Exclaim!'s 10 Most Underrated Films of 2018 Best of 2018
Published Dec 19, 2018In a world filled with hype and hyperbole, it often feels like everything's at least a little bit overrated. Then we get to the end of the year and find that so many projects we loved were completely overlooked. It's hard to quantify exactly what makes something overrated. Were audiences too harsh? Did the project never find an audience to begin with? Regardless of the reason, these ten films deserve more love than they've received.
Bad Times at the El Royale
(Directed by Drew Goddard)
Bad Times at the El Royale is a weird movie: Part potboiler neo-noir, part social commentary, with a twisty, structurally ambitious plot and some stellar performances from an ensemble cast. It was primarily sold to fans of Tarantino-esque, dialogue-heavy black comedies, but it put off another contingent of moviegoers who were unwilling to sit through a 141-minute runtime and an off-kilter plot. Consequently, it came and went through theatres without much fanfare, but Bad Times is far from being a niche-audiences-only film. There's a lot of fun to be had at the El Royale, with enough mid-century kitsch, a cappella Motown songs, hippie cults, bank robberies and double-crossing galore, guaranteed to satisfy anyone who wants to have a goddamn good time at the movies.
Laura Di Girolamo
(Directed by Lin Oeding)
By now you've probably heard that Aquaman is an even bigger stinker than most people predicted, but fear not Jason Momoa fans: You can still get a slice of beefcake action this year in the form of taut survival thriller Braven. In it, Game of Thrones alum Momoa plays blue-collar badass Joe Braven, a logger who must defend his family — frail father Linden (character actor Stephen Lang) and daughter Charlotte (Sasha Rossof) — from dangerous drug runners who have descended on his remote cabin in search of drugs supposedly stowed there. Braven is the kind of film studios don't make anymore, filled with little plot and a lot of flaming axes, flaming arrows, bear traps and dartboards used as weapons. But it's the majestic fight scenes (originally captured in snowy Newfoundland) that elevate this film from mindless fun to a must-see for action fans.
The Fireflies Are Gone
(Directed by Sébastien Pilote)
Between Eighth Grade and Mid90s, it was a great year for coming-of-age indie dramas. You can add Québécois film La disparition des lucioles to that list, as it chronicles the angst of a teenager graduating from high school in a small town. With shitty parents and no particular life plan, she strikes up a friendship with her much older guitar teacher and generally acts like a bit of an asshole. It's the kind of film that makes you want to revisit your painful teenage years — just to appreciate the loveliness lurking behind all that malaise.
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot
(Directed by Gus Van Sant)
Upon its release at Sundance earlier this year, Gus Van Sant's Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot was criticized for casting Joaquin Phoenix as John Callahan. The Ruderman Family Foundation, an American organization that focuses on disability inclusion, demanded that filmmakers start casting actors with disabilities to play characters with disabilities. It's a valid point, and one that warrants plenty of discussion. Instead, no one seemed to talk about the movie at all. Callahan, a cartoonist who was paralyzed after a drunk driving auto accident, must rebuild his life while going through the 12 steps. With a strong supporting role from Jonah Hill and plenty of pitch-black comedy, the controversial film still shouldn't have been written off entirely.
(Directed by Donald Petrie)
By calling Little Italy underrated, we're not saying this film is great. It's just a schlocky rom-com, kinda like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days — which, not coincidently, was also directed by Donald Petrie. But amidst the hellscape of daily news, there is something weirdly refreshing about this zany tale of warring pizza shops. Some of the jokes are clunky, but it ultimately paints a compelling portrait of two lovers torn between family obligations and personal emotions. It's as cheesy and comforting as a… pot of fondue. (Bet you thought I was going to use a pizza metaphor, huh?)
(Directed by Tony Zierra)
It was a landmark year for glossy, captivating documentaries profiling a single character (Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Free Solo, and RBG, among others), which is probably why little-known filmmaker Tony Zierra's latest effort was released this spring to limited fanfare. But since its arrival on Netflix, Filmworker has gained a borderline cult following online thanks to its intimate portrayal of Leon Vitali: the Barry Lyndon star who left acting to become Stanley Kubrick's right-hand man. Visually, it leaves much to be desired, but Filmworker more than makes up for it thanks to unprecedented access and insights into the work and mind of a cinematic icon, and shines much-needed light on the effort that goes on behind the scenes to get movies like his made.
(Directed by Crystal Moselle)
Where Jonah Hill's Mid90s cribbed Kids for its retro look and exploration of toxic masculinity, Crystal Moselle did something entirely more special with Skate Kitchen. Shot with a group of real-life skaters turned amateur actors, Skate Kitchen is a heartwarming and downright uplifting tale of friendship and feminism in the New York skate scene. It's also the kind of movie that will have you daydreaming about landing an ollie. It's not too late, is it?
The Night Eats the World
(Directed by Dominique Rocher)
I don't speak French, and I happened to see an un-subtitled screening of the zombie movie La nuit a dévoré le monde. Luckily, it didn't matter at all, since dialogue was inconsequential in this story of post-apocalyptic survival in a Parisian apartment. With the world outside having descended into chaos, a man builds a tiny life for himself indoors and is ultimately forced to ask which is worse: The hoards of zombies outside, or the maddening confines of his own mind?
We the Coyotes
(Directed by Marco La Via and Hanna Ladoul)
"I love waking up in the morning not knowing what's going to happen or who I'm going to meet, where I'm gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world, having champagne with you fine people. I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it." That's a quote from Titanic, but it could also be applied to We the Coyotes, a story about a young Illinois couple who move to Los Angeles with little more than a dream and a dollar. As they burn through all of their money and connections, the film taps into the romantic thrill of packing up your life and starting totally fresh.
Support the Girls
(Directed by Andrew Bujalski)
On an eventful day that will see her go from crying in her car before work to screaming into the proverbial void, it's clear that Lisa — the manager of a Hooters knock-off just off the highway — is going to need some help to get through it all. Andrew Bujalski's Support the Girls arranges the small triumphs and frustrating setbacks that are unique to this day, yet all-too similar to so many others in episodic fashion as if it were a gauntlet, a regular challenge to Lisa's sanity and resolve. With a superb lead performance from Regina Hall and a memorable supporting cast that includes a bubbly Haley Lu Richardson and resilient Shayna McHayle, we're reminded that sometimes at a job, it's only the people you work alongside who can fully appreciate the daily struggle that can help keep you going.