's walls. The only question is: Is the fear real, or just a product of her paranoia?

For as disturbing as the experimental Unsane is, it didn't drum up as much buzz as you'd expect, especially given that it's a Soderbergh film. Still, though it's underappreciated by the masses, it hasn't gone without critical praise. The New Yorker's Richard Brody calls Unsane "one of [Soderbergh's] best movies … the very spark of his artistic passion" — all the more reason to see it yourself. 

You Were Never Really Here

Joaquin Phoenix is in top form in You Were Never Really Here, writer-director Lynne Ramsay's film adaptation of Jonathan Ames' novel of the same name. Phoenix gives a darkly fervid performance as Joe, a former law enforcement agent and combat veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder but never shying away from violence. Joe lives out his post-FBI days as a hired gun, earning cash to support himself and his ailing mother (Judith Roberts) by locating missing and trafficked young girls. But he also experiences intense suicidal fantasies, one of which almost becomes reality before his boss (John Doman) snaps him back to the surface world and tasks him with finding 13-year-old Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), the daughter of New York State Senator Albert Votto (Alex Manette), who offers Joe a sizable sum of cash to discreetly bring Nina home. 

Though Joe is properly equipped for the job — he's got a ball peen hammer in tow to help bust Nina out of the Manhattan brownstone she's held captive in and perhaps break the knees of the men holding her there — what he isn't prepared for is the triple-layer twist and searing horrors that await him. 

Touted as "stark, sinewy, [and] slashed-to-the-bone," You Were Never Really Here is a "masterclass in filmmaking" more than worthy of the type of global adulation its heavily-promoted cinematic counterparts have received this year.

Sweet Country

Another blistering drama out of Australia, Sweet Country centers around middle-aged Aboriginal farmer Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris), who works for a preacher in the Northern Territory. Sam and his family are sent to assist a cruel, ill-tempered war veteran named Harry March (Ewen Leslie) in renovating his cattle yards in Alice Springs, but as the two work together to build the yards up, their relationship quickly deteriorates, coming to a chaotic head when Sam fatally shoots Harry in an act of self-defense. Murder is by no means a crime that should go unpunished, but in 1920s Australia, when a man of color kills a white man, it could cost him his own life. As Sam flees across the unforgiving and gorgeously arid Australian outback to outrun Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown) and his hunting party, the truth behind the killing comes out, and the pair's community begins questioning whether they can deliver justice to the man who really deserves it.

We suspect most skipped out on the limited release of Sweet Country in favor of the widely launched A Quiet Place, which made its massive debut on the same day (April 6), and that's a shame. Beyond its engrossing visuals and rhythmic pacing, Sweet Country has captivated those who did see it with its powerful — and surprisingly universal — story that lingers long after the credits have rolled.

The Rider

Writer-director Chloé Zhao's The Rider is breaks the barriers of true-story tale boilerplate. It's an equal parts plaintive and profound docu-drama that centers on a rising rodeo star who suffers a tragic accident — and stars the man who lived through the trauma. Real-life South Dakota rodeo rider Brady Jandreau leads as Brady Blackburn of the Sioux Lakota Indian tribe, a faintly fictionalized version of himself, and recounts the horror of the moment a horse trampled him and the hardships he faces in the incident's aftermath. Though shaken and stripped of the very thing that gave him purpose, Brady refuses to succumb to sorrow and journeys across the badlands to find a new identity and to restructure both his notions of the outside world and the person inside himself.

Jandreau's performance comes across nuanced and naturalistic, gorgeously complemented by cinematographer Joshua James Richards' shots of the South Dakota sky, and transforms this softly stunning indie pic into something bolder than its limited theatrical release would suggest.

