Top 10 Films I Viewed in 2020

Video games boiled down to what I reviewed for my main job. Anime was, outside of December, practically nonexistent. Football remained steady, but the output of football-related content on the blog was, well, out of bounds. When all else plundered, films continued to pile up in 2020, and while reviews weren’t plentiful outside the 2020 March of the Movies, it still remained an enjoyable splurge back into the blogspace. In general, films remained a constant in a changing 2020 for me personally. 100 films (including comedy specials and shorts) were viewed by me in 2020—10 of those are bound to be good, right?

Films are nice and good, and that’s the best I can describe them without inflating the word count. And it’s been a tradition of mine to document the ten best films I viewed in any given year, which I’ve been doing since 2018. Pretty self-explanatory. Not sure I need to say much else.

I will note that I’ve made individual posts or reviews for most of the films that will be listed here, so this will be pretty to-the-point. Should people want to know more, I’ll link to the place where more of my stupid words are available in a non-stupid fashion. Also, I will not be placing in of the aforementioned comedy specials or shorts on here. These are films of the filmiest fashion.

10. Inception

Score: 7.5/10

Haven’t written much down for this one anywhere, so right out of the gates, I’m gonna get typing.

Inception is debatably the best Christopher Nolan film I’ve ever seen. Dunkirk was fairly interesting and invigorating, so if not for this, it’d be that. However, there is a bit of that “Nolan stuff” that has become synonymous with his directing style that, given I’m aware of it, somewhat brought the viewing down for me.

Characters are pretty… hmm. Feels like none of them have a whole lot of complexity outside of DiCaprio and Page. They fill their roles suitably and enact the story as it is intended, with not a whole lot of reason to rewatch it when you know all the story beats.

People aside, there are certainly a lot of quality assets present that help ease the sting of flatness. Focusing on human psychology, one so intimate to one’s headspace, made for a pretty engrossing plot point. DiCaprio’s struggle was the main pull for this, and seeing as I’m pretty mum to action and “epic” bits in film, this gave me something to gnaw on continuously all the meanwhile. Given Nolan’s tendency to make things almost spotlessly clean in technicality, it ended up being a very solid, moderately emotional film that ended up being pretty enjoyable.

I actually saw this in theaters, back when they decided to open back up randomly during late Summer when they were preparing for Tenet‘s release. I was the only one in the theater (like, literally the whole theater, outside employees). It was nice.

9. Marriage Story

Score: 7.5/10

This film I have written extensively on, so this will be shorter.

This is something I knew from one specific scene that became the talk of social media around its release. The argument scene. Johansson and Driver going toe to toe out-acting one another in a single, pivotal verbal duel. T’was the aftermath of a lot of pent up frustration from the continuing legal issues that come with divorce. I should know, as I am a child of divorced parents.

Lots of “needle drop” moments here that are further emphasized by the strength of each actor’s performance. The two stars are clearly the aces, though most others do more than enough to keep things flowing and emotionally tumultuous. It’s all the drama TLC wishes its content earned.

Full thoughts on Letterboxd. (Contains spoilers.)

8. Looper

Score: 8/10

I quite like science fiction. The ideas that stem from it tend to invigorate my imagination like no other, if not for otherworldly fantasy. Aesthetically, it also suits my fancy—the big, dystopian cities shrouded in ominous neon lights and stimulating colors, with a sleekness this era has yet to replicate. Looper does not share this aesthetic, but it does have the narrative qualities to make this something of an intriguing display of creativity.

The logic is not foolproof, and the acting is not extraordinary. What gives this film its flavor is the way it neatly condenses its plot into easily understandable, emotional tidbits. For its genre, it’s not very complex, though still manages to hold its own among others like it. A down-to-earth sci-fi story that seems like a blip in human history, and that’s somewhat refreshing.

