The coronavirus pandemic delayed many things, including the release of several movies. Subsequently, my Top 10 list was also pushed way back to March.
This list does include a couple movies that were released in the last few weeks. However, like award organizations, I’m making an exception because of the pandemic. Plus, it’s not my fault that it took forever for “The Father” to come out.
While this will cover the best movies of 2020, though, I do want to give a special mention to some movies I did watch last year that were technically from 2019. They are:
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
I adored this beautiful, slow-burning romantic drama. It explores love, art and womanhood in fantastic detail, with a powerful script and lovely camera work. The acting is top tier and the direction is strong.
This is a film that captures an awful situation with an incredible amount of precision. This is a movie about the nature of abuse that can take place in a Hollywood studios, but it’s captured in a rather subtle way. Instead of having bombastic scenes, this film goes for a more straightforward approach, and as a result it feels all the more real.
- “Happiest Season.”
- “I Used to Go Here.”
- “Pieces of a Woman.”
- “Sound of Metal.”
- “Trial of the Chicago 7.”
“Minari” is a magnificent slice of life film that does fine work capturing the American Dream, and those who reach for it. Watching these characters adjust to life at their new home in Arkansas and develop new aspects of their familial relationships is endearing.
It’s an authentic, honest portrayal with strong direction and award caliber performances.
“Wolfwalkers” is an absolutely gorgeous film visually, with superb animation featured from start to finish. It’s not just pleasing to the eyes, though.
This animated film features an emotionally-charged story with a pair of fantastic protagonists making for a great family film. Despite some routine plot developments, the execution is so on point that one can’t help but fall in love with this mystical movie.
8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” was one of the most thought-provoking and challenging film of 2020, and that’s what made it so good. It’s thoroughly interesting while also being somewhat suspenseful as the situations develop and the mind-bending drama ensues.
Upon getting to the end, when everything falls into place, a person can truly appreciate what was put together for the screen.
7. On the Rocks
“On the Rocks” is a fantastic mix of style and substance thanks to Sofia Coppola’s strong writing and direction. The rich script delves into aspects of a father-daughter relationship, as well as the relationship between a wife and husband and the issues that can arise from miscommunication.
The interactions between characters are pleasantly charming. It’s just a good time to watch the two main protagonists interact as they try to determine the future of Rashida Jones’ marriage. The film is also heavily benefited by the performances of Jones and Bill Murray, as well as the beautiful cinematography and enjoyable music.
6. The Father
“The Father” is not an easy movie to watch. It’s a depressing feature film. It’s also extraordinarily well-made. The movie captures dementia by taking place through the eyes of Anthony Hopkins’ character and it’s done incredibly well.
The film impressively captures how memories for a person living with dementia can change rapidly, and how distressing it is for the person experiencing it. It also showcases the pain it causes loved ones.
This is all made possible thanks to the strong direction and great performances by award winning cast members.
5. Judas and the Black Messiah
“Judas and the Black Messiah” was definitely one of the most powerful movies of the last year. The film is both a deeply informative period piece and an intense procedural drama all at once. It explores the Black Panther organization with nuance and dives into the unjust practices of the FBI.
At the same time, the film is suspenseful in how it plays out like a dark law enforcement drama. The balance created by co-writer and director Shaka King in bringing those elements together for a captivating picture with fierce social commentary is commendable. The film was also highlighted by great performances, especially from Daniel Kaluuya.
4. One Night in Miami
“One Night in Miami” was based on a play, but while it’s somewhat noticeable at times, it’s never a hindrance. There’s room to breathe, thanks to the strong technical work to give the film a cinematic feel and constantly evolving discussions between the four lead characters.
The way director Regina King brings these larger than life figures to the screen and explores their humanity in an intimate setting is absolutely superb. The characters are portrayed here in a down to Earth, real way, allowing an audience to really connect as they discuss their own personal lives and then switch to a macro level conversation with words about the Civil Rights movement.
3. Black Bear
“Black Bear” is a mesmerizing, enthralling psychological drama. It’s a fierce piece of filmmaking that explores the inner-workings of a person as they navigate the process of making something new.
Heavy emotions, possible past life experiences and pressures of the outside world are all at play for the main character, as the movie takes audiences on a multi-layered cinematic journey. A mix of twists and character interactions make the film truly gripping. Writer/director Lawrence Michael Levine and Aubrey Plaza, who played the lead character, did great work.
2. Promising Young Woman
“Promising Young Woman” is a phenomenal movie that balances taking heavy shots at the societal issue of rape culture while also telling a really solid revenge story. The film is a brilliant, funny and enthralling feature.
The movie is rich with entertaining moments of revenge and engaging sequences of black comedy, keeping a viewer fully invested. Writer and director Emerald Fennell, as well as lead actress Carey Mulligan do amazing work in bringing this all together, and it’s enhanced by a strong visual identity.
“Nomadland” offers audiences a vivid, powerful exploration of the human condition. It’s an honest, real and unblemished look at people living in rough conditions, and how they are able to keep going despite hardships.
The film succeeds as a character study of a person who has to go on living after nearly losing everything. It delves well into the impacts of economic downturns on Americans, and it showcases how people, even strangers, come to lean on each other when times are hard.
It’s all brought to the screen exceptionally well by writer and director Chloe Zhao, and the experience is helped by lead performers Frances McDormand, David Strahairn as well as real nomads who were convincing on screen. The film is also aided by gorgeous cinematography.