Ah, the summer. After the early year doldrums, moviegoers can finally sink their teeth into a feast that includes numerous sequels, reboots, adaptations, and crappy horror movies. Provided your MoviePass still works, there’s a whole lot to choose from. Sure, you can argue that summer blockbusters are more formulaic than they’ve ever been—but they’re still damn fun. Besides, just wait until Oscar season starts, when cold, calculated, awards bait begins to populate the theaters.
When talking about our favorite summer movies with the rest of the good people of Flixist, I found myself conflicted. On one hand, Sorry to Bother You was one of the most unexpected and original films that I had seen in a long time—my head went with the Boots Riley film. But my heart was won over by Mission: Impossible—Fallout, for two big reasons.
Those reasons would be Henry Cavill’s left arm and Henry Cavill’s right arm.
I still find myself shocked on a daily basis that the Mission: Impossible franchise is not only still good after all these years, but consistently gets better, like a fine, aging wine. Fallout took everything I wanted from a summer blockbuster and amplified it: intense action, impressive stunts, and, uh, more action. I already thought that the previous Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation perfected the series formula, but this sixth film in the series took it to unexpected levels. As the trailer for the film reminds us, you can’t fight the friction.
Hell, even just the bathroom fight scene in that movie alone would hold a high spot in my list. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a mainstream film in theaters with action that brutal—a good use of the space and setting, literal punches to the jugular, bodies crashing through mirrors and concrete pillars—the quality of the action spoiled me. And it just kept going and going, attempting to surprise and awe you with crazy dangerous feats, like I was at a circus show (but the good kind, and not the weird, creepy sad clown kind). It’s this kind of movie that exemplifies the reasons why I love to go to the movie theater.
BlacKkKlansman – Sian Francis-Cox
Although I agree that Fallout really was spectacular, Spike Lee is the true hero of this summer—no one else could have done what he did. Embedded in the civil rights movement of the 1970s, BlacKkKlansman follows Colorado Springs’ first black police officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), who hatches a plot to infiltrate (yes – go undercover and join) the local Ku Klux Klan. Yikes. It sounds like it could be hilarious, but the humor is pitch-black and makes for an uncomfortable blend of laughter and dread. As impossible as it seems, the based-on-true-life story sees Washington’s Stallworth and colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a Jew, assume a fake identity together and begin to tear back the layers of inherent racism in the “Organisation.”
As unsettling as it was, I thought BlacKkKlansman was fantastic—gripping, with a larger-than-life score that uses electric guitar motifs to perfection. It is a true homage to the Blaxploitation genre and carefully pictures an undercover DI whose personal life and values become deeply embedded in the mission the longer he remains in it. We’re presented with racism so appalling it dismays, but Lee’s intention was never to shy away: his combination of Baptist-like warmth from black students, pitted against blind conviction from white supremacists, serves as a cutthroat skewering of racism in the U.S. An impressive effort and (I think) one of the best films this year.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Tarah Bleier
This summer there were a fair amount of blockbusters, and the hype for the second installment of the revamped Jurassic Park was very real. I enjoyed it so much and thought I wouldn’t be based on the trailers and previews, but I was pleasantly surprised. They clearly learned from the first film and did not have a woman running in heels from a T-Rex this time!
The CGI effects were really what made this film visually appealing and kept audiences engaged throughout the entire story. Yes, there were some cheesy bits and a very, very emotional scene at the end when the island is basically destroyed and one dinosaur sadly cries out, as it is unable to be rescued. That was probably the most heart-wrenching thing to watch, and I didn’t think a CGI extinct dinosaur would hit me on such a deep emotional level—but it did. Kudos to the team, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I suggest you do.
Avengers: Infinity War – Drew Stuart and Anthony Marzano
I remember seeing Iron Man in theaters with my best friend when it debuted way back in 2008. I was 12 years old, and I witnessed the birth of the MCU at the perfect age. But as I’ve grown older alongside Marvel’s cascade of superhero films, the magic has worn thin. I’m an adult now, and superhero movies aren’t the kind of draw for me that they used to be.
But goddamn. Avengers: Infinity War is more than just a superhero movie. It’s… actually a pretty good one. Like, really good! So good that I felt this weird tingling sensation in my chest at several points during the film. What is that? Heartburn? Or… is it excitement? Yeah, excitement! In all seriousness, Infinity War is the impossible movie—one that delivers a bevy of excellent character moments, clever writing, satisfying action, and one of Marvel’s few worthwhile villains. It’s a movie that put me right back at age 12, sitting in a theater, totally entranced by the fantastic adventure playing out on the bright screen in front of me.
Plus, this movie has purple Shrek. How you gonna hate on purple Shrek, bitch?–Drew
Hereditary – Kyle Yadlosky
Hereditary was the hottest movie of the summer because someone burns to death in it. There’s even a t-shirt of the shot. The shirt is now out of stock. I made a horrible mistake in not buying it. Another horrible mistake is having children you don’t want. My dad taught me this, but Hereditary reinforced the lesson with a dinner scene that’s more terrifying than the devil.
