Watson Ranks the Top 150 Movies of 2018

By William Watson

It was a really weird year for movies. In 2018, there may not have been a film worthy of Best Picture, but I set a personal record, so there is something worth celebrating.  In this down year in movies, I broke my all-time personal record from 2014 and watched 150 new movies.  So let’s look back at the year in film with my annual review of all the new releases I saw!

Time to jump right into the list!

Top Ten

10. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

The message of the documentary is just as simple as the message of the man himself. Mr Rogers was just a better person than most of us. As a minister, his style of preaching was never holier than thou. It was never judgmental. He simply led a good life and told others why kindness and acceptance was important. Whatever your religious affiliation, this is a positive way to live. The genuine goodness of Fred Rogers is timeless. Let’s face it. Mr Rogers was corny. Heck, he was already corny in the 1950s. But his corniness was never condescending. Nor is the coverage of him as a subject condescending. Neville simply presents the amazing man as he was and you have no choice but to be amazed.  It was a weak year for movies, but a great year for docs and this was one of the highlights.

9. SEARCHING

The filmmakers successfully employ an all screens film structure. I actually like the movie Unfriended, but it was largely an unexceptional attempt at this form of storytelling. Searching, on the other hand, absolutely crushed the concept. This film was amazing, start to finish. Every single frame of the film was on a screen; whether it was FaceTime, email, web browser, Facebook, or Chat software, we didn’t see a single frame of traditional camera work. The film didn’t suffer for it either; in fact, it really enhanced the drama because so much of people’s lives are tied to technology that you could conceivably find a whole mysterious life of someone entirely online.

8. FREE SOLO

Wow. Amazing doc. One of my favorite films of the year and certainly vied with Three Identical Strangers and Won’t You Be My Neighbor for best doc of the year.I knew nothing of Alex Honnold’s story going in, yet it grabbed me and kept me entranced for the full runtime. That’s the mark of a special documentary feature and what makes Free Solo worthy of Oscar consideration.

7. THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS

This is a documentary you can enjoy even if you never watch documentaries! This is closer to a movie like Gone Girl, The Usual Suspects, or something Hitchcock would have done rather than a typical documentary. It is absolutely a mystery movie that merely uses the documentary format. This is a movie that everyone could watch and enjoy; not just a bearded movie snob in Austin who drinks white wine at the art house cinema (Note: I went with a dry Prosecco with this viewing…)

6. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

The film had a sense of majesty. Infinity War is the cinematic equivalent of those once in a generation comic book crossovers that change everything and where nothing is safe. The Russo Brothers (Civil War) crafted an amazing existential threat and had the heroes deal with it in a fairly realistic manner. If you need to point someone to an example of “epic” filmmaking, this is pretty much now your standard. I honestly can’t believe it is this good. A near perfect tentpole film!  As a DC fan, this makes me sad to admit…

5. BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE

Dark comedy with the fear of violence sub-genre is my jam and this film NAILS it. Writer and Director Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) delivers a masterpiece. The script was so good, as was the execution. The twists and turns were fun, the characters were rich, and the pacing was brilliant.  This one might not land for everyone, but it did for my weird self…

4. A QUIET PLACE

John Krasinksi (you gotta say “Jim from the Office” here) does a magnificent job as a first time director (he also co-wrote the script) of creating a universe where he could play so heavily with sound, or the lack of sound, to create suspense. So often in horror, we are waiting for the monster to jump out and scare us, and often experience a horrific musical score to increase the terror. Here, the risks are more subtle. I love a good “rules movie” and this was a damn good one. Those aren’t always pulled off well; leaning on the concept as a crutch rather than a springboard to tell a smart story. This movie, like last year’s smart horror entry Get Out, just kept creeping up my list as the year went on.

3. THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

This is a GREAT Coen Brothers film. It begins with as amazing a first fifteen minutes as any film I’ve seen. When the Coens made their other Western entry, the remake of True Grit, they played it a little more straight forward than their signature style. That film was amazing but I am glad they returned to the days of yesteryear to give us the classic Coen treatment.

2. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

I was disappointed when Sasha Baron Cohen dropped out as the film’s front man, but the right man in Rami Malek (Mr Robot) played the colorful Freddie Mercury. He was amazing! I was prepared to enjoy the music but this went way beyond a jukebox musical. The way the film showed the creation of their eclectic catalog was strong, but it was the Live Aid sequence that blows you away. It is literally one of the most iconic moments in Rock history, that anyone can go watch on YouTube, and Malek still slayed it. I had chills during the performance with the moves, the facial gestures, and the thrusting of his fist with gusto. Nailed it!

