What a weird year for movies 2020 has been.
It started off so well, with my favorite film of 2019 (and possibly of all time) Parasite, cleaning house at the Oscars, a monumental feat for an international film. That good times didn’t roll for long, as the world was rocked by COVID, shutting down the world and, in turn, completely throwing the 2020 film slate for a loop. Distributors and production companies began to push their anticipated releases forward in time until it was once again safe for audiences to pack into a theater together, something that, at the time of this writing, has yet to happen still.
2020 quickly became the year of streaming services, as Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Apple TV and HBO Max quickly tried to secure some of the best (and worst) films of the year in order to give disappointed viewers such as myself something to wet our whistles with. While 2020 lacked the powerhouse films of 2019, such as Parasite, The Lighthouse, Uncut Gems, and Marriage Story, there was still plenty of movies to talk about.
I’ll be talking about EVERY 2020 release I’ve seen this year, starting with the worst and slowly getting to the best. I’ll only speak on these films briefly, but you can find links to films I’ve reviewed in full on the blog already under the specific film. And hey, don’t forget to give yourself a look at the cocktails while you’re there as well.
Before we get into it, I’d like to start with a list of what I call “Honorable Misses”. These are films that, because of one reason or another, I wasn’t able to see. This could be due to lack of time, lack of a certain streaming service or I’m in a country where the film is not widely released, or general lack of interest. So, if you’re confused why a film isn’t on here, there’s your reason. Some notable films include:
- Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
- Enola Holmes
- Da 5 Bloods
- The King of Staten Island
- Never Rarely, Sometimes Always
- The Hunt
- On the Rocks
- Saint Maud
With those out of the way, let’s get into it! Grab yourself a movie cocktail and hunker down, we got a lot to get through.
#30: 365 Days
By far the easiest to place film on this list. 365 Days is an absolutely garbage erotic thriller screening on Netflix that really tries to get you to sympathize with a drug lord sex trafficker. Relying on graphic sex scenes to garner any kind of interest, 365 Days is a boring slog to get through and offers little “so bad it’s good entertainment”. The acting and writing is awful, the cinematography and editing is headache inducing, and the soundtrack is littered with some of the most generic, royalty-free pop music imaginable. Do yourself a favor, give this one a pass. If you REALLY need to be tantalized, just watch porn.
#29: Operation Christmas Drop
I tried to refrain from watching too many new Christmas movies, or else this list would’ve been full of them. Every now and then I did decide to torture myself with one, and out of the few I’ve seen, this is by far the worst. Completely tone deaf and generic in its execution, the film centers around a very real military operation that involves dropping presents from aircrafts onto underdeveloped islands. A worthwhile piece of activism made incredibly annoying thanks to a not-so subtle savior complex. The leads are incredibly dull and cliche: a stuck up busy body being shown the spirit of Christmas thanks to a perfect man with a heart of gold. There’s nothing charming about their forced romance, with writing inducing too many groans to count. Throw in a badly animated CGI gecko, and you’ve got one of the worst Christmas films to come out in recent memory.
For the first time in 12 years, we went without a Marvel Cinematic Universe film gracing the silver screen this year. This was quite refreshing, and that’s coming from a fan of those films. Despite Marvel’s absence at the movies, other studios attempted to hold down the superhero genre to varying degrees of success. By far the worst outing that I saw this year was Bloodshot. Inspired by the Valiant Comics character of the same name, Bloodshot tells the story of a mercenary with powerful nanites in his blood stream that slowly begins to realize that his handlers have been fabricating his past in order to control him. Vin Diesel does his Vin Diesel-est as the titular character, mumbling and grumbling like he does in nearly every movie he’s in. The story offers little in innovation or new ideas, somehow making a fairly interesting premise a bore to watch. The rest of the characters are typical action movie cliches. Even Lamorne Morris isn’t enough to save this dry and uninteresting script. Perhaps the biggest flaw comes from it’s special effects, with fight scenes looking like rubbery, Playstation 3 cutscenes. Not a good start for Valiant, and we can only hope they don’t have plans for a cinematic universe down the line.
