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Patricia Puentes

The 27 Most Anticipated Movies of 2022

best movie 2020 critics

We can’t believe it’s already almost April either. But there’s still a lot of 2022 ahead of us and we thought about taking a renewed look at our selection of some of 2022’s most anticipated films, especially considering the calendar of releases has changed a lot in the last few weeks. 

Bear in mind that nothing is set in stone, so this isn’t a comprehensive selection. New titles will pop up as the new year unfolds. Plus, most of these titles are tentpole movies and/or sequels or adaptations from pre-existing franchises. Expect the year 2022 to be full of those, but also keep in mind that there’ll also be a fair share of must-see indie movies as the year progresses. It’s hard to know if 2022 will be the year that cinema-going returns to normal, or if we’ll all still be doing a lot of streaming at home for certain titles, while opting for the big screen for others. 

And yes, some of the titles on this list are movies that we were already looking forward to watching back in 2019 — ahem, Top Gun: Maverick .

Winter 2022: Movies That Have Already Premiered

best movie 2020 critics

The 355 (January 7): This action-espionage ensemble stars Jessica Chastain as a CIA agent who joins forces with a German agent (Diane Kruger), a former MI6 ally who specializes in computers (Lupita Nyong’o) and a Colombian psychologist (Penélope Cruz) on a mission to recover a top-secret weapon. Bingbing Fan plays the mysterious woman who follows their every move. The 355 is now available on Peacock and on video on demand (VOD).

Scream (January 14): This is the fifth installment of the Scream franchise. Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette return to their iconic roles alongside newcomers Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding and Jenna Ortega. Twenty-five years after the brutal murders that terrified the small town of Woodsboro, a new killer dons the Ghostface mask and targets a group of teenagers. Scream is now available on Paramount+ and VOD.

Moonfall (February 4): Master of disaster and climate change advocate Roland Emmerich co-writes and directs this film that sees the Moon on the brink of colliding with Earth and annihilating our world. Halle Berry plays a former astronaut who partners with another astronaut (Patrick Wilson) and a conspiracy theorist (John Bradley from Game of Thrones ). Together they’ll try to save humanity as they discover our Moon is not what we think it is.

Death on the Nile (February 11): This new adaptation of a classic Agatha Christie novel has Kenneth Branagh directing and playing the lead detective, Hercule Poirot — the Irish filmmaker already starred in and directed Murder on the Orient Express (2017). This one has been postponed several times due not only to the pandemic but also because a prominent role in the movie is played by Armie Hammer. The movie debuts on Hulu and HBO Max on March 29. 

Uncharted (February 18): Based on the eponymous action-adventure video game series , the movie stars Tom Holland ( Spider-Man: Homecoming ) as Nathan Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan. They both embark on an epic international adventure — Barcelona is prominently featured in the trailer — in the pursuit of “the greatest treasure never found.” Meanwhile, Nathan starts discovering new details about his long-lost brother.

The Batman (March 4): Robert Pattinson dons the cape and the pointy-eared mask in this new reboot of the bat franchise. Matt Reeves ( Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ) co-writes and directs the movie, which also stars Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Jeffrey Wright and John Turturro. Don’t miss our article on the hidden details in The Batman ’s first trailer and the movie’s inception and our full review of The Batman . 

Turning Red (March 11): Pixar’s first 2022 title is directed by Domee Shi, who won an Oscar for her short film Bao (2018). The movie follows the story of 13-year-old Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), who turns into a giant red panda every time she gets excited. Sandra Oh voices Mei Lee’s overbearing mom, Ming. Read our review of Turning Red here . 

Deep Water (March 18): Based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith and starring Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck, this is one of the titles that has been postponed several times because of COVID-19. De Armas and Affleck play a married couple who have an arrangement to keep their marriage afloat. But when their games turn into murder, things get messier. Highsmith’s source material offers a portrayal of the fake veneer covering American suburbia — let’s hope the film does too.

The Lost City (March 25): Sandra Bullock returns to her comedy roots starring in this action-adventure where she plays Loretta Sage. She’s a popular romance-adventure writer on a promotional tour with Alan (Channing Tatum), the model who has always portrayed Loretta’s main character: the hero Dash. When Loretta is kidnapped by a billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who wants to find an ancient lost city’s treasure from one of her novels, Alan decides to take the lead and rescue her as Dash would do. They end up in the middle of the jungle needing to work together to stay alive and find the ancient treasure before it’s lost forever.

Spring Movies 2022

best movie 2020 critics

Morbius (April 1): Set in the same universe as Venom , Morbius stars the chameleonic Jared Leto as Dr. Michael Morbius. He suffers from a rare blood disease and, while trying to find a cure for himself and others, he ends up transformed into someone with an urge for blood and other vampiric tendencies. Watching the method actor Leto transform himself into a mindless creature may prove to be one of the most appealing aspects of the film.

Ambulance (April 8): Michael Bay produces and directs this film starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II ( Candyman ) as Will, a vet desperate to pay for his wife’s medical bills. His adoptive brother, Dany (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a professional criminal. When Will asks him for help, Dany enlists Will in a $32 million bank robbery. The two of them end up in an adrenaline-fueled chase through the streets of Los Angeles, inside of an ambulance driven by EMT Cam (Eiza González).

Downton Abbey: A New Era (May 20): First there were the six seasons of the television drama about a family of British aristocrats, their estate and the servants who allowed for everything to run smoothly. Then there was a 2019 movie too, and now it’s time for a film sequel: A New Era . Julian Fellowes, the creator of the show, returns once more here as the writer. And yes, the good news is that despite the dire health diagnosis the Dowager Countess revealed to her granddaughter Mary (Michelle Dockery) at the end of the previous movie, Maggie Smith returns to A New Era to hopefully dispense fresh doses of perfectly delivered puns. 

Top Gun: Maverick (May 27): The original Top Gun opened in 1986. Now, this sequel that’s been decades in the making follows Tom Cruise’s Maverick after he’s served more than 30 years as a pilot in the Navy. When he has to train a group of Top Gun graduates for an impossible mission, Maverick meets Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his long-lost friend Goose. Expect spectacular aerial sequences and a lot of need for speed.

Jurassic World: Dominion (June 10): Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return for this sixth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise and sequel to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018). Franchise originals Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern also star in this movie. Lightyear (June 17): Who was the Space Ranger who inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy from the Toy Story franchise? Chris Evans voices Buzz in this origin story that Pixar describes as a sci-fi action-adventure film.

best movie 2020 critics

Elvis (June 24): Musical heavy-weight Baz Luhrmann ( Moulin Rouge ) directs and co-writes this biopic starring Austin Butler ( The Carrie Diaries ) as music legend Elvis Presley. The film also stars Tom Hanks as Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker. “The story delves into the complex dynamic between Presley and Parker spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America,” reads Warner Bros.’ official synopsis of the film.

Summer Movies 2022

best movie 2020 critics

Minions: The Rise of Gru (July 1): Allow me the yellow indulgence since I’ve been a fan of these adorable polyglot creatures since I first saw Despicable Me in a movie theater back in 2010. This second prequel of the Minions origin story — and fifth installment of the Despicable Me franchise — is set in the 1970s and follows a 12-year-old Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his faithful army of yellow sidekick followers. 

Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8): This fourth Thor movie — the second one helmed by the New Zealander Taika Waititi — sees Natalie Portman returning as astrophysicist and Thor’s ex, Jane Foster. Waititi, who’s also taken writing duties for this film, has teased at its romantic components . The movie will also feature Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Christian Bale.

Nope (July 22): After Get Out and Us , here comes the next psychological horror film written and directed by Academy Award-winner Jordan Peele. Details are still very much under wraps for this movie, which stars Academy Award-winner Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Oscar nominee Steven Yeun . You can read more about Nope and its enigmatic first trailer here . 

Fall Movies 2022

best movie 2020 critics

Don’t Worry Darling (September 23): Olivia Wilde’s second feature film after she directed the outstanding Booksmart (2019) stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as a married couple living in a utopian experimental community in the 1950s. Pugh plays a housewife and someone who fears that the company her husband works for may be hiding something. The movie also stars Wilde alongside Chris Pine, Gemma Chan and Kiki Layne.

Spider-Man: Across Spider-Verse (Part One) (October 7): After the multiverse-set Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film and was lauded for its diverse representation — the movie stars Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) as an Afro-Latino kid who also happens to be Spider-Man — we really are looking forward to this Spider-Verse sequel. Not to mention, it’s one of several animated films we’re most excited about seeing this year. 

Black Adam (October 21): This eleventh installment in the DC Extended Universe is directed by the Catalan filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra and stars Dwayne Johnson as the titular villain. Pierce Brosnan and Aldis Hodge also appear in this Johnson-starring vehicle that could see him become Shazam’s archenemy. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11): Ryan Coogler returns as co-writer and director of the much-anticipated sequel to his Black Panther (2018), the first superhero film to be nominated for a coveted Best Picture nod at the Oscars. Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba and Angela Bassett reprise their roles from the original movie. The multi-talented Michaela Coel ( I May Destroy You ) will play a new role in this sequel. To honor the memory of the late Chadwick Boseman, who played Black Panther in the original film, Marvel has announced that this movie won’t recast the titular role . Also, Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever aren’t the only two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to be released in 2022. There’ll also be Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6).

She Said (November 18): Maria Schrader ( Unorthodox ) directs this adaptation of Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor’s book in which they relate their New York Times investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse behavior. The exposé helped further the #MeToo movement. The film stars Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher.

Avatar 2 (December 16): Thirteen years after James Cameron introduced us to Pandora in Avatar , here comes the second installment of this story. Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver all return to Avatar 2 , alongside newcomers Kate Winslet, Vin Diesel and Michelle Yeoh. The franchise is expected to have five installments in total, with each new movie being released two years apart.

I Wanna Dance with Somebody (December 21): Naomi Ackie ( Small Axe ) plays the late singer Whitney Houston in this musical biopic that’s directed by Kasie Lemons ( Harriet ) and also stars Clarke Peters, Stanley Tucci and Nafessa Williams.


best movie 2020 critics


Where to Go for Specialized Movies

best movie 2020 critics

If you’re interested in the latest blockbuster from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm or anyone else making great popcorn flicks, you can go to your local theater and find a screening coming up very soon. That’s not the same if you’re interested in arthouse movies, independent films or foreign pictures. Those sorts of movies don’t get wide releases so they’re not so easy to catch at movie theaters. Don’t wait for the movie to turn up on a streaming service like Netflix if you’d like to see it on release as there are lots of places across the country where low budget or marginalized movies are shown on a regular basis.

It’s definitely true to say that movie lovers in major cities like New York have more choice than those living in other areas of the country. Places like the Angelika Film Center, that opened in 1989, Landmark Sunshine Cinema in Manhattan, Film Forum, a non-profit indie cinema that’s been operating since 1970, and the Angelika Film Center are just four examples of great places you can visit in New York if you’d like to see independent, foreign language or limited release movies.

Where else would you expect to be able to catch the best independent movies than California? Cinopolis is one of the obvious choices. Why not purchase a ticket through Fandango and then head to Whittier Boulevard to catch the showing? Laemmle’s Royal Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard is another great place to catch a movie. You’ll only be able to see foreign language movies there but they have one of the best selections of new movies in the country. You should also check out New Beverly Cinema. This place is definitely for the enthusiasts as its run by one. Quentin Tarantino’s the owner so no wonder it shows a lot of double features in 35mm.

Logan Theatre in Logan Square is one of the best places to go in Chicago for a mixture of second run studio pictures and indie movies. They run midnight showings each weekend in a theater that was recently upgraded with a new sound system, better screens, and projectors. You should also check out Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema if you’re in the area. You’ll get studio financed small movies, indie flicks and other obscure movies there, many of which can be watched during a midnight showing.

If you don’t live in California or New York or Chicago, you can still catch great independent movies through the Landmark chain of theaters. They have 56 theaters in 27 markets that have a combined 268 screens. As well as a great selection of movies you won’t find in other major chains, you’ll also find that Landmark tends to run movies that have finished their runs in other theaters. The occasional well published major movie will be showing but don’t expect to see the sort of mass appeal movies that are shown in other theaters.

What to Watch?

If you like the idea of seeing something different but you’re not sure what to see, head to Fandango or Rotten Tomatoes to get an idea of what’s out there at the moment. There’s nothing better than a personal recommendation so talk to people who know and love movies too. The foreign language Oscar nominees list for 2019 that contains Capernaum, Cold War, Never Look Away, Roma and Shoplifters look interesting. Perhaps you could start with one of those movies.


best movie 2020 critics

best movie 2020 critics


The 50 Best Movies of 2020, According to Over 230 Film Critics

"never rarely sometimes always," "nomadland," and "first cow" have been named the best films of 2020 in indiewire's annual critics poll..

best movie 2020 critics

Feb 27, 2021 10:00 am

The Best Films of 2020

The Best Films of 2020



Nominations for the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the Critics Choice Awards have turned the likes of “Nomadland,” “Mank,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Minari,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom,” and “Borat Subsequent Film” into major Oscar season contenders. What do all of these films also have in common? They were all selected as the best films of the year in IndieWire’s annual 2020 critics poll. Per tradition, IndieWire asked over 200 film critics around the world to rank their favorite films of last year. We tallied up the numbers and present the 50 highest rated titles below. The poll featured reviewers from major trade publications such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, as well as critics from local newspapers and websites, freelancers, and contributors on film from across Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

While the top 50 list includes many films now in the running for top Oscar season film awards, it also includes overlooked indie film gems such as “Vitalina Verela,” “Shirley,” and “Fourteen.” One of the rare studio films to appear on the list is “The Invisible Man,” the Universal-released horror movie starring Elizabeth Moss.

For the first time in the IndieWire Critics Poll’s history, the No. 1 film is directed by a woman (Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland”). Female directors had a strong showing in this year’s results, with the top three films of the year all hailing from female filmmakers (joining Zhao are Eliza Hittman with “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” and Kelly Reichardt with “First Cow”). The poll’s Best First Film category was also topped by Fennell, while the Best Documentary category was led by Kirsten Johnson’s “Dick Johnson Is Dead.”

The full critics poll includes selections in various categories such as Best Performer (Riz Ahmed took the honor in 2020 for “Sound of Metal,” followed closely by Frances McDormand in “Nomadland” and Chadwick Boseman in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”), Best Director (“Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao topped the list, just as she did at NYFCC and LAFCA), and Best First Feature (Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman,” which cracked the top 15 of the IndieWire Critics Poll).

Check out the complete list of the IndieWire Critics Poll top 50 films of 2020 below.

1. “Nomadland”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Chloé Zhao

Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Bob Wells

Accolades: Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Read IndieWire’s review : “Nomadland” is the kind of movie that could go very wrong. With Frances McDormand as its star alongside a cast real-life nomads, in lesser hands it might look like cheap wish fulfillment or showboating at its most gratuitous. Instead, director Chloé Zhao works magic with McDormand’s face and the real world around it, delivering a profound rumination on the impulse to leave society in the dust.

2. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Eliza Hittman

Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten

Accolades: Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival

Read IndieWire’s review : Hittman’s ability to write and direct such tender films has long been bolstered by her interest in casting them with fresh new talents, all the better to sell the veracity of her stories and introduce moviegoers to emerging actors worthy of big attention. With “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” Hittman continues her traditions with her most vivid work yet, one all the more impressive for its studio pedigree. (This is not the kind of film many mainstream outfits would support and make, and more power to Focus Features and Hittman for endeavoring to bring it to a large audience.) 

3. “First Cow”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Cast: John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones, Ewen Bremner, Scott Shephard, Gary Farmer

Read IndieWire’s review : Few filmmakers wrestle with what it means to be American the way Kelly Reichardt has injected that question into all of her movies. In a meticulous fashion typical of her spellbinding approach, “First Cow” consolidates the potent themes of everything leading up to it: It returns her to the nascent America of the 19th Century frontier at the center of “Meek’s Cutoff,” touches on the environmental frustrations of “Night Moves,” revels in the glorious isolation of the countryside in “Certain Women,” and the somber travails of vagrancy at the center of “Wendy and Lucy.”

4. “Lovers Rock”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Steve McQueen

Cast: Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn and Michael Ward

Read IndieWire’s review : Set across a single night in 1980 and loaded with a soundtrack from the eponymous reggae music, “Lovers Rock” is a paean to an energized youth culture taking control of its surroundings, despite the social unrest around them. Experienced on its own terms, this delightful snapshot of boozy dance-floor seduction plays like an artist unleashing years of repressed good vibes by applying his lyrical style to pure, unbridled bliss for almost the entirety of its 68 minutes.

5. “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Cast: Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, David Thewlis

Read IndieWire’s review : If “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” feels like both an act of self-parody for its director and also a radical departure from his previous work, that’s because it takes Kaufman’s usual fixations and turns them inside out. While this leaky snow globe of a breakup movie is yet another bizarre and ruefully hilarious trip into the rift between people, it’s not — for the first time — about someone who’s trying to cross it. On the contrary, Kaufman is now telling a story about the rift itself. 

