Happy Holidays everyone! As we endure the last days of this crazy year, I’ve decided to share with you my list of the Best Movies of 2020. Please, have in mind that I haven’t watched Nomadland, Minari, and Promising Young Woman yet — I absolutely hate when all the movies that are considered the best of the best are only available for everyone else just a couple of months before the Oscars! But at the same time, we’re not really in a position to complain after all the online film festivals and streaming releases we had, making this year a very exciting one when it came to movies. It was especially for that reason that I wanted to publish this before the year came to an end. After all, everybody knows that the three previously mentioned titles will have their space to shine in the upcoming months. So for the moment, let’s talk about some other films.
20. “The Whaler Boy” by Philipp Yuryev
I could have started this list with Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal, but I decided to choose something less known instead. With one of the best works of cinematography of the year, this directorial debut of Russian director Philipp Yuryev is a powerful and touching film about the life of a 15-year-old boy who lives in part so remote of Russia that you can literally get to the United States by boat. When the internet arrives in his town, he ends up falling in love with a cam girl and decides to cross the ocean to meet her in America. Despite having a dubious plot, The Whaler Boy stands out for its beauty, simplicity, and creativity in a cold and foreign environment, resulting in a magic film about growing and accepting our origins.
19. “Jungleland” by Max Winkler
Despite being a movie with a story that has been told a thousand times before, Jungleland checks so many right marks that it was impossible for me not to love it. Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell deliver outstanding performances by playing two broke brothers in an abusive relationship who are constantly trying to make ends meet through the world of illegal fighting. Besides their performances, Max Winkler brings a more fresh and interesting approach to the story through his direction, which is highlighted through the beautiful cinematography of Damián Garcia, making Jungleland a very special indie gem and one of my favorites of the year.
18. “Calm With Horses” by Nick Rowland
Probably one of the most underrated films of the year, Calm With Horses is an outstanding British drama with a draw-dropping performance by Cosmo Jarvis, who plays an ex-boxer whose fidelity is tested when the gang he works for asks him to kill a man. With some Bullhead meets Trespass Against Us vibes, Nick Rowland creates a powerful film about a man trying to find solace in a world made of violence and blood.
17. “Bad Education” by Cory Finley
Maybe one of the reasons I liked this film so much is because I literally wasn’t expecting anything from it. It actually surprises me that this isn’t receiving any Oscar buzz since Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney are incredible in it. Talking about the true story of an exemplar public school that is revealed to be stealing money from the government, Cory Finley makes an outstanding job directing this with style and subtlety, along with Lyle Vincent’s stunning cinematography, making Bad Education an elegant and involving film that raises important questions about what is right and what is wrong, and the importance of speaking up.
16. “Tenet” by Christopher Nolan
I wasn’t really sure how much I liked Tenet until I’ve watched it for a second time. Yes, it may not be Christopher Nolan’s best, but it’s probably one of his most challenging and elegant ones. With incredible cinematography, soundtrack, and story concepts, Tenet pushes the boundaries of narrative and time in a sophisticated way that points back to spy British films from the early 60s to late 70s. It definitely takes two or three watches to fully understand it, but is exactly the fact that the narrative demands more from the spectator that makes the movie so brilliant. Can we also talk about how great Robert Pattinson is in this?
15. “Summer of 85” by François Ozon
As I said before, it’s impossible not to think about Call Me by Your Name when you see the trailer of Summer of 85. Despite both these films talk about gay romances that happen in the 80s, the only thing they have in common is the decade the story is set. Unlike Guadagnino’s film, François Ozon is more concerned with the nostalgia of memory by using the clothes, the music, and the time of his story to bring back the feeling of being a teenager — a time when we wanted to live fast and die young. This wish is also part of a dark twist in the story, which results in a touching and bittersweet coming of age that in my opinion, ended up being one of the best LGBTQ films of the year.
