The Best of 2021

Finally, for the last time (not really the last time): what I consider to be the best (or, more accurately, my favourite) films I saw for the first time in 2021 (that bit’s correct).

This year, I tried to make a start on my list early (I began pondering it and pruning my long-list back in November, whereas normally I don’t even start that until January 1st), all so I could post it fairly promptly once we reached the new year. Well, it’s now the 9th, which is one of the latest dates I’ve ever posted my ‘best of’ list, so that didn’t really work, did it?

Anyway…



The 21 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2021

No, it’s not 21 for ’21 — it’s 10% of whatever my final total is (as it has been since 2016). This year that total was 207, of which the appropriate percentage is 20.7, but I can’t very well include seven-tenths of a film, can I, so it rounds up to 21. (If you think that’s too many for a list like this, feel free to scroll down and start wherever you like.)

As always, all the movies I watched for the first time in 2021 are eligible, not just brand-new releases. However, I did watch 31 films that had their general UK release in 2021, and five of them made it into this list, so I’ve noted their ‘2021 rank’ too.

21=
Holiday Affair
Happiest Season
Anna and the Apocalypse

Reader, I have cheated! After 15 years of sticking to (my own self-imposed set of) The Rules, I have caved and broken the proscribed number of films allowed on this list, and also allowed a tie (I don’t think I’ve allowed a tie before, although one year I did comment that the top 4 were all effectively in first place — but I still sorted them). Why has this happened? As I’ll talk more about in the Honourable Mentions, I got stuck at 32 films for the longest time. I managed to whittle it down to 23, but after days of being stuck there I just gave in. If I could have decided which of these were #22 and #23, they could’ve been taken off the list; but as I can’t, here are all three, tied. At least they’re connected, by being overtly Christmassy films, which is kinda why they’ve all got stuck together — “which of the many Christmassy films I watched this year did I like the most?” Turns out, that’s a three-way tie (unless you also include the one that’s at #9…)

20 Carol

Okay, this one’s quite Christmassy too. Indeed, it’s practically “Holiday Affair but with lesbians”, a comparison I’m sure would’ve come up more if Holiday Affair was better known.

19 Spontaneous
High schoolers begin mysteriously exploding in this sort-of-horror cum comedy cum teen romance, which I found both hilarious and surprisingly emotional.

18 Daughters of Darkness

An erotic horror movie — sounds like schlocky trash, but mixed through a European arthouse sensibility it comes out the other side as a dreamy, surreal experience.

17 Who?
This is a pretty obscure sci-fi spy flick: it has under 700 ratings on IMDb; I hadn’t heard of it before Indicator’s Blu-ray release — but it deserves more. It’s almost like a Le Carré thriller in its slow-burn intellectual depiction of Cold War plotting, but with a dose of just-beyond-the-possible SF mixed in.

16 Futureworld

Another ’70s sci-fi thriller that I think deserves better. This widely disparaged sequel to Westworld is very in keeping with other films of its era: it’s a paranoid thriller about a pair of journalists investigating a corporate conspiracy — in this case, Delos’ attempt to rehabilitate their robot theme park after the disaster in the last film.

15 Love Affair
A prototypically romantic melodrama (it’s been explicitly remade twice, not to mention the other films that have borrowed from it), I was expecting a bit of fluff but ended up finding it surprisingly affecting. It dodges the clichés I thought it was bound for, in addition to being beautifully shot.

14 Strictly Ballroom

Another one that confounded my expectations. As Baz Luhrmann’s debut feature, I expected a dry run for where he’d go stylistically in Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! But to regard Strictly Ballroom as anything less than a fully-fledged member of the Red Curtain Trilogy is to do it a disservice. Its ludicrous, over-the-top treatment of a ludicrous, over-the-top world is both absurdly hilarious and totally captivating.

13 Godzilla vs. Kong
2021 #5 Big monkey punch giant lizard! No one’s going to call this movie high art, but goddamn if it isn’t entertaining pulp-SF gubbins with giant-size fights thrown in for good measure. Honestly, I don’t know what some people expect from movies like this when they go about criticising them. If giant animals having a brawl isn’t to your taste, fair enough, but if you were expecting a meditative character-driven insight into the human condition or something, more fool you.

12 The Invisible Man

The fourth feature from Universal’s genre- and studio-defining run of horror films in the early 1930s. Dracula and Frankenstein may have become more iconic, but, for my money, this is the best movie from the bunch (and I’d rank The Mummy second). The special effects are more extensive than you might expect for the era, and even hold up pretty well today, while Claude Rains is superb as the cackling villain, James Whale’s direction is highly effective, and there’s a nice vein of humour to balance the darkness.

11 Captain Phillips
That Tom Hanks wasn’t even nominated for most major awards for his performance here is a crime against cinema. He’s extraordinary as the eponymous captain of a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates. Paul Greengrass brings his usual edgy tension to proceedings, but its Hanks’s humanity that ultimately elevates the piece. The final scene is one of the greatest single pieces of acting we will ever see.

10
The Hound of the Baskervilles

Hammer does Holmes. Peter Cushing is a note-perfect incarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Great Detective in what was, sadly, the famed horror studio’s only attempt at filming Sherlock. Personally, I’ve never thought The Hound of the Baskervilles was a particularly good detective mystery novel — but it is quite a good gothic adventure, which makes Hammer the perfect studio to have brought it to the screen. As that, this version doesn’t disappoint, with Terence Fisher’s direction leaning hard into the appropriate atmosphere, plus a superb cast — alongside Cushing, André Morell is a superb Watson. I wish they’d done a whole series with the pair.

9
The Green Knight

2021 #4 Some people seemed surprised when this film delivered exactly what its trailers had promised: an arty-yet-fantastical interpretation of the Arthurian myth. It’s a moody, earthy take on the material, but one that also has room for magical realism, fairytale-esque fantasy, and flights of inexplicable oddness. The measured pace and off-kilter tone (plus the pitch-dark cinematography) was never going to be to everyone’s taste, but for those on its level, it’s intoxicating. And if you think Die Hard counts as a ‘different’ Christmas movie…

2021 #3 I was worried that I’d find Nomadland a bit boring and “not my kind of thing”. It seemed like the kind of film where you hang out with the characters and their landscapes, rather than a piece of clear narrative storytelling. And it is that — but, for once, it worked for me. It’s almost like a TV travelogue, visiting places worth seeing and unusual people worth meeting. You watch to appreciate the scenery, to understand the people, to experience a different way of life. It’s a film to escape with — to get away from ordinary life and spend time in these captivating places. Within and alongside that, it creates a beautiful, deeply humane, quite powerful experience. [Full review.]

7
Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Having grown up reading sci-fi magazines, I’m very aware that, when it comes to Star Trek movies, “even ones good, odd ones bad”. And this first one has a particularly poor rep — “slow” and “boring” seem to be commonly-attached adjectives (which I can’t help but feel stems back to expectations on its original release, which came in the wake of the success of Star Wars, so presumably people expected a fast-paced action-adventure). But as I settled down to begin watching all the Trek movies from the beginning, I found myself in for a very pleasant surprise. It’s not even trying to be a Star Wars-style adventure, but something different entirely; almost more akin to 2001 in its sense of wonder and exploration, digging into an imagining of a genuinely alien lifeform rather than running about blasting rubber suits with laser guns. Engaged with on the right terms, I enjoyed every minute of it.

6
WolfWalkers

The third film in Irish animation outfit Cartoon Saloon’s Folklore Trilogy — and Wolfwalkers really does feel like an authentically-told folktale, not a Disneyfied modern reimagining. A big part of that is the animation style. Even if you think you’re becoming inured to it from the studio’s previous work, it has surprises in store; moments of additional innovation or beauty. It’s constantly impressive and regularly breathtaking. Combined with the magical story, the result is a simply gorgeous film.

5
Dune: Part One

2021 #2 Frank Herbert’s Dune is probably one of my favourite novels, and previous attempts to film it have either been interesting but fundamentally flawed (the 1984 film) or faithful but limited by format (the 2000 miniseries), so when it was announced a new version would be masterminded by Denis Villeneuve — one of only two directors to top my year-end best-of list twice, once with another tricky-to-pull-off re-envisioning of a sci-fi masterpiece — well, my hopes were high. Suffice to say, he delivered, albeit in a film that is ‘very Villeneuve’. That is to say, it’s a rather brutalist take on the material, lacking the fanciful, weird interpretations of Lynch, Jodorowsky, or even (to a lesser extent) the TV version. In some ways that’s a shame, but it’s also true to the filmmaker. That the film has to abandon the story halfway through, forced into a rather low-key cliffhanger, is merely a factor of the length of the material rather than a fault of the filmmaker — some have taken serious issue with it, but, personally, the film ended where I always expected it to. And, as a fan, I’d rather this two-part adaptation, giving the story the necessary screentime, even if that means a limp end to Part One, rather than have the whole book in a rushed three-hour single shot. That said, this might be why it’s at #5 on my list rather than becoming Villeneuve’s third #1. I’m optimistic that, once we get Part Two (and, possibly, a Part Three adapting Herbert’s first sequel), the whole will be even greater.

4
The Kid Detective

This is one of those high concepts you wonder why someone hasn’t though of sooner: what would a ‘kid detective’ (you know, like the Hardy Boys or the Famous Five or whatever) be like grown up? One answer to that would likely fuel a CW-esque YA series, but here we get a more real-world treatment: the detective who was exalted as a kid, a quirky story for the local paper and whatnot, is now a washed-up has-been as he tries to follow the same career as an adult. Like several other films on this year’s list, here was a film that looked like it would tickle a particular itch of mine, and delivered — it was everything I expected it to be and more. It’s both an amusing extrapolation of its central premise and a solid mystery in its own right, with a surprisingly moving conclusion. One part in particular gave me goosebumps, and you’ve got to love anything that can elicit such a physical reaction.

3
Joint Security Area

Before Oldboy or The Handmaiden, director Park Chan-wook gained international attention for this 2000 military thriller about a shooting in the DMZ between North and South Korea. After a South Korean border guard apparently kills two North Korean soldiers and wounds a third on their side of the border before fleeing back to the South, heightened tensions between the nations rest on an investigation by a neutral investigator. As the Swiss Army major tries to find the truth of what happened amidst conflicting accounts, the obvious point of comparison is A Few Good Men, but JSA also made me think of Paths of Glory in its ultimately-tragic message about the wasteful futility of war. But although these point towards its tone and effect on the viewer, it outshines simple comparisons to be its own magnificent thing.

2
David Byrne’s American Utopia

I’m not a music critic — heck, I don’t even listen to all that much music on a regular basis, if I’m honest — and yet what is essentially a concert film has made it almost to the top of my favourite movies this year. What gives? I wish I could explain it properly, but, I confess, I don’t quite understand why I loved American Utopia, all I can say is that I did. It had an almost profound impact on me that I can’t quite account for. Of course that’s mostly down to the music and staging by Byrne and his fellow performers, but Spike Lee’s direction and editing transform the theatrical show into a near-perfect cinema version. My only unfulfilled wish is that this had been made during the world’s 3D phase, because movement in a three-dimensional space is a key part of the show’s staging, and I’d love to be able to watch that in 3D.

1
The Matrix Resurrections

2021 #1 This belated return to and continuation of the Matrix trilogy has divided critics and audiences alike. You’ll find plenty of people online prepared to slag it off at the slightest prompt. But for others of us, it’s a borderline masterpiece. Personally, it’s not just a film I enjoyed, but something I’ve almost been waiting for — and by “almost” I mean that I never expected to actually get it. This isn’t a by-the-numbers attempt to recreate the adrenaline highs of an enduringly popular action movie. Instead, it’s the kind of wild-swing hyper-meta self-deconstructing take on a popular franchise that I’ve always longed for a legacy sequel to attempt, but no one has been bold enough to try (or, possibly, no one’s ever been able to convince the suits to allow it). Sure, if all you want from a Matrix movie is people looking cool in sunglasses while they engage in precisely-designed epic action sequences, then Resurrections will leave you disappointed. If you appreciate a film that has something pertinent and meaningful to say about our current entertainment culture, there’s a lot to like.


As usual, I’d just like to highlight a few other films.

Normally I’m loathe to mention any films that just missed out on the top list — it is what it is, and if I wanted it to be longer I should just find an excuse to make it longer. That said, this year my “top 21” was stuck at 32 films for the longest time — as I mentioned back at #21, you may remember. So, it feels like those 11 almost-rans deserve a mention; except it’s nine almost-rans, because I couldn’t even get it all the way down to 21. I’m not sure these are truly #24–32 (for that distinction, I’d have to properly reconsider some others from my 89-film long list that I’d eliminated earlier), but, nonetheless, there were (in alphabetical order) The Father, Festen, The Mummy (1932), My Fair Lady, My Man Godfrey, Official Secrets, The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix, Psycho Goreman, and The Quatermass Xperiment. In other years, maybe they would’ve been luckier.

That said, they’re not the only films that might feel aggrieved to have missed out (if films had feelings), because, while there are 4-star films in my top 21 (even in my top ten), there are 5-star films that didn’t make the cut. I awarded 25 films full marks in 2021, and 13 of them made it into my top list — namely Captain Phillips, Carol, David Byrne’s American Utopia, Dune: Part One, The Green Knight, Joint Security Area, The Kid Detective, Love Affair, The Matrix Resurrections, Nomadland, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Strictly Ballroom, and WolfWalkers. The less fortunate (but still great) ones were The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Cinema Paradiso, The Father, Festen, Kind Hearts and Coronets, My Fair Lady, My Man Godfrey, Official Secrets, Sansho Dayu, A Single Man, When the Wind Blows, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? There were also full marks for the original King Kong when I gave it the Guide To treatment.

