Another year gone, this one even crazier than the last in pretty much every way. I made a “world-ending” politics joke in the 2017 ranking, but now that seems quaint by comparison.
Despite all of that, though, 2018 was a wonderful year for movies! I found it very difficult to rank the 27 movies I watched in the theaters, with only a few that I hated. That means we’ll probably quibble over a few spots, but that’s half the fun!
27. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
I want to like dinosaurs. I really do. Why can’t they let me like dinosaurs? This movie was an easy pick for the bottom of the list. It was an incoherent mess of dinosaur action scenes that not even the lovable Chris Pratt could save. Maybe next time…
26. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Remember when Star Wars movies were few and far between? Well now they’re coming out like clockwork, and that means inevitable duds. This failure of a movie has some charm in the corners, but ultimately fails to come together into a cohesive whole, with a lead who can’t decide whether he wants to impersonate or embody Harrison Ford, and a story that lacks any subtlety or intrigue.
25. Mary, Queen of Scots
I love this period in history — love it! I can recite you the monarchy of England during the Tudor and Stuart periods better than I can the Presidents of the United States (obviously, there were no Presidents during the Tudor period, but you catch my drift). This movie should have been amazing, but despite the best efforts of Saoirse Ronan (spelled that right first try!) and Margot Robbie, the movie ended up a drudge through heavily edited history. Also, as much as I adore Ronan’s native Irish accent, she couldn’t manage to hide it in order to play the Queen of Scots.
24. A Wrinkle in Time
This movie isn’t bad, exactly. It has its moments and does a good job of capturing whimsy and wonder, which I can only assume comes from the book that I never read as a child. Those who are fans of the book might have enjoyed seeing it all come to life, but as an outsider, it just fell a little flat.
Hey, I liked this one. The Rock is always charming, and Rampage is so completely stupid that sitting through this monster romp is mostly delightful. Unfortunately, Statham bested The Rock this year with a monster movie that I gleefully ranked higher up the list.
22. A Simple Favor
Intrigue and mystery. Pretty ladies. Murder. Mayhem. Not murder. This movie was pretty fun to watch, although not nearly as clever as it meant to be. It gets by pretty well on the talents of Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. I’ve never been a fan of the latter, but I can see my opinion turning around sometime in the future.
21. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
I am not a Potter-head. I’ve never read the books and sat through the first 8 movies with only a minor interest in the characters and plot. And perhaps that’s why I’m the oddball who actually likes the Fantastic Beasts series better than Harry Potter (blasphemy, I know!). I enjoyed this film quite a bit, but since I watched 20 movies better than it in 2018, I can understand if you never get around to watching it.
20. Ocean’s 8
The best part about this movie is its cast, and perhaps that’s exactly the quality that should be showcased in an ensemble piece of so many characters. The overdone heist plot isn’t very clever, and it’s adherence to Ocean’s past (plus some poor marketing) made for a fairly predictable adventure. Still, though, I’d like to see these ladies reunited in the future.
19. Mary Poppins Returns
It’s a really good year in movies when a delightful family film full of nostalgia and joy comes in at 19. This movie caused me to turn the corner on Emily Blunt (though she’s in an even better movie higher on the list), as she managed to capture Julie Andrews’ majesty without turning it into a saccharin impersonation. It follows the beats of the original, while forging its own path, and surely setting up many sequels to follow.
18. Christopher Robin
Nostalgia was the name of the game in 2018, apparently. I liked this movie slightly more than Mary Poppins Returns, but only just. The melancholy mood of growing up and losing the wonder of childhood is acutely felt in this one, despite the happy tone, predictable family plot, and overall enjoyable adventure. I like this movie primarily for the way it made me feel, and for the perspective it forced on the audience.
17. Pacific Rim: Uprising
I loved the first one. I love this one. It’s a lot of crazy monster robot fun, taking the inanity of the first one and going even crazier. If John Boyega thinks all of this is nuts, he doesn’t show it, easily slipping into a much more likable role than he has in Star Wars. Don’t let the fact that it’s so far down the list dissuade you from watching it. It just had stiff competition.
16. Tomb Raider
I don’t watch many “pure” action movies. I find them too dour for my taste, I don’t think I get the same thrills that others get by watching all of the death defying action sequences. I like humor. And if not humor, then heart. Tomb Raider actually has some of the latter, and Alicia Vikander ably fills the mid-calf combat boots of Lara Croft.
15. Ready Player One
It’s the book (and now movie) of a generation. Literally. Only one generation of people will get it, and even that’s a really a tiny slice of a generation. This is the movie for the Xennial crowd, I guess, because it seems to be loathed by folks younger than myself and misunderstood by those older. I liked this movie well enough, finding it a clever re-interpretation of the book.
My man! Jason Momoa is just too darn likable (and hunky) to completely hate, and I like that this movie embraces the stupidity of Aquaman with full force, giving us all a beautiful feast of underwater shenanigans. Not since The Little Mermaid has an octopus played the drums so well. It helps that the movie’s filled with pretty people and that the plot skips by fast enough to ignore the finer points. It’s right up there with Wonder Woman as easily one of the best in the DCEU, though it’s a distinctly different tone than the Snyder-esque movies before it.