WATSON’S FILM OF THE YEAR!

1. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

The is the biggest innovation in animation since the original Toy Story, this movie is nearly perfect and it is the biggest surprise of the year. Even the best animated features are more “fun” than “film.” Hell, most live action films fall into this trap. But Spider-Verse was a smart and sophisticated film that happened to be designed by computers. It was compelling start to finish, and also showed the advantages animation for a serious film can have over live-action. This film would have cost $350m to make in a live action setting. It is the perfect blend of artistry, story-telling, and amazing characters. Plus, it is damn funny!

FILMS 11-20

It was a decent group in the Top Ten.  In other years, many of these would have been lower down, but still quality flicks.  The next ten in my list were in the same “solid but not all-world” arena, so it was honestly hard to prioritize films from #7 through #30. They are mostly the same quality, so let’s go one click deeper and look at the rest of the top 20!

11.  DEADPOOL 2

It wasn’t just a carbon copy of the first one. It definitely wasn’t “Deadpool 2: Meet the Fockers.” It was a unique and different movie.

12.  GREEN BOOK

What a wonderful film. The performances and dialogue are simply first rate. Mahershala Ali was particularly Oscar worthy, yet again.  He might be the best actor working today.

13.  MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS

Image result for mary queen of scots

I loved how the film portrays Mary and I REALLY love how Ronan plays her.

14.  IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

This was a strong script with amazing performances. Jenkins knows how to draw out the best in his actors and that is a reputation that will keep getting him great projects with A-list casts. Especially when KiKi Layne becomes a star…as she deserves to be.

15.  ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

The humor and action mixed well. The films was able to be funny while still creating tension and drama. Michael Pena is the real fire here.

16.  ANNIHILATION

The production design and effects were stunning, but it was cerebral plot that carries the day.

17.  BLACK PANTHER

First and foremost is the film’s diversity. Other than Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) and Andy Serkis (um….also The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), the principle cast is made up of actors of African descent. To their credit, Marvel didn’t pressure director Ryan Coogler (Creed) to play it safe with the opportunity. The film explores issues of slavery, colonialism, and discrimination that remain relevant and impactful today.

18.  LOVE, SIMON

Very little not to like here. Love, Simon is a warm, funny, and entertaining.

19.  COULD YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Even better than McCarthey’s performance was that of Richard E. Grant (Game of Thrones); whose scene chewing Jack steals the show.

20.  MISSION IMPOSSIBLE : FALLOUT

The Chinese Food of Franchises. I’ve already forgotten the plot of this movie but I still know I loved it and will gladly see the next installment.  (H/T: To Ryan for the disgusting metaphor).

BOTTOM TEN

Even in a down year, the competition is always tough among the best films.

It is equally difficult for a film to be at the BOTTOM.  Many films flounder, but it takes a special level of crapitude to be at the bottom of a list that reviews 150 films in a year.

So let’s take a look at the stinky turds inhabit the Watson Bottom Ten!

141. NIGHT SCHOOL

I hated seeing the preview of this movie every time it ran; I see a lot of movies and it ran on EVERY one for months! Did Sandler has pass on this one? This feels like a Sandler movie from his Netflix deal. Where he needs to go back as an adult and get his high school diploma. Oh wait… that was Happy Gilmore.

142. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

In the best movies, you are not aware there is a director. The film just flows. In this movie, the shots and cuts are very apparent and heavy handed. You can almost visualize director Lynne Ramsay planning her cool close ups. That puts you so far behind the 8 Ball that it is hard to rebound. This film never did. I was watching this in home video and one time my leg bumped the remote and paused it for 10 seconds. I thought it was a directorial choice. That’s how bad this thing was.

143. THE WEEK OF

This is a dumb comedy but it isn’t even zany like The Ridiculous Six where dumb teens can dig it. There is literally no one who should like this movie. Is Sandler’s Netflix deal up yet? When they came out at the theater, I could avoid them. For some reason, when they are on Netflix, I have to watch them.

144. DEATH WISH

Bruce Willis phones it all in. I didn’t believe for one minute he cared about this paycheck film. He was a total dud. Sad that I would say that the patron saint of Christmas movies was no Charles Bronson.

