Here are the films that I loved the most, many of which will stick with me for quite some time.
By Sean Blanford
So many films, and this year so much time. Getting the final twenty decided was a difficult decision, and if you’re curious what films made my list of honorable mentions, please make sure to check out my previous article. Now, without further ado, here is my personal definitive list of my twenty favorite films of 2020.
#20-#11: The A- Tier
#20: She Dies Tomorrow: Amy Seimetz, Director
#19: Soul: Pete Docter, Director
#18: Enola Holmes: Harry Bradbeer, Director
#17: Kajilliolaire: Miranda July, Director
#16: I’m Thinking of Ending Things: Charlie Kaufman, Director
#15: Mank: David Fincher, Director
#14: The Trial of the Chicago 7: Aaron Sorkin, Director
#13: Da 5 Bloods: Spike Lee, Director
#12: Possessor: Brandon Cronenberg, Director
#11: Emma.: Autumn de Wilde, Director
#10-#4: The A Tier
#10: The Invisible Man: Writer/Director Leigh Whannell is further solidifying his stamp on low-budget action horror films that audiences can love, and is becoming a director that I am excited to see whatever he comes out with next.
#9: Small Axe Series: Mangrove: My favorite of the five-part collaboration between Amazon and director Steve McQueen tells the harrowing story of the Mangrove Nine, a group of protestors and activists standing their ground against police brutality and injustice in the Notting Hill neighborhood in the late sixties and seventies.
#8: Druk (Another Round): Another collaboration between director Thomas Vinterberg and actor Mads Mikkelsen is another amazing film following a group of teachers going down the path of a hypothesis that men function better under the influence of alcohol.
#7: Nomadland: Frances McDormand may have secured her second Best Actress award in four years playing a widowed nomad and what life is like for her through the course of her year. This may be the frontrunner as well of Best Picture and Best Director for Chloe Zhao.
#6: Minari: A festival darling since Sundance and gaining momentum since then, writer/director Lee Isaac Chung creates an
understated yet powerful look at what it means for a family of Korean immigrants to start over from the ground up and what it means to be part of a family.
#5: First Cow: My biggest surprise of the year, First Cow is a slow-burn but pays off in spades thanks to the performances of John Magaro and Orion Lee, the direction of Kelly Reichardt, and the cinematography of Chris Blauvelt.
#4: Never Rarely Sometimes Always: This held the #1 spot for the better part of the year, and if this was a list of what I thought was the best films rather than my favorites, there is no denying this would take the top spot. Writer/Director Eliza Hittman takes a first-time actress in Sidney Flanigan and makes her a star. A quiet yet devastating look at how difficult it is for women in some parts of the country to be able to get an abortion and is much bigger than any one person’s opinion on the matter.
The Top Three: The A+ Tier
#3: Sound of Metal: Riz Ahmed gives possibly the best performance of his career as Ruben, a heavy metal drummer who has his life changed in an instant when he loses his hearing. Having to learn how to be deaf while also not having his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) there to support him as well as handling his drug addiction, Ruben has to balance accepting being a part of his new deaf community as well as his desire to get his life back to normal. This features the best sound design of the year, as we hear what Ruben hears, or lack thereof, with all of the muffles and static that goes along with it.
#2: Wolfwalkers: A film I was fortunate enough to see three times before its exclusive release on AppleTV+ thanks to multiple film festival, this is my favorite animated film of 2020. When a father and daughter move from England to Kilkenny, Ireland in the 17th Century, he is tasked with hunting down the wolf population. When daughter Robyn ventures off into the woods to track down one of the wolves, she runs into Mebh, a fiery redhead who has the ability to turn into the young leader of the pack. Soul will more than likely win the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but Wolfwalkers beautiful animation style is something is in a class all its own.
#1: Promising Young Woman: If Sound of Metal was the best performance of Riz Ahmed’s career, Promising Young Woman is arguably the best of Carey Mulligan’s. Stylishly cool and heartbreaking all at the same time, this is one of few films this year that had moments that both had my jaw on the floor and cheering to a crowd of just myself and the screen. You feel for Cassie as she has to traverse an emotional minefield when a man who caused unspeakable emotional and psychological damage to her emerges in her life, and with every step of the way you cheer her on. When we speak of the best recent directorial debuts, Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman is one of the best and is my favorite film of 2020.