2018 is coming to a close, so the time has come to look back on the year that was for the movie industry. Throughout the year, a handful of films truly dominated the discussion and coverage. But, there were also several films that got lost in the shuffle and have wound up being largely forgotten as a result, or just never had the push necessary to get the exposure they deserved.
Blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther took over the first half of the year, while Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Mission: Impossible - Fallout controlled the summer. Now that the year is nearing the end, the surprisingly great final few weeks sees Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bumblebee, Aquaman, and Mary Poppins Returns enter theaters and the forefront of pop culture conversations. All of these latest blockbusters have been largely well-received, and the earlier mentions proved to dominate the box office as well.
However, with so much attention going to the blockbuster titles, not to mention other tentpole movies like Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, some other films can be forgotten. But with the amount of movies that come out every single year, there's a variety of reasons for why certain titles slipped by unnoticed, without the attention they deserved, or even to lesser acclaim. So, here's seven of the most underrated movies of 2018 - and a few underseen ones.
- This Page: Underrated Movies of 2018, #7 - #5
- Page 2: Underrated Movies of 2018, #4 - #1
- Page 3: Top 5 Underseen Movies
7. Uncle Drew
Uncle Drew is the perfect example of a simple movie that knows exactly what it is. Based on the old Pepsi commercials featuring NBA All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving in old-man-makeup, playing pick up basketball against unknowing strangers, this is a movie based around his Uncle Drew persona. The film is just an excuse to get Irving paired up with several former NBA stars, such as Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, and Reggie Miller, to goof off as they try to win a tournament.
Surprisingly, it mostly works. Uncle Drew's cast's chemistry makes the movie successful in delivering on several laughs. The story is straightforward and follows Get Out star Lil Rel Howery. With smaller comedic roles for Tiffany Haddish and Nick Kroll, Uncle Drew is a good time but never found the audience it deserved, receiving just a slightly positive consensus of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's probably a movie for NBA fans of all generations, first and foremost, thanks to all the basketball references, but the ridiculous nature of Uncle Drew should also be enough for everyone to enjoy.
Even with Tom Hardy in the lead, Venom received a critical lashing right from the get go. Currently sitting at a 29% Rotten Tomatoes critics score, Venom has earned some brutal reviews. It is a true origin story for one of Marvel Comics' most iconic anti-heroes. Many questioned the reason for this movie to exist without any ties to Spider-Man, though. Despite this, Sony's first installment in their Spider-Man villain cinematic universe has found quite a following - as evident by the film grossing well over $800 million at the box office.
While many believed they were laughing at Venom, what they may not have realized is that they were laughing with the giant, weirdly humorous symbiote. Hardy went all out for this performance, even pulling double duty on the voice of Venom. Director Ruben Fleischer is able to strike the right tone and deliver on some pretty entertaining superhero action. The film has already achieved cult hit status in North American, but Venom just may be an underrated movie as a whole given the consensus, despite it becoming one of the highest grossing movies of 2018 thanks to how much money it pulled in international markets.
5. Bohemian Rhapsody
The life of Freddie Mercury and the early days of Queen are explored in Bohemian Rhapsody, but only 62% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes found it to be a favorable portrayal. The movie has been a box office hit despite this, and it's a bit odd that the overall reaction hasn't been as fond. Rami Malek's lead performance as Mercury is fabulous and should net him an Academy Award nomination, if not a win. The movie may be hurt thanks to the involvement of Bryan Singer and not concentrating more on Freddie Mercury's sexuality for some, but Bohemian Rhapsody as a whole is a musically filled exploration of Freddie and the band through the highs and lows.
The supporting cast is solid, with Lucy Boynton having the best performance of them as Freddie's lover Mary Austin. With the Queen concert scenes - especially the final Live Aid concert - delivering on the much-needed scale, Bohemian Rhapsody has the performances, story, and music necessary for it to be a crowd-pleaser. It has had a mixed reception instead, earning it a surprising spot on our underrated list.
