Below is my list of which summer movies made a splash, for better or worse, this year.
The movies are not ranked based on how "bad" or "good" they are objectively. I factored my choices on how they turned out to be according to anticipation and my own opinion. The best movies were ones that exceeded already good expectations while the worst movies did the opposite.
For example, Smurfs 2 won't be on this list because who was surprised that it was a cheap exploitation of a beloved property? At any rate, let's start:
Leave it to Pixar to make an animated prequel that actually works on pretty much every level. Though some will give this slot to Despicable Me 2, I have to give Monsters credit for the smart decision to shift the story from Sully to Mike. The result was a movie that, although not as good as Monsters Inc., showed us that Pixar can still make a good sequel/prequel.
Man of Steel
My logic is weird here because Man of Steel isn't bad, nor is it the worst movie of the summer. The movie is a major disappointment, but not "bad." This is because the trailers gave me the perception that this movie would essentially rock our world, but it was Batman Begins (a decent movie) when it should've been The Dark Knight. The movie has bright spots, but they are coupled with a terrible screenplay and lack of good chemistry that a Superman movie absolutely needs. Hopefully the sequel will get it right.
Horror had a pretty decent summer this year, thanks to this one and You're Next being pleasant surprises. What really resonates with The Conjuring is the fact that we have horror film that received its "R" rating purely on the merit of it being scary. Not bloody or even nude. Scary. Well done.
The Lone Ranger
I already gave this film a bit of a tongue lashing recently, so I'll save it this time. This movie is living testament to the fact that a recipe for success based purely on the its parts doesn't guarantee a good movie. This film, while not horrendous, was a major disappointment and did not serve its source material justice, hence it receives the #4 slot.
The World's End
I thought I would be giving the "best of August" slot to Elysium, but summer is funny that way. The World's End is a movie that simultaneously understands itself, as well as its audience. The absurd premise layered with legitimate drama resulted in a fantastic third entry in the unofficial Pegg/Frost/Wright trilogy, along with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
White House Down
I'm not being harsh for the sake of it. I actually liked Olympus Has Fallen as a decent outing despite its stretch of reality. White House Down, on the other hand, replaces charm with preachy plot devices and cringeworthy characters. As much as I like Jaime Foxx and reasonably appreciate Channing Tatum, this movie was no fun.
Enough has been said about how much people love this movie. Though its characters were less than perfect and the third act was mismanaged, the premise and fight choreography were easily the most appealing and original this summer had to offer.
We didn't expect much from this movie, but that's just how bad it really is. Honestly, the most depressing fact is how Ryan Reynolds just can't seem to catch a break.
Iron Man 3
You have to feel bad for all of the superhero movies that came out after this surprisingly great threequel. I picked this for #1 simply based on the fact that I had the most fun watching this, from beginning to end credits. I was also one of the big fans of how they treated the character of Mandarin, which I admit was hit-or-miss. Still, the best in this case goes to the first.
This was easily the worst movie I've seen all year, despite my hope that Jaden Smith (someone I saw potential in during Karate Kid) could do well alongside his father. Unfortunately, this was the one movie that came out this year that actually made me feel physical pain just by watching it.
Biggest Surprise: World War Z
Best Indie: The Way Way Back
Best Villain: Star Trek: Into Darkness
Jon Negroni is the author of the Pixar Theory and other movie-related conspiracies. For more of his odd opinions you might care about, check out jonnegroni.com or follow him on Twitter @JonNegroni