By Jefferson Vittitow
Another year of movies is in the books.
At the start of 2020, I told myself that I would write down every new movie I saw regardless of the year it came out and rank them at the beginning of the new year.
I watched 78 movies in 2020 that I had never seen before. This ranking is based on my personal tastes and is not a definitive ranking. There are technically better movies than other ones I have higher on the list, but the list is based on how much I enjoyed it.
If there are any objections, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can settle our movie differences there.
I hope you enjoy.
78. The Kissing Booth 2 (2020)
Here it is. The worst new movie I watched in 2020. Sorry Elle, your love life is as disinteresting and stale as the movie itself.
77. Chappaquiddick (2017)
Not far behind the last place is the most boring movie on the list. I love historical dramas, but I could care less about the Kennedy family’s least interesting member.
76. Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
The most unnecessary film on the list. Why anyone would attempt to make a better “Nosferatu” is beyond me, but not even Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich can save this snooze fest.
75. Footloose (2011)
My biggest problem with remakes is that most of them bring nothing new to the table. Sadly, the “Footloose” remake falls victim to this habit.
74. Chaplin (1992)
The problem I had with “Chaplin” is that I didn’t learn many new things about him. The movie cared more about who he slept with rather than the amazing movies he made.
73. Ready to Rumble (2000)
This is a guilty pleasure movie. I am a huge wrestling fan and seeing Diamond Dallas Page, Goldberg and Sting on the big screen is always fun. Sadly, the rest of the movie is hilariously bad.
72. RKO 281 (1999)
“Citizen Kane” is one of my favorite movies of all time, but this historical drama doesn’t do the classic justice. Just watch the original.
71. The Call of the Wild (2020)
I am sure people out there love this movie just as much as they liked Jack London’s book of the same name. I liked neither.
70. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)
I want to clarify that the only reason 70 and 69 are so low on the list is that they are animated movies that did not get a widespread release, so it is hard to rank them. I love “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders,” and any fan of the 60s television version of Batman should watch this.
69. Batman: Year One (2011)
Frank Miller’s comic of the same name catapulted Batman from his goofy and childish beginnings into something more dark and ominous. The animated movie does the source material justice.
68. Soul Surfer (2011)
It’s not that I didn’t like this movie. It just isn’t in my wheelhouse. Regardless, it is a passable movie with an uplifting true story.
67. Happy Death Day 2 U (2019)
Let’s get one thing straight: I loved “Happy Death Day.” The sequel, on the other hand, not so much. The whole time travel narrative really took me out of the second half of the movie.
66. Sixteen Candles (1984)
My least favorite of the classic John Hughes films. Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall weren’t enough to save this high school comedy from feeling like a trope.
65. Freaky (2020)
We are to the point in the list where all movies had great qualities in them. “Freaky” shows Vince Vaughn at his funniest, while also telling a fun and unique story on a former classic: “Freaky Friday.”
64. House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Rob Zombie’s debut outing is basically Texas Chainsaw with a voodoo family twist. What’s not to like?
63. The Last House On the Left (1972)
This movie is tonally everywhere and is kind of hard to watch at some points. However, the ending makes up for the rest of the film’s shortcomings. Also, this is Wes Craven’s directorial debut.
62. Elf (2003)
I am in the camp that “Elf” is terribly overrated. With that being said, this story still has its moments that will sneak a smile across your lips.
61. Halloween 2 (1981)
A far cry from the original, “Halloween 2” suffers from not bringing anything new to the party. However, it still is a great slasher flick.
60. St. Elmos Fire (1985)
One of Joel Schumacher’s more memorable features, “St. Elmos Fire,” has a memorable cast of characters, even if all of them aren’t great human beings.
59. Urban Cowboy (1980)
One of the bigger surprises of 2020, “Urban Cowboy,” is one of those movies I never thought I would like, but it has plenty of surprises in store for those who watch. Ride em’ cowboy.
58. The General (1927)
This might be controversial but I was not a fan of the Keaton movies I watched this year. I appreciate what he did for the movie business, but his magnum opus couldn’t even crack my top 50.
57. Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
I am a DC homer, but the early days of the DCEU were a muddled mess. Zack Snyder’s offerings have not been my favorite, but they have their high points.
56. City Lights (1931)
My least favorite Chaplin movie I watched this year, “City Lights,” was a one-scene movie for me. The boxing match is one of his best, but I did not care for the rest of the movie.
55. Dracula (1931)
Bela Lugosi is one of the best Draculas of all time. However, the movie really drags after we leave his castle. Also, one knock on Lugosi is that he isn’t very menacing. Classic monster movie regardless.
54. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
One of the funnier movies I saw this year, “Sherlock Jr.,” pays homage to Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes’s creator. Keaton mixes comedy and mystery masterfully, and it results in a memorable flick.
53. Weird Science (1985)
Another goofy movie that I didn’t take seriously, “Weird Science,” is the kind of movie that needs to go into a time capsule for people to see in the future. Please watch it.
52. Man of Steel (2013)
I seem to be in the minority here, but all of Zack Snyder’s DCEU movies were very lacking for me. “Man of Steel” gives us a Superman that you don’t want to cheer for and a Lois Lane love story that seems forced and fake.
51. The Descent (2005)
Another pleasant surprise for the horror genre, “The Descent,” is one scary movie. Some people are afraid of heights, but I am scared of underground spaces. Spelunking into a cave filled with goblin-like creatures? Pass.
50. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” One of the greatest movie quotes came from “Cool Hand Luke,” a movie about a man who refuses to submit to authority. The reason it ranks so low is that there was not enough meat on the bone. I was left with great moments, but they didn’t resonate with me long after the credits rolled.
The story of Tony Montana is one that every person in America should learn about. Brian De Palma’s movie about a Cuban immigrant going from rags to riches is stylistic, violent and tragic. One of the best remakes of all time.
48. King Kong (1933)
One of the first American monster movies ever made, “King Kong,” is a classic that everyone needs to watch. Weirdly enough, this movie paints a perfect picture of America’s economic state at the time, but the acting is atrocious. Also, prepare yourself for screaming every five minutes.
47. Coming to America (1988)
Let’s be honest, Eddie Murphy is at his best when he gets to work with R-rated movies. His comedy is unmatched, and he is one of my favorite comedians of all time. Arsenio Hall is hilarious as well. This is a must-watch comedy.
46. Watchmen (2009)
Based on my favorite comic story of all time, “Watchmen” is one of Zack Snyder’s better directorial offerings. I could begin to describe the plot to you, but I would much rather watch the film. Or, even better, read the graphic novel.
45. Playhouse (1921)
Clocking in at 23 minutes, “Playhouse” is one of Buster Keaton’s greatest offerings. It’s funny and ahead of its time regarding special effects. A great watch if you don’t have much time. This is also the oldest movie on the list!
44. The Invisible Man (2020)
Leigh Whannell is one of the great horror movie writers of my generation, and “The Invisible Man” is no exception. The best movie when concerning classic Universal monster movies, Elizabeth Moss, shines in the lead role. The Asian diner scene will leave your jaw on the floor.
43. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
One of the best horror movies of the 2010s. “The Cabin in the Woods” is one big horror movie cliche. The meta-story comes with an amazing ending that pays homage to all the great horror movies in history. How many easter eggs did you spot?
42. Birds of Prey (2020)
One of the biggest DCEU surprises, I went into “Birds of Prey,” thinking it would be average, and boy was I wrong. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is a no-brainer, and Ewan McGregor as Black Mask is one of the best villains in the DCEU. Maybe I’m just a DC homer.
41. The Master (2012)
“The Master” is a very hard film to place on this list. On one hand, it is a beautiful looking film that’s filled with memorable scenes, but underneath all the glitz and glamour, is there really and substance? Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are reason enough for you to watch this film about Scientology.
40. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
One of the funniest films I saw in 2020, “Life of Brian,” is an amazing satire on Hollywood epics and religion. Terry Gilliam has directed other classics such as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “The Meaning of Life,” but this might be one of his deepest films. Also, my favorite band of all time, Iron Maiden, closes each show with “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” which originated from this film.
39. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Christian Bale and Russell Crowe make this movie worth the watch, but after stacking it up against the other movies in front of it, “3:10 to Yuma” doesn’t have the salt to make it crack the top 35.
38. Nosferatu (1922)
The movie that launched a thousand imitators, “Nosferatu,” was actually based on the novel “Dracula,” but Count Orlok beat Dracula to the silver screen barely. This movie is still creepy to this day. The shadows are menacing, and Orlok looks like death himself. Halloween would not be the same after watching this horror hit.
37. Lords of Chaos (2019)
The dark horse candidate of the list, “Lords of Chaos,” is about the uprising of Norwegian Black Metal in Norway during the early 1990s. This movie is dark and brooding. I recommend not watching on an empty stomach. This film is so high on the list because I am a huge fan of the history of heavy metal. However, it is a great movie regardless.
36. Wonder Woman (2017)
Perhaps one of the best movies in the DCEU, “Wonder Woman,” is the origin story of Diana Prince. What makes this movie stand out is the setting and characters. Sticking Gal Gadot and Chris Pine in World War 1 makes a great fish out of water story. Sadly, Wonder Woman 1984 could not follow up with the same enthusiasm as the first.
35. 1917 (2019)
Speaking of World War 1, “1917” is a technical masterpiece. The movie was filmed to make it seem as if it were filmed in one continuous shot. The only knock I have on this flick is that it suffers from poor character development. It is one of the best movies of 2019.
34. The Gold Rush (1925)
One of Chaplin’s most underrated films, “The Gold Rush” is one of the best pieces of slapstick comedies ever made. The dinner scene and the beginning cabin scene are some of the best scenes in comedy. Even the version that brings narration to the flick is entertaining. One of the must-watch Chaplin films.
33. Doctor Sleep (2019)
One of my biggest surprise watches of 2020, “Doctor Sleep,” exceeded all of my expectations. I did not think that a sequel to one of the greatest horror movies of all time, “The Shining,” needed a second part, but boy was I wrong. Ewan McGregor is excellent, and the final 30 minutes of this movie is the ultimate fan service.
32. Lady Bird (2017)
A movie that will go down as one of the best coming-of-age movies of my generation, “Lady Bird,” encompasses the trials and tribulations that follow growing up and finding out who we really are. A must-watch on all levels.
31. Ready Or Not (2019)
One of the best horror movies that I watched in 2020, “Ready Or Not,” shows Samara Weaving at her best, trying to take down a family that takes the family game night to extreme levels. One of the best horror movies to come out of 2019.
30. Casino Royale (2006)
I always go back and forth on my favorite James Bond spy thriller. It always comes down to “Skyfall” or “Casino Royale.” Daniel Craig’s debut as 007, the movie is a clear upgrade from the original in every way. The poker scenes are some of the tensest and well shot in all of James Bond’s history.
29. Evil Dead 2 (1987)
A clear upgrade from the first film in every way, “Evil Dead 2” is Sam Raimi’s sequel to the cult classic of the same name. Not only is this movie one of the best horror cult movies of all time, but Bruce Campbell is one of the most iconic characters in horror history.
28. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
John Hughes’s second-best film, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” tells the story of a feeling we all have felt at some point in our lives: The feeling of not wanting to go to school. What would you do on your day off from school? This film is funny and entertaining from start to finish (sorry everyone, it still isn’t better than “The Breakfast Club”).
27. The Town (2010)
One of Ben Affleck’s best-directed movies, “The Town,” shows the audience what life is like in Charlestown, a rugged borough in Boston, and the renowned armed robbers that protect its respected reputation. Jeremy Renner acts better than he ever has before, and the ending will leave you guessing until the very end.
26. Sicario (2015)
“Sicario” might be the most intense and tense-ridden movie on this list. From the beginning raid scene to the jaw-dropping ending, the foot is down on the gas at all times. Not only is “Sicario” an action-filled thrill-ride, but it also has one of the tensest moments in the film in the past 20 years. If you like drug movies, then this should be first on your list.
25. Escape From New York (1981)
John Carpenter is one of my favorite directors of all time, and “Escape From New York” is one of his best offerings. Set in a futuristic Manhattan, now a huge walled-off prison yard, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is tasked with going into the prison and rescuing the United States president. It is truly as crazy as it sounds, and that is why it cracks the top 25.
