Watson Ranks the Top Movies of 2020: Covid Edition

By William Watson

Well…  This year was the longest decade of our lives, wasn’t it?  When Covid-19 transformed to a global pandemic in March, the movie slate was turned upside down.  It was so disruptive, Gabbing Geek’s Jenny made a bet that no movie would be released on its originally scheduled date. She was looking good until Tom Hanks, who heralded in a global reaction with his positive test, turned out News of the World on Christmas Day!

So, what did I do in a year where movies were hard to find?  Did I watch fewer than ever?  No way!

I sifted through the sand and found as much gold as I could; so much so that I shattered my all-time record of 150 new movies in a year.  

In fact, Gabbing Geek’s Ryan recommended I beat it by 19 to reflect the only number that mattered this year.

Plus, 150 plus 19 makes it… 169.  Giggle!

Well, here we go…

Time to jump right into the list!

Top Ten

10. LOVE AND MONSTERS

A nice, small budget science fiction, post-apocalyptic action comedy; set in a world where alien monsters have forced humanity underground.  After years of being afraid of his own shadow, Joel sets out across dangerous ground to reunite with his childhood love, Aimee.  The film feels much bigger than its budget.

9. BOYS STATE

An amazing documentary set in my own town of Austin, Texas, Boys State covers an annual student civics program for high school students.  The attendees divide themselves into two non-partisan parties, build a platform, and then run for offices.  The director finds some fascinating kids to tell the story of what people will do in the quest for power.

8. THE SOUND OF METAL

This film falls into my Dallas Buyers Club category, where it is more about performances than plot, but still very compelling. This movie should do well come Oscar season. Riz Ahmed deserves a Best Actor nod as does Paul Raci for supporting. Ahmed stars as a heavy metal drummer who must come to grips with losing his hearing.  It’s better than it sounds

7. THE GENTLEMEN

This was the only movie in my top ten that I saw in the theater.  Not usually a Guy Ritchie fan, but this one was a much more straightforward caper than his earlier works.  Matthew McConaughey plays an aging drug kingpin in England, who is fending off a brutal young rival and a scheming tabloid journalist.  Great performances from MM, Charlie Hutnam, Jeremy Strong, Hugh Grant, and Colin Farrell.

6. PALM SPRINGS

An A-movie we didn’t know about popping up on Hulu???  What a nice little treat during a pandemic!  The shock of the year tells the story of a man dealing with being stuck in a Groundhog Day time loop, only to get a visitor in the madness.  I will say no more, because the more blind you go in, the better.  Check this hilarious movie out!

5. MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM

Chadwick is a lock for Best Actor, but I think he would have won even if he hadn’t tragically died. This was a great performance, and it will not be a sympathy award. Boseman leaves the world too early, but drops the mic with a tour de force performance as an arrogant young musician trying to steal spotlight from the aging diva.  Raw and powerful in every scene.

4. TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Just an amazing film. Classic Sorkin. The cast takes his beautiful words and bring it home.  I think you could fill the full acting Oscar slate from this movie about the prosecution of the organizers of the anti-war protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  Special callouts to Sacha Baron Cohen (who had a hell of a year with this and Borat), Jeremey Strong, Mark Rylance, and Yahya Abdul Mateen II.

3. TENET

The rest of the Geeks correctly note that Nolan was a first rate dick and totally tone deaf in his “way too far” defense of the theater distributors during a pandemic. But that aside, this movie was fucking awesome. It is very complex, and I get why it might not be for B-level intellects, but I dug it. I say this because I am also a first rate dick.

2.  SOUL

Wow. Just wow! I put Soul up there with TS3 and Inside Out. Maybe above them! Its animation was the best Pixar has ever done. It had a ton of… soul. Pun intended but there’s no better way to capture it. Jamie Fox’s performance was on par with Ellen’s Dory as the all time Pixar champ.  I was captivated every second of this film.

WATSON’S FILM OF THE YEAR!

1. HAMILTON

One of the many gifts Disney+ gave us was pulling up the 2021 theatrical release of a live taping of the greatest musical ever …and this one came along just at the right time as nerves were fraying with the shutdown. I have seen this amazing piece of Americana three times in the theater, but never got to see the legendary original cast.  Now I can watch it on my phone on a mountain in Nepal.  What an amazing all time piece of art that is accessible to the masses forever.   Saying that the original stage production is one of the ten best works of artistic creation in history isn’t hyperbole. The best movie of the year is a time capsule for what we could do as a people.

BOTTOM TEN

But even more fun than the top 10?  The stinky bottom ten.  You see a lot of movies…you see a lot of stinkers.  In the past, I have sought out bad movies like Transformers or Mortdecai to fill in the bottom of the list.  I saw fewer stinkers this year because of COVID-19  Life was hard enough as it was…

So let’s take a look at the stinky turds inhabiting the Watson Bottom Ten!

