2020 was rough for a lot of reasons, including the lack of theaters, but luckily the quality of films did not seem to be affected. There were a lot of solid movies in contrast to only a few stinkers, as well as what I think are two of the better movies we’ve gotten in recent years. There are several films I really liked that just missed the cut, including “Hamilton” (while not technically a movie, the way the play is captured is to be commended), “The Climb,” “Driveways,” and “Black Bear,” as well as my favorite comedy of the year, “Bill & Ted Face the Music.” So without further ado, enjoy my Top 10 Films from 2020.
Quick side note: in a year with this many negatives, I don’t feel like adding any more to the universe, so I won’t be writing a Top 10 Worst Films list this year. I will, however, mention how “The Grudge” was the first 2020 film I saw (way back on January 2, a lifetime ago) and it remained the worst excuse for a movie over the subsequent 12 months. But enough about that.
Honorable Mention: Soul
Pixar’s best movie since “Toy Story 3” in 2010, “Soul” mixes deep thought, light laughs, beautiful animation, and fantastic music. I really enjoyed this one.
A technical look at the naval warfare of World War II, “Greyhound” trims the fat off the typical war movie and delivers a brisk and entertaining 90-minute dad movie to end all dad movies.
9. Pieces of a Woman
A fantastic opening sequence that features mother-to-be Vanessa Kirby deliver her child all in one long single-take, this sobering film may not keep the momentum delivered by the first 30 minutes, but the wonderful work by Kirby, Shia Labeouf, and Ellen Burstyn make this a very impactful experience.
Touching and simplistic, this is a dramatic look at a first-generation of Korean-Americans in 1980s Middle America, based on director Lee Isaac Chung’s own experiences. Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, and Yoon Yuh-jung all turn in some of the best performances of the year, and the climax is heart-wrenching.
7. Promising Young Woman
A darkly funny revenge thriller, this topical film features a solid against-type performance from Carey Mulligan, and acts as a great and exciting calling card from rookie writer-director Emerald Fennell.
A step-up for sophomore director Aaron Sorkin, this actor’s showcase features great work from Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Mark Rylance. I’m a sucker for a good courtroom drama, and this manages to hold a mirror to our modern society to see both the strides we’ve made since the 1960s, as well as how similar we may still be.
Featuring one of the tensest opening sequences in horror film since “Scream,” this reboot manages to work wonders with a $7 million budget, with writer-director Leigh Whannell letting the audience’s imagination do more worrying on their own than doing actual scaring. With an awards-worthy turn from Elisabeth Moss, this film is creepy, cool, and built to last.
I am a big fan of Old Hollywood and the young days of Los Angeles, and “Mank” manages to capture both of these things in a meticulous way that only a detail-freak like David Fincher could. A scene-stealing Amanda Seyfried, sharp script, and wonderful period-authentic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross makes there just so much to love here. While the final product may not be as great as the sum of its parts for some viewers, I have seen this film three times and think it is one that you pick up on new niceties with every view.
3. Sound of Metal
Riz Ahmed delivers a touching performance as a drummer who suddenly loses his hearing, and while that synopsis may not do the film justice, I promise this film is full of rewards. Writer-director Darius Marder perfectly encapsulates what is like to be a stranger in a world of silence, and Paul Raci, who plays Ahmed’s deaf mentor, is the glue that holds the whole thing together. Check this one out.
Simplistic yet brilliant, this film has among the best scores and cinematography of the year, as well as top-tier direction and editing by Chloé Zhao. Frances McDormand is great as always, but it is the non-actors/real-life nomads that make this film feel *real* and even at times like a documentary. Much like “Sound of Metal” the plot may not leap out at you, but trust me when I say this is well-worth your time.
And the best film of 2020 is…
1. The Father
I do not give out 10/10 scores too often. A film really has to blow me away and leave a lasting impression, like “The Social Network,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “Captain Phillips.” Needless to say, “The Father” floored me. Anthony Hopkins delivers, no hyperbole, one of the best performances I have ever seen as a man battling dementia, forced to realize that his life isn’t what it once was. Based on writer-director Florian Zeller’s own play, this is a stunning feature debut from him, and the way he depicts memory loss from both the perspective of the person suffering, as well as the toll it takes on a family, is horrifying and real. As someone who has had family members battle the disease, this is far from an easy watch, but I truly was left stunned by the beauty and power of this film. It is such a simple concept that emits such raw drama; I don’t think we will ever see a film quite like this again.
Thank you for sharing in my Top 10 list! I hope you were able to make the best out of 2020, and wish you a safe and healthy New Year. Hopefully we can all get back to the theaters soon, but until then, I’ll see you at the (virtual) movies!