Page 2 of 3: Top Four Underrated Films Of 2018
4. Ocean's Eight
Although Ocean's Eight did receive generally positive reviews at 68% on Rotten Tomatoes, the buzz around it didn't seem to last, which is shame for a film that is clever and boasts a great cast. It follows a similar formula as previous Ocean's movies, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Director Gary Ross is trying replicate Steven Soderbergh's style from the previous trilogy throughout and does so successfully. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett headline the all-star female cast and have a great chemistry between the two of them.
Anne Hathaway turns in a scene-stealing performance as an actress/model at the center of the crew's heist: robbing the Met Gala of the most expensive piece of jewelry around. Rounding out said crew is Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson, and Rihanna, each of whom add a different personality and style to the overall film. Ocean's Eight doesn't reinvent the heist genre, but it is an entertaining film from the summer that deserves a bit more recognition than it got.
It has been a great year for comedies, but Tag appears to be the forgotten and disregarded one of the bunch, thus making it underrated from the get-go. There's a simple, outlandish premise of a group of friends playing the same game of tag for decades, but the true story nature of it makes all the more surprising. And this isn't just a film full of laughs, as it also packs an emotional ending. The ensemble comedy features several talented comedians, like Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, and Hannibal Buress, who are played opposite with comedic turns from bigger stars Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner. Both show sides to them we don't typically get, while Isla Fisher may once again turn in the scene-stealing comedic performance. Despite all of this, Tag only received a 56% Rotten Tomatoes score and has not been put near the same level of Game Night or Blockers, even though it is arguably just as enjoyable as both.
2. Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Tasked with closing out the franchise, Maze Runner: The Death Cure may have actually sent the series out on its highest note. The franchise as a whole is largely underrated, so its placement here is just more of the same, and justified after receiving just a 43% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Death Cure actually does a great job at blending the post-apocalyptic setting with the YA approach, adding to the well-executed, action-filled finale. Director Wes Ball delivers many of the franchise's best action sequences in the final chapter, with the opening heist being particularly memorable.
The movie is also a great showcase for rising star Dylan O'Brien, who once again proves his ability as an action star here. It may be an even more impressive outing for him after the nearly fatal accident he was involved in with the opening stunt. But the talent doesn't stop there, as fellow franchise stars Ki Hong Lee and Thomas Brodie-Sangster turn in their best work in the series. The Death Cure leans on the strong start that came before and shows just how much the cast and Ball have grown.
1. Tomb Raider
The most underrated movie of the year is Tomb Raider. After two subpar movies in the early 2000s, led by Angelina Jolie, and the well-document rough history of Hollywood adapting video games, there were not a lot of reasons to be optimistic about another big screen attempt. Then the reboot landed Alicia Vikander, who turns out to be the perfect Lara Croft. The Oscar-winning actress brought a physicality to the role that was much needed, and her physical transformation to becoming a lean but powerful hero added another layer to the movie's fights.
The action is slick across the board to ensure Tomb Raider has the adventure and thrill fans were hoping to see. It is in many of these sequences that Vikander's commitment to the role really shine, as she isn't afraid of being thrown around or getting her hands dirty. But going beyond Vikander, she has strong chemistry with Daniel Wu. There's even a fun, sinister performance from Walton Goggins for everyone to enjoy. With a 51% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and a worldwide gross of $273 million, it will be a real shame if this is the only installment of the wannabe franchise.
Page 3 of 3: The 5 Underseen Movies Of 2018
Director Chloé Zhao rocketed to stardom within the independent movie circle after directing The Rider. A small movie based on the true story of its actual lead Brady Jandreau, the film follows a bull rider on the road to recovery after a nearly fatal riding accident. The film takes on the quiet country life, but also sees a man trying to rediscover who he is and what his purpose is if he can't ride any more. Not only is Brady making his acting debut playing himself, but his real life father and sister fill in the same roles for the movie. Zhao has complete control of the film and looks great till the very end.