6. “Beanpole”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Kantemir Balagov

Cast: Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Vasilisa Perelygina, Konstantin Balakirev, Andrey Bykov

Read IndieWire’s review : Inspired by Svetlana Alexievich’s book “The Unwomanly Face of War,” Balagov’s frigid “Beanpole” tells a glacially paced but gorgeously plotted story about two women — two best friends — who grow so desperate for any kind of personal agency that they start using each other to answer the unsolvable arithmetic of life and death.

7. “Time”

A still from Time by Ursula Garrett Bradley, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Director: Garrett Bradley

Read IndieWire’s review : A woman’s 20-year fight to free her husband is captured on home video and cut together into a profoundly moving story of hope. On its surface, Garrett Bradley’s “Time” asks a simple question: How can you convey the full length of 21 years in the span of a single film, let alone a documentary that runs just 81 minutes? And from its degraded opening images — borrowed from the first of a thousand video messages that a black Louisiana woman named Sibil Fox Richardson (aka “Fox Rich”) recorded for her husband as she waited for him to be released from the State Penitentiary — offers a similarly simple answer: You don’t measure it in length, but rather in loss.  

8. “Da 5 Bloods”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Paul Walter Hauser, Jean Reno, Chadwick Boseman

Read IndieWire’s review : “Da 5 Bloods” doesn’t always gel as it careens through overstuffed plot twists and disparate tones, with some big moments better executed than others. Still, that freewheeling energy is in short supply, and this pure distillation of a Spike Lee joint illustrates the rarity of an American filmmaker so confident in his sensibilities and style that nothing can slow them down.

9. “Martin Eden”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Pietro Marcello

Cast: Luca Marinelli, Carlo Cecchi, Jessica Cressy, Vincenzo Nemolato, Marco Leonardi

Read IndieWire’s review : Pietro Marcello’s “Martin Eden” is a dreamy and surprisingly faithful Jack London adaptation made with more than 100 years of hindsight, one that doesn’t bend over backwards to prevent modern audiences from missing London’s points. London’s novel is all the more powerful because it’s not prescriptive — because it gives readers just enough rope to hang themselves, and sets them all the same traps that Martin himself falls into. 

10. “Bacurau”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles

Cast: Sônia Braga, Udo Kier, Bárbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira, Karine Teles

Accolades: Jury Prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival

Read IndieWire’s review : “Aquarius” director Kleber Mendonça Filho returns with a wonderful and demented Western about the perils of rampant modernization. In some respects, the film can be seen as a logical continuation of the Brazilian critic-turned-auteur’s two previous features. Much like 2012’s revelatory “Neighboring Sounds,” for example, “Bacurau” is a patient and sprawling portrait of a Brazilian community as it struggles to defend itself against the dark specter of modernity. And much like 2016’s unshakeable “Aquarius,” “Bacurau” hinges on an immovably stubborn woman who refuses to relinquish her place in the world — who won’t allow our blind lust for the future to bury her meaningful ties to the past.  

10. “Mank”

Gary Oldman in "Mank"

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Arliss Howard, Charles Dance

Read IndieWire’s review :

Though forged in a meticulous 1930s backdrop that merges historical detail with the style and tone of that era, “Mank” is hardly a playful throwback. Fincher has made a cerebral psychodrama that rewards the engaged cinephile audience in its crosshairs, but even when cold to the touch, the movie delivers a complex and insightful look at American power structures and the potential for a creative spark to rankle their foundations.

11. “Dick Johnson Is Dead”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Kristen Johnson

Read IndieWire’s review : The title of “Dick Johnson Is Dead” doesn’t lie, but it’s not exactly truthful, either. Dick Johnson dies many times in his daughter Kirsten’s poignant and personal documentary, starting with the opening credits. And yet he’s very much alive the whole time, playacting in an elaborate form of cinematic therapy with his filmmaker offspring as she wrestles with the anxiety of losing him.

13. “Minari”

Steven Yeun appears in Minari by Lee Isaac Chung, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, Will Patton

Accolades: U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Read IndieWire’s review : Told with the rugged tenderness of a Flannery O’Connor novel but aptly named for a resilient Korean herb that can grow wherever it’s planted, Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical “Minari” is a raw and vividly remembered story of two simultaneous assimilations; it’s the story of a family assimilating into a country, but also the story of a man assimilating into his family.

14. “Promising Young Woman”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Emerald Fennell

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Connie Britton, Laverne Cox

Read IndieWire’s review : Emerald Fennell’s raucous debut, “Promising Young Woman,” twists its buzzword-laden, spoiler-free synopsis — it’s a #MeToo rape revenge thriller with bite! — into something fresh and totally wild. Thank both Fennell’s wicked mind and star Carey Mulligan’s somehow even more wicked performance for that. Cooked up by Fennell and dizzyingly embodied by an incendiary Mulligan, Cassie is an anti-heroine for our times, and a wholly unique one at that.

15. “Kajillionaire”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Miranda July

Cast: Evan Rachel Woods, Debra Winger, Richard Jenkins, Gina Rodriguez

Elevated by an extraordinary Evan Rachel Wood performance that finds her character literally discovering her free will, “Kajillionaire” splits the difference between “Shoplifters” and “Parasite”: It’s an understated dramedy with bite, oscillating from the implication that family bonds are bullshit to the conclusion that everybody deserves a little tough love.

16. “Collective”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Alexander Nanau

Read IndieWire’s review : “Collective” starts as one of the greatest journalism movies of all times, and then it goes one step further, exposing democracy at war with itself. Romanian director Alexander Nanau’s bracing, relentless documentary tracks the aftermath of the 2015 fire that killed 64 people, hovering at the center of a system on the verge of collapse. And then it does, much like the flames that engulfed Bucharest’s Colectiv nightclub and sent the nation into a tailspin, as “Collective” sits at the center of the chaos with an unflinching gaze.

17. “One Night in Miami”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Regina King

Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr.

Read IndieWire’s review : Directed by Regina King (already an Oscar and Emmy winner for her acting) and adapted by Kemp Powers (who first launched the project as a stage play), “One Night in Miami” is both a formidable debut for King (who has previously directed a slew of episodes of high-profile television series) and a strong argument for Powers’ medium-crossing skills. It’s also one of the year’s best acting showcases, including turns from Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X, Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke, Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown, and Eli Goree as Cassius Clay.

18. “Vitalina Verela”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Pedro Costa

Cast: Vitalina Varela and Manuel Tavares Almeida

Accolades: Golden Leopard and Best Actress winner at 2019 Locarno International Film Festival

Read IndieWire’s review : The mystery and wonder of Pedro Costa’s filmmaking defies any specific category other than his own unique blend. The Portuguese director conjures dark, dreamlike visions of post-colonial neglect and yearning that hover somewhere between fantasy and neorealism, horror and melodrama, spirituality and desperation. “Vitalina Varela,” Costa’s fifth journey into the shantytown Fontainhas outside of Lisbon, once again showcases Costa’s masterful ability to mine cinematic poetry from a unique environment and the mournful figures who wander through its murky depths.

19. “The Nest”

Carrie Coon and Jude Law in "The Nest"

Director: Sean Durkin 

Cast: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Charlie Shotwell, Tobias BA Macey, Oona Roche, Adeel Akhtar

Read IndieWire’s review: In Durkin’s icy, slow-burn drama, every frame benefits from masterful composition. Carrie Coon and Jude Law deliver sizzling performances defined by mutual indignation, but it ultimately amounts to little more than talent spinning its wheels on both sides of the camera.

20. “The Sound of Metal”

sound of metal

Director: Darius Marder

Cast: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff, Mathieu Amalric

Read IndieWire’s review : As Ruben, the heavy-metal drummer going deaf at the center of the mesmerizing debut from writer-director Darius Marder, Riz Ahmed conveys the complex frustrations of losing touch with the world around him no matter how much he fights to hold onto it. This devastating conundrum relies on the best use of sound design in recent memory, as Marder immerses viewers within the confines of Ruben’s deteriorating relationship to the world around him, and he sorts through the wreckage to construct a new one. Ahmed’s brilliant performance coasts on a complex soundscape that resonates even in total silence.

21. “The Trial of the Chicago 7”


Director: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Noah Robbins, Mark Rylance. Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong

Read IndieWire’s review : “The Trial of the Chicago 7” is exactly as advertised — a giant, giddy burst of earnest theatricality, loaded with a formidable ensemble that chews on every inch of the scenery, that overall makes a passionate case for the resilience of its formula more than using it as an excuse.

22. “The Assistant”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Kitty Green

Cast: Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth

Harvey Weinstein doesn’t appear in “The Assistant,” and nobody mentions him by name, but make no mistake: Director Kitty Green’s urgent real-time thriller marks the first narrative depiction of life under his menacing grip. “Ozark” breakout Julia Garner is a revelation as the fragile young woman tasked with juggling the minutiae of the executive’s life, arranging a never-ending stream of airplane trips, staving off angry callers, and picking up the trash left in his wake.

23. “David Byrne’s “American Utopia”

best movie 2020 critics

Read IndieWire’s review : “American Utopia” isn’t just a concert doc, but also a life-affirming, euphoria-producing, soul-energizing sing-along protest film that’s asking us to rise up against our own complacency. 

24. “Soul”


Director: Pete Docter

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, Angela Bassett

Read IndieWire’s review : The first entry in the Pixar canon to center on a Black character is a magical crowdpleaser that embodies the Pixar Touch. While Disney’s decision to bypass a theatrical release for the film to post “Soul” straight onto Disney+ on Christmas Day doesn’t do any favors to the sorry state of exhibition, “Soul” is well worth signing up for the service, as it’s one of the very best Pixar efforts in years.  

25. “The Invisible Man”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Leigh Whannell

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, Oliver Jackson-Cohen

Read IndieWire’s review : Whannel makes his “Invisible Man” an unbearably tense ride through his blocking choices, which often use negative spaces to induce fear in the viewer. Whether it gets Oscar buzz or not, “The Invisible Man” is bound to go down as one of the strongest reviewed studio films of 2020.

26. “The Whistlers”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

Cast: Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar |

Read IndieWire’s review : Corneliu Porumboiu’s enjoyable riff on the heist movie tradition has a unique hook, and is begging for an English language remake. This entertaining noir is a polished mashup of genre motifs that suggests what might happen if the “Ocean’s 11” gang assembled on the Canary Islands.  

27. “Ammonite”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Francis Lee

Cast: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, James McArdle, Alec Secăreanu, Fiona Shaw

Read IndieWire’s review : Lee’s restraint is successful. The film never delivers obvious platitudes about how difficult it was to be a 19th-century woman who loved other women, and how any dreams of a happy life together are all but impossible. Although Mary’s mother occasionally shoots the pair biting glances, the film doesn’t wield the threat of discovery. It’s clear that this romance is not one for public eyes and Lee trusts his audience to understand that with a minimum of information.

28. “News of the World”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Paul Greengrass

Cast: Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel

Read IndieWire’s review : These are the moments where “News of the World” is at its most urgent — when this bittersweet but richly sentimental Western pauses to reflect on the double-edged power of the stories we tell ourselves, and the power that telling them to each other gives us to change what happens in the next chapter.

29. “Possessor”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Brandon Cronenberg

Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Read IndieWire’s review : A queasy and intriguing horror-inflected techno-thriller that gets lost somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle between “Mandy,” “Inception,” and “Ghost in the Shell,” Brandon Cronenberg’s “Possessor” is so drunk on its own sick potential that it doesn’t have the time (or the balance) required to realize most of it. On the other hand, 90 minutes of Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott engaging in ultra-gory psychic warfare over control of the latter’s body is more satisfying than what most of the current Best Picture nominees have to offer, so maybe it’s wise not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

30. “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Bill and Turner Ross

Read IndieWire’s review : The film is both a grand cinematic deception and a bold filmmaking experimentation from two of the most intriguing directors working in non-fiction today. This has been the Ross brothers’ motif since their earliest work, the expressionistic midwestern snapshot “45365” and “Tchoupitoulas,” which followed three prepubescent kids across a single meandering New Orleans night. “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” sits on the same continuum. The movie pretends to be a fly-on-the-wall observational tale, but in the process of assembling its remarkable homegrown universe, becomes a legitimate one anyway.

31. “Palm Springs”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Max Barbakow

Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, Peter Gallagher, J. K. Simmons

Read IndieWire’s review : “Palm Springs” offers a novel way to explore why the decision to share your life with someone can be more than just a band-aid placed atop a gaping wound of loneliness. Sure, “Groundhog Day” arrives at essentially the same place, but — start to finish — this winsome bauble of a movie is uniquely eager to embrace the idea that life isn’t quite as limitless as it seems.

32. “Wolfwalkers”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart

Cast: Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy

Read IndieWire’s review : With “Wolfwalkers” — the final installment of the studio’s informal trilogy of films about Irish folklore — Cartoon Saloon has realized its true potential at last. Far and away the best animated film of the year so far (one worthy of such hosannas no matter how limited the competition has been), this heartfelt tale of love and loss is the most visually enchanting feature its studio has made thus far, as well as the most poignant.

33. “Shirley”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Josephine Decker

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, Logan Lerman

Read IndieWire’s review : “Shirley” is no more of a biopic than “Bright Star,” “An Angel at My Table,” or “Shakespeare in Love.” Adapted from the Susan Scarf Merrell novel of the same name, Decker’s characteristically sawtoothed and delirious new film is set in the same latent space between fact and fantasy — a story and its telling — where she located all of her previous work.

34. “Another Round”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe

Accolades: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay at the European Film Awards

Read IndieWire’s review : Thomas Vinterberg’s absorbing dark comedy turns into a lively and fascinating referendum on booze, with Mads Mikkelsen’s fierce and unsettling performance vibrating at its center. Teaming up for the first time since their similarly unnerving character study “The Hunt” in 2012, the Danish actor and director join forces for a wily character study that enhances the one-note premise through the sheer gusto of its execution.

35. “Mangrove”

best movie 2020 critics

Cast: Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes, Malachi Kirby, Rochenda Sandall, Alex Jennings, Jack Lowden

Read IndieWire’s review : The dramatic story of the Mangrove Nine, when a group of Black British activists fought back against racist police raids in a tense series of courtroom showdowns, practically pitched itself as a movie when it unfolded in 1970. (They were acquitted of most charges, but the raids didn’t stop.) It only took 50 years, but writer-director Steve McQueen’s “Mangrove” works overtime to fill the gap, resulting in a delectable crowdpleaser both specific to its moment and relevant today.

36. “City Hall”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Frederick Wiseman

Read IndieWire’s review : As attention spans dwindle and the complex mess of American governance grows murkier than ever, Wiseman’s immersive dive into Boston’s city services ignores the pressure to dumb things down and marvels at the complexity of a system designed to make the world run right.

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Jason Woliner

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova

Read IndieWire’s review : Cobbled together in the midst of the pandemic and rushed out ahead of the presidential election, the new “Borat” plays like a prankish wakeup call to the lunacy he’s been pointing towards for ages. At a time when satire often feels too soft, this brilliant, vulgar plea for a better world cuts deep.

38. “Fourteen”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Dan Sallitt

Cast: Tallie Medel and Norma Kuhling

The fifth feature by revered critic, compulsive cinephile, and occasional filmmaker Dan Sallitt, “Fourteen” is a modest but gradually — and, in the end, greatly — affecting sketch of how even the closest of friendships can shift and wither over the years. People change in different ways. Some don’t change at all. It helps when there’s a clear reason beneath the shifting tectonic plates that cause the rifts between us, but it still hurts all the same.

39. “The Vast of Night”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Andrew Patterson

Cast: Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz

Read IndieWire’s review : This is a thriller nostalgic for the days of letterman jackets, rotary phones, Cold War-era conspiracy theories, and when everybody, even kids, smoked. With his retro, lo-fi, low-budget first feature, director Patterson should easily expect Hollywood to soon start throwing plenty of higher-concept genre fare at him, and on the basis of the supreme confidence of “The Vast of Night” alone, he’s ready for it.

40. “Sorry We Missed You”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Ken Loach

Cast: Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor

Read IndieWire’s review : “Sorry We Missed You” is the latest installment in this sprawling pantheon of cinematic activism, and delivers another tough, poignant look at desperate characters trapped by the only system that allows them to survive.

41. “She Dies Tomorrow”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Amy Seimetz

Cast: Kate Lyn Sheil, Jane Adams, Kentucker Audley, Katie Aselton, Chris Messina, Tunde Adebimpe

Read IndieWire’s review : “She Dies Tomorrow” is a gripping seriocomic apocalyptic thriller that combines classic David Cronenberg body horror and with the scathing surrealism of Luis Buñuel. Envisioning a disease where the afflicted believe they’ll die by morning, the movie taps into a timeless anxiety with hilarious and disquieting results, often delivered in the same dose.

42. “Undine”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Christian Petzold

Cast: Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski

Accolades: Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival and the European Film Awards

Read IndieWire’s review : Much like the “Vertigo”-inspired “Phoenix,” Petzold imbues the material with a Hitchcockian build, as subtle moments drop hints of dark, invisible forces conspiring to complicate the situation. Undine may be losing her grip on reality, but reality has a few surprises in store for her as well.

43. “On the Rocks”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jenny Slate

Read IndieWire’s review : It’s the first Sofia Coppola movie that feels — if only during its flattest stretches — as if it could have been made by somebody else, and yet at the same time it also plays like the loose and tipsy self-portrait of a maturing filmmaker being visited by the ghost of her greatest success.

44. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

"Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom"

Director: George C. Wolfe

Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts

Read IndieWire’s review : An actor’s showcase for Viola Davis as the show-stopping singer and the late Chadwick Boseman as the scheming trumpeter angling to steal her spotlight, director George C. Wolfe’s reverential adaptation livens up the material with sizzling color and vivid closeups. Save for a few digressions, however, Wolfe and screenwriter Ruben Santiago-Hudson have put the play into the movie, rather than vice versa.

45. “The Young Ahmed”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Cast: Idir Ben Addi, Olivier Bonnaud, Myriem Akheddiou, Victoria Bluck as Louise

Read IndieWire’s review : While propelled by a handful of gripping encounters and the Dardennes’ usual economical storytelling, “Young Ahmed” never quite gets beyond the fundamental challenge Ahmed faces to provide deeper insights into his behavior, even as it delivers on its timely, provocative concept in rather straightforward terms.

46. “Let Them All Talk”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, Gemma Chan, Lucas Hedges, Dianne Wiest

Read IndieWire’s review : With “Let Them All Talk,” Soderbergh has gone from making movies informed by his “let’s just do it and be legends” ethos to making a movie about the futility of perfection, and the consequences of imposing it on an unruly world. If this gentle and luxuriant floating gabfest isn’t the least bit hostile towards Fincher or anyone else, it’s still a clear shot across the bow at the idea that artists have the final say over how people live with their work.

47. “Emma”

Anya Taylor-Joy stars as "Emma Woodhouse"  in director Autumn de Wilde's EMMA., a Focus Features release.  Credit : Focus Features

Director: Autumn de Wilde

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Bill Nighy

Read IndieWire’s review : Director Autumn de Wilde’s lavish but loyal “Emma” (stylized “Emma.”), an indulgent movie about indulgent people that dares to imagine how — on a long enough timeline — the whole of human existence might be no more important than a straw hat shaped like a fortune cookie, or a navy blue shirt popping against a mustard peacoat, or the romantic misfortunes of an unsophisticated teenage girl as they reverberate through a vain pocket of the English gentry.

48. “Tenet”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki

Read IndieWire’s review : What kind of picture is it? Big, certainly: IMAX-scaled, and a hefty 150 minutes even after a visibly ruthless edit. It’s clever, too — yes, the palindromic title has some narrative correlation — albeit in an exhausting, rather joyless way. As second comings go, “Tenet” is like witnessing a Sermon on the Mount preached by a savior who speaks exclusively in dour, drawn-out riddles. Any awe is flattened by follow-up questions.

49. “His House”

best movie 2020 critics

Director: Remi Weekes

Cast: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith

Read IndieWire’s review : One of the best debuts of the year, Remi Weekes’ shrewd, tender, and sometimes terrifying “His House” begins with a clever premise — the immigrant experience as a horror movie — and expands on that idea in knowing and unexpected ways. 

50. “The Painter and the Thief”

A still from The Painter and the Thief by Benjamin Ree, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Barbora Kysilkova.All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Director: Benjamin Ree

Read IndieWire’s review : Benjamin Ree’s nuanced and beguiling new documentary is about the various things we all take from each other…It’s a frequently riveting movie that’s full of raw and loaded encounters. Ree shoots “The Painter and the Thief” with the probing composure of a scripted European drama (few documentaries make it so easy to imagine their narrative remakes).

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This Article is related to: Film and tagged First Cow , I'm Thinking of Ending Things , Nomadland , Year in Review 2020


Best of 2020: Film Critic Top Ten Lists

Below, we collect every year-end Top Ten list published by major film critics and publications. This page will be updated throughout December and January whenever new lists are published; be sure to check back frequently.

Critics pick the best movies of 2020

Recent updates: Added Jan. 21: Film School Rejects, The Film Stage (additional list), Reverse Shot, Under the Radar (additional list) Added Jan. 9: The Beat, The Film Stage (replaced consensus list with individual contributor lists), FirstShowing, Idaho Press, IMDb, LA Weekly, The New Zealand Herald, Salt Lake City Weekly, Slashfilm (additional lists), Smashcut, Thrillist, Under the Radar, We Are Movie Geeks Added Jan. 5: New Orleans Times-Picayune, San Antonio Current, ScreenAnarchy, Slashfilm, World of Reel Added Jan. 1: Austin 360, Baltimore Magazine, Boston Herald, Brief Take, Canada's National Observer, Collider (Goldberg), ComingSoon.net, Consequence of Sound, CriterionCast, Daily Beast, Deadline, Den of Geek, Esquire, Film Pulse (more lists), Filmspotting, Flickering Myth, Glide, Hammer to Nail, Hyperallergic, Idolator, In Review Online, io9, JoBlo, Lincoln Journal-Star, Miami New Times, Movieweb, mxdwn, National Review, New Statesman, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Spectrum Culture, Third Coast Review, Uncut, White City Cinema, The Young Folks Added Dec. 30: ABC News/Good Morning America, The Arts Desk, CBS News, CinemaBlend, Collider (additional lists), Detroit Metro Times, Film Pulse, IndieWire (additional lists), Misc (Tobias), Pajiba, Paste, Patriot Ledger, Sioux City Journal Added Dec. 28: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Chicago Daily Herald, Collider (Mancuso), Gannett, HeadStuff, Little White Lies, Misc (Rothkopf), The Observer, The Salt Lake Tribune, Screen Rant, Star Tribune, The Week Added Dec. 24: Asbury Park Press, CBC News, Chicago Sun-Times, Collider, The Film Stage, Gay City News, Houston Chronicle, Our Culture, Screen Daily, Sydney Morning Herald, Wonderland Added Dec. 22: GameSpot, Pittsburgh Magazine, Rolling Stone (Collins), The Telegraph, Total Film, USA Today Added Dec. 21: Ars Technica, Below the Line, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, CineVue, Complex, Dazed, Irish Times, New York Daily News, The Verge, WBUR/The ARTery, WhatCulture Added Dec. 18: Awards Daily, Columbus Alive, The Guardian, ScreenCrush, Toronto Star, The Wrap Added Dec. 17: Austin Chronicle, AV Club, Brightest Young Things, Chicago Tribune, The Guardian (Bradshaw), New York Post, NJArts, Vox Added Dec. 16: Awards Campaign, IGN, The Ringer, RogerEbert.com, Screen Slate Added Dec. 15: Exclaim!, Far Out Magazine, Flood, Harper's Bazaar, The Hollywood Reporter, Movie Nation, Slate, TimeOut, Vogue Added Dec. 14: San Jose Mercury News, Us Weekly Added Dec. 12: The Economist, The Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Slant Added Dec. 11: Arizona Republic, Detroit News, People, Washington Post Added Dec. 10: The Atlantic, NME Added Dec. 9: AP, The Independent, NOW Added Dec. 8: Mashable, The Playlist, Uproxx, Variety, Vulture Added Dec. 7: Empire, HuffPost, Parade Added Dec. 3: Scorecard launched with 13 lists

Best of 2020

Note that last-minute release date changes (necessitated by the ongoing pandemic) mean that several titles included on multiple lists (most notably, Nomadland) will technically be 2021 releases rather than 2020 films. Also note that since we include some foreign publications, it is possible for a few titles to repeat from last year's list due to differences in USA and overseas release dates.

Individual critic top ten lists

Below are the 287 individual top ten lists published by the film critics regularly included in Metacritic's score calculations, as well as a few extra lists from additional prominent film sources. Some critics merely list films without ranking them in order; such lists are displayed below, without numbers, in alphabetical order.

Want more of 2020's best?

View our updated 2020 Film Awards Scorecard for the latest awards and nominations from 65 different film critic groups and industry organizations. And check out our list of the 50 highest-scoring movies released in 2020 .

We are also tracking best of 2020 critic top 10 lists in TV and music .

Comments (1)

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The comment below is not just because we live in the age of covid but applies to previous years or metacritic year end list of movies. I have always found your lists interesting because I usually find a lot of gems out there that I have either not seen or not heard of. May I make a suggestion that you create 2 lists in the future 1. Would be the list as seen above 2. The second would be a list of movies seen by more than a few thousand people at art house theaters in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto (yes Europe I know you exist just trying to make a point). I definitely would be interested to see a list that would include films seen by a wider audience.

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Best movies of 2020.

best movie 2020 critics

“David Fincher’s glittering and immersive drama about the drunken, pensée-spewing, brilliant-but-washed-up screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), and how he wrote the screenplay for “Citizen Kane,” is a movie I’ve seen twice and would gladly see again. That’s because there’s an intoxicating mystery at its heart. It’s about how creativity works — in particular, the way it worked in Old Hollywood, where the intricate allure of power was the hidden engine of the Dream Factory. Much of the time, we see Mankiewicz gallivanting through Hollywood in the ’30s, rubbing shoulders with Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, stooping to do a bit of work between drinking and gambling jags, cultivating a relationship with the media tycoon William Randolph Hearst and his silver-screen inamorata Marion Davies — played by Amanda Seyfried in a performance of soft-bitten perfection. What we know, and Mank doesn’t, is that everything he’s doing is the research he would pour into “Citizen Kane,” the movie that broke the mold of Hollywood because it was powered by more reality than Hollywood could contain. I wish “Mank” didn’t swallow Pauline Kael’s line about “Kane’s” authorship (that Mank was the movie’s mind and Orson Welles its grand showman). Yet it’s a film that revels splendidly in the gamesmanship of the imagination, and Oldman creates the most layered (and charming) portrayal of a lush I’ve ever seen.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly


best movie 2020 critics

“Don’t let that candy coating fool you: Underneath its ultra-feminine aesthetic and bubbly pop soundtrack, Promising Young Woman is pure, burning acid. It begins as a growl of barely suppressed rage, following a mysterious young woman, Cassie (Carey Mulligan), on a one-woman reign of terror against the would-be rapists of her town. As her actions become more extreme, however, and as the true motivations beneath them begin to reveal themselves, her story transforms into something altogether more troubling and tragic. In refusing the relief of catharsis or easy answers, writer-director Emerald Fennell serves up a portrait of rape culture as searing as it is — unfortunately — familiar. ” – Angie Han, Mashable


best movie 2020 critics

“You know what you’re going to get from a Charlie Kaufman film. Existential dread. Themes of identity. Mind-bending plot twists and sad, lonely men. And even though his latest, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, trades in all those expected motifs, there’s something disturbingly fascinating about this movie – animated decaying pigs, perpetually wet dogs, and all. Most of that has to do with the performances. Jessie Buckley, who’s having a hell of a year, is mesmerizing as a young woman meeting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Jesse Plemons, who’s quickly becoming cinema’s go-to villain, is equally captivating as said beau – a depressed, unfulfilled man dreaming up an alternate reality that comes crashing down over the course of the film. And then there’s Toni Collette and David Thewlis who play his parents (and the most hellish dinner mates we’ve seen on screen in a long while). But Kaufman’s love of twisting the truth and making us question the very nature of his storytelling also elevates the viewing experience here. You never truly know what the hell is going on, and that’s half the fun. ” – Jessica Toomer, UPROXX

best movie 2020 critics

“A sweet family drama that never cloys, Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film brought a much-needed grace and kindness to this often unkind, graceless year. The film concerns the Yi family, Korean-Americans who move from California (mom and dad are natives of Korea) to way-rural Arkansas in the early 1980s. Jacob (Steven Yeun) grew up in the country, and hopes to impart to his American-born kids the value of working the earth, of growing and making things from the soil of their adopted home. His wife, Monica (Yeri Han), is more skeptical, but she is tentatively willing to support her husband on his quest for this most traditional of American dreams. Hardship ensues, as do moments of warmth, triumph, and connection. Chung crafts his film with a delicate ache; Minari passes by in a lilting hush, haloed faintly in the glow of memory. The film really belongs to adorable young Alan Kim as David (perhaps Chung’s stand-in) and the terrific Yuh-Jung Youn as Soon-ja, Monica’s mother. She moves to the family’s trailer all the way from Korea, bringing with her the attitudes of the old country, but also a refreshing levity, a good humor about this family’s struggle that gently reframes their perspective. This is not a sassy granny movie, though. Chung resists that kind of cinematic indulgence, keeping his picture modest but deeply felt. Though there is plenty of sadness and strife in Minari, it remains resolute in its optimism, not so much about what America as an idea can provide for immigrants, but what decency can provide for people who need it—what love can, too. From that goodness, a life can grow, even in a place as inhospitable as this. ” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair


best movie 2020 critics

“Riz Ahmed can play anything – from con man to heavy metal drummer. As we learned in Darius Marder’s drama, he could convey so much with his eyes and a rare smile. Fearing his career is over, Ahmed’s Ruben investigated what life would be without sound, then made decisions that could affect everything he does. To give audiences a sense of the isolation, Marder played with sound, muffling it to approximate what Ruben hears. The film worked on so many levels (and introduced us to a Paul Raci we never knew) it could stand as a metaphor for the year.” – Bruce R. Miller, Tulsa World


best movie 2020 critics

“Spike Lee did what Spike Lee does in Da 5 Bloods: He delivered a work of cinema that’s both timely and timeless, marked by stellar performances and a camera lens that tells a story even if you ignore the script. The plot follows four Black Vietnam vets as they return to the former war zone in search of their dead squad leader’s remains…and the millions in CIA gold they plundered and buried before their tour ended. Political differences between the men foster mistrust and complicate their journey, leading to a powerful finale that’s not-so-strangely resonant — this is Spike Lee — for our current moment in history.” – Adam Rosenberg, Mashable



“One of the year’s quietest but most devastating films looks at the decidedly unempowering experience of existing in a female teenage body, especially for a teenage girl living in rural Pennsylvania who needs an abortion. From director Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is a tremendous exercise in mood and a beautiful showcase for some up and coming talents. ” – Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press


best movie 2020 critics

“… And here’s what was responsible for our single most joyous moviegoing moment in 2020. Steve McQueen’s ambitious, five-part whatsit Small Axe — is this an anthology series, a suite of feature-length films, a dessert topping, a floor wax? Discuss. No, please, by all means, endlessly discuss — takes a look back at black life and West Indian diaspora culture in Britain from the late Sixties to the early Eighties. Each of the chapters focuses on a different story, from the police harassment of a restaurant owner and his clientele (Mangrove) to a scathing indictment of the Thatcher-era public-school system (Education). But it’s the second of the five movies, which revolves around a “blues” house party, that stands head and dressed-to-the-nines shoulders above the rest. We see the DJs setting up their sound system and women cooking Jamaican food in a West London flat. We see Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) sneaking out her window so she can meet up with her girlfriend and get ready, a young man named Franklyn (Michael Ward) make flirtatious small talk with her once she gets to the soirée, and roughnecks and would-be Casanovas strut their stuff as the reggae music kicks into gear. And then, when Janet Kay’s “Silly Games” comes on, we see Martha and Franklyn — along with a dozen other couples — slow dance and sing along. (Cue the endorphin rush.) McQueen’s masterpiece of a joyous, moving memory piece is peerless when it comes to evoking a mood, channeling a bygone moment, and using sound and vision in a way that’s simply transcendental. He makes you feel like you are right there on that cramped dance floor, sweating alongside these folks, swaying and jumping, forgetting everything else around you and getting right into a communal groove.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone


best movie 2020 critics

“Tone poem, nouveau Western, elegy for the American dream: Nomadland can feel like all those things, and more. Much of the drama in Chloé Zhao’s starkly unadorned portrait of a widowed Nevadan named Fern (Frances McDormand) who learns to fit her entire world into a van happens in small, almost imperceptible moments. There are long days laboring in Amazon warehouses or potato fields; endless stretches of tarmac and rest stops; even a bittersweet hint of romance with a fellow vagabond (David Strathairn). That the movie manages to serve as both a grim reckoning of our nation’s frayed safety net and a celebration of a sort of middle-aged manifest destiny is certainly a testament to Zhao’s deceptively spare script. But it’s the dreamlike, richly textured soul of her story that stays; a new kind of cinematic classic, painfully made for these times. ” – Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly


First Cow

“ If American cinema had a poet laureate, Kelly Reichardt would hold the crown. In the 15 years since “Old Joy,” Reichardt has churned out a series of patient explorations of national identity that only get deeper with time. Reichardt’s movies work wonders out of ineffable desire, fixating with profound curiosity on ostracized loners on the margins of society eager to settle in. “First Cow” consolidates that skill into her most satisfying movie to date, a minimalist period drama about companionship, the birth of the American dream, and yes, the titular bovine. The joke of “First Cow” is that, well, who wants to watch a movie called “First Cow”? And the irony is that everyone should.

Released (barely, before shutdowns mandated that it migrate to VOD) in a year defined by the shock of a society forced to pull itself apart, “First Cow” magnifies that exact feeling. Set in the Oregon Territory circa 1820, Reichardt’s adaptation of John Raymond’s novel “The Half-Life” uses the peculiar bond of wandering chef Cookie (a tender John Magaro) and Chinese immigrant King-Lu (an overconfident Orion Lee) to explore the loneliness of an empty world and the excitement of finding some measure of companionship to chart a path forward. That’s what the pair do, by stealing milk from the only cow in the region to make cakes for settlers passing through.

