At the end of 2018 (the year in which I had a newborn baby, and was thus a little busier than normal), I realized that I was slightly behind. I hadn’t even assembled my Top 6 Films of 2017 list, let alone started ranking my 2018 picks.
To my utter shock and horror, I discovered that in the entirety of 2017, I’d only watched five 2017 films.
Five films, for the mathematically deficient reading this, is not enough for a Top 6 list.
To make matters worsed, I quickly realized that in 2018 – and keep in mind, this was at the end of December, I had only seen one film released that year.
Over the next ten days, I watched fifteen 2018 films (and started several more), just to make sure that I wouldn’t be embarrassed like that again. I wanted to make a real Top 6 list, one with…y’know, six items. A Top 6 list I could be proud of.
No. A Top 6 that we could be proud of.
Watching the films in such a condensed fashion made assembling the list particularly interesting; seeing them all at once allowed me to be more direct with my comparisons than I’d ever been before.
So, without further ado, my Top 6 Films of 2018. And yes; there are 6 of them.
- Into the Spider-Verse
Into the Spider-Verse is not only my favourite film of 2018, it’s also my favourite Spider-Man film. It may be the best superhero film ever made.
Hell, it may be the best animated film ever made. It’s an incredible journey from start to finish, and I immediately recommended it to everyone I knew, and proceeded to see it in cinemas twice more.
As much as possible, I avoid trailers (and nowadays, even posters) and boy howdy did this film reward me for that. Going into this film not even knowing it’s going to contain [spoiler] is quite a ride.
Into the Spider-Verse: the best film of 2018, and possibly the decade.
- Bird Box
Another film that I knew literally nothing about before seeing it. I checked out both Bird Box and Spider-Verse simply because so many other people included them on their lists.
And while it doesn’t hold a candle to Into the Spider-Verse (a fact which also applies to almost every other film ever made), I was really delighted by Bird Box.
Interesting premise well-executed, great performances (from actors I always enjoy watching) and just the right level of horror for me, a wuss.
The film was let down by its ending (I had a real feeling of “oh okay we’re doing that now, I guess?”) but I’d still call this one a must-see. Even as I’m writing this 6 months later, I can still remember so many scenes from this film, and exactly how they made me feel.
It’s like they say in the film – “Bird Box is a great movie, especially if you like Sandra Bullock and cool weird light horror.”*
*they do not say this.
- Bohemian Rhapsody
This was the only film that I saw before my 10-day marathon (I went to the cinema! Like a real person!) and I loved it. I love Queen’s music, I’m a big fan of biopics, and beyond his death, I basically knew nothing about Freddie Mercury whatsoever.
By the end of the film…well, I knew what the film wanted to tell me. Whether that was an accurate representation is another question, but that’s not why I watch movies!
(I mentioned in last year’s list how obsessed I’ve become with youtube video essays; if I’d assembled this list after watching Patrick Willems’ video about music biopics, it might have earned a different ranking, but hey – I still really enjoyed the film, and I am happy to put it at a firm #3 for the year.)
- Ready Player One
Speaking of films that would have been placed elsewhere if I’d ranked them after watching video essays on the topic…
*I’ve now watched hours of content about theme park attractions. It’s not something I even particularly care about, but boy howdy do I sure know a lot about them.
But despite the obvious flaws and the ways that it squandered its potential…the film was fun. Like, really damn fun. I had a hoot from start to finish, and would happily rewatch this film any time.
It’s nostalgia-bait, it’s got all sorts of problems, and yeah it could have done a million things better, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a better big dumb nerdy action film (with equal emphasis on dumb and nerdy), and I think it’ll be a long while before we do.
- The Avengers: Infinity War
So it’s pretty rare for a film gets me to start shouting at the screen.
Infinity War managed, and not just while I was watching it.
Days later, I’d be staring into a screen – my phone, my laptop, an ATM – and I’d remember a particular moment from the film and just start screaming.
SPOILERS FOR INFINITY WAR:
It could be argued that hey, good job movie getting me so emotionally invested, but on the other hand…
Oh my god PETER QUILL I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO FRUSTRATED AT A CHARACTER BEFORE. WHY DO YOU HAVE TO SHARE MY NAME*? YOU ARE THE WORST.
*JUST THE PETER PART. THE “C.” IN PETER C. HAYWARD DOES NOT STAND FOR QUILL.
What am I shouting about? Well, do you remember the part where they are about the save the universe by taking incapacitated Thanos’s glove off and Peter Quill won’t fucking let go and ruins EVERYTHING. Oh my GOD I was annoyed. I STILL AM.
And if that wasn’t problem enough, one of the key plot points is that there is only one future in which Thanos is destroyed. Out of fourteen million, six hundred and five.
So firstly, that’s dumb. There’s seriously only one? I just don’t buy it.
