2018 was the year I realized no one is going to watch a single movie I recommend unless it's available to stream on Netflix or Amazon Prime. I can't really blame them. I saw 120+ movies in 2018 and didn't watch a single one in theaters—as going out in public is nearly as terrifying as the people you encounter there. And while the number of streaming services is exhausting (and only getting worse), take solace in the fact that nearly everything is eventually available to rent from our new overlords at Amazon. That being said, I know you're still more likely to watch The Office for the eleventh time rather than throw Bezos another $4.99, but I'll do my best to put together a list for you. To be honest, that's not even true, because this list is for me and you probably won't like any of these films. Go watch The Office while you still can.
So let's talk about some movies you've either already seen or are never going to see. We'll start with some random musings before we get to the mostly arbitrary rankings. As always, this list does not include animated films or documentaries, and ties go to the movies I want to write about.
Most Terrifying Film - Eighth Grade
Best Revenge Film - Revenge
The Top Ten
10. A Simple Favor
Remember when the trailer for Sweeney Todd forgot to mention that it was a musical? Or when the trailer for Bridge to Terabithia pretended to be a whimsical fantasy film? Meet A Simple Favor, which was advertised as a thriller and forgot to mention it's pretty much a comedy. Granted, the second act is mostly a thriller, but not a particularly good one (especially post-Gone Girl), and the final scenes get right back to the snappy one-liners and mom jokes that made the first act so fun. The biggest flaw of the film is that it ventures into the mystery of the main character's disappearance too far, resulting in a few tedious scenes while we wait for the fun to start again. However, if you can embrace the fact that you're not going to be watching Gone Girl 2: Gone Harder, A Simple Favor is a very funny film, with a light mystery for you to puzzle over for about ten minutes.
9. Game Night
A Simple Favor could learn a thing or two from Game Night, which absolutely recognizes itself as a comedy, and accidentally becomes a mini-thriller along the way. American comedies haven't been in the greatest place the last few years, and while Tag and Blockers were watchable, Game Night is a barrage of dark humor and refreshing comedic scenarios that give it an extra edge. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as an ultra-competitive couple determined to win a game night hosted by Bateman's brother—even after it turns into a real-life kidnapping. Setting Game Night apart from a number of recent comedies is it's strong script. There are setups and payoffs, recurring jokes, and cinematic references. If there is improv in this film, it's not apparent; and more importantly, it doesn't hold up the action. Finally, if there were only one reason to see this film, it's Jesse Plemons. He steals the show as the creepy neighbor, Gary. He just wants to be invited to Game Night, and he knows a lot more about the Frito-Lay corporation than you ever will.
8. A Quiet Place
Did I use the right screenshot? Just in case you live under a cinematic rock, the screenshot to the left is for Bird Box, the 2018 horror movie in which if you see the movie's monster, you die. You all saw this because it's on Netflix. In A Quiet Place, you can look at the monster all you want (and you get to), but if it hears you, you're probably dead. Opposite-yet-the-same concepts, A Quiet Place does it better. Coming in 2019, will be The Smelly Place and Taste Box. I'm getting off track.
A Quiet Place features almost no dialogue because the monster in A Quiet Place has an extreme sense of hearing. However, since the monster itself is doing the Bird Box Challenge, everyone is safe as long as they don't make a sound. Some of the nuances of this concept require a pretty sizable suspension of disbelief, but if you're not fixated on potential plot holes, it makes for a very enjoyable monster movie. If you're the guy pointing out that they should have just lived under the waterfall, that's fine too. Go watch Roma or something.
7. Sorry to Bother You
And so ends the list of films I can recommend without some sort of disclaimer. Sorry to Bother You follows Cassius Green, a black man who discovers he has a talent for selling products over the phone—when he uses his "white voice." The white voice is not simply Cassius doing an impression of a white person, the voice is quite literally the voice of David Cross (a white person, in case you didn't know). As his coworkers struggle to unionize, Cassius breaks ranks when he is offered a massive promotion to be a Power Caller—a group that sells more than just simple trinkets. From there, the plot goes all sorts of places, which I'll summarize simply as...unique. Sorry to Bother You stands out because it dares to be different, and while it tries to fit too many ideas into one movie, you're definitely not going to forget it. It's very funny at times, social commentary at others and in the end, its downright preposterous. It's a lot more like Brazil than it is Get Out, so get ready to get weird. Available on Hulu, if you're one of the five people who subscribe to that.