It’s the subtlest heist movie in film history, but even as the men put their lives in danger for a fairly reckless plan, “First Cow” stays with the sincerity of their intentions to keep going, and the touching way that it defines their bond. The movie’s conclusive exchange lands on three encouraging words — “I’ve got you” — and they arrive like the climax of a ballad that only Reichardt could write. As with all of her work, the director communes with the notion that even reckless people simply want to find meaning in their small corners of existence. The whole world should hear her out.” – Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Lists Included 793 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 279

R Rank L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists #1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year #1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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Great Movies

Collections, tv/streaming, movie reviews, chaz's journal, contributors, the ten best films of 2020.

best movie 2020 critics

It certainly wasn’t a typical year for, well, anything, including movies. As Hollywood packed up shop and pushed a lot of their projects to 2021 or streaming services, questions arose about how to critically assess such an unusual time for cinema. Some groups like the Academy pushed their awards back to make a longer window for inclusion while some writers lamented the lack of quality overall. They just weren’t looking hard enough. In the end, it was a very solid year for the form, and the lack of blockbusters only allowed for more room to assess the movies that might have otherwise gone under the radar. Let’s just say that it was not hard to come up with 20 films that we feel represented the quality of 2020. And great movies didn’t even make the cut. Every single one of the 20 films below will stand the test of time, remaining important works of art even after the din of this horrible year is behind us. Art endures.

About the rankings: We asked our regular film critics and editors to submit top ten lists, ranked or unranked, and then consolidated them with a points system resulting in the list below, with a new entry for each awarded film. To read each critic's Top 10 individual list, click here.

Runners-up: “ Bacurau ,” “ Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets ,” “ I’m Thinking of Ending Things ,” “ On the Rocks ,” “ Sound of Metal ,” “ Time ,” “ The Vast of Night ,” “ Vitalina Varela ,” “ The Wolf House ,” and “ Wolfwalkers ”

best movie 2020 critics

10. “ The Assistant ”

Kitty Green ’s remarkable “The Assistant” is about #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein without explicitly being about those things. Instead, this quiet, day-in-the-life drama breaks down the many ways employees are forced to tolerate bad behavior. In the film, Jane ( Julia Garner ) is a hardworking everywoman who treks into the office each morning from Queens when it’s still dark out. But today, something is off. She finds an earring in her boss’ office. A woman she’s never seen before stops by to pick it up. A young woman from Idaho flies in for a job likes hers and the company puts her up at a fancy hotel. When her boss disappears, all her coworkers seem to know where he’s gone. When Jane finally works up the courage to report him to a HR representative (a chilling Matthew Macfadyen), he waves off her concerns and warns that her report could end her career. As Jane tearfully gets up to leave, he tells her not to worry: “You’re not his type.”

“The Assistant'' psychologically explores all the little ways someone trying to do the right thing meets resistance. Her boss yells at her and humiliates her to write him an apology for every so-called mistake, pummeling her will into self-preservation. Others in the office know what’s happening, but more or less lead by example to look the other way. Jane’s supposed to be relieved that she’s not on the receiving end of sexual harassment, but what about the other women? Or the next executive she works for? Green’s movie, which she also wrote and directed, works not just within the setting of a production company but to almost any toxic workplace that encourages its employees to ignore abuse and give them no tools to stop it. ( Monica Castillo )

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best movie 2020 critics

9. “The Nest”

There are scenes in Sean Durkin ’s marital drama “The Nest” that are so raw and real, so specific and vivid, you may feel the need to watch them through splayed fingers. As writer and director, he creates the sensation that you’ve wandered into an intimate space where you don’t belong, watching as a husband and wife tear each other apart with deep-seated resentments and hyperverbal jabs. It’s uncomfortable—but you can’t look away, because the dialogue is so riveting and the performances from Jude Law and Carrie Coon are so exquisite.

Nine years after his debut film “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (my pick for the best film of 2011), Durkin once again explores themes of seeking and striving, of reinventing yourself into an idealized persona with dangerous consequences. The cult that Law’s Rory O’Hara has joined is capitalism, but given that it’s the conspicuous consumption era of Reagan and Thatcher, his yearnings are inevitable. Durkin never spells out that notion, though. Rather, it’s part of the rich atmosphere he creates, as Rory, Coon’s Allison and their two kids relocate from upstate New York to England in pursuit of elusive riches. Rory already lives like he’s made it big, but he’s hustling and schmoozing, relying on his looks and charm to get him in the door at prestigious investment firms, and it’s clear that the tightrope he’s walking will snap beneath his feet at any moment. While he insists on moving his family into a sprawling manor they can’t afford, a building sense of claustrophobia is inescapable.

Within this slow burn, Law and Coon give career-best performances. This is the role Law has been working toward his whole life, playing on both his golden-boy beauty and sinister charisma. And Coon is just a knockout as Law’s fed-up wife. She has a chameleon-like quality as an actress, but no matter the role, she exudes a bracing directness. She always gives you an authentic truth. And when she finally snaps, she’s ferocious.

“The Nest” evokes its 1980s setting in inspired ways, from unexpected wardrobe and production design choices to a varied soundtrack of hits ranging from The Cure to Bronski Beat to Al Jarreau. But while the period details are specific, the story of desire and deceit is timeless. ( Christy Lemire )

best movie 2020 critics

8. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”

The title is the list of possible answers to a series of sensitive questions a social worker asks a pregnant teenager seeking an abortion. Real-life social worker Kelly Chapman, who assisted writer/director Eliza Hittman with her research for the film, gently asks Autumn (newcomer Sidney Flanigan ) about abuse and consent, in case a safety plan is necessary following the procedure. As she tries to select the right option to answer each question, we see a dozen memories and emotions flicker across her face. It is one of the year's most unforgettable scenes. We never find out who is responsible for Autumn's pregnancy or what the circumstances were, but her answer to questions about whether she consented to sexual contact is not "always."

Autumn and her cousin Skylar ( Talia Ryder ) take a bus from Pennsylvania to New York because that is the only way Autumn can get an abortion without her mother and stepfather finding out. In an interview , Hittman told me she wanted to "reclaim the narrative" on reproductive rights with a woman's perspective. She tells the story with great tenderness, more protective of the two girls than the other characters are. Hittman's intimate, documentary tone illuminates the girls' vulnerability, their determination, and their resilience. ( Nell Minow )

best movie 2020 critics

7. “Beanpole”

Kantemir Balagov ’s period piece about two Russian women pushing through the debris of World War II and their related trauma was about as depressing as storytelling got in 2020. Its first major tragedy alone, involving the death of a child, may be too much for some to bear. And it’s only the beginning of a story that feels like it’s constantly folding in on itself, using the arc of two best friends to capture how an entire country heals from the wounds of war, all while it feels like they're sinking into quicksand. It is a masterful film that works on multiple levels—a deeply empathetic character study anchored by two breathtaking performances and also a study in Russian history made with some of the most impressive craft of the year.

The stunningly naturalistic Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina —both newcomers who should have long careers—play Iya and Masha, two very different survivors. Iya has deep trauma—both physical and mental—that leads to events in which she appears to simply freeze up, lost in horrible memory. Masha’s wounds are revealed through the story, but this former Russian soldier will do whatever it takes to get what she wants. Taking place largely at a hospital at which the two women work, “Beanpole” is about two women trying to rebuild something from the wreckage of Leningrad and their lives. It's further proof that cinema is a uniting force, finding the relatable emotion and humanity across culture and time. It’s unforgettable. ( Brian Tallerico )

best movie 2020 critics

6. “Minari”

There aren't a million different stories to be told. Most stories, even personal ones, contain familiar elements or come from similar sources. But there are different lenses through which to view the familiar, lenses which expand and transform our "shared" collective memory and/or experience. For example, the story of NASA, told in countless films and documentaries, was incomplete until the "hidden figures" of African-American mathematicians and engineers were revealed. And so the lens got wider. The story didn't lessen in relevance, but expands because more people are included in it. Lee Isaac Chung ’s "Minari," loosely based on his own childhood in Arkansas, is this kind of film.

“Minari” is a familiar immigrant story, and a familiar American story, filled with the dream of owning land, working the land, being your own boss. Jacob ( Steven Yeun ) and Monica (Yeri Han), Korean immigrants, make the bold choice to leave their jobs as chicken sexers in California, to move to Arkansas with their two small children, chasing Jacob's dream to start a small farm. Jacob revels in the dirt, the sweat, the vision of crops to come. Monica hates all of it, and the  children look on, scared, as their parents' marriage disintegrates. Monica's mother, staying with them, adds tension in the small home. Grandma is a live wire, and Yuh-Jung Youn's superb performance is key to "Minari"'s impact (as well as the reason behind its title).

"Minari" captures the rhythms of farm life, while also devoting its attention to into the specifics of the family dynamic, Jacob and Monica's fractured marriage, Grandma's relationship with 6-year-old David, and the family's relationship to the rural town where they now live. Chung sets things up meticulously so the payoffs, when they come, are not just truthful, but carry huge weight and emotion. This is old-fashioned filmmaking, in the very best and truest sense of the word.

In speaking of Marilyn Monroe , photographer Henri Cartier Bresson observed, "She’s American and it’s very clear that she is—she’s very good that way—one has to be very local to be universal." This is what Chung accomplishes. “Minari” depicts a very specific experience, a very "local" experience, and by doing so has created a film shimmering with universal truths about childhood, family, mortality, belonging, dreams, and hope. ( Sheila O'Malley )

best movie 2020 critics

5. “Da 5 Bloods”

In its soul, Spike Lee 's "Da 5 Bloods" is about four Black American soldiers returning to Vietnam to reclaim the bones and wisdom of the man who guided them through war. Stormin’ Norman, played with holy majesty in flashbacks by the late Chadwick Boseman , is the dominating voice of such wisdom in Lee’s gorgeously in-your-face history lesson about how America was never great. And it could never be great, if it treats people as it does and has. During his powerful monologues, Norman reminds his fellow Bloods  about how America was built on the sacrifice of Black bodies, like that of Crispus Attucks, the first man killed in the American Revolutionary War. And when the five Bloods learn about Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Norman is the one to steer them away from retaliation. “We control our rage,” he assures them. “They can’t use our rage against us.”

The past is present in the world of “Da 5 Bloods,” Lee's Vietnam War movie that honors the PTSD the war has inflicted on the natives, and the soldiers who toured through. It’s a lively, multifaceted, and heavily emotional adventure, starting with four reunited veteran friends boogeying inside a club named “Apocalypse Now” (which even uses the logo from Francis Ford Coppola ’s Vietnam War epic). Our complicated heroes (played by Delroy Lindo , Clarke Peters , Norm Lewis , and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) experience the country through the pain of the Vietnamese people, and “Da 5 Bloods” distinctly removes jingoism from its dialogue on American history. Parallel to the movie's compassion for how the American War never truly ended in Vietnam is also the context that America used Black lives for war while not supporting them at home; the Bloods were part of a generation sent to die for a country that then killed the leaders of their freedom.   (The script was co-written by Lee and Kevin Willmott, who rewrote a script by Paul DeMeo and Danny Bilson to focus on Black soldiers.)

Along with Norman's remains, these veterans are also searching for the gold they buried back during the war, which Norman always said should go toward Black liberation. Everyone wants their share, but some Americans want to be, as Paul puts it, “the motherf**ker.” Paul "believed in Norman like a religion," according to his fellow Bloods, but has become angry at the world and estranged from his son David ( Jonathan Majors ), who joins the four Bloods on their treasure hunt. Paul embodies a type of MAGA madness, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap throughout the movie as a provocative statement and as a distraction from his sense of powerlessness. The story's twisting events send a sweat-drenched Paul deeper into the jungle and into the reasons behind his anger, expressed by Lindo in fourth wall-breaking, close-up monologues of frightening anguish and harrowing loneliness.  

"Da 5 Bloods" will always have a special significance being released in the summer when Black Lives Matter received its biggest nationwide coverage yet, inspired in part by the murder of George Floyd and others at the dirty hands of oppressive discriminatory policing. The coda of Lee’s film features the many faces of a Black Lives Matter group, and shows the power in their numbers; some speculated the footage was added to be timely, but Lee confirmed it was  the first scene they shot , as if it was his own entry into "Da 5 Bloods." Lee never forgets history, but he still has an invigorating, inspiring belief in what America could be.  ( Nick Allen )

best movie 2020 critics

4. “First Cow”

“First Cow” opens in the world of today, and a discovery both unsettling and of some archeological/sociological interest. The narrative is then borne back into the past, and eventually it dawns upon the viewer that the discovery is also a giant spoiler, and wishes it weren’t.

This kind of narrative sleight-of-hand is not customary for Kelly Reichardt , who directed “First Cow” from a script she wrote with Jonathan Raymond , adapting his novel The Half Life . But it serves well her vision of America as a land of both discovery and dread. In 1820’s Oregon, the end of the line for many frontiersmen, a Jewish cook and a Chinese man—exquisitely enacted by John Magaro and Orion Lee —renegotiate their respective statuses as outcasts by teaming up and going into a kind of business together, concocting fried dough treats that tickle the taste buds of hungry trappers. The accidental entrepreneurs optimistically aspire to move south, to San Francisco, and open a storefront business. In the meantime, they find sustenance in each other’s company, and in refining their recipes. The one hitch is their source of milk, which doesn’t belong to them.

“First Cow” is leisurely paced, letting you get to know and often to laugh with its central characters. If the opening minutes of the movie remind us that, as the blues song says, death don’t have no mercy, the end reminds us that history doesn’t either. But what’s in between shows us what trust, friendship, quick-wittedness, love and a little stolen milk can do to provide comfort amidst the harshness. ( Glenn Kenny )

best movie 2020 critics

3. “ David Byrne ’s American Utopia”

"American Utopia" shows what happens when two pop culture giants at the tops of their respective games finally collaborate, bringing a lifetime of experience to bear, and treating their shared love of live performance as a common language. The star, composer, and originator of "American Utopia" is David Byrne, who now holds the distinction of appearing in two of the greatest concert films ever made, the other being Jonathan Demme's 1984 "Stop Making Sense." The director is Spike Lee, whose output as a fiction filmmaker has been so formally innovative and politically engaged that people tend to forget that he's every bit as assured when adapting stage productions (including "Freak," "A Huey P. Newton Story," "Passing Strange," and "Rodney King").

Generously mixing new songs, beloved back-catalog titles, and covers, Byrne and Lee's movie is a celebration of community and personal connection, mirroring the structure of "Stop Making Sense" (which likewise starts with Byrne performing solo, then adds instrumentalists and backup singers until the stage is filled) while establishing its own, very-Spike-Lee aesthetic. Its themes and generous spirit inadvertently made it the perfect antidote to, or virtual escape from, the intense feelings of isolation that gripped people all over the world throughout the first year of the COVID pandemic.

But the sheer beauty of the music, choreography, and images give "American Utopia" a resonance that will outlast the historical moment that framed it. Shooting with multiple cameras (and working closely with cinematographer Ellen Kuras and the show’s original choreographer, Annie-B Parson ), Lee makes sure that a simple, powerful, stand-alone-gorgeous image appears after every new cut, whether it's close-up of a guitar being strummed; an overhead shot of performers moving in formation or playing possum on the stage floor; or a closeup of Byrne's wondering face. This is the purest sort of filmmaking and the purest kind of art. ( Matt Zoller Seitz )

best movie 2020 critics

2. “Nomadland”

Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” unfolds as a deliberately paced series of observations. As the camera drinks in the gorgeous, sometimes ostentatious views of the outdoors, Zhao allows us to nonchalantly visit the characters who inhabit this small corner of the universe. We sit with them, hear their dreams and concerns, feel their joys and frustrations, and learn how they deal with the day to day drudgeries of their on-the-road lifestyle. These are presented matter-of-factly, without any prettying up or overly dramatic rendering of events. Our central character is Fern ( Frances McDormand ), a widow whose husband and hometown of Empire, Nevada were both taken away from her within six months. Empire literally disappeared after the gypsum plant closed and the residents left for greener pastures.

For Fern, those pastures involve living outside In her van, driving from place to place while doing seasonal work to make ends meet. She interacts with the temporary communities of fellow employees that sprout up when places like Amazon are hiring. The people Fern meets are played by several non-actors, folks who are really living the life “Nomadland” explores. They bring a beautiful, lived-in and at times mythic quality to the film. Their discussions about hoping to live long enough to fulfill their individual destinies leave a haunting residue long after the credits roll. These people stay with you, like friends who have moved on yet linger in our memories. Zhao wisely refuses to pass judgment or even explain her characters’ motivations, instead forcing us to process them through our own personal filters.

At the center of this superb movie is McDormand, giving one of the best performances of her career. She sinks into the role, practically becoming as new a discovery as the non-actors to whom she charitably cedes the spotlight. Even her moments with David Strathairn , the only other familiar face in the cast, have a quiet, rugged, lived-in quality that is miles removed from their celebrity status. We expect them to make us feel for their characters; the bigger surprise is how attached we become to everyone else.