14. “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” by Jason Woliner
Who would have thought that one of the most important films of the year would be the sequence of Borat? Being surprisingly better than the first one, Sacha Baron Cohen creates a mockumentary that does not only criticize America and the Trump administration, but it also tackles many important subjects such as feminism, sexual abuse, and white supremacy in a smart, bold and hilarious manner that is both funny and shocking for despite being fantasy, it’s very very close to reality.
13. “The Hater” by Jan Komasa
From the same director of the outstanding Polish film Corpus Christi, The Hater can be seen as some kind of sequence of the Social Network. If David Fincher’s film was about a student who decided to create a social network that revolutionized the world after being dumped by a girl, Jan Komasa’s film goes five steps further for showing a psychopathic character that controls everybody around him through social media. More than that, it’s a film that raises important questions about the use of the internet and how it’s being manipulated to spread disinformation and hate. Not mentioning Maciej Musiałowski, who gives one of the best performances of the year.
12. “The Metamorphosis of Birds” by Catarina Vasconcelos
Being one of the most beautiful films of the year, The Metamorphosis of Birds is a documentary/fiction hybrid that celebrates the lives of Catarina Vasconcelos’ grandparents, who spent most of their lifetimes apart. While the grandfather traveled in the sea, the grandmother spent days taking care of their children and their house. With that, the female director creates a poetic and melancholic exercise of memory by reading the letters that they both exchanged in the past while recreating beautiful images that focus on personal objects, places, and people.
11. “Ammonite” by Francis Lee
It kind of saddens me that most people didn’t really like Ammonite. I understand the film is a little slow, and that there isn’t a lot of story and that there are many similarities with A Portrait of a Lady On Fire. But I honestly think these statements aren’t fair with Francis Lee because his film is so different than the one of Céline Sciamma, and it’s slow and long in such a more interesting and meaningful way than most movies out there. And that happens because Ammonite is a film of labor. Most of the 112 minutes is about Kate Winslet walking around the seashore, digging up rocks, and taking care of the house. This order and maneuver of things is also the kind of romance that will blossom between Winslet and Saoirse, which is something as hard and cold as an ammonite. And it’s through the little details that we realize how much control Francis Lee has over his characters and mise en scene, making Ammonite a movie that everything you see has a purpose, resulting in a movie that is simply beautiful to watch.
10. “The Disciple” by Chaitanya Tamhane
The Disciple may have a story that doesn’t sound really interesting at first, but once you finish Chaitanya Tamhane’s film, you will realize the importance of it. By telling the story of a young musician who is trying to make a career out of singing a very specific type of classical Indian music, the movie explores the importance of art and culture in a modernized world influenced by Western societies. It’s also a movie about heroes and how they can be both inspiring and misleading, resulting in a very touching and beautiful film that raises important questions.
09. “County Lines” by Henry Blake
There are many movies that talk about the exploitation of minors, but I believe County Lines takes this concept to another level. Telling the story of a poor kid from England that sees an opportunity to make money with drug trafficking between state lines, Henry Blake’s film has such a strong punch of kitchen-sink realism that will make Ken Loach’s films seem light. This happens because the movie suddenly takes a turn for the worse without you even expecting it, but it’s exactly this that prevents County Lines from indulging itself into questioning the ethics of right or wrong. It’s a story that simply is and that will keep happening, which leaves you with a powerless feeling that is rare when it comes to similar movies. Not mentioning every single actor who’s in this is absolutely brilliant.
08. “The Lodge” by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala
The Lodge is a horror film that isn’t necessarily scary but it plays with your mind in so many different ways that I couldn’t stop myself from finishing the movie in a state of awe. The story follows two children from divorced parents who spend the holiday with the new girlfriend of his dad. When the children discover that the girlfriend has a dark and sinister past, the children find themselves in strange situations that may put the lives of everyone around them at risk. With a very interesting script that unfolds itself in very unexpected ways, The Lodge is the type of horror film that I love. It’s different, disturbing, and complex, just as Riley Keogh’s performance, which is one of my favorites of the year.