Additionally, let’s recap the 12 films that won Favourite Film of the Month at the Arbies, some of which have already been mentioned in this post and some of which haven’t. In chronological order (with links to the relevant awards): WolfWalkers, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, David Byrne’s American Utopia, Captain Phillips, Official Secrets, The Invisible Man (1933), Strictly Ballroom, The Kid Detective, The Green Knight, Dune: Part One, Nobody, and The Matrix Resurrections.


This year I watched 31 movies that had their general UK release in 2021, but that means there were a considerable number I missed. So, here’s my annual alphabetical list of 50 films from last year that I’ve not yet seen. In the past I’ve used IMDb’s dating to settle what was eligible for inclusion as “a 2021 film”, but nowadays I’ll allow in something that’s listed as 2020 if it’s only due to festival screenings or (as was the case with one film this year) its own premiere.

The main downside to watching so few big new movies is that there’s not much room here for the stuff that’s smaller but still significant, which is a shame. And where I did make space for those films, some of the year’s big-but-not-huge movies lost out. That said, in some ways it made selection easier: normally I begin with a long-list of something like 120 titles, in which I typically find 20 to 30 ‘must includes’, then I weed through the rest to choose the remainder. This year, the ‘must includes’ numbered 46. I could easily have doubled this list and still been featuring films everyone’s heard about, not least because I did leave out some multiplex fillers in favour of artier-but-acclaimed films. Maybe next year I’ll finally go all-out and make this a list of 100. That would fit the site’s name, after all.

For now, it’s 50 once again. As ever, the included films were chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety, and designed to include a spread of styles and genres, successes and failures.

Army of the Dead
Free Guy
The Last Duel
Luca
Shiva Baby
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Candyman
Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Last Night in Soho
Old
Spencer
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Army of the Dead
Belfast
Candyman
Censor
CODA
Cruella
Dear Evan Hansen
Don’t Look Up
Drive My Car
Encanto
Eternals
Fast & Furious 9
Finch
Free Guy
The French Dispatch
Ghostbusters: Afterlife
House of Gucci
In the Heights
Judas and the Black Messiah
King Richard
The King’s Man
The Last Duel
Last Night in Soho
Licorice Pizza
The Lost Daughter
Luca
Malignant
The Many Saints of Newark
The Mitchells vs the Machines
Mortal Kombat
Nightmare Alley
Old
Petite Maman
Pig
The Power of the Dog
A Quiet Place Part II
Raya and the Last Dragon
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shiva Baby
The Sparks Brothers
Spencer
Spider-Man: No Way Home
The Suicide Squad
tick, tick…BOOM!
Titane
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
West Side Story
The Worst Person in the World
Wrath of Man


And that, ladies and gents, is officially the end of 100 Films in a Year — not just for 2021, but for ever.

Well, you already know that’s not exactly true. But it’s the end of the challenge as I’ve been attempting it for 15 years, replaced by a new take. In 12 months’ time, when a new “best of year” list is due, it won’t be drawing from ‘the challenge’ in the same way… though, that technicality aside, I rather suspect it won’t be too different from this post. And if, once again, I’m so spoilt for choice that I struggle to get it down to whatever number I decide the list should include, well, is that actually such a bad thing?

The Worst of 2021

‘Worst of’ lists have become widely unpopular in the film-viewing community in recent years. “Celebrate what you liked, don’t bash what you didn’t,” is the prevailing argument. Well, yes… but also, film watching inevitably involves taking the rough with the smooth. (Hopefully unintentionally: if you’re watching something you’re certain you’ll dislike, why? (Says the guy who intentionally watched all five Twilight movies, so, yeah, sometimes there might be a reason.)) Also, I’ve done this list for 14 of 100 Films in a Year’s 15 years, so now would be an odd time to stop (next year, after the first year of the new-style site, I’ll think again).

Before we begin, a reminder that my best and worst lists are selected from all 207 films I saw for the first time in the past year, not just 2021’s new releases.



The 5 Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2021

In alphabetical order…

The Birth of a Nation
D.W. Griffith gets a lot of credit for being a great innovator of the silent era — mainly because he was fond of blowing his own trumpet, and I guess a lot of people unquestioningly bought it (plus ça change). Whether innovative or derivative, his work as director is sometimes striking, and Birth of a Nation would be a pretty entertaining… were it not horrendously racist and brazenly pro-KKK. There’s no half measures here; no “well, I suppose you could interpret it that way”: the film is explicitly and undeniably in favour of the KKK and what they did in the wake of the American Civil War, to the extent the Klan used it (and I guess probably still do) as a propaganda tool. Any other merits it has a film are not strong enough to outweigh that side of it.

Cats
This is every bit as bad as you’ve heard. It’s littered with bizarre production decisions — things that would be a bad idea even if they hadn’t then been poorly realised in a rushed post-production. But it’s not just the freaky cat/human hybrid characters or inconsistent sense of scale that let this down: the underlying musical is mediocre, with mostly forgettable songs and an incredibly thin narrative. Why this was such a long-running hit on stage, I’ll never understand.

Dumb and Dumber
A film that lives up to its title. At no point since its release in 1994 has Dumb and Dumber ever appealed to me, but it has its fans (it even generated a prequel and belated sequel, remember?) and, crucially, was on iCheckMovies’ Most Checked list, which I’ve almost completed (just four to go, thanks to this). Were it not for that, I wouldn’t have watched it. I don’t think I would’ve been any worse off if I never had.

Mortal Kombat
Not the new one, but the one from the mid-’90s, an era when various attempts to transfer popular video game franchises to the big screen gave such unwaveringly poor results they tarnished the genre for decades (in fairness, it’s not like there have been many/any that deserved to dodge the bad rep). Plus, it’s by Paul W.S. Anderson — a double whammy of reasons to expect something awful. And it is indeed a cheap-looking, semi-incoherent, unexciting load of tosh.

Plan 9 from Outer Space
Sometimes you watch a “bad movie” cult classic and, even though it is technically a terrible movie, you have a great time — I’m thinking of The Room or Love on a Leash here. Theoretically, Ed Wood’s famed Z-movie should fall into that camp. If anything, I think it’s the originator of “so bad it’s good”. For some people, that is how it plays. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me — I just thought it was poorly-made rubbish.


The 21 best films I saw for the first time in 2021.

2021 Statistics

Enough about my shiny new look (although, if you missed all that, you can read about it here) — let’s go back to digging through the remains of 2021. And we begin (or, rather, resume) with one of my personal highlights of the entire year: the statistics. Regular readers will know what this is all about, but if you’re new to these parts and enjoy things like percentages and graphs… oh boy, you’re in for a treat!

Before we begin, a quick word that, because I’m a Letterboxd Pro member, I also get a yearly stats page over there. My 2021 stats can be found here. I don’t only log new watches on Letterboxd, so any overlapping statistics will be slightly different, but they mainly have different categories (like repeat cast & crew members — so you can, for example, find out which actor appeared in the most films I watched last year).

And now…


I watched 207 new feature films in 2021. That means it ranks 3rd all-time, passing 2015’s 200 by a solid seven films, but coming far shy of the top two: 2018’s 261 and last year’s 264.

I also ran my Rewatchathon for the fifth year in 2021. I’ve spent all of that time thinking I ought to include it in the statistics properly, and all of that time not getting round to deciding how exactly to incorporate it, and now it’s over — I’m doing something slightly different next year. Well, maybe that will finally compel me to square the circle. Anyway, I rewatched 33 films — short of my target of 50, but not that bad else wise. That makes a combined total of 240 films, which is another distant 3rd place finish, behind last year’s 310 and 2018’s 311.


NB: I have no rewatch data for 2007 and only incomplete numbers for 2008.

I also watched four short films last year, which is my lowest total for those since 2016. A shame after the past two years saw me set new records each year, but then I’ve never made a concerted effort to watch shorts. Maybe I should. As always, the only stat they count towards is the total running time, and they barely make a dent there. To wit: the total running time of new features was 357 hours and 12 minutes, while adding the shorts bumps it to 357 hours and 58 minutes — just a 46-minute increase. That’s my smallest “others” total ever, barely even visible on the graph below (it’s 1 pixel high).

Here’s how that viewing played out across the year, month by month. The dark blue line is new feature films and the pale blue line is my Rewatchathon. Last year I included a pale green line for shorts, but that seemed a bit pointless this year. Last year I noted that, while the precise values of the graph changed each year I’d been running it (since 2018), the rough shape stayed the same: quickly climbing to a peak in April or May, then lower and bumpier to the end of the year. 2021 bucks that trend entirely, with the high point coming in February, before it almost tapers off, but spikes up dramatically in August and December, traditionally two of my weaker months. What does this tell us? Maybe not to rely too much on precedent.

Next up, the formats on which I watched those films. Despite my continued advocacy (and purchasing of) physical media, it’s digital that once again romps away with the crown here, accounting for 150 films, or 72.46% of my viewing. That’s down slightly from last year’s 73.9%, but is still above the 2015–2021 average, which is 58.5%. I’d definitely like to get it down closer to 50%; or, even better, to see Blu-ray beating it, considering I buy so many of the darn things.

Of course, a lot of individual formats and services contribute to that digital total. The top spot therein is a tie between Amazon, topping the list for the fourth time in five years, and downloads, each with 35 films (23.3% of digital). Downloading was second last year, so that isn’t actually a huge change. The same could be said of the next few places on the chart: last year Netflix and Now tied for third, while this year Netflix is there by itself, with 26 films (17.3%), and Now is just behind, on 22 (14.7%); and iPlayer comes fifth, with 16 (10.7%). Last year there were three other services to mention: AMPLIFY!, which didn’t occur this year; YouTube, which I didn’t watch anything on this year; and Disney+, which retains that position kinda by default, with seven films (4.7%). Rounding out the digital services were MUBI on five (3.3%), All 4 on three (2%), and Apple TV+ managing a solitary one (0.7%). Most of their original content seems to be TV, although they did have a couple of other films that interested me, so that really should’ve been higher — but then I could say that about all the streamers (I mean, just look at my failures list each month).

A very distant second place in the format war goes to Blu-ray with 51 films (24.6%) — just a third of digital’s tally, I’m ashamed to point out. It’s the format’s 14th year on this list and its 4th highest total, which doesn’t sound too bad, but as a percentage it pales besides the 40% I was hitting a decade ago.

Between them, digital and Blu-ray accounted for a staggering 97.1% of my viewing in 2021, up on the 95.5% they represented last year. To be precise, that’s 201 out of 207 films. The remaining six were split equally between three other formats — again, to be precise, that means DVD, TV, and cinema each clocked just two films (0.97% each). Here’s a graph showing how much DVD has fallen — something that should improve next year, at least a bit. (If you want an idea of how much it might grow, 2018 had exactly 12 DVD watches.)

A similar “once mighty, now not” slump has befallen TV across the decades, its place in my viewing schedule now definitively overtaken by streaming.

And finally, the cinema, brought low by Covid for the second year in a row. More films that I was interested in were screening, but is it worth the risk? And we’re all hoping 2022 will be better, but how much is still a question mark. We’ll see in a year’s time…

In amongst all that, I watched 24 films in 4K — a drop from last year’s 40, but still above any year before that (2019’s total was 15, for example). On the other hand, I watched just three in 3D, my lowest total there since I got my 3D TV back in 2017. New releases on the format are dwindling (even Disney, who were previously reliable with Marvel and Pixar titles, now only release the former on 3D BD in Japan, with no sign of the latter), but I’ve still got a not-insignificant pile of 3D discs I’ve bought and not watched yet. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that all of my 2021 3D watches were films I don’t own or can’t get on disc, so were downloaded by other means (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Topping both of those this year was the number of films I watched in SD. Yep, really. Between some downloads, some streams, and those couple of DVDs, I watched 25 films in SD in 2021. At 12.1% of my total viewing, that’s actually the second highest percentage since 2016. What’s more interesting is that, although it means the percentage fluctuates somewhat, the actual number of SD titles I’ve watched has been pretty consistent for years: the average for the past six years is 23.6, most falling in the 23–25 range. While it’s nice to watch as much in HD (or even UHD) as possible, there are some titles that are just so hard-to-come-by that one has to settle for lower quality. While “SD” might make many of us think of DVD-level quality, several of this year’s SD titles were more “recorded off TV to VHS then ripped to digital”-level. Yeah, they looked and sounded awful, but when that’s the only way to see the film at all…

Of course, it tends to be older films that only exist in such low quality, and my viewing on the whole skews newer (though don’t get me started on the fact some brand-new productions still receive DVD-only releases). But as the new decade continues to get underway, the question is: how new? It took the 2010s until 2012 to usurp the 2000s at the top of my decade chart. Could the 2020s manage it a year earlier? In short, no — but it’s close! The 2010s are still in first place, but with only 46 films — that’s their lowest since 2012, coincidentally. It represents 22.2% of my viewing this year, the lowest-ever percentage for a top decade (at the same point, i.e. in 2011, the 2000s still had 35.2%). And the 2020s are snapping at their heels, just three films behind on 43 (20.8%). The margin between these two decades was 33% last year, but this year it’s just 1.45%.

In third place comes the ’90s with 22 films (10.6% — exactly double their percentage in the last two years). That’s their best total ever, their highest placing since 2017, and their best percentage since 2010. Why did they do so well? Oh, don’t ask silly questions (i.e. I have no idea. Chance, I guess). There’s an even bigger surprise in fourth place, though: the 1930s with 18 films (8.7%). Their previous best showing was last year, with just six films (2.3%), and their previous best percentage was way back in 2008, at 3.8%. And with the 1940s coming in fifth with 16 films (7.7%), also their best-ever result, could this be a preview of years to come? Well, I have set myself the task of watching at least 12 films noir next year…

Things continue to ping back and forth in time as we move down the chart. Next is the ’80s on 15 (7.2%), followed closely by the 2000s on 13 (6.3%), followed even more closely by the ’70s on 12 (5.8%), and right behind them are the the ’50s on 11 (5.3%) — far down the chart though it may be, it’s still their highest ever total. Indeed, never before have so many decades reached double-figure tallies in a single year.

