It's year end list season! Everything people have ever seen, heard, done, and even eaten is being ranked this time of year. Who am I to buck a social trend?
Already ranked the best horror movies of the year. CLICK HERE if you missed that gem.
Now it's time to unveil my list of the most underrated movies from the past 365 days. Movies that you maybe missed in the theater, or maybe haven't even heard of. These movies deserve special recognition.
10. - HEARTS BEAT LOUD
Turns out Nick Offerman CAN play more than one type of character. He plays the single father of a daughter set to go off to college. He owns a failing record store, and one night during a jam session, he and his daughter make a track & on a whim post it to Spotify and people take notice. What follows is the heart warming story of fatherhood and what you'd do for the people and things you love most. Great supporting turns from Ted Danson and Toni Collette.
Hearts Beat Loud is available to rent on VOD.
9. - CAM
A psychological techno-thriller about an online cam girl (yes, it's a thing) who has her identity stolen and maybe even cloned. Shocking twists and turns lead to a "I have to know how this ends" type movie that keeps you guessing to the very end. Full of just enough sex and violence to make genre fans happy, Cam realistically portrays the world of online cam modeling as well as current fears of turning everything over to the internet.
Cam is streaming on Netflix.
8. - SUMMER OF 84
Neighborhood rumors are commonplace. But when one kid believes the myth that his neighbor is a serial killer, he sets out to prove it to everyone. Shades of Stranger Things, The Goonies, and Rear Window make Summer of 84 a campy thrill ride. Full of great dialogue and suspense (the ol' sneak into the alleged killer's house only to have him quickly return bit is done here). Summer of 84 feels like wrapping yourself in a warm nostalgia blanket. Things that would normally feel derivative feel welcome. Sometimes, you just want to hear the hits. Summer of 84 is often a really good cover band of all your 80s movie hits.
Summer of 84 is streaming on Shudder.
7. - TULLY
Tully earned Charlize Theron a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress and you likely haven't seen or heard of it. Tully tells the tale of a mom struggling to "have it all". Balancing the workload of a career and motherhood seems too much at times. Her oldest is entering special needs programs, the newborn is screaming constantly, she's tired, her husband is of no help. So she hires a nanny named Tully to help around the house and she is magical, not in the Mary Poppins way, but in a more everything gets done perfectly kind of way. Almost too perfect. It's funny, heart warming, and tells a story that (for some reason) isn't being told at all in American cinema. Being a mother is difficult. Postpartum is real. No need to sweep it under the rug like its a dirty secret.
Tully is available to rent on VOD.
6. - ANNIHILATION
Something is destroying the planet, and no it's not global warming. A group of scientists (all women, without being all "look at us, we're women") set off into a forest to fight whatever it is. The journey is frightening, surprising, and very weird. Somehow it all works in one of the best sci-fi movies of the year. From the director of "Ex Machina" and based on a trilogy of books that allegedly are VERY unfaithful to said books. Annihilation never does what you think it's going to do, it might not make sense as it unfolds, but if you like movies that make you think, Annihilation is for you.
Annihilation is streaming on Epix or available to buy on VOD.
5. - REVENGE
This movie is in French, but don't worry after the first act, there's very little dialogue. So you're not reading throughout the movie. With a little more effort, this probably could have been a silent movie and worked just the same. Revenge is the story of a woman spending a weekend with her lover at a lavish countryside house. The man's two friends come over and attack the girl. She hunts the three men down in the most violent ways possible. It's not for people with a weak stomach, but it is a powerful story about refusing to be a victim and taking your own life back. Vivid colors and lots of action make Revenge one of the best movies this year that you haven't heard of.
Revenge is streaming on Shudder.
4. - SEARCHING
The "kidnapped daughter" movie has been done to death. The father tries desperately to find his daughter, he eventually finds her daughter before the police, and you know this movie. You've seen it before. What "Searching" does differently is it plays the entire movie out over various apps on a computer screen. The whole thing. Every shot takes place on a screen of some kind. Facebook search, Face Time app, live streaming a search, The innovative presentation adds a fresh coat of paint on what is usually a really good movie. This is no exception.
Searching is available to rent on VOD.
3. - FUNNY STORY
Debuting at the Omaha Film Festival, Funny Story is a dramedy about an absent father who in attempt to reconnect with his daughter, invites himself on a camping trip. That trip just happens to be the daughter's wedding...to another woman. Awkward hilarity ensues. A well constructed cast, great writing, and a lot of heart made Funny Story one of the biggest surprises of 2018. Sadly, it never picked up distribution so no one can see it. Hopefully that changes in 2019.
2. - FIRST REFORMED
Any cinephile you follow is singing the praises of this drama, I am no exception. I went in thinking I wouldn't like this movie, but I was very wrong. Directed by the writer of "Taxi Driver", we have a kindred spirit sort of sequel to that iconic 70s film. About a pastor (Ethan Hawke, in the best role of his career) who learns of global warming and how he's just a cog in the wheel of the machine. Hawke decides to fight the machine by any means necessary. A quiet and understated type of movie, First Reformed feels like it could happen anywhere. And that's the scariest part of all.
First Reformed is streaming on Amazon Prime.
1. - WIDOWS
This might be a stretch. But I don't care, it's my list. When you make a list you can set the parameters however you like. The story of three women widowed by their criminal husbands can be as deep or as shallow as you want it to be. This movie can be the tale of corruption in American politics or just a really cool shoot 'em up heist movie. That's the cool part. The cherry on top is the Oscar-worthy performance from Viola Davis, the masterful writing/directing from Steve McQueen, and a cast that are all trying to one up each other. Go. See. Widows.
Widows is in theaters now.