After 3 years of a troubled production, multiple script rewrites and several days of reshoots, the Robert Downey Jr. led adaptation of “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle” finally saw the light of day in 2020. However, this one probably should have been left in the dark. Despite Downey’s talent and star power, this film ends up being an unfunny and poorly produced children’s film. Even with an ensemble cast of talented voice actors (and some not so talented actors), the film struggles to be entertaining or funny, no thanks to a lackluster script. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a modern film feel like it came straight out of the early 2000’s, but that’s Dolittle for ya. The entire climax is one big fart joke, and it really speaks to the quality of the entire film. If you’re a parent, there’s MUCH better 2020 kids movies to distract your little spawn with.
#26: Hillbilly Elegy
Knowing what I know about J. D. Vance, I wasn’t super interested to watch Hillbilly Elegy. Putting my political views aside, I was willing to give a film inspired by a his life and memoir a try. However, director Ron Howard seemed to go out of his way to put Vance’s story on middle ground in order to make it more accessible to the common viewer. In turn, Howard took a story that at least had something to say and turned it into a film that says virtually nothing. Despite some decent performances from Amy Adams and Glenn Close, the uninspired and overly dramatic script boxes these talented actresses into a corner, giving them no choice but to go over the top. The themes never expand beyond the cliched “family is everything” trope, failing to have any real identity due to straying away from Vance’s beliefs. Roll this in with straw man adversaries and arguments with the depth of a puddle, and you get one of the worst examples of Oscar bait of 2020.
#25: Wonder Woman 1984
Not an atrociously terrible outing from DC, but a painfully forgettable one. This sequel fails to capture the thrills, lead chemistry or visuals of its predecessor. Wonder Woman’s reliance on Steve Trevor’s presence to give her any motivation is glaringly apparent in his questionable, shoehorned return. Their pairing does little to elevate the film, even though the movie would like you to believe otherwise. Surely there’s more to Wonder Woman than the guy she spent a week with once. The villains are goofy and lack any actual depth beyond one note desires. Kristen Wiig tries, but the script makes her little more than the “girl everyone lusts for once she takes off her glasses” stereotype. Pedro Pascal at least looks like he had sun making this movie, so I’m willing to forgive his outlandishness a bit. Refraining from stuffing 80s references down our throats, its one of the least 80s-feeling movies set in that time period I’ve seen. There’s a middle ground to be found there, but this film unfortunately drifts too far off to the other side. Fleetingly enjoyable with its sometimes rubbery action scenes and some unintentional comedy, this is a pretty big step back for the Wonder Woman brand.
I’ll admit I didn’t hate this film as much as I thought I would. It’s cliched and predictable as hell, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh a few times. The leads have decent chemistry together, but the supporting cast is pretty one note. The film also somehow goes on for so long despite jumping from one holiday to another at a breakneck pace. Not the worst Christmas movie to come out this year, but far from the best.
Without an Avengers film to break the box office with this year, the Russo Brothers have written and produced an action packed thrill ride in order to keep our blood pumping until then. Unfortunately, the action of Extraction is really the only impressive thing about the movie. Ignoring the impressive “one-shot” action scenes and the impressive action choreography, there isn’t really anything new to see here. Chris Hemsworth plays the typical invincible hero with a tragedy that powers his vices, fighting through the ugly yellow tinted sets that every movie set in the slums for some reason. If you just watch the fight scenes, then this film is an A. But saddled with everything else this movie has latched to it, it really isn’t as entertaining as it thinks it is.
A familiar premise most likely inspired by a very real, insane story about a mother drugging her daughter for most of her life to trick her into thinking she was sick. However, Run only attempts to do the bare minimum with a story like this. While I think newcomer Kiera Allen does a fantastic job portraying a girl fighting for the truth and her life, I found Sarah Paulson to be severely outshined. Paulson is a great actress in my mind, but she either continues to get saddled with or she keeps choosing these samey roles. Her performances continue to feel like carbon copies of one another, and I’m hoping she gets a role that allows her to really show her range beyond hysterical. The story has some decent tension to it, but good lord is the dialogue downright terrible at times. Any attempts at humor just came off as tone deaf and cringey. As the film goes on and attempts to get more serious, it only gets more predictable. This cliche where a character keeps literally all of the evidence of the crime they committed neatly together just for a character to find it to show the audience what’s happening has to stop. The film desperately needed a little deeper layer to it to propel it from the diet Stephen King story it ended up being. Motherhood and the trauma attached to it are very relatable, delicate subjects, and I felt this film did little to compel me with this subject.