10. SUPERINTELLIGENCE

Ben Falcone continues to ruin his wife Melissa McCarthy’s career with his witless direction.  This might be his best collaboration with her, but that is not saying much.  The only saving graces of this turd are Bobby Cannavale and James Cordon.

9. THE WAR WITH GRANDPA

This movie’s plot was already stale in 2003.  I get DeNiro taking the paycheck, but it was sad to see Uma Thurman in the role she had.  She deserves better than this paint by the numbers mundane offering.

8. HUBIE HALLOWEEN

Sandler movies are my very guilty pleasure.  I am ashamed to say I would watch them even if I didn’t already watch everything.  But there is Premium Sandler (Uncut Gems), Decent Sandler Comedy (Murder Mystery), and Terrible Sandler (Sandy Wexler).  This is Sandy Wexler territory, which is sad because the premise had promise…

7. BLOODSHOT

My least favorite genre can only be described as “Ryan Movies” and this fits the bill, starring the patron saint of Ryan films: Vin Diesel.  One of the most horrific aspects of the quarantine was that I got desperate and bought this movie the day it became available on PVOD.  Now it is in my permanent library as a mark of shame.  Of course, Vin did contribute to the culture this year with this utter gem!

6. GRUDGE

This movie was almost indecipherable.  I didn’t see the original, but there was NOTHING compelling about this 99 cent rental…

5. WONDER WOMAN 1984

What a train wreck!?! The plot was a convoluted mess. I respect the central story idea of the wishing rock and Lord’s drive for power and respect, but complex and ambitious plot lines are generally home runs or strike outs. Avengers: Endgame had a complicated time heist that could have totally gone off the rails. Nope. Steroid era home run! This one? Swing and a miss, lost control of the bat and it hit the Boy Scout in the third row in the head.

4. UNHINGED

One of the bold entrants into the “save the theaters” movement or a stinker the studios decided to flush as a favor to Cinemark and AMC?  Well….it is my #4 film so you tell me.  An interesting premise that was executed with such stupidity that it will insult your intelligence…

3. CAPONE

Tom Hardy is objectively a great actor, so to make such a bad movie with him takes work.  He plays an aging Al Capone after he is released from prison due to illness.  Sounds cool, right?  Well he is suffering from advanced syphilis and that isn’t pretty.  Yet, they are very faithful in their potrayal of his decline…all the way down to the regular bouts of diarrhea…

2. SPENCER CONFIDENTIAL

Another Ryan type movie.  I swear if Mark Wahlberg and Vin Diesel did an action car chase movie together, the world would be sucked into a black hole and all life would end.  Yet they would still continue making bad Mark Wahlberg movies.  They put a hell of a cast around him (Duke, Arkin, and Maron), but Marky Mark still makes the film so unwatchable.

 1. ARTEMIS FOWL

Ugh.  This was brutal.  This movie got shuffled around a couple of times because of the Disney/Fox acquisition, but clearly there were problems with the project itself.  When Disney offered this up as a Disney+ release in April, they were trying to trick us into thinking this was another Frozen 2 or Onward early release.  It was, instead, the modern equivalent of a January burnoff.  There was only one moment I laughed or smiled and it was unintentional comedy from Dame Judy Dench.  This is the kind of dump that cheapens the premium streaming name.  Avoid this one like the plague.

Final Thoughts

In last year’s article, I wrote “The growth of quality streaming films, generally smarter and more adult in nature, seems to be the answer to the growing tide of dumb franchise movies that no one asked for.  More and more, I could see the kind of movies that once lit up the big screen, the mid-budget film, coming to Netflix.  I will be happy to watch them there!”  Little did I know the world would catch on fire and that trend would be accelerated five years.  Death to theaters! I changed my game room into a home theater in anticipation of this trend.

We should have a great slate in 2021, even if the vaccine takes a while.  I cannot wait!  Happy New Year!

Full List (#1-169)

ALL-TIME GREATS

1 . HAMILTON
2 . SOUL

EXCELLENT

3 . TENET
4 . TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
5 . MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
6 . PALM SPRINGS
7 . THE GENTLEMEN
8 . THE SOUND OF METAL
9 . BOYS STATE

STRONG ENTRIES

10 . LOVE AND MONSTERS
11 . THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER
12 . THE BOYS IN THE BAND
13 . THE OUTPOST
14 . THE OLD GUARD
15 . MANK
16 . TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL
17 . BAD EDUCATION
18 . THE BANKER

VERY GOOD

19 . THE BEE GEES: HOW DO YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART
20 . KAJILLIONAIRE
21 . THE MIDNIGHT SKY
22 . EUROVISION
23 . LET HIM GO
24 . JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE
25 . ARCHENEMY
26 . THE WAY I SEE IT
27 . BORAT: SUBSEQUENT MOVIE FILM
28 . THE BEASTIE BOYS STORY
29 . ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY
30 . KING OF STATEN ISLAND
31 . ENOLA HOLMES
32 . HOWARD
33 . WOLFWALKERS
34 . DA FIVE BLOODS
35 . GREYHOUND
36 . ON THE ROCKS
37 . BIG TIME ADOLESCENCE
38 . THE WAY BACK
39 . FOOSBALLERS
40 . UNCORKED
41 . CRIP CAMP

