2020 saw an unprecedented number of titles delayed to 2021 and 2022 in response to COVID-19. Bond, Black Widow, and a host of other films that don’t feature European superspies were pushed to greener ($$) pastures. What remained was a surprisingly top-heavy group of movies. The crème de la crème saved an otherwise bleak year.
Before jumping into the top 10, here are seven more features that nearly made the list: Boys State; Dick Johnson is Dead; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Mangrove; Mank; Palm Springs; Time.
10. Promising Young Woman: Of all the movies I saw in 2020, Promising Young Woman would have benefited the most from audience shrieks, cheers, and gasps. The fact that Emerald Fennell’s crowd-pleaser works without an audience is a testament to its quality.
9. Relic: If The Father examined aging from the perspective of its titular octogenarian, Relic expands on the cycle of care from one generation to the next.
8. Sorry We Missed You: Ricky (Kris Hitchen) and his wife, Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), are gig-economy workers in Newcastle, England. They neglect their relationship and parenting duties to meet ever-increasing quotas at work. Despite the workload, they can’t manage to get ahead financially. Like Parasite before it, these capitalistic stories transcend borders.
7. Soul: Pixar, a studio synonymous with adults sobbing in public, seems to have recovered from its creative slump. Its last three original projects, Coco, Onward, and Soul, are emblematic of the animation giant’s heart. Soul asks viewers to observe, appreciate, and live for the mundane. A lesson worth remembering after a year of loss.
6. First Cow: Kelly Reichardt’s tale of frontier-era Oregon is an allegory about the impossibility of going it alone.
5. Sound of Metal: Groundbreaking sound design and remarkable performances by Riz Ahmed and Paul Raci make for a deeply empathetic portrait of enduring and embracing change.
4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always: Writer-director Eliza HIttman explores why it might be dangerous to live in a pseudo-theocracy. Sidney Flanigan and Kelly Chapman combine for the most devastating scene in recent memory.
3. Minari: Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical immigration story was the most beautiful thing put to film in 2020. It is undoubtedly the warmest narrative I’ve ever seen in which one character drinks another’s piss.
2. Another Round: Like Soul, the latest film from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg challenges the ordinary before proudly proclaiming that we wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m just glad Mads Mikkelson was able to find another role as interesting as he is.
1. The Father: Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins wear the disorientation, frustration, and loneliness brought on by neurological diseases in utterly heartbreaking fashion.