Hailed as "subtle, elemental, and powerfully beautiful," a "luminous film, and one of the year's best," The Rider is as much about the broken cowboy at the center of its story as it is the fractured parts of the States and the American myth most may not know of. On the whole, the film's ability to deliver its dizzying narrative in a sweeping, swelling package and its slip-under-the-radar move at the box office makes it critically acclaimed but unfortunately underseen

Disobedience

In Academy Award-winning director Sebastián Lelio's Disobedience, wanting what you can't have isn't a simple taboo. No, forbidden love in this searing drama pushes past being wrought with tension and dives into the dangerous, the dire, and the indefinite. Based on British author Naomi Alderman's 2006 novel of the same name, Disobedience stars Rachel Weisz as Ronit Krushka, a non-practicing Orthodox Jewish woman who returns to the buttoned-up London community from which she was shunned decades earlier after her teenage romance with a female school friend was found out. The other woman in question? Rachel McAdams' Esti Kuperman, who still holds the fervid passion for Ronit in her adulthood that she did in her youth. Once reunited, the two fall into their feelings once more — a dynamic made more complicated (and more unspeakable, too) when Esti's husband Dovid, played by Alessandro Nivola, turns their love line three-sided

Balancing risky — and risque — dramatic material with a poignant rumination on centuries-long values, director Lelio, who took home the best foreign language film win at the 2018 Oscars for his Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman, creates a film that swirls with its friction-filled strifes as intensely as it stupefies with its eventual truths. Critics have flocked to the film toplined by two famous Rachels, with one praising the seriously underappreciated Disobedience as setting its strengths in "soulful reflections on collective faith and individual freedoms" that crawl under viewers' skin and "continue to resonate after the end credits have rolled."

And Then I Go

We all remember the "joys" of junior high: the terrible skin, the braces, the awkward romances that aren't really romances because, well, you're 14 and constantly sweaty. Working through the weirdness of adolescence is never easy, but for middle school student Edwin (Arman Darbo) in Vincent Grashaw's And Then I Go, it's a new brand of difficult, as he all but capsizes his proverbial boat when attempting to navigate the rocky waters of the world's social hierarchy.

Adapted from Jim Shepard's psychological fiction novel Project X, And Then I Go chronicles Edwin's mounting stress — at school and at home, with peacemaker mom Janice (Melanie Lynskey) and hard-headed dad Tim (Justin Long) — that snowballs into insomnia and anxiety, consequences he doesn't speak a word of to anyone, not even his best friend Flake (Sawyer Barth). Edwin's world changes after Flake suffers a particularly humiliating encounter with a bully and suggests that he and Edwin silence their tormenters. What unravels after Flake's flashbulb idea is an intimate look into the troughs of pain and peaks of violence Edwin rides through, and how the two boys' suppressed fury fuels their terrifying, life-or-death plan to finally be accepted.

And Then I Go came and went without making much of a commercial impact, but its haunting subject matter and twisty ending have critics on their feet. Applauded for its "essential and insightful perspective," the film is harrowing and humanizing, "a vital work of art, and a must-see movie for our time."

First Reformed

Ethan Hawke gives the performance of a lifetime in First Reformed, the mesmerizing loss-of-faith drama thriller from writer-director Paul Schrader. The Oscar-nominated actor portrays Reverend Ernst Toller, a middle-aged parish pastor who works at the near-250-year-old Dutch Reform church that draws in more tourists than it does parishioners. Toller — grappling with the death of his son, his crumbling marriage, and a dependence on alcohol — faces a harrowing new challenge when he meets pregnant parishioner Mary (Amanda Seyfried), who asks him to counsel her suicidal husband Michael (Philip Ettinger). Michael's radical beliefs compound Toller's spiritual crisis — which leads to his final, violent trial.

First Reformed bowed in a tiny limited release against Deadpool 2 on May 18, leaving it to go undetected by mainstream audiences. Despite not reaching a wide audience and not recouping its production costs ($1.8 million against a reported $3.5 million budget), it worked its way into the hearts of countless critics, who call the underappreciated movie "the quintessential Schrader film," a "haunting and meditative work," and the "rare type of film that leaves us with questions left to answer and for many, a desire to dig into it deeper through a second viewing."

Tully

This isn't your mama's movie about parenthood. From director Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking, Up in the Air) and writer Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer's Body), Tully stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, a struggling mother of two who is pregnant with her third (unplanned) child. At Marlo's baby shower for the daughter she later names Mia, her wealthy brother Craig (Mark Duplass) offers to gift her a night nanny, a young woman named Tully (Mackenzie Davis) who can help remedy Marlo's exhaustion. Though reluctant at first, Marlo later agrees to Craig's proposition, and she, her husband Drew (Ron Livingston), and Tully embark on a meaningful, mind-bending journey that marries humor with surprising sincerity.

