It’s been a long year, to say the least. But, I’m happy to report that to help get me through it I saw a ton of movies for the first time that I ended up loving, especially in these last two months. Too many in fact to cover, I couldn’t narrow my list down to 10, not even 20 actually and that doesn’t even include my honorable mentions. But no worries, instead of doing a ranking or a drop of some movies to make the list smaller, I decided to put them in order of when I watched them starting from January to now.
Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium (2018)
If you want to know anything about me, you should know that I am a massive Taylor Swift fan. And this year has been a wonderful time if you are at all a fan of Taylor. With 2 new albums released and 3 concert film specials, it’s been a fun year to be a Taylor fan. But that all begun for me in January when I went back and watched Taylor’s Reputation concert film from 2018 to prep for her Miss Americana documentary being released later that month. The Reputation concert film was the closest I got to go to a concert this year, but even if it wasn’t I highly doubt I would have had as much fun experiencing anything else. A blast from start to finish, a must-watch for any fan of Swift.
- Knives Out (2019) – A good old-fashioned whodunnit film that gave me plenty of Clue vibes which is always a good thing.
- On the Waterfront (1954) – I made it a goal to watch more classic films this year and I can’t think of a better film to have kickstarted it, On the Waterfront is a timeless classic that is just as good today as was when it was released.
- Hustlers (2019) – Hustlers got a lot of love, but I hope it gets more attention over the next few years because it’s even better than some people give it credit for.
- Apocalypse, Now (1979) – I’m not typically into war films, but Apocalypse, Now was made to be the expectation to the rule.
- Miss Americana (2020) – I love Taylor Swift, what more do I have to say?
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
I saw a lot of classics this year and In the Heat of the Night was the first one that blew my mind. I watched this before the Black Lives Matter movement exploded this summer with the riots stemming from the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. This summer just reinforced to me how relevant In the Heat of the Night still is and most likely it always will be. It’s a tough film to watch at times. I couldn’t keep count of how many times I got anxious while watching, afraid for the main character played by Sidney Poitier. But as hard as it is to watch at times, we must recognize how much the times we live in has changed and just how much more they haven’t changed at all.
- 21 Jump Street (2012) – These types of comedies aren’t usually my thing, but 21 Jump Street surprised me with how amusing I found it.
- A Raisin in the Sun (1961) – I read the book a few years ago and I thought the movie did the book justice while delivering some wonderful performances.
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – John Hughes’s best, a breeze to experience for the first time and maybe even more so on rewatches.
Basic Instinct (1992)
I didn’t expect much from Basic Instinct when I saw it in March, but when I was watching the film I was being constantly surprised by how it was much more than just an erotic movie I believed it to be. Don’t get me wrong this is a movie featuring sex, but it captures an aura of neo-noir blended with a thriller. Something I have yet to see from any other movie. There’s a reason why Basic Instinct was able to change how people saw mainstream erotic films. It’s a film that can make your skin crawl while you’re also drooling over Sharon Stone. I went in expecting to drool over Sharon Stone when I started to watch Basic Instinct, but I ended the movie with the feeling of being thoroughly tense. Basic Instinct is not a movie for everyone, but if you’re able to be absorbed by the experience then you’re in for a wild ride, to say the least.
- Still Alice (2014) – Julianne Moore gives one of the best performances I have ever seen and because of that performance, I will never watch Still Alice again.
- Senna (2010) – I knew next to nothing about motor racing, but I do know a phenomenal documentary when I see one.
- The First Wives Club (1996) – I love feminist comedies, I would like to see more of them.
Boogie Nights (1997)
Boogies Nights is bursting with vibrant cinematography, marvelous performances by every cast member, and an unexpected dose of humanity. Much like Basic Instinct, I went into Boogie Nights expecting a sex drama. Looking back I hate that was what I thought Boogie Nights was. It feels almost disrespectful to reduce Boogie Nights to a sex drama because it’s about human beings. Sex is just a tool used to introduce the audience into the world that these characters inhabit. We see them struggling to survive doing what they believe they have to. Boogie Nights is a 70s cocaine-laced movie full of character studies using porn as the backdrop to explore these damaged broken people. It is a one of a kind type of movie.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
I do not care what anyone says, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is one of the best sequels I have ever seen. I am not being overdramatic. The first movie is a playful karaoke movie that’s not meant to be taken seriously. The sequel does what every great sequel does, improve on the original, and suppressing it in every way possible. The sequel is emotional but is still feel-good. The soundtrack is awesome. The cast is a delight and you can they are having so much fun, their joy is contagious. In the dark, depressing, world that was 2020, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was a brief reprieve from all the despair that came with this year.
