Of all of io9's year-end lists, this may have been the hardest to settle on. There were just so many memorable moments in film this year. Good ones, bad ones, moments that will last forever, moments you can never unsee.
Even when the movies maybe weren’t the best, moments in them often were. So, we present our picks for the best, worst, and most unforgettable moments of the sci-fi, fantasy, and genre films of 2018, along with a video to remind you of some of the worst ones...as reenacted by puppets.
As should be obvious, many of these are spoilers so proceed at your own risk.
There was no way it could actually happen. Thanks to stories in Marvel Comics, we knew with a movie starring Thanos and the word “Infinity” in the title, it seemed plausible that the character could snap his fingers and kill half the beings in the galaxy. But, not in a Disney movie, right? Not with actors like Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland coming off massive solo superhero movies, right? There was just no way. But they did. Thanos snapped and killed half of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first time you saw it, you couldn’t even believe it was happening. Each subsequent time, you just marveled at the guts Marvel had to do such a thing. Now, of course, “the snap” won’t stick—but ending a mainstream movie by killing half its characters was such a bold and unforgettable moment, few things this year could touch it.
If you’d seen the trailers or read anything about A Quiet Place before sitting down to watch it, you knew it was about a family struggling to survive in a world that’d been taken over by vicious aliens with super-enhanced hearing. But you’d still be unprepared for the unbelievable amount of tension built up in the mostly silent opening scene, which shows the family rummaging through an abandoned store for much-needed supplies all while desperately trying not to make a sound. And you’d definitely be unprepared for the emotionally devastating outcome when the family’s youngest child—who doesn’t quite understand what’s at stake—seals his own fate by accidentally setting off a battery-powered space shuttle toy.
The final speeches given by villains in comic book movies tend to be bombastic, grandiose proclamations of how their concept of justice and what is right will almost always eclipse that of the film’s heroes, even though by that point in the film we know the villain has lost and is likely on the verge of death. In these moments, the audience is usually meant to reflect somewhat on what the villain is saying before deciding they’re in the wrong. You couldn’t really do that in the case of Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger.
For all of the death and destruction he was willing to unleash upon the world in pursuit of his vision, you can’t deny that Killmonger had a point when he criticized the leaders of Wakanda for never intervening as the world enslaved and disenfranchised much of the African diaspora over the course of history. It’s an ugly truth about Wakanda he brings up in order to highlight the pain and tragedy and to remind us that, ultimately, that’s what he was really fighting against.
Obviously, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One was one of the more polarizing films of the year, but few could argue that one moment, in particular, was truly magical. It’s when the main characters literally walk into Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The effects behind this scene were so good, it looked like you were watching The Shining on the big screen. Plus, because it’s Spielberg paying homage to the late great Kubrick, there was a little added nostalgia to go along with the visual spectacle.
After over two hours of basically non-stop action in Mission: Impossible Fallout, you got the feeling that nothing could quite top what we’d already seen. Then Tom Cruise jumped onto a moving helicopter. The resulting sequence, which included acrobatic stunts outside the helicopter, incredible shots of helicopters chasing each other, and ultimately a crash and dash down a deadly slope, combined for a set piece that somehow topped a movie of set pieces that almost couldn’t be topped. If that makes sense.
Avengers: Infinity War revels in the spectacle, as it mashes together disparate movie stars in the same way a small child mashes together action figures while conjuring the sort of impossible events you’d think only lived in the imagination. The Russo Brothers made that wild imagination reality in their massive showdown between Thanos’ Black Order and the gathered Avengers as they protected Vision from the Mad Titan’s grasp with everything Wakanda could muster.
The sheer scale of Infinity War’s Wakandan throwdown is awe-inspiring, but it’s the little moments marked throughout it—Thor’s arrival, Wanda turning the tide, Okoye and Widow’s scrap with Proxima, even Steve Rogers meeting Groot in the most Old Man way possible—that all come together to make it shine. It’s everything you want out of a Marvel movie set piece, and then some.
