After a year of chaos and mostly comfort watches it seems that there was still plenty of room for viewings of new releases. Whether a rare big screen viewing or one of the many streaming and PVOD releases (all done by UK release date) there was a lot to enjoy within 2020, and your votes certainly showed that. Throughout the voting process for the audience best films of the year a diverse range of films were showed a great deal of love, and while the top three remained the same by their own distances the remaining seven films in the top ten were part of a very close, ever-changing race. And so, as voted for by the Just A Little Bit Random audience and beyond, here are the top ten best films of 2020!
10. Military Wives
One of the last films to be release before cinemas closed during the first lockdown Military Wives was billed as the “feel-good” film of the year. And, it seems to have done its job. The film had already had good word of mouth and was boosted further when being released soon after on PVOD for more people to see in the safety of their homes. Perhaps its upbeat tone – from The Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo – was what people needed during this year.
Inspired (being a very key word here) by the true story of the Military Wives choir there’s something almost similar in tone to 2019’s Fisherman’s Friends – voted as the 7th best film of that year. While both films may have been assumed as widely being for a general ‘silver cinema’ audience clearly they both stretched out to other audiences to make, in only a couple of weeks as most cinemas were beginning to close, over £3 million at the UK box office.
A story about people coming together amidst fears, worries, stresses and more – as the characters’ husbands are out fighting in the Afghanistan war – seemed to be what people needed during this year, with Military Wives sticking with them for a fair deal of it. For a number of voters it truly was the “feel-good” film of the year, hence its appearance as one of the top ten films of 2020.
9. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
Making many best of the year lists it seems that you the audience agreed that Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire was truly something to behold. Foreign language films as a whole made a big impact in 2020 and this artistic tale of passionate love clearly stood out amongst them.
It’s almost impossible to fault any of the film’s details. With fantastic lead performances from Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant – which managed to receive as much, if not more, acclaim as Elisabeth Moss’ much talked about turn in The Invisible Man, released the same week – who bring to life characters who you just want to see express their emotions to each other.
There’s something truly heart-breaking and tragic about the hopeful tone of the film as you fear there isn’t a future in the relationship due to Haenel’s Héloïse preparing to be married off. The emotional punches of this beautifully told and shot period drama transported viewers somewhere entirely new and different, somewhere they may very well have returned to a number of times throughout the year simply because of how perfect it felt. Which may be just one, there’s bound to be a great deal more than many for this film, of the reasons that this film is at number 9 on this list, speaking to how well received the films above it were.
For the past few years Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon have often been referred to as the Irish Studio Ghibli. However, with their continuing trend of gems such as Song Of The Sea, The Secret Of Kells, The Breadwinner and now Wolfwalkers it may soon be the case that this studio becomes the comparison for many others. Wolfwalkers continues Cartoon Saloon’s trend of deeply rooting their tales in folklore while managing to make something that seems like its own individual piece of folklore. The fine animation of their most recent feature about a young English girl, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), living in Ireland who becomes friends with a girl living in the woods, Mebh (Eva Whittaker), who just happens to be a wolkfwalker – described as “half-wolf, half-witch, half-people” – simply adds to the charm that this film overflows with.
Although, this certainly isn’t a film without its elements of darkness. Simon McBurney voices the truly slimy ‘boo hiss’ figure of the Lord Protector, trying to rid the nearby woods of wolves simply to extend the land that the English are taking over. Yet the charm, humour and heart of the film is never left in the background.
It’s a film that has had care and passion for the story that is being told and the places it comes from into every frame, all leading to a great final product for anyone to enjoy. Thanks to a release on Apple Tv+ – and a limited cinema release beforehand – this feature was potentially able to be viewed by more people than previous limited theatrical release Cartoon Saloon pieces, and from the reception that it’s had it’s clearly been worth it.
Despite the lack of animated films released this year there was clearly a lot of love for those that were released. Animation giant Pixar released two films, and while at the end of the year Soul received a share of acclaim when released on Disney+ the one that seems to have stuck with audience members is Onward. A call-back to 80’s fantasy films such as Time Bandits and Labyrinth, Onward is certainly something different from the studio. There’s plenty of detail in the mythical land of elves, centaurs and manticores where restaurants boast that they’re “now serving 2nd breakfast”.
