The Flickering Myth writing team share our top ten movies of 2020…
And so we come to the end of 2020 – a year which I’m sure virtually everyone is glad to see behind us. The past twelve months been a hugely difficult and trying time for all, what with events that have engulfed the globe, and as we turn our attention to 2021 and – hopefully – the prospect of a brighter future, it’s time to cast our eye back over the cinematic offerings that have kept us entertained and enthralled through what has otherwise been quite the stinker of a year.
We began 2020 looking forward to the likes of No Time to Die, Black Widow, Fast & Furious 9, Top Gun: Maverick, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Jungle Cruise, Morbius, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Eternals, West Side Story and The Last Duel, and twelve months on there’s a great sense of déjà vu. So, as we cross our fingers and hope that the aforementioned titles manage to stick to their current 2021 release plans, here’s our favourite movies to have made it to the screen (big or small, given the current climate) during 2020.
As always, our writers have produced their individual lists, which we’ve used to create our overall top ten. As international release dates are still a thing, some of our individual lists include UK releases from 2020 (see Parasite, etc.), but we’ve only counted those movies which had their first release (either US or UK) in 2020 in the overall list.
10. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Directed by Eliza Hittman.
Starring Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Kelly Chapman, Sharon Van Etten, Ryan Eggold and Drew Seltzer.
First up in our list – and just edging out HBO’s Bad Education and Neon’s Shirley to a place in our top ten is writer-director Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a powerful and poignant drama about teen pregnancy and abortion.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a tough watch, with its raw portrayal of a young woman struggling for control hitting hard with viewers of any age and level of privilege. It doesn’t pull punches in its approach to either toxic masculinity or the inequalities inherent within the American healthcare system, but it wields its hammer with a subtlety and flair that prevents it from ever becoming a schmaltzy “issues movie”. This is a complex and potent story told by a filmmaker who is absolutely certain of her vision and able to communicate it in style.” – Read our full review here.
9. The Invisible Man
Directed by Leigh Whannell.
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Storm Reid, Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer, Amali Golden, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
After a false start with The Mummy and the ill-fated Dark Universe, Universal’s iconic Monsters returned in February as genre specialists Blumhouse Productions reintroduced The Invisible Man for the 21st century and showed Universal and Alex Kurtzman how it should be done.
“Timely and unbearably tense, this will put you through the emotional wringer in the smartest, most enjoyable way possible, and largely due to a next-level performance from Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man has to be seen.” – Read our full review here.
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg.
Starring Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Bean, Gabrielle Graham, Matthew Garlick, and Tuppence Middleton.
2020 brought us a rather fantastic new Cronenberg body horror movie – albeit one from Brandon Cronenberg, as opposed to his father David – in the slick and stylish psychological nightmare Possessor. Long live the new flesh…
“In a year that has given us dozens of moody, slow-burning, character-driven pieces Possessor comes as something of a welcome relief, giving us a high concept story crafted into an engrossing and highly polished example of genre cinema.. Possessor shows that although Brandon Cronenberg has clearly inherited a lot of his father’s talents, his own take on the style is beginning to shine through and makes whatever is coming next a very exciting prospect indeed.” – Read our full review here.
7. Another Round
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang, Maria Bonnevie, Helene Reingaard Neumann, Magnus Sjørup, Silas Cornelius Van and Albert Rudbeck Lindhart.
At #7 in our list this year (by virtue of the fact that Sam Mendes’ 1917 and the Safdies’ Uncut Gems opened in 2019 in the U.S.) we have Another Round, which sees Mads Mikkelsen delivering a vintage performance in this intoxicating Danish comedy drama.
“It’s unusual to see frumpy, unglamorous middle-aged male crises on the big screen – unless it’s part of the elaborate set-up to a punchline in a Jason Bateman bro-type comedy – but Another Round ensures it is truly compelling… And in a bid for 2020’s most exuberant cinematic moment, the viewer is also treated to some wonderful moves, thrown with wild abandon, by former dancer Mikkelsen.” – Read our full review here.
6. Da 5 Bloods
Directed by Spike Lee.
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Delroy Lindo, Jean Reno, Jonathan Majors, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Pääkkönen, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Clarke Peters, Mélanie Thierry, Norm Lewis, and Van Veronica Ngo.
The penultimate film of the late Chadwick Boseman (and one of two Netflix movies that has the star in contention for posthumous Oscar recognition alongside Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Spike Lee’s latest joint Da 5 Bloods is both powerful and timely, and among the filmmaker’s best.
“Da 5 Bloods is just as much an action flick as it is a deeply provocative commentary on race and war… It is a vital piece of art that transcends claims such as being one of the best movies of the year. It is absolutely that, and a necessary tool to broaden perspectives and thoughts on both race and war alike.” – Read our full review here.
5. Black Bear
Directed by Lawrence Michael Levine.
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon, Lindsay Burdge, Jennifer Kim, Paola Lázaro, Shannon O’Neill, Grantham Coleman, Alexander Koch, and Lou Gonzalez.