What Tully didn't stir up at the box office and with everyday moviegoers when it debuted on May 4 in the midst of Avengers: Infinity War madness, it more than made up for with critics who fell in love with it, harboring particular fondness for Theron's "masterful" performance, Reitman and Cody's groundbreaking portrayal of motherhood (and everything mothers wish they would have known about having children ahead of time), and the film's complex, "somewhat shocking" ending. 

Eighth Grade

Bo Burnham is an actor, poet, songwriter, former YouTube wunderkind, noted ex-Viner, successful comedian with two acclaimed Netflix specials (what. and Make Happy) — and now he's a real-deal filmmaker too. 

In January 2018, Burnham premiered his debut feature film Eighth Grade, a dramedy whose script he also wrote, at Sundance Film Festival, where it was met with heaps of praise. Even "cynical adult journalists" were said to have "bawled during the press screening," and it's not hard to see why. 

Led by up-and-comer Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade follows 13-year-old Kayla Day as she completes her final week of middle school. Kayla is awkward but well-meaning: she creates motivational YouTube videos for her channel "Kayla's Korner" and encourages others to carry themselves with confidence despite lacking the slightest grip on the topics she discusses, but she's also the recipient of her school's "Most Quiet" award, fumbles far more often than she flourishes, and longs for popular boy Aiden (Luke Prael) to notice her. She's every young teenage girl — and Burnham's writing and direction perfectly captures that. 

With its age-appropriate central cast, tangible empathy, and perfectly, painfully true-to-life story, Eighth Grade is the "achingly real, firmly modern coming-of-age tale" that became "one of the best movies of the year" without you ever knowing it.

Leave No Trace

Films that score a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes don't always age well — let's not even talk about the problematic Normal or the eyebrow-raising Love and Death — but the universally loved drama Leave No Trace looks to avoid such an unfortunate fate. 

From Academy Award-nominated director and co-writer Debra Granik, Leave No Trace begins just before the boiling point: war veteran Will (Ben Foster) and his 13-year-old daughter Tom (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) have been living in an isolated section of a public park, but when the survivalist duo make one small misstep, social services come calling, taking them in for extensive evaluations and setting them up with everything they need to live a "normal" life: hot meals, clean clothes, stable shelter in the suburbs, school for Tom, a job for Will. Though confused as to why anyone would have previously considered her and her father homeless, Tom tries her hardest to adapt to her new environment and embrace her surroundings; her father, however, grows increasingly rigid until he decides to take Tom back into the wilderness — a move motivated by his post-traumatic stress disorder

Leave No Trace definitely made its mark on audiences who saw it during its limited release run, which began June 29. Of the more than 100 registered critics who spilled their feelings about the underappreciated film, San Diego Reader's Scott Marks had the most incisive point: "Oscar will remember this movie."

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Fifteen years after children's television pioneer Fred Rogers died of stomach cancer, director Morgan Neville invited audiences to celebrate the life of the benevolent host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and honor the good-heartedness and empathy he taught. 

More than just a single-subject documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? examines Rogers for who he was outside the PBS series, off the WQED Studios set, and beneath his cozy cardigans. It reminds all who watch it that Rogers was far more amazing than anyone knew, a compassionate creative the world could use many more of. 

After opening in a small-scale release in early June, Won't You Be My Neighbor? became the top-grossing documentary of 2018, but it still went overlooked by mainstream moviegoers who were too focused on seeing Incredibles 2 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to notice it. Still, critics have completely fallen for the film, equating it to "a chance to sit in a cool, dark room for 90 minutes and smile and weep over a man who inspires us to be better" and a "healing reminder that kindness and goodness still exist in our nightmarish world."

Hearts Beat Loud

For anyone who doubted Nick Offerman's ability to play characters other than the mustachioed Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation: checkmate. Offerman shines as Brooklyn-based widower and musician Frank Fisher in Hearts Beat Loud, the Brett Haley-directed drama that brings together the magic of music and the intricacies of a father-daughter relationship in the aftermath of semi-fame. 