Secondly, how are there not a bunch of futures where Peter Quill just DOESN’T screw everything up for everyone. There should be at least a million where he DOESN’T wake Thanos up. How is this not the case? HOW?
I’d love to say this scene alone is why the film didn’t rank higher on the list, but honestly it was just a big ‘eh’ on a few different levels. I struggled to care about Vision’s death (wasn’t he, like, just introduced?), the fact that Thanos has spent a lifetime seeking these stones and then got them all in about twenty minutes, and generally speaking the film lacked emotional weight.
(Loki’s death, for example. What purpose did it serve?)
I even rewatched it a few months later, after seeing Endgame, and was surprised to discover that yeah…it wasn’t any better.
Having said that, it had some good action scenes, and did an impressive job of combining all the characters from all the films. I probably won’t watch it outside of a big MCU marathon, but I can appreciate it for what it is.
- Game Night
I have a real soft spot for comedy-action. On top of that, I’ve been a professional board game designer for several years now. On top of that, I love pretty much everyone in this film.
Game Night was a fun comedy-action romp – fun premise, fun characters, fun execution – and if you like fun, I thoroughly recommend it!
BONUS: It’s nice to see actual scripted comedy in this age of Apatow-style Improv Films.
I liked the first Deadpool! It hit #5 in my 2016 list, even.
I liked the second one too! In a slower year, it would have hit the top 6. But because I was determined to watch everything good from this year, it didn’t quite make it. If you absolutely adored the first one, it’s a must-see. If you liked-but-didn’t love the original, it’s worth watching but not a high priority.
And if you hated the original, avoid! It’s more of the same, but not quite as good. (Although – like 22 Jump Street – the end sequence is almost as good as the rest of the film put together.)
Pacific Rim Uprising
6-years-ago-Peter didn’t even put Pacific Rim in his top 6 films of the year. (Although, in Past Peter’s defense, 2013 was a really good year for film).
Past Peter claimed that it “was very big, and very fun, and very stupid. If you like big, fun, stupid films, it’s basically perfect. Unfortunately…I don’t.”
Present Peter is surprised to hear this, because Present Peter sort of loves big, fun, stupid films, and has nothing but fond memories for Pacific Rim.
Pacific Rim Uprising, however, lacked the heart of the original. Or, based on Past Peter’s comments, maybe was exactly as good? (I haven’t rewatched Pacific Rim in the past 6 years).
Uprising was fine, and did some interesting stuff with the characters. I just remember the original being so much better.
I was really excited for this one, and I wanted to love it so much.
And then I did!
I felt Oceans 8 perfectly captured the original (well, the 2001 original. Not the original original) film, and added its own weird style to boot. I loved all the new characters, and their dynamics, and the heist, and…it just worked.
And then it kept going.
TIP: if you’re making a heist film, end the film after the heist.
Oceans 8 didn’t! It dragged on, got weird, introduced new characters (??), and completely slaughtered the momentum of the film.
As such, it got bumped down to Runners-Up. If there’s an Ocean’s 9 (which I would totally go see), I very much hope they learn the basic structure of the genre.
(My Ocean’s rankings: 13, 11, 8, every other number you can think of, 12.)
Okay, let’s start with the potentially controversial one: I didn’t care for this flick. This is probably because it wasn’t made for me, which is fine, but this list entirely exists for me to share my opinion so we all just have to be okay with me sharing some thoughts.
I don’t watch the MCU films for the action scenes, or even – for the most part – for the characters. So what’s left?
The world-building. I love me some world-building, and the MCU allows world-building on a scale we’ve never seen before in cinema. The fact that Hulk was trying to recreate the formula that created Captain America? I eat that shit up.
Black Panther definitely had some cool world-building, but it was mostly ruined for me by Wakanda’s incredibly dumb method of choosing a leader.
Wakanda was the most technologically advanced land in the world, and they choose their leader through unarmed combat? That had me rolling my eyes when the film opened with it, and it just kept coming up again and again and again.
I could talk about other stuff I didn’t like, but I don’t think that would contribute to the world, and it was mostly the above (which was one of the central plots of the movie), so I’ll leave it there. Black Panther is an incredibly important and well-made film, and I’m glad it exists. It’s just not for me.
The Incredibles 2
Pixar follow-ups are a mixed bag for me. I like Toy Story 3 the most of the first three, I prefer Monsters University to Monsters Inc (speaking of controversial opinions). Cars 2 is trash, and I didn’t even finish Cars 3. Finding Dory, hilarious though it was, really fell flat for me.
So was The Incredibles 2 a Cars or a Monsters? Well, from its placement on this list, you can probably work it out.
I enjoyed this movie far less than the original, for several reasons. Firstly, it commits the cardinal sin of undoing the ending of the first movie. “Oh hey we saved the day and maybe people can be Supers again!”
