This year has gifted audiences with hundreds of Certified Fresh gems – brilliant indie fare like Leave No Trace and Sorry To Bother You, mainstream smashes like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and too many super-Fresh documentaries to count. But, as with every year, these Certified Fresh treats were the exception, not the rule. The bulk of movies that landed in theaters and in homes this year earned the big green splat, designated Rotten by Tomatometer-approved critics who proved indifferent to their charms.
And yet, just because a film fails to make the grade with critics, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth your time. It might have been underappreciated, been so bad it’s good, or featured something – an exquisite performance, an incredible scene – buried somewhere under all the rot. Here, the Rotten Tomatoes staff turns to the Tomatometer and says… “Huh? But we loved that movie.” (Though not unanimously – not everyone on staff could get behind every film on the list).
Behold, the 2018 Rotten movies that we – well, many of us – loved, ranked from almost-Fresh to almost-zero.
#1So. Close. To. Freshness. We have no idea why this sequel to the low-budget 2015 hit bombed so badly at the box office, because it’s kinda great (if you, er, unfriend, any sense of disbelief you bring to the moviegoing experience). It’s nasty stuff, with some fun twists and a ludicrous use of Bitcoin, and the young cast – including Get Out maid Betty Gabriel – does a solid job of ratcheting up the tension with their increasingly shocked-face cam shows.
#2Chance the Rapper has had his issues with Rotten Tomatoes in the past, but we have zero issues with Chance, who is charming as all hell as a pizza delivery boy in this bizarre horror-comedy from A24. The film is definitely a pizza with way too many toppings – Werewolves! Witches! Mozzarella! – but sometimes (say, late at night, when the munchies kick in), that’s exactly what you crave.
#3First Purge, best Purge? Not according to the Tomatometer, which places The Purge: Anarchy at the top of this franchise heap, with a score of 56%. But this latest film, which focuses on the first experimental Purge, conducted on Staten Island in New York City, is just as good as its predecessors if you ask us. It’s probably the most political of all the films and, while not as scary as some other Purge films, has some killer action set pieces and a star turn by Insecure’s Y’Lan Noel.
#4We could watch this cast – Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenbergen – read the phone book, and let’s face it, the rather rote script for this rom-com isn’t a far cry from that tome. But the women are absolutely spectacular, especially Bergen as a judge trying online dating for the first time. Drink all the Chardonnay and indulge.
#5What have Dwayne Johnson movies been missing all these years? Giant animals – and lots of them. And, in gorilla George, audiences are given a rather charming one, at that. It’s all as fun as it is dumb, and while Rotten, it is, as of now, the highest-rated video game-based movie, according to the Tomatometer.
#6Who would have thunk it? Alicia Vikander: a better action star than Angelina Jolie. This reboot, from The Wave director Roar Uthaug, split critics right down the middle, with half giving it a thumbs up – mostly for the tenacious Vikander – and half giving it a shrug for its indifferent action, its lack of ambition, and for being another origin story. We were feeling the girl power and have our fingers crossed Vikander gets another swing at Croft, without any of those origin-tale burdens.
#7It’s no Spy, but it’s a damn good time thanks largely to the work of Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis, who play two Millennials caught up in an international espionage plot. As she did in Ghostbusters, McKinnon essentially runs away from the film, and makes a strong case to any casting agents looking for a comic lead.
#8Fallen Kingdom is essentially two different movies smashed together: an island adventure and a haunted mansion thriller – and it’s the former that we actually liked. The “save the dinosaurs” angle was something we hadn’t seen in the franchise, and director J.A. Boyana delivered genuine spectacle in the volcano-eruption-dino-stampede sequence. If you skip the movie’s second half, pretend the DNA plot twist didn’t happen, and stay for the end-credits sequence, Fallen Kingdom is a blast.
#10The biggest complaint about The Meg was that it wasn’t quite dumb enough, that it should have leaned even harder into its B-movie silliness. Agreed. But there is just enough of that silliness in this long-in-development movie about a 75-foot shark to make it a good enough time – and the gratuitous shots of a shirtless Jason Statham and a fabulous turn by a dog named Kelly push it to near greatness.
#11This completely earnest and extremely ambitious adaptation failed to connect with critics and audiences at the box office, but we’re betting on a long afterlife in home entertainment. Why? Director Ava DuVernay conjures visuals that are like nothing you’ve seen – especially impressive when so many family action adventures seem to crib off of the template set by Tim Burton with Alice and Wonderland – and the father-daughter relationship at its heart is incredibly moving. Rewards come with repeat viewings.
#12Like its Rotten predecessor, we have a feeling genre fans are going to look back on this short-and-brutal (if not especially necessary) sequel as an underappreciated gem. This time, a family of four is stalked by three motive-free masked killers in a caravan resort, and their style of mayhem is decidedly ’80s slasher. Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman (son of Bill) give standout performances as the kids.
#13This stripped-down take on the Lisbeth Salander legend feels like it should have been released 10 or so years ago – and if it had, it might not have bombed so hard with critics and audiences alike. But still, it’s a more than serviceable thriller, a kind of James Bond take on Stieg Larsson’s famed character, with director Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe) delivering the set-piece goods, LaKeith Stanfield supplying some wit, and Claire Foy in excellent form as our tough, bad man-punishing protagonist.
#14To go by the Tomatometer, Grindelwald is the Cars 2 of the Potterverse – the first Rotten entry in the bundled Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts franchise, and the first time that people began to question JK Rowling’s Midas touch. And yet, while it’s undoubtedly all a bit stodgy, there are pleasures aplenty here for Potterheads: incredible visuals, inventive beasts, Ezra Miller, and – just as with the similarly groundwork-laying Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 –the promise of more exciting adventures to come.
#15Critics and commentators were split on the movie’s message – was it a celebration of women of all shapes, even as it made jokes at their expense, but also as it was in on those jokes, and was mostly empowering? – and there’s a ton of product porn to turn you on, or off, depending on your bent. But Amy Schumer’s commitment, her smart pairing with up-and-comer Rory Scovel, and a hilariously out-of-her-comfort-zone Michelle Williams as a chirpy-voiced cosmetics CEO, make this a solid rom-com to tide you over between your repeat Devil Wears Prada viewings.
#16The Tomatometer says 28%, the Audience says 85% – and well, we’re not picking sides. It’s a trash heap, sure, a total mess, and what even is this thing? But damn if we didn’t get a kick out of it. Most credit must go to Eddie Brock himself, Tom Hardy, who keeps a committed straight face throughout, and makes this bigger-budget Upgrade a dark, twisted, and bizarre treat. Bring on Venom 2.
#18OK, “love” might be a slightly strong word for how we feel about this bucket of tears splashed all over us late in the year by Dan “This Is Us” Fogelman. But there are moments and performances in this teetering-on-so-bad-its-essential melodrama that are genuinely strong. And if you feel like a good cry – like, a Beaches–level cry – Life Itself delivers.