When Frank and his daughter-slash-"jam sesh" partner Sam (Kiersey Clemons), who is about to attend college in California, find success after Frank uploads one of their songs — the titular "Hearts Beat Loud" — to Spotify, their lives shift in a new direction. Rather than explore what happens to a parent and a child who hit the road like real rock-and-rollers, Hearts Beat Loud pulls the story inward, documenting Frank's fears of his daughter leaving New York, Sam's blossoming sexual feelings for her girlfriend Rose (Sasha Lane), and the pair's dual acceptance that life may be scary, but that's what makes it beautiful. 

"So, if Hearts Beat Loud is this great, why didn't I hear about it?" one would rightfully ask. Well, it was released only in select theaters, and at the ones where it did screen, it was overshadowed by bigger films like the groundbreaking horror hit Hereditary and the record-setting Ocean's 8. The very essence of underappreciated movies is that they can't be over-loved — so add Hearts Beat Loud, a "compulsively (and increasingly) watchable piece of work," to your watch list and thank us later.

Three Identical Strangers

Everyone who took a high school-level psychology class will know that one of the most popular and most schismatic debates in the field is that of nature versus nurture — whether we are the way we are because of our genetics or because of our upbringing. 

Three Identical Strangers, an equally harrowing and heartwarming documentary by Tim Wardle, sticks that question under a microscope as it centers on Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman — identical triplets who were separated at birth, each adopted by different families of different socioeconomic classes. The trio discover one another by chance in 1980, 19 years after their birth; Bobby and Eddy found out they were "twins" after Bobby was mistaken for Eddy on their college campus, and David learned he was the third brother following press coverage of Bobby and Eddy's reunion. 

But the joy-filled homecomings quickly turn dark as the triplets search for answers behind their adoptions, which lead them to shocking, life-altering secrets they were likely never meant to uncover. 

Hooked yet? Do yourself a favor and don't Google the rest of the story; as critics have urged, "the less you know about Three Identical Strangers going in, the better." Just know this: when you finally watch this under-acknowledged release, your mind will be royally blown. 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Taking a fantastic novel and translating it into a film that's just as good isn't an easy task. Need we remind you of what 20th Century Fox and Jack Black did to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels in 2010, or the slipshod flop that was director Luc Besson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, his poorly written, underperforming take on Pierre Christin's beloved sci-fi comic Valérian and Laureline?

Recalling great books that were turned into awful movies is important when discussing the Desiree Akhavan-written and directed film The Miseducation of Cameron Post — this coming-of-age drama is a shining example of what happens when a silver screen adaptation actually does right by its source material.

Based on Emily M. Danforth's 2012 novel of the same name, Miseducation centers on Chloë Grace Moretz's Cameron Post, who is outed as a lesbian when she's caught in the back seat of a car with Coley Taylor (Quinn Shephard). Soon after, Cameron's conservative aunt (Kerry Butler) orders her to undergo conversion therapy at a center called God's Promise. There, Cameron forms friendships with a handful of other teens who, like her, put up a fight against being "re-educated."

A limited release that didn't register on most people's radar, The Miseducation of Cameron Post has been praised as "a love letter to the kids who needed it the most," "a powerful rejoinder to anyone who'd shame people into denying their authentic selves," and "one of the year's bravest films."

Blindspotting

Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs prove to be triple-threat talents in Blindspotting, the comedy-drama the pair wrote, produced, and starred in under the direction of first-time feature filmmaker Carlos López Estrada.

Diggs leads as Collin, a felon who's so close to the end of his year-long probation, he can practically taste its sweetness on his tongue. Casal plays his best friend Miles, a fellow troublemaker who offers little support to Collin in helping him make it through the fateful final 72 hours of his sentencing. Where Collin longs for a new beginning, Miles actively seeks out danger in the rapidly gentrifying streets of Oakland, California. The pair's lives splinter when Collin witnesses a white cop (Ethan Embry's Officer Molina) kill a black man, and Miles' fixation on violence and his increasingly trigger-happy mentality threatens to have devastating consequences. 

Many moviegoers were blind to Blindspotting due to the film's limited rollout on July 20 in 14 theaters across North America. Though Blindspotting opened wide on July 27, it was on the same date the highly anticipated Mission: Impossible – Fallout bowed in theaters. Adrenaline junkie Tom Cruise and his death-defying stunt work were the center of attention that weekend in late July, leaving Blindspotting, well, stuck in most people's blind spot. 

