What I Loved in 2020 in Movies

In 2020, as I stated in my previous article, I consumed more media than I have in I don’t know how long. The thing was as far as movies go, not many were new for the year. Consequently, my favorite films were a good combination of films that were new to me, regardless of release date, revisiting classic favorites, and re-watching some films I’d seen but could barely remember.

Without a doubt my favorite new film I watched in 2020 was Netflix’s Enola Holmes with Millie Bobby Brown as the exceedingly clever and effervescent younger sister of the famed detective Sherlock, played by the equally talented Henry Cavill, who portrays the character at an early stage in his career with subtlety, warmth, sternness and eventual humility. There’s also Sam Clafin whose excellent as their haughty and no nonsense and bitter Mycroft, the wonderful Helena Bingham Carter as their unpredictable mother who goes missing and Louis Partridge as the sweet young man Lord Tewksbury whom Enola meets and becomes entangled in a plot that involves deceit and murder. But Brown truly is the shining star in this story that is exciting, mysterious, and charming, with a fun style that often involves breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the audience. Moreover we see a feminist approach to the period genre which is usually dominated by male protagonists showcasing how this young woman navigates a world that wants to only stifle her. If you enjoyed the humor and style of the Sherlock Holmes films with Robert Downey Jr. but also appreciate something a bit lighter, you’ll love Enola Holmes with it’s exceptional performances, rich production design and costumes and lively story. I LOVED THIS MOVIE!!

As far as 2020 releases go, the only other film I saw was one I thoroughly enjoyed: Netflix’s remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s, and Daphne De Maurier’s Rebecca. Although the original handles the tone and tense nature of the book better and overall is a better film, I still loved this remake. The casting is spot on and superb, and the production value beautiful with glorious European scenery and an appropriately vast and gothic manor in Maxim DeWinter’s estate Manderlay. This edifice has the proper mysterious and haunting beauty that transcends into the performances as the truth of what happened to Rebecca unfolds. Although we never truly feel the claustrophobic tension of the original, Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas still capture the essence of these characters extremely well. It’s a most worthwhile film.

Although they weren’t released in 2020, there were some big releases I finally had the opportunity to watch. My favorite of these particular “new to me” films was undoubtedly Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. I’ve since learned reactions to be varied and divisive but I absolutely loved every minute of the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga, from the inspired journey for Rey, to finally seeing Rey, Finn and Poe on an adventure together, to the redemption of Kylo Ren, to the appearances of the legacy and legendary characters Luke, Leia, Han, Lando and others and finally to the epic battles for the fate of the galaxy and the souls of the characters. I really loved this new trilogy and the way the story captured and often mirrored the original trilogy’s story beats and essence, while offering something new especially with Rey’s character- a girl who found her family and place in the world and the Star Wars legacy as a shining symbol of these space adventure’s most timeless theme: hope.

On the Disney side of things, I really loved returning to Arendelle in Frozen 2, which offered up much of the same delightful and poignant character beats and transcending songs, along with truly breathtaking animation. The standouts were most definitely Elsa’s powerhouse extraordinary songs “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself” as well as Anna’s “The Next Right Thing” with all three being gorgeous and truly inspirational moments whose meaning are profound and can be emblems of motivation, finding your true self, courage, self love and peace. Although I liked the original better, this was a truly beautiful film.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Dumbo, which added upon the story of the original film with touching and thought provoking results, and a style and colorful way that Tim Burton does so masterfully. It shows us the power of believing in yourself no matter what, while also being a strong animal rights proponent showcasing the majestic nature of elephants and the beautiful animals they are.

As someone who loves Christmas movies, I was so happy that the new films I watched this year were also some of my overall favorite movie experiences for 2020. The Kurt Russell led Christmas Chronicles and its sequel were creative, colorful, heartfelt and hilarious with sweet stories and characters that brought something new to the a story that’s been depicted countless times with Santa and the North Pole, while also bringing us traditional warm and fuzzy emotions. Last Christmas was a sort of modern version of The Bishop’s Wife with an emotionally resonant heart that left me in tears and despite guessing where the story was going. Whether it was surprising or not, it still was a lovely and inspired look at living your life to the fullest with kindness, belief in yourself and the reminder to always look up. These films will definitely be on my movie watching list every year.

The Chris Evans directed Before I Go was a dreamy and romantic look at how one night between two strangers can be life changing. It was sweet, surprising poignant and a fine directorial debut for Evans. Game Night, a sort of adventure, comedy, mystery, was not only way better than I expected, but genuinely hilarious, full of unexpected twists and a bona fide edge of your seat flick with an excellent cast.

Two Dwayne Johnson led films thoroughly entertained me- the sweet and poignant The Game Plan about a professional football player who just learns he has a daughter was heartwarming with a surprising twist and just the right amount of corniness. Similarly, Jumangi: Welcome to the Jungle was so much funnier and entertaining than I anticipated it would be. Perhaps it’s because of my love of the original that I didn’t expect much but the film was brought into the modern era with humor and a surprising amount of heart.

The period drama fantasies From Time to Time and The Secret of Moon Acre were my most surprising watches. I had not heard of either but they were both lovely little films that showcase the importance of faith, forgiveness, acceptance and love with the former surely being a film for any fan of Downton Abbey as it’s helmed by creator Julian Fellowes and featuring several cast members. Both PG family friendly films are delightful.