#21: The Call of the Wild
They…they know real dogs exist, right? We have dogs that can do things for movies. Ignoring this chunk of knowledge, The Call of the Wild decided it’d be best to make their main character, a dog, a rubbery, unconvincing motion capped nightmare. Granted, there are things that a real dog couldn’t do in the film, but the decision to make the dog entirely CGI rather than just using computer effects for the more dangerous stunts is a bit baffling. It’s not just the dog, however, but the scenery is also made mostly in post-production. It becomes very obvious the characters are standing on a soundstage in front of a green screen rather than a snowy tundra. The story and human performances can be engaging at times, but the glossy, bouncy effects took me out of the movie way too often.
#20: The Lodge
I’m all for a slow burn, psychological horror film. Some of my favorite films of all time fit into this genre, so I feel like I’m pretty easy to please. The Lodge was the closest thing we got to this genre this year, and man, was it a let down. It starts off promising enough with its graphic beginning and unsettling atmosphere, but never really expands upon its atmosphere. The mystery of what is happening to the unfortunate souls in the cabin is only sustainable for so long. The film asks you to really suspend your disbelief to believe what is happening, not even in a supernatural way but in a “wow these characters are dumb” kind of way. Way too much credit has to be given to the child characters in this film to believe what they do in this film, and I just couldn’t go along with it. When the mood and the ambience hits it’s very effective, but the payoff to the scares never feels worth it. The film eventually just ends, and nothing feels complete or wrapped up neatly. This was one of my most anticipated films of 2020, and it only ended up being the most disappointing.
#19: Birds of Prey
DC Comics hasn’t exactly been the most consistent producer of superhero movies, but gosh darn, you have to admire their tenacity. After the critical flop that was Suicide Squad, DC looked to rectify their shortcomings with a standalone followup following everyone’s favorite clown queen of crime, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Not only is Harley back and broken free from the abusive grip of this universe’s Hot Topic Joker, but she has her own ragtag group of lesser known DC femme fatales to help her out. Stylish, colorful and packed with over the top action, I’ve now named everything good about this film. Despite it’s glittery and glossy sheen, there isn’t really any substance underneath it. The table is still fully stocked with all the elements of an edgy, post-Deadpool world you’ve come to expect, with nothing new on that table except for the fact that it’s girls kicking ass and slinging curse words. Everyone’s performances are very much goofy and silly, which only entertains for so long. The action is cool, but sometimes a bit too stylized (why does everyone do a backflip after getting hit by something here?). A good time for a short time, hopefully DC hits their stride somewhere down the line.
#18: Happiest Season
The best Christmas movie I’ve seen this year. Not exactly a very good movie, but hey, sometimes you can only be the best at certain things. It’s been a long time coming for an LGBTQ+ Christmas film to hit screens, and I’m happy to see one finally come around. Even thought it’s representation is progressive, it doesn’t exactly give it a free pass to commit all these holiday cliches. It doesn’t feel like too much thought was given in the realms of presenting an original story, however, even for LGBTQ+ movies. The performances are entertaining enough, especially Mary Holland, and the script is genuinely funny at times. The story does get a bit predictable and left me with an ending I saw coming, but didn’t really want. I know I’m overthinking a simple holiday movie. It’s a simple movie made to make you feel simple things, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
An interesting premise stuck in a relatively uninteresting movie. Visually on par with Disney’s other modern films, but is severely lacking in the wit department. The film really does try with its mix of modern and medieval locations and world building, yet I still found this to be the least funny modern Disney movies I’ve seen in a while. Perhaps the comedy isn’t what’s supposed to be the draw, but its emotions. The brotherly dynamic and the emotions of seeing a passed parent again are what save it from being entirely forgettable, but even then its emotional moments don’t exactly feel up to snuff with Disney and Pixar’s previous works. This might be Marvel burnout talking, but I think I’m just a tad tired of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland at the moment. Nothing against their talents, but I feel a bit overexposed at the moment. The ending did surprise me though and was probably the strongest part of the film. Disney has shown they aren’t afraid to go for a mature message in the past, and I think the ending will surprise many. But when the saying goes “it’s not the destination, but the journey”, I can’t help but feel there wasn’t much of a journey to be had here.