24. Parasite (2019)
This is the first South Korean movie I ever watched, and Bong Joon Ho created a masterpiece. There are so many haunting shots in this film, but the shot with the man peering at the child from the stairs still sends chills down my spine.
23. The Great Escape (1963)
My second favorite war movie of all time behind “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Great Escape” tells the story of Allied prisoners attempting to escape from a German camp during World War 2. What sets it apart from other war films is its goofiness. It isn’t afraid to be silly. It would be higher, but it gets a little bloated toward the end.
22. The Help (2011)
One of the only movies I still think about to this day, “The Help,” tells the story of a writer who interviews black women who spend their lives taking care of well-off southern families. This movie will make you laugh, cry and, most importantly, reflect. A must watch on every level.
21. The Departed (2006)
Based on “Infernal Affairs,” “The Departed” is a classic cat and mouse movie, except there are moles in both systems. Matt Damon is working for the mob as a mole in the Boston police force, and Leonardo DiCaprio is working for the police force as a mole in the mob. One of Scorsese’s most underrated films.
20. The Big Short (2015)
A film that hits home to some, “The Big Short” is about the housing crisis of the late 2000s. Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt all cash in on Oscar-worthy performances. This movie reveals how twisted modern banking was at the time. Adam McKay’s best film by a long shot.
19. V for Vendetta (2006)
Based on one of Alan Moore’s greatest graphic novels, “V for Vendetta” shows a futuristic England under fascist control. V is famous for his Guy Fawkes mask and his revolutionary tactics to overthrow the government that he despises. You will draw a lot of parallels between social problems now and what the movie displays. Remember remember the 5th of November.
18. The Royal Tenenbaums (2002)
Each film from here on out is a bonafide classic in my eyes, and “The Royal Tenenbaums” is the first to earn the title. Wes Anderson’s best film is loaded with superstars, including Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman and Bill Murray. It is a movie about family, and one of the funniest on this list.
17. The Kid (1921)
My second favorite Chaplin movie, “The Kid,” is Chaplin’s most heartfelt creation. Chaplin is almost upended in front of the camera by his younger counterpart with so many memorable scenes (the fight scene between the two children being the best). I implore you to watch this and tell me you think the same for anyone who hates old movies.
16. M (1931)
One of the first police procedural movies, “M,” is truly terrifying, and it’s all thanks to the titular bad guy. His ugly looks are only heightened by the amazing use of shadows the movie has. With some of the best cinematography in all German film, “M” is a film that reveals its genius after re-watches.
15. Zodiac (2007)
David Fincher is my second favorite director of all time and “Zodiac” might be his magnum opus. Telling the story of the esteemed zodiac killer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo are worth the admission price alone. Fun fact, he was never caught. Or was he?
14. The Social Network (2010)
Another Fincher classic, “The Social Network,” is based on Mark Zuckerberg and his trials and tribulations while creating Facebook. This is easily Jesse Eisenberg’s best performance of his career, as well as Andrew Garfield. The story behind this website is filled with frills and lawsuits. If “Zodiac” is Fincher at the height of his power, “The Social Network” is Fincher at his most grounded.
13. Frankenstein (1931)
Easily the best out of the original Universal monster movies, “Frankenstein” is not only a scary movie but a movie that packs a lot of emotions and lessons in as well. It teaches us that people have the best intentions even if things don’t seem that way at face value.
12. Jojo Rabbit (2019)
The funniest movie I saw in 2020, “Jojo Rabbit,” is directed by Taika Waititi and is the best satire I have ever seen. Little Jojo wants to be a Nazi, but once he finds a Jew hiding in his attic, he begins to realize who he really is, as well as how twisted his country is. This is a movie everyone needs to watch before they die.
11. Rear Window (1954)
“Rear Window” is my second favorite Hitchcock movie, and just shy of making the top 15. This movie does an excellent job of building tension while keeping the audience secluded to a single room in an apartment complex with a commonplace. This one will have you on the edge of your seat the entire ride.
