These were the best, worst and weirdest movies of summer 2018

  • 1
  • 6 min to read
Summer movies main

Rumors of the movies’ demise were greatly exaggerated.

Around this time last year, the Hollywood press was freaking out.

The worst summer box office in decades! No one goes to theaters anymore! Movies are dead! Ahhh!

But one year later, such doomsaying looks a bit premature. The U.S. box office has bounced back — up nearly 13 percent over this time in 2017. And the reason is fairly simple: Last summer’s movie lineup suffered from a series of misfires and flops. This summer’s did not.

With the exception of the misstep of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” this summer was a steady stream of success stories.

The big ones (“Avengers: Infinity War,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”) performed as well as hoped. Others (“Incredibles 2”) outpaced expectations. And a few surprise hits (“The Meg,” “Crazy Rich Asians”) boosted the cumulative tally further still.

And yet ... from a critical perspective, I thought this summer was kind of a drag. It wasn’t a bad crop of movies overall, but I can’t help but look back on the season with an overwhelming sense of “meh, it was alright."

The reason, I think, is that this summer, even more than most, was dominated by the mushy, middling mega-franchises — those $200 million to $300 million monstrosities that appeal to all ages and nationalities and levels of geekdom.

By the time the dust settles on this summer’s domestic box office, only one original film (not a sequel or prequel) will crack the top 10: “Crazy Rich Asians.” Now, some of those sequels were good and some of them were not, but nearly all of them were hits, meaning that Hollywood will not be shying away from its increasingly tiresome gameplan anytime soon. I might be feeling franchise fatigue, but almost everyone else appears to be ready for more. This makes me feel lonely, but, eh, it can't be helped.

That said, this summer also gave us the best blockbuster since “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a couple of wonderful romcoms and one of the more stellar runs of indies and docs in recent memory.

Here’s the best and the worst and the weirdest that summer movie season 2018 had to offer.

Note: “Avengers: Infinity War” technically debuted in the spring, but for our purposes we’re calling it a summer movie because, well, c’mon. Also, “Crazy Rich Asians” will very well crack the summer’s top 10 once its domestic box office run is done.

* * *

The summer’s best (big) movie

“Mission: Impossible — Fallout”

Most of this summer’s action was decidedly unexciting, placing a bunch of movie stars in CG suits against CG sets. But “Fallout,” the sixth entry in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, had practical effects, on-location shooting and jaw-dropping stunt work. The movie threw Tom Cruise off buildings and out of airplanes. Cruise jumped and punched and learned how to fly a helicopter for us. He did it because he knows that audiences still deserve a little showmanship. Cruise will one day die for his art, one day die for our sins.

Runner-up: “Incredibles 2”

The summer’s best indie

“First Reformed”

Now, you wouldn’t think that a thriller from the writer of “Taxi Driver” and starring Ethan Hawke as a pastor distressed about the impending apocalypse of climate change, you wouldn't think that movie would make for agreeable summer viewing. And you’d be right! “First Reformed” is a scorcher, the cinematic scream into the void that 2018 deserves.

Runner-up: “Eighth Grade”

Winners: Sequels and comic book movies

Almost all of them did extremely well at the box office, particularly “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Incredibles 2.”

Losers: Audiences who would like to see fewer sequels and comic book movies

As your representative, I would like to say, “Ugh.”

The summer’s worst movie

“The Happytime Murders”

A movie from hell. An R-rated puppet movie so mind-bogglingly unfunny that it might briefly impair your ability to laugh/feel joy/want to keep breathing.

Runner-up: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

Future cult classic

“Upgrade”

A man who looks like Tom Hardy gets paralyzed from the neck down, has an AI computer chip implanted in his spine and becomes the ultimate killing machine. This sci-fi horror movie was among the nuttiest and most entertaining films of the summer, a Verhoeven-y dystopia with a side of slapstick.

Runner-up: “Gotti” (an incomprehensible and unintentionally hysterical biopic starring John Travolta as the infamous mafioso)

Winner: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

It made a lot of money.

Loser: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

But it was terrible.

Best performance

Ethan Hawke in “First Reformed”

After decades of being one of our coolest and most consistent actors (and genre movie stars), Hawke turned in the performance of his career, playing a misanthropic man of God with some ... unconventional ideas about how to save the planet.

