2018 was a year unlike any other in my life. My spending was focused on things unrelated to media, which means my movie collection barely grew at all this year. Instead, my focus was on keeping my wife happy and comfortable, and preparing our home for our first child. My movie collection, which was previously displayed in our study, was moved to the basement. In the transition, many discs were stuffed in binders (I can hear the collector’s out there cringing already), and I started turning to digital copies when there was something I just had to have. In years past, I never would have even considered these options, but life brings changes you cannot anticipate sometimes, and the result – my beautiful baby girl – has made this change in focus entirely worthwhile.

In year’s past, I would purchase 100+ movies in a year. This past year, though, my spending tracker shows that I purchased a measley 25 new Blu-rays, DVDs, and 4K Ultra HD discs. Even more shocking, thanks to sales and gift cards, I only spent $140 in total on these 25 discs (averaging $5.62/disc). That’s insane! On the video game front, I added 148 video games to my collection, spending just under $300 in total (averaging $2.03/game) thanks to sales, trade-in credit, and gift cards. I (stupidly) paid over $10 for a game only three times – Persona 5, Monster Hunter World, and Star Wars Battlefront II all on Playstation 4 – and could have waited on all three since I didn’t beat a single one of those this year. For those wondering how I got so many for so cheap, it’s because 2018 was the year I decided to bulk up my old sports video game collection…I know.

The other media related item I spent cash on this year was books. I am grouping traditional books, graphic novels, and audiobooks into this category, and according to my tracker, I purchased 43 books for a total of just under $177 (averaging $4.10/book). For the completionists out there (or me, when I come back and read this post in a few years), I purchased 3 physical books (all books on fatherhood), 21 audiobooks (all from Audible and excluding my membership credits), and 19 digital graphic novels (all from Comixology).

I have kept track of my media spending since 2014, and in 2018, I spent less than 34% of the average of 2014-2017. Needless to say, I am really happy with how little I spent on media this year. This was one of my most important goals of the year, and I blew it out of the water.

With the numbers out of the way, it’s not to look at my top 5 film discoviers of 2018! These represent the best movies I watched for the first time in 2018, regardless of what year the film was released.

But first…

Worst Film Discovery of 2018
Bates Motel (1987, dir. Richard Rothstein)

We reviewed Bates Motel on episode 130 of The Cinefessions Podcast, so the fact that we dedicated a full hour to this already is more than this film deserves. This was one of the oddest, most tonally inept film I have ever seen, and I couldn’t be happier with myself that I made Ashe and Marc watch it with me!

Top 5 Discoveries of 2018

5. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017, dir. Jake Kasdan)

What can I say? I love a stupid comedy, and this fit the bill. The Rock is fantastic in this, and my love for Kevin Hart just grows and grows. On top of these two, we have Jack Black playing a teenage girl, and an incredibly attractive Karen Gillan to round out the main crew, making this one of my favorite comedies I watched this past year. This was infinitely better than I expected, and held up the second time I watched it. If you enjoy any of these actors, this will definitely be worth your time.

4. Next Door (2005, dir. Pål Sletaune)

The beginning of 2018 was awesome for The Cinefessions Podcast as we kicked-off our Scandanavian Horror arc with one of the biggest mindfucks of a film I have ever seen in Next Door. Sletaune’s film gave me a brand new definition of “psychological horror”, and it did this in a sexual, vulnerable, brutal fashion. This is one that really deserves to be seen, so once you track it down, give our episode a listen and see if Marc and I share the same thoughts on this masterpiece as you.

3. Split (2016, dir. M. Night Shyamalan)

If you’ve been around for any amount of time, you may know that I love M. Night Shyamalan. As demonstrated on episode 100 of The Cinefessions Podcast, Signs is one of my favorite films of all-time, and that’s why I was disappointed with myself that it took me so long to finally watch Split. Fortunately, the wait was worth it, and this is one of the best films I’ve seen this past year, and Shyamalan’s best work since Signs. I don’t want to say too much about this because the less you know going in, the better, but the way Shyamalan ties everything together is just so damn fun. This may be James McAvoy’s greatest performance, and Anya Taylor-Joy keeps up with him every second of the way. So, so good.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017, dir. James Gunn)

I liked Guardians of the Galaxy just fine. In fact, I really liked it, giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars on Letterboxd, but outside of the soundtrack, I just don’t think I enjoyed it as much as most people. That said, Vol. 2 does an excellent job of fixing what isn’t really broken. The comedy that Gunn brings to this sequel, plus the sentimentality of the relationships between these characters, new and old, is nearly perfect. Kurt Russell is great here, as is the returning cast. I laughed more at this film than any other in 2018, which is why it lands so high on this list.

1. The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018, dir. Johannes Roberts)

Anyone who listened to episode 136 of The Cinefessions Podcast should not be surprised with this top pick. The sequel to one of my favorite home invasion films is arguably better than its predecessor, which I didn’t expect in a million years. I loved Roberts’ nods to John Carpenter, along with other horror icons, and the visual feast on display here is breathtaking. The brutality of it all is the cherry on top of a gorgeously grotesque horror film that does everything right. The Strangers: Prey at Night is not only the best horror film I watched last year, but stands out as the best film of any genre that I seen in 2018, and I cannot recommend it enough.


There you have it! Those are my top 5 film discoveries of 2018. This is a tradition I have been doing since the start of Cinefessions, so if you’re interested in any of the prior year’s lists, I have added them all to Letterboxd lists for ease of viewing:

2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018


For those stat junkies like me, here are some additional numbers:

Branden’s 2018 Year in Review
Number of Films Viewed: 101 (8.42 films/month)
First Time Viewings: 65 (64%)
Time Spent: 173 hours and 42 minutes (7.24 days)
Average Year: 2004
Average Rating: 2.74 stars
Most Viewed Director of the Year: Steven Spielberg, The Wachowski’s, and Wes Ball (3 films each)


Thank you guys for reading. I hope 2019 is your greatest year yet!

Branden Chowen
Editor-in-Chief at Cinefessions
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn't until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor's and master's degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.