The 13 Best Films Of 2020 (so far)
2020 will be remembered as the year where we never went to the movies. Plagued by the Cornovirus threat, the entire world has been forced to watch movies on their home screens. While this has taken away the cinematic ecstasy that cinephiles crave, it has allowed some of the least accessible films from yesteryears to finally land a place online. For instance some of the festival films I saw back in 2018 that never saw the light of the day have now either come on VOD or some streaming services. It has kicked off a whole new market for indie filmmakers who wanted some much-needed attention towards their smaller films. The following list (which will be updated regularly [Last updated on 22nd July]) consists of some of the best films of 2020 so far:
13. Last and First Men
The first and last cinematic project conceived by the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is an oral history of human species and it’s eventual doom. From where I see it, it’s a sharply conceived, metaphorical oddity about climate change and how, we, as a human ‘species’ have been leading towards our gradual pitfall for years.
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In many ways, it’s a bleak vision of a world we are going to leave for our future generation. A world, so full of vast nothingness that it’s mere existence would feel futile. Narrated by the commendable voice of Tilda Swinton, this sci-fi document formulates a distinct meaning for someone who sees it as a last testament, a final warning, a sign for death and destruction. It is an incomprehensible essay for now, but I am sure it will form different meanings once we see it a decade later.
12. The Wild Goose Lake
Diao Yinan’s return to filmmaking after the much-lauded Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) is a neon-colored neo-noir that slowly builds up walls of tense socio-political allegories about a gangster on the run. For what it’s worth the film can be seen as a long chase where leads and teams patch up to nail down Zhou Zenong.
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It’s an incredibly immersive experience that Yinan puts his viewers in. It is as if the viewer is in close proximity to all the happenings and the grittiness of the entire thing can be felt directly. Director Yinan uses his thriller tropes yet again to investigate the remorse of China’s poverty-ridden side.
For a mainstream Bollywood drama, Thappad accomplishes the unspeakable. In quietly subtle moments of silence, it single-handedly points fingers at the collective patriarchy that seeps into every household and the men inside them. Anubhav Sinha’s film uses a simple hook of a slap triggering years and months of unrealized rage and oppression and then goes a step ahead to carefully unravel the truths that hide behind closed doors.
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Featuring an ensemble cast that really gets behind the idea that floats throughout the narrative, the film becomes a plea and a wake-up call for all the wrong that the society has been sweeping under the rug for such a long time. With a few minor missteps, Thappad becomes one of the most important films of 2020.
Watch Thappad Online on Amazon Prime
10. Bad Education
After his superb Black Comedic stint in the brilliant ‘Thoroughbreds (2017),’ Corey Finley returns with a true crime story. Featuring a superlative performance from Hugh Jackman as the central character of years of fraud unweaving itself, Bad Education is about the cracks in the American education system.
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Constantly balancing good and evil actions with some superbly staged scenes Finley’s film doesn’t allow the audience’s to take a moral stand. In doing so he devises a crime brimmed out of necessity, then greed and then pleasure. Bad Education is a fine example of how systematic lying, in turn, alters the truth if carried on for a long time.
Watch Bad Education online on Disney + Hotstar
Rajat Kapoor’s deliciously macabre tale of a dead body, hidden secrets, and the snaring ideals of privilege find their way into the Diwali party of a couple who are about to discover the cracks in their relationship and the behavior of the people around them.
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Sharply written and brimming with tension, this self-proclaimed amoral tale with a deceptively simplistic story investigates the oddity of human behavior. Boasting an ensemble cast of indie favorites from the country, Kadakh is one of the most unusually satisfying watches of 2020.
Watch Kadakh Online on SonyLIV
8. Take me Somewhere Nice
Ena Sendijarević’s stylish debut feature Take Me Somewhere Nice, follows Alma and her aimless journey from the Netherlands to Bosnia in the lure of meeting her once estranged father for one last time. The best way to describe this Jim Jarmusch homage is to call it an unexcited, aimless symphony of escapism and rebellion.
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Sendijarević’s film revels in Alma’s blooming sexuality with deadpan expressionism. In doing so, she finds a cohesive balance between a borrowed tone and a tone that is mighty original.