Rounding out the list, the ’60s have an uncommonly low five (2.4%), while bringing up the rear are the 1920s on four (1.9%) and the 1910s on two (0.97%) — not their best result (2007 and 2010 were both higher), but only the sixth time they’ve featured at all in 15 years. Finally, no features for the 1900s & earlier, but they were represented by a single short film, for only the third time ever (the previous occasions being 2013 and 2020).

There’s somewhat less variety in where films came from, with the USA once again dominating countries of production, having a hand in producing 140 films. However, at just 67.6% of my total viewing, it’s their lowest percentage ever (down from last year’s 68.6%, the first time it had been below 70%). There’s nothing wrong with US movies, but there’s a whole world out there and it’s nice to spread one’s viewing around a bit. To wit: there were a total of 35 production countries represented in my viewing this year, the second best ever (behind last year’s 40, when there were almost 28% more films, so, y’know, fair enough). Some of the more unusual ones (in terms of my own viewing) included Latvia, Estonia, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Peru, and Romania.

Back at the top end of the chart, the UK took its usual second place, with 54 films (26.1%). France returned to third place, a position it’s held for six of the ten years I’ve been monitoring this stat, with 18 films (8.7%). Hot on their tail was Japan on 17 (8.2%). Also in double figures were Canada (15, 7.2%) and Germany (12, 5.8%), and coming seventh with seven was Australia (3.4%). China, Denmark, and India were tied on four (1.9%) each, while four countries each had three, eight countries had two apiece, and the remaining 13 had one film each.

All those US and UK films mean that English was the most dominant language, as always. It was spoken to at least some degree in 183 films, or 88.4% of my viewing, a percentage that’s up from the last three years. As I say, this count includes all films where it was spoken enough to merit listing, even if it wasn’t the primary language. Perhaps I should start making a note of just the main spoken tongue for the sake of the statistic… Also as usual, the language in second was a long way off. This year it was Japanese in just 11 films (5.3%). No others made double figures. But overall there were 27 spoken languages (plus five silent films), which isn’t bad. Some more rarely-heard languages this year included Amharic, Estonian, Kiowa, Somali, Tupi… and Klingon.

A total of 178 directors and eight directing partnerships were responsible for the films on 2021’s main list. 16 of them helmed multiple films, led by Leo McCarey with five. Second place is shared, with three apiece from David Hare (the Worricker trilogy) and Reginald Le Borg (all among the Inner Sanctum Mysteries series), while Ishirô Honda helmed two plus one film in a ‘partnership’ (that would be the US cut of King Kong vs. Godzilla, where Honda’s original work was supplemented with US material by Thomas Montgomery). The remaining 12 had two films each, and they were: Jack Bernhard, Bob Clark, Cameron Crowe, George Cukor, Joe Dante, Paul Greengrass, Tom Hooper, Ben Lewin, Anthony Minghella, Mike Nichols, George Stevens, and James Whale.

For a few years now I’ve specifically charted the number of female directors whose work I’ve watched. 2020 saw a new high reached, but sadly 2021 sees it slip back again — although it’s still above 2019, just, so there’s that. My viewing this year included 13 films with a female director (12 solo; one as part of a trio with two men), which comes out as a measly 5.94% of my viewing. As I put it last year, it’s debatable whether the onus should be on me to seek out more films directed by women or on the industry to give more directing gigs to women, but ultimately it’s a bit of both — though I’d argue with more weight on the latter, because I just watch the films I watch; I neither avoid nor seek out female directors especially. Anyway, I do hope this graph will continue to improve in the future, though I’m not sure it will ever approach 50/50 (considering all the older films I watch, which are predominantly directed by men to a farcical degree).

We’re approaching the end now — broadly speaking, because before I dig into 2021’s star ratings, it’s time for an update on a couple of viewing projects I vaguely have on the go. First, the IMDb Top 250: at the time of writing, seven films from my 2021 viewing appear on that famed list. However, because that list is ever-changing, the number I have left to see has only gone down by two, to 28. That’s my poorest showing since 2012. I feel so close to the end now (just 11.2% to go) that I really would like to get it finished off. Of course, new releases ping on all the time (there are currently four 2021 releases on there), but that’s life — if I finish the rest of the list, I can bop them on the head as and when they pop up. Anyway, the current positions of the seven I saw this year range from 52nd (Cinema Paradiso) to 222nd (La Haine).

My next viewing project is the one I call my “50 Unseen”. As regular readers will know, at the end of my annual “top ten” post I always include a list of 50 notable films I missed from that year’s releases. I’ve continued to track my progress at watching those ‘misses’ down the years — which is how I know that 2021 was a particularly poor year for this particular mission. Where previously I would watch at least one film from every list, this year I only managed to hit eight of the 14; and from most I only watched one film, leaving my with a total of 21 films across all 14 lists. That’s the lowest since 2010 (when I only had three lists to work from!) In fact, the last time I watched that few films from even just the newest list was in 2014. And speaking of the newest list, in the first year of watching 2020’s 50, I watched 12 of them — the lowest ‘first year’ since 2010 (again), when I only watched eight films from 2009’s list. You might think this is because 2020 was a poor year for new films, thanks to the pandemic, but there are plenty in that 50 I very much want to see, I just… haven’t. Maybe I’ll finally catch up on them in 2022.

For what it’s worth, the other nine I watched came from 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2019 (all one film each), and 2015 (three films — why so many more, I don’t know).

All of which means that, in total, I’ve now seen 497 out of 700 of those ‘missed’ movies. That’s exactly 71%, the first time this percentage has dropped year-on-year since 2009 (it was 73.2% last year). On the bright side, that’s still above where it was the year before last (70.3%), so it’s not a total disaster. (As usual, my new list of 50 misses from 2021 will be in my “top ten” post, sometime soon.)

And so, to conclude the statistics for 2021, it’s the climax of every review: the scores.

Now, I need to provide a similar caveat to last year: this stat factors in every new film I watched in 2021, even those for which I’ve yet to publish a review — which, this year, is 98% of them. That means there are some where I’m still flexible on my precise score — those films I’d award, say, 3.5 or 4.5 on Letterboxd, but which I insist on rounding to a whole star on here. For the sake of completing these stats, I’ve assigned a whole-star rating to every film, but it’s possible I’ll change my mind when I eventually post a review (it’s happened before). Still, this section should remain broadly accurate.

Starting at the top end, then, in 2021 I awarded 25 five-star ratings, which means 12.1% of the films I watched got full marks. That’s at the lower end of my range, which historically spans from 11.9% to 21.2%. I’d put that down to harsher marking rather than poor quality: there were quite a few 4.5-type films where I eventually erred towards the lower score.

As usual, the most prolific rating was four stars, which I gave to 88 films. At 42.5%, that’s a sliver up on last year’s percentage (which was 42.1%), which rather suggests the lower number of five-star films wasn’t all that much due to those 4.5s after all… unless a lot of 3.5s got the rounded-down treatment too, of course.

Well, there were 63 three-star films, which is the third highest tally ever, behind 2018 and 2020 — both years in which I watched more films. So, really, that’s only appropriate. The historic range of my three-star ratings spans all the way from 19.6% up to 38.0%, so 2021 coming in at 30.4% actually puts it somewhere in the middle.

Indeed, the real gains are to be found among the two-star films, which number 29 — the highest-ever for one year, and the first time there I’ve given out more two-stars than five-stars (although they did draw back in 2012). It comes to 14.01%, which isn’t actually the highest ever… but it is close, because 2008 reached 14.4%. Again, this brings up the usual debate: was this a weak year, or is my scoring getting harsher? I think, at this point in my life, the latter is definitely a factor.

Last, and most definitely least, I handed out just two one-star ratings, which is only 0.97% of my viewing. That’s very typical: I’ve awarded two or fewer single-star scores in 10 out of 15 years, and only three years have pushed its percentage above 1.5%

Finally, the average score for the year — a single figure with which to judge 2021 against other years, for good or ill. The short version is 3.5 out of 5 — that’s the first time it’s dropped below 3.6 since 2012, when it was an anomalous 3.4. Indeed, that’s the first 3.5 score in 15 years (there are five 3.6s, six 3.7s, and two 3.8s). To go to a few more decimal places, it’s 3.507 — still my second-lowest scoring year ever, but it doesn’t stick out quite as egregiously as 2012’s 3.352. Still, it’s only the third time the score’s been below 3.600 (2019 was the other, on 3.589), so it is a low one, whichever way you cut it. Again we ask: was it a weak year, or is my scoring getting harsher? As I said before, I am beginning to feel it’s the latter.

All of which said, let’s not forget: it’s still a pretty good average overall. I mean, it’s well above 3.0, and 3 is a positive score. A ‘true average’ might be 2.5, but then I’d have to watch a lot more bad movies, and who wants to do that? Maybe I could try to watch even more very good / great films, and then maybe the average would rise again… or maybe I’d just worry I was being too lenient. No, at this point I feel I’ve demonstrated a degree of consistency in my marking — so long as the average is in the 3.5–3.7 range, I feel like I’m getting things about right.

And so, I’m sorry to say, the stats are over for another year. I know I’m changing things up from 2022, so will this post look significantly different next year? Y’know, probably not: I love this stuff too much to stop working it all out.


My picks for the best and worst films I saw in 2021. And then my review of 2021 will be over, and you’ll have seen these blue-ish stripey mid-post graphics for the last time!

My Most-Read Posts of 2021

2021 was a relatively quiet year for me, review-wise — I made just 55 posts, vs. over 120 in each of 2019 and 2020, and over 200 in 2018 and 2017. Nonetheless, that’s still enough from which to draw a Top 5, right?

Normally I do a “TV Top 5” and “Film Top 5”, but, as I only posted three TV columns last year, that seems a little pointless. Instead, here’s an overall Top 8 — because of course all the TV posts made the very top of the list, and this means you can deduce the film-only Top 5 if you want to.

Also, the graph in the header image was made with accurate figures, if you want an idea of the posts’ success relative to one another. (A less balloon-obscured version is available here. If you think the two on the left, 7th and 8th, look the same height, they’re not — but they are very, very close: the difference between them has come out as just 1 pixel.)

My Top 8 Most-Viewed New Posts in 2021

8) Psycho Goreman
One of just four reviews I posted in 2021 of new films I watched in 2021. Two of the other three are also in this top eight, while the fourth (Muse: Simulation Theory) came 12th overall. Also worth mentioning (as much as any of this is): Psycho Goreman beat the post in 9th place by just one hit. That was the 100-Week Roundup XXII, for what it’s worth.

7) The Man Who Reviewed Some Films
A four-film compilation, including The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Man Who Sleeps. Was one of those responsible for its popularity? Or is it a unique combo of four fairly-popular films? Who can say. Maybe people were just intrigued by the title.

6) Nomadland
The 2020 Oscar Best Picture winner finally made it to a wide UK release in April 2021, occasioning my review. The mix of awards season success and “new release” status likely explains its success here.

5) The Past Christmas on TV
The 2020 edition of my Christmas TV overview, including Cinderella: A Comic Relief Pantomime for Christmas, Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks, Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse; a roundup of comedy specials, including Ghosts, The Goes Wrong Show, Not Going Out, and Upstart Crow; plus brief words on Blankety Blank and Have I Got 30 Years for You.

4) No Time to Die
A new James Bond film was too significant to miss — especially one as long-awaited as this — and so it broke my (inadvertent) long run of not posting reviews, and proved unsurprisingly popular with readers, too.

3) Death to 2020
Now, normally this wouldn’t count, because I posted it last year. But I posted it at 11pm on December 31st, and in that first hour it only gained 11 hits, so — under those unique circumstances — it seemed unfair to leave it out entirely. More than unfair, it would be inaccurate: a highly successful post, that could’ve been missed off both the 2020 and 2021 lists due to a technicality of posting time. Anyway, I expect it did well because reviews of Netflix content often do… and because it’s probably more a TV special than a true film, and, as we know, TV reviews usually do best of all. To wit:

2) The Past Month on TV #67
including Dial M for Middlesbrough, It’s a Sin, more of The Twilight Zone, WandaVision episodes 5–8, and A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote. I expect the combo of It’s a Sin (one of the best-received TV series of the year) and WandaVision (the much discussed debut Marvel Disney+ series) is responsible for this.

1) The Past Month on TV #66
including Cobra Kai season 2, Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema series 3, Staged series 2, more of The Twilight Zone, and WandaVision episodes 1–4. All very popular shows, so it figures they would add up to the #1 spot.

2021: The Full List

As revealed in my December review, 2021 finished on a tally of 207 new films — my third highest ever. They’re all listed below, in alphabetical order, along with the small handfuls of titles I admitted to my “Guide To” series and the short films I watched. After last year’s “frankly extraordinary” high of 65, this year I only watched four shorts. Maybe I should set a shorts-watching target too…

Normally this post also serves to be a big pile of links to reviews I’ve posted in the past year. But those were thin on the ground in 2021: in the list of 207 new films, just four have a review to link to. Oh dear. But you can always (re-)enjoy my monthly reviews (filled with Fun Stuff like the Arbies), and the TV reviews I posted… before that column came up short too.

Well, hopefully things will be different soon…


  • As It Happened — 2021’s monthly updates, with a chronological list of my viewing.
  • The List — an alphabetical list of every new film I watched in 2021.
  • Television — an alphabetical list of the TV programmes I reviewed in 2021.
  • Next Time — more of 2021 still to come.

Below is a graphical representation of my 2021 viewing, month by month. Each of the images links to the relevant monthly review, which contain a chronological list of everything I watched this year. There’s also other exciting stuff in there, like my monthly Arbie awards and what I watched in my Rewatchathon.