145. ACTION POINT

It just wasn’t funny. The bits didn’t work. Johnny Knoxville was moderately funny when he was younger, but as a nearly 50 year old man, his shtick has gotten really sad.

146. THE 15:17 TO PARIS

Eastwood is a talented director. I generally enjoy his films, even when I have to ignore some of the politics he sprinkles in. But his skill can’t cover for the choices he made with the script and the actors. This movie is dreadfully amateur.

147. MILE 22

This is the finest Wahlberg™ performance since Transformers 5. All the subtly and nuance of a homeless man masturbating in an alleyway. There is nothing redeemable about this film. It makes the films in the next theater over even worse just by osmosis. Please avoid this stinker so you don’t lose a little piece of your humanity.

148. A WRINKLE IN TIME

The cast… The direction… The plot… The design… The sound mixing… NONE of it worked! The cast ranged from bland to bad but it was Oprah Winfrey (its freaking Oprah) who embodied the film’s worst attributes. Her character and performance were completely self-indulgent and director Ava DuVernay (Selma) gave her every big, overly expositional speech possible. Sadly, Ava DuVernay delivered a bland world, with bland characters. I really wanted to like the film when I first heard about it, but the “over Oprahing” fear turned out to be true and the rest seemed like the B-plot of a bad D & D campaign.

149. SOLO

One of the most charismatic actors ever is replaced with a wooden fence post. Oh my god he was bad. I mean like REALLY bad. Look, forget the comparisons to Harrison. If you had never seen a Star Wars movie, and this was Han Solo’s first appearance, Ehrenreich would still be worse that slamming your balls in a rusty car door. With a terrible actor playing Han Solo, you can’t have a good movie called Solo. It’s like a James Bond movie where Bond is played by Screech from Saved By the Bell. The film felt as unnecessary as you expected and felt very similar to Episode I. There was a vibe to this film that made you feel that at any moment, Ehrenreich was going to say “Meesa, Han Solo-sir!” Such a huge disappointment. Oh, boy! Star Wars is in trouble. Two movies in a row which are utter stinkers.

 150. HOLMES & WATSON

This movie was uniquely awful. I laughed maybe two or three times and I was embarrassed when I did. I generally laugh at everything and this one didn’t cut it. It would be like laughing at commercials for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital!  The film garnered a single digit Rotten Tomatoes score, a D+ in the audience polled CinemaScore and the box office was piddling. These are atrocious numbers…and the film is STILL overrated. This will be a film that both actors have to discuss with media for years to come and defend how bad it was.

Final Thoughts

I hope this year is a blip and not a trend, but it feels like the lack of creativity in Hollywood has permeated from big budget to low budget fare.  There is not one movie that is being discussed for Best Picture that seems worthy of winning.  In some better years, many of those being discussed should even be nominated.

The bright spots in film this year (the MCU, Documentaries, innovative animation, and some surprise Netflix entries among the dreck) were far outweighed by too many bloated remakes…reboots…retreads….

Sadly, Hollywood had a record year at the box office, so we might be in trouble.

To complete the picture, after the jump is my full list of 2018 movies complete with all my 150 reviews from the year for those who want to see the complete year’s rankings.

Enjoy and see you in 2019!