#16: The Social Dilemma
Hey, a documentary! I’m not usually a big consumer, but I did manage to sneak a couple in this year. With The Social Dilemma, we take a deep dive into how social media and access to the World Wide Web has forever changed our society, and not entirely for the better. The documentary relies on the bleak, unfiltered truth in order to scare everyone from parents to social media influencers into thinking twice about their internet usage and just how much freedom we have with it. Feels a bit like fear mongering at times, but it’s an issue that many have yet to fully understand and should be seriously read on. However, what turns the film’s important message into a Lifetime drama is the scripted story that’s intercut in the documentary. We follow a family struggling with technology addiction and becoming infatuated with a knockoff Q-anon. It’s cheesy, ridiculous, and somehow undercuts the message of the documentary by going down the overly-dramatized route with this narrative. It’s almost as if the creators of the film don’t fully understand their audience and why technology is so engrained in their lives. In conclusion, watch the documentary for it’s message, but skip the family BS unless you need a good chuckle.
#15: The Devil All the Time
A southern gothic drama that crosses several generations and several overarching stories, all connecting together one way or another in the end. A daunting adaptation of the novel of the same name, the film feels a bit bloated from trying to include so many stories in such a short runtime. The most screentime is given to Bill Skarsgard and Tom Holland, whose family sins connect them as the years pass. Their the standouts of the film, but because of the heavy focus on them we miss out on learning more about several other characters. The serial killer couple is by far the most interesting story to follow, yet only gets a fraction of the screentime. Sebastian Stan plays a cop that becomes integral to the ending, but we barely see him and his side story. This story was dying to be made as a limited Netflix series, allowing for more growth and development of these characters. What we’re left with is a decently acted southern thriller that seems to only scratch the surface of its source material.
#14: Sonic the Hedgehog
Ah, video games and movies. Like milk and motor oil, they don’t tend to mix too well. After a rocky production that saw the film delayed several months after the world cried out in horror over the original design of the titular blue hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog was finally released upon the masses. It’s story is very by the numbers and generic, hitting many familiar beats of the wacky road trip genre. Despite the unoriginal story and ideas, I found this movie to be a lot funnier than it should be. Ignoring some of the pop culture references and shameless product placement, I actually found a lot of the writing to be pretty dang funny. The film owes a huge gratitude to Jim Carrey’s Doctor Robotnik, who steals the show every time he’s on screen, harkening back to the comedy classics that made him a star. As an old fan of the video games, I at least kept my nostalgia goggles from letting me see the apparent flaws of the film, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a pretty good time with this.
#13: Bad Boys For Life
I had never seen a Bad Boys film up until this point, mainly due to my disdain for every piece of media Michael Bay touches. Knowing he wasn’t heavily attached to this film gave me hope, and I’m happy to say that the third installment of this action/comedy franchise was a fairly fun time. While I can’t speak on how it holds up to its two prior films, Bad Boys For Life is an entertaining ride of uber-machismo that knows just how ridiculous the Bad Boys’ antics are at this point. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s banter as two aging action stars is surprisingly fun despite the tried formula the two have been working with. The back and forth jabs at one another, coupled with over the top action set pieces, makes it one of the best mindless action films of the year. Sometimes I don’t mind a lackluster story if the decorations are at least enjoyable. You won’t find much game-changing cinema here, but its at least enough to genuinely entertain for a few hours.
#12: Horse Girl
Releasing at the beginning of the year, I nearly forgot about this one until it came time to write this. A first time producer/writer outing for star Alison Brie, Horse Girl follows a socially awkward woman slowly starting to lose her grip on reality. This was the right kind of weird for me during most of the film. Alison Brie can be tantalizing to watch at times, playing a quirky young woman cranked to the max. The imagery and story grows bizarrely entertaining over time, as dreams and reality begin to blend until our main character (and us at home) can’t distinguish between the two. While the movie’s weirdness is its draw, it loses me with its lack of perceived purpose. While the film may seem like a commentary on mental health and the treatment of those with severe issues, the story does little to dig any deeper than the theme’s surface level. Most apparent near the end, the film tends to wander aimlessly from dreamy set piece to dreamy set piece, never really figuring out exactly what it wants to be. A film worth thinking about, but not worth thinking about too hard.