Looking back on it, I’m not sure if the quality of this film will hold up over time; something worth revisiting in time. Clean, entirely immersive, and has that emotional “oomph.” Only issue is that it feels almost standard in its approach, perhaps a little too willing to wrap things up in quick succession while dragging other things around. Similarly to Inception, characters aren’t entirely memorable, and the performances didn’t exactly throw me into another dimension. This is something of a technical marvel; pretty good in all aspects, with some more appealing than others. Yet in that cleanliness, it loses something in the end. I don’t know. Still very solid, nonetheless.

7. Fantastic Mr. Fox

Score: 8/10

I have not always been entirely taken by Wes Anderson’s style, but I’ll admit that when it hits, it’s such a fun excursion.

Zany, quirky, oddball, blunt, stylistic, ironic, occasionally mean-spirited, and laden with lessons about humanity… done by foxes. Based off Roald Dahl, an infamously weird writer, there was reason to believe that this would be a match made in heaven, and from my view, it certainly was.

If you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson film, this would definitely be a good starting point. Isle of Dogs is Anderson’s more recent foray into stop-motion animation, but I’d argue this attempt paid off more outright. Memorably weird as much as it is heartwarming… I don’t want to give too much away. It’s better to go in as blind as possible.

If you wish to see a different take on this from me, I reviewed this for the 2020 March of the Movies.

6. Oldboy

Score: 8/10

Among the most memorable films I’ve ever seen, if not the most memorable. This is the film equivalent of getting your soul ripped out of you and seeing it fed to a rhinoceros devoid of skin.

Similarly to Fantastic Mr. Fox, this is great when you go in as blind as possible. Don’t research it. Don’t read any reviews (but read this, I promise I won’t say anything). Just know that it’s pretty fucked up, but absolutely exhilarating. Maybe a little too much. Probably too much.

And a quick closing note: Probably not a good idea to watch the remake by Spike Lee. I hear it doesn’t even compare.

5. Thoroughbreds

Score: 8/10

Those paying attention may be thinking to themselves, “Gee, there are a lot of 8/10’s on this list. It can’t possibly be 8/10’s from here on out, can it?” I promise it’ll end soon, but bear with me for two more entries. And yes, these were all ranked based on a whim what the heart wanted.

Anya Taylor-Joy is likely getting a huge surge in popularity due to her performance in the recent Queen’s Gambit miniseries. Well deserved, as she’s been borderline great in everything I’ve seen her in (good thing I’ve only seen her in good things©). This was one of the earlier films I’ve seen her featured in, and boy did it make me fall in love with Olivia Cooke—wait, what?

Both leads played their roles phenomenally here, though my personal preference was with the aloof, blunt persona exhibited by Cooke. The kind of person you probably see hanging around graveyards, daring anything supernatural to come sweep her away. The dynamic between her and Taylor-Joy was immensely interesting to see, and the delightfully dark plot was something that felt fairly unique. This is one of those “arthouse” films that have a “meaning” behind it that’s appealing for “pretentious people” like me.

A little dark, a little wholesome, and overall pretty interesting. I would love to see both lead actors in more things going forward, and one of them is definitely getting her chance.

If you wish to see a different take on this from me, I reviewed this for the 2020 March of the Movies.

4. Happy-Go-Lucky

Score: 8/10

This is quite the placement on this list. Other films in this Top 10 are like “Whoa! Time traveling to meet your past self!” or “Deep-dive into people’s dreams and alter the course of reality!” or “[Oldboy spoilers]!!!” Happy-Go-Lucky now stands here, in front of all of them, carrying a sign that says, “I’m Happy.” That’s the plot. This girl’s happy.

Such seems to be the case with Mike Leigh films, a director I discovered through this film. It was also a chance to see Sally Hawkins in another film after adoring her in The Shape of Water. Spoiler: she’s also amazing here.