And now, the main event…


An alphabetical list of all the films I watched for the first time in 2021, followed by other films I’ve covered (or intended to cover) this year — primarily, a couple of instalments in film series that I’ve given the “Guide To” treatment, and a trickle of short films. As I mentioned in my introduction, normally many of these titles would link to the appropriate review, but this year you’ll find just four links in the main list. Coincidentally, they’re all really close together.

  • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
  • 23 Walks (2020)
  • 3 Idiots (2009)
  • The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), aka Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
  • The Aeronauts (2019)
  • Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), aka Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes
  • An American Pickle (2020)
  • Appointment with Death (1988)
  • Appointment with Murder (1948)
  • The Awful Truth (1937)
  • Baby Done (2020)
  • Bachelor Knight (1947), aka The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
  • Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)
  • Beginners (2010)
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
  • Bill (2015)
  • Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
  • Black Widow [3D] (2021)
  • Blithe Spirit (2020)
  • Boss Level (2021)
  • The Broadway Melody (1929)
  • A Brief History of Time Travel (2018)
  • Bright Young Things (2003)
  • The ’Burbs (1989)
  • The Burning Buddha Man (2013), aka Moeru butsuzô ningen
  • A Boy Called Christmas (2021)
  • Calling Dr. Death (1943)
  • Capernaum (2018), aka Capharnaüm
  • Captain Phillips (2013)
  • Carefree (1938)
  • Carol (2015)
  • The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)
  • Cats (2019)
  • A Christmas Story (1983)
  • Cinema Paradiso (1988), aka Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
  • The Coldest Game (2019)
  • Coming to America (1988)
  • Con Air (1997)
  • Crank (2006)
  • Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001)
  • The Current War (2017)
  • A Damsel in Distress (1937)
  • The Danish Girl (2015)
  • Daughters of Darkness (1971), aka Les lèvres rouges
  • David Byrne’s American Utopia (2020)
  • David Lynch: The Art Life (2016)
  • Dead Man’s Eyes (1944)
  • Dead Man’s Folly (1986)
  • Defending Your Life (1991)
  • Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street (2002), aka Meitantei Conan: Bekâ Sutorîto no bôrei
  • The Dig (2021)
  • La Dolce Vita (1960)
  • Dreamcatcher (2003)
  • Drop Zone (1994)
  • Dumb and Dumber (1994)
  • Dune: Part One (2021), aka Dune
  • Ernest & Celestine (2012), aka Ernest et Célestine
  • Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time (2021), aka Shin Evangelion Gekijôban
  • Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021)
  • Falling for Figaro (2020)
  • The Father (2020)
  • Festen (1998), aka The Celebration
  • The Final Countdown (1980)
  • The Fly (1986)
  • Frankenstein (1931)
  • The Frighteners: Director’s Cut (1996)
  • From Here to Eternity (1953)
  • The Frozen Ghost (1945)
  • Futureworld (1976)
  • Gambit (2012)
  • Godzilla Raids Again (1955), aka Gojira no gyakushû
  • Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
  • Going in Style (2017)
  • Going My Way (1944)
  • Good Boys (2019)
  • The Green Knight (2021)
  • Gremlins (1984)
  • The Guilty (2018), aka Den skyldige
  • La Haine (1995)
  • Happiest Season (2020)
  • Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
  • High Life (2018)
  • Holiday Affair (1949)
  • Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)
  • Hotel Reserve (1944)
  • Hotel Transylvania [3D] (2012)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)
  • The House of Fear (1939)
  • I Care a Lot (2020)
  • The Invisible Man (1933)
  • Isn’t It Romantic (2019)
  • Jerry Maguire (1996)
  • Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (2019)
  • Jingle All the Way (1996)
  • Joint Security Area (2000), aka Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA
  • Jungle Cruise (2021)
  • The Kid Detective (2020)
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
  • The King (2019)
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), aka Kingu Kongu tai Gojira
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)
  • The Last of Sheila (1973)
  • Last Train to Christmas (2021)
  • The Last Warning (1928)
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
  • A Little Chaos (2014)
  • Love Affair (1939)
  • Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
  • The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
  • Memory: The Origins of Alien (2019)
  • Midnight in Paris (2011)
  • Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo (2017)
  • The Money Pit (1986)
  • Mortal Kombat (1995)
  • The Mummy (1932)
  • Murder by Decree (1979)
  • Murder in Three Acts (1986)
  • Muse: Simulation Theory (2020)
  • My Fair Lady (1964)
  • My Man Godfrey (1936)
  • The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (2012)
  • News of the World (2020)
  • No Time to Die (2021)
  • Nobody (2021)
  • Nomadland (2020)
  • Official Secrets (2019)
  • One Night in Miami… (2020)
  • Page Eight (2011)
  • Pather Panchali (1955)
  • Pillow of Death (1945)
  • The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (1975), aka Flåklypa Grand Prix
  • Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
  • Primary Colors (1998)
  • The Prom (2020)
  • Psycho Goreman (2020)
  • The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
  • Radioactive (2019)
  • Raffles (1939)
  • Rain Man (1988)
  • Red Notice (2021)
  • Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
  • Rodan (1956), aka Sora no daikaijû Radon
  • Royal Wedding (1951), aka Wedding Bells
  • Salting the Battlefield (2014)
  • Sansho Dayu (1954), aka Sansho the Bailiff
  • Sátántangó (1994)
  • Search for Danger (1949)
  • The Secret Garden (2020)
  • Seven Chances (1925)
  • Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  • A Single Man (2009)
  • Six Minutes to Midnight (2020)
  • Sneakers (1992)
  • The Social Dilemma (2020)
  • The Son of Kong (1933)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
  • Space Station [3D] (2002)
  • Spielberg (2017)
  • Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)
  • Spontaneous (2020)
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  • Stowaway (2021)
  • Strange Confession (1945)
  • Strictly Ballroom (1992)
  • Stuart Little (1999)
  • A Study in Scarlet (1933)
  • Superman and the Mole-Men (1951)
  • Sylvia Scarlett (1935)
  • Taken 2 (2012)
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
  • Tangerines (2013), aka Mandariinid
  • Tea with Mussolini (1999)
  • Terje Vigen (1917), aka A Man There Was
  • Testament of Youth (2014)
  • Thirteen at Dinner (1985)
  • Three Identical Strangers (2018)
  • Time After Time (1979)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
  • Tokyo Godfathers (2003), aka Tôkyô goddofâzâzu
  • Tower Heist (2011)
  • Truly Madly Deeply (1990)
  • Turks & Caicos (2014)
  • Twister (1996)
  • Under Siege (1992)
  • Vampyr (1932)
  • Vivacious Lady (1938)
  • Warning from Space (1956)
  • We Bought a Zoo (2011)
  • Weird Woman (1944)
  • When the Wind Blows (1986)
  • The White Tiger (2021)
  • Who? (1974)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
  • Wild Target (2010)
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Wolf Warrior (2015), aka Zhan lang
  • WolfWalkers (2020)
  • Wuthering Heights (1939)
  • Xchange (2001)
  • You Only Live Once (1937)
  • Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
  • Zatoichi’s Conspiracy (1973), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Kasama no chimatsuri
  • Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), aka Shu Shan – Xin Shu shan jian ke
The 100 Films Guide To…
Shorts
  • Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
  • Scenes with Beans (1976), aka Babfilm
  • Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)
  • What! No Spinach? (1926)
10 Things I Hate About You

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

Black Widow

The Broadway Melody

Cats

Con Air

Daughters of Darkness

Drop Zone

Evangelion: 3.0+1.01

Frankenstein

Godzilla Raids Again

La Haine

Hotel Transylvania in 3D

Jerry Maguire

The Last of Sheila

Make Way for Tomorrow

Mortal Kombat

No Time to Die

Flåklypa Grand Prix

Rain Man

Sátántangó

Seven Chances

Space Station

Strange Confession

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Time After Time

Under Siege

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Meshes of the Afternoon

.

My monthly TV columns came to an accidental halt in February (crikey, I hadn’t realised it was so long ago), but that means I still got in reviews of the following…


Things are in a slightly different order this year, for one reason or another. Normally next up would be the statistics, but I think before that it’ll be my most-read posts of 2021.

It’s the Final Countdown: The Concluding Monthly Review of December 2021

As mentioned last month, this post represents the end of 100 Films in a Year.

Er, except for all the end-of-year wrap-ups I need to do (did you think I’d leave you without an annual stats post? Perish the thought!)

But after that… the end? Really? Or is it…

Change, my dear. And it seems, not a moment too soon.

But let’s put that aside for, ooh, a couple of days, and instead look back at the final month of 2021…


#188 Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)
#189 Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)
#190 Falling for Figaro (2020)
#191 Gremlins (1984)
#192 Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
#193 Pather Panchali (1955)
#194 Black Widow 3D (2021)
#195 Tokyo Godfathers (2003), aka Tôkyô goddofâzâzu
#196 Happiest Season (2020)
#197 Zatoichi’s Conspiracy (1973), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Kasama no chimatsuri
#198 Dreamcatcher (2003)
#199 Jingle All the Way (1996)
#200 The Final Countdown (1980)
#201 A Christmas Story (1983)
#202 The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
#203 A Boy Called Christmas (2021)
#204 Last Train to Christmas (2021)
#205 The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
#206 A Study in Scarlet (1933)
#207 23 Walks (2020)
Anna and the Apocalypse

Happiest Season

The Matrix Resurrections

.


  • I watched 20 feature films I’d never seen before in December.
  • And that’s the first 20-film December — the final month to hit that milestone! It’s funny it’s worked out that way, because there was a 19-film December all the way back in 2008, at which time it was the second highest ever month, a title it held for seven years, and yet it’s taken three years beyond every other month (the last to crack 20 for the first time was November in 2018). Well, I got there just in time.
  • In terms of monthly averages, it surpasses the lot: December’s (previously 11.1, now 11.7), the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 16.4, now 17.25), and the average for 2021 (previously 17.0, now finalised at 17.25).
  • As for the year, ending on #207 makes 2021 my fourth year ever to pass 200 films; and, as I did it in 2020 too, that’s the first time I’ve done it two years in a row.
  • Overall, it’s my third highest year ever. (I would’ve needed to make it to #261 for second place.)
  • See the Arbies for more on specific films, including #200 itself.
  • With Zatoichi’s Conspiracy, I’ve finally completed Criterion’s box set of the series. It’s taken longer than expected: I’ve gone from watching one Zatoichi a month (at my height of getting through them in 2018 and ’19) to more like one per year. Although that’s the end of the original film series, I’ve still got a few stragglers to go (a revival movie and three continuations/reboots). Hopefully they won’t take me until 2025…
  • I had two Blindspot films to watch this month to complete my challenge for 2021. I watched one, Satyajit Ray’s enduringly acclaimed depiction of a rural Indian childhood, Pather Panchali. The other was Come and See. I did plan to watch it — I set aside an evening and everything — but then… I just didn’t feel like it. I’ve been in a generally Christmassy mood this December, and it didn’t fit with that to spend two-and-a-half hours watching a film whose own blurb advertises it as “a senses-shattering plunge into the dehumanising horrors of war.” I mean, what could sound less festive than “a waking nightmare of unimaginable carnage and cruelty”? So, yeah, the second greatest film ever made can wait ’til another day.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Black Widow, A Boy Called Christmas, and Home Sweet Home Alone.



The 79th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
It’s proven divisive with critics and audiences alike, but I’m firmly in the camp that loved The Matrix Resurrections. Expect it to feature highly on my forthcoming “best of year” list.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
It was an enjoyable month overall (there’s a couple of likely 5s in the list), but duds crept in nonetheless, especially when trying to pack in the Christmas films. Perhaps the most disappointing was Home Sweet Home Alone. Some people would say predictably so, but I was open to the prospect of a remake. Unfortunately, this particular one fudges the fundamental conceit. Ho hum.

Most Christmassy Film of the Month
I don’t normally watch many Christmas films over the festive period. It’s not that I’m averse to them (far from it), I just don’t make a particular effort — and, as December is a time when I often am making a particular effort to round out some goal or other, other things can fall by the wayside. Well, this year I did put some effort into it, and — while I didn’t come close to completing the shortlist of 30 specific Christmas films I drew up — I did watch 10 festive films, which is a lot more than the two or three I usually manage. Of those, I reckon the most Christmassy of all was Happiest Season. I mean, what could be more Christmassy than a mix of festivities and familial awkwardness?

Most “I Only Chose to Watch It Because of the Title” Film of the Month
Regular readers will know I like to choose films that are somehow significant for my milestone numbers. My first-ever #100 was Citizen Kane, for example, and others have included Lawrence of Arabia, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Stalker, Sholay, and, this year, Cinema Paradiso. So for 2021’s #200, I had to pick something befitting my last-ever (sort of) milestone movie. While not a particularly noteworthy film in itself, The Final Countdown seemed a thoroughly apt title.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
With just two new posts in December (and one of those only a brief Christmas message), let’s once again ignore their fate and see which was the most popular post overall. And this month it was… a tie! And a seasonal one at that, because the joint victors were The Past Christmas on TV and The Past Christmas on TV! Er, that’s the 2018 and 2019 editions, respectively. You might think the 2020 one was close behind… but you’d be wrong: for whatever reason, while those two topped the charts, last year’s Christmas TV post was way down at 25th. Not sure what’s going on there, but my referrals from IMDb suggest the elder posts’ victories may be due to a new series of Vienna Blood (I reviewed the first in the 2019 post) and Christmassy one-off Click & Collect, which I noticed popped up on Netflix this month (and I mentioned in the 2018 column).


