My Favourite Films of 2020

It's an understatement to call 2020 a hell of a year, or even a hellish year. In spite of cinemas being closed for it's majority, that didn't lessen the quality in regards to the films released, just alter the method we received it. Whatever happens going forward, the ways we watch films won't be the same, but we can hope the quality will remain strong as ever.

Due to the circumstances of the world, awards contenders like NomadlandPromising Young Woman, and Minari have yet to air in the UK, so they're completely absent from this list. Even when the UK gets these awards favourites later, this just seems excessive. As for 2020 UK releases such as Parasite and Portrait of a Lady on Fire, those rank highly among my Best of 2019 List. So, now that I finally have the will to do this, let's see what films I considered my favourite from 2020.

Note: A special mention is deserved for Hamilton, one of the best things streaming services gave us in the past year, which I have chosen not to include on my list.

Honourable Mentions:

One Night In Miami..., a charming tale about real-life figures enjoying a single night together, sharing their troubles in the midst of personal successes.

Color Out of Space, a gripping piece of cosmic horror which sees a meteorite distort reality on a family's farm.

The Bold, The Corrupt, and The Beautiful, a thrilling tale of corruption while a family tries to keep their heads above water.

Spontaneous, a tale about the unfairness of life, the difficulty in transitioning to adulthood, and finding joy with those close to you, told through spontaneously exploding teenagers.

Bacurau, where a small-town community comes together to embrace their home, with blood-soaked touches of exploitation cinema.

Soul, Pixar's latest piece of vibrant animation about what truly makes our lives fulfilling.

Sea Fever, a tense tale of aquatic isolation, as a research crew struggle against a parasitic infection.

VFW, a neon-drenched siege flick which depicts war veterans fighting drug-crazed hordes over a white-knuckled 90-minutes.

Come To Daddy, Ant Timpson's tale of underlying regret delivered in darkly comedic ways, as Elijah Wood's musician attempts to reconnect with his estranged father.

Two Heads Creek, a timely flick framed around xenophobic attitudes, to balance laugh-out loud humour, excellent gore, and even a catchy musical number.

20. Da 5 Bloods

The latest feature from Spike Lee focuses on a group of Black Vietnam veterans, returning to find their troop leader's remains and the gold they buried during the war. What we're given is a timely and powerful look at PTSD and traumas endured overseas, by men who fought for a country that thoroughly despises them. It's a showcase for much terrific talent, with Delroy Lindo standing tall with a powerful performance, of a man whose ghosts manifest in vitriolic rages. It's also melancholic to see Chadwick Boseman as Stormin' Norman, especially in regards to his emotional final scene.

19. Death of a Vlogger

In today's world, has there been more of a double-edged sword than the internet? This is approached by writer, director, star, producer, and editor Graham Hughes in this tale, as an ambitious vlogger becomes a viral sensation after one of his videos indicates he is being haunted. The story then deals with this dark supernatural force, while dealing with the effects of finding fame on the internet, for an unsettling tale which makes effective use of modern technologies. What we're left with is a timely ghost story ready to leave you unsettled, and with food for thought.

18. Dogs Don't Wear Pants

Seven years after his wife drowned, a widower finds himself emotionally distant as he raises his daughter alone. Through a chance encounter with a dominatrix, he catches a glimpse of his late wife, and for the first time in years, feels something. Director Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää tells a story about grief which feels so unique, as two people find solace in each other's company, portrayed so exceptionally by Pekka Strang and Krista Kosonen. There's no interest in using the BDSM element for cheap titilation, with it instead being used for a fascinating exploration of grief and loss.

17. The Assistant

Through looking at a day in the life of a powerful executive's assistant, director Kitty Green coldly depicts how a blind eye is easily turned to predatory behaviour, and how it can sadly become another mundane part of working in an office. The film rests on Julia Garner's exemplary performance, as she feels powerless against the prevailing toxicity, where laughs and inside jokes are shared over the prospect of assault. An important film that's far from an easy watch, this is everything Bombshell failed to be.