10. Modern Times (1936)
We have finally made it to the top ten. And what better way to start the top ten than by talking about Charlie Chaplin’s best film, “Modern Times.” The first 30 minutes of this movie remind me of “Metropolis,” which is one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time. I am not a big fan of sci-fi movies in the first place, but Chaplin hit the nail on the head with this one.
9. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
This movie is widely considered the greatest movie of all time, but I think number nine is a respectable spot. Based on the Stephen King novel, “The Shawshank Redemption” tells the story of a man’s time in prison until his eventual attempt to escape. Morgan Freeman’s performance is one of his best.
8. Fargo (1996)
My favorite Coen Brothers movie of all time, “Fargo” is a wild ride that follows a group of characters that get mixed up in a kidnapping gone wrong. Marge Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard are two truly unforgettable characters. When a movie has memorable characters and dialogue mixed with a tension-filled story, it is bound to be enticing. “Fargo” is just that.
7. Blade Runner (1982)
As previously stated, I am not a fan of sci-fi movies, but “Blade Runner” took my breath away. Harrison Ford is Deckard, a retired blade runner, is drawn back into the fray when four replicants show up on Earth. Don’t get it? Well, I implore you to watch this Ridley Scott classic.
6. North By Northwest (1959)
My favorite Hitchcock movie of all time, “North By Northwest” shows Alfred taking a break from his horror roots and venturing into the adventure genre. This movie is a textbook version of cat and mouse, and the ending mount Rushmore scene is as iconic a scene as ever. Watch it.
5. Ford v. Ferrari (2019)
In retrospect, 2019 was an amazing year for movies, and “Ford v. Ferrari” was the best of the bunch from that year. This movie has everything you want in a high budget drama: beautiful cinematography, interesting characters, engaging conflict and a tear-jerking ending. Very rarely do we see movies with big budgets go toward stories like this. Usually, that kind of money is reserved for comic book movies or Disney films. We need more money pumping into these kinds of films.
4. Metropolis (1927)
I want you to think of any science fiction movie or television show you have watched before. There is a strong chance that those shows drew inspiration from the very first science fiction movie, “Metropolis.” This film was made in 1927, but the visuals for that time period are way ahead of anything seen in film during that time. What makes “Metropolis” so spectacular is the size of the set pieces. The sets were so big that the characters looked like mere ants in some shots. This film was recently completed, as most copies were lost or burned.
3. Citizen Kane (1941)
I am not usually one to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to widely appreciated films, but “Citizen Kane” is actually one of the greatest movies of all time. The film follows a group of reporters that are actively trying to seek the answer to Charles Kane’s last words until his death, “Rosebud.” The film is told in a non-linear fashion, so as the reporters investigate further into the meaning of the word, the audience learns a little more about Kane and his life. It is a story of a man’s rise to power and his eventual nose dive right back down to the bottom. The ending will floor you.
2. The Thing (1982)
The best horror movie of all time, “The Thing” is John Carpenter’s masterpiece. What is the thing, you may ask? I still don’t know if I can answer that question with confidence. It is an extraterrestrial life form that can shapeshift into anyone or anything. This causes awesome tension for virtually the entire movie. What is doubly great about this movie is that it was poorly received when it was first released and has since been lauded as a masterpiece. The ending will have you restarting the movie to figure out if the thing is dead or not. A must watch for any horror fan.
1-B. Whiplash (2014)
The final two movies were impossible to separate from each other, so I am making a double champion because this is my list. “Whiplash” is about the insane relationship between a drum student and his psychotic teacher. This movie poses an age-old question: How far are you willing to go to be great? It is one of the best endings of the past 20 years, and the ending performance will have you cheering for the good guy in the end. But who do you side with?
1-A. The Prestige (2006)
“The Prestige” encapsulates everything that makes film great. An engaging story with multiple twists, complex characters and a tense conflict. This is Christopher Nolan’s best film, and a far-cry from the kinds of big movies he makes now. The story is set in London at the end of the nineteenth century and follows two magicians as they compete to see who is the best. This means sabotaging the others work by exposing their secrets to the public. But as you and I both know, great magicians never reveal their secrets.