Those who missed out on seeing Blindspotting in its original release, remedy that misstep ASAP — and see why critics are calling the provocative, timely, wholly underappreciated movie "one of the most unique" of 2018.

Support the Girls

In his review of Support the Girls, the comedy directed by the "spiritual godfather of Mumblecore" Andrew Bujalski, Rolling Stone's David Fear wrote, "You could not ask for a better image of our country right now. You could not ask for a better American film to showcase it." 

But how could a film that earned just a hair under $126,000 at the domestic box office, one that centers around a group of women working at a Hooters-adjacent "breastaurant" called Double Whammies, paint the perfect picture of the States? The answer is simple: Support the Girls is rock-solid and rollicking — able to handle heavy themes while still remaining buoyant. 

Regina Hall leads Support the Girls as Lisa, Double Whammies' general manager who plays mama bear to her co-worker cubs — like Maci (Haley Lu Richardson), Jennelle (Dylan Gelula), and Danyelle (Shayna McHayle). The faux family functions as well as they can in the world of customer service, until they find themselves stuck in a particularly heinous day that seems to only drudge up more problems with each passing hour. The real world bites, the girls learn, but they bite back.  

Audiences have praised the cast's "compelling performances" and applauded the "empathetic and moving" script, with one calling it Bujalski's best film to date. The takeaway from all this critical commendation? Support Support the Girls.

Skate Kitchen

Writer-director Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack) takes viewers to the concrete jungle, to the inner workings of a young woman's mind, and to the half-pipes, tramps, vert ramps, and grinding rails of New York's many skateparks in the down-to-earth drama Skate Kitchen. The film, an R-rated exercise in just how good movies can be when they're simplistic and realistic, follows introverted teenager Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), who joins the all-girl skateboarding group Skate Kitchen. (They're a real crew, and the members actually star in the film as well.) Camille's world cracks open wide thereafter: she leaves home, begins falling for her new roommate's Janay (Dede Lovelace) ex-boyfriend Devon (Jaden Smith), fosters confidence, fights misogyny, and learns how great life can be with a pack of like-minded ladies at your side.

Skate Kitchen, described by Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang as "a touching ode to the rewards and challenges of female friendship," skated into cinemas without making much fuss, opening in a limited release in mid-August. Since then, those with their fingers on the pulse of all things film-related have fallen in love with it — but most in the mainstream have yet to appreciate Skate Kitchen for all it has to offer: gorgeous visuals, stunning scenes of skateboards swerving along sun-sprayed pavement, and a coming-of-age tale that resonates in a really special way.

Searching

Though the key components to this film's story are commonplace items most of the world owns or has access to (you're reading these words on one of them right now), Searching is anything but ordinary. In the Aneesh Chaganty-helmed mystery-thriller set almost entirely on computer and smartphone screens, John Cho stars as David Kim, the father of 16-year-old Margot (Michelle La), who goes missing without a trace after visiting a friend's house for a group study session. The San Jose, California police department — and one Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) — soon get involved, and David begins searching for answers in Margot's laptop, retracing the steps she took online in hopes of bringing her home before it's too late. What follows is a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping journey to uncover the truth behind his daughter's disappearance — which is darker and more complex than David could have ever imagined. 

With its unique approach, well-sustained suspense, tight pacing, and a final twist you'll never see coming, Searching is one of the best movies of 2018 — and the most original thrillers in recent memory. Unfortunately, not everyone was searching for Searching at the ticket counter when the film debuted in a limited release on August 24, making the flick one of the most underappreciated of the years as well. But, as with all of the films on this list, it isn't too late to become a fan of Searching, the "reboot that computer-screen movies needed."

The Sisters Brothers

You've watched them as a mustachioed man in love with an artificial intelligence unit and a boisterous man-child with an affinity for rubbing certain body parts on certain musical instruments, but you've never seen Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly quite like this before.

The pair star as sibling gunslingers Charlie and Eli Sisters in director Jacques Audiard's witty and emotionally weighty Western The Sisters Brothers. Adapted from Patrick deWitt's novel of the same name, the 1851-set film follows the rebellious, liquor-loving Charlie (Phoenix) and the contemplative, normalcy-craving Eli (Reilly) as they travel through the northwest United States on the hunt for chemist Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), who has created a formula for prospecting gold — and who is a target for the Sisters' boss Commodore (Rutger Hauer) and detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal). 

