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Top 20 Worst Films of 2020 (#20 – 11)

January 19, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

Top 20 Worst Films of 2020 (#20 – 11)

Welcome, one and all, to my Movies Year in Review for 2020! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas, and today we’ll starting a look at the best and worst films of the past 12 months. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You’re free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong but stating that an opinion is “wrong” is just silly. With that in mind, let’s get right into it!

My 2020 movies year in review officially kicks off in the 411 Movie Zone! I used to do this column as part of the Movies 8 Ball, when I would look at the top 8 of a particular topic. Sadly, I haven’t had time for that column for a while now. However, I still watch as many movies as I can in any calendar year and as crazy as it was, 2020 was no exception. Obviously, this was the year that the pandemic changed everything, including how we view movies. Theaters got shut down and films got pushed off to 2021, moved to streaming, or even put out in drive-ins. Even with the shutdown, there were a lot of movies that came out in 2020 that were great and terrible. We kick off my year in review, as always, by getting the worst out of the way and that means it’s time to start my look at the worst of the year. With the 8 Ball no longer keeping me to the top eight format (or a two-part top 16), I’ve decided to expand to an even 20. That gives me more opportunities to name a film I disliked that one or more of you liked or loved, so let’s get right to it!

Caveat: My criteria used to be that if the film had its domestic theatrical release this year, it was eligible. Obviously, that would lead to a very short list of films for 2020. Not only that, but the business is changing anyway (a move that’s long been needed), so I’m altering my structure a bit. If a film was released in theaters in any remotely significant capacity, or if it was a high-profile and marketed release on VOD or a major streaming service, then it was eligible. I don’t include films that are purely straight-to-video and may have a star or two but is essentially being shoveled out to reap in some profit on some name value. 2020 examples of this include Survive the Night (Bruce Willis), Last Moment of Clarity (Samara Weaving), and The Night Clerk (Tye Sheridan, Ana de Armas, John Leguizamo and Helen Hunt). There’s obviously some wiggle room on some of these and people may debate if some films are really “high-profile releases,” but that’s why it’s my list.

The only other caveat is that I have yet to seen everything that was released in 2020, especially factoring in streaming services. The films that I missed that could have possibly qualified based on reputation are Tyler Perry’s A Fall from Grace, Songbird, 365 Days, Irresistible, Wild Mountain Thyme and Fatal Affair. Other than those, I feel reasonably confident I would have seen every movie that would have likely made the list. For those curious, I saw a total of 117 films that were released in 2020.

Just Missing the Cut

I Still Believe
The Call of the Wild

#20: Impractical Jokers

Worst Films of 2020 - Impractical Jokers

Not every film on this list is going to be absolutely abhorrent, especially in the early running. But to be fair, not every film has to draw disgust to be bad. Take, for example, Impractical Jokers. On the surface, the film version of the hidden camera reality show is exactly what it offers: a 93-minute episode of the TBS series, set to a pseudo-storyline involving the Jokers making their way to a Paula Abdul concert and making hidden camera challenges which of the four get the three tickets, and who gets left out. If you’re into that, it’s a moderately competent film.

The problem is that what works for a half-hour program of pranks and stunts feels awfully drawn out at an hour and a half. And the semi-storyline feels pointless; no one is here to see the guys try to deliver scripted lines. The storyline is flimsy and unengaging anyway and would have been better off ditched. Joe, Sal, Murr, and Q are engaging personalities who play well off of each other, and this plays better at times than the more slapstick, “pain is funny” antics of the Jackass movies. However, it’s hard to imagine that this wouldn’t have been a whole lot more watchable if it had been one of their hour-long season finales, and not this. Not everything needs to be adapted to feature-length, and Impractical Jokers is a perfect example of that.

#19: Superintelligence

Worst Films of 2020 - Superintelligence

HBO Max has a lot of highly anticipated films coming in 2021 (and a lot of controversy around that). But even before the pandemic started to see films being moved onto streaming services, they had Superintelligence on their slate. The latest collaboration between spouses Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone was originally set to be released in theaters on Christmas Day 2019, but in October of that year it was decided to shift it to HBO Max. On the surface, it was a smart move to get a film with a major star on the service in order to entice people to sign up. But in retrospect, it also allowed Warner Bros. to take a DOA comedy and put it somewhere that it would not be in a position to financially bomb.

