Despite lasting what seemed like a decade, 2018 has finally come to an end. And although most of the year was pretty much pure garbage in terms of what actually happened in the world, we can at least take solace in the fact that there were some pretty amazing movies that were released in the meantime. Granted, there were also quite a few absolute train-wrecks released as well, but you have to take the good with the bad, I guess. So here’s my super arbitrary and highly subjective list of the all the movies I thought were great, and all the movies I thought should be burned in a dumpster fire.
Disclaimer: This has little to do with actual, objective quality, and more to do with my own personal enjoyment. There are films I saw this year that are objectively better or worse than the ones on this list, but that just didn’t affect me as much. This is solely based on my opinion, and on the films that I actually saw. I’m only human, and contrary to popular belief, I don’t actually see every single movie that comes out. If there’s something on these lists that you think deserves a spot, odds are, I didn’t get a chance to see it yet. Or I saw it, and didn’t think it merited a mention. Who asked your opinion anyway? It’s my list, dammit.
I like to think of myself as somewhat of a seasoned veteran when it comes to horror films. It’s nice to get reminders every now and again, however, that I’m dead wrong about that. Hereditary didn’t scare me; it terrified me. It made me more uncomfortable than I’ve ever been watching a film, which says a lot, considering the weird crap I’ve found myself watching based on online recommendations. But that alone does not a good film make. What makes this one so special is the masterful cinematography, set design, and award-worthy performances, which allow it to transcend the boundaries dividing great horror films, and great films in general. Don’t watch this one alone at night.
Marking Nic Cage’s second appearance on this list, Mandy is one of the most surreal, bizarre things I’ve ever witnessed. It’s plot is simple: A man seeks revenge for the murder of the woman he loves. But the presentation is anything but. Psychedelic colors, a killer score, and nightmarish characters that make most other Cages film look tame by comparison elevate Mandy to instant cult-classic status. Mark my words, this film will go down in history with the likes of The Evil Dead as being a fan-favorite, simply by virtue of it being absolutely, positively bat-shit crazy.
#3. Avengers: Infinity War
C’mon, how could this not be on the list, if anything just for the sheer ambition of the film? Actually, let me rephrase that, because this wasn’t a film at all: It was an event. And an unprecedented one, at that. Never before has something like this been done. 18 films, over ten years, all building up to one single moment. SO much pressure rode on this film and its directors, the Russo Brothers, to deliver something that even remotely measure up to the hype surrounding Infinity War. And somehow, miraculously, they did. The energy in the room when I saw this opening night was beyond description. The excitement, the anticipation, the fear, all of it, coming from every single person in the theater. And the silence, the stunned, incredulous looks on everyone’s faces as the credits rolled, made this, in all likelihood, the most fun I’ve ever had seeing a movie with other people. And I for one am going to be first in line when Endgame hits theaters this April to see how it all ends.
On the subject of film’s with gorgeous visuals, Alex Garland’s Annihilation takes the spot under Spider-Verse for being the most visually-unique film all year. Garland already demonstrated with Ex Machina that he understands and excels at telling slow-paced, intelligent, and vastly unsettling science fiction stories, and this film, his second directorial venture, he proves that it wasn’t a fluke. Cleverly-written, nail-bitingly tense, and, as all sci-fi should be, incredibly thought-provoking, Annihilation is one of the most intense theater experiences I’ve had in recent memory. The beautiful cinematography and the haunting sound design makes this a film which was made to be seen in a cinema. And that bear scene still gives me the heebie-jeebies.
#1. Into the Spider-Verse
Even after seeing this movie over a week ago, I’m still not over the feeling of genuine awe that I felt seeing it in theaters. Never in my life have I been so blown away by an animated film’s visuals, sound design, or story. The original Ultimate Spider-Man comics which the film is largely based on hold a special place in my heart as being perhaps my favorite run of any comic series ever, so I went into this highly cautious, with tempered expectations. Which, of course, were then subsequently blown out of the water. This just isn’t my favorite movie of 2018: I’m pretty sure it’s going to end up being one of my favorite movies of all time. I’m willing to admit that this just might be recency bias, but I don’t think so. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece.
Biggest Surprise: Game Night
This movie flew so far under my radar that I never even saw a trailer for it. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I’m not even entirely sure I knew it existed until a friend of mine suggested we go see it on a whim. And maybe that lack of expectation helped, but man, I had such a great time with this. The comedy hits all the right notes, the cast, led by the always-great Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, have excellent chemistry, and the writing is just clever enough that you’re kept guessing until the end. It’s a hell of a fun ride all the way through. It may not be one of the better films of the year, but it’s certainly better than it has any right to be, and for that, it earns a special place on this list.
#5. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
I really, really disliked this movie, which is such a shame, because I actually genuinely enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts film. The time period and the look was wonderfully charming, and Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander is an undeniably endearing character. Unfortunately, the sequel ditches all of that potential altogether, and simply becomes Exposition: The Motion Picture. This is a truly soulless film that only exists only to set up sequels. Every scene, every line of dialogue, and every new character are all designed to further the overall plot arch of the franchise, while leaving this specific installment hollow and overall not very interesting. By the time it actually started to pick up the pace, the movie was over. What really irks me, however, is the flagrant disregard for and modification of the Harry Potter canon, which J.K. Rowling seems to do on a whim nowadays. This movie may have just killed any and all anticipation for the rest of this franchise that myself and many others had.