The further along the path they travel, however, the more Charlie and Eli begin to contemplate their place in the world, ponder their reputations as notorious assassins, question one another's beliefs and desires, and wonder what it truly means to be human and to be a Sisters brother.

Unpredictable and atmosphere, with a story made all the more enjoyable by Phoenix and Reilly's (and Ahmed's and Gyllenhaal's) brilliant performances, The Sisters Brothers effortlessly captured the hearts of film critics, who have called it "a throwback to the American revisionist Westerns of the 1970s" and a subversion that comes "by way of a dreamlike quietude." See this underappreciated pic ASAP.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

In Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Melissa McCarthy takes a break from comedy to get real as author Lee Israel, whose Esquire profile of Katharine Hepburn and her biographies of Tallulah Bankhead, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Estée Lauder were rousing successes — but, as the film begins, is strapped for cash, desperate for publication, behind on rent, and battling a drinking problem she doesn't want to admit. Struggling to finish her book about actress Fanny Brice, Lee suddenly finds a solution to her troubles: a letter written by Brice herself. With the encouragement of her friend Jack (Richard E. Grant), Lee begins a new writing project: forging letters by authors, actors, and playwrights, then selling them to literary dealers, who offer her serious cash for what they believe to be authentic, intimate, and rare works.

Based on a true story and on the real-life Lee Israel's 2008 memoir of the same name, Can You Ever Forgive Me? gets so much right — and it all starts with McCarthy's astounding performance, which many believe will earn her an Academy Award nomination

"[It] is enlightening in its depiction of depression and desperation, and the way those twin forces can eat away at one's soul," Detroit News' Adam Graham wrote of the film. "It's not a rebirth for McCarthy, but it's an awakening, and a reminder of what she can do when she dives into a project worthy of her talents."

Thunder Road

No, it's not the opening track to Bruce Springsteen's classic album Born to Run — it's the critically adored but unfortunately underseen comedy-drama from writer-director-actor Jim Cummings. Adapted into a feature-length film from his short of the same name, which did actually take its title from the Springsteen tune, Thunder Road centers around Cummings' Jim Arnaud, a Texas cop with more worries in his mind than he has bullets in his government-issued gun. Jim's life comes to a screeching halt — and a mid-funeral nervous breakdown — when his mother passes away. Her death only compounds the nastiness of Jim's divorce from his wife Rosalind (Jocelyn DeBoer) and the complexities of his battle for custody of his beloved daughter, Crystal (Kendal Farr). The pain that paints each piece of Jim's reality forces him to confront a hard truth: things might not change unless he does. But can he?

Moving and memorable, raw and shockingly relatable, Thunder Road has all the makings of a movie you would never want to miss. Sadly, due to the film's limited release and the fact that it went up against the long-awaited Halloween sequel, most didn't see Thunder Road in theaters. Those who did absolutely adored it — particularly for all that Cummings did with the script, direction, and his "transfixingly vulnerable," tragicomic performanceRolling Stone's David Fear said it best and most boldly when reviewing Thunder Road: "I have seen humanistic American filmmaking's future, and its name is Jim Cummings."

After Everything

It Follows breakout star Maika Monroe and Shameless veteran Jeremy Allen White join forces in spectacular fashion in After Everything (released at South by Southwest as Shotgun), the comedy-drama from writing-directing duo Hannah Marks and Joey Power. Monroe stars as Mia, who meets White's Elliot in the same week he learns he has Ewing's sarcoma, an extremely rare cancer that affects a person's bones and the soft tissue around them. Feeling like he should give into his impulses while he still can, Elliot begins a passionate romance with Mia that surprisingly only deepens as he continues an exhaustive (and exhausting) round of chemotherapy. It seems as though the young couple's love is bigger than the fear of Elliot dying — but when Elliot receives a piece of news even more unexpected than his original diagnosis, the two quickly realize their relationship is nowhere near as strong as they believed it was.

