Movie Final - My Favorite Movies of 2020

2020 has been a year like no other. The world has changed, and it affected our entertainment. Many big movies that I expected to be on the list were delayed. Some were released, but in different formats than I expected to see them. Still, despite everything, 2020 gave us some wonderful gems. There was power, hope, laughter, love, and purpose in many of the stories this year, right when we needed them most.

Quick Note: Due to my location and/or financial situation, I haven't been able to watch every movie released this year that I wanted to, so there will be gaps in this list. Some of those films were not available to me, and some were just too expensive to justify the cost. I'm sure at least a few of those would have made the list, but they were not one of the 49 films released in 2020 that I have seen (which also includes short films and documentaries). There will be five honorable mentions, and 10 of my favorite films of the year. After that, I will list every film that was released this year that I have seen, that way you can see what I had to choose from!

Honorable Mention 1 - The Old Guard

The Old Guard is one of the splashiest films to ever hit Netflix. The film offers high adrenaline action sequences and a wonderful leading role for Charlize Theron. The world building is great too. The narrative can be a bit clunky at times, but can also be forgiven by the sometimes John Wick-esque shoot outs. The villain is an over-the-top mustache twirler that really is quite one dimensional. You could do worse than The Old Guard which is a fun action romp that has the potential to be the start of a large franchise.

Honorable Mention 2 - The Trial Of The Chicago 7

Sorkin is gonna Sorkin. You can either embrace it or get out of the way. Sorkin the writer is much better than Sorkin the director. He puts both on display here, telling the true (and relevant) story of a famous Chicago court trial in regards to the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Saying Sorkin's dialogue is not an easy task, but this cast made it look easy. Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Mark Rylance all gave stellar performances. The writing was impeccable and Sorkin sure knows how to end a movie. One of the most powerful moments in cinema this year was that very last scene as the credits rolled.

Honorable Mention 3 - Sonic The Hedgehog

Video game movies are tricky. A lot of them fail because like book adaptations, they cannot compete with what is in your imagination, or your experience with the source material. But Sonic The Hedgehog was always listening to fans (which is why the film got delayed to give its blue protagonist a makeover), and because of that, came up with a solid, entertaining, funny, and heartfelt adaptation of the Sega mascot. Like Detective Pikachu, it has more merit than people initially give it credit for. Jim Carrey turns out another wacky performance, that works very well given who he is playing. It does feel like he is in a different movie than everyone else at times, but stepping back and letting him do his thing is better than trying to stifle him. As video games adapted into movies go, this is high on the list. The sequel tease is also incredible. I hope they are able to pay off that promise.

Honorable Mention 4 - Bad Boys For Life


Any sequel made more than a decade after the last entry always has an uphill battle. Do people care about these characters anymore? What story is possibly good enough to justify their return? Well both questions were answered satisfyingly with Bad Boys For Life. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence both return in a entertaining sequel that deals with middle age, retirement, legacy, and sins of the past. The story justifies the sequels existence. Both Smith and Lawrence slip right back into the roles they've been playing for over 2 decades now. It has a lot of entertaining action, funny humor you expect from the franchise, and a sense of purpose, which sometimes got lost with the Michael Bay-helmed sequel Bad Boys II. Bad Boys For Life is a worthy successor and franchise capper. Though another sequel was teased, this would suffice as a good ending.

You can read my full review of the film right here.

Honorable Mention 5 - Birds of Prey


DC movies post The Dark Knight franchise have been very hit and miss for me. I am not huge on the Snyder films or Suicide Squad, but Wonder Woman and Shazam were great. Birds of Prey continued that trend. This was a perfect vehicle for Margot Robbie to stretch her wings as Harley Quinn. The supporting cast was fun, and the non-linear way of moving the story forward was fresh and exciting. Plus, there is one of the most delectable egg sandwiches ever seen on camera. Ewan McGregor looked like he had an absolute ball playing Black Mask. He was campy, yet dark; funny, but mean. The team had chemistry, and all of them have spinoff potential. I don't think its the last time we will see these characters on the big screen, and hopefully they will be back soon.

You can read my full review of the film right here.

10. Bill & Ted Face The Music

Like Bad Boys For Life, this was a sequel that had been gestating for many years. Also like Bad Boys For Life, the sequel needed a great story reason to exist. The IP alone couldn't be the reason. Well, Bill & Ted Face The Music is maybe the most wholesome movie of 2020. It deals with love, legacy, and living up to expectations. Kind of meta, since that was the expectation for the sequel itself. While it was absolutely obvious what was going to happen, that was okay because you very much wanted it to. While it may have been sweeter than its predecessors, there are a ton of fun cameos and it stays true to the DNA of the show and of the characters.

9. Hamilton


Yes, this one is a bit of a cheat, but it still deserves to be on here. It is a 2020 feature release even though it was just a recording of a performance from 2016. But it is one of the most catchy musicals ever written. It deserves to be seen by every American. Lin Manuel Miranda made something catchy, spectacular, and important and deserves to be seen by everyone. If you haven't watched it yet, it is absolutely worth your time.

