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.

60. Your Name Engraved Herein (2020)

7.7

Country

Taiwan

Director

Kuang-Hui Liu

Actors

David Chiu, Edward Chen, Hui-Min Lin, Jing-Hua Tseng

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.

59. Barbarian (2022)

7.7

Country

United States of America

Director

Zach Cregger

Actors

Bill Skarsgård, Brooke Dillman, Georgina Campbell, J.R. Esposito

Moods

Dark, Grown-up Comedy, Intense

Rarely do we get horror movies that are as dedicated to toying with audience expectations as Barbarian. Even rarer is a horror movie that pays so much attention to setting, and how men and women approach and interact with physical spaces in different ways. It’s a film that’s ultimately about entitlement—except it’s delivered to us with jet-black humor and manic energy, shifting from romantic to ridiculous to raving mad. But with instantly charming performances from Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgård—and Justin Long doing a brilliant job playing an absolute jerk—Barbarian never leaves you grasping in the dark, even if it leads you deeper into hell.

58. The Innocents (2021)

7.7

Country

Denmark, Finland, France

Director

Eskil Vogt

Actors

Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Lisa Tønne, Marius Kolbenstvedt

Moods

Challenging, Dramatic, Raw

The Innocents is a Norweigan thriller that follows four kids who discover they have supernatural powers over the summer. They play around and experiment in the woods nearby, but what begins as harmless fun quickly develops into something much more disturbing and sinister.

This unnerving film, a blend of fantasy and horror, doesn’t waste time explaining the origins of its mysticism. Instead, it goes straight into action—bending, twisting, and splitting open anything and anyone that gets in its way. This kind of rawness is shocking given the age range of the characters, but it also works to subvert what we’ve come to expect from kids, youth, and goodness. The Innocents isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you can manage some bloody and unhindged scenes, then it’s sure worth checking out. Directed by Eskil Vogt, co-writer of critically-acclaimed films like Thelma and The Worst Person in the World

57. 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.

56. 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.

55. Stutz (2022)

7.8

Country

United States of America

Director

Jonah Hill

Actors

Jonah Hill

Moods

Challenging, Discussion-sparking, Feel-Good

Stutz is Jonah Hill’s loving tribute to his therapist Phil Stutz, a smart and empathetic man who’s dedicated his entire life to helping people. The conversations between them, deeply personal and vulnerable, are meaningful in themselves, but Stutz also works as a helpful instruction on how to be your best self and as a metanarrative on telling honest stories on a medium as seemingly artificial as film (it is similar to Bo Burnham’s Inside in that way).

Stutz is at once experimental and comforting, a real gem especially for people with an interest in psychoanalysis and alternative psychiatry. It’s at its best when the two men deal with uncomfortable truths in the kindest of ways, and it’s sure to be something people will return to often for advice and solace. Fun fact: the documentary was co-produced by Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara.

54. Minari (2021)

7.8

Country

United States of America

Director

Lee Isaac Chung

Actors

Chloe Lee, Darryl Cox, Ed Spinelli, Eric Starkey

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Dramatic

Minari is a film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, about a Korean-American family in search of the so-called American Dream. It is an intimate drama that is powerful yet quiet, and filled with moments of innocence. With dreamlike scoring, unique characters, and a captivating climax, this movie tugs on the heartstrings, and serves as a great reminder of the beauty of gratitude.

Thanks to these, plus winning performances across the board, Minari earned plenty of nominations at the 2021 Oscars, with Youn Yuh-jung eventually bagging the Best Supporting Actress award—a monumental first for South Korea.

53. Official Competition (2022)

7.8

Country

Argentina, Spain

Director

Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn

Actors

Ana Belén, Antonio Banderas, Daniel Chamorro, Irene Escolar

Moods

A-list actors, Character-driven, Grown-up Comedy

After receiving virtually unlimited funding from a wealthy businessman, Lola (played by the always excellent Penelope Cruz) sets out to mount an ambitious adaptation of a bestselling novel. To make her vision work, she employs renowned actors Ivan Torres (Oscar Martinez) and Felix Rivero (Antonio Banderas), knowing full well that their opposite philosophies in art and life will clash. What follows is a series of preps and rehearsals that play out like social experiments in their twistedness, which all in all speak to the outrageousness of film, art, and life itself.

In this Spanish dark comedy, no one is spared from satire—from the idiosyncratic auteur down to the sell-out actor, all are parodied in equal measure, each of their egos broken down in great and hilarious detail.

52. Donkeyhead (2022)

7.8

Director

Agam Darshi, Female director

Actors

Agam Darshi, Huse Madhavji, Kim Coates, Sandy Sidhu

Moods

Easy, Funny, Grown-up Comedy

This Canadian drama is directed by, written by, and stars first-time director Agam Darshi. It’s a labor of love about a 30-something woman who takes care of her sick father while trying to become a writer.

Mona (the character) comes from an immigrant Indian family, and she is proudly the black sheep of the bunch. When a visitor greets her with “God is Truth” in Punjabi, she replies in English with “Merry Christmas”, and when aunties catch her smoking she gives them the middle finger. Not to mention she is sleeping with a married man.

And yet the way the movie is made it works as a universal story – one about finding purpose in taking care of one’s parents while navigating complex family dynamics.

51. 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.”

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