2020 was the year we watched together while apart. That sentiment is reflected in the list of movies I’ve selected for my top ten. It was a tough year. We learned that “what we do to other people matters.” We did our best and sometimes failed at working from home and parenting during quarantine. Yet, that is the beauty of my number top films and my number one film of the year – PALM SPRINGS. It showed me that “in order to really know a person, you have to see the entire package. The good and the bad.” I’ve seen enough of the bad last year and these ten films encapsulate the good in the face of adversity and challenge.
Here are my best films of 2020. 🤩
MINARI is the film that should be getting the attention that NOMADLAND received this past year. The themes are more universal with messages like, “things that hide are more scary and dangerous” and “even if I fail, I have to finish what I started.”
It’s a brilliant film that SpoilerFreeReviews own Tarush illustrated and reviewed to perfection last year.
It’s available on VOD.
Illustration by Tarush Mohanti
“Great artists give you a way of looking at the world that you never saw before. And the only way they can do that is to show you their world.”
HOWARD is a pitch-perfect documentary that shows audiences how to be a part of Howard Ashman’s world. There are a lot of beasts in the telling of his narrative, but there are more beauties in this love letter to the man that revolutionized the animated musical.
It is available to stream on Disney Plus.
8. IF ANYTHING HAPPENS I LOVE YOU
In a mere 12-minutes, this short silently illustrates the stages of grief to perfection. As the American flag hangs in full color over the muted animated sketches – the point is devastatingly clear, we need to change.
After seeing this film, you will be so profoundly shaken that you will want to text your loved ones to experience it now. I just hope they will be able to text back before it is too late…
It’s available on Netflix.
07. BEASTIE BOYS STORY
“Watcha, Watcha, Whatcha Want?” I want more from the BEASTIE BOYS.
Pass the mic to Ad-Rock and Mike D for the best Ted Talk of 2020.
It is currently available to stream on Apple TV +
After two good films, SONG OF THE SEA and THE SECRET OF KELLS, filmmakers Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart have officially made their masterpiece. The brilliant 2D animation harkens back to early Disney while the inspiring story blends the action of PRINCESS MONONOKE and the underrated Playstation 2 classic, OKAMI.
This Irish tale may be man vs. nature, yet the heart belongs to a young girl who befriends a female wolfwalker (a person who transforms into a wolf when they sleep). That friendship blossoms into a meaningful yarn that audiences will not want to hit the “paws” button on.
This is the story about friendship and acceptance that 2020 needed. It’s available for the entire family to howl about on Apple TV +.
05. JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
“Anywhere there’s people, there’s power.”
What makes JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH so special is the sad reminder that “the badge is (still) scarier than the gun.”
Shaka King takes stylistic inspiration from Spike Lee and delivers a biopic about racism in the 60s, which audiences today can easily parallel to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Daniel Kaluuya turns in an Oscar worthy performance as the Black Panther leader, Fred Hampton. He humanizes him in the quiet moments, portraying him as an unexpected community leader. It’s riveting to watch Hampton question the bigger challenges of the Panthers and it’s similar to what the Republican party should be asking, “is the party about me or about the people?”
Adding to the Oscar worthy performances is the always mesmerizing Lakeith Stanfield. He plays the closest thing to a protagonist, William O’Neal, who infiltrated the Panthers while working undercover for the FBI.
Despite some narrative flaws in the second act, this is raw, powerful and emotional cinema at its best. It should have audiences not just shouting, “I am a revolutionary!” after viewing it, but also wanting to take action. And if you are wondering where to take action, here’s the link.
It is available on HBO Max.
04. WEATHERING WITH YOU
If audiences can weather the storm from the j-pop music video assault in the second half of WEATHERING WITH YOU, they will be treated to a modern anime classic that deals with complex emotional teen issues ranging from gun violence, global warming, young love and abandonment.
The film has the ability to engulf audiences, flooding them with a sea of emotions that may or may not require Kleenex.
Put differently, this is easily on the early short list for best films of 2020.
It’s available on VOD.
03. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
A revenge thriller done from the point-of-view of alleged Brett Kavanaugh college victims does not sound like a #MeToo thrill ride that audiences would want to watch. Yet, in the hands of Oscar worthy Carey Mulligan, this dark journey has more humor and empathy than one might expect.
No character gets off the hook for the sins of their past. Long after the credits roll, audiences will be hooked by the thought-provoking question at the heart of PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN – why do these situations keep happening with alcohol and women to blame?
First-time writer/director Emerald Fennell proves to be the real PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN and should deservedly be the talk of this award season.
It’s available on HBO Max.
At first glance, SOUL looks like an INSIDE OUT rip off. Underneath the surface, it is the best movie about life after death since DEFENDING YOUR LIFE.
As I watched the prologue of SOUL, sheer excitement took over. The first twelve minutes seemed familiar yet so completely different from anything I’ve ever seen before. That old spark returned that I used to get while transported to my happy place – the cinema.
SOUL is the perfect movie for 2020. At a time when we are feeling anxious, scared and alone, SOUL sends that spark, reminding us what it means to be alive.
It is available on Disney Plus.
Illustration by Tarush Mohanti
01. PALM SPRINGS
“I decided a while ago to stop trying to make sense of things all together because the only way to really live in this is to embrace the fact that nothing matters,” says Nyles.
“Then what’s the point of living?” Sarah asks
Nyles replies, “Well, we don’t have a choice but to live, so I think your best bet is just to learn how to suffer existence.”
What could easily be a quote about 2020 is actually from the best romantic comedy and film of the year – PALM SPRINGS.
I am giddy to have spoiler filled conversations about this fun and insightful movie, but will refrain. I’ll simply state – Cristin Millioti is easily the GOAT of PALM SPRINGS as she teaches Andy Samberg’s character that there is “nothing worse than going through this shit alone.”
It is currently available to stream on repeat via Hulu