- Goodfellas (1990) – An all-time classic for a reason.
- Modern Girls (1986) – An underappreciated 80s indie movie that more people should discover.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
I’m starting to notice a pattern here, where my favorite movies of this year were usually movies that I went into with low expectations or not expecting much at all. The same goes for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I didn’t know much about the play that the movie is based on but I knew that people who love to play weren’t happy with the movie mainly because the movie was restricted by the Hays code and weren’t able to explore everything the play did. I believe my not knowing much about the play did me a favor because even with the film handicapped I adored how it approached some of the heavier topics. It may have not been able to explore them as fully as they wanted them to. But the subtext especially regarding Paul Newman’s sexuality is riveting to watch even if it didn’t go as far as fans wanted. It’s impressive the themes are still heavily felt even with some of them being underlying.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Catch Me If You Can is my third Steven Spielberg movie and it is by far my favorite. No offense to Jurassic Park or Jaws which are iconic films in their own rights, but there’s this warmth to Catch Me if You Can that isn’t there with Jaws or Jurassic Park. I connected with Catch Me if You Can more than any Steven Spielberg movie I have seen thus far and that’s because it has been his most human film. Sure it’s a clever crime film, but it has so much heart. I think the performances from Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio are what made me gravitated to film and stick with it till the end. Catch Me if You Can is a charming con movie, but it’s at its best when it drops the act and reveals why we start cons and put on facades in the first place to mask the pain we try desperately to hide but always ends up bubbling to the surface.
Ready or Not (2019)
Eat the rich. If 2020 were a movie, eat the rich would be a major underlying theme of the entire movie. Ready or Not plays like a fantasy most if not all of us would like to reenact. We can’t kill the rich, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun watching movies where our protagonist can. Speaking of who, Grace played Samara Weaving is outstanding here. A breakthrough career-making performance she gives. You empathize with her, but she takes all the blows dealt upon her without backing down. She is easily one of my favorite protagonists in a long time. I was rooting for her from the very beginning to the end because much like Grace, weren’t we all trying to survive this year while fighting with the rich among other things…
- To Die For (1995) – Nicole Kidman is a femme fatale like you never seen before and maybe never will again.
- Dog Day Afternoon (1975) – The bank heist all other bank heist films want to be.
- Last Night (2010) – This movie has stayed with me these past few months more than I thought it would and that gotta count for something.
- I Married A Witch (1942) – Veronica Lake makes this movie such a delight to watch with how light and bubbly she is.
Strange Days (1995)
In a similar vein of In The Heat of The Night, Strange Days is as painfully relevant as it was in 1995 as it is today. I watched this film right around the same time as the riots this past summer and not to spoil the film but there are several sequences in the film that you could place into any 2020 release and no one would know the difference. It’s depressing to think about but it’s also almost reassuring that we have always had these problems, that they aren’t unique just to my generation. Quite the opposite in fact. Racism, police brutality, rape/sexual assault have all existed just in different forms and means over the decades. But at least now we have platforms where filmmakers can stand up to these issues and say that they are not okay and that something needs to change. I feel like Strange Days was a battle cry for these issues in the 90s, but luckily for us, this is a battle cry that we can afford to hear over and over again until real change actually occurs.
All About Eve (1950)
All About Eve is one of those one in a million movies. A combination of when everything going into a process is perfect. The script, the direction, the acting. Oh, especially the acting. The actors are all on top of their game, but of course, the best performance belongs to Bette Davis. No surprise there, but she is truly terrific here. Her performance is remarkable. She steals every scene she is in which is a cool feat because the rest of the cast is incredible. Seriously no weak links, just phenomenal performances left and right. And like I said the script and direction are terrific as well. The story is so well crafted and has brilliant twists that will keep you guessing. I finally understand what people mean when they say “they don’t make movies like that anymore.” I get it because they’re talking about movies like All About Eve. It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle like this where every aspect of the film is great, but All About Eve achieves this.