To be clear here for McCarthy’s critics, she isn’t the problem. The problem comes in the fact that while Falcone is an actor who generally delivers good comedic performances, he has yet to hit as a director. Tammy, The Boss, and Life of the Party have all been starring vehicles for his wife and none of them have been particularly good. Superintelligence isn’t much different. McCarthy plays to type as Carol, a woman down on her luck who is pinpointed by a developing AI as the focal point to determine if it will destroy humanity or save it. There are some funny ideas in here and a few things that play out well, but ultimately this is all just an angle for a romantic comedy matching McCarthy up with Bobby Cannavale as the ex that Carol pines for. The film often feels like it’s contorting itself into painful positions to fit the standard tropes of either a Melissa McCarthy/Ben Foster collaboration or a rom-com, and it always feels ill-suited to both. Any twists in the plot are telegraphed pretty extensively and despite some good performances from McCarthy, Cannavale, and James Corden as the voice of the AI, Superintelligence ends up being a mess of a film that doesn’t satisfy much of anyone.

#18: Scoob!

Worst Films of 2020 - Scoob

Scoob! is one of those films where I understand why it was made, but I can’t possibly fathom the decisions that went into its creation. Of course, Warner Bros. was eventually going to try to reboot Scooby-Doo for the big screen. It’s too well-known and popular of a franchise for them to ignore, and whatever you think about the live-action films they made pretty impressive amounts of money. So yeah, it makes sense to bring the Gang back to the screen for a new generation. And as lackluster as it is, I can even understand going the 3D-animation route. They’re trying to present a family film in what was expected to be a pretty crowded marketplace for family movies in 2020, and a film like this does kind of have to fit an aesthetic that will appeal.

But that’s where my understanding comes to a halt. No one was asking for an origin story for Scooby-Doo. Even less people were asking for the introduction of the Hannah Barbara Cinematic Universe. And yet that’s what we get in this strange, off-putting movie that tries to put half-assed hooks for everyone without ever committing one way. The cast is having fun here, but everything else is a mess, right down to the story beat of giving Scooby a Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker-esque lineage that turns out to be essential to the story. The Avengers-style take on the plot doesn’t work, and I don’t know what’s weirder: the fact that a Scooby-Doo kid’s animated film has a Tinder joke or the fact that Tracy Morgan is playing Captain Caveman as…well, Tracy Morgan looking like Captain Caveman. The jokes are either grating for adults or fly way over the heads of kids, whether it’s Simon Cowell’s head-scratching cameo or the Greek mythology-themed MacGuffin. Sure, there are way worse kid’s films out there because at least this has energy, solid animation, and a few chuckle-worthy Easter eggs. But that low bar doesn’t save this from being a waste of time.

#17: The Main Event

Worst Films of 2020 - The Main Event

Okay, so admittedly we wrestling fans can be a hard-to-please bunch. We criticize a lot of what goes on in sports entertainment, and we all have our own very specific visions of what we want out of our wrestling that promotions don’t always measure up to. But at least they usually try. That’s a contrast to The Main Event, WWE Studios’ latest entry and their first project as part of a deal with Netflix. Their first film since 2019’s enjoyable Fighting With My Family feels like a throwback to the WWE of several years ago as it makes a minimum of effort to appeal to kids, while offering nothing of value to anyone over the age of 12.

The story follows young Leo, played as best he can by Seth Carr, who dreams of being a WWE star and gets his chance when he finds a magical luchador mask that gives him wrestling powers. That somehow ends up getting him in a WWE competition where he faces off with a host of current roster members like Otis, Dabba-Kato, and Keith Lee, all playing fellow competitors trying to get a shot in the company. And while it does succeed at showing how much of a star Lee can be and puts a maximum number of WWE talent on screen, it does little else. The story is obvious even to children, the humor is broad and lame, and the performances are — outside of Lee and Otis — half-hearted at best. This feels like a 1990s sitcom idea stretched into a feature film and proves once again (see also: Knucklehead, The Chaperone) that WWE Studios should stick to other genres. Because comedy? Yeah, it’s not their strong suit.

