- Netflix has released tons of original movies this year.
- Some films like “Father of the Year” were not a hit with critics.
- Others like “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” were instant classics.
Netflix has had a banner year when it comes to original content and it has released some films that have critics have totally adored – and ones that they have abhorred.
We rounded up some of the best and worst Netflix original movies of the year, according to critics.
Worst: “Father of the Year” is a Happy Madison Netflix original that doesn’t land, according to critics.
Release date: July 20, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 0% rotten, with 0 fresh and 9 rotten ratings
Bad movies are one thing, but it’s rare to see a 0% rating – something handily achieved here. Consequence of Sound’s Blake Goble has an entire theory about how a movie this bad could only have been generated by an algorithm – because that’s the only thing that makes sense.
“This is a movie-thing that could only be described as uninspired. Papas squaring off, crazy summer hijinks among friends, small town dreams blah blah blah. It’s all been done. It’s dead. Stop it. In Happy Madison terms, should you watch this, you’ll beg for the days of left-field concepts like Sandler playing the son of Satan. For as cynical as it sounds, it’s not hard to imagine why everyone involved could give so little of a s— when the bar is set so low. This film is all easy beats, predictive familiarities, and absolutely zero heart, soul, or silliness anywhere to be found.”
“The Open House” hit Netflix and critics were more bored than scared.
Release date: January 19, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 10% rotten, with 1 fresh and 9 rotten ratings
The fact that it stars Dylan Minnette from “13 Reasons Why” might be a big reason why some people are interested in this movie. Unfortunately, while it’s not particularly offensive unless horror is completely not your thing – this movie is largely forgettable, according to critics.
As Chris Osterndorf wrote for the Daily Dot:
“I could hardly keep my eyes open watching The Open House, and that’s including when the movie got to its big payoff. If it weren’t for the creepy music, parts of this film would play better as a domestic drama than as a horror movie.”
People thought that “The Kissing Booth” stepped over the line from homage to lazy plundering of classic rom-com genre tropes.
Release date: May 11, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 13% rotten, with 1 fresh and 7 rotten ratings
Even if you just limited yourself to Netflix Original rom-coms, many critics think you could do a lot better than this movie.
As Zoe Crombie noted for Film Inquiry:
“Allusions to The Breakfast Club in the soundtrack and the casting of Molly Ringwald certainly don’t help The Kissing Booth look anything other than lazy and amateur next to other teen classics.”
“The Outsider” is a movie that apparently happened because someone thought the idea of Jared Leto as a yakuza member sounded like a good premise.
Release date: March 9, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 17% rotten, with 4 fresh and 19 rotten ratings
Tadanobu Asano has starred in a lot of more enjoyable movies than this – including and especially “Ichi the Killer.” But he’s not technically the star of this piece – instead, Jared Leto is – and that’s probably the first point where this movie falls down for many.
As David Ehrlich wrote for IndieWire:
“You probably don’t need a critic to tell you that ‘The Outsider,’ a tragically real crime drama in which Jared Leto plays a silent but violent enforcer for the Yakuza in post-war Japan, is 100% per cent horrendous. After all, when was the last time you saw a good Yakuza movie starring Jared Leto?”
“Tau” saw Gary Oldman voicing an artificial intelligence that the Guardian referred to as “evil Alexa.”
Release date: June 29, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 20% rotten, with 2 fresh and 8 rotten ratings
Many people were intrigued by the description of this movie, but critics caution you not to get your hopes up.
As Charles Bramesco wrote for the Guardian of Oldman’s performance:
“Not since Patrick Stewart voiced a literal pile of faeces in The Emoji Movie has an actor so thoroughly embarrassed themselves without appearing onscreen.”
“Game Over, Man!” is what apparently happens when you try to make a “Die Hard” parody that isn’t actually funny, according to critics.
Release date: March 23, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 20% rotten, with 3 fresh ratings and 12 rotten ratings
The guys from Comedy Central’s “Workaholics” made a movie – and it was, unfortunately, this one. Part of the problem, according to critics, is that it’s incredibly mean-spirited humour – but a larger part of the problem is that the jokes simply don’t land.
