Best Movies of 2020

The Best of 2020! Check out these great films; some lesser known, a small number of Hollywood, and bigger indie releases.

#1 Promising Young Woman

Entertaining with a dark truth and tragic emotional edge.
Promising Young Woman is a polished, original, wild ride of revenge, but at its heart, it’s an impassioned story of a young woman with a fractured psyche and an astute examination of society that needs a harsh reckoning to come to terms with its treatment of sexual abuse. This is writer-director Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut and is best summed-up with one-word: Wow.   2020

Directed by: Emerald Fennell

Screenplay by: Emerald Fennell

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham
See full review of Promising Young Woman

#2 Bad Education

A character-rich true story.

Bad Education is a movie where almost every choice they made was perfect. Let’s start with the casting. Hugh Jackman stars as Frank, a school superintendent, a former English teacher promoted into the world of wealth with higher pay, more responsibilities but less direct impact on the students and adults of tomorrow’s world. He’s an aging man, who tries hard to maintain his youthful looks and works hard to be relevant and popular.   2019

Directed by: Cory Finley

Screenplay by: Mike Makowsky
Based on the New York Magazine article "The Bad Superintendent" by Robert Kolker

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan and Ray Romano
See full review of Bad Education

#3 The Trial of the Chicago 7

A fascinating period of time, molded into an entertaining movie.
Aaron Sorkin has a way with words. I love his dialogue which always has this natural rhythm and tempo in line with the importance of what the characters have to say, that the audience just falls in sync. I was expecting it to be enlightening, but the suspense and tension is also notable and builds to a very captivating experience.   2020

Directed by: Aaron Sorkin

Screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Jeremy Strong
See full review of The Trial of the Chicago 7

#4 Palm Springs

Inventive, clever and funny.

Palm Springs is clever and funny, and it’s a romantic comedy. The concept may be lifted from Groundhog Day but that doesn’t stop the filmmakers from applying it in a unique and inventive way, adding layers to a mainstream comedy. I love how the plot is explored, love the comedy, and how cohesively meshed the two are within the rom-com structure.   2020

Directed by: Max Barbakow

Screenplay by: Andy Siara

Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, Meredith Hagner and J.K. Simmons
See full review of Palm Springs

#5 A Simple Wedding

Fresh, joyful romantic comedy, consistently funny and heartwarming.
Movies that start with a break-up that look (at least to the audience if not some of the characters) like their relationship is turning a corner and moving onwards and upwards, always hook me in, especially if the humour catches you off-guard. It’s a good sign when romantic comedies are this funny from the opening scene. That’s how A Simple Wedding won me over, and it never lets up. I was laughing, laughing, crying, crying-laughing through the entire film. Let me back up and hopefully you’ll appreciate this film as much I do. 2018

Directed by: Sara Zandieh

Screenplay by: Sara Zandieh

Starring: Tara Grammy, Christopher O'Shea
See full review of A Simple Wedding

#6 Blow the Man Down

Thriller of crime and family - funny, captivating, beguiling.
From the opening scene and deep-voiced men singing melancholic sea shanties, Blow the Man Down summons you into their grit-filled world -- familiar to some, fictional to others – and takes you on a journey of crime and family. The two are intricately connected, of course, especially when directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy present us with such an atmospheric, tightly-woven thriller where every beat matters. The backdrop is Easter Cove, Maine, a small fishing village where nothing is as it seems. 2019

Directed by: Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy

Screenplay by: Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy

Starring: Sophie Lowe, Morgan Saylor
See full review of Blow the Man Down

#7 Seberg

Tense, enlightening and heartbreaking.
Seberg is a sublime mix of biopic and FBI thriller. Set in the 1960s, Hollywood and European actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) is on a flight back to LA from Paris and meets Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), an outspoken civil rights activist, and Jean watching blatant racial discrimination right in front of her eyes, decides she can’t be silent anymore, and joins in a simple protest.   2019

Directed by: Benedict Andrews

Screenplay by: Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Jack O'Connell
See full review of Seberg

#8 Straight Up

Thoughtful, tender and absolutely hilarious examination of love and sexuality.
Straight Up is the romantic comedy that every gay, bi, pan, straight or questioning person has been waiting for. It has a very minimalistic atmosphere that can make it hard to get into, but the dialogue very quickly makes up for that. This is such a brilliantly funny and brilliantly creative take on the typical romantic comedy, that I’m certain I can’t write a review worthy of its screenplay, but I’m going to try anyways. 2019

Directed by: James Sweeney

Screenplay by: James Sweeney

Starring: James Sweeney, Katie Findlay
See full review of Straight Up

#9 Emma

Stylish and funny.
Jane Austen herself has called Emma silly. It’s true, it is. It’s a lighthearted fare of Georgian aristocracy where the titular heroine concerns herself solely with matchmaking. It’s a comedy that touches on class differences, but it’s also an artistic escape into the 19th century English countryside. And this Emma stars Anya Taylor-Joy.   2020

Directed by: Autumn de Wilde

Screenplay by: Eleanor Catton
Based on the novel by Jane Austen

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy
See full review of Emma

#10 Minari

The American dream, as it tries to tear apart one family.
Minari is a curious film as it tackles small issues with a big brush. It feels like a movie that is going to explore racism in middle America in the 1980s, but instead spends most of its time on the family dynamics of Korean immigrants. Originally settling in a city in California approx. a decade earlier, a husband and wife and their two kids have moved to a farm in rural Arkansas.   2020

Directed by: Lee Isaac Chung

Screenplay by: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han
See full review of Minari

