By every measure, 2018 was an extraordinary year for movies. Every so often, there's an off year, and pundits begin to claim that audiences are losing their interest in the theatrical experience. Then something like 2018 comes along, delivering hit after hit after hit, and suddenly those same pundits are proven wrong. The biggest blockbuster of the year was Black Panther, which grossed $700 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. The lowest-grossing was a supernatural thriller called Realms, which made $147. You're reading that number correctly.
Of course, a movie's financial gross has nothing to do with its quality level. Plenty of terrible movies make a ton of cash, and even more great movies struggle to earn back their budgets. That's why we have film critics. They help steer viewers away from the worst of the worst and toward the best of the best.
Rotten Tomatoes aggregates reviews from hundreds of film critics. What follows is a list of the best-reviewed movies of the year, according to their popular Tomatometer. We're also tossing in six films that have to live with the dreaded 0% rating, meaning that zero critics liked them. In each case, we'll break down what the critics loved or loathed about each one. Titles are presented in ascending order, so keep in mind that the number of reviews posted is factored into their ranking. In other words, a movie with a 98% Tomatometer score can place higher than one with a 99% if more critics reviewed it.
Here are the 24 Best Movies of 2018 According to Rotten Tomatoes (and 6 Stuck With 0%).
Superhero movies are immensely popular with both critics and audiences right now. Even so, it's rare for one to score as highly as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has. Sporting a 97% approval rating, it's the highest-rated of all Spidey's big-screen adventures and one of 2018's most celebrated releases.
No doubt the groundbreaking animation has something to do with that. It doesn't look quite like any other animated movie. The appeal isn't totally visual, though. The story, which incorporates several different iterations of Spider-Man for a celebration of both individuality and teamwork, is surprisingly rich. You even get a touch of emotion at the end.
The first Mission: Impossible movie was released 22 years ago. Against all odds, the sixth entry, Fallout, is the mostly highly ranked on Rotten Tomatoes, with a score of 97%.
It's rare for a franchise to get better as it goes on, yet that's exactly what has happened here. Star Tom Cruise worked closely with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie to devise insane stunts that he could perform himself. Cruise even learned how to fly a helicopter for a chase scene. This sort of bravery made Fallout exciting to a degree seldom seen. Critics were overwhelmingly impressed.
Black Panther was nothing short of a box office phenomenon, earning $1.3 billion dollars worldwide. As the first comic book blockbuster to focus on a black superhero, it provided some much-needed representation.
Director Ryan Coogler was repeatedly praised for balancing stylish action sequences with a Shakespearean story about the battle for power in Wakanda. Star Chadwick Boseman, meanwhile, was declared a perfect choice to play the Marvel superhero. With a 97% approval rating, critics saw Black Panther as a work of art, not just as a piece of commercial entertainment.
Father of the Year, which has 0% at Rotten Tomatoes, is yet another movie that seems to exist because Adam Sandler gives jobs to his friends. This Netflix original was co-written and directed by Tyler Spindel, who worked on several previous Happy Madison productions in various capacities.
Another Sandler pal, David Spade, stars as a loser dad goaded into fighting someone else's dad by his adult son. As with many Happy Madison pictures, Father of the Year was slammed for relying too much on lazy, obvious lowbrow humor. The thin plot was criticized, as well.
Melissa McCarthy has already proven herself one of the biggest comedy stars in the world. With Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which has a 98% at RT, she takes on her most dramatic role. Critics felt she was more than up to the task.
In this true story, the actress plays Lee Isreal, a professional biographer whose career is on a serious downswing. To earn money, she begins forging letters from great authors, then selling them on the collectibles market. McCarthy was celebrated for her ability to show how wounded this character is and how carrying out the deception gives her a thrill.
Millions of children grew up watching Fred Rogers. His PBS show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, extolled the virtues of love, acceptance, and compassion. Unlike many shows aimed at kids, which often feel the need to have something major happening at every single second, his was calm and soothing.
The documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? looks at Rogers' philosophy in dealing with children, as well as the many ways he subtly addressed issues like loss, divorce, and racism. Of critics posting their reviews to Rotten Tomatoes, 98% of them responded warmly to the film.
In Between is a film about three women from Palestine who are struggling with identity. On one hand, they are very committed to the traditions of their faith. On the other, they're living in a modern world that they want to be part of. The film explores how they attempt to achieve some balance.
With an enviable 98% Tomatometer rating, In Between inspired critics with a thoughtful exploration of cultural issues. Although the story involves women living in Tel Aviv, many felt that the movie's themes could be relatable to women everywhere.
It's a good thing Amber Heard had Aquaman on her resume in 2018. The success of that DC adventure will doubtlessly lessen the sting of her thriller London Fields earning the dreaded 0% Tomatometer score.
In this adaptation of the Martin Amis novel, Heard plays a woman who has relationships with three different men, one of whom she believes will end her life. Filmed all the way back in 2014 and held up from release due to behind-the-scenes legal issues, London Fields was criticized for botching the source material, as well as for an overall failure to generate suspense.
Science Fair is a documentary that makes you feel hopeful for the future. It follows an assortment of high school students all competing in the International Science and Engineering Fair. We get to know them and hear about the amazing projects that they hope will guide them to victory.
Reviews for Science Fair pointed out how engaging and inspiring the film's subjects are. The way the movie builds suspense as the competition draws to a close also kept critics on the edge of their seats. It's no wonder 98% of them recommended it.
The Cakemaker sounds like it would the story of someone who makes cakes for a living. It's actually a little more complicated than that. This film is indeed about a baker, one who travels from his native Germany to Jerusalem after the unexpected passing of the married man he was having an affair with. Once in Jerusalem, he infiltrates himself into the life of the man's widow.
Critical raves helped The Cakemaker score a very respectable 98%. The movie's in-depth study of how the main character deals with loss was admired for its sensitivity.
Alex Honnold did an astonishing thing. He climbed El Capitan -- a 3,000-foot rock formation in Yosemite National Park. And he did it without ropes! A camera crew was there to record the whole thing for the documentary Free Solo, which scored 98% at Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie has two main points that drove the rave reviews. First, the breathtaking cinematography makes you feel as though you're on the side of that formation with Honnold. Second, just as important, Free Solo provides a riveting psychological portrait of a man unafraid of peril.
The majority of the films in which Bruce Willis has made in the last five years have been low-budget affairs that only played in a small handful of theaters, while simultaneously being made available to rent on-demand. That includes Reprisal, which earned the disapproval of every critic who reviewed it.
When a bank manager wants to bring down the criminal who pulled off a major heist and took out an employee in the process, he calls ex-cop Willis. Lots of violent mayhem ensues. The judgement on Reprisal is that it carries out a threadbare plot in the most uninspired way possible. Willis has also been accused of phoning in his performance.
Andy Goldsworthy is a British artist who does sculpture and photography. He's also the subject of the documentary Leaning Into the Wind. The film observes his artistic process in various parts of the world.
Whereas a lot of documentaries are paced to tell a story, this one has a more laid-back, meditative tone, which 98% of the critics dug. The innovative nature of Goldsworthy's art caught their attention, as well. Many of the reviews pointed out how relaxing it is to just sit and contemplate his original, visually striking work for 97 minutes.
One of the most acclaimed films of 2018 didn't even play in theaters outside of film festivals. The Tale was made for HBO. Only one out of 71 critics reviewing it disliked the movie, leading to a 99% on the Tomatometer.
Star Laura Dern was singled out for her superb work in the lead role. She portrays a documentary filmmaker working on a project about the abuse of children. During the process, she unlocks a memory about her own childhood. The Tale is based on the true story of its director, Jennifer Fox, who brings urgency and poignancy to difficult subject matter.
