Sadly, though, there are movies that never got their chance to shine. Uncertainty in February and March meant there were plenty of films affected by the pandemic, with people more inclined to stay at home.
Here are the films that failed to make a major impact at the box office flops and underrated movies from 2020 that are well worth revisiting.
It’s a wonder why Birds of Prey didn’t find its audience. There’s Harley Quinn, one of the best comic book characters to arrive on screen in recent times, as well as another capricious and charismatic performance from Margot Robbie and interesting direction from Cathy Yan. For some reason, though, it didn't connect with cinemagoers.
Perhaps it was the title – the verbose Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) doesn’t trip so well off the tongue – or the R rating in the US and 15 certificate in the UK which held it back.
The film’s poor opening weekend was rescued somewhat by international takings, but DC will have been disappointed that a standalone film from one of their most exciting intellectual properties wasn’t able to make its money back – as Variety reported, the film had been required to pass the £250m (£198m) mark to break even. Shame too, give that The Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan called the film “brazenly irresponsible… genuinely feminist, beautiful to look at, brilliantly acted, and very funny” in her review.
This thriller from the makers of the Purge follows 12 strangers, all of whom wake to find they’ve been selected to be hunted by a mysterious group of elites. It’s good, bloodthirsty fun, with a fiery central performance from Betty Gilpin and a subversive political edge. The film had a long wait on its hands to make screens, after it was initially pulled from release in September 2019 following mass shootings in the US. It was eventually out at the start of March and coronavirus fears contributed to its poor performance, making back just half of its $14m budget. Still, there’s a verve to it which makes it worth looking out for on streaming services.
Onward was one of the biggest movies released in cinemas directly affected by the pandemic. The year before, March opening weekend saw Captain Marvel take $153m (£121m). This year, with fears keeping punters away from cinemas, Pixar’s onward took $39m in its opening weekend – a poor return for the studio, and its lowest debut ever, in terms of tickets sold. The film takes place in a fantasy world where magic once existed, focusing on two brothers (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) who are given the chance to spend one final day with their late father. Charlotte O’Sullivan was full of praise for the film in her four-star review, calling it “incredibly moving” with “warmth on its side”. The film eventually found a second lease of life on Disney+, but takings of $104m (£82m) worldwide on the back of a $135m (£107m) production budget are disappointing for the studio.
Who’d have thought it – Harrison Ford and a CGI St Bernard made for one of the unlikeliest, but oddly likable screen pairings of the year. The solid family adventure follows a dog protagonist on a sprawling venture across the icy plains of frozen North America, where he is forced to work as part of a sled team in Klondike, Canada. The practical effects are pretty staggering – we’ve certainly come a long way from the dodgy doggy effect in the likes of Homeward Bound and Cats & Dogs. It’s all that painstaking CGI work which means the film cost a staggering $135m (£107m) to make, while the movie only took £85m at the global box office. The Independent’s review praised the simple charm of the film and said: “At a time where cynicism reigns, it’s refreshing to call back to the simple thrills of venturing into the unknown – CGI pups at your side or not.”
The claustrophobia of Alien, but set on a drilling station at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Deeply unoriginal, but still taut enough and with a central performance from the impressive Kristen Stewart, Underwater had less than impressive $41m (£33m) global takings off the back of a budget upwards of $50m (£39m). The critics didn’t care for it, but if you take it on face value as a B-movie riff on sci-fi tropes, with enough atmosphere to sustain its 95-minute running time, it’s not without merit.
The Rhythm Section
Blake Lively really threw herself into the role of a woman on the trail of revenge in this espionage thriller, who finds out that the plane crash which killed her family was a terrorist attack. Literally, in fact – the actress injured herself just one fight scene so badly that that production had to be put on hold.
Reviews were mixed, to say the least, but plenty were appreciative of Blake’s performance. Indiewire praised Lively, calling her: “One of contemporary cinema’s most underrated chameleons.” Jude Law and Sterling K Brown also star in the film, which was never going to set the world alight but didn’t deserve to make just $6m (£4.5m) off the back of a $50m (£39m) budget. It's a real dud in terms of box office performance, but not as bad as the figures suggest.