#16: Downhill

Worst Films of 2020 - Downhill

I’m not opposed to English-language remakes of foreign films as a rule. Sure, I’d like audiences to see the originals. But localizing great films is an opportunity to retell a quality story and perhaps even shine a light on the original. But if there is a clearer piece of ammunition for critics of the concept than Downhill, I don’t know what it is. Force Majeure is a fantastic 2014 Swedish dramedy about a couple whose relationship is put to the test after the husband prioritizes his own safety than that of his family during an avalanche, to the point that many were shocked it didn’t end up earning a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

However, it’s almost more shocking that the film became the inspiration for such a drab, lackluster effort as this lazy Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell bore. Jesse Armstrong, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash wrote the script for this one, which Faxon and Rash direct, and it has almost none of the spark that its predecessor has. Dreyfus gives her best effort, but Ferrell is just stuck in his default mode here, mistaking awkwardness for comedy as the two tepidly argue with each other. The film just sort of meanders along toward the inevitable conclusion, hitting all the beats of the original film without any real passion. Rash and Faxon soften the bite to make it more palatable, but that also robs it of any kind of energy. This is a situation where so many talented people came together and not one of them could figure out how to make the material work, resulting in a criminally forgettable film that could have been great.

#15: Bloodshot

Worst Films of 2020 - Bloodshot

To be perfectly fair to Bloodshot, I don’t think anyone expected a cinematic classic from this. I enjoy Vin Diesel as an actor, but his non-Fast & Furious outings tend to be fun, mindless popcorn entertainment at best and that was the most I was hoping for here. Sadly, this adaptation of the Valiant comic doesn’t reach that level. There are a couple of clever lines here and there, and Eiza Gonzalez and Guy Pearce give good performances as the teammate and boss/enemy of Diesel’s Ray, a dead soldier-turned-super mercenary by way of nanotechnology. But otherwise, this is a cheap looking, poorly shot mess of a film with an unnecessarily convoluted story, ugly CGI, and action scenes that aren’t particularly thrilling.

Even with all of that, the film probably wouldn’t quite register in the bottom 20. Diesel is adequate, and there are moments where the film embraces its ludicrous nature. But then we come to one thing I can’t get past, and that’s the fact that I’ve never seen a film work so hard to establish stakes for its lead character and then just casually toss them out the window toward the end. Much of the film spends time discussing how the nanotechnology works, and then instantly forgets about it the second that it’s inconvenient. And without spoiling anything, it’s a pretty integral moment for the plot. The complete 180 is because the script by Jeff Wadlow (we’ll get to him again in a few entries) and Eric Heisserer has written itself into a corner and just desperately hopes you won’t think about it. It’s a plot hole so jarring that it is almost impressive. It’s the final cherry on top of a bad movie that, somehow, is in fact getting a sequel. Hopefully Valiant scores better the second time around.

#14: The Last Thing He Wanted

Worst Films of 2020 - The Last Thing He Wanted

Look, we all love Netflix (for various values of the word “love,” at least). The streaming service has provided subscribers with ample entertainment and cracked open the door of streaming services to literally change the industry and how the distribution model for films works in fundamental ways. And they’ve produced some truly great original content, both in film and television. But they’ve also produced a lot of crap, and I’m not just talking about the straight-to-video nonsense they shovel out on a fairly regular basis. Some high-profile releases have completely flown wide of the mark, and The Last Thing He Wanted is a perfect example of that. It’s easy to see how producers may have thought this would be a prestige film. It stars awards favorite Anne Hathaway alongside Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, and Edi Gathegi in an adaptation of a popular political thriller novel directed by Oscar nominee Dee Rees (Mudbound). That’s a no-brainer, right?

Unfortunately, “no-brainer” is also an apt description of the murky script written by Rees and Marco Villalobos. The story of a journalist who gets sucked into the world of arms dealing in 1984 amid the Iran-Contra scandal completely loses itself after almost every scene as it jumps to the next one. There’s an odd lack of connection between those jumps, making the film incomprehensible even if you are familiar with Iron-Contra, which is barely remembered by many 36 years after it took place. And those who do remember it likely don’t recall the details to the level that this film expects you to for the piss-poor amount that it explains the complicated international affair. Hathaway gives a decent performance as the hard-boiled journalist, but she’s hampered by the script which requires that she give an overwrought voiceover performance filled with risible monologues. Rees tries to ground the film in a gritty, muted aesthetic that mostly comes off ugly and cold, while the editing is astoundingly inept. This film wanted to be the next All the President’s Men, but it’s not even the next Lions For Lambs (remember that one? Didn’t think so).

