The Best Movies of the 2020s So Far

The Best Movies of the 2020s So Far

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Saying that 2020 came with a bang just might be the understatement of the century. The year ushered in a global pandemic that upended all of what we knew in the modern world, forcing us to reconsider what we deemed as valuable and even good. 

With more content than ever before, both filmmaker and filmgoer have seen a growth in discernment, and with that, a boost in standards. So far, this has meant more solid techniques, diverse perspectives, and empathetic takes. Below, we list the most notable titles that uphold these qualities—in other words, the very best movies of the 2020s.

70. Red Rocket (2021)

7.4

Country

United States of America

Director

Sean Baker

Actors

Bree Elrod, Karren Karagulian, Shih-Ching Tsou, Simon Rex

Moods

Dark, Depressing, Dramatic

When Mikey Saber’s porn career takes a dip in California, he returns to an estranged wife in Texas, where he meets new and old friends alike and attempts to rebuild his life through a couple of odd jobs. Though Mikey eventually earns his keep, his vanity and eagerness to succeed at all costs threaten to get the best of him.

All this happens against a vibrant backdrop of local sights, beautifully lit and framed by director Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine). Quaint, naturalistic, and ever-so-subtly political, Red Rocket is another great entry into Baker’s impressions of the vexed American Dream.

69. The Grizzlies (2020)

7.4

Country

Canada

Director

Female director, Miranda de Pencier

Actors

Anna Lambe, Ben Schnetzer, Booboo Stewart, Brad Fraser

Moods

Easy, Emotional, Feel-Good

This uplifting Canadian sports drama is based on a true story set in the remote Nunavut town of Kugluktuk. The small community has the highest teen suicide rate in North America, as it suffers from intergenerational trauma, and the resulting alcohol and drug abuse. A new young history teacher who is sent by the government is shocked by the state of the school and the lives of the teenagers. He realizes that he can’t engage the kids with history, and turns to his passion for Lacrosse to try to ignite change.

The teacher and director of the movie are both white, which, added to the story, raise red flags about white savior tropes. But thanks to First Nation producers who made sure the kids had time to develop their characters, The Grizzlies narrowly misses disaster. Instead, it gives a voice to communities that are rarely heard from. 

68. Babyteeth (2020)

7.4

Country

Australia

Director

Female director, Shannon Murphy

Actors

Andrea Demetriades, Arka Das, Ben Mendelsohn, Charles Grounds

Moods

Dark, Quirky, Weird

This artistic Australian coming-of-age drama stars Eliza Scanlen (Little Women, Sharp Objects) as Milla, a teen from a dysfunctional family. The father is a psychologist and the mother suffers from depression, so he medicates her under the table. Meanwhile, Milla, a 16 year old, starts dating a charismatic almost-homeless 24 year old drug dealer. Unusual circumstances make the family tolerate the relationship in this story where every character feels like the main one. 

If you’re looking for something different, you will love Babyteeth. Something happens to Milla in the 10 minute mark that descriptions and reviews online all mention – but is definitely a spoiler. Just know that it’s not all romance and coming-of-age, there is slow-burning darkness to this movie. 

67. The Good Boss (2022)

7.5

Country

Spain

Director

Fernando León de Aranoa

Actors

Almudena Amor, Celso Bugallo, Daniel Chamorro, Fernando Albizu

Moods

Funny, Grown-up Comedy, Lighthearted

In this office comedy of errors, Javier Bardem plays Blanco, the titular boss, but whether he is actually good is what the movie wryly examines.

As head of a small manufacturing company, Blanco treats his employees intimately, going so far as make their problems his own. He believes this is why his company is nominated for an excellence certification, but as he waits for the possible award, cracks start to appear in his “work is family” facade as everything that could go wrong, starts going wrong. The Good Boss is an anxiety fest for Blanco to be sure, but a winning tragicomedy for us all.

66. A Cop Movie (2021)

7.5

Country

Mexico

Director

Alonso Ruizpalacios

Actors

Leonardo Alonso, Mónica Del Carmen, Raúl Briones

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Discussion-sparking

In the Mexican film A Cop Movie, director Alonso Ruizpalacios mixes fact and fiction, documentary and narrative, to tell the tale of Teresa and Montoya, two police officers whose dreams are dashed by the corruption of their trade and who, eventually, find love and comfort in each other.

Ruizpalacios takes thrilling risks in structuring this genre-bending story—cutting stories into parts, jumping back and forth between the harrowingly real and captivatingly non-real. For all the experimental maneuvers he makes, however, the through-line is always Teresa and Montoya: particularly, their love for each other and for an institution that should have, in an ideal world, supported them and the people they vowed to protect. 

To its credit, instead of merely humanizing the controversial police force, A Cop Movie adds some much-needed nuance to the big picture. At the end of the day, they’re no different than any other underpaid laborers working desperately to make end meets. A Cop Movie doesn’t gloss over the fact that the police, like so many other workers, are stuck in a rotten system that’s long overdue for a major overhauling. 

65. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020)

7.5

Country

United States of America

Director

Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross

Actors

Shay Walker

Moods

Slice-of-Life

This stirring peek into the final days of a shuttering Las Vegas dive might be one of the finest odes to American bar culture yet. It also serves as a powerful portrait of a particular moment deep into the disastrous Trump years, yet right before the pandemic struck.

Directors Bill and Turner Ross capture the good, bad, and ugly, allowing conversations to unfold naturally. The colorful hues of the bar create a cinematic canvas for the patrons, who awash with booze and nostalgia, uncertainty, fear, and love, spend their last day together. If there was ever a film for those who miss the rough and tumble nightlife of the pre-Covid world, this is it. 

64. 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.

63. 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.

62. 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.

61. 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.

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