Written By: Rick Masters
Hello film freaks! Now, if you’re a bear who chose to hibernate throughout the whole of 2020 then congratulations… you made a wise choice. That’s because 2020 has been an absolute shit show of a year in many many ways.. not least of all for Hollywood. Pretty much all major releases have been pushed into next year and the cinemas I spend my free time at, have all been closed.
That being said… By some miracle, 2020 was the first serious year of on-demand releases that have provided us with some top draw entertainment and much needed new material.
Here I’ll give you a break down of how my film watching habits mutated during these odd and scary times AND list my top 10 feature film releases (including some honourable mentions) from 2020.
With my own personal record of 302 films being watched in 2020 alone… I’ve spent many an hour (574.4hrs to be exact) sat pigging out on my sofa and discovering some absolute gems (and the occasional rotten tomato).
My ratings spread this year leaned more towards average, with 3 stars being my most common pick (56 films). However two first watches: It’s Such a Beautiful Day and The Guilty received my hard-earned 5 star rating.
My most watched actor stats have been decimated this year thanks to my very first HARRY POTTER marathon during one of the many lockdowns. Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman still managed to finger their way in there though like they do Every. Single. Year.
Most watched director has once again been conquered by the king… Helped by the fact that I obsessively re-watch JURASSIC PARK over and over again. Completing my first Indiana Jones marathon also helped his rise to the top. Earlier in the year I also focused on ticking off some of Nolan’s earlier works… creeping him up to 2nd place.
Ok… HERE’S MY FAVOURITE MOVIES FROM 2020
Director: Tomm Moore Ross Stewart
“You don’t need your eyes to see.”
This is one of them wonderful films that just seem to pop up from nowhere and blows you away… In fact, I dont think I’d have ever heard of it if it hadnt started popping up all over my letterboxd activity feed!. This visually enchanting, rich story plays out with infectious Irish music jouncing in the background…. made even more impressive thanks to the excellent voice-work and classic folklore themes. Easily one of the best animated film of 2020.
THE VAST OF NIGHT
Director: Andrew Patterson
“I’ve seen good people go bad and smart people go mad”
With character dialogue that’s so razor sharp you’ll be hanging on every word, superb performance from Sierra McCormick and an art style that compliments the decade its based on perfectly, THE VAST OF NIGHT is a gently told sci-fi story that intensifies into a thrilling and mesmerising treasure of a film. (Disclaimer: In 2019 The Vast Of Night did the rounds at film festivals but only got its international release in the summer of 2020)
Director: Sam Hargrave
“You drown not by falling into the river, but by staying submerged in it.”
The story isn’t going to blow you away, (in fact its rather drab) BUT you’ll soon forget all about that once the action scenes start to ramp up. Chris Hemsworth is a fireball of violence in what are some of the most brutal, visceral and spectacular action sequences I’ve ever seen. The camerawork, stunts, cinematography and creativity on show here is breathtaking. An over-the-top action escapists dream! That’s what I wanted and that exactly what I got. Bring on that rumoured sequel!
Director: Christopher Nolan
“I’ll see you in the beginning, friend.”
One of the few releases I did see in the cinema this year and my word it was beautiful. Now I’m not going to pretend I understood a lot of what was going on… the film demands 100% of your concentration (and then some) and re-watches are almost entirely required to get a full understanding of this demanding story but the sheer scope and ingenuity on show here is nothing short of breathtaking. With an already astounding track record, Nolan once again cements himself as one of the most creative, adaptable, daring and exciting directors of all-time.
Director: Clea DuVall
“I am not hiding you! I am hiding me!”
Featuring a story that swallows you whole thanks to it’s wit and genuineness, HAPPIEST SEASON stands out from the crowd of Christmas movies due to it’s emotionally complex subject matter and the way it’s handled so brilliantly well. The characters and situations feel so real and you can’t help but feel a part of this whole awkward mess Kristen Stewart finds herself in. Thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Director: Max Barbakow
“No! You’re cheating on me, you goof.”
Ohh if there was ever a time I needed a decent comedy then 2020 was it and thankfully it didn’t disappoint!
Now, the films groundhog day concept has been done to death but somehow PALM SPRINGS shatters expectations with its vast amounts of energy, quirky writing, dark humour and excellent performances. I’d happily wake up and experience this again and again.
Director: Guy Ritchie
“There’s only one rule in this jungle! When the lion is hungry, he eats.”
This is pure unadulterated Guy Ritchie doing what he does best. Unbalanced gangster characters, gritty and witty dialogue, a terrific ensemble cast, first-class snappy editing and a cracking storyline. Welcome home, Mr. Ritchie…. I’ve missed you!
Director: Bong Joon-ho
“Where’s that smell coming from?”
PARASITE infected the whole film loving community when it first came out earlier this year and it’s easy to see why…
Featuring a story full of intrigue, humour and violence and consistently blending one genre with another, it’s a film that defies expectations, that is rich with details and is so much smarter than it initially appears. PARASITE is an unforgettable and ferocious film that gets right under your skin and deserved all the praise that was showered upon it.
PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE
Director: Céline Sciamma
“That’s why he turns. He doesn’t make the lover’s choice, but the poet’s.”
Well I would have never guessed that my second favourite film of the year would have been a French gay drama but here we are…..
It’s a slow burn, sure, but the heat and the passion radiates from start to finish. It’s hauntingly beautiful, emotionally absorbing, deeply passionate and features the riches sound ever forged to film. Man I can still feel the sexual tension months later!
Just before I reveal my favourite film of 2020… here’s a few honourable mentions:
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
A must see for its superb cast, pitch perfect pacing and it’s captivating, clever script.
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
It’s weird but so deliciously dark and intriguing you’ll be totally engrossed from the first shot.
THE INVISIBLE MAN
Utilising psychological horror to scare the viewer just as much as it does the exceptionally shot action scene, The Invisible man is well-worth seeing (if you can find it of course)
A sharp and engaging drama brought to life by the insanely good performances from both Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney.
LOVE AND MONSTERS
Bright, charming, wholesome fun that is bursting with creativity and features one of the most positive character arcs I’ve seen in a long time.
SOUND OF METAL
What feels like an almost out of body experience, the sound of metal is a gritty and genuine tale of recovery and growth that will resonate for some time.
As chaotic and hurried SOUL’s narrative feels, the creativity and beauty shines through.
Pour yourself a glass of wine and settle in for a decent story of self-destruction, friendship and self-discovery.
Director: Sam Mendes
“I hoped today might be a good day. Hope is a dangerous thing.”
1917 is a technical masterpiece. It was one of the first films I saw this year and it has held its top spot on my list since day dot. From its incredible locations, pacing, superb actor performances and impeccable sound design, everything just screams quality. The one camera, one shot technique can at times limit it’s storytelling ability, but for this particular story I truly believe the positives far out way the negatives. This is a masterclass in film production and an absolute blast from start to finish. For me, the creativity and beauty blew me away, and that is why 1917 stands as my favourite film of 2020.
And there we have it…Do you agree with my list? Any you’d throw away or did I miss any important films? Let me know by reaching out to me on twitter of facebook. Undoubtedly there’s a few films I’ve yet to see and some late additions could squeeze in… My full 2020 year ranked can be found HERE and will continue to be updated as I watch more from this year.
My letterboxd page FOUND HERE is where you’ll find bitesized reviews for every film I watch so please feel free to follow me if you so desire ;).
As challenging as this year may have been… I hope you are all safe and well and here’s to a much healthier, happier and cinema filled 2021!