#13: Capone

Worst Films of 2020 - Capone

It’s always sad when you see an actor go for an Oscar-bait kind of role and it falls completely through. Everyone wants to make their movies good, of course, but some films just scream “This has Academy Awards hopes” and when they turn out to come up drastically short, it often makes the film that much worse in retrospect. Capone is an excellent example of that. Josh Trank seems like a nice guy, but this attempt to redeem his career after the calamitous Fantastic Four movie is a misguided effort that has nothing going on in the plot. Set during the final years of the infamous mob boss’ life when he was suffering from neurosyphilis and dementia in Florida following his prison stint, Capone features Trank trying to portray Capone as a victim of his past guilt through hallucinations and volatile behavior toward his family, house staff and entourage.

The biggest question to this film is, “Why?” The premise is good, but the story goes absolutely nowhere and just inexorably slouches its way toward its melancholy conclusion. There are fever dream sequences that don’t mean much, and all of the characters outside of Capone and his wife Mae (played with empathy and stoicism by Linda Cardellini) are severely underwritten. As for the lead role, Tom Hardy is reduced to grunts and mumbling growls before too long. It’s an impressive enough surface performance, but Hardy gets so caught up with the mannerisms that he doesn’t find much underneath the surface to dig into. To his credit, Trank doesn’t try to glamorize the gangster; quite the contrary, as he loses bowel function more than once and is a drooling mess at times. It’s a vision of a notorious, feared criminal at his most pathetic and I suppose there is some point to that. But there’s nothing to enjoy in watching it come to pass.

#12: Like a Boss

Worst Films of 2020 - Like a Boss

Like a Boss is going to largely depend on whether you find Tiffany Haddish’s brand of humor funny. It works for a lot of people, so I’m not going to knock it outright; however, it’s not for me. The problem is that there isn’t much beyond Haddish’s performance to sustain this movie, which stars Haddish and Rose Byrne as best friends whose cosmetic business is bought out and they find themselves under the control of a tyrant in Salma Hayek’s villainous corporate boss. Hayek manages to bring in a couple of chuckles as she drives a wedge between Haddish and Byrne’s characters, and Jennifer Coolidge and Billy Porter are a blast in supporting roles. But these elements are not in the film nearly long enough to make it particularly worthwhile.

Miguel Arteta is behind the camera for this one, and he films it as safely and passively as a mainstream comedy can be. The jokes in Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly’s script either fail to land or go on too long, while the story is half-baked at best and generally everything seems to be thrown together with the least amount of effort possible. I know that sentiment is a running trend for the films on this list, but it’s hard to deny that when it comes to mainstream comedy Hollywood has been lazy in the extreme for the last several years. It any of this film offensively bad? No, not really. We won’t reach “offensively bad” on the films list until next week. But it will be especially a turn-off to those who aren’t game for Haddish’s yelling antics, and even if you are a fan, I imagine this one will test your patience a bit.

#11: Fantasy Island

Worst Films of 2020 - Fantasy Island

The idea to turn Fantasy Island into a horror film was actually an inspired one. The ABC series was an icon of its time, but it was by no means great and wouldn’t work well in a modern retelling. If there was a drive to develop this IP into a new film, the horror route was a smart way to go. An island where your fondest wishes become your worst nightmares? Even without the name recognition of Fantasy Island, that’s a film I would have been interested in potentially seeing.

The problem is all in the execution. The script from Chris Roach, Jillian Jacobs, and director Jeff Wadlow stumbles at several turns, but most clearly in having at least one twist too many. There’s some fun stuff in here, but the story is way too convoluted for its own good and the last act falls completely apart with revelation after revelation. That’s unfortunate too, because the cast is game. Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, and Michael Pena in particular give good performances with the fairly thin characters they’re saddled with. Wadlow’s direction is flat and the tone shifts dramatically between horror, action, melodrama and comedy. There was a good movie to be made with the concept, but this ain’t it.

And that will do it for this! Join me once again later this week as we count down numbers ten through one! Until then, have a good one and don’t forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at! JT out.