#4. Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom
My god, this is such a stupid, stupid movie. Every character, every decision, every plot point, every nonsense scientific explanation. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. I don’t understand how a franchise can start so poignantly and so nuanced, with the original’s commentary on nature’s inability to be contained and the folly of playing God, and end up with laser-guided mutant raptors. Who wink at the camera. This movie also manages something which, in my eyes, shouldn’t be possible, which is making both Chris Pratt and FREAKING DINOSAURS boring to watch. My inner 5-year old has never been more disappointed with a film.
#3. Pacific Rim: Uprising
Actually, I stand corrected. This is the most disappointing thing my inner 5 year-old has ever seen. The first Pacific Rim is one of the most fun movies ever, being made by the master of aesthetic and world-building himself, Guillermo Del Toro. It had heart, action, and a sense of scale I’ve only ever seen matched by Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla. But with Del Toro’s departure, the sequel ends up without any of the originals charm and visual thoughtfulness, and devolves into a Michael Bay-esque slugfest with no real depth. I never thought giant robots punching giant monsters could make me unhappy, yet here we are. Not a single moment of this film is engaging or fun, and the performances are awful. Not even the charisma of John Boyega in the lead could save this film. It’s only bright spot is Charlie Day, returning from the first film and inexplicably hamming it up as the sequels villain. But even that doesn’t make Uprising worth a watch.
#2. The Predator
The original Predator is one of my favorite movies of all time. And Shane Black is one of my favorite modern directors and screenwriters, creating engagingly funny dark comedies like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. He’s even proven his ability to handle massive, blockbuster franchises with Iron Man 3. Plus, he was actually IN the original Predator. So the idea of a Shane Black-helmed Predator film was, in my eyes, a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, something in production must have gone horribly wrong, because the The Predator is abysmal. Terrible CGI, cringe-worthy, unfunny humor, and action that’s borderline incomprehensible make this one of the least-engaging action films since Terminator: Genisys. Plus, it has a plot that legitimately sounds like a parody synopsis: The Predators are here for our autistic children, because they believe it’s the next stage in evolution. This is one of the few bad films I’ve seen where I do genuinely want to know what went wrong in production, because I had such high hopes in all it’s requisite parts. Instead, I was left with such a severe disappointment that it bordered on genuine anger.
Rounding out this list of what very quickly became “Movies that shouldn’t have been boring yet were” is Winchester. I love horror movies, regardless of actual quality. Some of the most fun horror films out there are absolutely terrible. There’s just something enjoyable about putting on a laughably bad movie with some friends, and endlessly mocking it for an hour and a half. Winchester defies this entirely by breaking the cardinal sin of bad horror movies: It’s dull. Seriously, I have no idea how they roped poor Helen Mirren into this movie. The plot is nonsense, the acting is awful, and it has absolutely no atmosphere or tension whatsoever, all of which I could forgive it I wasn’t begging for this movie to be over every second it was on. Not a single entertaining thing happens in its entire runtime, which is a shame, because the actual story behind the Winchester Mystery House is full of potential. Sure, The Predator made me angrier, but at least it made me feel something. This, however, is just so empty that I would hardly even call it a movie. I wish I could get the two hours of my life that I wasted watching this back. Or at least had the foresight to drink while watching it.
Biggest Disappointment: The Cloverfield Paradox
I love the original Cloverfield. The secrecy surrounding it, the marketing campaign dropping clues to its plot, the mysteries that are deliberately left unsolved by the end of the film. It’s such a unique experience, all topped with the proverbial cherry that is the Cloverfield monster. 10 Cloverfield Lane was also an excellent film, albeit one that didn’t directly follow the first, but instead established the idea of an anthology series. So, with the announcement of The Cloverfield Paradox, and it’s promise to link together and explain the first two films, I was beyond excited. Not to mention, it had one of the most clever marketing gimmicks of all time, premiering the same night as its first trailer during the Super Bowl. Sadly, it’s now all-too clear why Paramount decided to ditch this movie on Netflix so suddenly: It’s garbage. It’s so clear that this was meant to be a separate, unrelated film which had Cloverfield references tacked onto it at the last minute that it’s genuinely jarring. The plot is nonsense. Things happen for no other reason other than the the writers thought it would look cool (which it doesn’t). The characters are all insufferable morons. And for me, the worst part was the complete lack of satisfying connections to the original. All we get is a gratuitous, poorly-rendered shot of the monster at the end, and some vague, unsatisfying “Oh yeah, this thing caused some other things to happen elsewhere” explanation for it all. J.J. Abrams is now promising a true sequel to Cloverfield, but after this disaster, I kind of just want it to be left alone.
So that’s my list! I’m sure, had I seen a few more of the real buzzworthy films that came out this year, that my ordering would change. And maybe I’ll end up revising it later. Probably not though. I’m lazy like that. What did you guys think? Anything that I missed that I should see, good or bad? Vehemently disagree with some of my choices? Think my taste in movies is pure garbage? Let me know!