Bodied won't freak you out, but it might make you angry because it has a lot of bad words in it. Racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic words, to be more specific. That's also the point of the movie, so if context still matters to you, you'll probably be okay. It is predominately scenes of battle rap—in which the characters target their opponent by mocking their race, sexual orientation, sexual prowess or simply by threatening to kill them. It's wholesome stuff. The main character is Adam, a white boy who appropriates the battle rap scene by accident while trying to write his thesis paper (which is about the N-word, of course). Adam is obsessed with not being racist at first, but quickly adopts the vernacular of his comrades, soon angering his vegan girlfriend and eventually his entire student body. The battle rap scenes are incredible, and the rest of the film is all over the place. The only idea that Bodied seems to fully get behind is that white people are awful. Every peripheral white person in the film is an extreme caricature—pulling no punches at vegans, nervous school administrators, and social justice warriors arguing over who is more racist. These caricatures are undoubtedly funny. And sad. And true. However, it never really decides what to do with Adam, who gets more flak for trying not to be racist than actually participating in battle rap. Also, Adam sucks. You can watch Bodied with Youtube Premium. Thankfully, you can sign up for a free trial, watch Bodied, and then cancel, because there is no other reason to have Youtube Premium.
Mid90s is just the male version of Eighth Grade, and it really makes you realize why Gillette ads are necessary. It's about that time in every boy's life where you abandon your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bed sheets and latch on to the interests of whatever the cool kids seem to be doing. In this case, it's skateboarding and drinking, and not saying "thank you" because saying "thank you" is gay. Mid90s follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old (who looks nine), as he starts hanging out with a group of older skateboarders and emulates their interests, speech, and ideology. It takes place in the mid-90's (how'd you guess), so the nostalgia is strong—especially if you grew up in that period—and the boys spend their time skateboarding, hanging around the skate shop, and having male-typical teenage conversations about body parts and exaggerated sexual experiences. There is one cringe-worthy scene of sexuality, but that's as close to Eighth Grade as we get, and anyone who saw If Beale Street Could Talk knows its not the most awkward sex scene of the year. The ending does feel a bit forced, and/or like a PSA, but Mid90s is an engaging depiction of starting to grow up and finding your place. Also, Lucas Hedges really likes orange juice.
4. Emo: The Musical
If this list was based solely on films that brought the most joy into my life, Emo: The Musical would be number one. With a metaphorical, angsty bullet. I have legitimately watched this six times. In a year. Don't get me wrong, it's not The Godfather. It's more of a cardboard, song-filled Mean Girls. Cardboard because all of it's characters are flat, Mean Girls because it's incredibly witty, and ultimately about the importance of being yourself (aww). It's also very similar to the first season of Glee, before it got terrible. The story follows self-professed emo, Ethan, as he tries to fit in with his emo band, while simultaneously dating Trinity, the Jesus-obsessed female front of rival Christian band, Hope Group. She once baptized a boy without telling him. Her and Ethan bond over their love of folk music, which Ethan used to like "until people pointed out how lame it is." The word "emo" is used entirely too much and the characters are basic, but there are so many good lines, and the songs are delightful and smart. Also, the school is sponsored by anti-depressants. If you're one of the two other people who actually like musicals, Anna and the Apocalypse is also worth a watch, but it's not as smart, it just has better choreography. And zombies. Emo: The Musical is available to stream on Netflix. Thank God and Emos for Netflix, because it's the only reason you'd ever be able to see it.
3. The Favourite
This is a pretty good showing, considering this is director Yorgos Lanthimos' third (maybe fourth) best film of the decade. It's also one of his most accessible. The Lobster and Killing of a Sacred Deer might scare you away, and Dogtooth or Alps almost certainly will. And while this hilarious take on 18th century England—complete with duck racing, dark humor, and fish eye lenses—may not be your cup of poisoned tea either, it's propped up by smart dialogue and incredible performances by Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone. I know you can't resist Emma Stone. It takes an unfortunate turn away from comedy in the third act, but everyone remains sharp throughout. Nicholas Hoult also makes regular appearances as a most extravagant gentleman—and seemingly the only man with half a brain under his beautiful wigs. The Favourite has sabotage, jealousy, witty one-liners, and incompetent leaders. It's kind of like The Office, if that will get you to watch it.