“Nomadland” engenders the empathy our beloved founder, Roger Ebert , believed movies can produce in a viewer. It is filled with people, stories and performances that solicit and demand our understanding, opening our hearts as the best “empathy machines” do. ( Odie Henderson )

best movie 2020 critics

1. “Small Axe: Lovers Rock”

It’s hard to believe that British filmmaker Steve McQueen gave us not one, not two, not three … but five new movies this year through his dazzling “Small Axe” anthology. Somehow designed to go straight to streaming (even in a hypothetical non-COVID world) despite their obvious fit to massive cinema screens, this decades-spanning, London-based quintet of films all tell rousing stories about the city’s West Indian community. The best one did so with its euphoric optimism.

On the surface, “Lovers Rock” is simply about a circa-1980 house party, a nostalgic notion in today’s pandemic-dictated realities where we all dearly miss the kind of fleeting yet memorable human connections intimate soirées used to forge. But the accidental timeliness of McQueen’s wistful setting—with its coziness and liberating sway dizzyingly captured by cinematographer Shabier Kirchner —isn’t the only thing that charges “Lovers Rock.” There is also undeniable purpose in McQueen’s understatedly political work that celebrates a culture with specificity. As eager, dressed-up, tipsy strangers who briefly check their troubles and the era’s racial injustices at the door dance to and sing along the romantic reggae tunes a DJ spins, McQueen unearths a sense of belonging, a dose of harmonious freedom through their unity.

Brilliantly costumed to reflect the transition from the flamboyant '70s to bold '80s and with the year’s most memorable scene in any movie—accompanied by Janet Kay’s intoxicating single “Silly Games”—“Lovers Rock” approaches something whole and sexy, even spiritual, with every one of its sensual steps. ( Tomris Laffly )

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Best Movies of 2020

The screening rooms were closed. The festivals were virtual. The blockbusters were in storage. Even so, our critics found abundant and inspiring signs of cinematic life in the pandemic.

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Clockwise from top left, scenes from “Martin Eden,” “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “The Forty-Year-Old Version,” “Palm Springs” and “Beanpole.”

By Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott

Manohla Dargis | A.O. Scott

Manohla Dargis

I Watched Until My Eyes Bled

It was a year of watching obsessively yet indiscriminately, a year of small and smaller screens. On one lost day not long ago, I spent a horrifying (embarrassing!) 11 hours and 15 minutes on my phone. I read the news, doomscrolled Twitter, did puzzles, checked my email and kept scrolling. It’s no wonder that my eyes had begun to regularly ache and sometimes sting, prompting me to worry that I needed a new prescription for my glasses. I didn’t, I just needed to stop watching, but I couldn’t put down my phone, which tethered me to the larger world that I greatly missed.

The point of a top 10 list is to share our preferred movies. But in thinking about my favorites of the year and all the many new and old titles I’ve seen, I also thought a lot about how I watched movies and, well, just watched . A big-screen fundamentalist, I love going out to the movies, to first- and second-run cinemas as well as to art houses, museums and cinémathèques. I know which theater and studio in Los Angeles (where I live) has the biggest screen, the best sound, sightlines and seats — me, I like to sit in the middle of the theater, perfectly centered.

When movie theaters closed in Los Angeles in March, I cried. (They’re still closed.) The tears of critics are tiny, but moviegoing is who I am. I grew up in New York in the 1970s watching as many films as I could, including on TV. But going to the movies was one of my first adventures in sovereignty, one of the first ways that I experienced navigating ordinary life without parental supervision. Moviegoing was my thing, a way of seeing and of being. Up until March, it was also instrumental to how I understand time, its shape, texture and demands: moviegoing dictated what I did day and night, including the many hours I clocked driving to and from screenings.

Like a lot of people, I have felt unmoored this year partly because of how I now experience time. I’ve long worked from home, but to review movies, I go to theaters. So I found it challenging learning to watch the movies I was reviewing at home, how to respect the focus they required and deserved, how to sit — and keep sitting — on the sofa and not hit the pause button, not check Twitter. It didn’t help that we have a lot of windows, which made it impossible to replicate a dark screening room, even with the shades drawn. So, staying classy, I hung sheets over the shades and even taped Trader Joe’s shopping bags over one small window, which was as ridiculous as it sounds.

I finally figured out how to really watch the movies I was reviewing at home when I categorically separated them from the other images I was soaking up, the stream of faces, shapes and moments that also defined my year: Sarah Cooper’s devastating Trump performances ; Doggface skateboarding to Fleetwood Mac ; the Scottish sports announcer Andrew Cotter and his dogs Olive and Mabel ; the sometimes shocking science videos demonstrating how far sneezes and coughs can travel (27 feet!); and the friends and strangers whose lives I’ve watched as they made bread, settled into new homes, marched for Black lives and, at times, mourned the deaths of loved ones.

This stream has been alternately sad and joyous, devastating and enlivening. I have grown fond of people I have never met, and become invested in their well-being. Occasionally, the stream can feel like an inundation, as it did on my shameful day of 11 hours-plus on my phone. And I know, yes, the arguments against spending too much time on social media, in particular. But all these streaming images are entirely different from the discrete pleasures of movies not just in terms of how they look — the integrity of their images, where the camera is — but also how movies begin and how they end, the specific rhythms, shape and sense of time they create.

The seemingly endless, indistinguishable months of the pandemic have been perfect for the undifferentiated streaming flow of baking shows, crime dramas, TikTok videos, fleeting Instagram stories and five-second GIFs. Streaming companies know how to do flow: they often bypass credits and start up the next episode before you’re finished watching the current one. Streaming blurs time and before you know it you’ve watched four episodes of “The Crown” back to back. This is of a different order of how we experience time when we go out to the movies, which give us two or more hours’ respite from the clock-and-capitalism-determined flow of everyday life.

Every so often, someone asks what I think will happen to movies. I haven’t a clue, beyond my conviction that good, bad and indifferent ones will continue to be produced, distributed and exhibited. How and what we watch, though, is much less certain. What we do know is that the American movie industry has weathered — and profited from — a succession of cataclysmic crises from its monopolistic foundation to the coming of sound, the end of the old studio system and the introduction of television and of home video. The advent of streaming has added another chapter in a history that will continue to morph and outlive any one company or crisis. Time will tell, and so will we.

1. ‘ Martin Eden ’ (Pietro Marcello)

In this brilliant take on the Jack London novel of the same title, Luca Marinelli plays an autodidact who abandons the working class to embrace a soul-and-world-destroying bootstraps ideology. (Watch on Kino Marquee .)

2. ‘ City Hall ’ (Frederick Wiseman)

Frederick Wiseman, one of America’s greatest, most generous chroniclers, brings you into Boston’s City Hall, where men and women help make a city — and democracy — work. ( Watch through virtual cinemas. )

The Projectionist Chronicles the Awards Season

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3. ‘ Gunda ’ (Victor Kossakovsky)

A sow gives birth to a charmingly rambunctious litter and a one-legged chicken roams blissfully free in this intimate, exquisitely beautiful look at animal life from the ground up. ( Watch through virtual cinemas starting Dec. 11 .)

4. ‘ David Byrne’s American Utopia ’ ( Spike Lee )

Given how great it looks, how superbly it moves, how glorious it sounds and how high it sends me, it should be titled “Spike and David Are Here to Take You Away from 2020.” ( Watch on HBO Max . )

5. ‘ Bacurau ’ (Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho)

This exhilarating genre-buster mixes high and low to upend the classic story of the town forced to battle outside evil. Funny, weird, bloody and deeply political. ( Watch on streaming platforms .)

6. ‘ First Cow ’ (Kelly Reichardt)

A tender story of male friendship and a rebuke to rugged individualism, Kelly Reichardt’s drama offers an alternative to the triumphalism of most frontier stories. And the cow is lovely. ( Watch on streaming platforms .)

7. ‘ Never Rarely Sometimes Always ’ (Eliza Hittman)

You can feel the rage wafting off the screen in this drama about a teenager’s difficult quest to obtain an abortion. Scene by scene, you can also see the terrific filmmaking. ( Watch on streaming platforms .)

8. ‘ Collective ’ (Alexander Nanau)

This gripping, at times shocking documentary tracks the aftermath of a catastrophic fire in Bucharest that killed scores of people, brought down the government and inspired heroic journalism. ( Watch on streaming platforms .)

9. ‘ The Forty-Year-Old Version ’ ( Radha Blank )

There’s Woody Allen’s New York, Spike Lee’s and now Radha Blank’s. As a floundering playwright in the midst of a crisis, Blank stakes a claim on the romance of artistic struggle, making it her own with wit, rap, an open heart and a burst of glorious color. ( Watch on Netflix .)

10. ‘ Beanpole ’ (Kantemir Balagov)

This tragic, painful, dazzlingly directed drama takes place in the Soviet Union right after the Second World War. Balagov is a heartbreaker, and a major talent. ( Watch on streaming platforms . )

Garrett Bradley’s “Time” would be in my top 10, but it was a coproduction of The New York Times, so I can’t include it because it’s a conflict of interest. But you should watch it . Here are some other movies I’m grateful for: “76 Days,” “Alex Wheatle,” “ Borat Subsequent Moviefilm ,” “ Buoyancy ,” “ Circumstantial Pleasures ,” “ Coded Bias ,” “ Crip Camp ,” “ Da 5 Bloods ,” “ Dick Johnson Is Dead ,” “ Emma ,” “ Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds ,” “ Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey ,” “ House of Hummingbird ,” “ I Wish I Knew ,” “ The Invisible Man ,” “ Lost Girls ,” “Minari,” “ Miss Juneteenth ,” “Nomadland,”“ The Old Guard ,” “ On the Record ,” “ On the Rocks ,” “One Night in Miami,” “ The Photograph ,” “ Tesla ,” “ The Traitor ,” “ The Wild Goose Lake ,” “ Sorry We Missed You ,” “Soul,” “The Truffle Hunters,” “ The Truth .”

Reasons to look forward to 2021 (other than vaccines): “The Boy From Medellín,” “MLK/FBI” and “The Woman Who Ran.”

And I hope that someone picks these up for American distribution: “The Disciple,” “The Monopoly of Violence” and “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time.”

Moviefilms for Make Benefit a Weary and Anxious World

It’s been a year of deprivation and abundance. The press screenings and catch-up trips to local theaters that have punctuated my weeks for more than two decades vanished, and my internet connection turned into a 24-hour cinémathèque. I missed going to the movies a lot, but I didn’t much miss the Hollywood fare that has dominated screens in the past few years. The ascendance of streaming makes me uneasy — because of the passivity it engenders in the audience and the aesthetic compromises it renders all but irresistible — but for now I’m grateful to have seen so many good films. I’ve needed them more than ever.

1. ‘ Borat Subsequent Moviefilm ’ (Jason Woliner)

Would I call this the best movie of 2020, from the standpoint of cinematic art? Look, I don’t know. It’s been a weird year. But I would insist that this sequel to a cringey, pranky, 14-year-old classic is undeniably the most 2020 movie of all time. This is partly because Sacha Baron Cohen and his collaborators — including Maria Bakalova , the phenomenal Bulgarian actress who plays Borat’s daughter, Tutar — worked through the first months of the pandemic and the start of the presidential campaign, giving their antics a present-tense flavor that went beyond mere relevance.

But this new Borat adventure also captured the feeling of its moment with dismaying accuracy. Once again, Cohen’s friendly, idiotic alter ego arrived on our shores from Kazakhstan to show Americans as we really are. Which is appallingly bigoted, ignorant and paranoid, but also disarmingly polite and kind to strangers. There is something touching about the part of the movie in which Borat quarantines with a pair of QAnon believers who later help him find Tutar at an anti-mask MAGA rally. And a welcome dose of noncomedic humanity arrives in the person of Jeanise Jones, who patiently tries to free Tutar’s mind from its patriarchal prison.

Not that “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” offers much in the way of comfort. When satire and documentary converge, it’s a sign that both have reached a dead end. The truth won’t necessarily set you free. Laughter might not be any medicine at all. There is admirable rigor both in the ways Cohen constructs his gags and in his understanding of their limits. The movie is extremely funny, but it won’t cheer you up. Reality, in any case, went beyond even Cohen’s scabrous imagination. He and Bakalova might have contrived to embarrass President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani , in a New York hotel room, but Cohen can only envy whatever comic deity organized that postelection press event in a Philadelphia parking lot, next door to a sex shop and across the street from a crematory. Not even Borat would go there.

Borat’s ultimate embrace of I’m-the-father-of-a-daughter feminism is sweet, and it tempers the bitterness of the film’s ending. This moviefilm, like the first episode, is the tale of two countries, a fantasy Kazakhstan and an actual “U.S. and A.” At the end of this chapter, one of those countries stands as an example to the world, a place of progress, enlightenment, responsible journalism and respect for science. The other, once glorious, has descended into brutishness and superstition. I won’t spoil it by telling you which is which. ( Watch on Amazon .)

2. ‘ City Hall ’ (Frederick Wiseman)/‘ Collective ’ (Alexander Nanau)

Hatred of government and contempt for journalism are staples of the modern anti-democratic mind-set, and these documentaries offer powerful counterarguments. Frederick Wiseman’s long, contemplative look at the workings of Boston’s municipal administration becomes a symphony of process, a demonstration of how democracy abides in the absence of drama. Alexander Nanau’s hair-raising chronicle of lethal official corruption in Romania is, by contrast, intensely dramatic — an exposé of horrific governmental dysfunction and heroic efforts to combat it that will make your heart race and your blood boil. Together, these films suggest that patience and rage are vital and complementary civic virtues. ( Watch “City Hall” through virtual cinemas ; w atch “Collective” on streaming platforms .)

3. ‘ First Cow ’ (Kelly Reichardt)

Kelly Reichardt’s latest quasi-western is a quiet study of friendship and a biting critique of global capitalism — as manifested in 19th-century Oregon Territory. Orion Lee and John Magaro are wonderful as a pair of misfits whose snack-cake start-up falls afoul of supply-chain problems, questionable business practices and ruthless human greed. ( Watch on streaming platforms .)

4. ‘ Martin Eden ’ (Pietro Marcello)

Jack London’s autobiographical novel, published in 1909, has long been more popular in Europe than in the land of London’s birth, and Pietro Marcello’s wild screen version is both an earnest love letter and a brazen act of cultural and imaginative appropriation. Martin (the insanely hot Luca Marinelli) has been transplanted to Naples and given pretty much the whole 20th century as the backdrop for his ardor and ambition. Literature, politics, class struggle, sex — it’s all here in a seething, perpetually surprising epic that obliterates the distinction between realism and fantasy. (Watch on Kino Marquee .)

5. ‘ The Forty-Year-Old Version ’ ( Radha Blank )

Radha Blank is a wonderful character — insecure, funny, decent, vain. Radha Blank, who plays her, is a terrific performer, supplying compassion and also the unflinching candor that is a necessary ingredient in any kind of memoir. Best of all, Radha Blank, making her feature debut, is a brilliant filmmaker, with an eye for the absurdities of New York theater and for the glorious theater of the city itself. ( Watch on Netflix .)

6. ‘ Palm Springs ’ (Max Barbakow)

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg meet not-very-cute at the start of this variation on the themes of “Groundhog Day,” and search for love and meaning in a world of diminished expectation and endless repetition. The filmmakers (Max Barbakow directed; Andy Siara wrote the screenplay) didn’t set out to make a quarantine love story, but something about the way the central pair does battle with boredom, anxiety and the temptations of cynicism made this a balm and a bright spot in a dreadful, seemingly interminable year. ( Watch on Hulu .)

7. ‘ Bacurau ’ (Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho)

Udo Kier and Sônia Braga! Science fiction and western! “Bacurau,” named for a fictional town in the Brazilian backlands, is a rollicking, violent adventure whose defiance of genre and narrative convention stands for a more general — and more pointed — form of defiance: against the arrogance of power; against the legacies of colonial cruelty and slavery that still afflict modern Brazil; against the authoritarian impulse to erase history, suppress joy and ignore urgent messages from the future. Which is what this movie, above all, seems to be. ( Watch on streaming platforms .)

8. ‘ David Byrne’s American Utopia ’ ( Spike Lee )/‘ Lovers Rock ’ ( Steve McQueen )

What do you miss more, live performances or house parties? These films, driven by music and the movement of bodies in enclosed space, are full of joy and desire even as they recognize how hard life can be. “ Lovers Rock ,” the shortest, sweetest chapter in Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” anthology, unfolds in a single night in London in the early 1980s. “American Utopia,” directed by Spike Lee, captures a performance of David Byrne’s omnibus 2019 show at the Hudson Theater in New York. In both cases, the medium is the message and the pleasure is the politics. ( Watch “American Utopia” on HBO Max ; watch “Lovers Rock” on Amazon . )

9. ‘ Dick Johnson Is Dead ’ (Kirsten Johnson)

Kirsten Johnson’s movie is a documentary that walks up to the very edge of knowable reality, contemplating the mysteries of death, memory and human consciousness. It’s also an imaginative collaboration between the filmmaker and her father, a retired psychiatrist with dementia, who together act out scenarios of paternal demise. The result is funny and shocking, ghoulish and surpassingly humane. ( Watch on Netflix .)