7. Blow the Man Down
Who doesn’t enjoy a good murder mystery? Moreover, a mystery that ropes in an ensemble that is clearly having the time of their life is a big plus. Danielle Krudy & Bridget Savage Cole are first time directors who take their Fargo-Esque inspiration to a level that holds no boundaries.
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Set in a town run by women, Blow the Man Down is a cunning, conniving little film that uses its setting, humor, and macabre characters to build an ambitious dark comedy about trying to go up the ladder.
Watch Blow the man Down on Amazon Prime
6. Summer White
In Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson’s debut feature film Summer White, a young boy is so attached to her mother that it fumes him to see her trying to grow away from him. In this searing, visually rich, and complex portrayal of a young mind trying to make sense of the changes in his life, Patterson showcases an unearthly look at volatile teenage behavior.
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The film investigates the toxicity in a mother-son relationship when the mother has never made her offspring understand that letting go is sometimes more important than being together. Summer White shows maternal affection and the bounds through a visibly new lense.
5. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Featuring a powerhouse debut performance by Sidney Flanigan, Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always feels like a chapter out of a teenage girl’s notebook. It is not only realistic to a fault but also heartfelt and deeply moving.
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Motioning through Autumn’s life as she soaks in the horrors of having to withstand unplanned pregnancy, Hittman’s drama seeks refuge in a slight investigating of the advent of a totalitarian and overtly sexist society. One that judges you with each passing second and where having control of your own body becomes an experience that changes you. Hittman uses minimalistic dialogues and small conflicts to offer us one of the best films of 2020.
You can Rent/Buy Never Rarely Sometimes Always on Vudu
After the deeply unsettling and truly breathtaking Neruda and The Club, Pablo Larraín deep dives into a psychological introspection of Ema’s life. She is a young, enigmatic woman dealing with trauma, masochistic oppression, and a chaotic chance for resurrection.
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Fueled by a pulsating score by Nicolas Jaar and eye-popping visuals by Sergio Armstrong, Ema is a scathing character study of a woman dancing to the unmatched rhythm of her own chaos. Featuring a star-making turn by Mariana Di Girolamo and a heavy-handed approach by Larraín, Ema is one of the best films of 2020.
Watch Ema online on MUBI
3. The Woman Who Ran
The South Korean master of minimalist cinema kicks off 2020 with a smart and charming nod to the female gaze. In The Woman Who Ran, Hong Sangsoo follows Gamhee over a weekend as she arrives on the outskirts of Seoul. Starring Kim Min-hee yet again as a quiet, distant young woman trying to make sense of the things around her, the film features an all-woman cast.
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Truly investigating how these women operate and function in a world full of vile, unhinged men, The Woman Who Ran is funny, wise, and features Hong Sangsoo self-criticizing his repetitiveness by making us understand the extreme and different meaning that art holds for everyone consuming it. Also, look out for the cameo of the cat.
With Shirley, Josephine Decker (who broke out with the brilliant Madeline’s Madeline in 2018) rewrites the rules of a traditional biopic. Starring Elisabeth Moss as the titular Shirley Jackson – A renowned horror writer living with her professor husband whose toxicity is superseded with intrusive manipulation, the film is a classic example of storytelling at it’s most ‘thrillingly horrible.’
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Filled with a macabre and dreamlike narrative vision, Decker’s Shirley pays homage to the great writer’s vision whilst becoming a feminist fable of subjugated desires and the creative freedom that darkness brings to the forefront. It’s a slippery slope that Decker transverses in. What makes Shirley a great film is her audacity to truly revel in it.
Watch Shirley Online on Hulu
Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ brilliant first feature is a genre film that well-abound it’s confinements somehow becomes a haunting parable of a woman trying to regain control of her life and her body. Skimming through multiple themes such as loneliness, trauma, patriarchy with extreme elegance, the resounding power of this breathtakingly shot film lies in a unified credit sequence that somehow magnifies the shared tragedy of womanhood.
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Following the life of Hunter (played by a superb Haley Bennett) – a trophy wife forced with a languorous lifestyle of playing keep-up with her overbearingly fake husband, the film uses a medical condition to unravel a life that is housed-in on her. Touching upon mental health and the dire need for empathy, Mirabella-Davis’ Swallow is the best film of 2020 so far.