Favorite Movies of 2020
Barely leaving the house for months was bad for many things, but it was great for movie lists. I watched roughly 121 movies, more than any previous year by far. Below are my favorites, broken into two lists. The first is for movies that actually came out this year, and the second for the best movies I saw this year that came out pre-2020. The latter is, of course, the superior list, and if you're not a movie-addict you should probably start there as you will likely find some gems. But, despite the relatively slim pickings of new movies this year, I think there was plenty of excellent work being done and I'd suggest 2020 was a fine year for movies. Not great, but not so bad either.
Hopefully you'll find a few future favorites for yourself as well!
Note: each movie title is linked to the Rotten Tomatoes page.
Favorite Non-2020 Movies I Saw in 2020
- Yi Yi [Taiwanese Drama]: “Saying ‘Yi Yi’ a three-hour Taiwanese family drama is like calling ‘Citizen Kane’ a film about a newspaper". The single best movie I watched this year, possibly the best movie I've seen in years. Life-affirming, devastating, small and huge simulteanously. The little boy is the key to the movie. Definitely not for everyone, but if you've ever heard of this movie and debated watching it because its run time is 3 hours - go watch it. It is worth the time investment.
- Minding the Gap [Documentary]: A disaffected skater kid makes a documentary about his friends and ends up delivering piercing insight into the core of America. Truly exceptional. Couldn't stop thinking about it for days.
- A Separation [Iranian Drama]: A movie about divorce in Iran that ends up being about class, duty, responsibility, and so much more. A true masterpiece.
- The Bicycle Thief [Italian Drama]: 1940s movie about a man looking for his bike in post-war Italy. Absolutely crushed me. I see why every significant director ever has listed this as one of their favorite films.
- The Secret in Their Eyes [Argentinian Thriller]: The most fun movie I saw all year. Sprawling blend of mystery, legal thriller, and political thriller set in Argentina. It might be helpful to have a working knowledge of Argentinian politics before you watch, but its not necessary.
- Mean Streets [Crime]: One of my favorites from Scorcese. De Niro is untouchable as a small time crook.
- Monos [Art House]: Surrealist film about child soldiers. Lord of the Flies on steriods. Not for everyone.
- Queen and Slim [Drama]: Two black americans have a run in with the police and embark on a tour of America. Beautiful throughout and a killer soundtrack.
- I Lost My Body [Animated]: A severed hands tries to reconnect with its body. An emotional gut-punch with beautiful animation and weighty themes.
- Train to Busan [Korean Zombies]: Simple plot: zombies are here, we need to get on a train to Busan. Much more fun and interesting than it has any right to be. Tense and delightful throughout.
Favorite 2020 Movies
- Mangrove [Courtroom Drama]: This courtroom drama about 1971 police brutality in the UK is so specific, so engrossing, and so perfect for this moment. Warning: you may accidentally pick up a West Indian accent for a few days after watching.
- Collective [Documentary]: A jaw-dropping investigation into the healthcare system and corruption more generally of Romania. Will not inspire any love for your fellow man. Will inspire fear at what man is capable of.
- Boys State [Documentary]: Watching boys play at politics and learn the realities of the world is way more fun (and way more depressing) than anyone would have expected.
- Hamilton [Musical]: I never saw the play and expected this to be overhyped. It was not.
- The Trial of the Chicago 7 [Courtroom Drama]: Sorkin remains the best screenwriter alive. Hilarious, perceptive, and beautiful script buttressed by a few great performances.
- The Vast of Night [Mystery Thriller]: Tiny sci-fi thriller about strange things in the sky in 1950s America that reminded me why I love finding new directors. Plus: that shot (you'll know it when you see it).
- Host [Horror]: 60 minute horror movie filmed entirely through Zoom. Rises above the gimmick to a super fun and slightly spooky movie that is perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon.
- Palm Springs [Comedy]: I'm a sucker for Andy Sandberg. The funniest movie I saw this year.
- Bacurau [Neo-Western Art House]: A neo-western exploitation film filled with colorful characters. The plot is bizarre (a Brazilian town fights to keep their place on the map) and delightful. Its very weird and slow at points, so probably not for everyone.
- Soul [Animation]: In the same tier of Pixar movies as Up and Inside Out. Life lessons abound.
Not Top Ten But Still Very Good 2020 Movies
- Mank! [Historical Drama]
- The Invisible Man [Thriller]
- Bad Education [Comedy/Drama]
- I'm Thinking of Ending Things [MindF*ck]
- Another Round [Drama]
- The Platform [Thriller]
- Tenet [Action]
- The Gentlemen [Action Comedy]
- His House [Horror]
- Blow the Man Down [Crime Drama]
If you liked a lot of these movies as well, you'd probably also like to check out my top 50 movies list as well.
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