As Clint Worthington wrote for Consequence of Sound,
“At all turns, ‘Game Over, Man!’ is a cynical vehicle for the kind of outdated humour that fell out of style more than a decade ago. Rather than use the ‘Die Hard’ trappings for anything inventive, the Dew Crew waste their Netflix movie deal on a chaotic series of offensive jokes vaguely strung together by surface level homage. After more than a decade of working together, Holm, Devine and Anderson’s chemistry is assured and energetic, but that’s not nearly enough to wallpaper over the odious, unfunny things they have to say and do. As feature-film vehicles for popular TV comedy teams, it’s no ‘Keanu’ by any stretch of the imagination.”
“Mute” was mostly considered a failure by critics — but an interesting failure by at least one.
Release date: February 13, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 20% rotten, with 15 fresh and 60 rotten ratings
If you loved Duncan Jones’ “Moon” or “Source Code,” this is not either of those two films – although like the excellent “Moon,” it does involve Sam Rockwell. It also stars Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, and Justin Theroux – and like “The Cloverfield Paradox,” having a stellar cast doesn’t necessarily mean you get a stellar film.
But sometimes, there’s value in a bad movie, as well. As Amy Nicholson wrote for Uproxx:
“‘Mute’ is more interesting as a bullet-point list of absurdities than as a two-hour film. Yet, Jones continues to have my attention. He’s one of the only directors making choices that haven’t focus-tested the fantasy out of genre filmmaking. (Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ is another.) He takes risks, like humanising the orcs in his daffily magical ‘Warcraft.’ Sometimes, he’ll randomly shoot a close-up of a dachshund, like he does here.
“And he makes mistakes – big, jaw-dropping blunders that provide dangerous thrills that safer, better films don’t. Mistakes don’t give a movie soul. But you can feel human fingerprints on his films. Call me a Luddite, but given a choice between Hollywood’s well-oiled blockbuster machine and bizarre bloopers like ‘Mute,’ I’ll take the whittling Amish action hero. Join my revolt?”
Netflix dropped “The Cloverfield Paradox” during the Super Bowl with no warning and many fans of the first two “Cloverfield” movies were disappointed.
Release date: February 4, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 20% rotten, with 25 Fresh ratings and 102 rotten ratings
Despite an undeniably great cast, this movie marked one of the few movies I’ve watched this year where I desperately wanted my time back after watching – and I’m a huge sci-fi fan who enjoyed both of the first two entries in the “Cloverfield” universe. But I was hardly alone in my disappointment.
As Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson wrote:
“The truth is, despite the prestige and a talented cast including David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O’Dowd, and Zhang Ziyi, The Cloverfield Paradox gives off the tired vibe of a TV episode you’ve already seen. The Netflix platform, combined with the presence of ‘San Junipero’ star Mbatha-Raw, is enough to make viewers wonder if this is actually a particularly long episode of ‘Black Mirror.'”
“How It Ends” was seen as so bad, one critic suggested not even beginning.
Release date: July 13, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 21% rotten, with 3 fresh and 11 rotten ratings
Starring Theo James of “Divergent” franchise fame and an inexplicable turn by Forest Whitaker, this film somehow made an apocalypse-level event boring.
As Brian Tallerico wrote for RogerEbert.com:
“The interminable slog of Netflix’s ‘How It Ends’ had me thinking about endings in general. How it felt like the close of this film would never come. How we so commonly return in cinema, especially lately, to visions of the end of the world. How the actual ending of this film is an atrocious cheat. Trust me, you’re better off not even beginning.”
“The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter” is a bit of a mess, according to critics, even though it has Josh Brolin as its star.
Release date: July 6, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 30%, with 7 fresh and 16 rotten ratings
With Danny McBride and Jody Hill of “Eastbound & Down” helming your project, and Josh Brolin as your lead, you might expect to have a hit on your hands. As usual, Brolin is the best part of this movie as well. It’s not without its moments – but overall, critics agreed, it struggles hard.