2. You Were Never Really Here
Hi, kids. Do you like violence? So does Joaquin Phoenix. And when he doesn't get it, he gets sad. And so does the viewer. You Were Never Really Here follows Phoenix as he rescues young girls from captivity while dealing with childhood trauma and PTSD. If you're looking to enjoy some violence, stick to Revenge and Mandy, but if you want something a bit more complex, You Were Never Really Here is the ticket. It has some of my favorite scenes of the year, which depending on your mindset, you'll find just as riveting or annoyingly jarring. This is one of the few good films of the year that doesn't have thematic issues; and if you can get behind artistic restraint you just might appreciate it too. There is definitely some violence, but if you're still upset that Liam Neeson never fought wolves in The Grey, watch something else. Available on Amazon Prime.
I won't spend too much time on Shoplifters, because if you haven't already seen it, I don't have faith that you will. It's not on Netflix or Amazon Prime. It's a drama. It's in Japanese. It's also basically Roma, but with a compelling story and characters. It follows a seemingly random grouping of poor Japanese characters who have come together in their collective poverty to form a family. After a day of shoplifting, the "father" and "son" of the family stumble upon Yuri, a four-year-old girl who isn't wanted by her family. She looks hungry and so they take her home, feed her, and end up keeping her. The ensuing film is a story of family-by-choice and the bonds that they build. It's not a fast film. It's about building characters and their relationships with each other. There's no extravagant tragedy or denouement, but Shoplifters is a beautifully shot slice-of-life with nuanced characters and strong performances. Please don't emulate the plot and kidnap small children or we'll send Joaquin Phoenix after you.
COULD EASILY BE ON THIS LIST
Searching - A perfect example of why editing isn't a minor category in film.
Unsane - The best thing filmed on an iPhone since Kim Kardashian.
BlacKkKlansman - Spike Lee is the best. The KKK is the worst.
Blindspotting - A good movie is interrupted by slam poetry which should have died in the 2000's.
Summer of 84 - Stranger Things without any science fiction.
Thunder Road - Jim Cummings delivers a brilliant monologue every ten minutes.
Crazy Rich Asians - The best romantic comedy of 2018 trying to hide behind a bad title.
Wildlife - Apparently, all good dramas need Jake Gyllenhaul or Carey Mulligan. This one has both.
Andhadhun - A blind pianist witnesses a murder. Figure out how that works.
Burning - I'm still not sure what genre this is, but that's basically the point.
Revenge - Girl murders her rapist and would-be murders.
Hereditary - Scary things happen. People like that, I guess.
Love, Simon - Gay kid bullies another gay kid out of the closet.
A Prayer Before Dawn - White guy appropriates the Thai prison boxing community.
Annihilation - A group of scientists try to figure out what the aliens are up to.
Alex Strangelove - Every homophobe's worst nightmare.
A Star is Born - The first third is great, and then it's terrible.
First Reformed - Ethan Hawke cares for the environment much more than he cares for his health.
Border - A border security guard can smell your fear.
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot - The opposite of You Were Never Really Here.
Isle of Dogs - Animated Wes Anderson dogs in Asia.
Us and Them - A Chinese version of the Before Trilogy with lovely end credits.
The Guilty - A riveting thriller that takes place entirely over the phone.
The Death of Stalin - Communism has never been so fun. This is basically Vice, but good.
The Wife - You might think this is Oscar Bait, but it was actually very good.
The Endless - Low budget sci-fi about time loops.
Green Book - White guy teaches black guy about fried chicken.
Disobedience - Rachel Weisz impregnates Rachel McAdams with saliva. I'm not joking.
Skate Kitchen - Girl skateboarders emulate Mid90s, but accidentally include Jaden Smith.
Assassination Nation - What would you do if everything on your phone leaked? Murder teenagers.
Can You Ever Forgive Me - I can forgive you, but I'll barely remember you.
Upgrade - Guy gets a computer chip implant and it teaches him kung-fu.
Mission Impossible - Fallout - Tom Cruise crashes helicopters.
Widows - Liam Neeson's skills fail him.
Black Panther - A solid superhero movie, but I'm all set with superhero movies.
Ready Player One - Clearly unrealistic. Not enough micro-transactions.
Deadpool 2 - Not as funny as the first one.
Tag - Grown men playing childhood games. That's realism.
Blockers - John Cena is apparently a comedian now.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Can we all just agree not to send kids to gay conversion therapy?
The Sisters Brothers - John C. Reilly joins Joaquin Phoenix in the western version of You Were Never Really Here.
The Old Man and the Gun - Old people rob banks.
All Square - A bookie starts taking bets on youth baseball games.
Boy Erased - Again. Quit sending kids to gay conversion therapy.
Tully - Charlize Theron really needs some sleep. This explains how she became Monster.