To make my goal of 50 rewatches this year, I would’ve had to (re)watch 18 films this month. Considering my average for 2021 to the end of November was 2.9 rewatches a month, that didn’t seem particularly likely…

#33 Elf (2003)

Yeah, of course it didn’t happen. I didn’t even reach that average again (it ends up at 2.75 rewatches per month).

As for Elf, I enjoyed it more on this, my second viewing, when I was free from any hope of, say, well-executed character arcs (one of the main things I criticised it for in my above-linked review) and so just enjoyed the holiday hijinks.


Despite setting a new December record, my failures were as multitudinous as ever. My most noteworthy oversight from the big screen has to be Spider-Man: No Way Home, but there was also Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story and prequel The King’s Man, plus films with smaller releases that have nonetheless been much-discussed in cinephile circles, like C’mon C’mon, Lamb, and Titane. Also, Clifford the Big Red Dog. Hm.

There were similar big guns on the streamers, including forthcoming awards season contenders The Power of the Dog and The Lost Daughter on Netflix, plus other originals like Don’t Look Up, The Unforgivable, and Death to 2021 — though, after not much enjoying Death to 2020, I think I’ll skip its Charlie Brooker-less sequel. Over on Prime Video, there was a belated UK bow for Guy Ritchie’s Wrath of Man, plus Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos and sci-fi Encounter. And talking of Charlie Brooker and sci-fi, Apple TV+ offered the Black Mirror-esque Swan Song.

Sky Cinema’s originals were mostly Christmassy: as well as the ones I watched, they debuted the likes of 8-Bit Christmas and A Christmas Number One. Also this month, they’ve had Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In the Heights, plus a couple of things that I (annoyingly) bought on disc but haven’t watched yet, like Another Round and The Suicide Squad. Of course, Netflix and Amazon threw up a bunch of back catalogue stuff too, but, looking back over my long-lists, little jumps out at me as being worthy of particular note. That said, if you’ve not seen it, Netflix now has my #1 film of 2020, Never Rarely Sometimes Always. And, as well as meaning to catch Spielberg’s remake, I’d also like to make time to rewatch the original West Side Story, which is streaming on both Prime and iPlayer now.

Once again taking advantage of not having to worry about licensing windows, Disney+ offered up early streaming debuts for their latest ‘animated classic’, Encanto, plus Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which seemed a bit gruelling for Christmastime viewing. The latter is getting a belated, limited release on 4K Blu-ray in the UK at the end of January, which I’ve preordered, but I should probably find the time to watch it on D+ first — if I don’t like it, it’ll save me a few bob.

And talking of things I’ve bought, that certainly didn’t slow down in December. As is always the case at this time of year, there were multiple big box sets, like folk horror collection All the Haunts Be Ours (encompassing a whopping 22 feature films and 14 shorts), or Arrow’s kung fu collection, Shawscope: Volume One (another 12 features. Vol.2 is due in June), or Indicator’s Mae West box set (another 11 films, plus a TV movie biopic), or the limited edition of Cartoon Saloon’s Irish Folklore Trilogy (including the only disc release ever planned for Apple TV+ exclusive Wolfwalkers), or The Film Detective’s Sherlock Holmes Vault Collection (I actually watched one of those! See #206).

Also in a ludicrously oversized box was StudioCanal’s 4K release of Mulholland Drive. Considering said box was (a) a weird size and (b) mostly full of air, I think there must’ve been some crossed wires in manufacturing. Similarly joining my 4K rewatch pile were Breathless, My Fair Lady, No Time to Die (a popular Christmas present, based on it becoming a Twitter trending topic on the 25th), Criterion’s edition of Citizen Kane (with dodgy 1080p disc), and Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K/3D edition of Flesh for Frankenstein (with dodgy 4K disc). Also Millennium Actress, part of a frankly excessive haul I ordered from All the Anime’s Christmas sale. Said indulgence also included regular Blu-rays of Birthday Wonderland, The Dragon Dentist, Jin-Roh, Mind Game, Night is Short, Walk on Girl, Promare, and Ride Your Wave. Not heard of some of those? Me either, to be honest — I got one of their mystery boxes. Still, it all looks interesting.

That’s not even all (I could name another dozen things I bought), but, honestly, it’s more than enough. I’ve once again tried to keep this section brief and to the point, and it’s once again about as long as the entire rest of the monthly review combined. Is it worth giving it its own post each month in 2022? Something to consider…


…but the moment has been prepared for.

The Best of 2020

And so, we reach the end of 2020.

I don’t know about you, but this feels like a, “what, already?!” moment to me. Putting my year-in-review posts together used to seem to take ages, but this year it feels like I’ve barely begun and now it’s over. But that’s enough about my subjective perception of time — let’s talk about movies in 2020, like Tenet, which is partly about… um, never mind.

This final year-in-review post does what it says on the tin: it’s a list of my favourite films that I saw in 2020 (normally my least-favourites would be here too, but I did those already). A note for newcomers and/or reminder to the forgetful: rather than just 2020 releases, I select my list from all 264 movies I saw for the first time during 2020. That’s partly because there are tonnes of new releases that I never see in time — which is also why this post contains a list of 50 significant films I missed.

Compiling this year’s lists has taken a lot of thinking, rearranging, cutting, reflecting, re-adding, re-rearranging, and a certain amount of “oh, that’ll do, what does it matter anyway” to actually get them out the door. Here’s what I ended up with…



The 26 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2020

Since 2016, I’ve replaced the usual “top ten” with a “top 10%”. As I watched 264 films in 2020, that means this year’s list has 26 films. (If you think that’s too many, feel free to scroll down and start from wherever you like.)

Although all the movies I watched for the first time in 2020 are eligible, I did watch 57 films that had their UK release in 2020, so I’ve noted the ‘2020 rank’ of the eight that made it in. (I also saw a couple of 2020-UK-release films at FilmBath Festival in 2019. As they were already ranked as 2019, I’ve not factored them in here.)

26 Klaus

The animation is absolutely gorgeous in this Oscar-nominated BAFTA-winning Netflix original about a disaffected postman who helps originate the legend of Santa.

25 The Looking Glass War
The mundanity of real-life espionage; conflicted morals; the futility of the whole thing — this John le Carré adaptation is full of all the things that made his work so great.

24 Dial M for Murder

As intelligent and tense a thriller as you’d expect from Hitchcock; so good it even manages to make you overlook its obvious stage-bound roots. Superb in 3D, too.

23 The Invisible Man
2020 #8 This #MeToo-era reimagining of the HG Wells / Universal Horror classic could hardly be more timely. But even leaving that aside, it’s a chilling exercise in ratcheting tension.

From its astounding opening to its hard-hitting final act, Last Black Man is an astonishing cinematic experience about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. [Full review.]

A space ship full of colonists is sent irretrievably off course in this Scandi sci-fi that’s driven by big ideas about human behaviour in extremis. [Full review.]

20 Paris When It Sizzles

William Holden and Audrey Hepburn are clearly having a whale of a time in this marvellously cine-literate ’60s romp about a struggling screenwriter.

19 Philomena
Judi Dench is extraordinary and Steve Coogan is a revelation in this intensely affecting drama about a wronged woman searching for her son who was taken decades earlier.

18 Fanny and Alexander

Ingmar Bergman described this as “the sum total of [his] life as a filmmaker”. Blending familial drama with a dash of magical realism and the supernatural, it’s a masterful work.

17 Belladonna of Sadness
Delicate watercolour artwork and medieval folklore smash against a storyline fuelled by rape and a penis-shaped devil in this astonishing animation full of psychedelic imagery and experimental music. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

2020 #7 It’s “Agatha Christie meets the Coen brothers in a nudist camp” as the eponymous handyman searches for his missing hammer in a world full of wobbly bits, where anyone might’ve taken it. [Full review.]

15 Tenet
2020 #6 If you let go of the need to fully understand the mechanics of the film’s time-reversal conceit, Christopher Nolan’s latest is an audacious and exciting spy thriller. It’s a shame real-world arguments have come to overshadow what is actually a suitably thrilling spectacle.

14 Soul

2020 #5 Pixar have often been praised for making films for grown-ups. That’s not something I’d wholly agree with, until now. Not as cutesy as the rest of their output (largely), Soul asks big questions about what makes us who we are. All wrapped up in a buddy-quest storyline, of course.

13 Knives Out
Rian Johnson’s tribute to whodunnits a la Agatha Christie pulls off something that genre can’t always manage: rewatchability. It barely matters who actually dunnit when it’s this much fun spending time with the outrageous suspects and Daniel Craig’s implausibly-accented detective.

12 The Old Dark House

As amusing as a droll comedy and as atmospheric as a creepy old-school horror, James “director of Frankenstein” Whale’s genre classic is just a lot of fun.

If this anime were live-action, it would be an action-adventure blockbuster. It’s got it all: thrills, humour, emotion, wonder… That makes it so accessible, it would be a perfect starting point for any Westerner new to anime. [Full review.]

Taron Egerton stars as Elton John for this unusual biopic of the singer. Part traditional musician biopic, part jukebox musical, director Dexter Fletcher remixes John’s music into some imaginatively staged sequences, while Egerton and his supporting cast (in particular Jamie Bell) give thoughtful, nuanced performances. The cumulative effect is a movie that is highly enjoyable but not without depth. [Full review.]

9
The Lady Vanishes

Alfred Hitchcock is probably most renowned for his Hollywood movies (Pyscho, Vertigo, Rear Window, etc), but we shouldn’t forget his British output — these are the films that got him Hollywood’s attention, after all. The director’s second appearance on this year’s list is one of the last films he made before that jump across the pond. It’s a mystery thriller about an old lady who somehow disappears from a moving train, and a couple of youngsters who try to find out how and why. It’s witty, it’s clever, and it’s exciting — all the things for which Hitch is best known.

8
Judgment at Nuremberg

This fictionalised account of the military tribunals that took place following the Second World War sets its sights not on the trials of major Nazi leaders, but on the subsequent trials that assessed the guilt of people further down the chain — here, four judges and prosecutors who helped facilitate the Nazi’s crimes. For such weighty material, this is an appropriately weighty film — a long, complex, methodical, harrowing account. Boldly directed by Stanley Kramer, and with an incredible cast all giving first-rate performances, this remains a powerful, brilliant film.

7
Tim’s Vermeer

Computer graphics pioneer and inventor Tim Jenison is an art enthusiast, fascinated by the work of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, in whose work his engineer’s brain sees a near-impossible photographic accuracy. So, he sets out to prove and expound upon existing theories that Vermeer painted with the aid of some kind of optical device. What unfolds is an astonishing story of obsession, dedication, and art historiography, which challenges your idea of where the line lies between art and technology.

2020 #4 Sam Mendes’s single-take(-kinda) World War One adventure ended up losing many of the big prizes to Parasite last awards season (FYI, they both count as 2020 films here due to UK release dates in January and February, respectively). But that doesn’t mean it’s any less of an extraordinary experience. I love a long single take (fake or not), and I love stories that unfold in real-time, and I feel World War One has been under-represented on screen — so when Mendes takes all of those things and executes them brilliantly (having Roger Deakins on cinematography helps), you get a film that’s right up my street. [Full review.]

If 1917 uses all the skills of modern tech to craft an almost old-fashioned epic, Bait is practically the polar opposite: old-school techniques (a wind-up camera; hand-developed 16mm film; post-sync sound) to tell a very modern story (broadly, about the economic plight of Cornish fishermen). It could be pretentiously arthouse or an insufferable polemic, but it’s neither. Instead, the story is told with genuine heart, drama, and humour, and the handmade aesthetic adds an appreciable, beautiful texture. [Full review.]

4
Parasite

2020 #3 If you use Letterboxd, the latest film from acclaimed South Korean director Bong Joon Ho comes with a heavy millstone round its neck: according to that site’s users, it’s the greatest film ever made. Like Citizen Kane before it, such a label can be a distraction, and makes some people want to push back against it (is that why I’ve only ranked it at #4? You decide). “Best film ever” or not, the first non-English-language film to win the Best Picture Oscar is a timely deconstruction of class systems — just who are the eponymous parasites, actually? Even aside from big societal questions, it’s a thrilling piece of filmmaking; tense, exciting, and surprising.

2020 #2 Can a filmed stage production be the year’s best film? Um… Well, that’s a major reason why Hamilton is in 3rd place for my 2020 viewing and 2nd place for 2020 releases: it’s not really a film, right? Well, it’s definitely some kind of historical record — not of the life of Alexander Hamilton, but of a theatre production that took the world by storm. Here we get to witness the original Broadway cast in the show’s original staging, allowing us all the chance to witness a genuine cultural phenomenon first-hand. But this is not merely a couple of cameras plonked into the audience for the sake of posterity: director Thomas Kail users multiple cinematic techniques to make a film that truly feels like a film. Yes, it’s still theatrical, but it feels like this is how this story is meant to be (cf. something like Dogville: also very theatrical; also definitely a film). Theatres will reopen and we’ll be able to see Hamilton in the flesh again; and someday they’ll inevitably make a ‘real’ movie adaptation; and even still, this film will stand as a legitimate, magnificent experience in its own right. [Full review.]

2020 #1 Writer-director Eliza Hittman’s story of a Pennsylvanian teenager forced to travel to New York for an abortion is told with documentary-like subtlety and understatement, but the result is incredibly moving and powerful. Without ever explicitly stating it, the film is an eloquent condemnation of US systems that force poor and struggling individuals to jump through hoops to access care that those of us in the rest of the developed world might consider basic rights. It’s a potent reminder that, for all its claims of being a highly-developed world-leader, for many of its citizens the US is as regressive, prejudiced, and unequal as the ‘Third World’ countries it so often seeks to demonise. [Full review.]