15 years later (15 minutes on-screen) “Oh no never mind, none of that is true.” The Kingsman 2 did the exact same thing. I hate it – please, sequels, stop doing this.
Then, it gave Mr. Incredible basically nothing to do (aside from be jealous and a sitcom Dad) which…I mean, if you spend 15 years coming up with a “worthy” new story, I really don’t think it’s too much to ask for you to give your protagonist something to do.
I could nitpick this one for a lot longer, but ultimately it just didn’t land for me. Such a pity; the first one is a classic.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Years after it came out, I finally saw the first Ant-Man, and it was…fine. Maybe I have different standards for MCU films, or maybe it truly is just a ‘fine’ film, but I saw it and was like “okay yup, that film existed, good for it.”
Ant-Man and the Wasp followed firmly in that tradition.
The Cloverfield Paradox
I really dug the first Cloverfield movie. I’m still yet to see 10 Cloverfield Lane, but I’ve heard good things.
The Cloverfield Paradox was really compelling. I was having a ball watching it, but it reminded me of Vanilla Sky – for the entire runtime of the movie, I knew that all of this enjoyment could be destroyed in an instant by a bad ending.
A film with endless weird stuff and then a compelling resolution that ties it all together? Great! A+. Gimme more of them. Cabin in the Woods, I’m looking at you.
A film with endless weird stuff and then just, y’know, an ending that in no way explains any of it? That’s a No from me, Simon.
Mamma Mia 2
I watched the first Mamma Mia when I was sick, and had a ball. It’s nothing special, but it’s a fun floofy musical, and who doesn’t like that?
Many people. Many people do not like that. But I am not one of them!
In turn, Mamma Mia 2: Mamma Harder was a fun floofy musical. Completely unnecessary, but a joy nonetheless. It’s up there with Deadpool, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and I guess Pacific Rim: Uprising in the list of “2018 sequels that are about as good as the original, which is to say they weren’t good enough get into the Top 6”.
This one? This was downright bad.
I was so hyped for Christopher Robin. You’ve got a reluctant protagonist unwilling to deal with his childhood imaginary friends (a very specific genre I adore) and one of my favourite franchises of all times.
I went into this film desperately hoping for a Paddington, but ended up with a The Smurfs.
My main complaint was the character design (I wanted yellow happy Pooh, not brown and neutral-expressioned Pooh!) and the whininess of all the stuffed animals. Pooh isn’t whiny, he’s whimsical! That’s his whole schtick!
Can we please redo this film with whoever made Paddington? That’s the film I want to see.
The Happiness Murders
I’m a huge puppet fan (I haven’t puppeteered for years, but I really hope to get back to it soon) and Brian Henson’s previous directorial efforts are some of my favourite films of all time.
The Happiness Murders is not joining them, alas. The film failed to do anything particularly clever or interesting with puppets – the joke was just “puppets, but crude”, over and over again. It was fine, but I wouldn’t watch it a second time.
See: Mamma Mia 2, replacing “musical” with “adaptation of a series of kid’s books”. More than ever, 2018 was the year of the “oh yeah it’s fine” sequel to films that were, in themselves, fine.
I started Solo, Crazy Rich Asians, and Johnny English Rides Again, but with a lot of films to get through in a very short amount of time, none of them grabbed me enough to finish (not that I was expecting much from Johnny English Rides Again).
Venom, Bumblebee, and Mary Poppins Returns didn’t get enough buzz to justify checking them out, so I skipped ‘em.
Aquaman was only just in cinemas during my marathon, so I wasn’t able to see that. I’m yet to find a non-Nolan DC film that I like, so I didn’t have high hopes for it (I watched the first ten minutes of Wonder Woman but it seemed too by-the-books for me).
A Star is Born seemed sort of interesting, but not really my kind of film.
I really really really wanted to see Ralph Breaks the Internet – the original Wreck-It Ralph is one of my top 6 Disney films, and I’d heard nothing but good things about the sequel. I’ve seen it since, and it’s hard to say whether it would have made the list. I’ll talk about it next year, in my Frozen 2 review.
A Quiet Place is another one I saw after the deadline, but I want to talk about it here – specifically in relation to Bird Box.
I don’t think A Quiet Place is better than Bird Box (although I’d truly love to know how I’d feel had I seen them in the opposite order), but the sheer amount of overlap would have made Bird Box feel less special.
I guess the idea of a horror film with one sense knocked out (sight for Bird Box, hearing for A Quiet Place) just happened to be in the air, and the two films do a good job of taking the concept in fairly different directions. Bird Box is a stronger film (the world’s logic is weaker, but the characters’ logic is stronger), but the existence of the other makes each film weaker, somehow.
I’m glad I saw Bird Box first, but I’m curious – if you’ve seen both, which did you prefer, and which did you see first?