13. Ant-Man and the Wasp
I like this movie for its simplicity. It’s a breath of fresh air in the increasingly complicated MCU, largely disconnected from the larger picture, and able to revel in the fun of its characters. Bumping Evangeline Lilly up to title character and giving her a suit makes the movie better, and a non-standard multi-antagonist setup really makes the whole thing a fun time.
12. The Meg
Want a monster movie? Here’s your monster movie. Giant sharks are terrifying, and Jason Statham knows it, slyly pandering to the camera and delivering his lines with a knowing straight-man glee. It’s a movie full of suspense despite its predictability, and an ability to fully embrace its inner-B-movie. Given that my Lorestalker series of books deals in hunting down scary monsters, this one was right up my alley.
11. Incredibles 2
In another decade, this fun family film would have certainly been higher on the list, but the world of superhero movies has changed significantly since the first one, and it’s a lot harder to find a place. Though many of the ideas in the movie may have been clever pre-2008, now they just seem re-hashed and old, with a villain who’s clear from the get-go and a resolution that everyone expects. Still a good time, though, for sure.
10. Ralph Breaks the Internet
Animated sequels everywhere! Though not quite as good as the first one, the sequel has a lot to love. I appreciate that the story centers around accepting friends for who they are, and loving people for what they want to do — not for what you want them to do. Also, the Disney Princess scenes were stellar; some of the funniest stuff I’ve watched all year.
9. Deadpool 2
Ryan Reynolds may actually be Deadpool in real life. I’m pretty sure he just hasn’t told us that he’s immortal yet. The sequel is certainly a gag-a-minute thrill ride, but some of the novelty of having a fourth-wall-breaking anti-hero has been lost since the first one. Still, though, there’s some good stuff to be found here, especially from newcomer Domino. Who knows when or if we’ll ever get a third one, but if not, then this is a good way to go out.
I bet you didn’t watch this one. It was a small film with barely any marketing that slid out of the theaters before it could get any traction, but it’s good! Really good. Mysteries aren’t very common these days, but this movie uses the “screen life” concept in new and exciting ways to unroll a touching story of a father searching for his daughter. Don’t let the gimmick of the story presentation fool you. This is a clever mystery that will leave you satisfied.
What? A Transformers movie making it in the top 10? It sounds crazy, but this movies rolls the dice on a prequel that has the leeway to ignore all of the baggage from the series, while still staying grounded in the same universe. It isn’t a reboot, but it’s about as close as you can get to one, modifying the tone and injecting a lot of character and heart. I could talk about this movie all day and not convince you, but if you trust me, I think you’ll have a good time with this one.
6. Crazy Rich Asians
Is the Rom-Com back? Are we going to finally get better racially diverse representation in movies? This movie wants you to answer YES to both of those questions, and it makes a strong case for it. There’s romance. Plucky best friends. Cold evil mothers. Everything any good romantic comedy should have while also taking the viewer to a land and culture far removed from what we’re used to seeing on the big screen. I’m sure there will be a sequel, and I’ll be first in line to see it.
5. A Quiet Place
I don’t know what it would be like to watch this movie in your house, but in the theater, it was a completely surreal experience. I’ve never felt an audience so effortlessly shamed into silence. The result is an unnerving and intense film that’s sure to raise your hackles and leave you frightened. It’s a rare cross-over of horror and just plain good film-making.
4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
A lot of people say this is the best superhero movie of the year — maybe even the best movie of the year — and I find that to be a bit of stretch. But it is good. Very good. With a unique animation style, a cool story, and a bunch of lesser-known spider-characters that are all fun to watch. I’m happy to see a non-Disney, non-Pixar animated film be this good, and I hope there are more to come.
3. Bohemian Rhapsody
Fun bio-pics are hard to find, but they turn it up to 11 in this film, only slightly massaging the facts to produce a wonderful joy ride filled with the absolute best soundtrack one could want in a movie. If the music isn’t enough for you, then Rami Malek’s spot-on performance of Freddy Mercury will certainly reel you in. Queen is one of the best bands in history, so it’s no surprise a movie about them made for an impressive movie.
2. Black Panther
One and two are so hard! Good superhero movies shine a mirror on our world, and use the fantastical to tackle weighty issues. Black Panther does just that with a deft touch. This movie is truly amazing, with the best of everything Marvel has to offer. As the first superhero movie nominated for Best Picture, you’d think it’d be #1 on my list and maybe it should be, but since it’s my list…
1. Avengers: Infinity War
Look, I can’t review movies in a vacuum. This movie was ten years in the making and delivered on every promise. I found its unique structure delightful, and can’t give enough credit to how incredibly well done Thanos was on every level. Marvel’s had villain issues in the past, but they erase them all here by devoting an entire heart-breaking movie to their villain. It’s bold and brave and awesome. And though it may not be the best movie from a critical standpoint, it’s the one that impacted me the most in 2018. If my OCD allowed for a tie, I’d let Black Panther share with Infinity War. But, alas, there can only be one.