Now, Voyager (1942)
Bear with me while I praise Bette Davis again. No, but seriously Bette Davis once again is incredible in a film this time Now, Voyager. After I watched All About Eve, I didn’t think anything could top Bette’s performance in that, but I honestly believe that Bette does top herself in Now, Voyager. What makes her performance here I think even better than her performance in All About Eve is how down to Earth she plays her character. It’s a total shift in character from anything else I saw her in. Not to mention her character in Now, Voyager suffers from troubles of her mental health and emotional abuse inflicted by her mother. I was surprised at how well these themes were handled, some modern films haven’t written about mental illness or emotional abuse from a parent this well. Bette embodies these themes and by extension makes the film an all-time classic by giving an all-time classic performance.
- The Verdict (1982) – Paul Newman in one of his best roles I have seen of his thus far.
- D.E.B.S (2004) – I got a lot of joy from watching an LGBT+ spy romance directed by a woman.
- Pride (2014) – One of the most heartwarming films I have seen all year.
- Paris is Burning (1990) – This should be mandatory viewing in all schools.
Yes, God, Yes (2020)
Something I discovered this year more than anything else in terms of films is that I love quiet women character studies. I knew I loved character studies in general, but I discovered I loved character studies that focus on women but they are quiet about it. They aren’t in your face about it. Yes, God, Yes solidified that for me. Yes, God, Yes isn’t a groundbreaking film. You probably have seen something like it before if you like the teenage coming of age genre. But what I like about Yes, God, Yes, is that it isn’t trying to be more than it is. Nothing life-changing happens to the main character, we just watch her as she explores her sexuality for the first time for less than 80 minutes. We get a peek into her life and we leave it just as fast. Not all coming of age movies needs the main character to come to a life-altering realization, it’s not realistic. Instead, I hope we get more like Yes, God, Yes, a peek behind the curtain of a teenage story that isn’t as represented as it needs to be.
- Inside Man (2006) – The only other heist movie allowed to exist alongside Dog Day Afternoon.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
I’m not a product of divorce (thank God), so I honestly don’t know how realistic the movie’s portrayal of divorce is. But, it sure felt pretty real. So real, that it sometimes can be uncomfortable to watch. That’s due to the immersive performances that Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep deliver. Divorce is hard and it’s never an easy or black and white story to tell. What I like most about the film is that it doesn’t pick sides. Both Hoffman’s and Streep’s characters are flawed, but the movie presents both sides fairly and allows the audience to choose who they root for because even though both of these characters are deeply flawed, their love for their child is undeniable. I can’t imagine how hard Kramer vs. Kramer is for children of divorce, but I think that’s also the reason it’s as good as it is. It is earth-shattering real and will be remembered for such.
- The Departed (2006) – Lived up to all the hype, I’m happy to report.
- Chicago (2002) – One of the few movies I got chills watching this year.
- Avengers: Endgame (2019) – Somehow paid off all the 11 years’ worth of buildup.
- Doubt (2008) – Some of the finest acting performances you’ll ever see.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
I was not in a good mood when I watched Some Like It Hot. It’s been that kinda year where I don’t even remember what I could have been upset over. Anyway, I knew that Some Like It Hot was a feel-good movie and in Billy Wilder we trust. I knew based on the first few minutes that Some Like It Hot were just the serotonin boost I needed. Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe give three dazzling performances. Billy Wilder’s script and direction combined with their wonderful performances make Some Like It Hot a delight to watch. It left me with a warm, happy feeling in my chest, a feeling I haven’t had all too often this year. So I appreciated it when I ended up having that feeling over Some Like It Hot. A true testament to the film’s heart that it was able to give me reprieve from the 2020’s madness.
- LA 92 (2017) – If you thought the riots this past summer were bad, watch this documentary immediately.