16. Another Round

Four friends in their 40's find themselves struggling with how their lives have turned out, so conduct a hypothesis by constantly staying drunk. What begins as a way of raising their confidence becomes a way for these men to try and recapture their youth, in this unique mid-life crisis from director Thomas Vinterberg. As you feel the elation in these friends, it becomes apparent this is just a momentary escape from their issues, as the film balances humour and emotional devastation. Delivering one of his best performances, Mads Mikkelsen is exemplary from beginning to magnificent end.

15. His House

What Remi Weekes has brought to screen is an exceptional spin on the haunted house story, delivered in creepy and affecting ways. The story follows refugees who have fled their war-torn home of South Sudan, intent on settling in the UK, and must contend with the ghosts from their past. Expertly conveying this are Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku, who powerfully convey their struggles grappling with the past, and persevering towards the future. It's also worth mentioning, this highlights how rich storytelling can be if it's told through different perspectives.

14. A Little More Flesh

A relevant film about misogyny, the sophomore feature by Sam Ashurst is a wonderful calling card for his vibrant style. Presented as a film within a film, viewers bear witness to a fictional movie which is a getting a Blu-Ray release, long after it was banned in the 1970's. Director Stanley Durall is recording an audio commentary for the film, where he's candid about the transgressions made during production. He comes to realise he is viewing a brand-new cut of the film, which has been interspersed with behind the scenes footage, all while hearing mysterious sounds outside his recording booth. A one of a kind feature where the horror comes from all too real toxic attitudes, as those in power abuse their positions, and the poor victims are left to suffer the consequences. It won't leave your mind anytime soon.

13. The Vast of Night

For his directorial debut, Andrew Patterson crafts a throwback to 50s era sci-fi, framed as an episode of a Twilight Zone-esque series, about two radio-obsessed teens who discover a strange frequency over the airwaves. It approaches the subject matter in a quiet manner, focusing on character and the slowly unfolding story, while making sure the viewers are hanging onto every word that's said. Between the tremendous performances by Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick, this is a wonderful two-hander that does so much with so little, and will stick in your mind long afterwards.

12. Away

Taking three and a half years to finish, Gints Zilbalodis brought this project to life by working every job on his own. The end result is a visually stunning feature told without a need for dialogue, as anything of importance is clear enough for viewers. It's a straightforward tale, as a boy travels across an island on a motorbike, trying to evade a spirit and make his way home. An excellent standout among animated fare.

11. Saint Maud

A religious young nurse arrives to care for a former dancer, intent on saving her soul. Rose Glass does tremendous work with her feature debut, crafting an engrossing tale of psychological unease, where the real horror lies in the unravelling of ones mind. Morfydd Clark is exceptional in the lead role, leaving viewers with a constant sense of dread from the beginning, all the way to that exceptional final shot.

10. Dick Johnson Is Dead/Our Time Machine

I couldn't separate these two films, as they dealt with similar subject matter in equally emotional ways, as both focused on a creative utilising their art to cope with the idea of losing their father. Dick Johnson Is Dead followed Kristen Johnson staging her father's death in inventive ways, while Our Time Machine gave focus to Maleonn creating an autobiographical stage performance with puppets, inspired by his father's deteriorating mind. Both are exceptional documentaries with strong emotional centres.

9. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

The latest documentary from Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross charts the last night of Roaring 20's, a bar that is closing down, as it's patrons gather to say farewell. We see a variety of people come and go throughout the night, and it's clear what this bar means to each of them. Coming from all walks of life, this bar was their little refuge which made them feel welcome when nobody else would. What will happen to this community without their hub? Will the friendships remain? The answer's unclear, but it's a humorous and devastating journey as it is.