With a crisp 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, The Rider is a critical darling that just never quite made the leap to being in the awards conversation, even though it is certainly good enough to do so. People are taking notice in the quality of the film making though, as Zhao has been tapped to direct The Eternals for Marvel Studios next. The Rider is certainly an underseen gem on the year, but that will hopefully change over time. For those interested, it is currently available to rent or buy on most digital platforms.
Another favorite for almost anyone who has seen it - as evident by a 93% Rotten Tomatoes score - is Blindspotting, which is criminally underseen, even though it is easy to see why. It is directed by Carlos López Estrada, who is making his feature film debut with this effort, after previously tackling several short films. The biggest name that Blindspotting has is Daveed Diggs from Hamilton fame. He not only stars in the movie as a Collin, a mover on the final days of parole, but he also co-wrote the script. His co-writer Rafael Casal also pulls double-duty as Diggs' co-star, playing Collin's best friend Miles, who may not be the best influence.
As Collin tries to turn his life around, he must try to leave his old ways behind him, but also confront the Oakland lifestyle and community. With Diggs' specialized rap-talking sequences adding something unique to the film and striking visuals, the subject matter Blindspotting then tackles ties it all up nicely. For those interested, it is currently available to rent or buy on most digital platforms.
Another small movie that got a lot of praise, but still needs more people to see it is Eighth Grade. Following the story of middle school student Kayla Day, she is attempting to break out of her introverted shell before going to high school. She starts a vlog to offer advice to kids on how to be confident and cool, even though she may need the advice more than anyone. The movie perfectly captures the middle school experience, and how the modern day integration of technology has changed it. There's social commentary galore and a brilliant exploration of a father-daughter relationship between Josh Hamilton and Elsie Fisher, with Fisher delivering a particularly memorable performance.
First-time director Bo Burnham excellently delivers on everything Eighth Grade is going for. Everyone will be able to identify with someone in the story, but especially Kayla. The charm and awkwardness of it all results in arguably one of the best films of the year - clearly shown with its 99% Rotten Tomatoes score. For those interested, it is currently available to rent or buy on most digital platforms.
Blumhouse's insane action revenge flick Upgrade had a bigger audience than the previously mentioned films, but is still largely not as known as it deserves to be. Director Leigh Whannell shifts from his horror roots after Insidious: Chapter 3 to demonstrate some of the most unique action sequences of the year. This is largely possible thanks to the film's plot that follows a man named Grey getting an advanced A.I. surgically implanted in him that serves as the ultimate form of protection. When activated, Grey is almost impossible to defeat, which is useful as he takes on his vengeful quest.
Logan Marshall-Green takes the lead as Grey and delivers a performance that requires a lot out of him, as he has to, in some cases, perform intense fight sequences but act as though he has no idea what his body is doing. It is a genuinely fun role that has brought about plenty of Venom comparisons due to the buddy nature of the relationship between a man and a voice in his head. The combination of this, the action, and an inventive world, Upgrade is a must-see for action movie fans. For those interested, it is currently available to rent or buy on most digital platforms.
The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give found a small audience in theaters, but as its 97% Rotten Tomatoes score indicates, it is more than worthy of more attention. The movie follows Starr, a teenage girl with an identity crisis thanks to her two seemingly different lives. The difficulty in finding her true voice is central to the film after she is a witness to a police shooting, where her unarmed friend is wrongfully murdered by a cop. She slowly becomes more involved as she tries to do what she sees as right. Amandla Stenberg from The Hunger Games fame takes the dramatic turn here and truly shines with the hard-hitting material she's given.
The supporting cast is filled wonderfully by Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Common, K.J. Apa, and Issa Rae. In a year full of socially relevant films such as these, The Hate U Give never picked up enough momentum, but is absolutely worth checking out. Unfortunately, it is not yet available to rent or buy digitally, but may still be in some small, select theaters.