1
Do the Right Thing

If there’s one feature that links many films on this year’s list, it’s timeliness: films that connect with some of the big sociopolitical issues of our day. Do the Right Thing was made over 30 years ago, but in its subject matter — a stiflingly hot day in a Brooklyn neighbourhood causes tensions to boil over into white-on-black violence — it could scarcely be more 2020. But this is not about “which film best encapsulates the year”, and so Spike Lee’s film tops my list because of all its other qualities, too. It’s a portrait of a place; a day-in-the-life hangout movie, where we follow myriad characters as they go about their business; 90-or-so minutes in which we get to understand the neighbourhood, to know its inhabitants… before the powder keg explodes and everything changes. Except, as we now know, nothing’s really changed at all.


As usual, I’d just like to highlight a few other films.

First, the cinematic masterpiece that is Love on a Leash. If you’re unfamiliar with this feat of cinematic excellence, may I recommend my review. It’s not exactly #27, because at various points while curating my list I had it in the top ten, the top twenty, in 26th place… but, eventually, not in the list at all. As I discussed in my review, it’s a film that’s hard to categorise: it’s simultaneously a one-star disaster and a five-star artistic experience. It’s an object lesson in why criticism of art can never be objective, because it’s unquestionable that it’s terribly made in every respect, and yet it’s nonstop entertaining, even thought-provoking, and certainly unique. (Of course, some people would say it’s objectively bad. Those people are wrong.)

I’m someone who believes “best” and “favourite” can be different things: in 2020, I saw some movies I would acknowledge as great but that didn’t make the Top 26 because they didn’t really entertain me; equally, some films got in that are indeed great but I may never rewatch, whereas I left out simpler fare that I’m sure I’ll revisit. In a ranking of the “best” films I saw this year, no way does Love on a Leash get close; but in terms of my “favourite” films, it might’ve been pretty damn high. My final Top 26 falls somewhere between those two stools, but does carry the “best of” name, and so it felt insulting to any other film in the list (or, indeed, to those that tried but failed to squeeze in) to rank Love on a Leash above them. So here it is instead: first among my “honourable mentions”, with two solid paragraphs dedicated to it — more than any film in the actual list. So who’s the real winner, eh?

Next, let’s recap the 12 films that won Favourite Film of the Month at the Arbies, some of which have already been mentioned and some of which haven’t. In chronological order, with links to the relevant awards, they were Laputa: Castle in the Sky, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Lady Vanishes, Aniara, Belladonna of Sadness, Paris When It Sizzles, Hamilton, Bad Boys for Life, Fanny and Alexander, Tim’s Vermeer, An American Werewolf in London, and Klaus.

Finally, I always list every film that earned a 5-star rating this year. It’s especially pertinent this year, given how few reviews I’ve actually posted; although, as I noted in my stats post, it’s possible some of these ratings will be revised when I come to write a full review. But, for now, the 39 films with full marks are 1917, All About Eve, All Quiet on the Western Front, An American Werewolf in London, Anand, Aniara, Bait, Belladonna of Sadness, Dial M for Murder, Do the Right Thing, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Fanny and Alexander, The French Connection, Hamilton, Harakiri, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, In the Mood for Love, The Invisible Guest, Judgment at Nuremberg, Knives Out, Lady Bird, The Lady Vanishes, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Little Women, The Looking Glass War, Love on a Leash, The Lunchbox, A Man for All Seasons, Man on Wire, Marriage Story, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Parasite, Paris When It Sizzles, Philomena, Rocketman, Safety Last!, Soul, and Tim’s Vermeer. Plus, this year I also gave five stars to Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 3D, and (earmarked for the ‘Guide To’ treatment at some point) Tim Burton’s Batman and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. There were also several short films that merited the accolade, namely Flush Lou, The Last Video Store, The Monkeys on Our Backs, and The Starey Bampire.


It may have felt like 2020 was a year bereft of movies, as blockbuster after blockbuster got kicked into 2021, but plenty of stuff still came out — both major releases that took the streaming plunge, and smaller titles that probably wouldn’t’ve seen huge theatrical box office anyway; not to mention stuff that’s going to count as 2020 due to festival screenings but won’t really be released anywhere until 2021; and, of course, all the streamers’ own original movies.

Even though I did watch 57 movies that had a UK release in 2020, there were a considerable number I missed. So, as always, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films from 2020 that I’ve not yet seen. (I normally use IMDb’s dating to decide what’s eligible for inclusion, but I’ve allowed a handful that are listed as 2019 only because of festival screenings.) These have been chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety. There are many more I want to see that I could have included, but I always attempt to feature a spread of styles and genres, successes and failures.

Another Round
Da 5 Bloods
The Hunt
The New Mutants
Promising Young Woman
WolfWalkers
Bill & Ted Face the Music
The Eight Hundred
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Nomadland
Rebecca
Wonder Woman 1984
An American Pickle
Ammonite
Another Round
Artemis Fowl
Bill & Ted Face the Music
The Call of the Wild
Da 5 Bloods
David Byrne’s American Utopia
The Devil All the Time
Dolittle
The Eight Hundred
The Father
The Gentlemen
The Half of It
Happiest Season
Hillbilly Elegy
Host
The Hunt
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Kajillionaire
The King of Staten Island
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
The Midnight Sky
Military Wives
Minari
Miss Juneteenth
Mulan
My Spy
The New Mutants
News of the World
Nomadland
One Night in Miami…
Onward
Peninsula
Possessor
Promising Young Woman
Rebecca
Saint Maud
Scoob!
The Secret Garden
Shirley
The Social Dilemma
Sonic the Hedgehog
Supernova
The Trial of the Chicago 7
True History of the Kelly Gang
The Witches
WolfWalkers
Wonder Woman 1984


And that is 2020 over and done with — hurrah!

Ignoring for a moment all the news that’s currently telling us how 2021 will be just as bad, if not worse, one thing to look forward to is that it’s my 15th year writing this blog. 15 years! I feel old… The actual date of the blog’s 15th birthday is at the end of February 2022, so I’ve got a little time yet to prepare some kind of celebration.

In the meantime, let’s watch some more films…

The Worst of 2020

“All of it,” I hear you cry. Yes, ok, ha ha, very funny. Obviously I’m specifically talking about the worst films of 2020.

Regular readers will know I normally include this list in my “best of” post — a sort of counterbalance to any chance of relentless positivity; a reminder that, for all the smooth, there’s always some rough. Maybe we don’t need that kind of thing for 2020, but tradition is tradition. Of course, putting this list in its own post is some kind of break with tradition anyway. But the reason is simple: I’m still working on my “best of” list — it’s a long’un, being 10% of my total viewing, and this being my biggest year ever. That also means the “best of” post will be a plenty long enough read without this little dose of misery in there. So here it is by itself instead.

A quick reminder: I select my best and worst lists from all 264 films I saw for the first time in 2020, not just new releases.



The 5 Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2020

As revealed in my stats post, I only handed out two one-star ratings this year. In retrospect, perhaps I was too generous, because to get this “worst of” selection down to just five films I had to leave out several movies that I really, really disliked. Here’s what I pared it down to, in alphabetical order…

Hunter Killer
This throwback-ish techno-thriller really wants to be an exciting submarine adventure in the mould of The Hunt for Red October or Crimson Tide, but it can’t rise above the level of ‘wannabe’. It’s mired with an implausible plot and bizarre casting (Gary Oldman is prominent in the marketing, but he’s barely in the film itself). It just doesn’t have the smarts to successfully emulate the Tom Clancy style it so desperately aspires to.

Lovers Rock
Sight & Sound ranked this the best film of 2020. Its appeal clearly isn’t limited to the arthouse crowd, because Empire ranked it 7th in their list. But I didn’t get it at all. If you told me director Steve McQueen tricked the BBC into paying for an elaborate ’80s theme party by just filming it, sticking some credits on his raw footage, and handing it over with the claim “yeah, this is a real movie — it’s got a screenplay credit and everything”, I’d believe you.

The Man Who Sleeps
Never mind being one of the best films of the year — this was ranked as one of the 250 best films of all time by Letterboxd users. It’s dropped off that list now, but not before I bothered to watch it, unfortunately. Like Lovers Rock, it’s a crushing bore; 70-something minutes spent watching a man do virtually nothing. Un homme qui dort? More like Un homme qui t’endort. [Full review]

Some Beasts
A family’s trip to a remote island goes awry when interpersonal tensions overflow into arguments and abuse. It’s a bit slow and self-consciously arty, but that’s not its real sin. That comes in the final 20 minutes, when it throws in an extreme plot development with no time — nor, I think, inclination — to responsibly engage with its consequences. I’m loathe to call any film “offensive”, but this probably comes the closest of anything I’ve seen. [Full review]

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Superman: The Movie still stands up as one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Its sequels show you how a franchise can die. 2 and 3 are bad enough, but The Quest for Peace is by far the worst — a joyless anti-nuclear polemic, with low production values and iffy storytelling. The only bright spots are the talented returning cast, but they’re better appreciated by just rewatching the first one again. [Full review]


The 26 best films I saw for the first time in 2020.

2020 Statistics

It’s the first Monday of the new year — glum, right? Well, here’s something to cheer you up: the best part of any and every year — the statistics! Woo! Yeah! Etc!

For any newbies, or those in need of a refresher, this is where I take all the films I watched for the first time in 2020 (listed here) and analyse all sorts of stuff about them to see if anything interesting shakes out. As this was my biggest year ever, there’s bound to be a few “new highest” whatnots; but where things might get interesting is in categories with percentages and the like — does watching so many more films change the percentage that was directed by women, or the percentage I watched on Netflix, or… well, there are many things to discover.

I’ll also mention that, as I’m a Pro member of Letterboxd, you can find additional stats there — or, rather, here. I also log shorts, some TV, and all rewatches on there, so any comparable stats (e.g. my most-watched directors) won’t match up; but I don’t think there’s actually much duplication, and they also include a bunch of stuff I don’t (actors, crew members, genres, etc), so it’s worth a look if you just can’t get enough of graphs and numbers.

Speaking of which, here’s a beautiful load of exactly that…

I watched 264 new feature films in 2020, my highest ever, pipping 2018 by just three films. After 14 years of doing this blog, my average final total is 152, so 2020 is a 74% increase on that. But it’s also worth noting that my viewing habits have changed a lot since 2015 (the first year I reached 200 films in a year): my average total for 2007–2014 was 111, while for 2015–2020 it’s 208. Of course, even compared to that, 2020 is up 27%.

Normally I’d now tally up how many extended or altered cuts I watched as a separate number, but with my Rewatchathon now in the game, it doesn’t quite work like that anymore. So, for example, I watched Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux and counted it towards my main list because it was a significantly different cut to whatever I’d watched before; but when I watched and reviewed Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 3D, it was only the 3D that was different, so I counted it towards my Rewatchathon.

I probably ought to do full-blown stats for my Rewatchathon too — I’ve been running that side challenge for four years now, so it’s about time I gave it equitable standing in these stats — but I still haven’t started collecting the necessary data throughout the year, so… Maybe next year, eh. What I can tell you is that I rewatched 46 films, for a combined total of 310. That’s one behind 2018’s 311, my previous high. (I still haven’t worked out full rewatch numbers for 2007–2016, but from previous research (mentioned in 2017’s stats) I know none of them got higher than 223.)


NB: I have no rewatch data for 2007 and only incomplete numbers for 2008.

I also watched 65 short films in 2020, an extraordinary number by my standards: I’d only watched 85 in the preceding 13 years of this blog, so this year alone saw my all-time total increase by over 76%. Last year was my previous best individual year, when I watched 20 shorts; this year represents a more-than-threefold improvement on that. (Short films don’t count towards any of the following stats, except for where they’re explicitly mentioned in the running time one… which is up next…)

The total running time of the 264 new features was 459 hours and 41 minutes. That’s actually down slightly on 2018, despite watching three more films — obviously I just watched shorter films on average. Besides, the drop is just 88 minutes, which is 0.3% — barely anything. And if we add in the 65 short films I watched in 2020, the total running time of all my new film viewing is an astonishing 469 hours and 19 minutes — that’s equivalent to 19½ solid days; almost three weeks of nonstop film viewing. It also means 2020 overleaps 2018 by some 391 minutes (6½ hours), aka 1.4%.

Here’s how that viewing played out across the year, month by month. The dark blue line is new feature films, the pale blue line is my Rewatchathon, and the pale green line is shorts. As you can see, the shorts line goes literally off the chart in November — that’s because I set this graph to be based around the main list number of new films, but I watched a ridiculous 53 short films in November. (Obviously I could’ve adjusted the graph to go up higher, but that wasn’t as fun.) What’s also interesting is if you go back and compare this graph to the two times I’ve done it before, in 2018 and 2019: the shapes certainly aren’t identical, but I feel like they share an overall pattern, i.e. I hit a peak around April/May, and the back end of the year is generally lower.

Now, the ways in which I watched those films. Attentive readers may have noticed that, earlier this year, I switched from differentiating “streaming” and “download” at the top of my reviews to just listing all such viewing as “digital”. I drafted a paragraph about the whys and wherefores of that change to include in a monthly review, but I’ve not got round to polishing it up enough to include. In short, when I first started using those terms there was a notable difference between them — streaming was low quality and unreliable, downloads were pretty good. Nowadays, it’s the other way round, if anything (for example, Apple TV+ will stream in 4K but only lets you download in 1080p), and sometimes there’s no difference at all (if I download something from iPlayer to watch later, it’s no different than streaming it from iPlayer, quality-wise). So, in that spirit, “digital” now becomes a single category in these stats; but, behind the scenes, I’ve still noted what came from where (much as I do for the different streaming services), so I’ll come to that in a mo.

With streaming and downloading bundled, it’s no surprise that digital is my most prolific viewing format for the sixth year running, accounting for 195 films, or 73.9% of my viewing — almost three-quarters! A poor show for a physical media advocate, isn’t it? It’s a bit trickier to show you comparisons to previous years, for obvious reasons, but I’ve run the numbers and can tell you it’s their highest combined total ever, besting 61.9% in 2016. In the five-year period 2015–2019, my overall percentage for digital was 52.8%, so this is a definite increase on the norm.

