This year, in a phrase, sucked out loud — even when it came to the best films of 2020. We all know why and most of the reasons are attached to “Six Separations of Sucky Coronavirus.” The most harrowing thing for cinephiles is what was happening to the entire movie theater experience.
From bankruptcy to VODs to putting the theatrical release cycle into hyperdrive, we were all ruing the day we would hear all cinemas were shuttered. Then tentpoles like Tenet in the summer and the much-delayed Wonder Woman 1984 in the winter gave us brief glimpses of hope.
Through all the delays, halts in production, and keeping schedules together with a massive roll of duct tape and smoker’s phlegm, 2020 cranked out some impressive films after all. Among the best films of 2020 were some unexpected sources like indies and streamers. And we’re here to celebrate them all.
Here are the Top 10 best films of 2020 as determined by the MoviesMatrix.
10. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Indies dare to tackle topics or make movies when others will not, and 2020 is no surprise that many of the best films of 2020 were on the indie circuit. So, what’s with the title? It is a list of possible answers to a series of sensitive questions a social worker asks a pregnant teenager seeking an abortion.
Of course, a real-life social worker (Kelly Chapman) works with Director Eliza Hittman to point cinematic newcomer (and rising starlet) Sidney Flanigan in a dreary and inspiring tale of grim reality, tale of assault, and the loss of innocence. The tone is documentarian and the aesthetic is so personal. A movie for all to understand.
9. The Assistant
Now that we are all woke and fully comprehend #MeToo, along comes this sleeper of a film that was released with no fanfare and very little follow-up. Yet, this peek inside the life of an abused assistant from this vile movie executive is something Director Kitty Green gifted to all of us in January.
This dark, psychological exploration becomes personal quickly. How many times have you tried to do the right thing on the job and been met with hapless, careless bigwigs? Without tools to speak out, are you even heard? This movie becomes a struggle to watch because it is so real to so, so many.
Just when our spirits needed a serious lift in the face of this tumultuous year, here comes Soul. Easily, one of the most ambitious films from the Pixar catalog, this film delivers with as much visual appeal as it does heartfelt vocals.
The script, the voice acting, and the theme is something that refreshes us all in this awful year becoming one of the best films in 2020. With new souls, two heavens, and one complicated premise, this is definitely among the top three movies ever from Pixar.
7. The Invisible Man
Fitting that somehow, the “Dark Universe” has to rise from the dead in order for us to remember it was even there in the first place. And how better to bring us a reinvention in this classic genre than Leigh Whannell?
What a peculiar fashion to allow us to see The Invisible Man than through his victim’s eyes – Elisabeth Moss’ Cecilia. Beginning with a hair-raising opening sequence, where she escapes from her abusive relationship with optics engineer Adrian Griffin, this movie captures you from the onset and never lets up.
This was a tense and terrifying thriller – with one of the most shocking moments in film we’ve seen in a while. Of course, a list of the best films of 2020 would not be complete without this surprise.
6. Hillbilly Elegy
There they are — Glenn Close and Amy Adams. Between them, 13 Oscar nominations and not a single win. And now, they are together?! Everyone has a story, and just because this is a story about a white guy who escaped Appalachia to go to Yale, doesn’t mean this story wasn’t a necessary watch in 2020.
J.D. Vance wrote his jagged heart into the pages of his memoir Hillbilly Elegy, and four years later, Ron Howard made it into a gripping movie featuring two raw and evocative performances by those two golden ladies of Hollywood.
This story tells the tale of millions in this country. J.D. Vance only dared to put into print. And if you see this on Netflix, you’ll be glad he did.
5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
If you fancy a more detailed review of this fantastic movie, please check out the work from our @AmxndaReviews. In short, you have the triumphant Viola Davis acting alongside the heroic Chadwick Boseman in his last role — and they are both thrilling to watch in George C. Wolfe’s stunning adaption of August Wilson’s play.
The movie revolves around Gertrude “Ma” Rainey from the roaring late 1920s and one long Chicago recording session. That’s it, yet this movie highlights emotion, imagination, and exhilaration all at once. Masterclass in acting and cinematography and directing.
4. Da 5 Bloods
And speaking of Chadwick Boseman, he plays the existential glue in this Spike Lee joint. Make no mistake, this film is the mantle piece for Delroy Lindo, who was magnificent in this. If there isn’t an Oscar nomination — or award — with his name on it, 2020 will haunt us all.
What is fascinating is how Spike Lee is able to take the pain of yesterday and equate it to the pain of today without effort. For these soldiers, and the thousands of others at home, the Vietnam War never ended. To make the PTSD stress and war-torn memories even more vivid is how Delroy Lindo leads us all into a tale of how Black lives did not seem to matter at home although they sacrificed just as much overseas.
Freedom has never been free. This movie is a stark reminder of that aphorism.
Garrett Bradley directs much more than a film here; it’s a glimpse into a life of someone we have all met, whether you know it or not. This docudrama captures us frozen in time so we can understand the decades of someone else — Fox Rich.
This is an activist, abolitionist, mother of six, and wife of a man sentenced to 60 years in prison. We see most of this story through the veil of personal home movies and a stack of irrefutable evidence collected over the past two decades to set her husband, Rob, free.
This is a surprising film that does more than portrays a story, it proselytizes about the true effects of incarceration and highlights the pain on the faces you never see. This film is full of faith and fire, joy and pain, and a morale that few want to hear these days despite the millions shouting it — the system is broken and needs fixing.
You have Frances McDormand and an Indie film. Can anyone smell that Oscar cooking? Chloé Zhao’s drama is a righteous tour de force that highlights the impregnable spirit of a woman who has nothing to lose and a whole world to gain.
The film—which features real people alongside professional actors—showcases McDormand as Fern who experiences a couple of tragic nightmares related to the American Dream and begins living life in her van and wherever life takes her. Much like a welcomed and rare Instagram handle, there is no filter here. What you see is what most of us all get in life, and we’re better off for it.
1. The Trial of the Chicago 7
Sometimes, to make history you need a little serendipity. While Aaron Sorkin began flexing his quill on this screenplay three years ago, look at the timing of this release. It all got finished before COVID-19 got busy and it was viewed amid all the world becoming woke about how black lives really do matter.
As we see in the film: “The whole world is watching” and they watched this film with gripping delight and interest, namely in that mesmerizing cast of Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
This powerful retelling of the noted 1969 trial touched upon racism, social ills, moral injustice, and crooked politicians. Again, there’s that serendipity. The movie was wrought with emotion because of what happened then…and now. If you don’t believe this was one of the best films of 2020, it was certainly one of the most important.