I watched a lot of movies in the month of October for Spooktober, but there was a clear favorite for me when I looked back at all the movies I watched during the month. Over the years there has been an influx of horror movies about families in haunted houses I have started to get desensitized to them and it turns out all you have to do is go back and start with the film that started the trend, Poltergeist. I love a good horror movie but my favorites are always the horror movies that are more than what they appear. You go into Poltergeist, expecting a movie about a house tormenting a family and you do get that, but the movie is vastly more interesting when it’s a family drama. The storytelling between each member of the family and the connection to each other are what make Poltergeist stand out from other horror movies that feature families in haunted houses. A lot of horror movies forget about that aspect when creating a familial horror movie. They remember the thrills, but not establishing connections to the family. Poltergeist does and it’s why it’s so well remembered for it and other haunted house family horror movies are promptly forgotten.
- American Psycho (2000) – Christian Bale is phenomenal here.
- Haunt (2019) – A surprisingly good haunted house movie.
- The Others (2001) – What a twist!
- Diabolique (1955) – A suspenseful good time.
Noises Off (1992)
I saw Noises Off for the first time in November and then a few days after I watched it I promptly watched it again. I never rewatch movies so quickly from when I just watched them. But Noises Off was such a joyous experience for me that I needed to relive it again. So I did and if I didn’t have any self-control I would probably watch it every week if not every day. I have only seen Noises Off twice, but it has quickly become a favorite of mines. So much so that I believe I can safely say that the second act of this film is my favorite second act of a movie ever. It’s the very definition of a laugh happening a mile a minute. In fact, the whole movie is that, laugh until it hurts funny. Something I know we all could use right now. I talked earlier of needing a serotonin boost and Noises Off quickly became that for me. It was the exact medicine I needed. I actually got sad both times when I was nearing the end of the film. I didn’t want it to be over. But then I realized I couldn’t help but look forward to when I could watch it again. Until now, I could never understand how people could rewatch the same movie over and over again day after day and not get bored. Now not only do I understand it, but I won’t be surprised if I end up doing the exact same thing with Noises Off in the near future. If you’re in the need of a laugh, please check Noises Off it’s just what you’re looking for.
What the Constitution Means to Me (2020)
I don’t normally watch plays whether that be in person or if it’s captured by a camera to be watched later on YouTube or streaming services, either way, I don’t watch plays. But I watched What the Constitution Means to Me because of all the good reviews I had heard about it. I didn’t know anything about the play when I went into watching it. I thought it would be funny because we have a woman who is role-playing as her fifteen old self and that sounds like it would be funny. And What the Constitution Means to Me is occasionally funny, but it’s also put a lump in your throat heartbreaking sad. This is the only movie this year that made me sob and made me furious at the state of the United States government. It was a sobering experience to hear from others put into words how badly our government has let us down. Whether you are a person of color, a woman, apart of the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled, mentally ill, etc. The play encapsulates the sadness and anger we all have towards our government and the choices we are faced with to make it better. Whether that be voting or voicing your disapproval at something, we have to make our voices known otherwise our government will continue to fail us.
Married to the Mob (1988)
In 2020, I watched The Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino, and The Departed all for the first time, and yet none of them was my favorite mob movie I saw this year. That title belongs to Married to the Mob. A mob movie that focuses on the women of the mob and the difficulties they face and Michelle Pfeiffer in the starting role. What’s there not to love? Married to the Mob has everything you liked from The Godfather, Goodfellas, and co, but it also has compassion towards its main character, unlike any other mob movie I have seen. I sympathize with her unlike any of the protagonists in the beforehand mentioned movies. In any other mob movie, not only would the protagonist never be a woman. The role she would need up playing would be a caricature with no depth whatsoever, not in Married to the Mob though. A woman is the protagonist and she is not a caricature at all. I care what happens to her and I want her to be happy. I’m rooting for her through all the obstacles she faces. It’s a combination of great writing and a tender performance by Michelle Pfeiffer. My wish after watching Married to the Mob is that I want all mob movies going forward to give the same level of care to female characters as they do to their male counterparts, but something tells me they won’t and that’s why Married to the Mob will always have a special place in my heart.
- What a Way to Go! (1964) – A glamorous and campy good time.
- Brave Miss World (2013) – A gut-wrenching documentary about a story you should know about if you don’t already.
- The Fits (2015) – A different type of coming of age story, not what you’re expecting at all.
- Kajillionaire (2020) – I love seeing stories where women overcome trauma their families put upon them.