If we break it down into various formats and services, the winner was Amazon with 60 films (30.8% of digital). If I didn’t count digital as a block, Amazon alone would be my #1 format. It’s back on top after Netflix overtook it last year, but this year Netflix isn’t even second — that goes to downloads, with 47 films (24.1%). In fact, Netflix comes joint third, tied with Now TV on 32 films (16.4%) each. Does make me wonder if I’m wasting that £11.99 a month… In fifth is iPlayer with eight (4.1%), although three of my downloads came from there, so you could argue it’s 11 (5.6%). And this is exactly why I’ve bundled all of this stuff together. Next was AMPLIFY! with seven (3.6%) — also arguably responsible for more, because I got some screeners related to it. Bringing up the rear, on Disney+ I watched five films (2.6%), and I even watched three (1.5%) on YouTube. As a final note, I technically watched zero on Apple TV+ — it’s been a real waste of the free year I got for buying a new Mac, because I had no way to watch it on my TV until recently. I did watch their original movie starring Tom Hanks, Greyhound, though I downloaded it so I could watch on my TV, so again it’s counted under downloads rather. My free year runs until February, so maybe it’ll factor properly in next year’s stats… although most of their original content is series, so I doubt it’ll represent much.

Alright, onwards! In second place as Blu-ray with 57 films (21.6%). That’s actually its second highest total (behind 82 in 2018), but its lowest percentage of my viewing since 2016 (though last year it was less than 1% higher on 22.5%). It’s a consistent runner-up when, considering how many I buy, it really ought to be a clear first.

Between them, digital and Blu-ray accounted for an exceptional 95.5% of my viewing this year. The remainder was spread thinly between three more formats. In third place was good old DVD with just six films (2.3%). That’s its lowest total since 2012, back when six films was 5.6% of my viewing.

Next up, in fourth place, believe it or not, is cinema. Well, I actually only managed four trips to the big screen before the year went haywire, so it still only accounts for 1.5% of my 2020 viewing. I’m not always the greatest cinema goer, but I’ve picked it up in recent years, meaning that’s the least I’ve been since 2015.

Finally, the once-mighty television. From 2009 to 2012 it was my highest-ranking format. Now, it’s fallen to its lowest ever total, and by some margin: it represents just two films (0.8%) in my 2020 viewing, while its previous poorest performance was 10 films, all the way back in 2008.

In amongst all that, I watched 13 films in 3D (almost double the measly seven I watched last year) and 40 in 4K — a new high, being a 167% increase on the 15 I watched last year. Together, the two formats made up 20.1% of my viewing — not bad, especially when you consider that a lot of discs on both my 3D and 4K ‘to watch’ piles are films I’ve seen before (but not in that format).

Which brings me to the UHD vs. HD vs. SD chart. Contributing to the UHD numbers is mostly streams, some 4K Blu-ray discs, and a download or two. HD includes most of the majority of my streams and downloads, Blu-ray discs, cinema trips, and one TV screening. Contributing to SD were the handful of DVDs, plus a few streams and downloads, and the other TV screening. The final tally shows 201 films in HD (76.1%). Add in UHD and that’s a total of 91.3% in HD formats, the first time my viewing has been over 90% HD (2018 came 0.4% short). Of course, that also means it’s the lowest ever for SD — the actual number of films I’m watching in lower definition is surprisingly stable (it was 23 this year, bang-on the average of the last five years), but watching more films overall means the percentage drops.

Moving on to the age of films, now. 2020 marks the start of a new decade (yeah, okay, it doesn’t really; but most of us will still count films from 2020 as part of the 2020–2029 decade, so tough luck, pedants). That might shake up these stats in the years to come: it’s normally the current decade that tops my chart, and it only took the 2010s until 2012 to take the #1 spot. It was close-ish with the 2000s for the next few years, but it was firmly in the lead by the middle of the decade. Will the 2020s chart a similar course?

Well, they’re not there yet: for the 9th year running, the most popular decade was the 2010s, with 120 films — though at 45.5% of my viewing, that’s their lowest percentage since 2013. That’s partly because the 2020s have come in strong, bagging second place with 33 films (12.5%). That’s a much better percentage than the 2010s managed in their inaugural year: in 2010, the new decade accounted for just 5.65% of my viewing. Back to 2020 and, together, the past 11 years accounted for 57.95% of my viewing, which is more in line with the 2010s other recent performances.

In third place we find the ’80s with 24 films (9.1%), a massive increase on their uncommonly poor 2019 (when they accounted for just three films, 1.99%). They’re closely followed by the 2000s on 22 (8.3%) — that’s twice as many as last year, which was also an uncommonly weak year for the decade.

It’s a drop down to fifth place, where the ’90s are on 14 (5.3% — the exact same as last year). Not far behind is the ’60s on 12 (4.5%), and it’s the same drop to the ’40s on 10 (3.8%), and the same again to the ’70s on eight (3.0%).

Rounding things out, the ’50s have seven (2.7%); there’s a tie between the 1920s and ’30s on six (2.3%); while the the 1910s bring up the rear with two (0.7%). (No features for the 1900s & earlier, but they were represented this year by one short.)

From “when” to “where”: countries of production. As always, the USA absolutely dominated this category, having a role in producing 181 films. However, with that being equivalent to 68.6% of my total viewing, it’s actually the USA’s lowest percentage ever, almost four whole points below their next lowest, 72.4% in 2018. In related good news, there were 40 different countries involved in the production of at least one film — that’s my highest number ever, trouncing the 32 from 2015. Some of the more uncommon ones (for my viewing) included Algeria, Lithuania, Malaysia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Uganda.

Back at the top end of the chart, the UK was second, as usual. Its 71 films was its most ever; that’s 26.8%, which has been bettered, but not since 2013. Also making double figures were Canada (21, 7.95%), France (18, 6.8%), China (16, 6.1%), Japan (15, 5.7%), and Germany (14, 5.3%). Next was Spain (7, 2.7%), after which there were four countries tied on four films each, another four on three films, 10 on two films, and the remaining 14 had one film each. Perhaps the most notable omission was New Zealand, leaving 2020 as the first year since 2013 where I didn’t see any films from there. And they’ve had such a good year, too!

Such a wide variety of countries must lead to a wider variety of languages spoken, right? Well, this year’s films featured 30 spoken languages (plus ten silent films) — not the most ever, but close: the only year higher was 2017 with 32. Of course, the most dominant was still English, which was spoken in 223 films. At 84.5% of my viewing, that just slips under last year’s 84.8% to be the lowest ever. In distant second was French, spoken in just 18 films (6.8%). The others to make double figures were an uncommonly strong showing for Spanish (14 films, 5.3%) and a weaker than normal year for Japanese (11 films, 4.2%). Also, China was represented across multiple languages: not just Mandarin and Cantonese, but also Hokkien and Shanghainese, plus some films where it was only listed as “Chinese”, unfortunately. Other languages that I don’t think have come up in my viewing before included Aboriginal, Catalan, Samoan, and Swahili.

A total of 225 directors and 23 directing partnerships appear on 2020’s main list, the most ever for both tallies. No surprise, given I watched my most films ever; but bear in mind that I only watched three fewer films in 2017, but there were 23 fewer directors credited that year. I ought to work this out as a percentage sometime… Also worth noting is that the number of partnerships is slightly complicated by some Disney films that mixed and matched directors. For example, the likes of Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, and Hamilton Luske have multiple credits each, but with a different lineup of co-directors each time. If we lump all the different combos together as “Disney guys”, the number of partnerships drops to 20… but that’s still the most ever.

The most prolific director this year was Jack Kinney, who worked on all four of those “Disney guy” films (Clyde Geronimi and Hamilton Luske have three credits each). Outside of those, I watched three films directed by Denis Villeneuve — it would’ve been four, as I was intending to catch up on all his early work before Dune came out, but then Dune got delayed. I’ll finish that project in 2021, then. Directors with two films apiece were John G. Avildsen, Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, Danny Boyle, Ruben Fleischer, Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe, Sidney J. Furie, Greta Gerwig, Marielle Heller, Alfred Hitchcock, Paul Leni, James Mangold, Steve McQueen, and Rob Reiner. Plus, if we factor in short films, there was David Lynch (one feature and two shorts), Terry Gilliam (one feature and one short, which is often counted as part of a feature, so…), Jon Watts (one feature and one short), and Jules White (two shorts).

Since 2015, I’ve specifically charted the number of female directors whose work I’ve watched. After a dip in 2016, it’s been steadily increasing in percentage terms, but last year female directors were still only credited on eleven films — seven as sole director, three as part of a directing partnership with a man. Counting each shared credit as half a film, that represented just 5.63% of my viewing. 2020 sees a significant improvement: this year, there were 33 films with a female director (28 solo, five paired with a man), which equates to 11.44% of my viewing. That’s a big improvement, but still not really good enough. It’s debatable whether the onus should be on me to seek out more films directed by women or on the industry to give more directing gigs to women (ultimately, it’s a bit of both, though I’d argue with more weight on the latter) — either way, hopefully this number will continue to increase in the future, and this graph can begin to look a lot more equitable.

At the end of my annual “top ten” post, I always include a list of 50 notable films I missed from that year’s releases, and over the years I continue to track my progress at watching those ‘misses’. For the second year in a row, I failed to see at least one film from every previous list; but I did better than last year! In 2019, I only watched a total of 37 films from across 7 of the 12 lists. In 2020, I watched 54 films from 11 of the now-13 lists. That’s no record, but it’s a big improvement. To summarise, I watched one each from 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2015; two each from 2010, 2013, and 2017; and eight from 2018. (For completism’s sake: the two years I missed were 2011 and 2016.)

That just leaves my first year of catching up on 2019’s 50. Of those, I watched 34 — a new record for the best ‘first year’ ever, just beating the previous high of 33 from 2017’s list that I watched in 2018.

In total, I’ve now seen 476 out of 650 of those ‘missed’ movies. That’s 73.2%, a healthy increase from last year’s 70.3%. That percentage has increased every year for the past decade, from a lowly 25% after 2009 to where it is today. Hopefully it will continue on up in 2021. (As always, my list of 50 for 2020 will be included in my “best & worst” post later this week… month… however long it takes me…)

At the time of writing, 20 films from my 2020 viewing appear on the IMDb Top 250. 20 from 2020? Neat. However, because that list is ever-changing, the number I have left to see has only gone down by 15, to 30. On the bright side, at this rate I might finally complete the darn thing in 2022 (getting there has only taken, um, all my life so far). Anyway, the current rankings of ones I saw this year range from 30th (Parasite) to 248th (The Battle of Algiers).

And now, all of a sudden, we’re at the end… almost. To conclude 2020’s statistics, it’s the climax of every review: the scores.

As always, this includes every new feature film I watched, even those without a review (which, this year, is most of them). That means there are some where I’m still flexible on my exact score — films I’d happily award, say, 3.5 or 4.5 on Letterboxd, but which I insist on rounding up or down to a whole star on here. (I occasionally consider beginning to use half-stars here too, but there’s something kinda fun about having to force every film into one of just five broad groups.) For the sake of completing this stat, I’ve assigned whole-star ratings to every film, but it’s possible I’ll change my mind on some when I finally post their review. That might render this section slightly inaccurate, though, honestly, who’d even notice?

This year I awarded 39 five-star ratings. That’s exactly the same number as in 2018, which suggests some level of consistency. It also makes this year joint second, with 2015’s 40 still the standout for volume of five-star films. In percentage terms, I gave full marks to 14.8% of films I watched, which is comfortably inside my historical range (which spans from 11.9% to 21.2%).

The most prolific rating was four stars, given to 111 films. That’s also a second-place finish, though, with the most four-star ratings having been the 122 I awarded in 2018. Nonetheless, four-stars has been the biggest group in 13 out of 14 years of this blog’s history, and this year it encompassed 42.1% of films, which is again somewhere in the middle of a range that spans from 31.5% to 53.3%.

More noteworthy were the 91 three-star films — the highest number ever (sailing past 2018’s 76) and, at 34.5%, the highest percentage since 2013’s 35.8% and third highest overall (the top spot goes to the only year three-stars outnumbered four-stars, 2012). I have tried to be a bit firmer with my marking in recent years (by reducing the number of times I think “oh, go on, just nudge it up to a 4, then”), so I guess this bears that out.

At the “bad” of the scale, there were 21 two-star films, which ties with 2018 for the most ever, but at 7.95% is actually one of the lowest results ever (only 2011 and 2016 can boast a lower percentage). Finally, I handed out just two one-star ratings, which equates to 0.8%. These really are my rarest of the rare: I’ve awarded two or fewer in 9 out of 14 years, with the highest total being five (in 2012 — a bad year, clearly).

Finally, the average score for the year — a single figure with which to judge 2020’s quality against other years, for good or ill. The short version is 3.6 out of 5, which is the same as four previous years (including last year), below eight years, and above just one year. If we expand that out a few more decimal places, at 3.621 it’s actually my third-lowest year ever, only besting last year’s 3.604 and 2012’s bizarrely poor 3.352 (I said it was a bad year). That said, we’re talking very small margins here — I’ve had to go to three decimal places to separate the years out; and, at one decimal place, my average score has never gone above 3.8 or below 3.4. So, 2020 was perfectly fine, as this graph shows.

And that’s that for another year. FYI, this has been my most verbose stats post ever — its word count is even higher than some of my older ones that also included the entire list of films I’d watched that year. So congratulations if you made it to the end! Fun, wasn’t it? (If you’re itching for more, don’t forget my Letterboxd stats for 2020.)


