2020 was a year that threw a huge wrench into a lot of movie-goers’ plans. As theaters shut their doors and new releases continuously changed dates, there were movie related content creators that had to either adapt as best they could or completely change their formula. Fortunately for 18 Cinema Lane, the impact of this year’s Coronavirus didn’t change the type of content published on the site. As with the previous two years, I saw more good movies than bad. This is honestly the first year where I had difficulty creating my top ten best movies list because of the quantity of enjoyable films that left a memorable impression on me. Since I published my worst movies of the year list first last year, I’ll post my best movies of the year list first this time around. As usual, I will begin the list with my honorable mentions and then move on to the official top ten list. Now let’s get this list started!
Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, Where There’s a Will, Generation Gap, A Beautiful Place to Die: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Sweet Surrender, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Dead Over Diamonds, Riddled with Deceit: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ruby Herring Mysteries: Prediction Murder, House of the Long Shadows, Up in the Air, The Crow, Mystery Woman: Game Time, Fashionably Yours, Finding Forrester, Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), Expecting a Miracle, Time Share, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Wife of Monte Cristo, Cry Wolf, Mystery Woman: Mystery Weekend, Perry Mason Returns, Perry Mason and the Notorious Nun, Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, The Terry Fox Story, Follow Your Heart, House of Wax, Funny Face, and The Christmas Bow
10. Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Looking back on the four film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ work I’ve reviewed, I realize how lucky I am to come across those I enjoyed. Despite having never read Nicholas Nickleby, this production was both understandable and engaging! With the 2002 version of this story, its balance of joy and despair is a staple of the world-famous author’s I recognize from his other stories like Oliver Twist. As I said in my review of Nicholas Nickleby, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer, especially during a year like 2020. I don’t often come across a movie that is so good, it makes me want to seek out its original source material. For this film, however, I just found an exception!
9. The Unfinished Dance
This is an interesting entry from the Breen Code era. It’s a darker musical that is dark in nature for the sake of providing thought-provoking commentary. Like I said in my review, The Unfinished Dance does a good job exploring what happens when truth disappears from the world. All of the musical numbers in this film have a strong reason for being in the story, as opposed to typical musicals where the numbers feel more spontaneous than planned. Even though dance is emphasized more than the story, the quality of the routines themselves make this film worth a watch! The movie is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about.
8. If You Believe
I’m glad I was given an opportunity to re-watch this film, as it was just as enjoyable as when I first saw it! The story moves away from the aesthetic that most Christmas movies adopt. Instead, it relies on the messages and themes associated with the Christmas holiday. This creative decision is a breath of fresh air, bringing a different kind of narrative that isn’t often found during that time of year. If You Believe is a film that does what it sets out to do. It also helps that it has stood the test of time.
7. Sweet Nothing in My Ear
This is the kind of Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I wish was made more often, one where unique concepts are explored and celebrated. Instead of following a plot, the story revolves around a debate. The subject matter was not only handled with reverence, but each perspective was shown in a respectful light. I’m not a fan of this film’s ending, but I respect Hallmark’s decision to include it in the script, as it respects the audience’s intelligence. Sweet Nothing in My Ear is a title from this collection that can be used as an introduction to Hallmark Hall of Fame!
6. From Up on Poppy Hill
Studio Ghibli has a reputation for giving it their all when it comes to making movies. Besides their signature animation style, they also take the time to create fantastic worlds and memorable characters. While From Up on Poppy Hill doesn’t contain any of the magical elements that can sometimes be found in Studio Ghibli’s stories, the project doesn’t feel out of place in their collection. The plot is a simple one, but the inclusion of interesting characters and world-building is what makes it work. It also contains a great message about history that fits into the script very well.
5. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is more than just a story about Batman. It’s a chance for audience members to see a side of this superhero that doesn’t often get presented in the world of film. The movie is a good example of how impressive 2-D animation can be. Even though the world has moved on to the wonders of 3-D and computer graphics, there will always be a place for older styles of animation. Despite having seen only a handful of Batman films, I can honestly say Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of the better options! The story itself is just as interesting as the world of Gotham City.
4. Grace & Glorie
Grace & Glorie contains Hallmark’s favorite cliché of featuring a woman from a big city moving to a small town. But what sets this story apart is how that cliché is not the main focus of the film. Instead, the plot revolves around the friendship of Grace and Gloria. Because the titular characters were portrayed by two strong actresses, it made the dynamic between Grace and Gloria interesting to watch. Similar to From Up on Poppy Hill, this Hallmark Hall of Fame title has a simpler plot that works in its favor. Grace & Glorie is a type of story that is rarely seen on Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The movie is also an underrated gem that I wish more Hallmark fans were aware of.
With the way the theatrical landscape was affected in 2020, it kind of feels weird that a film like Matinee would appear on a best movies of the year list for 2020. But instead of making me miss the cinema or feel jealous of the characters as they get to see a movie in a theater, this particular 1993 title reminded me of what I love about film. Because I have a special place in my heart for Phantom of the Megaplex, Matinee showed me that there is more than one story that could show people how movies can be fun. One of the messages of this narrative is that film can provide a much-needed break from the troubles of the real world. With the way 2020 turned out, Matinee seemed to come at the right place and time.
2. The Boy Who Could Fly
Every year, there is that one movie that catches me by surprise because of how good it is. The Boy Who Could Fly was definitely that film in 2020! I was pleasantly surprised by how well the overall story has aged. Given the subject material and the time it was released in, I can certainly say that my expectations were subverted. While The Boy Who Could Fly would be considered a “teen movie”, it doesn’t follow a lot of the patterns that most of these types of stories would contain. The themes of showing compassion for others, dealing with grief, and understanding people’s differences are given center stage.
1. Anchors Aweigh
Who knew a Frank Sinatra movie would become the best one I saw in 2020? When I look back on this film, I remember how much fun I had watching it! As I said in my review, I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, which shows how the film’s joyful nature can certainly help anyone improve their mood. Anchors Aweigh is a strong movie on so many different levels. The acting, story, and musical numbers alone showcase how much thought and effort went into the overall production. If I were to introduce someone to the Breen Code era or musicals in general, this is the film I’d show them. Anchors Aweigh was certainly a bright spot in a year like 2020.
Have fun in 2021!