This is an escapist road-trip as brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) embark on a ‘quest’ to bring back their dad for just one day, after a spell goes wrong and only brings back everything below the belt (belt and trousers included – this is a family film after all). One of the number of films released only a couple of weeks before cinemas closed Onward managed to earn just under £10 million at the UK box office this year, and for a number of weeks was the number one film as cinemas were gradually beginning to re-open. Perhaps people were going for re-watches to escape from the outside world, maybe they were going because they heard the film was good and wanted to watch it on the big screen instead of on Disney+ (where it was released early due to the pandemic).
Either way Onward served as some light entertainment for young and old, a call-back to classics for some and an introduction to a genre for others. Despite not having the box office the studio may have hoped for, but there is, of course, a pretty good excuse for that, Onward clearly was a hit with those who have seen it. Also allowing for it to be voted as the best animated film of the year (Soul doesn’t appear in this top ten).
6. Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn)
Despite everything that happens in Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) – possibly the longest film title of 2020, but one which almost perfectly sums up the tone and style of Cathy Yan’s DC film – one element truly stole the show. “I don’t know if it’s the stray Armenian arm hair, or the fact that his cheese slices are always six months out of date; but no one makes an egg sandwich like Sal”. Perhaps the egg sandwich which serves such an integral part of Birds Of Prey is one of the most iconic things to emerge from a film in 2020, it certainly inspired multiple Twitter threads analysing the greasy breakfast pile.
Aside from the egg sandwich – it truly is immensely desirable – Birds Of Prey is filled with stylish fun and colour, while DC’s style has been changing over the last two or three years there certainly hasn’t been anything like this so far. In fact this is something that goes for comic book movies as a whole, this is a film that stands out amongst all of them for its style and general tone.
While some might draw comparisons to Deadpool Birds Of Prey is very much its own unique piece filled with a controlled chaotic sparkle. The film also allows Margot Robbie’s titular Harley Quinn to properly burst out, free from the shackles of 2016’s Suicide Squad, with bounding, fourth-wall breaking energy for a funny, entertaining ride with some equally stylish ass-kicking in hand.
5. Da 5 Bloods
For many Delroy Lindo stole the show in this particular Spike Lee joint – a monologue of his in particular being one of the cinematic highlights of the year – however there’s a great deal more happening within Da 5 Bloods. Telling the story of four former-soldiers meeting in present day Vietnam to find treasure they had buried in the 80’s Lee’s latest narrative feature, having also released the much-praised David Byrne’s American Utopia towards the end of the year, explored the bond, lives and memories of the group as they returned to the place they had once fought in.
It’s a sometimes tragic story, a feeling pushed further by the excellent ensemble cast and the detailed characters that they bring to life whether in the present day or in flashbacks, and it truly leaves its mark whether looking at elements of action or drama, sometimes both. Yet, the film never forgets its humour to make the figures at the centre of it feel more authentic, simply making the emotional punches even swifter and more devastating. Also holding one of the final performances of Chadwick Boseman, which certainly has more impact and emotion that it already held since his unfortunate passing.
There’s a lot of great things in the mixture that makes up Da 5 Bloods that stay in the mind long after viewing it. Perhaps for many the entire film stayed with them long after viewing, however much stayed with people it was clearly enough to lead it to be place so high up on this list of the best films of the year.
If there’s one film from 2020 that everyone agreed on it was Tenet. While the reason it was agreed upon was the fact that it doesn’t make sense there were still plenty of people who enjoyed this latest mind-melting time-twister from Christopher Nolan, truly taking the film’s advice of “don’t try to understand it, just feel it” in there stride. One of the few blockbusters to be released in cinemas in 2020, thanks to a push from Nolan himself, this may also have been one of the most re-watched films of the year, with people trying to actually follow it (alongside hear the dialogue) and understand, potentially enjoying, it more each time.
Yet, despite such jabs there is still quite a lot to admire about Tenet, particularly when it comes to the handful of action sequences within it; heightened by Ludwig Göransson’s detailed score which at times sounds like it’s playing in reverse itself. There’s certainly something thrilling about the fast-paced action throughout the film, and after so many months of cinemas being closed potentially the feeling of seeing something of this scale on the big screen may have added to the response of the film.
This isn’t to say that it’s actually bad, there are plenty of people who really liked Tenet, and it is an entertaining film with plenty to like – as shown by its placing in this year’s top ten, just outside the top three.
