Whew, now that the disappointing movies are out of the way it’s time to talk about the opposite of disappointing movies. Sometimes movies look really really bad and turn out to be really really good. Sometimes movies like kinda-sorta bad and turn out to be kinda-sorta good.
Not everyone is an expert at predicting the quality of movies. Let’s be real, even the experts make mistakes in a while. Every now and then a movie comes out that has no right to be as good as it is. Nobody saw it coming but nobody would dare complain. That’s what this list is for.
One thing should be kept in mind while reading this list. A lot of people seem to get confused and assume that “surprisingly good” means “surprisingly excellent.” As a result, they get confused when certain movies are included. Keep in mind that not every movie on this list is an absolute homerun.
The films on this list are included only because they are better than expected. If a movie seems destined to fail but turns out to be a worthwhile way to spend a couple hours, it may earn a spot on this list.
Especially since the year isn’t over, some of the movies toward the bottom of the list are only soft recommendations. They are not, by any means, guaranteed to please everyone. They are, however, guaranteed to surprise a few people who may unfairly deem them as “dead on arrival.”
Upgrade is a cult classic in the making. With a $5 million budget and a modest-at-best box office return, this isn’t a movie with the same kind of staying power as other modern sci-fi classics. Then again, it doesn’t really need to be. The people who will love Upgrade will really really love Upgrade, and that’s all that matters.
This is a movie that knows its audience and has fun winning them over every step of the way. It’s an ultra-violent gut punch that will leave sci-fi fans breathless from start to finish. It’s also one of the most exhilarating movies of 2018.
There was so little to talk about Upgrade prior to the film’s release. The trailer made it look fun but potentially forgetful, and that’s about all that was given to people. The trailer lied. Upgrade is anything but forgetful. While it’s not shy when it comes to borrowing elements from other movies, this still feels like a completely unique experience.
It’s not unusual to shower the more intelligent sci-fi movies with praise, but it’s rare that audiences get a good movie that puts the fun first. No, this isn’t anything like Arrival or Source Code. It doesn’t want to be though. It wants to be 95 minutes of pulse pounding action and torn off limbs. Mission success.
Like most years, there’s sure to be a big award-winning sci-fi movie that’ll sneak its way into the Oscars. Upgrade isn’t that movie, but it’s still likely to be one of the best movies in the genre to come out this year. No other science fiction movie could do grindhouse fun in the same way as Upgrade. This is a movie that only comes around once every few years. Be sure to savor it.
2. Love, Simon
Love, Simon never looked flat-out bad, but it did look a little generic. For being the first wide-released movie putting a gay teen front and center, there was something about the movie that seemed uninspired. Maybe it’s the fact that this cynical writer sees every young adult romance as the same thing. Or maybe, just maybe, it legitimately didn’t look all that special.
Regardless, this movie did everything in its power to defy expectations. It may not look special, but it is pretty darn special. A few young adult cliches don’t stop this from being one of 2018’s best overall releases.
With a timely script and solid mix of drama and comedy, Love, Simon is the perfect movie for any teenager struggling with an identity crisis. While it’s specifically marketed at gay teens, the message remains universal for anyone who has ever felt different in their lives. Hell, this message isn’t just aimed at teenagers. Although this is undoubtedly a movie aimed at the younger crowd, the strong themes are powerful regardless of the viewer’s age.
That’s the magic of Love, Simon. It has an audience in mind but it still manages to work for pretty much any type of viewer. Regardless of age or gender, the film is funny and relatable in all the right ways. Coming-of-age young adult movies are often handled so poorly. It’s a relief that someone put the source material in the right hands this time around.
3. Game Night
Game Night didn’t necessarily look bad, but with the absence of good R-rated comedies last year and a pair of directors who hadn’t previously shown much promise, there was a lot to be skeptical about. To be fair, it’s silly to dismiss a movie because the previous year failed to deliver solid raunchy comedies.
At the same time, the ratio of good to bad R-rated comedies has always been unimpressive. For every 21 Jump Street, there’s Hit and Run, The Watch, American Reunion, and That’s My Boy. It’s hard to get excited for movies like this nowadays, which means a gem like Game Night deserves to be treasured.