GOOD MOVIES

42 . THE RED PENGUINS
43 . CALL OF THE WILD
44 . THE SOUL OF AMERICA
45 . THE FIGHT
46 . THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME
47 . CIRCUS OF BOOKS
48 . PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD
49 . THE HALF OF IT
50 . CLASS ACTION PARK
51 . NEVER, RARELY, SOMETIMES, ALWAYS
52 . DISCLOSURE
53 . MULAN
54 . SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
55 . EXTRACTION
56 . UPPITY
57 . ATHLETE A
58 . BIRDS OF PREY
59 . I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
60 . UNFIT
61 . 7500
62 . HILLBILLY ELEGY
63 . DAVID FOSTER: OFF THE RECORD
64 . BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S LETTER TO YOU
65 . THE ASSISTANT
66 . DESERT ONE
67 . SUPERMAN: RED SON
68 . BECOMING
69 . THE MYSTERY OF DB COOPER
70 . HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY
71 . DISNEYNATURE’S ELEPHANT
72 . DADS

DECENT FLICKS

73 . PROJECT POWER
74 . EMMA.
75 . 537 VOTES
76 . THE VAST OF NIGHT
77 . AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR
78 . MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND
79 . IRRESISTIBLE
80 . A SECRET LOVE
81 . THE PANAMA PAPERS
82 . JANE GOODALL: THE HOPE
83 . THE PHOTOGRAPH
84 . ARKANSAS
85 . ONWARD
86 . MY SPY
87 . AVA
88 . RADIOACTIVE
89 . GREED
90 . BAD BOYS 3
91 . BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC
92 . LAST FULL MEASURE
93 . AN AMERICAN PICKLE
94 . THE PROM
95 . THE TRIP TO GREECE
96 . SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN
97 . THE SHOW MUST GO ON: QUEEN
98 . JUDY AND PUNCH
99 . JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK 2
100 . THE WRONG MISSY
101 . LOST GIRLS

NOT A WASTE OF TIME

102 . TROOP ZERO
103 . FANTASY ISLAND
104 . HOOKING UP
105 . TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG
106 . DIVING WITH DOLPHINS
107 . DESPERADOS
108 . IMPRACTICAL JOKERS
109 . LOVEBIRDS
110 . GO BACK TO CHINA
111 . MORTAL KOMBAT: SCORPION’S REVENGE
112 . COFFEE & KAREEM
113 . MISS AMERICANA
114 . NEW MUTANTS
115 . TESLA
116 . MISS JUNETEENTH
117 . THE HUNT
118 . THE SOCIAL DILEMMA

IF YOU HAVE SPARE TIME

119 . TROLLS WORLD TOUR
120 . SCOOB
121 . THE INVISIBLE MAN
122 . DOOLITTLE
123 . THE HIGH NOTE
124 . EXTRA ORDINARY
125 . HOW TO BUILD A GIRL
126 . THE SLEEPOVER
127 . PHINEAS & FERB THE MOVIE
128 . WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME
129 . FEELS GOOD MAN
130 . SUPERMAN: MAN OF TOMORROW

GETTING A LITTLE TEDIOUS

131 . CRACKED UP
132 . THE LAST THING HE WANTED
133 . THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN
134 . OLYMPIC DREAMS
135 . LIKE A BOSS
136 . CRAZY NOT INSANE
137 . HAVE A GOOD TRIP
138 . CODE 8
139 . LA ORIGINALS
140 . SKIN
141 . DOWNHILL
142 . THE BINGE
143 . ROALD DAHL’S THE WITCHES

I’M GETTING A HEADACHE

144 . THE RENTAL
145 . THE CURRENT OCCUPANT
146 . SPACESHIP EARTH
147 . THE WILLOUGHBYS
148 . ROBERT THE BRUCE
149 . THE BEST KIDS IN TEXAS
150 . DEATHSTROKE: KNIGHTS AND DRAGONS
151 . UNDERWATER
152 . FIRST COW
153 . WATER LILIES OF MONET
154 . SNIPER: ASSASSIN’S END
155 . FATAL AFFAIR
156 . THE RHYTHM SECTION
157 . AMERICAN PIE PRESENTS: GIRLS’ RULE
158 . RELIC
159 . FORCE OF NATURE

THE BOTTOM AND DESERVING

160 . SUPERINTELLIGENCE
161 . THE WAR WITH GRANDPA
162 . HUBIE HALLOWEEN
163 . BLOODSHOT
164 . GRUDGE
165 . WONDER WOMAN 1984
166 . UNHINGED
167 . CAPONE
168 . SPENCER CONFIDENTIAL
169 . ARTEMIS FOWL

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