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  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

My 100 Favourite Films of 2020 (100-76)

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

In spite of a pandemic, 2020 still saw a large amount of great films coming to the fore. Comments of "wErE tHeRe EvEn 100 FiLmS rElEaSeD iN 2020?" were pasted all over end of year lists (most of them only picked 20). The answer is yes, and there was a lot more than just 100 good films released, people just don't know what to keep an eye out for.


Just a quick head's up, the following list is subjective. These are all films I enjoyed the most and just resonated with me more than others. I am not saying one film is better than the other in an objective sense, it just boils down to what I liked the most.


My 2019 list strictly had films that made their premiere in 2019, completely neglecting 2018 films that only made their wider theatrical debut to more audiences in 2019. So we are mixing things up here. Some films on this list made their debuts in 2019, but only made their wider release to audiences in 2020 through theatrical, virtual cinema and streaming premieres.


An annoying additional note: one major film I have omitted that would've climbed up my list is Minari, due to its wider theatrical release only coming out this year, pushing it to be eligible for my 2021 list.


To start things off, here are a few special mentions that unfortunately didn't qualify for my list based purely on their format and original release date, but I felt these needed a special shout out.


David Byrne’s American Utopia

My take: Spike Lee helms the film version of the astonishing broadway performance by Talking Heads' own David Byrne, capturing the magic of the show through concise editing and camera work, allowing Byrne’s unique creativity to flourish on both the stage and screen. Brilliantly inventive in its ability to have something important to say, the music of Talking Heads feels as fresh and original as ever.

Where you can watch it: HBO MAX (USA), Most VOD platforms (UK)


Nationtime

My take: Originally released in 1972, avant-garde filmmaker William Greaves’ documentary Nationtime covers the National Black Political Convention that took place in Gary, Indiana in 1972. It was originally considered too militant to be broadcasted on Television, with a 58-minute cut making the rounds instead. But thanks to a newly restored cut funded by Jane Fonda and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Nationtime is returned to its original running time of 80 minutes. It’s an important snapshot of the times, providing a much-needed platform for African Americans politicians and leaders to challenge the system so dead set in its ways. Greaves wisely lets the strength of the speakers and the material take precedent, putting his unique style in the rearview and away from ever overpowering the messages found within. Historic and essential, Nationtime remains as relevant as ever.

Where you can watch it: The Criterion Channel, Most VOD platforms (USA)


The Beastie Boys Story

My take: A live documentary filmed and orchestrated by Spike Jonze, The Beastie Boys Story is an infectious and fun as hell show that covers the highly influential trio’s career. Personal and surprisingly intimate, this is The Beastie Boys like you’ve never seen them before; covering every single detail from the very beginning to the very end, making it a bittersweet dedication to Adam Yauch’s legacy and humility. The Beastie Boys Story isn’t just a live show dressed as a music doccie, it’s essentially a story about friendship and the refusal to compromise their artistic vision. One of the great feel-good experiences of the year, The Beastie Boys Story is the definitive document on their fluid career.

Where you can watch it: Apple TV+ (Worldwide)


The Last of Us Part II

My take: Although not a film, The Last of Us Part II remains the single most cinematic experience I had in 2020; with performances, writing and direction rivaling the very best films the year had to offer. It’s a devastating experience that pushes the limits of what storytelling can be in the medium. It’s unfortunate that the game got review bombed initially by reviewers who seemed to be stemming their hatred for the game based on their own bigotry and sexism. It’s a game that doesn’t deserve such hate, and even if you didn’t like the direction the story took Ellie and Joel, it’s undeniably brave in its execution and what it has to say. It’s a literal game-changer for representation in characters within the medium as well, providing strong and fully realized queer and trans characters never seen before in the medium. Heartbreaking, Brutal and absolutely beautiful; The Last of Us Part II is an immersive experience that refuses to let you off the hook. You can read my full thoughts on the game over here.

Where you can purchase it: Any store that sells PS4 games, PSN Store (Worldwide)


Don't @me, remember, these are all just my subjective opinion and taste...


...so without further ado...


100. Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado

Directors: Christina Costantini & Kareem Tabsch Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 36 Minutes Country: USA Languages: Spanish/English

Synopsis: Legendary TV astrologer and psychic, Walter Marcado, discusses his life, career and the secluded life he now lives. My take: Walter Mercado is a supremely unique being that was a staple in the lives of Latin American audiences in the US and Latin America during the 80s and 90s. Wholly original, he became an icon of his era, embedding himself in the fabric of American pop culture of the time. Seeing as most people outside the Americas are unaware of his influence in the zeitgeist of the time; it’s wonderful to be introduced to this mysterious, larger-than-life individual. An entertaining love letter to a trailblazing figure of otherworldly originality.

Where you can watch it: Netflix (Worldwide)

99. Uncle Frank

Director: Alan Ball Genre: Drama/Road/Comedy Length: 1 Hour 35 Minutes Country: USA Language: English Cast: Paul Bettany, Sophia Lillis, Peter Macdissi, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, (character actress) Margot Martindale, Stephen Root Synopsis: Following the death of his estranged father, Frank (Paul Bettany) returns home from New York with his niece Beth (Sophia Lillis), in order to attend the funeral. My take: Alan Ball’s road movie is a showcase for Bettany’s touching and respectful portrayal of a gay man so desperate to reconnect with his family, but seemingly terrified to come to terms with the damage his estranged father inflicted on his journey. Refusing to ham it up with clichéd gay stereotypes, Bettany is considerate in his interpretation of the character, lifting what could’ve been a Lifetime movie into a touching coming-of-age story.

Where you can watch it: Prime Video (Worldwide)

98. The Donut King

Director: Alice Gu Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 34 Minutes Country: USA Languages: English/Khmer Synopsis: The rags to riches true story of Cambodian refugee Ted Ngoy’s multi-million dollar donut empire. My take: A fascinating and crowd-pleasing tale of a man fulfilling the American Dream in spectacular fashion. It’s hard not to root for Ted, but it’s even more rewarding seeing the way he changed the lives of countless Cambodians fleeing a regime in hopes of achieving their American Dream. Entertaining and heartfelt, Donut King is the success story we need right now in a world determined to see us fail now more than ever.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD platforms (USA)

97. My Psychedelic Love Story

Director: Errol Morris Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 42 Minutes Country: USA Language: English

Synopsis: Joanna Harcourt-Smith’s story takes her on a whirlwind romance with the notorious high priest of LSD, Timothy Leary, which also may have been an elaborate plan by the CIA to capture him. My take: Errol Morris’ ever-expanding and evolving style hits a new chapter in the bizarre true story (and theories) behind the romance that ultimately led to Timothy Leary’s arrest. A little batshit crazy in uncovering the theories and ideas about the whole affair, it is once again another entertaining and stylish Errol Morris film that is impossible not to be seduced by.

Where you can watch it: Showtime (USA)

96. All In: The Fight for Democracy

Directors: Lisa Cortes & Liz Garbus Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 42 Minutes Country: USA Language: English Synopsis: An eye-opening look at the history of voter suppression in the US, as well as following those who are currently trying to abolish it. My take: Stacey Abrahams is a hero for the ages in this documentary that examines the rampant voter suppression the US has been rife with for many years. Her unwavering civil and moral duty to fight makes her one of the most compelling and heroic subjects of any film from 2020. A documentary that is vital in understanding the broken system America so readily relies on.

Where can you watch it: Prime Video (Worldwide)

95. Totally Under Control

Director: Alex Gibney Genre: Documentary Length: 2 Hours 3 Minutes Country: USA Languages: English/Korean Synopsis: A damning analysis from the Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) on the US response to COVID-19. My take: A film that appeared to have arrived too quickly for anyone’s liking at the height of the pandemic becomes a work that is surprising in the level of thoroughness in unpacking the shit show that was the US’s response to COVID-19’s arrival on its shores. They compare USA’s response mostly to that of South Korea, which reported their first cases the same day as the US, giving us a truly maddening insight into the incompetence exhibited by the Trump administration. A great piece of investigative filmmaking that we always come to expect from Alex Gibney.

Where can you watch it: Apple TV (SA), Hulu (USA)

94. The Truth

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 46 Minutes Country: France/Japan/Switzerland Languages: French/English Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke

Synopsis: A legendary actress reunites with her daughter once more after her memoirs are published. My Take: Koreeda’s first film not in the Japanese language is sharp, funny and has Deneuve and Binoche at their absorbing best. The Truth is a thought-provoking dissection of a relationship between a mother and daughter who seem to remember things differently. Lumir (Binoche)’s annoyance with her seemingly oblivious mother is challenged when she sees her tackling a new film role that has her playing a woman at the end of her life. It creates interesting moments of personal enlightenment that challenged my own perspective on current and past relationships in need of revisiting.

