Like almost everyone on the planet, I had plenty of free time this year. And, like any sane person with a Netflix subscription, I filled that time by watching a metric butt-ton of movies. Maybe to make it seem like I was being somewhat productive, I decided to keep track and rank each one. What kind of blog would this be without a low effort, end-of-year top 10 list? A handful of these viewings were rewatches of modern classics like Revenge of the Sith (fight me prequel haters), but I just kept track of the movies I saw for the first time. So most of these movies aren’t technically from 2020, but seeing that the movie industry basically took the year off, I figured it was okay. So, without further ado, here are my 10 personal favorite movies I watched this year:
Special Shoutout: The Killing of a Sacred Deer
I’m not a fan of horror movies, but psychological thrillers are an exception. I’m cool with being creeped out, but jump scares can jump straight to hell where they belong. That being said, this movie creeped me out to the point that I had to stop watching halfway through. Nothing about it was scary, but every single part of it was clearly designed to skyrocket your anxiety. The score, the cinematography, the line delivery, everything. When I turned it off, I realized I was actually sore from tensing up my entire body for an hour straight. It is by far the most effective horror movie I have ever seen.
10. The Death of Stalin
This film pulled off the incredible feat of being both absolutely hilarious and not at all quotable. Outside of the “No, problem” joke, no single line sticks out like those in a Will Ferrell movie. But it’s hilarious all the same. Little touches like the fact that everyone speaks in their normal accent put it over the top. If anyone is looking for a subtle, dark comedy to watch, I highly recommend this one. Plus, seeing Steve Buscemi as Khrushchev made me realize how much I need to see him play every dictator in history. He’d blow John Wayne’s Genghis Khan out of the water.
9. The Lobster
This one had far the strangest premise of any movie I’ve ever seen, but it uses it to full effect. Much like The Death of Stalin, the humor is so insanely dry because most of it is derived from the characters treating the situation so seriously. Yorgos Lanthimos’ (best name in the biz) particular style is embodied by a completely emotionless Colin Farrell who somehow makes me laugh at every line. Also, I watched this before Killing of a Sacred Deer, another Lanthimos movie, so you can see how I was blindsided by that one.
If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of auteur directors. I’m just sad that I had never heard of Bong Joon-Ho until this year. The only time I had even heard of this movie before this year was when one of my high school teachers “took to the high seas” to show it to one of his other classes. Now I hate that I missed out on it. Like most of his movies, this one is slow, brutal, and insanely smart. Joon-Ho finds a way to get his message across in a way that doesn’t sound fake or preachy, which is increasingly hard to come by in Hollywood. This is one of those movies that I recommend watching all the way through, even if you don’t get into it at first. Essentially, Bong Joon-Ho is who M. Knight Shyamalan thinks he is.
7. There Will Be Blood
This might be the best example of a movie I loved that I never want to rewatch. Even though almost every bit of it is perfect, the whole tone is just so bleak and oppressive that I honestly don’t want to go through that again. It builds the perfect atmosphere, with the intensity of every scene perfectly matching that of Daniel Plainview. In fact, the movie itself seems to be modeled after this main character, with every bit meant to emphasize his personality and worldview. I finally get all the hype around Daniel Day-Lewis, as this is the first of his movies that I watched all the way through (Gangs of New York is just as much of a slog to watch but without any of the redeeming qualities). It’s worth it to watch this movie once, but only once.
6. The Disaster Artist
Without a doubt the hardest I’ve laughed watching any movie this year. James Franco and the film both perfectly capture the bizarre energy of its subject. Not only are the scene recreations a work of art, but it’s great to see that everything behind the scenes of The Room was just as chaotic and captivating as the final product. More than any biopic I’ve seen, this movie acts as an odd love letter to Wiseau while still being fair to those around him. Franco obviously admires Wiseau’s courage and individuality, but doesn’t hide that he is also a controlling weirdo. Do a double feature of this and The Room and enjoy the most fun night you’ve had in quarantine.
5. Lady Bird
I obviously love this movie, but I don’t have much to say about it. It’s just great. Everything about it is nearly perfect, from the tone to the writing to the acting. Nothing stands out as particularly spectacular, but it’s just good. That’s all I can say. Go watch it.
4. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
This is the first Taika Waititi movie to make the list, but spoiler alert, it’s not the last. More heartwarming than purely funny, this is a movie that just makes you feel good. Besides being delivered in the amazing Kiwi accents, Waititi’s idiosyncratic writing mixes emotion and humor better than anyone out there. It’s half slice of life, half adventure story that manages to lean on the strengths of both. It’s one of those movies that I don’t see how anyone cannot at the very least enjoy watching. It’s my least favorite of his movies, but that’s an incredibly high bar to clear.
3. What We Do in the Shadows
The premise isn’t as strange as The Lobster’s, but it’s pretty darn close. Never before have three vampires seemed like such chill dudes I’d want to have a beer with. Just like with Thor: Ragnarök, Waititi integrates the oddities of the premise into the film with pure elegance. It feels perfectly natural that these guys sleep in coffins and feed on the blood of virgins. Why wouldn’t they? They’re vampires. I don’t know if I could call it ending a twist, but the way everything ties together makes for a satisfying ending. Also, once you finish this, go watch the TV show on Hulu. It’s just as good, if not better.
The good version of The Killing of a Sacred Deer. I was able to watch the entire thing, but was still unsettled for at least the next couple of days. Bong Joon-Ho took everything great about Snowpiercer and turned it up to 11. The social commentary is sharper and eerily similar to what we see in modern-day America. He’s also clearly more comfortable writing in his native language, which makes the dialogue so engrossing that you’re happy to read subtitles. It has the perfect kind of twist, one that makes complete sense within the movie but also sticks in your brain for days. Some of my friends and I just randomly brought it up for the next week because we couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s easy to chalk the Oscar win up to being artsy, Oscar bait, or PC culture wanting to give it to a foreign film, but those are all wrong. It’s just that good. Even though it’s not my personal favorite, it’s objectively the best film of 2019. Hulu, for the love of all that is holy, please fix the subtitles so they aren’t as small as a cable company’s fine print.
- Jojo Rabbit
That’s right. Half of my top ten come from two directors. This movie is not only Waititi’s best as a director, but also the best of his Hitchcockian acting appearances. Just like Parasite, everything about it is perfect, with the added bonus that it’s absolutely hysterical. The writing is as good you’d expect, the tone is note-perfect, and the acting is so good that ScarJo got an Oscar nomination even though it seemed like she was barely in it. Child actors can be hit or miss to put it kindly, but Waititi has an uncanny ability to find young stars. This movie is so good that even the colors of the set stand out as fantastic. Now, it’s impossible to talk about this film without acknowledging the controversy that comes from any depiction of Hitler. If you don’t think it’s ok to portray him in any scenario, then that’s your prerogative. However, the idea of painting Hitler as a goofy, neutered buffoon is nothing new. Charlie Chaplin did it while he was still in power. I personally think Waititi did a masterful job mocking the man, but not his actions. Also, watching Hitler die a gruesome death a la Inglorious Basterds will never not be cathartic. All in all, this is a masterpiece that will leave you feeling happy and hopeful. Drop whatever you’re doing and go watch it now. I guarantee you won’t regret it.