#11 First Cow

A subtle tale of friendship and capitalism.
Eight features in and Kelly Reichardt remains a minimalist filmmaker. This time returning to the scene of Meek’s Cutoff and the Oregon territory in the mid-1800s. First Cow is as subtle a film as one could get with still a coherent narrative, and fortunes at stake for the protagonists. While it is a slow burn, eventually the story that forms is very engaging with legitimate suspense and hope for a better future.   2019

Directed by: Kelly Reichardt

Screenplay by: Kelly Reichardt and Jon Raymond

Starring: John Magaro and Orion Lee
See full review of First Cow

#12 Athlete A

I'm angry and you should be too

I don’t watch a lot of documentaries because often it results in me being really pissed off and feeling like there’s nothing I can do. Athlete A grabbed my attention though, maybe it was the simplicity and artfulness of the poster, maybe it was because of the high profile names involved, or maybe it was because Larry Nassar’s in prison so I knew going in there was a sense of justice being served. Unsurprisingly, I was angry throughout the film, but that’s also pretty much the point. 2020

Directed by: Bonnie Cohen, Jon Shenk

Starring: Maggie Nichols, Jennifer Sey

Available on: Netflix
See full review of Athlete A

#13 I Used To Go Here

Relatable, funny and entertaining.
I Used to Go Here is a funny and clever addition to the not-quite-a-mid-life-crisis, not-quite-a-quarter-life crisis genre. Kate (Gillian Jacobs) is in her mid-30s and the film quickly establishes that things are not going as well for her as she would like. She just got her first novel published – yay! But sales are poor, her book tour is cancelled, and there’s a man she once lived with who is not returning her calls.   2020

Directed by: Kris Rey

Screenplay by: Kris Rey

Starring: Gillian Jacobs, Josh Wiggins,
Jermaine Clement and Hannah Marks
See full review of I Used To Go Here

#14 Mr. Jones

A poetic and supremely told story in the pursuit of truth.
London, 1933: Mr. Jones, a young accomplished Welsh journalist has the attention of some of the most powerful men in British politics. He just had the opportunity to interview Hitler and Goebbels and believes an intention to invade Poland. The old, white men laughed. One of them said, “Hitler will soon realize the difference between holding a rally and running a country.” They’re not taking this seriously. It’s even more chilling watching this in 2020, in the middle of a pandemic and an American president who would rather hold rallies than run a country. 2019

Directed by: Agnieszka Holland

Screenplay by: Andrea Chalupa

Starring: James Norton, Peter Sarsgaard
See full review of Mr. Jones

#15 Another Round

Universal themes of life, love and death.

My only previous Thomas Vinterberg experience is with The Hunt. A movie I like but oh so frustrating. Another Round, while also starring Mads Mikkelsen as a teacher, is a very different creature. Another examination of human experience and consequences and action, but more sweeping and all encompassing.   2020

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg

Screenplay by: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Magnus Millang
See full review of Another Round

#16 Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Make Borat great again.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan seemed like lightning in a bottle. Something that can’t be repeated and the humour wouldn’t translate to another year. Oh, how wrong that was. Sacha Baron Cohen and his fellow Borat writers and producers have made a true comedy sequel. One that picks up where the original left off and made it funnier and more relevant to today.   2020

Directed by: Jason Woliner

Story by: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Nina Pedrad

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova
See full review of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

#17 I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight

Funny, romantic and real; occasionally heartbreaking but still optimistic.

I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight is a stunning achievement for a low-budget Canadian rom-com. Freshman actors pull off this simple story of two strangers meeting and taking a chance on each other to turn this film into a sometimes delightful, sometimes heartbreaking examination of a young relationship.   2020

Directed by: Sean Garrity

Screenplay by: Sean Garrity

Starring: Hera Nalam, Kristian Jordan
See full review of I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight

#18 Shithouse

A true-to-life college experience with heart and vulnerability.

Cooper Raiff is a first-time filmmaker with Shithouse. It’s a small story, but one that is told with a lot of heart and a knack at hitting the awkward truths of college life. Alex (Cooper Raiff) is struggling. In general, struggling with everything about college. He’s not going to classes, failing when he does, he has a roommate who is actively awful to him and he has no friends. His only companionship is his mother and a stuffed animal.   2020

Directed by: Cooper Raiff

Screenplay by: Cooper Raiff

Starring: Cooper Raiff, Dylan Gelula, Logan Miller and Amy Landecker
See full review of Shithouse

#19 Misbehaviour

Gratifying entertainment in the hands of talented women.
There have been a lot of recent period pieces that seem just as timely and relevant today. Misbehaviour fits very nicely in that category. A story of activists centered around the 1970 Miss World competition tackling misogynism and racism. It’s led by a really fun group of actresses and hits all the right notes even if it’s not as big a film as others would like.   2020

Directed by: Philippa Lowthorpe

Screenplay by: Rebecca Frayn, Gaby Chiappe

Starring: Keira Knightley, Jessie Buckley,
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Rhys Ifans
See full review of Misbehaviour

#20 aTypical Wednesday

A smart, funny and clever comedy.
Not quite a directorial debut, aTypical Wednesday is, however, the first feature-length fictional film written and directed by J. Lee. It’s a funny and clever comedy that both subverts expectations and gives audiences what they want. The themes are common comedy-drama fodder, namely: relationship issues, bullying and race relations. All three play into one another really well with a lot of laughs along the way.   2020

Directed by: J. Lee

Screenplay by: J. Lee

Starring: J. Lee, Cooper J. Friedman
See full review of aTypical Wednesday