Warning! Controversial movie opinions are below.
Crisara and I watch a lot of movies.
Like, a lot of movies. In 2020 we watched 205 movies. That’s up from the 104 we watched in 2019. Plus we watched through all of Schitt’s Creek, Mandalorian, Clone Wars, (most of) Rebels, Dead to Me, and The Office (again).
I guess we found ourselves with more time at home in 2020…
We’ve started the tradition of ending each year with a short post about our favorite new movies and our biggest disappointments of the year, and this is that post.
Our favorites are usually movies that were both great and surprised us, and our bottom movies are usually the ones that disappointed us. Usually they’re not great, but just as often they were watchable movies that were over-hyped or looked great.
Each movie on the “bad” list ends with additional notes on whether you should watch it or not. Just because something was disappointing to us doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a watch under the right circumstances. These are our subjective opinions, and usually the right circumstances are just lower expectations.
Here are, in no particular order, the top and bottom movies that we watched in 2020.
Whiplash is intense. Like really intense. And it’s just as good as you’ve heard it is. If there’s one movie that you should catch up on, it’s Whiplash. The destructive teaching style of a jazz instructor at a Juilliard-like school goes head-to-head with the unrelenting drive of a talented student bent on being the best. Watch if you’re a professional musician (as most of my readers are), though some think it’s an unrealistic depiction and dislike the film.
It’s bright, it’s colorful, it’s funny, and it’s awesome. Thor: Ragnarok is, we think, the very best single movie that Marvel has put out. Yes, even better than the next entry.
Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame
If you’re not on the Marvel train, then you should get on the Marvel train. The sheer magnitude of putting together a 23-movie story and then capping it on in such a fantastic way is incredible. Some may not agree, but you can actually skip straight to Infinity War and still have a good, if not slightly confusing, time. That’s exactly what I did (though I had seen the first few Iron Man movies and the first Avengers). What this really gave me was the strong-enough drive to get me to watch the other movies and then rewatch Infinity War and Endgame, which only made it that much better. So fire up that Disney+ subscription and get to watching.
We were surprised by Bo Burnham’s first movie. What we thought would be a stupid, if smart, comedy about weird kids, turns out to be a hilarious and heartwarming film about the quiet girl just trying to make it through Eighth Grade. If you’re like us and sat quietly through middle-school with few friends, then this film will hit pretty close to home. Or if you’ve got a kid in school now, then this one is an absolute must. This is probably our favorite underdog movie of the year, and definitely the biggest surprise on this list.
Speaking of surprises, Host is a smart, efficient, and absolutely effective approach to the standard haunting films. Released by Shudder shortly after the pandemic shut us all in our homes, Host tells the story of a group of friends that try a seance over a zoom call. It’s claustrophobic, surprisingly good, and achieves everything that Paranormal Activity spent 6 films trying to. Oh, and it’s only about 56 minutes long.
Crisara’s favorite film of the year, and an old favorite of mine. Melissa McCarthy becomes a spy, but she’s not quite ready for it. Well written and just a great fun to watch. Spy may just be Jason Statham’s best performance as he parodies every movie he’s starred in.
A classic that we finally got around to seeing. Our expectations for Kindergarten Cop were low, but the script and the execution were fun from beginning to end. It’s no surprise that countless movies have tried to copy the Action-Star-Takes-Care-of-Kids formula, but none make it this good.
The Underworld series
Simply wonderful. These vampire/werewolf battle movies build an interesting lore of a centuries-old family feud with ripping action and one of the most bad-ass ladies in vampire history. Basically The Matrix, but with vampires and werewolves. Incredible in comparison with the films I’d already known below: the Resident Evil series.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
This is just one of many movies on this list that some may not agree with. We loved Rise of Skywalker. It wasn’t perfect, but it ended the saga in a satisfying way after the disappointment of Last Jedi and had some awesome moments. No matter what you think about Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker, I think that we can all agree that Disney should have planned these 3 scripts out from the beginning instead of letting fate and a mold-breaking director decide where the last few movies go. That’s all I’ll say for now, as Luke Lyons and I have already spent hours arguing about these two.
You’ll see that Blade Runner is further down on the list, and I’ll discuss why we were disappointed with that later. But, basically, Total Recall is the kick-ass action sci-fi flick that we needed this year and that Blade Runner didn’t fulfill. We were on a bit of an Arnold kick for some of 2020.
Miles better and more mature than the first movie, Frozen 2 kicks me in the heart every time, and I’ve seen it about 5 times now. While the first movie was a hugely successful children’s movie, I think that the sequel missed its audience because it was so much better than the first one. This one is for the adults in the audience. It’s got nuance, it’s got complexity, it’s got morality, and it’s got an incredible score with very effective use of leitmotifs and musical tie-ins throughout. The songs may not hit as well as the first, but the score certainly does.
A new one for me, and now one of my favorite go-to horrors. I was expecting just another silly parody like Scary Movie or Spaceballs, but it turns out that Scream is just like The Princess Bride and Galaxy Quest: by parodying the genre, it turned out to be one of the best in the genre. And most of its sequels are (almost) as good as the first. Even Scary Movie, which is a parody of this parody (and our first film of 2021) holds up.