Judi Dench is beloved by critics, so it probably shouldn't shock anyone that Tea with the Dames has a 99% score. She's not acting this time, though. The film is a documentary in which Dench and three other celebrated British actresses -- Eileen Atkins, Joan Plowright, and Maggie Smith -- get together to reminisce about their lives and careers.
Obviously, these four talented women have a lot to say, and critics hung on their every word. The opportunity to hear them expound on a variety of subjects makes for a once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity.
If you want to experience nerve-rattling tension for 85 straight minutes, Denmark's thriller The Guilty is the film for you. It follows a disgraced cop who is now working as a dispatch operator. After receiving an emergency call from a woman claiming to be abducted, he makes frantic efforts to get her help, often going against procedure in the process. He believes he can redeem himself by saving her.
A near-unanimous 99% of critics were dazzled by the way this single-setting movie generates suspense. Hollywood took notice, too. A US remake with Jake Gyllenhaal is in the works.
John Travolta plays the title role in Gotti, a story about notorious mobster John Gotti. The film was directed by Kevin Connolly, who famously starred as "E" on the HBO series Entourage. It became a critical punching bag in the summer of 2018, ending up with a pitiful 0% score.
Travolta was often cited for his shameless overacting, and many critics pointed out that the movie paints a fairly flattering portrait of Gotti, despite the serious crimes with which he was charged and convicted. They also felt the screenplay was full of clunky Goodfellas-lite dialogue.
Feeling awkward and out of place is common in early adolescence. The comedy Eighth Grade remembers that feeling all too well. Elsie Fisher gives a widely-praised performance as Kayla, a 13-year-old girl desperately trying to be cool and fit into a social circle with her peers.
Out of 230 critics reviewing Eighth Grade, only three disliked it, leading to a Tomatometer rating of 99%. The general consensus is that writer/director Bo Burnham did an excellent job recapturing teenage angst, resulting in a movie that's both hilariously funny and frequently squirm-inducing.
With his penchant for the outrageous, Alexander McQueen took the fashion world by storm before taking his own life in 2010. The documentary McQueen, which has a 99% approval rating, follows him from his humble beginnings to the top of his field. Many of his most celebrated works are shown in the process.
Even critics who don't have an interest in fashion were captivated by the way the movie tells McQueen's story. Through interviews with his closest friends and collaborators, an intimate and sad portrait of a tormented genius emerges.
Shoplifters took its native country of Japan by storm in 2018, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year there. It came to America in November, blowing away almost every single critic who reviewed it. This touching drama has a Tomatometer rating of 99%.
The film follows an impoverished family whose members steal from local stores to get by. Their lives are changed when they take in a little girl who is being neglected by her parents. A sensitive, insightful story engaged the critics, but a game-changing plot twist in the last thirty minutes really knocked their socks off.
Despite its 0% Rotten Tomatoes score, you might be tempted to check out Future World, just for curiosity's sake. This post-apocalyptic science-fiction tale brings together a fascinatingly eclectic cast, including James Franco, Snoop Dogg, and Milla Jovovich. The plot concerns a young man traversing a lawless wasteland in search of medicine for his ill mother.
On the downside, reviews consistently called the movie little more than a sub-par Mad Max ripoff. An incoherent screenplay and sloppily-staged action scenes were singled out as particular weak spots. In addition to playing the villain, Franco also co-directed Future World, so he can partially blame himself for the dismal response.
If you're a fan of the TV shows Ozark, The Good Wife, or My Boys, you are undoubtedly familiar with actress Jordana Spiro. What you may not know is that she made her feature directorial debut in 2018 -- and earned a spotless 100% at Rotten Tomatoes in the process.
Night Comes On is the tale of an 18-year-old girl newly released from juvenile detention. She and her 10-year-old sister go on a journey to avenge the loss of their mother. A frequent refrain in reviews is that Spiro brings a sense of compassion to a tale that might otherwise feel like mere exploitation.
