The 50 Best Movies of 2020

The 50 Best Movies of 2020

Share:

twitter
facebook
reddit
pinterest
link

Coming off of the industry milestones of 2019, the first year of the new ’20s was a peculiar one. Due to the onset of the COVID-19 virus, dozens of high-profile releases were shelved for the time being, and just as many local and international film festivals were postponed—leaving the 2020 release calendar looking seemingly uneventful. But don’t let that fool you: smaller independent films and international gems continued to hold the fort for an industry still trying to regain its footing. Below are 50 films that reminded us that cinema will never stay down.

40. Born in Evin (2020)

7.5

Country

Austria, Germany

Director

Female director, Maryam Zaree

Actors

Marya Sirous, Maryam Zaree, Soraya Zangbari

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Instructive, Thought-provoking

This earnest documentary is about filmmaker and actress Maryam Zaree’s journey to unravel the truth about her birth. Her parents are part of a generation of Iranian revolutionaries who were jailed, many executed, and now have taken exile in Europe. The torture and difficult prison conditions they experienced are cause for so much trauma that Maryam, born in prison, has not been told anything about her birth. Her mom, now Germany’s first foreign-born mayor, cannot get past tears to tell a story that Maryam is determined to know. 

Her mom is not the only one who is unable to tell the story, as Maryam’s quest uncovers more silence. In the end, Born in Evin is as much about the question of “is the truth worth getting told?” as it is about the truth itself. It’s a heartfelt exploration of trauma, both for the generation that experienced it and for the generation that follows.

39. Gunda (2020)

7.6

Country

Norway, Spain, United States of America

Director

Viktor Kossakovsky

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Lighthearted, Sunday

Gunda offers an empathetic look at the lives of farm animals with its minimalist approach to the nature doc. Director Victor Kossakosvsky films without a sentimental score or voice-over narration, and shoots in a sparse yet striking black and white. This decision gives the film an intimacy often missing from more traditional modes. 

We watch a sow named Gunda, her piglets, and a few other animals through their daily routines. Long natural sequences allow the viewer to sink into the zen of the animals’ natural rhythms. The result is an astounding and bittersweet film that hints at the brutalities of factory farming without ever stepping foot in a slaughterhouse.

38. Dating Amber (2020)

7.6

Country

Ireland, Ireland UK USA Belgium

Director

David Freyne

Actors

Ally Ni Chiarain, Anastasia Blake, Arian Nik, Barry Ward

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Funny

This lovely comedy-romance from Ireland is about a closeted gay teen and his lesbian schoolmate who pretend to be in a relationship to avoid being bullied at their school.

This premise makes Dating Amber an original story in a genre in which that’s increasingly rare. This is added to the setting, in 1995 rural Ireland, which is executed to gorgeous perfection in everything from the clothes to the music. 

Dating Amber ends up being more coming-of-age than a comedy-romance. It’s a tale of friendship and self-acceptance.

37. Bull (2019)

7.6

Country

United States of America

Director

Annie Silverstein, Female director

Actors

Amber Havard, Rob Morgan, Sarah Albright, Troy Hogan

Moods

Depressing, Gripping, Well-acted

Bull is a gritty and haunting drama featuring a phenomenal performance by Rob Morgan as a bullfighter. In a poor Houston suburb, he plays an aging and lonely black man doing everything he can to survive. He brushes off unrelenting racism, rides even when it’s life-threatening and raises chickens to sell them. His next-door neighbor is a grandmother taking care of her daughter’s kids while the daughter is in jail. One day one of these grandaughters harms the chickens and vandalizes Abe’s house, prompting them to clash.

36. Saint Frances (2019)

7.6

Country

United States of America

Director

Alex Thompson

Actors

Bradley Grant Smith, Charin Alvarez, Danny Catlow, Francis Guinan

Moods

Feel-Good, Funny, Grown-up Comedy

This fun comedy-drama is about Bridget, a 34-year-old who hasn’t quite got it all figured out, but at least she’s trying: after terminating an accidental pregnancy, she gets herself a summer gig as a nanny for a fearless six-year-old by the name of Frances. 

Tackling a myriad of “taboo” topics including abortion, menstruation, and depression, the movie visually normalizes human experiences that remain underrepresented in mainstream cinema. And writer Kelly O’Sullivan, who also plays Bridget, has a screenplay that manages to do it all without feeling didactic.