After Everything may have never scored a wide release after its limited-capacity launch, but it did earn a great deal of praise from critics for its portrayal of love, intimacy, and emotion. "Featuring terrific performances by its young leads, the film marks an auspicious feature debut for its writer-directors," wrote The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck. Roger Ebert's Brian Tallerico agreed, writing that the film "lives and dies on the chemistry of its lead," who "aren't just great together, but individually."

Border

Not every cinema has room to show foreign-language films in multiple screenings, and the ones that do often don't market the movies to the masses well enough to give them the attention they deserve. The Swedish-language fantasy Border went underappreciated this year due to those very circumstances — a disappointment considering how fresh and fantastic the feature truly is.

Directed by Ali Abbasi and based on Let The Right One In creator John Ajvide Lindqvist's short story Gräns (which means "limit" in Swedish), Border follows ill-proportioned, odd-looking customs officer Tina (Eva Melander) as she meets a man who shares her unique facial features and superhuman sense of smell. His name is Vore (Eero Milonoff), and Tina can't quite understand what he's hiding or why she's so attracted to him — but he is keeping something a secret, and she just can't seem to stay away. When Vore reveals his true identity, her outlook on life and her sense of self is flipped inside out. 

Border blurs genres as it spirals out from Tina's stunning revelation, made even darker and sadder by the sex-crime case she tries to solve, the commentary on systems of abuse, and grimness of Nordic noir.

Unsurprisingly, people have been totally taken with Border, Sweden's Best Foreign Language Film entrant for the 2019 Academy Awards that is "not just unlikely to resemble any of its subtitled competition but also anything else you'll see this year."

The Favourite

Known for his distinctly offbeat works of film fiction, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) delivers another sumptuous, strange, and sinister feature with his historical period drama The Favourite. Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite takes audiences to early 18th century Great Britain, where England and France are at war and a withered, wayward Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits on the throne. With an illness that's only getting worse, a certain sense of ignorance, and a volatile temper, Anne can't govern the country herself. Her companion, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), Duchess of Marlborough, does so in her place — all while seeing that Anne remain as healthy, calm, looked after, and cared for as possible. The system runs smoothly up until the moment Lady Sarah's scrappy cousin Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) finds her way to the front lawns of the castle — and into Queen Anne's favor. As the charming (and secretly cunning) Abigail grows closer to Queen Anne, Sarah's relationship with her becomes frayed — and both women go to great lengths to prove their worth to Her Majesty and their power over one another.

The Favourite has it all: Oscar-worthy performances from Colman, Weisz, and Stone, all of whom perfectly capture the conniving nature of their characters; a sharp script soaked in surrealism; and "mischief and machinations… schemes, subterfuges, sexual antics, and sly social commentary."

Shoplifters

The latest drama from writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shoplifters substantiates the claim that the simplest films are the ones that can move us the most. The film stars Lily Franky and Sakura Ando as Osamu and Nobuyo Shibata, a couple living in poverty in Tokyo. Though they've managed to get by on Osamu's sporadic income, the little money Nobuyo brings in, and the pension Grandma Hatsue (the late Kirin Kiki) receives, the family regularly shoplifts to keep themselves afloat. After one grab-and-run session, Osamu and his son, Shota (Kairi Jō), discover 5-year-old Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) in the cold, locked outside her home. Osamu is in no financial position to take in young Yuri, whose scarred arms signal that she's been abused, but he's also not without a heart. And so Yuri becomes a member of the family, getting the new name Rin and earning her place as a key figure in their shoplifting escapades. But when a shocking incident takes the happy out of their happy-but-messy lives, the makeshift family begins to buckle as the bonds that hold them together rip apart.

That Shoplifters is a foreign-language film and one released in a limited engagement meant that most didn't see it while it was in theaters — and may not have even heard of it. If you're one of those people, see Shoplifters — a film critics have called "a soft-spoken, cinematic treasure" that will have you sobbing by the end — as quickly as you can.

Destroyer

Looking vastly different from her normal self and delivering a performance that's unlike anything fans of hers have ever seen before, Nicole Kidman is explosive and engrossing in Destroyer, the crime drama directed by Karyn Kusama of Jennifer's Body and The Invitation fame. The film, which premiered at Telluride Film Festival in August ahead of its Christmas Day debut, centers on Kidman's Erin Bell, a strung-out, depressed L.A.P.D. detective who went undercover with her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan) and infiltrated a California gang during her early days with the police force. Unsurprisingly, Erin's time with the desert-trekking criminals eventually turned sour, and the tragedies that befell her stay with her for nearly two decades. Seventeen years after that ill-fated assignment, Erin discovers that the gang's leader Silas (Toby Kebbell) has resurfaced, and she takes his surprise return as an opportunity to reconcile with her past and come face to face with the people who broke her.