In the early 2000s, it seemed like Josh Hartnett was in every other movie. He still works continuously, although most of his recent films have been little-seen indies. Still, the actor had one of the best-reviewed releases of his career in 2018. Oh Lucy! has the rare 100% rating.
The plot centers around a Japanese woman who takes an English-speaking class, invents an alter ego for herself, and falls for her teacher, played by Hartnett. Oh Lucy! is a quirky and eccentric story, but also one with a sense of humanity. Critics loved the way it juggles those qualities.
The documentary Shirkers is something of a cinematic detective story. In 1992, three teenage friends in Singapore made a movie, with help from a collaborator from the US who stole their work and disappeared. One of those friends, novelist Sandi Tan, returns to her homeland in an attempt to make sense of the whole affair.
Truth can be stranger than fiction, which is absolutely the case with Shirkers, a film that earned 100% of the critics' love. They were enthralled by the twists and turns of this unusual real-life event. Incidentally, this is a Netflix original, so you can stream it immediately.
Pick of the Litter is a charming documentary that warms your heart and makes you feel good inside. It is therefore completely unsurprising that it has a perfect 100% RT score. Not a single reviewing critic disliked the film.
Directors Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, Jr. follow a litter of puppies who are all in training to become guide dogs for the blind. The movie shows the demanding process these adorable pups must go through. Some have what it takes, while others don't. Waiting to see which ones, if any, will succeed gives Pick of the Litter a little suspense to off-set its touching nature.
To say critics loved Debra Granik's Leave No Trace would be an understatement. In fact, 100% of them were enthusiastic about it. Ben Foster plays a traumatized man who lives "off the grid" with his teenage daughter, magnificently portrayed by Thomasin McKenzie. The problem is that she's tired of living this way, while he continues to maintain that it's necessary. Things come to a head between them after a social services agency steps in.
The performances from the two leads were heralded across the board, as were the story's themes of privacy and parent/child conflict.
It's safe to say that 2018 was a very bad year for John Travolta on a professional level. Both of the movies in which he starred earned 0% at Rotten Tomatoes. Gotti was the first, Speed Kills is the second. He plays a millionaire speedboat racer who does some trafficking on the side, eventually getting in trouble with both the DEA and the Mob.
Critics had nothing nice to say about Speed Kills. One of the major flaws mentioned is that the racing scenes are sloppily edited. An abundance of crime movie cliches was frequently cited, too, as was Travolta's pointlessly over-the-top performance.
Director Bing Liu set out to make a documentary about his two best friends and the skateboarding lifestyle they all shared. While filming took place, he learned a secret about one of those friends that changed the entire scope of the project. To find out what happened, you'll need to see Minding the Gap, which can brag about its 100% score.
Because their lives were being documented by a lifelong pal, the movie's subjects are uncommonly candid in opening up about their lives, for better and worse. Reviewers were riveted by the raw, intimate peek into their world.
Summer 1993 tells the tale of a six-year-old girl named Frida whose mother has passed away. She is sent to live with her aunt and uncle in the countryside. The film shows what happens as she struggles to cope with grief and adapt to a new lifestyle.
Director Carla Simon drew upon her own childhood experiences, which gives the movie a ring of authenticity. A full 100% of the 80 critics who posted reviews of Summer 1993 were impacted by the manner in which she depicts how hard it is for young children to deal with such tough issues -- and how unexpectedly resilient they can be in the wake of change.
Paddington 2 is the best-reviewed movie of 2018 according to Rotten Tomatoes. The numbers are impressive. There are 215 reviews, and every single one is positive. That's an almost unheard-of number.
The movie's charming humor and sweet message about the value of being kind to one another are certainly strong reasons for the overwhelmingly positive response. Also garnering raves was the story, which takes the titular bear through several cleverly-conceived adventures, including a stint in prison, where he manages to touch the hearts of his fellow prisoners. Paddington 2 is the very definition of a "critics' favorite."
How many of the year's best movies have you seen? Which one is your favorite? Tell us in the comments.