Perhaps one of the biggest sensation’s of the entire year Parasite took the world by storm. There wasn’t anyone who had a bad word to say about the first ever foreign-language film to win the Best Picture Oscar – it almost seems to have been one of the only good things that have happened during the year. Part-thriller, part-drama, part-dark comedy, part-social commentary; there are a great deal of themes, genres and ideas packed into the various backgrounds of Parasite, yet the film pulls it off with a detailed screenplay and excellent performances with the already great Bong Joon-ho behind the camera.
The film was a box office success in the UK, being the 7th highest grossing film of the year, earning more than the likes of Birds Of Prey, The Invisible Man, Onward and Jojo Rabbit. To say something that certainly everyone else has already said, there seems to be nothing to say about Parasite that hasn’t already been said.
Not only was this considered one of the best films of the year, or even the decade already (for some last decade due to this being a 2019 release in a number of countries), but multiple people have claimed this to be one of the greatest films ever made. Parasite in all its, as it seemed almost everyone who has seen it might put it, perfection was undeniably a force like no other this year. With widespread acclaim from the very start there was justified anticipation and a worthy pay-off at the end of it, striking a chord with many and if not at the top of their best of the year lists causing it to appear somewhere in their top ten lists, and that’s precisely the case here.
Throughout voting there was much support for Parasite, and the top three remained very much the same, and its support was strong enough to lead it to be named as the third best film of 2020.
2. Jojo Rabbit
Released at the very start of the year Jojo Rabbit has clearly stayed with many voters throughout it, receiving just over double the amount of votes that Parasite earned. Much more than the story of a boy (Roman Griffin Davis) who’s imaginary best friend is Hitler (writer-director Taika Waititi) this is not the scathing satire that some may have expected. Adapted from Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies, this is the charming, bittersweet story of a boy trying his best to be a Nazi but learning more about his world when he discovers a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) living in his walls during World War II.
Filled with Waititi’s signature form of laugh-out-loud humour and some finely tuned emotional beats – sometimes hitting immediately after moments of lightness and managing to never feel out of place, the screenplay won the Best Adapated Screenplay Oscar – this is an absolute gem from the breakout writer-director of a few years ago. Slightly looking at the impact and corruption that propaganda can cause, Waititi looks once again at the characters of the outsiders, a group he has made a number of films about now, including Boy and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, although this time with quite a different lens and angle. Waititi’s original screenplay was first placed on the Blacklist in 2012 and his passion and care for the project clearly never died down in the six or seven years it took to get the film into production, and it was well worth the wait.
The finished product is a hilarious, emotional and finely-balanced piece of work that was a success both in terms of awards and box office, both in general and in the UK. Clearly having formed a close bond with viewers, strong enough to lead them to vote it as the second best film of 2020, with only one film receiving that bit more love.
Back towards the start of the year many believed that Sam Mendes was a lock in for his second Best Director Oscar for 1917 (his first having been won in 2000 for American Beauty), in fact his film was biggest piece of competition for Parasite when it came to the battle for the top prize on the night. There’s no denying that technically 1917 is a great film – it also won master Cinematographer Sir (it feels good to be able to say that, doesn’t it?) Roger Deakins his second Oscar, his first for his work on Blade Runner 2049.
Told in what looks like two continuous shots the look and sound of the film heightened many people’s immersions into this World War One feature. Not just focusing on traditional war elements such as battles, attacks and fights there are plenty of quieter moments held within the film. However, even these are lined with tension as the deadline of the mission of the central pairing (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) gets increasingly close. Their task is to deliver a message to another battalion to stop an attack that could lose the lives of thousands of soldiers.
Not only does Mendes and the relatively dialogue-light screenplay (co-written by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns) remind the audience of this, but so does Thomas Newman’s score and almost all of the other technical elements of the film that throw the two leads into further riskier situations that threaten their lives and their mission. Audiences found themselves similarly thrown into the trenches, no man’s land, enemy territory and beyond in a story inspired by the stories and experiences of Mendes’ grandfather.
1917’s high levels of tension and drama caused it to have a great, lasting impact on viewers of all forms. The highest grossing film in the UK of 2020 (earning more than double that of the second highest earning film, Sonic The Hedgehog) and an equally large hit during awards season this was perhaps one of the best received films of the year.
In fact, throughout the entire voting process this film was the number one choice for nearly the entire run, just to show how much love and support it has had. Truly leading it to be named as the Just A Little Bit Random audience’s best film of 2020.