For the film that was supposed to save the theater industry, this was a bit of a letdown when it comes to Christopher Nolan‘s filmography. Without a doubt the most impressive display of action set pieces to come out this year, Tenet takes an admittedly confusing premise and actually manages to make it fairly understandable to my dumb, baboon mind. At least the film doesn’t want you to think about it too hard. Still, the melding of forward and reverse time is tricky to pull off convincingly, but Nolan manages to at least make the concept enjoyable and visually impressive. However, the “concept” harbors all of the films creativity. This really is a concept film, as little thought was seemingly given to the characters and writing. Every character seems to speak in the same dialect, the same tone and the same vocabulary. Names become the only defining trait for these characters, as everyone feels either incredibly copy and pasted or heavily underdeveloped. Hell, the main character’s name is “The Protagonist”. While the actors do all they can with the material their given, it becomes painfully apparent where most of the creative focus went. While it may be the best display of action to come out this year, it’s severe lack of an emotional connection or worthwhile themes found in films like Interstellar or The Prestige make this one of the least engaging Nolan films available.
#10: The Invisible Man
Usually the thought of horror remakes make me shudder, and not in the intended way. It fuels the fiery belief that Hollywood is out of original ideas, but The Invisible Man is proof that you can take a pre-existing idea and give it a fresh spin. Choosing to swap the focus from the titular unseen fella and onto his terrorized victim, this remake manages to create a fresh spin on the familiar story. Elizabeth Moss sells the film through her performance, harnessing an anxiousness and paranoia that makes her easy to get behind as she transforms into a badass survivor. The mystery behind the Invisible Man is practically nonexistent, which made the film a tad less engaging for me personally. However, with the current #MeToo climate we’re living in where women are constantly disregarded and mistrusted, I can understand the importance of the direction. Though the plot can be pretty predictable at times, there’s a few moments that genuinely surprised me. While it starts as a tension filled, patiently paced horror film, the climax turns into a borderline action/thriller, which ironically was the least thrilling part of the film for me. Finally, the ending was thought provoking and left me questioning what I just saw and if the ending was justified, which is more than I can say for most modern horror movies.
#9: The Trial of the Chicago 7
A flawed but engaging adaptation of one of the most ridiculous American trials in history. This is further proof that Aaron Sorkin can still bring it in the writing department but has yet to completely bring it in the directing department. For every neatly crafted parable is an overly exaggerated antagonist meant to inflame your emotions but becomes to ridiculous to take seriously. Even with Sorkin’s heavy handed directing, there’s still great performances that shine through. Yahya Abdul-Mateen is absolutely terrific and is featured way too little, though this comes down to the context of the story. It’s always great to see Sacha Baron Cohen show just how versatile of an actor he can be, which I think will continue to shock people. Finally, Michael Keaton out of nowhere, just being himself. And really, that’s all I need. I really hate to be one of those guys, but the ending legitimately kept me from giving this 4 stars. How can we come this far and progress as a society and then throw in such a cornball ending that feels like it should be in the 90s? A tense political film with an ending that made me laugh and roll my eyes? Not a good sign. Saved by its performances and gripping enough because of its modern day parallels, I think we can all learn something from this:
Just let Michael Keaton show up in the middle of movies. I feel like that’s what Morbius is about to do, and it’s going to win all of the 2022 Oscars.
#8: First Cow
A calm and quite film, driven by one of the most heartwarming displays of friendship I’ve seen on film in quite a while. Cookie and King-Lu are a complicated pair, driven by a desire to succeed but varying in just how far they’re willing to go. The risk is high, yet the film’s energy is always kept to the same, subdued tone. It relishes in the quiet, serene nature of its old New England setting, rarely ever letting anything other than a light strum of a guitar in for the soundtrack. The film really takes its time, focusing on everyday lives as they play out, usually refraining from speeding up the processes through editing. The long run time and lack of high energy moments may be a deterrent for some. Although I enjoy slow movies, there were some moments that admittedly were a bit too sluggish for my taste. Nevertheless, I was captivated by the lead performances and their growing relationship, as well as the simplistic approach to the filmmaking. It’s a shame this was the only A24 film I managed to see this year, but that just makes it the best one.
#7: Palm Springs
Flat out the funniest 2020 movie I saw this year, Palm Springs treads familiar ground in a Groundhog Day-style conundrum. While the similarities are apparent and sometime distracting, the film does enough to build upon the idea to allow it to stand on its own. Both leads are hilarious and fantastic together, mixing both absurdity and nihilism into an entertaining plot about trying to find meaning in a repeating life. It’s a leisurely watched, and probably the easiest film to revisit on this list.