As Chris Nashawaty wrote for Entertainment Weekly,
“There are a handful of laugh-out-loud scenes (mostly courtesy of McBride), but The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter, like so many other Netflix movies, feels like a first draft that still could use some more punching up and focus. Maybe the streaming studio is in such a rush to feed its yawning content pipeline that ‘just ok’ is good enough. And, who knows, maybe it is. But it would be nice if at some point the words ‘Netflix original movies’ meant more than just quantity, but quality as well.”
Best: “22 July” directed by Paul Greengrass, whose previous films include “United 93” and “Captain Phillips,” is a powerful docudrama about the aftereffects of terrorism.
Release date: October 10, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 79% certified fresh, with 89 fresh and 23 rotten ratings
Based on a very real and horrifying terrorist attack that took place in Norway in 2011, this is not an easy film to watch – but if you’ve prepared yourself, it’s definitely worth it. In a single day, a lone terrorist killed 77 people in the single deadliest attack in Norway since World War II.
The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney elegantly summed it up as “difficult to watch, but impossible to look away from.”
“Alex Strangelove” is a modern, honest, funny, and charming teen rom-com that isn’t just about the sex — but also all those complicated, confusing feelings about sexuality.
Release date: June 8, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 82% fresh, with 18 fresh and 4 rotten ratings
Figuring yourself out can be tougher than any honours class – and that’s the story that “Alex Strangelove” is trying to tell. What if you’re a guy and you start to date your best friend – who’s a girl – but then also start to realise that you might be gay? Add this to your queue to find out.
As Joe Reid wrote for Decider:
“Alex Strangelove is the kind of movie we should get more of: the no-frills, zippily written romantic comedy about young people of varied sexual orientations. One character for each level of a Kinsey scale, toss ’em into an advance-placement class, and see where the chips fall, I say.”
“First Match” is an unflinching coming-of-age drama that will one day be known as the full-length film that introduced Elvire Emanuelle’s formidable talent to the world.
Release date: March 30, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 84% fresh, with 16 fresh and 3 rotten ratings
Every SXSW, there are always at least a couple of films that everyone comes away talking about – and “First Match” was one of these.
You follow a girl named Mo (played by Emanuelle) as she navigates her relationship with her estranged father, the foster system that continues to let her down, and what she thinks will be her salvation – joining the wrestling team and learning how to take down the boys she fights. That’s enough to finally get her dad’s attention – but only so he can turn around and get her into underground boxing. Her life is complicated, compelling, and heartbreaking.
Sesali Bowen wrote for Refinery 29:
“The movie’s take on Black girl magic doesn’t sparkle with glitter, but it honours our experiences nonetheless, daring you not to look away, even when you want to.”
If one of your unvoiced movie-watching goals is just to watch Martin Freeman make a completely different kind of incredible journey, “Cargo” definitely belongs on your list.
Release date: May 18, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 86% certified fresh, with 55 fresh and 9 rotten ratings
What do you get when you add Martin Freeman and a zombie apocalypse to rural Australia? The answer isn’t screaming hordes of the undead – instead, it’s an exploration of humanity, which is ultimately what one of the founding fathers of the genre sought to show us in the first place.
As Brian Tallerico wrote for RogerEbert.com:
“Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay it is that I think George A. Romero himself would have liked it.”
If you love gore then “The Night Comes For Us” belongs in your Netflix queue immediately.
Release date: October 19, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 88% fresh, with 21 fresh and 3 rotten ratings
Sometimes, all you want is a fast-paced, well-choreographed martial arts-filled action movie. If it seems like it skirts the borders of horror at times, that should come as no great surprise: writer-director Timo Tjahjanto’s previous work includes “V/H/S/2” and an instalment of “The ABCs of Death.” Also, it doesn’t hurt that this movie also stars Iko Uwais and Joe Taslim of “The Raid” fame.
As Rosie Knight wrote for IGN:
“Uniquely violent, stylish, and engaging, The Night Comes For Us is an exciting prospect that delivers on all fronts.”
If you’re nostalgic for the best moments of ‘90s rom-coms, “Set It Up” is the movie for you.