07. “Possessor” by Brandon Cronenberg
From the son of David Cronenberg himself, Possessor is one of the most mind-blowing movies of the year. With an incredible story and stunning visuals, the film follows the story of a female agent who works for a company that is specialized in brain-implant technology and takes other people’s bodies to carry out assassinations. Things take a turn for the worse when the agent starts to lose the sense of her own identity while hosting a client’s body, making Possessor a creative and challenging film about our characters, with a great script, performances, and production design.
06. “The Nest” by Sean Durkin
The Nest could easily be seen as a movie about a white rich couple who struggle to adapt after they move to England in the 90s. Fortunately, it’s way more than that. Sean Durkin creates an elegant, sophisticated, and claustrophobic film about the deterioration of ourselves. It’s a movie about wanting it all and how much we lose of ourselves by trying to achieve these dreams. There’s something similar to some Ingmar Bergman movies here, and Sean Durkin’s domain over his direction is the proof that no matter what kind of material you have, it can become a great film on the hands of a great director like him. And everything gets even better with Jude Law and Carie Coon, who gives us probably the bests performances of the year, making The Nest one of my 2020 favorites.
05. “Soul” by Peter Docter
Pixar’s new film Soul is everything you expected and more. It’s a movie about learning the importance of our daily routine, being thankful for the things we have, and learning that sometimes our dreams must take second place in this thing we call life. And Peter Docter makes an outstanding job by telling this story with an original and fun script that takes us to a world where souls are being developed and they need to find their spark. The journey that unfolds is absolutely beautiful and inspiring, with Pixar’s most incredible and realistic graphics to date, making this not only one of the best films of 2020 but also one of Pixar’s best.
04. “Father” by Srdan Golubović
Probably the biggest surprise of the year for me, Father tells the story of an unemployed man who sees the government of his country taking his children away from him after he and his wife are classified as unfit. With that, the film follows the journey this father takes when he decides to walk to the capital to appeal against the judge’s decision. Filmed with great subtlety and being extremely realistic, Father deals with the abuse of the government in underdeveloped countries and the importance that people have when it comes to helping others, whether this is giving a ride to a stranger, offering a plate of food or talking publicly about something.
03. “Undine” by Christian Petzold
Inspired by the mythology of the mermaid who falls in love with a man and can die if he is unfaithful to her, Undine is not only the latest work by German director Christian Petzold — which won the Best Actress Award for Paula Beer at the Berlin Festival. It is also one of the best films of the year for both its creativity and simplicity, in a story that mixes modern relationships with mystical figures, resulting in a poetic and unique tale of poetic realism in modern Germany.
02. “The Man Who Sold His Skin” by Kaouther Ben Hania
Inspired by the true story of a man who sold his skin to a famous artist, Kaouther Ben Hania creates one of the most interesting and provocative films of the year by telling the story of a Syrian refugee who sells his back to a famous artist in order to be able to travel to Europe to visit his girlfriend. Addressing several important questions about the exploitation of refugees in Europe and the elitist world of art collectors, The Man Who Sold His Skin marked me with its creativity, beauty, and relevance, resulting in one of the most important films of recent years.
01. “Babyteeth” by Shannon Murphy
Babyteeth can be seen as a coming of age story about a girl who is dying of cancer, but it is much more than that. It is a celebration of who we are, what makes our personality, from the good to the bad parts. It is also an extremely original and creative study of relationships, family and drug abuse that it brought more tears to my eyes than I would like to admit. Not mentioning the incredible performances of the entire cast. After the year we had, I couldn’t be more sure and proud of putting Babyteeth as the best year of 2020. If you haven’t watched it yet, do it for yesterday!
Honorable mentions: Sound of Metal by Darius Marder, Get Duked! by Ninian Doff, New Order by Michel Franco, Apples by Christos Nikou and Uncle Frank by Alan Ball. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and stay tuned for more 2020 films at the Papiro & Mint Awards!