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Dark screens: the movies of 2020 in hindsight

The Gazette's movie critic looks back the movies released in 2020

What a year, eh? Go to the movies much? Didn't think so.

The COVID-19 pandemic offered a solid reality check to the world, and in some ways that meant we all had to avoid the 'suspension of disbelief' that movies require to buy into their fantasies and fabrications. Still, there were some movies that made it to the big screen, so here's a look back at the top 10.

Tenet should get the first mention since it became the one title that the movie industry and the movie-going public seemed to focus their attention on after theatres were shut down in the spring.

It was originally slated for a July release but COVID-19 threw that up in the air and nobody knew where it was going to land for quite some time. Eventually, Warner Bros. pegged it for release in international theatres – Canada included – at the end of August before getting it to the U.S. in September.

There, it landed with a kind of thud. Christopher Nolan's most expensive film ever reminded people a little too much of Inception for its convoluted plot and trick-laden imagery. It still grossed more than $350 million, which landed it remarkably at the fourth spot for the year, behind two Chinese movies –The Eight Hundred and My People, My Homeland

The Eight Hundred became the first-ever non-Hollywood film to become the highest-grossing movie of the year, bringing in $416 million at the box office. My People, My Homeland came in third with $422 million. 

America's top draw for the second spot was Bad Boys for Life, which earned $426 million after its release in mid-January. Groan. 

Yes, it was that unwanted sequel to a series that otherwise ended nearly 20 years prior and featured two actors no longer generally considered the stars of blockbusters. Though original director Michael Bay vacated the helm, actors Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reprised their roles as Mike and Marcus, two Miami detectives on the trail of a murderer. 

Dolittle (starring a post-Avengers Robert Downey Jr.) came out on the same day and landed at in the seventh spot, scraping in $250 million. 

Every year, the two-month period of January and February is usually a dead zone for critically hopeless movies to land and fizzle. The next most popular American movie was Sonic the Hedgehog, released only a few weeks later. Filmed in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island and starring Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik, it came in sixth place with $320 million.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), too, was released in February and barely boiled over $200 million. That's still a wild success for most big Hollywood movies, especially because its production had a much smaller budget thanks to its character development and cast.

It was later renamed Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey because it was thought that many people had trouble finding listings for it because the main character's name came at the end.

Though it came in ninth place, Birds was notable for a few reasons, the first being that it's the only superhero film on the top 10 list, though Wonder Woman 1984 just came out as a Video On Demand release. WW82 is obviously still accumulating its box office totals and should do well. It's an excellent movie (see this critic's review on page 30 of today's edition). 

This was also the big year for Asian cinema. Along with the aforementioned top two films from China, the world was also treated to a blockbuster and authentic Japanese anime film (Demon Slayer: Mugen Train - $340 million) in fifth place, and two other Chinese films, both from Beijing Enlight Pictures: the 3D computer-animated fantasy adventure film Jiang Ziya at the eighth spot with $243 million and war film The Sacrifice rounding out the top 10 with $171 million. Because of this, China became the world's largest box office market for the first time, usurping the U.S. from its stronghold.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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