In a movie mostly filled with enough slow-burn ambient creepiness to fuel nightmares for the next several generations, Hereditary’s first “headbanging” scene came as a cruel, staccato shock. After his mother (in a checked-out fog after losing her own mother) forces him to bring his awkward tween sister Claire to a high-school party, 16-year-old Steve leaves the girl to her own devices. It’s bad when the highly allergic Claire gobbles a cake that contains nuts; it gets worse when her throat begins to swell, and it hits the fan when she dangles her head out of the window of Steve’s car and is brutally decapitated by a telephone pole. In shock, Steve speeds away, but Hereditary doesn’t let us off that easily—we’re still treated to the over-the-top sight of Claire’s rotting noggin in a later scene.
Then there’s a second “headbanging” scene too. Late in the movie, Annie is possessed and begins to chase her son, Steve. She’s crawling after him on the ceiling and starts angrily smashing her head into the attic door in rapid-fire fashion, trying to get to him. It’s barely a second or two, but it’s horrifying, unexpected, and just another small reason why Hereditary is so good.
End credits scenes in a Deadpool movie are always going to be good because of the meta nature of the character. But seeing Deadpool use Cable’s time travel technology to go back and kill Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine—and then also after Reynolds read the script to Green Lantern—was hilarious, evil, and unexpected all at the same time. It takes a big person to admit their mistakes. It takes an even bigger person to kill themselves on camera. Twice.
Boots Riley’s bold, hilarious satire Sorry to Bother You quite clearly takes place in an alternate version of reality, but there’s still no way you’d be able to predict what main character Cash (Lakeith Stanfield) discovers when he goes poking around at WorryFree, the sinister megacorp where he’s rapidly risen through the ranks. Turns out WorryFree’s calculating yet unhinged CEO (Armie Hammer) has been secretly and illegally building a new workforce of human-horse hybrids. Wait, what? The plight of the “equisapiens” elevates the movie to a whole new level of surreal, an inspired twist that’s also wonderfully weird as hell.
Throughout the early parts of Annihilation, what’s exactly happening is left to our imagination. Then, we see it. A giant bear with an exposed skull that speaks like a screaming woman when it opens its mouth. It’s one of our first glimpses at the hybrid weirdness being created in the film and juxtaposing it with our stars tied up to chairs, as terrified as we are at this insane creature, is just plain intense.
When Jason Statham and his merry band of deep-water explorers accidentally open a rift that allows a toothy prehistoric anomaly to sneak into Earth’s ocean, the stakes of The Meg become pretty clear...or so you’d think. But when the giant shark is vanquished suspiciously early in the film, the stage is set for the grand entrance for ANOTHER giant shark, one so comically huge that it makes the first sea monster look like a goldfish. It’s so big, it gobbles the first shark and still has room to start snacking on plenty of beachgoers. Who saw that coming? You can practically feel the movie cackling with “Gotcha!” delight.
Mandy tests the limits of what a horror movie can be, manipulating all aspects of sight and sound into what can only be described as a psychedelic fairy-tale phantasmagoria...if you can even find a way to describe it at all. But amid all the trippy colors and ear-blasting sounds and cheddar goblins, there’s one big moment that really brings the movie’s revenge narrative into sharp relief. Armed to the teeth with weapons befitting his logger character, the singular Nicolas Cage—playing a man whose wife was taken from him by a sleazy cult—engages in maybe the fight of his career, capped off with an epic and glorious chainsaw duel. Why? Because it’s Mandy, man.
The new Halloween film does a great job of mixing a new story with nostalgic moments from the original film. Chief among these, though, is the moment Michael Myers throws Laurie Strode off her house, looks over the ledge, and sees she disappeared, which is exactly the same way the original John Carpenter Halloween ended, except with Michael as the missing character that time. Then, to make things even better, Laurie doesn’t reemerge until her daughter Karen plays possum for Michael, luring him into a trap. If you saw it in a theater and the crowd didn’t cheer at that moment, we’re sorry.
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is packed to the rafters with metatextual goofballery, but no sequence quite as much delights as Robin and the gang getting on their time-traveling tricycles and going back to the past to make sure the Justice League’s finest heroes never became heroes…so they’d be the only super team left worth being given a movie. The entire sequence is a riot, balancing the absurd (saving Krypton from destruction with an EDM dance off) and the hilariously dark (baby Aquaman being murdered by Robin polluting the ocean with a six-pack plastic ring!) in a way only Teen Titans Go! can.