Runner up: Vanessa Kirby in “Mission: Impossible — Fallout”

If you can simultaneously steal a scene from Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill and Rebecca Ferguson, you've automatically earned your movie-star certification.

Best scene

That one scene in “Hereditary”

You know the one I’m talking about. The scene in the car? The allergic reaction? How the older brother just drives home and goes to bed after? Toni Collette’s horrified groan of despair that morning? Followed by the close-up of ... well, you know?

Runner-up: The “Mission: Impossible - Fallout” bathroom brawl

Weirdest movie: “Sorry to Bother You”

Boots Riley’s feature debut — starring Lakeith Stanfield as a telemarketer — starts as a gonzo satire of late capitalism and abruptly pivots to an even darker, stranger place. Bold, righteous and so insane I’m still shocked that it exists.

Runner-up: “Christopher Robin”

Disney's Winnie-the-Pooh movie is as much about workers’ rights as “Sorry to Bother You.”

Best cry

“Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

Still crying.

Winner: Romcoms

They’re back! Sort of. In addition to the success of “Crazy Rich Asians,” the summer saw two wonderful romcoms, courtesy of Netflix: the high school-set “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and the nearly-as-delightful “Set It Up,” in which a pair of long-suffering office assistants hook up their bosses and end up falling for each other in the process. Both movies are gems worth seeking out.

Loser: Comedies

Outside of the romcom, comedies struggled. This was the first summer in more than 20 years in which no traditional comedy grossed more than $100 million at the domestic box office, unless you’re counting “Ocean’s 8.” But nothing else really took off this summer. Not “Tag,” “Book Club” or “Life of the Party.” Not “Overboard,” “Uncle Drew” or “The Spy Who Dumped Me.” One problem? In a whisper: None of those movies were very good.

But go back earlier in the year and even critically acclaimed R-rated comedies like “Game Night” and “Blockers” didn’t make much noise.

Most prolific performer

Josh Brolin

He was a busy man this season — the villain in “Avengers: Infinity War,” the antagonist in “Deadpool 2” and antihero in “Sicario: Day of the Soldado.”

Biggest disappointment

“Sicario: Day of the Soldado”

One of the best films of the past decade gets a sequel that doesn’t even seem to understand what made the first “Sicario” great.

Winner: Indies and docs

This was a summer filled with superb specialty films, many of which found an audience in Omaha and elsewhere. Docs like “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” “RBG” and “Three Identical Strangers” made this one of the most exciting years for documentaries in some time. And excellent smaller films like “BlacKkKlansman,” “Eighth Grade,” “Sorry to Bother You” and “Leave No Trace” offered something adult-er than all that comic book nonsense. Also, a shout out to the underappreciated Charlize Theron dramedy “Tully.”

Loser: “Star Wars”

The underperforming box office take of the troubled and extremely expensive Han Solo prequel spells uncertainty for Disney’s “forever franchise.” It didn’t help that the film was dull and useless.

Winner: Streaming

Hulu had “Minding the Gap,” a tremendous “Hoop Dreams”-like doc about three young skaters who struggle to make ends meet in their Rust-Belt hometown. And Netflix had the aforementioned originals “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Set It Up.” Netflix is only going to get more serious with its original movies this fall, as the exclusive home to new films from Alfonso Cuaron, Paul Greengrass and the Coen brothers.

Losers: The Rock, Mark Wahlberg, Johnny Knoxville, Melissa McCarthy

For their domestic duds of “Skyscraper,” “Mile 22,” “Action Point,” “Life of the Party” and “The Happytime Murders.”

Future movie that time forgot: “Hotel Artemis”

The “John Wick”-inspired action thriller starring Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown and Jeff Goldblum just sort of came and went upon its June release, grossing less than $7 million domestic.

Winner: Gabrielle Union

Her starring-role thriller “Breaking In” wasn’t all that good and wasn’t a huge success, but it did make back nearly 10 times its modest production budget. In summation: Omaha.

Loser: me

For having to sit through “Jurassic World 2,” “Solo,” “The Meg,” “Skyscraper,” “The Equalizer 2,” “Deadpool 2” and (shudder) “The Happytime Murders.”