Characters are the heart of this film, and most deliver in allowing a collection of emotions to show through. The title is slightly ironic; lots of tensile, dramatic moments occur as the “story” (life simulator?) continues. Each character serves a distinct purpose, and the freedom of the plot allows them to explore just how far that role can take them. Some try and jump the gun, others stay relatively complacent (some unfortunately so). Whatever may occur, there’s enough acting bravado to keep things inventive.

Full thoughts on Letterboxd.

3. Raise the Red Lantern

Score: 8.5/10

Gonna be frank here, was not expecting this to be as great as it is. This was kind of a random choice, guided only by an indirect request from a friend of mine. I read the synopsis, gauged the quality based on Letterboxd reviews, and decided to add it to the neverending queue of films I’d eventually come to watch. It left it some months after finding it, and I’m quite pleased it did.

Very structured. Very concise in its progression and development of its characters. A central theme of female oppression, with power never realized before suddenly thrust upon a tight-knit system of patriarchal appeasement. Quiet when it needs to be, only increasing in explosive consequence when it’s near to bursting.

I also love how subtle the touches of color and body language play in this. You have to watch these characters carefully, and pay mind to the way they’re presented in various scenes. And hey, what’s with all the red? That’s an intriguing subject to ponder on. But I won’t share too much here. It’s highly recommended, should you ever come across the opportunity to view it.

Full thoughts on Letterboxd.

2. Parasite

Score: 8.5/10

Ah, yes, I’m sure seeing this on here is not too surprising. It was the talk of the Academy Awards leading up to it, with tons of fan support from all over the world. Eventually, it would end up taking Best Picture; director Bong Joon-ho also nabbed Best Director. There was A LOT of praise for this film around that point that continues to this day—it remains the #1 highest-rated film on Letterboxd. That’s some serious fanfare.

Taking all that into consideration, I actually think this is somewhat overrated. Indeed, kind of odd to place this so high myself and yet still call it overrated, but with the idea that this is the greatest film of all time, that’s enough to warrant the “overrated” moniker by default.

Even so, it’s still an incredibly well-performed, well-communicated, and completely intoxicating film. The sort of events that occur or almost as sensationally bizarre as Oldboy, and the punch of social commentary is quite striking, should you look for it. Whether through a political lens or otherwise, it’s an immersive tale of a family doing what they can to survive, and the consequences to all the effort they put into inserting themselves in a place where they “don’t belong.” Very easy recommendation.

…Okay, admittedly, it’s way more interesting of a film if you look at its social-commentary undertones (sometimes overtones).

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Score: 8.5/10

A little fun fact for y’all: Originally, I had this at the #2 spot, with Parasite at #1. If we’re going to look at these from a political lens, Parasite is far more interesting and given the benefit of applying to modern times (more strongly?).

It wasn’t until I really looked within myself and asked which one of these I would be more keen on re-watching. Some films are great for what they are and give you a great boost of gusto, though at the cost of having you winded afterwards. Sometimes, you just want to watch a lot of quiet contemplation; a steady, pleasant dive into uncharted waters, until you eventually drown. Both this and Parasite are tremendously depressing in their endings, but this has the benefit of being just a little bit more to my tastes in how it’s executed.

Deep down, I’m really quite the romanticist. I love love. I adore the connection two people can have with one another, built upon through time and effort until they become so aligned that they’re willing to lose themselves for the other. It’s nothing short of beautiful—the type of relationship I’ve found myself desiring in some fashion or another. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is not a trendsetter. Neither its plot nor its characters are innovative, and the ending is not at all unforeseen. Yet what it manages to do in its runtime is so eloquent, so pleasing and bittersweet that I can’t help but be calmed by it. While not up to the standards of other films I’ve seen in the past, it’s one I do look back on fondly, and would love to watch again, and maybe another time after that.

Full thoughts on Letterboxd.

Honorable Mentions

What were some films you watched in 2020 that were great? Have you seen any film from this list? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments.

The ratings for all the films I’ve viewed can be found on my Letterboxd profile.

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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