There are many powerful moments in Into the Spider-Verse—emotional beats or laugh out loud earnest joy—that it’s hard to pick just one from our favorite film of 2018. But an early moment, after the shock of Miles watching Spider-Man get murdered right before him by the Kingpin, leads to a heartbreaking sequence in the film as New York City reacts to the terrible news that its friendly neighborhood superhero has passed.
There’s the bittersweet grief of Stan Lee’s cameo—one of his last before he passed away—being wrapped up in the city’s mourning, but beyond that, Into the Spider-Verse channels that grief to deliver a message of hope: The widowed Mary Jane Watson, speaking to the gathered masses at Peter’s funeral, imploring the world that the real power of Spider-Man is that anyone could wear the mask and be capable of being a hero. It’s not only the catalyst for Miles’ journey to becoming Spider-Man but a powerful message to fans of one of the most beloved heroes in comics.
When people say that Venom’s not actually all that bad a movie, what they’re really getting at is that the film will manage to exceed your expectations if you go in with an open mind and a willingness to be flexible with the way a film adaptation of a comic book interprets the source material. Out of all the more glaring changes that were made in order to make Venom filmable, one of the things the movie got very right was the undercurrent of sexual tension running throughout which culminates at the moment where Eddie Brock, the symbiote, and Anne Weying share a three-way kiss. It’s a moment that makes you appreciate the movie’s willingness to lean into the canonical weirdness that’s a core part of Venom’s identity.
For four decades, the name Han Solo has just been cool. Then, in this year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, we found out “Solo” isn’t Han’s last name. He didn’t want to tell the Empire his last name, just that he didn’t have a family—and because he was by himself, a random dude dubbed him “Solo.” We know what the writers were going for, giving Han a bit of a tragic backstory, but it misses the mark and needlessly undercuts decades of other work.
We love director Ava DuVernay, and we love the diverse cast and palpable energy she brought to her adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel. But we did not love A Wrinkle in Time. There were a few reasons why, but a huge one was that the movie relied too heavily on CGI that often felt intrusive and obvious. Nowhere was that more unintentionally hilarious than anytime Oprah Winfrey’s magical Mrs. Which appeared onscreen 10 times larger than any of the other characters. She’s already larger-than-life by virtue of being freakin’ Oprah—why did we need to see her blown up to giant size, beaming benevolently at everyone through a veil of sparkly glamour? Comic relief wasn’t the aim, but that’s what we got out of it.
Albus Dumbledore is one of the most beloved characters in the Harry Potter saga, with a backstory that’s both fascinating and mysterious—plenty to work with. But in Fantastic Beasts 2, J.K. Rowling went and messed that all up by revealing that Ezra Miller’s character is really Aurelius Dumbledore, some kind of long-lost relative, which makes little to no sense. It just felt so forced and convoluted.
Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako Mori was one of the greatest things about the first Pacific Rim, so having her be in charge for the sequel had us all incredibly excited…until about 30 minutes in. After not getting to do a whole lot, Mako gets unceremoniously killed off in one of Uprising’s first set pieces. It not only does a great disservice to one of the rare holdovers from the first film (O.G. Pacific Rim star Charlie Hunnam’s scheduling issues prevented him from making an appearance), but it does an especially huge disservice to Mako Mori’s character. Killing her off solely to impact upon the storyline of Uprising’s male lead Jake (played by John Boyega) instead of giving her a true story own was downright shameful and soured Pacific Rim’s potential future.
Much of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was spent teasing a shocking reveal about Maisie, the granddaughter of John Hammond’s totally-secret-until-now former business partner. It’s hinted that she might actually be part-raptor, based on her movements and behavior. However, at the end of the film, it’s revealed she’s just a clone of her mother. That’s it. Huge disappointment.
Oh, and then she released all the dinosaurs into the wild, single-handedly bringing about the apocalypse because clones before bones...we guess? Our former boss wrote some great jokes about it here. We still think she could be part-raptor though, even if the co-writer says that’ll never happen.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.