With all that analysis done, my review of 2020 is nearly at an end. All that remains is my best and worst of the year, coming just as soon as I can work it out and write it up (my long list is pretty darn long this year!)

2020: The Full List

As I already revealed in my December monthly review, 2020 is the biggest year of 100 Films ever. That’s thanks to me watching 264 films I’d never seen before, a figure that just pips 2018’s 261. I didn’t quite reach my Rewatchathon goal of revisiting 50 films I’d seen before, but I finished up on a not-unrespectable 46. Combined, their total of 310 is slightly behind 2018’s equivalent 311; but I also watched a frankly extraordinary (by my standards) number of shorts this year — 65, enough to increase my shorts review list by over 76%.

More on all that in my annual statistics post, which is coming soon. For now, it’s time to look back over the year as a whole with these lovely long lists of all I watched. As well as films of all lengths, there are links to my monthly reviews (which contain all sorts of other goodies, donchaknow) and, further down, a list of my TV reviewing from the past year. To help you find what you’re looking for amongst all that, here’s a nice little set of contents links…


  • As It Happened — 2020’s monthly updates, with a chronological list of my viewing.
  • The List — an alphabetical list of every new film I watched in 2020; plus other stuff.
  • Television — an alphabetical list of every TV programme I reviewed in 2020.
  • Next Time — still to come: actual analysis of last year.

Below is a graphical representation of my 2020 viewing, month by month. Each of the images links to the relevant monthly review, which contain a chronological list of everything I watched this year. There’s also other exciting stuff in there, like my monthly Arbie awards and what I watched in my Rewatchathon.

I’ve often felt this section looks a bit unwieldy, so this year I’ve made it half the size. Any opinions on the change (or, indeed, anything else) are always welcome in the comment section.

And now, the main event…


An alphabetical list of all the new-to-me films I watched in 2020 (though some series are in chronological order within their alphabetisation). That’s followed by lists of other things I watched this year: alternate versions of films I’d already seen; rewatches I’ve marked out for ‘Guide To’ posts; and short films. Where a title is a link, it goes to my review; when there’s no link, it’s because I haven’t reviewed it yet (that’s probably self-evident…)

  • 127 Hours (2010)
  • 1917 (2019)
  • 3:10 to Yuma Hours (2007)
  • The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
  • 6 Underground (2019)
  • 7500 (2019)
  • 8½ (1963)
  • Ad Astra (2019)
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
  • Agatha and the Midnight Murders (2020)
  • Aladdin [3D] (2019)
  • All About Eve (1950)
  • All Is True (2018)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  • American Animals (2018)
  • The American President (1995)
  • An American Werewolf in London (1981)
  • Anand (1971)
  • Andrei Rublev (1966)
  • Aniara (2018)
  • The Armour of God (1986), aka Lung hing foo dai
  • The Assistant (2019)
  • August 32nd on Earth (1998), aka Un 32 août sur terre
  • Bad Boys for Life (2020)
  • Bait (2019)
  • Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
  • The Battle of Algiers (1966), aka La battaglia di Algeri
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
  • Belladonna of Sadness (1973), aka Kanashimi no Belladonna
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
  • Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
  • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)
  • Black Angel (1946)
  • Blind Fury (1989)
  • Blockers (2018)
  • Bloodshot (2020)
  • Booksmart (2019)
  • Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)
  • The Breakfast Club (1985)
  • Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
  • A Bug’s Life (1998)
  • Burning (2018), aka Beoning
  • Cairo Station (1958), aka Bab el hadid
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
  • Chariots of Fire (1981)
  • Chicken Run (2000)
  • The Children Act (2017)
  • The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two (2020)
  • Clueless (1995)
  • Coded Bias (2020)
  • Color Out of Space (2019)
  • Crawl (2019)
  • Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
  • Crooked House (2017)
  • Dangal (2016)
  • The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
  • Death to 2020 (2020)
  • Dial M for Murder [3D] (1954)
  • The Diamond Arm (1969), aka Brilliantovaya ruka
  • Dick Johnson is Dead (2020)
  • Do the Right Thing (1989)
  • A Dog’s Will (2000), aka O Auto da Compadecida
  • Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
  • Down with Love (2003)
  • Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
  • Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux (1984/2012)
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  • Emma. (2020)
  • End of the Century (2019), aka Fin de siglo
  • Enola Holmes (2020)
  • Entrapment (1999)
  • The Equalizer 2 (2018)
  • Escape Room (2019)
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
  • Evil Under the Sun (1982)
  • Extraction (2020)
  • The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
  • Falling (2020)
  • Fanny and Alexander (1982), aka Fanny och Alexander
  • Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
  • Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017)
  • Fisherman’s Friends (2019)
  • For the Love of Spock (2016)
  • The French Connection (1971)
  • Fun & Fancy Free (1947)
  • The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  • Gemini Man (2019)
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters [3D] (2019)
  • The Good Liar (2019)
  • The Goonies (1985)
  • Greyhound (2020)
  • Guinevere (1994)
  • Hamilton (2020)
  • Harakiri (1962), aka Seppuku
  • He Dreams of Giants (2019)
  • The Head Hunter (2018)
  • Hotel Artemis (2018)
  • Der Hund von Baskerville (1914), aka The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • Hunter Killer (2018)
  • Hustlers (2019)
  • I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs [3D] (2009)
  • Ice Age: Continental Drift [3D] (2012)
  • Ikiru (1952), aka Living
  • An Impossible Project (2020)
  • In the Mood for Love (2000)
  • Influence (2020)
  • Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
  • The Invisible Guest (2016), aka Contratiempo
  • The Invisible Man (2020)
  • The Ipcress File (1965)
  • It Chapter Two (2019)
  • Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)
  • Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)
  • Joker (2019)
  • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
  • Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
  • K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
  • The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
  • The Karate Kid Part III (1989)
  • The Kid (1921/1971)
  • Klaus (2019)
  • Knives Out (2019)
  • Lady Bird (2017)
  • The Lady Vanishes (1938)
  • Lancelot du Lac (1974), aka Lancelot of the Lake
  • Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), aka Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
  • Last Chance Harvey (2008)
  • Late Night (2018)
  • Le Mans ’66 (2019), aka Ford v Ferrari
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part [3D] (2019)
  • The Lie (2018)
  • The Lighthouse (2019)
  • Little Women (2019)
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night [3D] (2018), aka Di Qiu Zui Hou De Ye Wan
  • Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (2006)
  • The Looking Glass War (1970)
  • Lost in La Mancha (2002)
  • Love on a Leash (2011)
  • Lovers Rock (2020), aka Small Axe: Lovers Rock
  • The Lunchbox (2013)
  • Luxor (2020)
  • The Mad Magician [3D] (1954)
  • Maelström (2000)
  • Make Mine Music (1946)
  • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
  • A Man for All Seasons (1966)
  • Man on Wire (2008)
  • The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
  • The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
  • The Man Who Sleeps (1974), aka Un homme qui dort
  • Mangrove (2020), aka Small Axe: Mangrove
  • Marriage Story (2019)
  • Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
  • The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
  • Melody Time (1948)
  • Men in Black: International (2019)
  • Millennium Actress (2001), aka Sennen joyû
  • Minions [3D] (2015)
  • Misbehaviour (2020)
  • Misery (1990)
  • Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020)
  • Missing Link (2019)
  • The Mole Agent (2020)
  • Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
  • My Favourite Wife (1940)
  • My Mexican Bretzel (2019)
  • The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador (1912), aka Le mystère des roches de Kador
  • Near Dark (1987)
  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)
  • Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019)
  • Never Too Young to Die (1986)
  • The Next Karate Kid (1994)
  • The Nightingale (2018)
  • The Old Dark House (1932)
  • The Old Guard (2020)
  • One Cut of the Dead (2017), aka Kamera wo tomeruna!
  • Ordet (1955), aka The Word
  • Out of Africa (1985)
  • Palm Springs (2020)
  • Parasite (2019), aka Gisaengchung
  • Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
  • Patrick (2019), aka De Patrick
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
  • Pearl Harbor (2001)
  • Phase IV (1974)
  • Philomena (2013)
  • The Platform (2019), aka El hoyo
  • Polytechnique (2009)
  • Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017)
  • Puzzle (2018)
  • Quartet (2012)
  • Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
  • Rang De Basanti (2006)
  • Ready or Not (2019)
  • Red Joan (2018)
  • The Rhythm Section (2020)
  • RoboCop 3 (1993)
  • Robolove (2019)
  • Rocketman (2019)
  • Rose Plays Julie (2019)
  • Safety Last! (1923)
  • Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
  • Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)
  • The Scorpion King (2002)
  • The Secret Life of Pets 2 [3D] (2019)
  • Shadowlands (1993)
  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019)
  • Shazam! [3D] (2019)
  • The Sheik (1921)
  • Shoplifters (2018), aka Manbiki kazoku
  • The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story (2019)
  • Showman: The Life of John Nathan-Turner (2019)
  • Showrunners (2014), aka Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show
  • The Sky’s the Limit (1943)
  • So Dark the Night (1946)
  • Some Beasts (2019), aka Algunas Bestias
  • The Son of the Sheik (1926)
  • Soul (2020)
  • Spaceship Earth (2020)
  • Spider-Man: Far from Home [3D] (2019)
  • Split Second (1992)
  • A Star Is Born (2018)
  • Stop Making Sense (1984)
  • Stuber (2019)
  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
  • Tag (2018)
  • Tenet (2020)
  • Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
  • The Thin Red Line (1998)
  • The Three Caballeros (1944)
  • Tim’s Vermeer (2013)
  • Tolkien (2019)
  • Tomb Raider [3D] (2018)
  • Top Secret! (1984)
  • The Two Popes (2019)
  • Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)
  • Uncut Gems (2019)
  • Under the Skin (2013)
  • Us (2019)
  • Vampires Suck (2010)
  • The Vast of Night (2019)
  • Venom (2018)
  • Vice (2018)
  • The Viking Queen (1967)
  • Waking Ned (1998)
  • Waxworks (1924), aka Das Wachsfigurenkabinett
  • The Wedding Guest (2018)
  • Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
  • Without a Clue (1988)
  • The Wolf’s Call (2019), aka Le chant du loup
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
  • Yes, God, Yes (2019)
  • Yesterday (2019)
  • You Will Die at Twenty (2019)
  • Zatoichi in Desperation (1972), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Oreta tsue
  • Zero Charisma (2013)
  • Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
Alternate Versions
The 100 Films Guide To…
Shorts
  • Adnan (2020)
  • Alan, the Infinite (2020)
  • Anoraks (2020)
  • Appreciation (2019)
  • Befriend to Defend (2019)
  • Blue Passport (2020)
  • Booklovers (2020)
  • Chumbak (2019)
  • Clean (2020)
  • Closed Until Further Notice (2020)
  • The Crimson Permanent Assurance (1983)
  • The Dancing Pig (1907), aka Le cochon danseur
  • David Lynch Cooks Quinoa (2007)
  • The Day of the Coyote (2020)
  • DC Showcase: Jonah Hex (2010)
  • Destructors (2020)
  • The Devil’s Harmony (2019)
  • Embedded (2020)
  • The Escape (2016)
  • Flush Lou (2020)
  • Frankenstein (1910)
  • Frayed Edges (2020)
  • The Fruit Fix (2020)
  • Fuel (2020)
  • Guardians of Ua Huka (2020)
  • Hold (2020)
  • Home (2020)
  • Interstice (2019), aka Mellanrum
  • Keratin (2020)
  • The Last Video Store (2020)
  • Life in Brighton: An Artist’s Perspective (2020)
  • Man-Spider (2019)
  • A Map of the World (2020)
  • The Monkeys on Our Backs (2020)
  • My Dad’s Name Was Huw. He Was an Alchoholic Poet. (2019)
  • My Life, My Voice (2020)
  • Nelly (2020)
  • Nut Pops (2019)
  • One Piece of the Puzzle (2020)
  • Our Song (2020)
  • Pardon My Backfire [3D] (1953)
  • Peter’s To-Do List (2019)
  • Players (2020)
  • Quiescent (2018), aka Anvew
  • Quiet on Set (2020)
  • Reconnected (2020)
  • Shuttlecock (2019)
  • Siren (2020)
  • Slow Burn (2020)
  • So Far (2020)
  • Spooks! [3D] (1953)
  • A Spring in Endless Bloom (2020)
  • The Starey Bampire (2019)
  • Sticker (2019)
  • Stitch (2020)
  • The Stunt Double (2020)
  • Swivel (2020)
  • Talia (2020)
  • Time and Tide (2020)
  • Under the Full Moon (2020)
  • Water Baby (2019)
  • We Farmed a Lot of Acres (2020)
  • What Did Jack Do? (2017)
  • The Wick (2020)
  • Window (2019)
1917

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

Anand

Bait

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Chicken Run

Crazy Rich Asians

Do the Right Thing

Enola Holmes

The Face of Fu Manchu

Fanny and Alexander

Greyhound

Harakiri

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

The Invisible Man

The Karate Kid Part II

The Lady Vanishes

The Lighthouse

Lost in La Mancha

The Lunchbox

Small Axe: Mangrove

Millennium Actress

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Ordet

Patrick

Rambo: Last Blood

RoboCop 3

Shadowlands

Showrunners

The Son of the Sheik

Split Second

Tomb Raider

Under the Skin

The Wedding Guest

Zatoichi in Desperation

Zero Charisma

The Avengers

Alan the Infinite

The Crimson Permanent Assurance

The Escape

Interstice, aka Mellanrum

My Life, My Voice

Pardon My Backfire

Shuttlecock

The Stunt Double

What Did Jack Do?

.

As well as all those films, I also covered many TV programmes in my monthly(-ish) review columns. Just listing those individual posts would be meaningless, so instead here’s an alphabetical breakdown of what I covered, each with appropriate link(s).


Get ready for the best bit of the entire year: it’s the statistics!