Hate us if you want, but Soul was not as good as Inside Out, and that’s really the beef that we have with it. The bar was set so high, and we were told it was just as good. But no, Soul is not Inside Out. It’s simpler, yes, but also less effective and less interesting than Pixar’s previous masterpiece. It felt really unfocused and didn’t flesh its themes out like it could have. The movie is not bad, but it definitely could have been so, so much better. The barbershop scenes and references to “This is Water” show that potential. I’d say: watch it if you haven’t seen Inside Out, and then go watch Inside Out.
Mostly a disappointment because we were expecting more action and more, well, interesting. Unfortunately a lot of the lasting-power of Blade Runner seems to be nostalgia and the visuals. I remember trying to watch it three times when I was younger. Surely my boredom was just because I was too immature to enjoy it? But no, unfortunately that wasn’t it. The last half hour of Blade Runner is incredible, but the time to get there just drags on. I’d say: watch it if you haven’t before, because it’s good, but don’t expect a sci-fi action flic like Total Recall.
Aladdin (2019 live-action)
Oof, what a mess this was. It was twice as long as the original and only one quarter as good. I haven’t seen any of the other Disney live-action remakes, and I sure as hell don’t want to waste my time with them after seeing this one. Also, if you’re gonna throw in a “Let It Go,” style song for your heroin to sing, make sure she can actually sing it well. Jasmine even does the arm thing that Elsa does in Frozen. I’d say: don’t waste your time unless you want to have fun with just how ineffective it is. Just watch the original in peaceful and ignorant bliss.
The Color Out of Space
The short story is fantastic and creepy, but the movie was a bit of a drag. It’s surprising that even Nicholas Cage’s over-acting was too much for this one. He should have been perfect for it, playing a character literally going crazy, but it just felt like a farce. Worth it for a few spots, but overall a disappointment. I’d say: watch it if you like creepy aliens and gore, but not otherwise.
Ghostbusters (2016 remake)
When I saw this in theaters in 2016 I loved it. When I finally got around to showing Crisara I was forced to face the cognitive dissonance of “how did I enjoy this so much the first time?” It’s not really bad, but damn is it mediocre compared to what it could have been. Cameos are wasted, hell the whole cast is wasted. I’d say: watch it with low expectations.
It Comes at Night
This trailer will take you for a spin and the movie will leave you hating yourself. It Comes at Night is a good movie, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not what the trailer suggests and it’s not what we were wanting or expecting when we sat down to watch it. Bad, no. Unexpected, yes. And if you’ve seen it then you know exactly what we’re talking about. I’d say: if you want a really depressing apocalyptic film, definitely watch it, but don’t watch the trailer first.
Ready Player One
Again, I loved this the first time. But when I sat to watch it with Crisara and my eye was a bit more critical and I wasn’t hazy with my love of the book. Instead of the blow-your-ass-off adventure that I remember, it turns out to be just fun. The film is gorgeous and the source material is great, but ultimately it’s mostly surface and they passed up the chance to really make an impact with one of the biggest reveals in the movie. Fun for sure, but not much else. I will give the filmmakers mad props for the entire Shining sequence, though. I’d say: yeah, watch it, especially if you’re a fan of the 80s or video games, if just for the beauty of the visuals and the constant 80s culture references.
Resident Evil series
Another disappointment from my childhood. These movies just don’t hold up anymore, especially compared to the vastly superior Underworld series. I’d say: Start with the 3rd movie, but don’t expect much.
It’s exactly as not-good as you’d expect, but not as good-bad as you’d expect either. As far as disaster movies go, 2012 is fine. It’s just fine. The budget is huge and the destruction is over the top. I’d say: watch it with low expectations. Or don’t watch it. You’re not missing anything. Instead, watch The Core. Equally silly, but much more fun.
High Fidelity is fantastic…until it’s not. The ending seems to think it’s a better movie than it is by being unfulfilling. The main character doesn’t really grow or learn anything through the film. We wanted him to, but this is just not that kind of movie. That being said, John Cusack and Jack Black are a delight. I’d say: give it a watch.
Expectations were high after X-Men First Class and Days of Future Past, and unfortunately Apocalypse falls far short. With missed opportunity everywhere, it turns out to be a disappointing version of what Infinity War/Endgame got right. There’s potential for a great movie in here, but it wasn’t realized. I’d say: even if you like the X-men movies, just skip this one and count Days of Future Past as the end. It’s not worth your time and doesn’t finish the series well.
The Zookeeper/Paul Blart: Mall Cop
I loved Paul Blart and hated The Zookeeper. Crisara hated Paul Blart and loved The Zookeeper. So, make of that what you will. These are Kevin James movies and you probably know exactly what you’ll get in them, whether that’s Adam Sandler as a talking monkey or Kevin James playing Detroit Rock City on Rock Band for literally 2 minutes. I’d say: watch Mall Cop for a stupid movie, but don’t waste your time with The Zookeeper. Crisara would say the opposite. So, eh, watch whatever you’d like.
And that’s our absolutely-right-and-you-can’t-argue-with-us list of our top and bottom movies we saw in 2020!
What did you love this year and what let you down?
Do you hate us because we didn’t hop on the Soul-train, or do you love that we found such joy in Kindergarten Cop?
Let us know!