35. Your Name Engraved Herein (2020)

7.7

Country

Taiwan

Director

Kuang-Hui Liu

Actors

Cheng-Yang Wu, David Chiu, Edward Chen, Hui-Min Lin

Moods

Depressing, Emotional, Raw

Your Name Engraved Herein is a melancholy and emotional film set in 1987 just as martial law ends in Taiwan. The film explores the relationship between Jia-han and Birdy, two boys in a Catholic school who are in a romantic relationship. The movie tackles homophobia and social stigma in society which evokes a bleak and rather depressing atmosphere, emphasised by the movie’s earthy aesthetic. There is a rawness in the film’s narrative and dialogue, topped off by the lead actors’ successfully raw performances. Your Name Engraved Herein is tender as well as heartbreaking, occasionally depicting the joy of youth.

34. The Traitor (2020)

7.7

Country

Brazil, France, Germany

Director

Marco Bellocchio

Actors

Alessio Praticò, André Lamoglia, Antonio Orlando, Bebo Storti

Moods

True-crime, True-story-based

This slow Italian drama tells the true story of Mafia boss Tommaso Buscetta, who became the highest-profile Mafia informant at the time of his arrest in the 1980s.

Tommaso, while supervising a criminal network in Sicily, moved to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to attempt a more legal and quieter life. His role catches up with him and he is quickly arrested.

As a biopic, it rarely depicts violence or glorifies organized crime. Instead, it attempts to document the life of a Mafia boss more realistically: a life of always looking over one’s shoulder and of constant loss. Eventually, the movie focuses on what it would take for a man like Tommaso to flip, and what that would cost him.

The Mafia topic might feel overdone, but watching this, it’s startling to realize how few thorough character studies have come out in film.

33. First Cow (2020)

7.7

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Kelly Reichardt

Actors

Alia Shawkat, Dylan Smith, Eric Martin Reid, Ewen Bremner

Moods

Heart-warming, Quirky, Slow

Two misfits, an immigrant and a traveling cook, team up to start an unlikely enterprise in this slow but captivating drama. The story, set in 19th century Pacific Northwest, evolves around the arrival of the first cow to that part of the world. This presents a unique opportunity that the two main characters try to benefit from. 

First Cow is a mix between a Western and a modern-day plot-less indie drama.  It has likable characters, stunning scenery, and a fascinating look into how social outcasts lived back then.

32. David Byrne’s American Utopia (2020)

7.8

Country

United States of America

Director

Spike Lee

Actors

Angie Swan, Bobby Wooten Iii, David Byrne, Jacqueline Acevedo

Moods

Uplifting

Legendary Talking Heads frontman David Byrne returns with this enigmatic stage show, and with Spike Lee in tow, the film reaches for the heights of the iconic concert doc Stop Making Sense. For those unfamiliar, Stop Making Sense directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the Talking Heads’ invigorating live show in their early eighties prime, and is often considered one of the best concert films of all time.

Now nearly forty years later Byrne attempts a resurrection of that spirit or a form of it given his former bandmates notably absent from the project. His propellant energy is on full display as he goes through the ‘Heads catalog with a backing band that dances in intricately choreographed sequences around him. Most notable, however, is the sparseness of the stage production which brings to mind a dirge-like atmosphere. Byrne’s righteous thrashings against Reagan’s America carry renewed weight in the despondency of the Trump-era. So despite his attempts at optimism, aching futility runs through the heart of the show; most pointed when Byrne sings the famous lines from in Once In A Lifetime: “Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”

31. The Painter and the Thief (2020)

7.8

Country

Norway, United States of America

Director

Benjamin Ree

Actors

Karl-Bertil Nordland

The Painter and the Thief opens with a great hook: an artist tracks down and confronts the man who stole her painting. In a surprising turn, the two become close and develop an intimacy that deepens when she begins to paint the troubled man.

Yet, director Benjamin Ree pushes past where other documentarians would have been content to stop, and instead begins to deconstruct the very narrative we’ve followed up till now. At its core, this is a film about the way we tell stories about ourselves and others, and how often people don’t fit into the neat categories we set out for them.

agmtw
eu

© 2022 agoodmovietowatch, all rights reserved.

We are home to the best film and TV on popular streaming services. Supported only by readers like you and by public grants.