- Palm Springs (2020) – It’s as good as everyone said it was.
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) – I was completely in awe of Jane Russell’s performance here, she left my jaw opened a few times.
- Klute (1971) – The movie should have been named after Jane Fonda’s character as she is what makes the entire movie so great.
- Miss Juneteeth (2020) – I truly adored the mother/daughter relationship depicted here.
- Eve’s Bayou (1997) – One of those movies that you can’t believe it’s a debut because of how good it is.
- Selah and the Spades (2020) – Lovie Simone is a star in the making, remember that.
- Taylor Swift – Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions (2020) – Taylor Swift got me through this terrible year with her album Folklore being my quarantine soundtrack.
- Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017) – The best wonder woman movie I watched all year.
All That Heaven Allows (1955)
I watched All That Heaven Allows for the first time this year, but I can already tell I will be making it an annual Christmas watch moving forward. I’m a sucker for a Christmas romance look no further than my love for The Apartment. But All That Heaven Allows has an added layer of depth to it since the romance involves an older woman and a younger man. You can picture how that looked like in 1955, very dismissing and hypocritical. The movie is able to say a lot about how society views a romance that features a romance when an older woman is interested in a younger man. I believe the romance in the film is great, but I also love how it says more about how rude and disapproving society is than ever vilifying our main character for wanting to love after going so long being lonely. It’s a classic Christmas romance, but with the added theme of not worrying about how other people and society may perceive you. That’s what makes All That Heaven Allows special to me.
Never, Rarely, Always, Sometimes (2020)
I stated earlier when talking about Yes, God, Yes, that quiet women character studies are becoming my favorite film genre. These last two movies I’m covering exemplify what I’m talking about best. Never, Rarely, Always, Sometimes is about a teenage girl having an abortion. But it’s not in the way that you think. You would think that a movie covering such a topic would be proclaiming one side of the argument over abortion, but that’s not what happens here. Similar to Yes, God, Yes, we aren’t watching the film to see a groundbreaking life-altering experience in a teenage girl’s life. We merely are only seeing a peek into her life and her making a choice and her trying to have an abortion even though the system makes it very hard for her to do so. The movie is not shouting at the audience that you should be for or against abortion, it’s just letting you in on one teenage girl experience getting one. We don’t see her backstory, there some scenes that allude to her being assaulted and physically hurt throughout her life and that may be playing a factor in her decision, but we don’t know anything concrete. We see what the movie wants to show us and that’s just a few days into our protagonist’s life, the choice she decides on, and the process of her going through it. It’s a somber watch, but one of the best I have seen all year. An incredible film with an incredible lead performance by Sidney Flanigan. No matter where you fall on the abortion debate, do yourself a favor and check out this film.
The Assistant (2020)
I expected the movie to come following the Harvey Weinstein exposes and the #MeToo movement would loud and direct to our faces about the abuse that Hollywood has been covering up for decades. I didn’t expect it to be quiet, I didn’t expect there to be as little detail as possible provided, and I didn’t expect the Weinstein like figure not ever being shown on screen. And yet that’s exactly what happens in The Assistant. It’s the Weinstein movie we’ve been expecting expect it’s not really. The director Kitty Green made a wise decision by making the film as quiet as possible. Quiet as in tone, but the atmosphere is also pretty silent as well. You can hear coffee makers and the ringing of phone calls, and the opening of drawers all going on at the forefront while the abuse is happening in the background in plain sight. That’s what makes The Assistant brilliant, you know they could have easily shown the abuser or the abuse he inflicts on women. But they decide not to because we the audience already know what happens behind the scenes. We don’t need to see it to know that it’s happening. The abuse ripples throughout the film without ever making its presence fully known. The film holds so much restraint and honestly, that’s what makes it all the more unnerving to watch. The forefront of the film is just as distressing as what’s happening in the background.
- Salt of the Earth (1954) – I can’t believe something so feminist and pro-labor was able to be made in 1954.
- Uptight (1968) – It feels like it made yesterday as opposed to 1968, so depressing.
- Notorious (1946) – Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant make for an excellent pair.
Those were my favorite movies I watched for the first time in 2020. What were your favorites? Comment them down below.