Top five most watched Indonesian film. (Graphic by Jakarta Globe)

From Rom-Com to Horror: Here Are the Most Watched Indonesian Films of 2018


JANUARY 02, 2019

Jakarta. 20 years ago, the process of making a film in Indonesia was unnecessarily complicated. Sometimes, according to old industry insiders, it could feel as if what the filmmakers had to do was punching in numbers, instead of making movies.

Back then, the New Order regime required filmmakers to obtain an official permit from its Orwellian information ministry before they could start filming.

After that, every detail of the film – from editing to the movie's title – also required the government's stamp of approval.

Everyone who worked in the film industry had to register with the Film and Television Commission (KFT) and its waiting list was longer than most films' box office run.

Things only started to change after Reformasi. The omnibus "Kuldesak," which came out in 1998, started the ball rolling.

The film is now seen as one of the pioneers of a new wave of independent filmmaking in Indonesia.

The four-parter, directed by Mira Lesmana, Riri Riza, Nan Achnas and Rizal Mantovani, follows the stories of struggling urbanites Dina (Oppie Andaresta), Andre (Ryan Hidayat), Lina (Bianca Adinegoro) and Aksan (Wong Aksan).

"Kuldesak" attracted a total of 100,000 viewers in 1998.

Today, the film industry in Indonesia is blooming with more than 100 titles released in 2018 alone.

Forteen of these titles each attracted at least one million viewers which, despite the continued popularity of Hollywood fares, signaled a growing appetite for local stories on the silver screen.

So, here are the ten highest grossing Indonesian films of 2018, which as far as genre goes ran the gamut from romantic comedy to horror:

1. 'Dilan 1990'

Since its premiere on Jan. 28, this teen drama, directed by Fajar Bustomi, has attracted over 6 million viewers, making it the country’s most-watched film of the year.

Adapted from Pidi Baiq’s best-selling novel, "Dilan 1990" follows the story of a high school student called Milea (Vanesha Prescilla) who moves from busy Jakarta to tranquil Bandung where she falls in love with her quick-witted high school friend Dilan (Iqbaal Ramadhan).

"Dilan 1990" launched Iqbaal into stardom and was so popular with teens that a predictably titled sequel, "Dilan 1991," is already on its way.

2. 'Suzzanna: Bernapas Dalam Kubur'

Ten years after she died, horror queen Suzzanna, famous for her long black hair, porcelain white mestizo skin and huge emotive/scary eyes, was resurrected for the big screen in a tribute movie, "Suzzana: Bernapas Dalam Kubur," ("Suzzanna: Still Breathing in the Grave").

Luna Maya, and a cast of expensive face prosthetics, had the honor – or curse – of bringing the legendary horror queen back from the dead.

Since its premiere in mid-November, the film has attracted more than 3 million viewers, putting it second in the box office list.

3. 'Danur 2: Maddah'

"Danur 2: Maddah" is a supernatural horror film directed by Awi Suryadi, best known for big-budget horror films like "Badoet" (2015).

Adopted from Risa Sarawati’s bestselling novel of the same name, the sequel continues the story of a lonely girl named Risa (Prilly Latuconsina) who befriends a group of ghosts.

The first film in the series, "Danur: I Can See Ghosts," attracted 2,7 million viewers last year. "Danur 2" nearly matched it with 2.5 million in 2018.

4. 'Si Doel the Movie'

"Si Doel Anak Sekolahan" ("Doel the School Kid") was a hit '90s TV comedy about a traditional Betawi family trying to survive in hypermodern Jakarta.

Its dramatic plot revolved around a love triangle between Doel, pious goody-two-shoes Zaenab (Maudy Koesnaedi) and brazen, foreign-educated Sarah (Cornelia Agatha).

Actor, director and former Banten governor Rano Karno, who directed the original TV series, also helmed the movie adaptation for Falcon Pictures, producer of many box-office hits including Dilan 1990, "Comic 8," and "Warkop DKI Reborn: Jangkrik Boss! Part One."

"Si Doel the Movie" attracted more than 1,7 million viewers.

5. 'Asih'

This horror flick shares the same universe as the "Danur" films, no wonder since it's also adapted from a Risa Saraswati novel.

"Asih" features the Indonesian female ghost, or kunitilanak, which also appears in both "Danur" films.

In the film, Asih (Shareefa Daanish) is a woman who has a child out of wedlock and then kills herself out of shame.

"Asih" attracted 1,7 million viewers.

6. 'Teman Tapi Menikah'

"Teman Tapi Menikah" (“Friends but Married”) is yet another box office hit adapted from a best-selling novel this year.

Based on Ayudia Bing Slamet’s novel of the same title, the film follows the story of two high school BFFs who fall in love with each other.

The star-studded film featured current heartthrobs Adipati Dolken and Vanesha Prescilla and attracted 1,6 million viewers.

7. 'Wiro Sableng: Pendekar Maut Naga Geni 212'

This martial arts epic is based on Bastian Tito's classic dime novels. The novelist's son, Vino G. Bastian, stars in the film as the hero Wiro Sableng (Crazy Wiro).

The film won Best Costume Design at this year's Indonesian Film Festival and attracted 1,5 million viewers.

8. 'Jailangkung 2'

Already one of the biggest moneymakers in the Indonesian film scene with his "Kuntilanak" trilogy and "The Blair Witch Project" knock-off "Jelangkung," Rizal Mantovani returned with his original sidekick Jose Purnomo to direct the long-awaited sequel to "Jelangkung."

"Jailangkung 2" didn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor's 5.7 million viewers, but did well enough to attract more than 1,4 million.

9. 'A Man Called Ahok'

Despite serving time in prison since May last year for his controversial conviction for blasphemy, former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama is still highly regarded as a hero by many Indonesians, so much so that someone made a novel and film about him.

This year, Putrama Tuta's biopic "A Man Called Ahok" could rely on the unwavering support of Ahokers from all over Indonesia to fill in seats at the cinema.

Adapted from Rudi Valinka's best-selling novel, the film digs deep into Ahok's formative years in Bangka Belitung and the role of his influential father, Kim Nam, in raising the famously uncompromising politician.

Released in November, the film has already attracted more than 1,4 million viewers.

10. 'Sabrina'

 Five of the films in this Top 10 list are horror movies, the last of them being "Sabrina."

Directed by Rocky Soraya, the film featured a haunted doll and is a cross between "Annabelle" and jump scares-a-minute "The Conjuring."

"Sabrina" is the third film in Rocky's "The Doll" series and the most successful at the box office, with more than 1,3 million viewers.