The year is over, and despite mixed reactions about the overall quality of films, most people can agree that there were some real gems in 2018. Nobody was doubting movies like First Man or Roma. People could tell that those movies would be a success, but what about movies that didn’t seem all that promising? That’s why this list has been written.
Following an earlier version of this list, Taste of Cinema has decided to revise and update what we had previously called the most surprisingly good movies of 2018. Some of the movies on this list are repeats, but many of them are new additions.
The point is, the movies listed below shocked viewers by because their quality was far beyond what was expected. Let’s be real, nobody was expecting Bumblebee to sit in the 90s on Rotten Tomatoes, yet here we are. Keep in mind that the movies on this list are by no means perfect. They are, however, far better than anyone anticipated.
It seems like all the cinephile horror fans are quick to defend indie horror movies. Pyewacket didn’t get a wide release, so maybe some snobby horror fans decided it was bound to be a slam dunk. That being said, it didn’t look particularly good. In fact, it looked like a generic horror movie about an angsty teen.
Thankfully, it was so much more than a generic horror movie about an angsty teen. It was an atmospheric horror movie with genuine thrills, great acting, and strong themes. It wasn’t perfect, which is why it wound up at the bottom of this list, but it was an inspired movie that reached above and beyond.
The fact that Pyewacket is memorable by the end of the year is a testament to its quality, especially when you consider the quality of horror movies this year. With competition from A Quiet Place, Hereditary, Ghost Stories, and more, a movie like Pyewacket should be lost in the crowd. Somehow, the movie has enough going for it to stand out in a crowded field. That alone means it’s worth a viewing.
9. Mom & 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.
8. Instant Family
Sean Anders, the director of Instant Family, has a borderline pathetic filmography. Prior to this film’s release, his directing credits include That’s My Boy, Horrible Bosses 2, Daddy’s Home, and Daddy’s Home 2. If you take the average Rotten Tomatoes score of these movies, you’d get a whopping 26%.
Say what you will about Rotten Tomatoes, but let’s get one thing straight: people did not like this dude’s movies. Out of that sampling, it’s safe to say that people still do not like that dude’s movies. With that in mind, can you blame people for dubbing Instant Family an instant failure?
Upon its release, it earned a seriously surprising 82%. Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t work for everybody because not everybody cares what critics think. Instead, it’s wise to look at other metrics and compare. With an A Cinemascore and a strong average score from both IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, it looks like Instant Family might actually be a certifiable success.
It may have looked like a generic family comedy (with emphasis on the family), but there’s actually a lot of heart and humor here. Thanks to a strong cast with great chemistry, as well as a terrific script, viewers should leave the movie with a giant grin on their faces.
It doesn’t break new ground, but it doesn’t have to. It manages to stand out in other ways. It stands out for the reasons listed above. It is, through and through, a genuinely funny movie with a surprising amount of emotional resonance. Lack of unique characteristics isn’t enough to bring this movie down.
7. 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.
6. 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.