"Nothing Nicole Kidman has done in her career can prepare you for Destroyer," Variety critic Peter Debruge said of the film. "This is a transformation on par with Charlize Theron in Monster — not just in appearance, but in terms of her entire persona." Debruge was just one of dozens of reviewers to praise Destroyer, which has been exalted as "beautiful, heartbreaking cinematic perfection" that is both "one of the best Los Angeles neo noirs in recent memory" and "one of the year's best films."

Roma

A tender, wrenchingly beautiful drama, Roma is filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón at his rawest and most intimate. The Academy Award-winning director gave movie fans a coming-of-age story with Y Tu Mama Tambien, a dystopian tale with Children of Men, and sci-fi thrills with Gravity — but with Roma, he offers his heart. 

Shot completely in black and white, the Spanish-language film is loosely based on Cuarón's upbringing in Roma, a neighborhood of Mexico City, and acts a love letter dedicated to Cuarón's childhood nanny. At the center of Roma's story are two very different women living together in the same house: there's Sofia (Marina de Tavira), a mother with a doctor husband (Fernando Grediaga) and a taste for the finer things in life, and Cleo (preschool teacher Yalitza Aparicio in her first-ever role), the young woman who works thanklessly as the family's domestic servant.

Simple as Roma may be, the film — which has been tapped as the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Oscars — captured critics when it premiered in a limited run in November, and will move stay-at-home movie lovers just the same when it hits Netflix in December. Just hear what the critics have to say: "Netflix has a chance at making history with Roma." "Roma … is [Cuarón's] masterwork, a heartfelt evocation of a time and place that celebrates the unsung and the unheard." "Roma will be tough to beat as the best film of 2018."

The Guilty

From Roma to The Guilty, we move from Mexico's pick for the 91st Academy Awards to Denmark's selection. Co-written and directed by Gustav Möller, The Guilty follows Danish police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) as he works as an emergency dispatcher following his recent suspension. Asger doesn't expect to get much out of his gig at an Emergency Services call center, and isn't pleased about it either. His mood shifts entirely — and his life changes forever — when a woman named Iben (Jessica Dinnage) calls in and implies that she's been kidnapped. For her safety, Iben can't divulge many details about her situation, and quickly hangs up. Asger makes it his mission to find Iben and the person who took her, using all the resources he can from within the call center. But will his overeagerness to crack the case, compounded with the many skeletons in his closet, prove to be his undoing — and Iben's, too?

"Smartly constructed and tautened with regular twists," The Guilty has won critics over with ease, but it's had trouble doing the same with mainstream audiences, only because not many people have actually watched it. As critic Brian Tallerico predicted, the film was "seen by way too few." Now that we've put the underappreciated movie on your radar, discover why those who have seen The Guilty have declared it "a masterclass in wringing breathless tension from just a few key ingredients."

Shirkers

In 1992, Sandi Tan joined forced with her pals Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique and film teacher Georges Cardona to create Shirkers, the indie gem from Singapore that became a cult classic. At least, that was the hope — Shirkers never made it to the big screen as Tan, Ng, and Siddique planned, because Cardona stole the footage after they wrapped shooting, then disappeared from the trio's lives.

Fast forward more than 20 years later: Tan is working as a novelist in Los Angeles, but the itch to know what happened to Cardona and Shirkers still remains. When Cardona's wife reaches out, Tan decides to pick the camera back up and transform the could-have-been-movie into something completely new: a documentary about the making of Shirkers that winds up a "fascinating blend of autobiography, cinema history, and mystery."

Shirkers launched on Netflix on October 26, but you were probably too busy binge-watching the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to notice. Thankfully, the movie — which is perfectly rated on Rotten Tomatoes and has been applauded as "a one-of-a-kind story," "deeply personal, fabulously engrossing," and "one of those films that seems almost too good to be true" — is still available to stream. Get on it, gang!