10. ‘ Soul ’ (Pete Docter)

The message of the latest Pixar feature — a lyrical, metaphysical tale of a jazz pianist’s adventures in the afterlife — is that it’s good to be alive. The movie was originally slated for release in the spring, so the filmmakers could not have imagined just how timely, and how welcome, that message would feel. ( Watch on Disney+ starting Dec. 25 .)

best movie 2020 critics

100 best movies of 2020, according to critics

Abby Monteil

To say that 2020 has been a trying year for the film industry would be an understatement. Since the ongoing coronavirus pandemic drove the world to a halt back in March, most major new releases have been delayed far past their release dates. One shining glimmer of hope lies in streaming, which has provided a way for many movies originally intended for theaters to still enjoy 2020 releases (whether on streaming platforms like Netflix or Hulu, or through video on demand).

Although blockbusters like “Dune” and “Black Widow” have been pushed back to 2021 in hopes of still securing strong box office numbers, the year has also given film lovers time to appreciate the wealth of indie cinema that came out, which might have escaped many viewers’ notice otherwise—look no further than gems like Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” and Miranda July’s “Kajillionaire.”

Many acclaimed documentary filmmakers have also released remarkable work during this unpredictable year. In 2020, moviegoers got to virtually enjoy the return of iconic director Frederick Wiseman in his city government-centric film “City Hall.” The documentaries “76 Days" and “Totally Under Control” also shone important light on the terrifying uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, as the year draws to a close, it can be difficult to sift through the many new releases that may have passed you by and find ones most worthy of your attention. That’s why Stacker has created this list to help you save time and savor the very best, as determined by film critics.

In order to find and rank the top 100 films of the year, Stacker gathered Metacritic data on reviews for 2020 movies. To qualify, each film had to be released in theaters or on VOD in 2020. Ties were broken by the number of critical reviews available.

So sit back, grab some popcorn, and read on to find out if your favorite movie of 2020 made the list. Counting down from #100, here are the best films of the year.

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best movie 2020 critics

#100. Red Penguins

- Metascore: 76 - Reviews: 11

In the documentary “Red Penguins,” director Gabe Polsky recounts the unlikely true story of the Americans who attempted to get rich by investing in the Moscow hockey team after the Soviet Union fell. The investors’ attempts to increase attendance soon give way to outrageous publicity stunts, such as bringing strippers and actual bears to the rink.

best movie 2020 critics

#98. We Are Little Zombies (tie)

- Metascore: 76 - Reviews: 13

“Little Zombies” is the name of the rock band formed by four orphaned Japanese teens at the center of Makoto Nagahisa’s most recent film. The movie is notably hyperstylized, including over-the-top elements of musicals and celebrity satire.

best movie 2020 critics

#98. Howard (tie)

“Howard” celebrates the life and work of songwriter Howard Ashman, who worked on Disney projects like “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Aladdin,” before dying of AIDS at 40. Alan Menken, who worked with Ashman on several major films, composed the movie’s score.

best movie 2020 critics

#97. Mucho Mucho Amor

- Metascore: 76 - Reviews: 16

Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch’s documentary “Mucho Mucho Amor” centers on Walter Mercado, a gender-noncoforming astrologer who became an iconic face in Latin American TV. The Netflix film focuses on both his career and personal life, including interviews with other Latinx entertainment stars, as well as Mercado’s family members.

best movie 2020 critics

#96. The Wild Goose Lake

- Metascore: 76 - Reviews: 17

This Chinese neo-noir follows mob leader Zhou (Hu Ge), who’s forced to go on the run after accidentally murdering a cop. During his time on the lam, Zhou finds himself falling for a mysterious woman (Gwei Lun-mei) with her own secret motives. “The Wild Goose Lake” competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

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best movie 2020 critics

#95. The Whistlers

- Metascore: 76 - Reviews: 28

In “The Whistlers,” Romanian police officer Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) journeys to the Spanish island of La Gomera to learn its inhabitants’ ancient whistling language. Through using this special code, he hopes to free imprisoned businessman Zsolt (Sabin Tambrea), who has important ties to the mob.

best movie 2020 critics

#94. Shirley

- Metascore: 76 - Reviews: 42

Based on Susan Scar Merrell’s book of the same name, “Shirley” stars Elisabeth Moss as a fictionalized version of famous horror author Shirley Jackson. The biographical drama begins as Shirley and her husband (Michael Stuhlbarg) open their house to a young couple (Logan Lerman and Odessa Young), and she finds an unlikely, complicated muse—one of her young guests, Rose (Young).

best movie 2020 critics

#93. The Trial of the Chicago 7

- Metascore: 76 - Reviews: 47

In “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” acclaimed screenwriter and director Aaron Sorkin adapts the real-life story of seven activists (originally, eight) who were charged for their involvement with protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The Netflix original features numerous A-list stars, including Jeremy Strong, Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eddie Redmayne.

best movie 2020 critics

#91. Marona's Fantastic Tale (tie)

- Metascore: 77 - Reviews: 7

This French animated film centers on stray dog Marona, who is suddenly hit by a car. With the help of a mix of hand-drawn and computer-generated animation, Anca Damian’s film includes several flashbacks of Marona’s life, as she considers all of the people she’s loved.

best movie 2020 critics

#91. Incitement (tie)

“Incitement” centers on activist-turned-assassin Yigal Amir, tracking him for a year up until he killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Due to the movie’s controversial subject material, a Toronto International Film Festival screening had to be evacuated due to a security threat. However, Yaron Zilberman’s film went on to be selected as Israel’s entry for the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film category.

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best movie 2020 critics

#89. Mayor (tie)

- Metascore: 77 - Reviews: 8

David Osit’s documentary spends two years following Musa Hadid, the mayor of Palestine’s capital city of Ramallah. In his review, Indiewire’s Eric Kohn wrote that “Mayor” offers “a striking new perspective on [the West Bank struggle], with a personal on-the-ground quality matched by great tonal ambitions.”

best movie 2020 critics

#89. Buoyancy (tie)

As “Buoyancy” opens, a 14-year-old Cambodian boy named Chakra (Sarm Heng) is sold into slavery, becoming the property of a Thai fishing ship captain (Thanawut Kasro). Rodd Rathjen’s crime drama was inspired by real-life instances of Southeast Asian human trafficking.

best movie 2020 critics

#87. Human Nature (tie)

- Metascore: 77 - Reviews: 9

This documentary looks into CRISPR, a groundbreaking gene editing process that could give people the ability to impact their unborn children’s genetic makeup and cure major diseases. “Human Nature” features several interviews with the genetic engineers and scientists who are making this technology possible.

best movie 2020 critics

#87. The Mole Agent (tie)

In Maite Alberdi’s documentary, a private detective hires an 83-year-old Chilean man named Sergio to help determine if a retirement home is abusive. The official Sundance synopsis for “The Mole Agent” describes it as “a unique meditation on compassion and loneliness that will infiltrate your heart and never let go.”

best movie 2020 critics

#86. A Secret Love

- Metascore: 77 - Reviews: 12

Produced by Ryan Murphy, this Netflix documentary pays tribute to the nearly 70-year romantic relationship between former baseball players Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel. The two kept their relationship a secret for decades, and now navigate the difficulties and joys of getting older and coming out late in life. “A Secret Love” was directed by Chris Bolan, the couple’s great-nephew.

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best movie 2020 critics

#85. Corpus Christi

- Metascore: 77 - Reviews: 20

When “Corpus Christi” protagonist Daniel is released from a Polish youth detention center, his dreams of becoming a priest are initially dashed due to his criminal history. However, when he poses as the new priest of a rural parish, he and the traumatized parishioners attempt to find redemption in each other.

best movie 2020 critics

#84. Babyteeth

- Metascore: 77 - Reviews: 29

“Little Women” and “Sharp Objects” breakout Eliza Scanlen stars in “Babyteeth” as Milla, a terminally ill teenager who enters into a relationship with local drug dealer Moses (Toby Wallace). The film was adapted from Rita Kalnejais’ 2012 play of the same name.

best movie 2020 critics

- Metascore: 77 - Reviews: 36

Lauded for its allegorical depiction of caring for a family member with dementia, “Relic” starts as elderly matriarch Edna (Robyn Nevin) goes missing, forcing her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) to track her down. Soon, Kay becomes convinced that a malevolent force is feeding off of her mother.

best movie 2020 critics

#82. The Personal History of David Copperfield

- Metascore: 77 - Reviews: 39

“The Personal History of David Copperfield” puts a comedic, modern spin on Charles Dickens’ classic tale, with Oscar-nominated actor Dev Patel taking on the titular role. The story explores Copperfield’s life, tracking his ascent from young orphan to respected Victorian author.

best movie 2020 critics

#79. Crazy, Not Insane (tie)

- Metascore: 78 - Reviews: 7

Narrated by actress Laura Dern, this HBO documentary delves into psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis’ research about the psychology of murders. Other professionals like Richard Burr, Catherine Yeager, and Park Dietz were also interviewed for “Crazy, Not Insane.”

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best movie 2020 critics

#79. Spontaneous (tie)

Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer star in “Spontaneous,” playing two high school seniors who fall in love as their classmates start to suddenly explode around them. “It’s at times a horror film, at times a teenage romance, sometimes a comedy, other times an allegory of teenage angst,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle writer G. Allen Johnson . “But that’s what makes it strangely wonderful and fresh.”

best movie 2020 critics

#79. Beyond The Visible: Hilma af Klint (tie)

Halina Dryschka’s new documentary celebrates Hilma af Klint, who created abstract paintings in the early 1900s, years before supposed pioneer of abstract art Kandinsky began working. Still, the painter’s work was only recently credited due to a recent Guggenheim exhibition , something that the film questions.

best movie 2020 critics

#77. All In: The Fight for Democracy

- Metascore: 78 - Reviews: 8

Political activist Stacey Abrams worked with documentarians Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés on “All In: The Fight for Democracy.” The documentary explores the history of American voter suppression, and features an original song by artist Janelle Monaé entitled “Turntables.”

best movie 2020 critics

#77. An Easy Girl

Rebecca Zlotwoski’s French coming-of-age indie centers on Naima (Mina Farid), a teenager whose life gets turned upside down when her older cousin Sofia (Zahia Dehar) draws her into her free-spirited lifestyle. Zlotwoski received the Director’s Fortnight prize for best French-language movie at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival.

best movie 2020 critics

#75. The Social Dilemma (tie)

- Metascore: 78 - Reviews: 9

In the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” director Jeff Orlowski uncovers how social media negatively impacts users through the spread of conspiracy theories, data mining, and surveillance. Apart from featuring interviews with social network execs like former Pinterest president Tim Kendall, the film also includes dramatizations of a teenager (Skyler Gisondo) becoming addicted to social media.

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best movie 2020 critics

#75. My Darling Vivian (tie)

“My Darling Vivian” pays homage to Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash’s first wife and the mother of his four children. Although Vivian is often pushed to the side in honor of June Carter Cash, Matt Riddlehoover’s documentary shines a light on how she dealt with intrusive fans and largely raised her daughters alone. The movie features interviews with Vivian’s children, love letters between her and Cash, and family home videos.

best movie 2020 critics

#74. Robin's Wish

- Metascore: 78 - Reviews: 11

“Robin’s Wish” delves into iconic entertainer Robin Williams’ final days. It explores Lewy body dementia, the disease for which Williams received a diagnosis shortly before he died, while also honoring his career and talents.

best movie 2020 critics

#73. The Painter and the Thief

- Metascore: 78 - Reviews: 29

“The Painter and the Thief” tracks the friendship that unexpectedly blooms between a Czech artist—Barbora Kysilkova—and Karl Bertil-Nordland, who stole two of her paintings. Benjamin Ree’s documentary received the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

best movie 2020 critics

#71. Les Misérables (tie)

- Metascore: 78 - Reviews: 35

Set in the French commune of Montfermeil after the conclusion of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, “Les Misérables” references Victor Hugo’s novel to tell the story of a cop who discovers tensions between the police and vulnerable citizens, when he works in a poor neighborhood as part of the Paris Anti-Crime Brigade. The movie was France’s official entry for Best International Feature at the 2020 Academy Awards, and later clinched the nomination.

best movie 2020 critics

#71. Kajillionaire (tie)

Evan Rachel Wood leads “Kajillionaire” as a young woman called Old Dolio Dyne, whose con artist parents have trained her in the art of swindling since birth. However, when a newcomer (Gina Rodriguez) joins the family’s operations, her presence threatens to blow their latest scheme.

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best movie 2020 critics

#70. I'm Thinking of Ending Things

- Metascore: 78 - Reviews: 46

Adapted from Ian Reid’s 2016 book of the same name, this psychological drama begins as an unnamed young woman planning to break up with her boyfriend Jake agrees to meet his parents at their remote home. Soon, their awkward dinner grows surreal, as Jake’s complicated psyche and past relationships come to the fore.

best movie 2020 critics

#69. The Twentieth Century

- Metascore: 79 - Reviews: 13

This Canadian Screen Award-winning film satirizes former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s (Dan Beime) rise to power. CityNews Toronto praised Matthew Renkin’s dramedy, noting that it “subverts the mystique around politicians by mocking patriotism, propaganda, and Canadian identity.”

best movie 2020 critics

#68. La Llorona

- Metascore: 79 - Reviews: 14

“La Llorona” takes inspiration from the folktale of the same name, following the ghost of an indigenous Guatemalan woman (María Mercedes Coroy) as she haunts the Guatemalan general (Julio Diaz) who ordered the genocide that killed her and her family decades ago. RogerEbert.com writer Monica Castillo praised Jayro Bustamante’s movie as “not just a creepy story, but a painful reflection of injustice.”

best movie 2020 critics

#66. Fourteen (tie)

- Metascore: 79 - Reviews: 16

“Fourteen” explores the close bond between two friends—Jo (Norma Kuhling) and Mara (Tallie Medel)—that deteriorates over the course of 10 years. As social worker Jo struggles more and more with undiagnosed mental health issues and the bad influences of boyfriends, Mara tries to help her move on.

best movie 2020 critics

#66. Black Bear (tie)

Aubrey Plaza stars in “Black Bear,” playing a filmmaker who goes on a lakeside retreat and stays with a troubled young couple (Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon) who are expecting their first child. Soon, the three of them become embroiled in a conflict that blurs the line between fiction and reality, delving into dark truths about gender politics and art.

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best movie 2020 critics

#65. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

- Metascore: 79 - Reviews: 17

In this sequel to 2015’s “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” Shaun (Justin Fletcher) and his flock must return their new alien friend home before the evil Ministry for Alien Detection can imprison her. The animated comedy was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2020 BAFTAs.

best movie 2020 critics

#64. Feels Good Man

- Metascore: 79 - Reviews: 18

Arthur Jones’ directorial debut delves into the backstory behind the iconic Internet meme Pepe the Frog, and the struggles of creator Matt Furie to reclaim Pepe from alt-right members who co-opted his work. “Feels Good Man” debuted at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and received a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker.

best movie 2020 critics

#63. Bad Education

- Metascore: 79 - Reviews: 29

HBO’s “Bad Education” centers on Long Island school district superintendent Frank (Hugh Jackman), who scrambles to hide an embezzlement scheme threatening the district’s pristine reputation with the help of his assistant, Pam (Allison Janney). The movie won the Emmy Award for Outstanding TV Movie.

best movie 2020 critics

#62. The Nest

- Metascore: 79 - Reviews: 30

Jude Law and Carrie Coon lead “The Nest,” playing a wealthy couple whose life together spirals after husband Rory (Law) suddenly moves his family to a remote English country manor. The official Sundance Institute synopsis hails Sean Durkin’s thriller for “blurring social critique and character drama.”

best movie 2020 critics

- Metascore: 79 - Reviews: 42

After a six-year feature film hiatus, acclaimed director David Fincher returned with “Mank,” which retells the story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s (Gary Oldman) initial writing of “Citizen Kane.” The movie was inspired by a script written by Fincher’s late father, and Variety critic Owen Gleiberman hailed it as “a dizzying time-machine splendor.”

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best movie 2020 critics

#60. The Assistant

- Metascore: 79 - Reviews: 43

In “The Assistant,” Julia Garner plays an aspiring film professional and young assistant at a major entertainment company. Over the course of one day, she endures harassment that shines a light on how misogynistic workplace abuse is often ingrained in day-to-day proceedings.

best movie 2020 critics

#59. Cane River

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 7

“Cane River” was the only feature film made by director Horace B. Jenkins, whose death shortly before its completion in 1982 kept it from theaters until now. Featuring an entirely African American cast and crew, the film centers on a forbidden romance that shakes the rivalry between two Louisiana communities.

best movie 2020 critics

#58. Jezebel

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 8

In “Jezebel,” a teenage girl named Tiffany (Tiffany Tenille) begins to work as a cam girl to support herself after her mother’s death. The semi-autobiographical film is based on director Numa Perrier’s own experiences in the cam world in the 1990s. Perrier also stars in the film, playing Tiffany’s older sister Sabrina.

best movie 2020 critics

#57. Disclosure

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 10

The Netflix documentary “Disclosure” details the history of transgender representation in Hollywood, also touching on how these depictions have impacted cultural attitudes towards the trans community. Several prominent trans creatives like Lilly Wachowski, Jen Richards, and Laverne Cox provide commentary throughout the film.

best movie 2020 critics

#56. White Riot

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 11

“White Riot” recounts the story of the 1970s British protest movement “Rock Against Racism.” Using new interviews and archival footage, the documentary reveals how 1976 punk artists rallied together to take on the far-right U.K. political party National Front.

