No spoilers ahead. I try to be vague!
Yesterday, I talked about how the year started out promising with my book-reading, and then fell off due to the pandemic. Well, on the flip side, despite losing movie theaters once said pandemic occurred, thanks to streaming, I probably watched more movies this year than I have in half a decade. Most were films that didn’t come out in 2020. So, for the purposes of coherence in my head, my list will include only those films that actually came out in 2020.
Unfortunately, I didn’t restart my blog until six months into the year, so it’s harder for me to remember all the movies I watched up to that point. Some include a re-watch of the Die Hard franchise; Harrison Ford movies, like The Fugitive and Air Force One; seeing a few movies for the first time, such as The Hunt for Red October, 48 Hrs., and Beetlejuice (spoiler reaction to the latter: meh); pandemic films, like Contagion and Outbreak; I revisited Training Day and loved it, as well as 12 Angry Men and still loved it; and I also spent much of January and February catching up on as many of the 2020 Oscar-nominated movies as I could, both feature length, documentary, and shorts. Even though those are all 2019 films, I would highly recommend them, especially Parasite.
Once I started the blog, I ran through horror franchies, such as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Happy Death Day, and action franchises, such as Rambo, The Expendables, and two other Sylvester Stallone vehicles, Over the Top, and Cliffhanger. Don’t worry, I still had time for at least two dramatic offerings, The English Patient and The Green Mile.
Two of my favorite films I watched that didn’t come out in 2020, but if you follow the blog, I geeked out about big time were Better Watch Out and The Beach House, two horror offerings that were fantastic.
Anyhow, let’s get to my five favorite films of 2020, which again, actually came out in this wretched year. These are ranked from five to one, with one being my favorite of the bunch, but I always find that difficult, as I loved them all.
Honorable mention: Unhinged.
Directed by Derrick Borte, this one didn’t make the final cut, but come on, Russell Crowe as an overweight, sweaty bad guy, gut-wrenching car cashes and can-you-believe-this-is-happening violence all made for a tense, wild ride of a film. I don’t think I took a breath the entire runtime. My full review is here.
5. The Invisible Man
This horror film, written and directed by Leigh Whannell (who came to fame writing Saw), took the jigsaw, riddle aspect of Whannell’s claim to fame to new heights and did so on the back of one of the most believable, authentic performances from Elisabeth Moss, as a woman trying to get away from her stalking, abusive boyfriend. But also, there’s more here, as a movie about the perils of women in our society trying to do just that. If you’re in for both a thinker and a thriller, you can’t go wrong with this one. Whannell has come a long way since Saw and Saw was good.
4. Happiest Season
This late entry, written and directed by Clea DuVall, in time for the holiday season turned out to be quite the original gem for Hulu. Starring Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis as two women in love who go to the latter’s home for Christmas, but she hasn’t told her conservative parents about being a lesbian. Uh oh, shenanigans unfold in the most heart-wrenching and also delightful way? It was both funny and difficult to watch at times. Stewart was delightful in this, and Dan Levy, playing her friend, really brings both sides of what I mentioned, the levity and the dramatic (he had a great monologue). If you’re in for a good, funny and earnest film, give it a whirl. My full review is here.
3. The Lodge
Now this an interesting one, as it fell in that pre-pandemic part of the year, and I almost forgot about it. It’s a sneaky film because it was made in 2019, but not released stateside until 2020, so it counts! Directed and written by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, the film follows a stepmother who is alone with her fiancé’s two children at a rural lodge during Christmas. And madness ensues. At the time, I said it was the best horror film of the year so far, and then The Invisible Man came out, but in hindsight, I would still say The Lodge holds out slightly better. Claustrophobia is the name of the game here. But also, much like The Invisible Man, this one rides on the back of a great female performance from Riley Keough as the stepmother. I don’t want to say too much to avoid spoilers, but give this horrifying film a view when you’re in the mood. It will shock you, to say the least.
2. Palm Springs
This was another entry I watched late in the year, but it actually came out mid-year, and is another Hulu original. Go, Hulu! Directed by Max Barbakow, the film is about two strangers who meet at a wedding and get stuck in a time loop. If you saw my recent review, you know I was positively gushing about this film and the performances from Andy Samberg, and especially Cristin Millioti. Millioti really carried the film for me. It doesn’t actually work much on the level of comedy, but on the level of romance and thinking? An absolute homerun. It made the time loop concept fresh and interesting. I can’t say enough good things about this film. Read my full review here.
When I first thought about my favorite films of the year, I started thinking about what the other films would be because I knew this one, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, and also written by Benson, would be my number one choice. The film, about two paramedics who encounter people dead or in a strange state, track it to a new designer drug, Synchronic, which turns out to be a time traveling pill. I’ll stop there. The less said about what unfolds in this film, the better because it’s an experience film. You have to experience it. With parts gorgeous and unsettling cinematography, with a satisfying conclusion, you can’t miss this one. Much like Palm Springs, which made the time loop story fresh again, this one makes the time travel story fresh again. It’s can’t-miss. Read my full review here.
And there you have it. I’m sure I’ll kick myself later when I realize I forgot to give a shout-out to a specific film, but overall, for how down 2020 was for theatrical releases, there were still a lot of great films through theaters and original streaming to make for a strong viewing year. I’m also pleased with how many of the films in my top five were either directed and/or written by women and/or carried by female performances. I would say the main throughline between all of the films in my top five is that they made me think and they made me feel. In other words, the two experiences I most want to have when seeing a film.
What were your favorite films of 2020? What should I make sure to check out?