Full List

RANK MOVIE REVIEW
1 SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE My Review
2 BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY My Review
3 THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS My Review
4 A QUIET PLACE My Review
5 BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE My Review
6 AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR My Review
7 THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS My Review
8 FREE SOLO My Review
9 SEARCHING My Review
10 WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? My Review
11 DEADPOOL 2 My Review
12 GREEN BOOK My Review
13 MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS My Review
14 IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK My Review
15 ANT-MAN AND THE WASP My Review
16 ANNIHILATION My Review
17 BLACK PANTHER My Review
18 LOVE, SIMON My Review
19 COULD YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? My Review
20 MISSION IMPOSSIBLE : FALLOUT My Review
21 LEAVE NO TRACE My Review
22 22 JULY My Review
23 THE HATE U GIVE My Review
24 VICE My Reviews
25 CRAZY RICH ASIANS My Review
26 TEEN TITANS GO TO THE MOVIES My Review
27 THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN My Review
28 RBG My Review
29 A SIMPLE FAVOR My Review
30 A STAR IS BORN My Review
31 GAME NIGHT My Review
32 AQUAMAN My Review
33 DIRECT MEASURES My Review
34 THE PERFECT BID My Review
35 RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET My Review
36 BLACKKKLANSMAN My Review
37 THE PUFFS My Review
38 WHEN WE FIRST MET My Review
39 ISLE OF DOGS My Review
40 PADDINGTON 2 My Review
41 PETER RABBIT My Review
42 MARY POPPINS RETURNS My Review
43 FIRST REFORMED My Review
44 SORRY TO BOTHER YOU My Review
45 HEREDITARY My Review
46 OPERATION FINALE My Review
47 HALLOWEEN My Review
48 A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE My Review
49 THE FAVOURITE My Review
50 GRINGO My Review
51 FIRST MAN My Review
52 THOROUGHBREDS My Review
53 CREED II My Review
54 WHITNEY My Review
55 TAG My Review
56 THE PREDATOR My Review
57 THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN THE WALLS My Review
58 PATERNO My Review
59 UNCLE DREW My Review
60 ROMA My Review
61 OVERBOARD My Review
62 EIGTH GRADE My Review
63 CHAPPAQUIDICK My Review
64 MERCURY 13 My Review
65 ALPHA My Review
66 INCREDIBLES 2 My Review
67 SEEING ALLRED My Review
68 THE LAST YEAR My Review
69 WIDOWS My Review
70 THE DEATH OF STALIN My Review
71 THE MEG My Review
72 OUTLAW KING My Review
73 BLOCKERS My Review
74 HEARTS BEAT LOUD My Review
75 THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN My Review
76 BUMBLEBEE My Review
77 SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO My Review
78 ADRIFT My Review
79 BERUIT My Review
80 I KILL GIANTS My Review
81 TOMB RAIDER My Review
82 THE RACHEL DIVIDE My Review
83 TAKE YOUR PILLS My Review
84 12 STRONG My Review
85 MORTAL ENGINES My Review
86 SPRING BROKE My Review
87 BJORG VS MCENROE My Review
88 SUICIDE SQUAD: HELL TO PAY My Review
89 OCEANS 8 My Review
90 BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT My Review
91 THE CLAPPER My Review
92 MOWGLI My Review
93 HUNTER-KILLER My Review
94 JURASSIC WORLD : FALLEN KINGDOM My Review
95 READY PLAYER ONE My Review
96 RED SPARROW My Review
97 THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME My Review
98 AT ETERNITY’S GATE My Review
99 CANDY JAR My Review
100 SKYSCRAPER My Review
101 MAZE RUNNER: DEATH CURE My Review
102 THE GRINCH My Review
103 VENOM My Review
104 FLOWERS My Review
105 FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD My Review
106 FREEDOM FIGHTERS : THE RAY My Review
107 DEN OF THIEVES My Review
108 HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 My Review
109 STROKES OF GENIUS My Review
110 BLACK CODE My Review
111 THE HAPPYLAND MURDERS My Review
112 EARLY MAN My Review
113 THE ROAD MOVIE My Review
114 HOTEL ARTEMIS My Review
115 NEAT: THE STORY OF BOURBON My Review
116 CRIME + PUNISHMENT My Review
117 KIN My Review
118 IRREPLACEABLE YOU My Review
119 THE RITUAL My Review
120 MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN My Review
121 THE OPEN HOUSE My Review
122 THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX My Review
123 BENJI My Review
124 BREAKING IN My Review
125 THE POLKA KING My Review
126 GAME OVER, MAN! My Review
127 EQUALIZER 2 My Review
128 THE COMMUTER My Review
129 LIFE OF THE PARTY My Review
130 SUPER TROOPERS 2 My Review
131 ALIENS ATE MY HOMEWORK My Review
132 6 BALLOONS My Review
133 MUTE My Review
134 CHRISTOPHER ROBIN My Review
135 BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB My Review
136 I FEEL PRETTY My Review
137 RAMPAGE My Review
138 PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING My Review
139 BLUMHOUSE’S TRUTH OR DARE My Review
140 SHERLOCK GNOMES My Review
141 NIGHT SCHOOL My Review
142 YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE My Review
143 THE WEEK OF My Review
144 DEATH WISH My Review
145 ACTION POINT My Review
146 THE 15:17 TO PARIS My Review
147 MILE 22 My Review
148 A WRINKLE IN TIME My Review
149 SOLO My Review
150 HOLMES AND WATSON My Review

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