8. The Invisible Man

Considering how much occurred in the year, it's hard to believe this was released in 2020. Filmmaker Leigh Whannell teamed up with Blumhouse to reimagine the classic Universal property, reconfiguring the Claude Rains character into a story about an abuse survivor being stalked by her vicious ex, who has found a way to become invisible. The result is a smartly written tale of gaslighting and manipulation, told in tense ways, with the restaurant scene being one of the best moments of the year. Let's not be like the Academy and overlook an exemplary Elizabeth Moss, giving one of 2020's best performances.

7. Rocks

For her next feature, Sarah Gavron directs an affecting story about a teenage girl who is left to look after her younger brother, when their mother abandons them. She's forced to grow much earlier than she should be made to, and this is a story dedicated to the poor children who are made to do such a thing, when forced to act in such saddening circumstances. The young cast have wonderful chemistry, believably capturing the key friendships which are central to this film, providing the beating heart within this story. They all put strong performances into these utterly believable characters, forced to enact in this tough situation, and this is a gripping story which will have you laughing easily, and feeling emotional by the end of it all.

6. Mangrove

Across his Small Axe series, Steve McQueen aimed to tell the experiences of West Indian life in Britain, and his first instalment depicted the true story of the Mangrove Nine, who were arrested for protesting police brutality, and the subsequent trial which took place at Old Bailey. It all began with a small restaurant called The Mangrove, which Frank Crichlow wanted to just be a respectable business, and became a safe-space for the Black citizens of Notting Hill, in spite of Police intimidation tactics. It's an excellent showcase for a powerhouse cast, who are a part of an engrossing story, and a necessary piece of British history which deserves to be shown in schools.

5. Feels Good Man

Pepe The Frog has had quite the journey, going from a comic creation to a popular internet meme, before being adopted by white supremacists as a rallying symbol for their hatred. A compelling story following the history of the character, as they're taken out of the creators hands, and turned into a recognised hate symbol. With wonderfully animated segments, detailing Pepe and his co-stars from the Boys Life comics, this is a tale that'll make you feel sad for a cartoon frog, and deliver a renewed sense of hope by the end.

4. Host

Of all the films released in the past year, Rob Savage's lockdown horror may best exemplify the pandemic, and a big part may be how it was shot in the midst of the first lockdown. Occurring over Zoom, a group of friends have decided to have a seance, only for an evil spirit to invade the chat. Across the lean 56-minute runtime, we're given a good feel for each of the characters involved, so that we can feel for them once thrust into this nightmarish situation. What unfolds is one of the scariest horror experiences I've had, utilising its tricks and tools for an exceptional experience.

3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Drawn from first-hand scenes she witnessed, director Eliza Hittman tells a powerful tale about a 17-year old travelling to New York with her cousin, intent on getting an abortion. As we see the unnecessary hoops our lead must jump through, as a result of her choice of what to do with her own body, we share in her frustration. It's a tremendous feature led by two exemplary performances from Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder, and contains one of the most powerful scenes of 2020, relating to the film's title.

2. Possessor

An attention-grabbing piece of grisly science-fiction, Brandon Cronenberg played it far from safe for his second feature film. The story follows an assassin who undertakes their job through brain-implant technology, which allows them to control other people's bodies to undertake the executions. When a job goes wrong, the lines blur between the assassin and the original controller of the body, and the struggle for control intensifies. An original piece of work which deserves re-watches to unpack what you've seen, it's the horror version of Inception, but with more visible cocks on-screen.

1. Wolfwalkers

Of all the films I saw from 2020, none blew me away more than the latest feature by Cartoon Saloon, who are one of the most underrated animation studios working today. A young apprentice hunter and her father arrive in Ireland, tasked with wiping out the last pack of Wolves. Things aren't as simple as they appear, when the young hunter makes friends with a free-spirited girl who comes from a mysterious tribe, rumoured to transform into Wolves at night. This gorgeously rendered tale calls to mind the stylings of anime and fables, as heartfelt characterization sits alongside a thrilling tale about the evils of colonization, and the lengths parents will go to for their children. It's a glorious story, and was the best film I saw in 2020.

Agree/Disagree with my choices? Sound off below.