I also loved two family friendly comedies. Troop Zero is about a group of misfits in the 1970s trying to win the Girl Scout esque contest so they can be included on a recording that will be broadcast into space. It was funny, quirky and makes you route for these determined children who may not be in the “in crowd” but whose uniqueness makes them all the better for it. Instant Family was also a thoughtful and eye opening look at the Foster Care system as a couple decides they want to foster and eventually adopt 3 siblings instead of one child, and have to deal with all the struggles and misadventures that comes with the territory. It’s played for laughs mostly but the poignant moments hit you right in the heart.

The Liam Neeson thriller starter pack as I am calling it took a two day period in 2020 with four films that all have a similar feel that Neeson has carved out for himself the past decade, most notably in Taken. But it was three others that enjoyed more. Unknown is the most mysterious and will keep you wondering what exactly is going on with a man whose life had been taken over by another, with his own wife denying his identity. Non-Stop is the most heart pounding and emotional as an Air Marshal tries to detect a threat to the lives of an entire flight of passengers. The Commuter is the most thought provoking as it begs the question- would you do even the unthinkable for the right price?

Ocean’s 8 was a fun caper and worthy continuation of the series featuring an all female team up consisting of a stellar cast including Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Rhianna, Awkwafina, Helena Bonham Carter and Mindy Kaling. It’s stylish, fun with a few clever twists. Speaking of wonderful women, in the biopic Judy, Renee Zellweger captures the renowned Judy Garland’s voice, mannerisms and tragic demons. Judy is a sad and beautiful and heartbreaking look at the iconic entertainer.

Lastly, I was happy to finally see a film from one of my favorite actresses Audrey Hepburn. Wait Until Dark was tense and exceptionally performed as Hepburn must deal with ruthless thieves and murderers when she inadvertently gets caught up in their intrigues with one, in this case, disadvantage- she is blind. But when she turns this around and uses this to her advantage, she turns the tables into heart pounding and thrilling moments.

My other movie habits for 2020 included revisiting favorites and watching films I had seen but didn’t remember well. For the former I indulged in my favorites from 2019: the epic and brilliant MCU culmination Avengers: Endgame, the fantastic Captain Marvel, delightful reimagining Aladdin and the superb mystery Knives Out.

I revisited Woody Allen’s charming Magic in the Moonlight, a beautiful and breezy 1920s romp about magicians, mystics and charlatans in the champagne soaked and luminous French countryside. The Adjustment Bureau combines destined love, drama and science fiction in a unique and captivating way. The hilarious, stylish quick paced Leatherheads is reminiscent of 1940s screwball comedies with witty dialogue, a rousing score and incredible cast. And Hail Caesar is another look at classic Hollywood which is an equal part glamorous, realistic and interesting way of exposing the underbelly of tinsel town with equally dazzling and nostalgic homages to such actors as Esther Williams and Gene Kelly.

Finally, I took great joy in re-watching a childhood, and indeed all time time favorite movie of mine in a new way. I was beyond happy to see that Shout Factory released a special Blu-ray of The Wizard featuring over 30 minutes of deleted scenes and never before seen footage, an entertaining and informative audio commentary and beautiful and crisp 4K transfer. This film is so much more than the “Nintendo movie” and it was such fun revisiting it. You can read a more in depth review I did of the film on The Nerd Machine here: Rediscovering a Classic: The Wizard

As far as other films I watched the list is extensive:

Who Framed Roger Rabbit
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Legally Blonde
Win a Date With Tad Hamilton
Age of Adaline
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes
The Ugly Dachshund
Miss Congeniality
Charade
The Rocketeer
Hidalgo
Murder on the Orient Express
Gosford Park
Second Act
The Blind Side
Playing it Cool
Sweet Home Alabama
Penelope
Secondhand Lions
Center Stage
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Vivacious Lady
On Moonlight Bay
Akeelah and the Bee
Fools Rush In
Something New
P.S. I Love You
One Fine Day
Scoop
The Skeleton Key
Red
Winchester
Arsenic and Old Lace
The Village
Secret Window
The Woman in Black
Clue
The Burbs
Midnight Lace
The Birds
Three Men and a Baby
Three Men and a Little Lady
Dial M for Murder
Rear Window
The Lake House
Speed
The Net
Red Eye
Taken 2
Phantom of the Opera
Mirror Mirror
Morning Glory
Now and Then
About Time
Angel Eyes
Only You
Ocean’s 11
Ocean’s 13
Sun Dogs
Thrill of a Romance
Leave Her to Heaven
Angel in the Outfield
Night Must Fall
Pillow Talk
Spider-Man Trilogy
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Operation Dumbo Drop
The Mummy
The Mummy Returns
Apollo 13
The Notebook
Howard
A League of Their Own
How Do You Know
He’s Just Not that Into You
Raising Helen
Something’s Gotta Give
Guarding Tess
Double Jeopardy
Laws of Attraction
Good News
Bewitched
Noelle
Poseidon
War Games
Stay Tuned
Pay the Ghost
Adrift
Sulley
Swiss Family Robinson
Enchanted
Chicago
Blast from the Past
A Christmas Story
Home Alone
Home Alone 2
Christmas in Connecticut
Miracle on 34th Street
The Santa Clause
Elf
White Christmas
Holiday Affair
The Bishop’s Wife
All I Want for Christmas
Fred Claus
Come to the Stable

What were you favorite films you watched in 2020 Let me know in the comments!

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