At #5 in our list this year is Black Bear, an intense and compelling psychological dramedy from writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine and featuring a career-best performance from the always excellent Aubrey Plaza.
“Black Bear is the most spell-binding movies I’ve seen this year, with such magnetic acting and a twisted story that makes you hang onto every word… It’s hard to call something unique in 2020, but this really is one of this generation’s most unique films.” – Read our full review here.
4. Saint Maud
Directed by Rose Glass.
Starring Morfydd Clark, Jennifer Ehle, Lily Frazer, Lily Knight, Rosie Sansom and Turlough Convery.
2020 was a solid year for horror, with the best of the bunch being Saint Maud, the feature debut of British writer-director Rose Glass, which FM’s EJ Moreno hailed as “the best horror debut since Hereditary“.
“Saint Maud is not only sharp-toothed and self-aware, but it is also impeccably calculated when it comes to quick-cut juxtaposing blind faith and sanity, erupting with a final shot that can only be described as fucked up as it is sidesplittingly funny. Rose Glass brings more than fine-tuned scares; this is a tragic comedy and a cautionary tale all wrapped up into one devilishly compelling package. It’s a warped concoction of holy water and blood sacrifice, and if there’s any God in this world Rose Glass will single-handedly save cinema.” – Read our full review here.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Himesh Patel and Michael Caine.
As overlong and confusing as ambitious and complex, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet may not have reached the heights of Inception (our favourite film of 2010), but it still delivered enough entertainment and spectacle to claim third place in our list. Maybe turn things down a little next time though, Chris…
“Tenet is every inch a Christopher Nolan movie. It’s as infuriating as it is masterful and challenges the audience to match the intelligence of a filmmaker who conjures a dense, knotty narrative framework and then hammers the gas pedal so hard that no audience could keep pace. More than anything the director has produced before, this feels like he has made his James Bond film – a globe-trotting spy tale, albeit one infused with a devilishly tricksy high-concept flavour.” – Read our review here.
2. Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Directed by Cathy Yan.
Starring Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina.
Okay, hands up – who picked Birds of Prey to end 2020 as not only the highest-grossing comic book movie of the year, but also the best? However, with Marvel out of the way and only really Wonder Woman 1984 and Bloodshot as competition, that’s exactly what has happened.
“Inventive and fresh at every turn, Birds of Prey embraces the chaos of Gotham to conjure something entirely different to any previous big screen vision of Batman’s home. The dream team of Yan, Hodson and Robbie has produced something very special indeed. If nothing else, this is a film that manages to make a disgusting-looking egg sandwich a major emotional plot point. That’s the level of genius we’re dealing with here.” – Read our review here.
Directed by Steve McQueen.
Starring Shaun Parkes, Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall, Sam Spruell, Jack Lowden and Alex Jennings.
Had we been including UK release dates, this year’s top spot would have been occupied by Bong Joon-Ho’s Oscar-winning Parasite (which featured at #3 in our list from 2019). Instead however, the honour falls to Steve McQueen’s Mangrove.
While many filmmakers struggled to get a single movie on screen this year, 12 Years a Slave helmer McQueen delivered five with his Small Axe anthology of films about the lives, struggles and experiences of London’s West Indian community.
We debated whether to include Small Axe in the voting, given its television premiere and the fact it is being submitted for Emmy consideration rather than Oscar, or whether to include all five films as a collective whole. However, in a year where Disney’s Mulan became a $200 million straight-to-video (showing our age there) release and Pixar’s Soul a TV Movie, who the hell cares? When we totalled up our votes, Mangrove finished head and shoulders above the other Small Axe films, and indeed every other release this year, and so becomes Flickering Myth’s Best Film of 2020.
“Mangrove will attract all of the buzz words about being “relevant” and “vital” that critics have to offer, and it deserves all of them. But first and foremost, this is a powerful story of a community who were backed into a corner from which they had to fight out. It was relevant then, it’s relevant now and it’ll be relevant for as long as Black people still face structural inequality and systemic violence. To further that conversation, cinema needs to know when to make a nuanced argument and when to yell its point to the rafters. Mangrove does both, and it does them brilliantly.” – Read our review here.
Here are our writers’ individual favourites…
Gary Collinson – 1917
EJ Moreno – Black Bear
Tom Beasley – Parasite
Tom Jolliffe – Parasite
Shaun Munro – Mangrove
Matt Rodgers – Tenet
Rachel Bellwoar – Carmilla
George Nash – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Tori Brazier – Another Round
Alex Moreland – Shirley
Our previous Top Tens…
2019 – The Irishman
2018 – Avengers: Infinity War
2017 – Blade Runner 2049
2016 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2015 – Ex Machina
2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy
2013 – Gravity
2012 – The Dark Knight Rises
2011 – Drive
2010 – Inception
Be sure to let us know your favourite movies of 2020 on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…