#6: I’m Thinking of Ending Things
This is the film that I found the hardest to write about. If you’re familiar with Charlie Kauffman‘s work, you’ll know his films are like intricate mental puzzles. He doesn’t make anything too obvious, making his films rewarding to watch once you’re finally able to make sense of it. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is no different, cranking his storytelling style to the max in this unnerving, confusing story about a man and woman going to visit the man’s parents. The film turns out to be anything but, as it begins to delve into the human psyche’s views of regrets and desires. It’s a film that begs to be watched a second time just to connect everything, but with a long runtime and several moments of slow character development, it’s a feat that’s easier said than done. It took time for the film to grow on me, as I was honestly confused by the end and didn’t really connect everything together until the next day. However, once I began to unravel this little puzzle, I began to appreciate just how unique and daring the film was underneath the long poems and Oklahoma references. Undoubtedly, this film will infuriate people, and I can’t really recommend it if you aren’t looking for a film that’s meant to aggravate you. Yet, if you’re willing to go down one of the weirdest rabbit holes of the year, you’ll find one of the most original and hypnotic narratives of 2020.
Less about Hollywood and more about the politics surrounding it at the time, Mank is the newest film from one of my all time favorite directors, David Fincher. Set in the 1940s, we follow Herman J. Mankiewicz, a screenwriter tasked with drafting the story to what would go on to become the most influential film of all time, Citizen Kane. Played by a silver tongued, intoxicating Gary Oldman, Mank takes us on a journey through the formative years in Hollywood, and how the people in it would go on to drastically shape the American landscape. What made the film difficult for me was my lack of knowledge on the time period, even though the film does it’s best to inform. While this made it hard to follow at times, I was completely entranced with this film. It may have been because I was drinking a Perfect Manhattan at the time, but I was just gripped by the dialogue, set design, and old-timey filmmaking techniques that really authenticated the film in my eyes. It’s unlike anything Fincher has done in the past, which is both a positive and a negative. While I appreciate him stepping out of his realm and trying something new (a la Tarantino with 2019’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), the style I know him for feels absent. It isn’t a huge deterrent for me, but I know it will be for others expecting another Seven or Social Network. As I stated before, the film is more about the political side of Hollywood rather than the glitz and glamor that makes it so appealing. It’s a bureaucratic world where you aren’t sure if it’s an act or not. An interesting curtain pull on the behind the scenes of the business and one of the most important movies ever made, Mank is a classically stylish ride with terrific performances and and respectable presentation. While it’s far from Fincher’s best, it’s a unique take on classic Hollywood that doesn’t feel like a pat on the back like others of its kind tend to do.
#4: Sound of Metal
For a film centered around a heavy metal drummer, this movie turned out to be far more patient and quiet than I expected. Behind it’s dirty and grainy cinematography is an honest, human look at coming to grips with the loss of your ability to live the life you once did. Sound of Metal follows a heavy metal drummer named Ruben, played by Riz Ahmed, becoming nearly completely deaf after years of loud music finally takes its toll. Unwilling to accept his fate, Ruben at first fights off any attempts to adapt to his new way of life, clinging to the hope that all can be fixed with just enough money. Ruben’s up and down journey with his deafness is anxious, hopeful, and depressing. We never really understand just how much our senses play into our everyday lives. Take them away, and your life is forever changed. Ruben’s dilemma is for sure a familiar one. Do we continue to fight and delay the inevitable, or do we come to terms with it. It’s not an easy decision, and every bad move Ruben makes is understandable yet pitiful. Even as he becomes embraced by the deaf community that surrounds him, his eyes are always towards a future he himself may know is impossible to obtain. Riz Ahmed gives his all in one of the best performances of the year, slowly breaking down and adapting with Ruben’s disability in a believable way that never feels like pulling heartstrings is its only goal. Additionally, Paul Raci as his deaf mentor Joe is so humbling and warm to watch as he tries to introduce Ruben to a fate he can’t escape from. Through the ups and downs of Ruben’s journey into hearing loss, the film ends on a mixture of sorrow and acceptance. It’s calming in a loud place, it’s lonely in a crowded city. It’s honest and genuine, making it one of the best movies of the year.