It would be one thing if it were just funny movie, but there’s more to it. Game Night is certainly funny, but it also has a pleasantly twist-filled story that can keep the average viewer on his or her feet. For once, the story appears to be just as important as the laughs.
This is a consistently hilarious little movie that also happens to tell a pretty unpredictable and twist-filled story. As weird as it is to say this, you won’t see a lot of stuff coming. Then again, that may be because you’re too busy laughing to make worthwhile predictions.
It’s so rare for movies like this to offer anything but gut busting laughs. Hell, it’s so rare that viewers don’t even seem to mind the lack of plot as long as they’re consistently chuckling. This just means that viewers of this movie get an extra bonus. Not only does Game Night offer non-stop laughter. It also provides folks with a pretty twist-filled mystery.
4. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
There’s not a single way in which Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again doesn’t improve upon its predecessor. The story is smarter, the performances are livelier, and the songs are catchier. To be completely honest, this is one of the most improved upon sequels in recent memory.
Seriously, the only notable downside is Meryl Streep’s significantly reduced role. One small caveat to keep in mind would be this: the first movie was pretty mediocre in the first place. Still, the degree to which this movie improves is honestly astounding.
The prequel/sequel structure results in a story that’s actually worth paying attention to. While the previous movie seemed like an excuse to let celebrities sing ABBA songs, this one actually has a story worth telling. The prequel part of the story is admittedly more engaging than Amanda Seyfried’s hotel-meltdown, but both stories manage to hook viewers in surprising ways.
Then again, comparing them is kind of counterproductive given the fact that they mesh so well as a whole. Like a game of Jenga, messing with the structural integrity of the story would remove the overwhelming sweetness and sense of fun. The pieces work incredibly well together.
The new cast members are also a welcome addition. These folks are tasked with playing the main characters twenty-five years in the past, and they all do an excellent job. Standouts include Lily James (as usual) and the endlessly charming Jeremy Irvine. Of course, if you’ve seen the trailers you’ve also learned that the legendary Cher also joins the cast this time around.
While she doesn’t stick around too long, she does seem to have a lot of fun for the duration of her role. The addition of new cast members also means that Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgård have less time on screen to sing, and for that we can all be grateful.
Jokes aside, the music is genuinely better, and that’s equally important. Then again, as previously stated, everything is better. This benefits both fans of the original and people who weren’t exactly buying it before. Fans get everything they loved about the first movie and more. Haters get to see a movie where a majority of the old flaws were addressed. The point is, regardless of your feelings toward the first movie, this one is worth a chance.
5. Mom and Dad
Listen, it may not be fair, but it’s pretty easy to dub any Nicolas Cage movie a potential stinker from the second it’s announced. Statistically speaking, this past decade has not been kind to Nicolas Cage.
Let’s face it, the bad far outweighs the good and there’s absolutely no way to sugarcoat it. 2018 doesn’t seem to be a huge exception to that rule considering releases like Looking Glass and 211, but for once it’s not all bad. Yes, this year still has plenty of stinkers to offer, but it also has movies like the surprisingly watchable Mom and Dad.
Somehow, the guy who brought us Jonah Hex and Gamer managed to deliver a genuinely funny horror-comedy about parents who get a sudden urge to kill their children. Okay, so the premise has always sounded pretty exciting, but there were so many elements working against this movie that one could easily assume it would bomb.
Let the record show that Mom and Dad can’t compete with horror comedy classics like Shaun of the Dead or Tucker and Dale vs Evil. It can, however, provide viewers with 83 minutes of trashy, violent fun. It does enough with its premise to justify its existence. More importantly, it’s a great drunken movie watching experience.
Mom and Dad makes this list because it’s too freaking fun not to recommend. The ultraviolent badassery on display brings to mind the director’s only other success: Crank. Like Crank, this movie takes a ridiculous premise and turns it up to 11.
Miraculously, this approach to filmmaking leads to one of the most purely entertaining movies of the year. Even if it may be forgotten by the end of the year, it works well as escapism. Mom and Dad is the kind of turn-your-brain-off entertainment people need in 2018.