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best movie 2020 critics

#55. Coup 53

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 12

Helmed by director Taghi Amirani, “Coup 53” tells the true story behind Operation Ajax, a coup staged by MI6 and the CIA in order to displace Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh. Amirani himself was involved in uncovering the plot. Actor Ralph Fiennes lends his voice to read a transcript from an interview with MI6 operative Norman Darbyshire, who admitted to working on Coup 53.

best movie 2020 critics

#54. Desert One

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 13

Acclaimed documentarian Barbara Kopple recently released “Desert One,” which digs into the history behind a failed 1980 U.S. military effort to rescue American hostages during the 1979 Iranian revolution. Kopple utilizes a variety of sources, including interviews with major figures (from President Jimmy Carter to some of the hostages), as well as archival footage from the era.

best movie 2020 critics

#53. A White, White Day

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 14

“A White, White Day” was Iceland’s official entry for Best International Feature Film at the 2020 Oscars. The film follows an off-duty Icelandic police chief (played by Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) who goes to treacherous lengths to find out if a local man had an affair with his late wife.

best movie 2020 critics

#52. Totally Under Control

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 25

After a close friend died of the coronavirus, documentarian Alex Gibney set out to make a film about the United States’ failed response to the global pandemic. Also directed by Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, the film features interviews coordinated brilliantly by cinematographer Ben Bloodwell, who sent many subjects filming kits so they could record scenes safely.

best movie 2020 critics

#51. The Forty-Year-Old Version

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 27

Director and star Radha Blank plays a fictionalized version of herself in “The Forty-Year-Old Version,” which follows a weary playwright who decides to chase stardom by becoming a rapper at 40. Rolling Stone critic K. Austin Collins described the comedy as a satire of “the theater world, middle age, New York, the racial and gendered expectations of commercial art.”

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best movie 2020 critics

#50. She Dies Tomorrow

- Metascore: 80 - Reviews: 37

“She Dies Tomorrow” opens as a woman named Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) becomes convinced she will die the next day, sharing this belief with everyone she meets. Director Amy Seimetz based the allegory on people’s reactions to her admitting that she has anxiety attacks.

best movie 2020 critics

#47. The Truffle Hunters (tie)

- Metascore: 81 - Reviews: 8

“The Truffle Hunters” centers on a group of elderly Italian men who are passionate about scavenging for rare white Alba truffle mushrooms in the Piedmont forests. The Hollywood Reporter noted that the film also “suggests a melancholy sense of a disappearing way of life dating back to old-world Europe.” The documentary is set to be officially released in the U.S. on March 12, 2021.

best movie 2020 critics

#47. A Thousand Cuts (tie)

In Ramona S. Diaz’s documentary “A Thousand Cuts,” the extent to which Phillipines President Rodrigo Duterte has utilized social media to spread misinformation is revealed. It also focuses on Rappler founder Maria Ressa, whose critiques of Duterte’s administration led to her risking her life.

best movie 2020 critics

#47. Make Up (tie)

“Make Up” opens as young British couple Ruth and Tom (Molly Windsor and Joseph Quinn) go on a remote vacation in Cornwall. But when Ruth seemingly finds evidence of Tom's infidelity, she spirals down a dangerous web of obsession.

best movie 2020 critics

#46. Premature

- Metascore: 81 - Reviews: 13

During her last summer in Harlem before college, teenager Ayanna (Zora Howard) strikes up an unexpected and passionate romance with older music producer Isaiah (Joshua Boone). However, the sometimes harsh realities of adulthood soon threaten their relationship, and the course of Ayanna’s own future.

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best movie 2020 critics

#45. The Go-Go's

- Metascore: 81 - Reviews: 15

“The Go-Go’s” revolves around the popular ‘80s band of the same name, who were also the first all-female group to hit number one on the charts with songs they'd written and performed themselves. In the Showtime documentary, its former members document the band’s rise, discography, and fall, in their own words.

best movie 2020 critics

#44. One Night in Miami

- Metascore: 81 - Reviews: 19

In her feature directorial debut, Emmy- and Oscar-winning actress Regina King tells the fictionalized story of a one-night meeting between civil rights icons Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). “One Night in Miami” is based on Kemp Powers’ play of the same name.

best movie 2020 critics

#43. Sound of Metal

- Metascore: 81 - Reviews: 27

Riz Ahmed stars in “Sound of Metal” as a metal drummer whose life is turned upside down as he starts to lose his hearing. Hollywood Reporter critic John DeFore wrote that “without romanticizing deafness, ‘Sound of Metal’ makes a case for acceptance and embracing the inevitability of unpredictable change.”

best movie 2020 critics

#42. House of Hummingbird

- Metascore: 82 - Reviews: 10

“House of Hummingbird” takes place in Seoul, South Korea, as 14-year-old Eunhee (Ji-hu Park) begins to reckon with her adolescence through chance encounters and romantic exchanges. In 2020, The Guardian listed Bora Kim’s film at #18 on its list of the best modern South Korean films. It also won the Grand Prix from the Generation 14plus International Jury at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival.

best movie 2020 critics

#41. Residue

- Metascore: 82 - Reviews: 12

In “Residue,” a filmmaker (Obinna Nwachukwu) who wants to write a script about his childhood is shocked to return and find that his old neighborhood is unrecognizable due to gentrification. “‘Residue’ is a fleeting and haunting lament for what is lost to gentrification, and other tolls on Black life in America,” wrote The Guardian critic Radheyan Simonpillai . “But at the same time, we’re discovering a bold and sensitive new voice.”

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best movie 2020 critics

#40. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

- Metascore: 82 - Reviews: 23

“Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” takes place on the final night of business for iconic Las Vegas dive bar The Roaring 20s, as its staff and patrons reflect on its legacy. The documentary’s synopsis describes it as “a carefully constructed yet oddly affecting record of an American sensibility at once straining to survive and ready for the end.”

best movie 2020 critics

#38. Bacurau (tie)

- Metascore: 82 - Reviews: 26

The Brazilian film “Bacaru” distinguished itself by winning the Jury Prize at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival. The story follows a woman named Teresa (Bárbara Colen), who returns to her home village only to find out that American visitors have created a disturbance there while on a dangerous hunting trip. Soon, tensions build to a standoff between the villagers and the visitors.

best movie 2020 critics

#38. The Climb (tie)

In “The Climb,” best friends Kyle (Kyle Marvin) and Mike’s (director and star Michael Angelo Covino) close bond is seriously fractured after Mike sleeps with Kyle’s fiancée, Ava (Judith Godrèche). The Los Angeles Times’ Carols Aguilar called it “a wholehearted and hilarious ode to a fraternal bond more profound and enduring than any romantic attachment.”

best movie 2020 critics

#37. Sorry We Missed You

- Metascore: 82 - Reviews: 29

“Sorry We Missed You” centers on a British working-class couple who take delivery-driving jobs, only to end up trapped in a modern-day form of labor exploitation. Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday praised Ken Loach’s drama as “an unsparing look at the human costs of the gig economy.”

best movie 2020 critics

#36. Da 5 Bloods

- Metascore: 82 - Reviews: 49

One of Spike Lee’s 2020 releases, “Da 5 Bloods” shares the experience of four African American veterans who return to Vietnam to locate their late squad leader’s remains and the gold that they buried decades ago. Delroy Lindo in particular has received praise for his leading role as conflicted veteran Paul.

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best movie 2020 critics

#35. I Wish I Knew

- Metascore: 83 - Reviews: 7

Jia Zhangke’s documentary explores the history of Shanghai’s people and architecture from the mid-1800s until modern times. Using interviews with 18 individuals, from politicians’ kids to ex-soldiers to artists, the director paints a portrait of growing up and living in the major city.

best movie 2020 critics

#34. 76 Days

- Metascore: 83 - Reviews: 16

This pandemic-centered documentary centers on Wuhan, China healthcare workers and patients as they attempt to get through the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. Daily Dot reporter Michelle Jaworski described “76 Days” as “an eye-opening look at the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic that showcases the best of humanity within the walls of several Wuhan hospitals.”

best movie 2020 critics

#33. Driveways

- Metascore: 83 - Reviews: 19

“Driveways” examines the unlikely, close bond that forms between a lonely boy named Cody (Lucas Jaye) and his retired next-door neighbor Del (Brian Dennehy) over the course of a summer. The film received nominations for Best Female Lead (for Hong Chau) and Best First Screenplay at 2020’s Film Independent Spirit Awards.

best movie 2020 critics

#32. Saint Frances

- Metascore: 83 - Reviews: 24

“Saint Frances” focuses on Bridget, a thirty-something who bonds with the six-year-old she’s nannying, while terminating an unwanted pregnancy and figuring out what she wants from her life. Writer and star Kelly O’Sullivan based the movie on her own abortion experience, telling TIME that she wanted to create a realistic and “non-traumatic depiction of abortion.”

best movie 2020 critics

#31. Palm Springs

- Metascore: 83 - Reviews: 41

In “Palm Springs,” wedding guests Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) slowly fall in love after getting trapped in a time loop. FilmWeek praised the movie for being an “inventive new take on ‘Groundhog Day,’” with “more on its mind than the run-of-the-mill rom-com.”

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best movie 2020 critics

#30. Our Time Machine

- Metascore: 84 - Reviews: 10

After learning that his father has Alzheimer’s, Chinese artist Ma Liang invites him to collaborate on a complex stage show involving large mechanical puppets, named “Papa’s Time Machine.” In tracking their artistic process, the documentary explores impending loss and how art can preserve memories that are eventually lost to the passage of time.

best movie 2020 critics

#29. Black Is King

- Metascore: 84 - Reviews: 19

Beyoncé released the Disney+ film “Black Is King” as an allegory for the African diaspora, and as a visual companion film to her 2019 album “The Lion King: The Gift.” Like “The Lion King,” it centers on a young prince (Folajomi Akinmurele), who must reclaim the kingdom that was stolen from him as a child.

best movie 2020 critics

#28. On the Record

- Metascore: 84 - Reviews: 22

In “On the Record,” the directors (Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering) share stories of sexual harassment and abuse allegations made against major hip-hop figure Russell Simmons, most notably rape allegations from record executive Drew Dixon. Executive producer Oprah Winfrey withdrew from the project soon before its release, citing “creative differences.”

best movie 2020 critics

#27. Beanpole

- Metascore: 84 - Reviews: 26

In the aftermath of a deadly siege of Leningrad during World War II, two young women (Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina) struggle to find solace in one another and find a way to move forward after tragedy. “Beanpole” was Russia’s official entry for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Oscars.

best movie 2020 critics

#26. Boys State

- Metascore: 84 - Reviews: 32

This Sundance prize-winning film shines a light on the week-long Boys State program, which American Legion has run in Texas since 1935. While the 1,000 participants are there, they build a mock representative government to learn about how modern American democracy operates.

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best movie 2020 critics

#25. The Vast of Night

- Metascore: 84 - Reviews: 35

“The Vast of Night” unfolds in 1950s New Mexico as switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) and radio DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) uncover a mysterious alien radio frequency. The story was based on real UFO “incidents,” such as the Kecksburg Incident and the Foss Lake disappearances .

best movie 2020 critics

#24. Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin

- Metascore: 85 - Reviews: 9

“Nomad” director Werner Herzog was inspired to make his new documentary after his friend, British travel writer Bruce Chatwin, gave Herzog his well-worn rucksack before passing away from AIDS. The director then sets out on a trek to honor Chatwin’s life, dividing the documentary into eight travel chapters.

best movie 2020 critics

#23. Athlete A

- Metascore: 85 - Reviews: 12

In the documentary “Athlete A,” Indianapolis Star reporters break the news of doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse and assaults of Olympic female gymnasts. The movie dropped on Netflix in June, after originally being scheduled to debut at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.

best movie 2020 critics

#22. Small Axe: Red, White and Blue

- Metascore: 85 - Reviews: 14

“Star Wars” actor John Boyega demonstrates his acting versatility in Steve McQueen’s “Red White and Blue,” playing London police officer Leroy Logan. After witnessing racist police misconduct, Leroy founded the Black Police Association in an attempt to reform the institution.

best movie 2020 critics

#21. Divine Love

- Metascore: 86 - Reviews: 8

Set in the near future, “Divine Love” follows a religious registry clerk who attempts to use her career and faith to stop couples from getting divorced. To do so, she often convinces them to take part in her “Divine Love” therapy sessions, in which couples swap lovers in erotic experiences in order to salvage their sexual chemistry.

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best movie 2020 critics

#20. The Wolf House

- Metascore: 86 - Reviews: 9

Based on the real-life story of Colonia Dignidad, “The Wolf House” finds a woman named Maria (Amalia Kassai) taking refuge at a Chilean house while on the run from German religious zealots. However, things turn nightmarish when the pigs there begin turning into human figures.

best movie 2020 critics

#19. The Father

- Metascore: 86 - Reviews: 10

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman star in “The Father,” which centers on an elderly Welshman (Hopkins) who struggles to accept his dementia diagnosis and help from his adult daughter (Colman). The movie was praised for its depiction of memory loss and aging, and is scheduled to be released in the U.S. on February 26, 2021.

best movie 2020 critics

#18. Welcome to Chechnya

- Metascore: 86 - Reviews: 17

David France’s documentary reveals the extent of the homophobic 2010s purges that took place in Russia’s republic of Chechnya. “Welcome to Chechnya” includes interviews with many of the gay refugees who were tortured and detained during Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s anti-gay campaign.

best movie 2020 critics

#17. Vitalina Varela

- Metascore: 86 - Reviews: 21

As “Vitalina Varela” opens, its titular protagonist has just traveled from Cape Verde to Lisbon, Portugal for the first time to attend her husband’s funeral. While there, she discovers the turbulent secret life that he led during their marriage.

best movie 2020 critics

#16. Wolfwalkers

- Metascore: 86 - Reviews: 22

Based on Celtic folklore, “Wolfwalkers” tells the story of an unlikely friendship that develops between young wolf hunter Robyn and a young girl named Mebh, whose people are rumored to turn into wolves at night. The film has been particularly praised for its animation, which was done by the studio Cartoon Saloon.

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best movie 2020 critics

#15. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

- Metascore: 86 - Reviews: 29

“Crip Camp” follows the 1970s teens of Camp Jened, an upstate New York camp dedicated to giving teens with disabilities a summer to remember. It then flashes forward, as many of the campers become American disability activists. The documentary was executive-produced by the Obamas, and won the Audience Award at 2020’s Sundance Film Festival.

best movie 2020 critics

#14. What the Constitution Means to Me

- Metascore: 87 - Reviews: 7

Filmmaker Marielle Heller directed this filmed version of Heidi Schreck’s Broadway show of the same name. In the mostly one-woman show, Schreck uses numerous anecdotes and historical records to question the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, particularly what it means for women.

best movie 2020 critics

#13. Rewind

- Metascore: 87 - Reviews: 12

Over the course of Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s “Rewind,” the documentarian combs through his family home videos to process his own childhood sexual abuse. Variety critic Owen Gleiberman wrote that “watching the movie is like staring at a blurred image of the past that gradually, over 86 minutes, comes into terrifying focus.”

best movie 2020 critics

#12. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

- Metascore: 87 - Reviews: 28

In “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” tensions flare as legendary blues singer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her band gather for an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago. Notably, the musical film features late actor Chadwick Boseman’s performance, as trumpeter Levee.

best movie 2020 critics

#11. City Hall

- Metascore: 88 - Reviews: 17

Longtime documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s latest endeavor dives deep into the inner workings of Boston, Massachusetts’ city government. RogerEbert.com writer Peter Sobczynski noted that “[‘City Hall’] allows viewers to see that while the system as a whole may not work perfectly for everybody all the time, it is nevertheless driven by individuals doing what they can to help it evolve.”