#3: Feels Good Man
Most likely the most important film I’ve seen this year, Feels Good Man attempts to introduce audiences to the abnormally weird world of the internet. Centering on the journey of Pepe the Frog, an internet icon that metamorphosed from a care-free stoner into a symbol for racism and hatred, we get a glimpse into how the internet has evolved into a tool capable of changing entire geo-politcal landscapes through silly shared cartoons and pictures. As someone fairly well versed in internet culture, this was a much needed presentation into a world that we don’t understand as well as we may think. Equally bizarre and informative, Feels Good Man is bolstered by visually impressive animations and offbeat humor courtesy of Pepe’s creator, Matt Furie. Everything from 4chan, to Rare Pepes, to the 2016 Election is covered here, making me realize just how weird and stupid our history can be. I would highly recommend everyone see this documentary, and if you’d like to read more (and have a nice little Pepe drink as well), be sure to check out my full review!
It’s been a while since Pixar really had a heavy hitter on their hands. Thankfully, after Onward failed to capture that emotional magic I sought after, Pixar came in just before the year ended with Soul. A surprisingly mature outing for Pixar, Soul follows a middling high school band teacher named Joe Gardner, who earns an opportunity to play piano with a famous jazz musician. Unfortunately, Joe has an accident that leaves his body in the a coma and his soul somewhere in the great beyond. Partnering with a rambunctious unborn soul named 22, Joe goes on a crazy journey of life and death, of passion and purpose, and of pizza and petals. I didn’t really know what to expect from such an adult theme and premise, but Soul managed to capture an emotional spark that I hadn’t seen from them since Inside Out. Visually, this is the most impressive animated film of the year, blending together a mix of realistic scenery with stylized human characters in the real world, alongside Pixar’s more traditional “dreamy” style for the afterlife. Although we don’t get as much of the Great Beyond as I expected, its by far the most artistically interesting part of the film, with the “2D” Jerry and Terry characters being the standouts. The writing and pacing of the story is excellent as well, feeling as if we covered so much ground in such little time. While the jokes don’t always land, the film quickly moves on from them to get to its next scenario. The film’s really strong suit is its message. Even though I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I’d like to be, the ideas and morals the film broadcasts are universal and genuinely made me think about my own life and aspirations. Wrapped together neatly with a peppy and inspirational jazz soundtrack, Soul revealed itself to be quite a surprise for me. I have some minor issues with the story and some of the world building, but none of these were able to inhibit my enjoyment. It’s the best Pixar has been in a long while, and I am so glad I got to catch this film before the end of the year.
#1: Bad Education
You may be surprised by my favorite movie I saw from 2020. It’s not the highest rated film I’ve seen, so why is it number one?
Bad Education came into my field of view right when COVID quarantines were kicking off. I had just lost my job due to the pandemic, my car had finally crapped out after many years of service, and the world came to a screeching halt. Like I said at the beginning, studios began pushing their big releases back in the hope that the world would get better by the end of the year, though this wasn’t the case. After the incredible year for film that was 2019 passed, I was left discouraged that this would be a year dry of any genuinely great pieces of film.
Bad Education proved me wrong.
While maybe not the absolute best film I saw this year, Bad Education gave me an incredible experience that I so desperately needed. A dramatic telling of a real-life occurrence of a multi-million dollar fraud crime in a public school, Bad Education reminded me why I love movies again. While it may not be the flashiest or the most exhilarating, it hooked me with its strong performances, tight storytelling and clean presentation. Hugh Jackman gives one of my favorite performances of the year as Frank, a well-meaning superintendent with secrets he’ll do what he can to keep hidden. The unraveling of the character of Frank surprised me and kept me engaged, eager to see just how deep this crime went. I had no idea what to expect going in, but the film continued to subvert my expectations and throw me for a loop as the plot thickened. It reminded me a lot of Parasite in the way it’s tone and direction was constantly evolving, so maybe it’s no wonder I like this movie as much as I do. It was the most “movie” movie I’d seen that year, if that makes any sense. I’m sure it’s seating at number one on my list may change, as there’s still many more incredible movies I need to watch from this year, but I have to give this film its moment. As dumb as it sounds, this film gave me hope that cinema wasn’t just going to die out in 2020. The world of film is changing for sure, but it’s not disappearing. This was an important film for my 2020, and I hope you’ll check it out if you haven’t already.
There you have it folks. Agree with my list? What was your favorite movie of the year? Any movie I missed that I should definitely give a watch? Feel free to let me know in the comments below!