If there’s one list I love writing every year, it’s this one. Forget the Oscar bait and indie critical darlings, we’re here to celebrate the purest escapist entertainment of the year. That’s not to say popcorn movies can’t be good, even incredible (as some of the films on this list prove), but they are by and large either spectacle-driven, in it for the shits and giggles, and above all, just want to show the audience a good time. They’re often held in a different regard than the “serious” movies, but they’re also one of my favorite kinds of films, and I just love putting the spotlight on the big, bright movies that often miss out of year-end acclaim.
The exact definition of what makes a popcorn movie is decidedly subjective — some people call them B-movies, some people call them junk food movies, but I’m sticking with the most common definition; a film that doesn’t have too much heavy drama, intellectualism, or pointed messaging. That means you’re not going to see some of the most wildly entertaining and spectacular films of the year, because they just don’t fit the definition. A popcorn movie doesn’t make you weep, it doesn’t demand thoughtful introspection. Popcorn movies are easy, breezy and fun.
That said, before we get started, I’m going to put a spotlight on two of the fabulous and entertaining movies of 2018 you won’t see on this list, even though some folks would argue they qualify: Mandy, which is far too heartbreaking and invested in grief no matter how big the chainsaws and cocaine piles are; and Black Panther, which is a very entertaining superhero movie, yes, but just as much a full-on Best Picture contender, not to mention meditation on slavery and colonialism… which are, uh, pretty heavy subjects. There will be more honorable mentions at the end, but these two deserved a special spotlight.
Even with those titles off the list, it’s been one hell of a year for popcorn entertainment. We witnessed the culmination of a decade’s worth of shared universe blockbusters with Avengers: Infinity War, In fact, it was the biggest year for theatrical superhero movies ever, with nine titles making their way to the box office. We got a Star Wars movie about Han Solo that everyone immediately forgot, Tom Cruise risked his life (and busted his ankle) for our entertainment in the biggest Mission: Impossible movie yet, and Aquaman finally made the transition from Entourage joke to reality. The Transformers franchise got a heartfelt makeover, Jurassic World traveled to the main land, and the R-rated comedy made a comeback in a big way. So yeah, there’s a lot to chose from.
So with that out of the way, fix up a big bowl of popcorn, slurp down your favorite soda and settle in for some explosions, F-Bombs and insanity while I run down my favorite popcorn movies of 2018.