8. Tenet


Putting aside Nolan's selfishness, Tenet really resonated with me. I am an absolute sucker for time travel stories. While Tenet is short on strong character development, it still has some emotion you can invest in. It also has some of the best action set pieces that have ever been put on screen, which is why it is on this list at all. John David Washington didn't have much to sink his teeth into (it was very much plot over character) but did well with what he had. He has all of his father's charisma and talent, so its fun to see him act. Nolan has his own tropes he is known for, and this is his Nolan-y-est film yet. If you're in for that sort of thing, you'll eat it up. If you aren't, well then, now you know.

7. Soul


Pixar knows how to hit people right in the feels. Soul is no exception. It deals with what Pixar deals with best: Existentialism. This time, its as literal as it comes. Soul literally deals with existing or not. The Pixar formula is tried and true, and it works with this story. It is sweet, poignant, and makes you appreciate life. Soul shows the joy of life itself, which is something audiences need reminded of in a year with so many obstacles. It is gorgeously animated and offers a ton of Easter eggs and detail. The story does end rather abruptly though, and feels a little lacking with a rushed third act. But overall its a great film that was a perfect Christmas after dinner mint.

6. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Chadwick Boseman's final role may be his best. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is a story of pride, opportunity, and dealing with unfair disadvantages. It is an intimate story that takes place in only a few settings and could very easily be a play. It is a slow burn of emotion. The layers peel back on each character methodically, and it all bubbles up into one great, shocking climax. Boseman should at least get an Oscar Nomination, if not a posthumous win. His performance under regular circumstances would be extraordinary. But his performance being this good with how sick he was? It is truly remarkable. The rest of the cast is great too, including the forever impressive Viola Davis.

5. Onward

Having 2 original Pixar films in a year is a treat. Having them in a year without a ton of options is even better. But having them both be excellent? That's the real treat. Pixar has a way at tugging at your heartstrings like nobody else can. They've hit a few bumps in the road, but for the most part, they can draw out very strong emotions. Onward continues that trend. 2 brothers find a magic spell that lets them see their dead father for 24 hours. It goes wrong so they have to rush on a quest to get it right before he is gone for good. Anyone who has ever lost a parent, or any loved one for that matter, will instantly be invested in their journey. The story is entertaining, and so is that signature Pixar world building they are so good at. But the realization from one of the characters at the end of the movie is so powerful it will knock you right out of your seat. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Far From Home) due incredible voice work, and you can definitely feel the emotions in their voices. Pixar hit a home run here, and definitely has one of the best films of the year.

You can read my full review of the film right here.

4. Enola Holmes


When I first watched Stranger Things I was convinced that Millie Bobby Brown would be an enormous star. Nothing since then has changed my mind. She is supremely talented, and Enola Holmes was the perfect vehicle to showcase her talent. From her entertaining narrations, to holding her own on screen with Henry  Cavill, she really is something special. The story itself is great too. It had a great mystery, and expanded the world of Holmes we've seen so many times before. I definitely hope this is the first of many entries in this delightful franchise.

You can read my full review of Enola Holmes right here.

3. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm


Nobody can get a serious message through using comedy like Sacha Baron Cohen. His willingness to commit to a bit is unparalleled. Bringing Borat back in this day and age could have been a disaster, but the genius of Cohen not only made it work, but made it one of the most compelling films of the year. He made it relevant, and interwove Borat with the events of 2020. The film actually does something important, which is why it was hastily released before election day. All of that was expected, knowing how Cohen works. But what wasn't expected was the incredibly sweet narrative he has with his daughter. There is a real heartfelt connection there, no doubt drawn by Cohen's real relationship with his daughter. But the last thing I expected was for the hilarious, shocking movie to tug at my heartstrings too.

2. Palm Springs


It is refreshing when a movie takes a familiar format and uses it in a fun and interesting way. That is what Palm Springs does. As to which format it uses, you'll have to find out yourself. The movie is infinitely better if you know nothing about it. Don't watch a preview, don't read the synopsis, just log into Hulu and hit play. Andy Samberg tears through a smart, sharply written script. Cristin Milioti does wonderful work as well, but it is J.K. Simmons that really steals the show. Whether you want to call it a stroke of luck, all the right people in all of the right places, lightning in a bottle, or just incredible talent on all levels, is up to you. But Palm Springs is truly something special. Strong comedies (especially ones with romantic angles) are a few and far between now, so when one comes around, it is to be lauded.

1. Da 5 Bloods


Spike Lee doesn't just make movies, he makes statements. Like his last film BlackKklansman, Da 5 Bloods tells a story about a moment in history that is absolutely relevant to today's world. Da 5 Bloods focuses on 5 black soldiers who fought in Vietnam, but the world we live in today certainly shapes their reunion when they return there. Yes Lee is politcal. But that doesn't mean he is wrong. The story is captivating at every turn and Delroy Lindo gives an Academy Award winning performance. Not to mention another great performance from the late Chadwick Boseman in one of his last roles. From a technical standpoint, this is one of the best shot movie this year, and the performances from everyone are stellar. This is not an easy subject to broach, or to digest. But it is worth it once you do. Usually my number one movie changes from the midterm to now, but this time it didn't. That is a testament to how powerful this film is.

You can read my full review of the film right here.


***

2020 Films I have seen:



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