Tag – Matthew Razak
I’ll be the first to admit that Tag probably wasn’t the best film overall of the summer, but it was my favorite film for one reason only: it made me laugh my ass off. I’ve been dying for a comedy where I come out of the theater having truly laughed uncontrollably in, and it hasn’t happened for a long while. Tag did that. Everything clicked; it hit the sweet spot between immature humor and outright offensiveness and landed its emotional punches just as well. I don’t know if it garnered enough attention to become a comedy classic, but I wish it had because it sure deserved to be one. Maybe I was just having a good night, but Tag put a smile on my face for almost its entire runtime, and that makes it my favorite movie of the summer even if it wasn’t the best.
Searching – Jesse Lab
I’m stretching the definition of a summer movie with this one, seeing as how it came out at the tail end of August, but I just can’t help myself. Searching was my biggest surprise of the summer and is probably one of my favorite films of the year. On the surface, Searching seems like a simple thriller with the twist that the entire movie is shown on video screens. Laptops, news footage, iPhones, security cameras, you name it. But outside of that trick, I didn’t think that the actual story would be as compelling as it is.
I was really impressed with how, despite this story being told a thousand times before, there’s a layer of authenticity here that I felt was really special. It feels like you can directly relate with all of the characters, especially John Cho. Not only that, but the revelations were genuinely surprising and made me say out loud “No way!” in the theater. I was hooked into Searching unlike any other movie this year, and I highly recommend it. Hell, it’s probably the only movie on this list still in theatres, so definitely check it out!
Deadpool 2 – Nick Hershey
“Doing the right thing is messy. You want to fight for what’s right, sometimes you have to fight dirty.” – Wade Wilson
Behind a mouth that fires snark with the fast-twitch rapidity of two hair-triggered Desert Eagles lies a man that, among other intensely graphic things, feels compelled to do good. Wade Wilson has lost a lot over the span of two movies. First his movie-star good looks, the love of his life, then his favorite short-lived sidekick, Peter. Going into the second film with expected fourth-wall demolition needed a wrecking ball to replace a sledgehammer, and Deadpool 2 did just that.
In a summer overshadowed by the other Josh Brolin villain and fadeaway memes, Deadpool and his inane brand of humor reminded moviegoers that not everything is so serious in the superhero world—like when Deadpool realizes he needs a merry band of misfits and goes through a grueling interview process only to have the majority of them not stick the landing. Both on film and in the books, fans get the smallest taste of the expected boy scout with a caffeinated boost of off-color charisma. Like most heroes, he (eventually, reluctantly, narcissistically) does the right thing. The difference is he has no moral dilemma when it comes to the path he chooses to get there.
Sorry to Bother You – Hubert Vigilla
Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You is one of the best directorial debuts of the year and currently my sixth favorite movie of 2018. (It is also the 181st movie I saw in a theater this year.) This oddball political satire about a black man using his white voice to succeed at a telemarketing company has drawn comparisons to cult classics like Putney Swope, Repo Man, and Idiocracy. I also couldn’t help but think of Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout and the work of Kurt Vonnegut. Those are all accurate kin, but Riley’s doing his own unpredictable thing as he explores code-switching, late capitalism, the cults built around tech companies, and the effects of gentrification on the East Bay.
While Sorry to Bother You is mostly an anarchic political comedy, it eventually turns an abrupt and unexpected corner. Without getting into spoilers, our slapstick satire winds up in dystopian sci-fi territory. It’s a narrative pivot sure to alienate a lot of viewers. Yet that desire to evade neat, familiar story structures is something I found so admirable. It’s as if the movie reveals some darker parallel track to the main story. If you’re on board with the Wellsian conceit, you’ll note that it fits thematically with everything else in the film. I can’t wait to see what kind of movie Riley does next and what expectations he’ll subvert.
Incredibles 2 – Bradley Sexton
I was excited beyond belief for Incredibles 2 because the original cemented my love for animation and superheroes. I usually don’t succumb to the hype train to often, but my brain raised my expectations so high without any outside media or influence. Because of this, I was a bit unsure of how to think about the sequel once the credits rolled. There’s not all that much superhero-ing and besides one solid scene with Mrs. Incredible, the action was passable while the villain was even less than that.
However, after reflecting on my self-made disappointment and seeing it again, I realized Incredibles 2 isn’t a superhero movie but a family comedy, and one of the best family comedies in recent memory at that. The role reversal of the first film charging Helen Parr’s Elastigirl to be the breadwinner instead of her husband sets up a subtle family strife that presents all members of the family with new complex problems to deal with. Bob Parr can’t muscle his way to being a good day as Mr. Incredible; he’s just as vulnerable and confused as the rest of us.
Most of all though, this movie is so freakin’ funny, the funniest Pixar by a mile. The jokes and situations are all organic with few if any cheesy pop culture winks that wear out their welcome. Incredibles 2 is vastly different from the first one, but it complements it in a way that elevates both movies, similar to how the Parr family complement and raise each other up.