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best movie 2020 critics

#10. Dick Johnson Is Dead

- Metascore: 89 - Reviews: 8

In “Dick Johnson Is Dead,” filmmaker Kristen Johnson processes her father’s inevitable death from dementia by staging his eventual death in comical and outrageous ways. Washington Post writer Ann Hornaday praised Johnson for creating “a dread-fulfillment fantasy that brims with love, humor, and, of all things, life.”

best movie 2020 critics

- Metascore: 89 - Reviews: 16

When music teacher and passionate jazz musician Joe (Jamie Foxx) ends up in another realm where souls are developed, he’s tasked with helping a soul-in-training (Tina Fey) regain their faith in life in order to come back to Earth. The film is set for release on Disney+ on Christmas Day, and initially received a 100% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

best movie 2020 critics

#8. First Cow

- Metascore: 89 - Reviews: 41

Loosely adapted from Jonathan Raymond’s 2004 book “Half Life,” Kelly Reichardt’s latest film follows King-Lu (Orion Lee) and Cookie (John Magaro), two unlikely friends living in the Oregon frontier in the early 19th century. The two hatch a scheme to make a living by making baked goods using stolen milk from a wealthy Englishman’s cow, creating a story about compassion amid early American capitalism.

best movie 2020 critics

#7. Small Axe: Mangrove

- Metascore: 90 - Reviews: 24

As part of his “Small Axe” anthology, filmmaker Steve McQueen dramatizes the landmark British civil rights case of the Mangrove Nine. In 1971, several Black activists were charged with inciting a riot after their peaceful protest against police brutality turned violent, but they were able to successfully defend themselves in court.

best movie 2020 critics

#6. Hamilton

- Metascore: 90 - Reviews: 42

All fans of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit hip hop musical were able to experience the show when a professional recording of “Hamilton'' was released on Disney+ in July 2020. The musical retells the tumultuous story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

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best movie 2020 critics

- Metascore: 91 - Reviews: 23

Garrett Bradley’s documentary centers on matriarch Fox Rich, who advocates for prison abolition and the release of her husband, who was sentenced to 60 years. The film was made using video footage from two decades, and examines the shattering impact that American mass incarceration has on families (particular Black families and families of color).

best movie 2020 critics

#4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

- Metascore: 91 - Reviews: 34

In “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” Pennsylvania teenager Autumn heads on a treacherous journey to New York City with her cousin Skylar to receive an abortion. The film won the Silver Bear Grand Jury prize at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival. Director Eliza Hittman was inspired to make the film after reading about Savita Halappanavar, an Irish woman who died in 2012 after being denied access to an abortion.

best movie 2020 critics

#3. David Byrne’s American Utopia

- Metascore: 93 - Reviews: 26

Filmmaker Spike Lee directed this recorded version of beloved musician David Byrne’s Broadway show of the same name. The A.V. Club critic Erik Adams argued that “American Utopia” is “the right movie for 2020,” adding that “the key to [the film’s] resonance isn’t so much one of joy versus despair as it is connection versus isolation.”

best movie 2020 critics

#2. Collective

- Metascore: 95 - Reviews: 23

“Collective” follows several Romanian journalists as they expose the secret health care fraud behind a 2015 Bucharest nightclub fire that claimed multiple lives. In his review of the documentary for Variety, Jay Weissberg called it “a documentary for our times, deserving of widespread exposure.”

best movie 2020 critics

#1. Small Axe: Lovers Rock

- Metascore: 95 - Reviews: 25

This installment of Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” anthology tells the story of two young lovers (played by Michael Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) who meet and fall in love over the course of a 1980s West London reggae party. The official BBC synopsis notes that the film is “an ode to the romantic reggae genre called Lovers Rock, and to the youth who found freedom and love in its sound.”

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The Best Movies Of 2020


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Hollywood reporter critics pick the best films of 2020.

A transcendent concert film, a bold #MeToo thriller and stellar dramas from Kelly Reichardt, Chloé Zhao and Eliza Hittman were among highlights of the year, according to THR's chief film critic David Rooney.

By David Rooney , Jon Frosch , Sheri Linden December 15, 2020 6:45am

David Rooney Critics Piece Collage

What a year. The long drought since the first lockdown in mid-March, at least for those of us in cities like New York and Los Angeles, has meant nine months without the pleasure of settling into a darkened movie theater and being transported away from our mundane concerns. Which were not all that mundane in 2020. So it’s almost miraculous that such a stellar crop of standout films emerged, even if we consumed most of them on our home screens.

The relative dearth of big studio releases turned out to be a blessing in disguise in some ways, focusing greater attention on the kind of smaller-scale work that often gets overlooked in the commercial shuffle. But any year in which films I savored as much as Emm a , Mangrove ,  On the Rocks , Sorry We Missed You , Sound of Metal , The Trial of the Chicago 7 and The Vast of Night   get bumped out of my top 20 seems a signal that vital, creative filmmaking is alive and well.

The profusion of excellent documentaries this year was so ridiculously robust that by rights they should fill out their own separate top 10. So rather than choose just one or two, I’ll list a handful of the nonfiction stunners that stayed with me. They include the inspiring story of a marginalized community, Crip Camp ; the intimate account of a tireless personal campaign against America’s broken justice system, Time ; the bittersweet reckoning with mortality, Dick Johnson Is Dead ; the all-too-real Orwellian thriller, Coded Bias ; and the searing sexual assault investigation, On the Record .  Plus there were shocking exposés, of Romania’s corrupt health care system in Collective  and a horrific government-sanctioned purge of LGBTQ citizens in Welcome to Chechny a . Politics was inescapable in this exceedingly acrimonious election year, and strong docs on our flawed system ranged from Boys State to All In: The Fight for Democracy .

Finally, the natural world spawned two captivating vérité documentaries in The Truffle Hunters , about the dying breed of crusty Italian eccentrics and their dogs that sniff out prized aromatic tubers; and Gunda , a mesmerizing black and white farm hangout, featuring a sow and her piglets, a one-legged chicken and a few cows, which is an adrenaline shot of the purest movie magic.

Read on for my top 10 of the year plus 10 more alphabetized honorable mentions, followed by those of my rock-star colleagues Jon Frosch and Sheri Linden. — David Rooney

1. David Byrne’s American Utopia OK, so I snuck in one doc. Whether Spike Lee ’s thrillingly immersive record of this sui generis theatrical concert is the best film of 2020 is open to debate. What I can say with absolute certainty is that the hyper-kinetic hymn to community and connection in a politically divided, environmentally ailing world is by far the most therapeutic time I had at a movie in this trying year of isolation and anxiety. Byrne’s show was already something special on Broadway , with the silver-topped, professorial art-rocker flanked by a hard-working multicultural troupe of 11 virtuosic musicians, dancers and backup singers. Lee and nimble DP Ellen Kuras achieve miracles by somehow heightening that joyous experience, putting us right in there among the performers in a concert film that stands proudly alongside Jonathan Demme’s landmark in the genre, the Talking Heads jam,  Stop Making Sense .

2. First Cow There’s been some online discussion of whether the tender friendship between John Magaro’s diffident baker Cookie and Orion Lee’s entrepreneurial Chinese immigrant King-Lu can be considered in a queer space. In my entirely subjective opinion I’m going to say the line between companionship and romantic love all but vanishes in this fine-grained miniaturist Western set on the Oregon Trail in the pioneer days of the 1820s. Kelly Reichardt , independent film’s poet laureate of the Pacific Northwest, nods back to her earlier Old Joy in her reflection on the bonds that bloom between men in the wilderness. But the divine golden-brown heifer that provides both the title and the plot driver for this lyrical drama pushes it over the top to make this arguably the finest work of the director’s career.

3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always On paper, Eliza Hittman’s delicate chronicle of a Pennsylvania teenager’s trip to New York City to terminate an unplanned pregnancy sounds like an issues movie, particularly at a time when the freshly stacked Supreme Court represents a renewed threat to women’s reproductive rights. But the raw intimacy of this probing portrait of female friendship and solidarity both acknowledges and transcends the political with its candid snapshot of an ordinary adolescent taking control of her body and finding a safe space to reveal her trauma. The performances of screen newcomers Sidney Flanigan in the central role and Talia Ryder as her unquestioningly supportive cousin are models of restraint, yet heartbreaking in their unguarded authenticity.

4. Ammonite Francis Lee burst onto the scene three years ago with God’s Own Country , a gay love story of stunning emotional candor and uninhibited carnality, played out against the rugged farmlands of the writer-director’s native Yorkshire. He follows with this equally austere but ravishing female companion piece set on the rocky Dorset coast. In slow-burn fashion without a trace of melodrama, it chronicles a fictionalized romance between a gruff mid-19th century working class paleontologist and a well-heeled younger married woman, equally constrained by the prescribed gender roles of the period. Kate Winslet gives the performance of her career in the former role, her character’s brittle exterior cracking to reveal a molten core of yearning and desire; and Saoirse Ronan , with her coltish grace and ever-alert eyes, is lovely as the woman who breaks that shell.

5. Beanpole Surging color that all but leaps off the screen is not something you expect to find in a drama about two young Leningrad nurses scarred by the psychological, physical and emotional ravages of war. But this audaciously unconventional survival tale from Kantemir Balagov, a wunderkind talent not yet 30, is no ordinary slice of Russian miserablism; its striking visual aesthetic and unexpected shards of acrid humor alone make it unique. As the battlefield comrades trying to scratch out lives for themselves in the devastated aftermath of World War II, transfixing newcomers Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina — both of them plucked out of acting school — draw a complicated friendship that swings between warmth and ferocity, hope and desolation in an environment of grotesque suffering, where PTSD hangs in the air like a dense fog.

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6. Minari Asian American assimilation dramas generally unfold in coastal cities. So there’s an invigorating freshness to Lee Isaac Chung’s exquisitely observed Reagan-era story of a Korean immigrant family struggling to get ahead as self-made farmers transplanted from the West Coast to rural Arkansas, a plot inspired by the writer-director’s own childhood. That breath of authentic experience, a sharp eye for family dynamics and an attention to seemingly small details enliven every frame of this gentle pastoral piece about hard work and hard luck. With performances of aching sensitivity from Steven Yeun as the stubborn father who dreams big for his family and is reluctant to concede his mistakes, and Yeri Han as the wife whose frustrations well up in anger, this is a heartfelt work whose delicacy lingers long in the memory.

7. Promising Young Woman Nothing Carey Mulligan has done before can prepare you for her avenging angel with scuzzy wings and messy lipstick in writer-director Emerald Fennell’s knockout debut. This tense thriller — each scene composed with needling precision yet bursting with unexpected danger and laced with the darkest shades of sardonic humor — puts its own provocative spin on the #MeToo narrative around issues of consent and women whose trauma remains unheard. Where Mulligan’s bruised badass Cassie fits into the sad history that sparked her revenge spree remains a teasing mystery until well into the film. Even when I was unsure where it was headed as it teeters between satire and sexual assault drama, this remained a white-knuckle ride through to its startling conclusion.

8. Nomadland In her poetic and arresting first two features, Songs My Brothers Taught Me and The Rider , Chloé Zhao established a spiritual connection to the wide-open landscapes of the American West, using nonprofessional, mostly Native American actors playing versions of themselves and their own stories. Into that seamless blend of documentary-like realism and structured narrative she ushers a major star for the first time, with Frances McDormand as Fern, a widow whose life is uprooted when her mining town home is literally erased. Indistinguishable from the real-life nomads with whom she shares the screen, McDormand adds another indelible character to her gallery of tenacious women, refusing to be a casualty of economic hardship as she discovers both the struggle and the rewards of transient living.

9. Lovers Rock During a year in which human contact became a fading memory with anyone outside our immediate circles, there was no more pleasurably tactile escape than this swoon-inducing, sensual dive into a 1980 house party fueled by the slow-groove romantic reggae subgenre that supplies the title. The sole fictional entry in Steve McQueen ’s powerful Small Axe anthology of five films about West Indian experience in London over two decades, this dreamy, free-flowing narrative keeps the racial hostility of white Britons on the margins even if the intrusion of macho predation from within threatens to break the spell. (Airing on Amazon, Small Axe  will be eligible for the Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series Emmy, though McQueen has said he considers each installment a film.) A scene in which Janet Kay’s 1979 hit, “Silly Games,” plays out on the turntable and the people crammed into a suburban living room continue singing … and singing, is a moment of sheer musical rapture and liberation.

10. Bacurau There are whispers of Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah and Walter Hill in co-directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ bonkers Brazilian Western, a formally inventive, epic blend of pulpy violence with sly absurdism and subversive sociopolitical commentary. This genuine genre-bender flips the usual script on innocent tourists at the mercy of crazed off-the-grid yokels, instead dropping in a bunch of heavily armed white First World blood-sports enthusiasts to prey on remote rural villagers, the disenfranchised poor seen as disposable. But the thrill-killers don’t bargain on an underclass rebellion from townsfolk already pissed about a crooked election, Sonia Braga’s boozy flame-haired doctor included.

Honorable mentions:  The Assistant , Da 5 Bloods , The Forty-Year-Old Version , The Invisible Man , Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom , News of the World , The Old Guard , One Night in Miami , The Surrogate , Wolfwalkers

Jon Frosch’s Top 10 1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always 2. Nomadland 3. An Easy Girl 4. Ammonite 5. Promising Young Woman 6. The Forty-Year-Old Version 7. The Climb 8. Beanpole 9. The Surrogate 10. Da 5 Bloods

Honorable mentions:  And Then We Danced , Crip Camp , David Byrne ’s American Utopia , First Cow , Fourteen , The King of Staten Island , One Night in Miami , 76 Days , Swallow , Time

Sheri Linden’s Top 10 1. Beanpole 2. Gunda 3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always 4. Promising Young Woman 5. One Night in Miami 6. Bacurau 7. 76 Days 8. First Cow 9.  Ammonite 10. The Forty-Year-Old Version

Honorable mentions:  Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint , Borat Subsequent Moviefilm , Crip Camp , David Byrne’s American Utopia , La Llorona , My Darling Vivian , The Painter and the Thief , The Surrogate , Tesla , The Truffle Hunters

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Movie Reviews

A terrific year for smaller films: critic justin chang pairs 10 favorites from 2020.

Justin Chang

best movie 2020 critics

(Clockwise from upper left) Vitalina Varela plays the title character in Vitalina Varela, Jessica Cressy and Luca Marinelli in Martin Eden, Marty Walsh in City Hall and two men try to start a business in the Oregon Territory in First Cow. Courtesy of Grasshopper Film, Francesca Errichiello/Kino Lorber, Zipporah Films, Allyson Riggs/A24 hide caption

(Clockwise from upper left) Vitalina Varela plays the title character in Vitalina Varela, Jessica Cressy and Luca Marinelli in Martin Eden, Marty Walsh in City Hall and two men try to start a business in the Oregon Territory in First Cow.

It was a year when most of us stayed away from movie theaters, but it wasn't a year without movies. While the major studios largely set their sights on 2021 (and a few released their big titles on streaming services), it was an unsurprisingly terrific year for independent narrative films, feature-length documentaries and pictures of all types and genres from overseas. Here are the 10 that meant the most to me, arranged, per my annual tradition, as a series of themed pairings:

Vitalina Varela and Time

'Totally Under Control' And 'Time' Are Two Very 2020 Documentaries

'Totally Under Control' And 'Time' Are Two Very 2020 Documentaries

Pedro Costa's Vitalina Varela , an austere yet ravishing work that straddles fiction and nonfiction, tells the story a Cape Verdean widow adrift in a Lisbon shantytown. Garrett Bradley's wrenching documentary Time traces a Louisiana woman's decades-long fight to free her husband from an excessive prison sentence. I saw both these movies in January at the Sundance Film Festival, a couple of weeks before the pandemic forced theaters to close. The tough intervening months have done nothing to dissipate their visual poetry and emotional power.

Nomadland and First Cow

'First Cow': A Profound, Ruminative Western

'First Cow': A Profound, Ruminative Western

Chloé Zhao 's achingly lyrical road movie, Nomadland , and Kelly Reichardt 's wistful 19th-century buddy picture, First Cow , are set nearly 200 years apart. But they both tell exquisite stories about itinerant workers in the wilderness, trying to make the most of their hard-scrabble lives even as they expose the cracks and fissures in the American Dream.

Martin Eden and I'm Thinking of Ending Things

This Sumptuous Retelling Of 'Martin Eden' Stays True To Jack London's Novel

This Sumptuous Retelling Of 'Martin Eden' Stays True To Jack London's Novel

Pietro Marcello's Martin Eden , a gorgeous Italian-language reworking of Jack London's classic novel, and I'm Thinking of Ending Things , Charlie Kaufman's darkly unsettling take on Iain Reid's book , both skewer the intellectual vanities of men with mordant humor and a mounting sense of tragedy. Structurally and formally, they were the two boldest, most inventive literary adaptations I saw all year.

City Hall and Collective

An Action-Packed Doc About Local Government? It's All In Wiseman's 'City Hall'

An Action-Packed Doc About Local Government? It's All In Wiseman's 'City Hall'

Frederick Wiseman is among the greatest and most prolific of documentary filmmakers, and City Hall , a sweeping panorama of Boston's municipal government, stands with his finest work. The ever-influential Wiseman touch can be felt in the Romanian nonfiction thriller Collective , Alexander Nanau's gripping, infuriating film about journalistic acumen, government malfeasance and a criminally negligent health-care system.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Beanpole

2 Friends Scarred By War Attempt To Heal In 'Beanpole'

2 Friends Scarred By War Attempt To Heal In 'Beanpole'

'Never Rarely Sometimes Always' Will Stay With You Forever

'Never Rarely Sometimes Always' Will Stay With You Forever

The quiet resilience of female friendships: Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always follows two teenagers (Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder) on a harrowing trek through contemporary New York, while Kantemir Balagov's Beanpole follows two women (Viktoria Miroshnichenko and Vasilisa Perelygina) trying to survive post-war Leningrad. Both films probe their bleak circumstances with sobering artistry and unshakable humanity.

Our 12 Favorite Things of 2020

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Our 12 favorite things of 2020.

NPR's Favorite Books Of 2020: The Book Concierge Is Back With 380+ Great Reads

NPR's Favorite Books Of 2020: The Book Concierge Is Back With 380+ Great Reads

NPR Critics Pick Their Favorite TV From A Strange 2020

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