Keep The Change - A mentally handicapped couple fall in love and make inappropriate jokes.
Ballad of Buster Scruggs - Half of it is good.
Lean On Pete - A boy really likes a horse.
Private Life - This was a good drama and it didn't even need Carey Mulligan or Jake Gyllenhaul.
Christopher Robin - Winnie the Pooh has the best deadpan humor.
Apostasy - Being a Jehovah's Witness seems awful.
A Futile and Stupid Gesture - A funny biopic about the creator of National Lampoon.
Destroyer - The title refers to whomever did Nicole Kidman's overzealous makeup.
Bad Times at the El Royale - Fun and forgettable and a shirtless Chris Hemsworth.
Bohemian Rhapsody - The first hour and the last twenty minutes are great.
Cam - A cam girl gets her online profile stolen.
Roma - Form over content.
Stree - A Bollywood horror movie.
22 July - The aftermath of a terrorist attack.
Avengers: Infinity War - Thanos should have killed everyone and ended the franchise.
Thoroughbreds - Two crazy girls plot to kill one's father.
In a Relationship - Forgettable romantic comedy.
Eighth Grade - Again. The scariest movie of the year.
Cold War - A romance film about a couple that has zero chemistry.
First Man - What a waste of Gosling.
Hearts Beat Loud - A father and a daughter start a band.
Overlord - Nazis experiment on people and America comes after them.
The New Romantic - A college student finds a sugar daddy so that her life isn't boring.
Support the Girls - It's a boob metaphor.
Leave No Trace - Captain Fantastic was better.
If Beale Street Could Talk - If Oscar Bait could talk.
Anna and the Apocalypse - A zombie musical that is too much High School: The Musical and not enough Emo: The Musical.
The Night Comes for Us - A Thai action movie with the loosest plot imaginable.
Bumblebee - A decent Transformers movie for the first time in a while.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - A weak movie, largely due to being stuck in the middle of the first movie and the next one.
Hot Summer Nights - Timothy Chalamet tries to become Walter White.
Bird Box - Sandra Bullock puts a blindfold on. Will she get Blindsided?!
Ant-Man and the Wasp - Another superhero movie.
Venom - This is supposedly bad. But it's really just another Deadpool movie.
Blue My Mind - Your annual foreign mermaid movie.
Brothers' Nest - Two brothers try to kill a guy.
American Animals - Some idiots try to rob a library.
Vice - May have been interesting if we didn't already know that Cheney was President for eight years.
Aquaman - The white version of Black Panther, but not as good.
A Private War - A journalist reports on the front lines of foreign wars. She has a cool eye patch.
Suspiria - The original isn't that good either.
Blaze - A biopic about a drunk country singer.
Mandy - Nicolas Cage kills a cult.
Office Uprising - Low budget and humorous zombie outbreak at an office after the employees drink too much Surge.
Anon - Forgettable sci-fi movie about a hacker who can Eternal Sunshine just about everybody.
Juliet, Naked - Ethan Hawke is a washed up folk singer and starts dating his biggest fan's ex.
The Land of Steady Habits - The land of mid-life crisis.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties - Elle Fanning was born to play an alien and start dating a punk rocker.
An Evening with Beverly Luff Lin - No one will like this. I'm the target audience and it was a little too much.
The Christmas Chronicles - Mildly amusing Netflix Christmas movie.
AND THE UGLY
The Rider - A bunch of idiots mumble about wanting to do rodeo.
Pin Cushion - The UK's redheaded version of Eighth Grade.
Beautiful Boy - Timothy Chalamet tries to become Jesse Pinkman.
Solo: A Star Wars Story - I'm all set with Star Wars movies too.
Bomb City - A bunch of idiots fight with each other because they look different.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - They're not even trying to write scripts for these anymore.
The Meg - It's like Piranha 3D if it wasn't a joke.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch - Does this count as a movie?
Bees Make Honey - A murder mystery costume party.
The Domestics - Post-apocalyptic Gangs of New York if it was just a slasher.
The House that Jack Built - Matt Dillon kills people in increasingly less interesting ways.
At Eternity's Gate - Willem Dafoe paints in a field for literally the entire movie.
Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town - A girl travels across town.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before - A completely uninteresting romantic comedy that isn't even bad enough to become funny.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - I'm upset that I went again.
I Kill Giants - A girl doesn't kill giants.
Tyrel - A black guy goes to a party with a bunch of white people and nothing happens.
MOVIES I HAD TO TURN OFF AND GIVE UP ON
I Feel Pretty