Release date: June 15, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 90% certified fresh, with 43 fresh and 5 rotten ratings
Thanks to a script that never stops working for your laughter and a winning combination of Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Zoey Deutch, and Glen Powell – with a guest appearance by Tituss Burgess – it’s extremely difficult not to enjoy the frothy, sheer delight on display in this movie. Is there just the right amount of ridiculousness added like finely chopped herbs to finish the dish? Of course.
As Kristen Yoonsoo Kim wrote for the Hollywood Reporter:
“Silberman’s script is so jam-packed with jokes that the hilarity of the characters’ banter – especially between the motor-mouthed Deutch and the eye-rolling Powell – will get you on a romantic high. Diggs and Liu are given more outlandish roles – the former is a laptop-thrower, the latter is described as the spawn of Miss Piggy and Voldemort but with low blood sugar – so there’s a bit of whiplash when we’re given a glimpse into their empathetic sides, but these two are exhilarating to watch nonetheless.”
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is peak Coen Brothers — and it’s only on Netflix.
Release date: November 16, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 92% certified fresh, with 167 fresh and 14 rotten ratings
No one tells a story quite like the Coen Brothers – and with this anthology film, their voices are very clear – but it’s still a different story than you’ve seen them tell before. This movie had a brief theatrical release ahead of its Netflix debut in hopes of Best Picture Oscar consideration – and it’s not hard to see why.
As Rick Kisonak wrote for Vermont’s Seven Days,
“A little John Wayne here, a little John Wayne Gacy there, the brothers’ latest is freaky frontier fun and the definitive riff on how the West was weird.”
If you’re hunting through your queue for a taut thriller, you could do a lot worse than “Calibre.”
Release date: June 29, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 93%, with 14 fresh and 1 rotten rating
Horror films are at their best when they go further and deeper than you expect them to do, instead of simply trawling the same well-worn tropes to death. That’s something “Calibre” manages to do quite well. On its surface, you might expect a simple tale of affluent urban hipsters tackling stereotypical small townsfolk out in the middle of nowhere – but it isn’t that simple.
As Neil Young wrote for the Hollywood Reporter:
“Calibre [has] a pungent, intriguing layer of ambiguity that only sharpens the acute pain of the awful events so skillfully depicted.”
“Private Life” is exactly the kind of indie film that might get more exposure on Netflix than it ever would have before the streaming giant became a part of daily life.
Release date: October 5, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 94% certified fresh, with 74 fresh and 5 rotten ratings
It’s never been easier to get access to film festival darlings like “Private Life” from the comfort of any device on which you like to stream content to your eyeballs – and this dramedy takes you on a journey with NYC 40-somethings Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn as they struggle to have a child by any means necessary. It’s a precise movie, and it takes its time to get where it’s going, but it does pay off.
As Dan Jackson wrote for Thrillist:
“In its commitment to documenting the specificities of its characters’ lives and their ongoing struggles, the film takes on a sprawling quality. If you follow the movements and digressions over a long period of time, you’ll be rewarded.”
“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” was proof that in 2018, a classic romantic comedy concept could still feel fresh and fantastic when done well.
Release date: August 17, 2018
Tomatometer rating: 96% certified fresh, with 52 fresh and 2 rotten ratings
At its heart, the core premise of “TATBILB” feels like one that anyone who’s seen a decent amount of movies might have seen by now – and yet somehow, this movie made it feel fresh, real, and relevant. Audiences swooned in ways that were kind of rare for 2018.
As Emily Yoshida wrote for Vulture:
“I didn’t appreciate what a unicorn-like rarity a good, solid boy is in a teen comedy until ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.’ ‘The male lead was a drip, but it doesn’t matter!’ is a line I feel like I’ve subconsciously been telling myself since ‘Pretty in Pink,’ or really any number of Brat Pack-era classics that our young romance-obsessed heroine Lara Jean (Lana Condor) would probably know by heart. When was the last time a boy in a teen movie was worth all the fuss that inevitably bubbles up around him? And isn’t that maybe just a commentary on what those boys actually stand for?”
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