Where you can watch it: Showtime (USA) Mubi (UK)

93. Perfect 10

Director: Eva Riley Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 23 Minutes Country: UK Language: English Cast: Frankie Box, Alfie Deegan, William Ash, Sharlene Whyte Synopsis: A young gymnast’s world shifts course when her half-brother she never knew she had arrives out of the blue. My take: Frankie Box is excellent as Leigh, forced to come to terms with a part of herself she didn’t know existed, throwing all her aspirations for a loop; with a new support system wanting to help and encourage Leigh, but also hampers it when she misunderstands it. Perfect 10 is an excellent film that challenges the notion of how support given by others can somehow be embraced and completely misconstrued.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD platforms (UK)

92. True History of the Kelly Gang

Director: Justin Kurzel Genre: Western/Drama Length: 2 Hours 4 Minutes Country: Australia/UK/France Language: English Cast: George MacKay, Russel Crowe, Charlie Hunnam, Nicholas Hoult, Essie Davis, Thomasin McKenzie

Synopsis: The exploits of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang during the 1870s. My take: A riotous exploration of the myth that is Ned Kelly, played with an equal punk-like energy by George MacKay as the man himself. Kurzel takes western genre tropes and throws them out the window, letting the real stories do the talking. Gorgeously shot with an electric cast, this new interpretation of Ned Kelly is as entertaining as a modern western can get.

Where you can watch it: Google Play Store (SA), Showtime (USA), Prime Video (UK)

91. On the Rocks

Director: Sophia Coppola Genre: Comedy/Drama Length: 1 Hour 37 Minutes Country: USA Language: English Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jenny Slate

Synopsis: Laura (Rashida Jones) reconnects with her jet-setting Playboy father Felix (Bill Murray) when she begins to suspect her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her. My take: A long overdue reunion between Bill Murray and director Sofia Coppola doesn’t disappoint. Murray and Jones’ chemistry is outstanding, pushing what appears to be a standard father/daughter relationship into a buddy comedy. A film of meaningful insight into the dynamics of a relationship not being able to fully trust as well as not being able to fully commit with one another.

Where you can watch it: Apple TV+ (Worldwide)

90. Zappa

Director: Alex Winter Genre: Documentary/Music Length: 2 Hours 9 Minutes Country: USA Language: English Synopsis: A look at the life and career of singer-songwriter Frank Zappa. My take: Admittedly, I am not a big fan of Zappa’s work, but it’s hard not to appreciate his work with this documentary that takes a deep dive into the life and career of a highly talented and original multi-talented musician. Alex Winter was given complete access to everything in the massive Zappa vaults, and it shows. It’s a labour of love that pulls in fans and most importantly, non-fans alike – allowing people to both rediscover and discover a truly impressive career.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD platforms (USA)

89. Born to Be

Director: Tania Cypriano Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 32 Minutes Country: USA Language: English Synopsis: A look into the work of Dr. Jess Ting, a groundbreaking surgeon currently practicing at Mount Sinai Centre in New York, where he specializes in Transgender medicine and surgery. My take: Born to Be is a piece dedicated to the hardworking, loving individuals who help people finally transition and be who they feel they were meant to be; particularly highlighting the revolutionary work of Dr. Jess Ting. Thankfully, the level of intimacy exhibited here is not exploited, allowing us to feel the joys and pains of patients as they take their next big steps. The level of respectful understanding is on full display, giving us a chance to revel in the wonderful work of Dr. Ting and his fearless team.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD platforms (USA)

88. Rocks

Director: Sarah Gavron Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 33 Minutes Country: UK Language: English Cast: Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali, Sarah Niles, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Ruby Stokes Synopsis: A teenage girl, Rocks (Bukky Bakray) struggles to take care of herself and her little brother after their mom appears to have abandoned them. My take: One of the best surprises of last year comes in the form of Bukky Bakray as the film’s lead, delivering a performance of maturity and wit the character deserves to be interpreted as. Thanks to phenomenal casting, the ensemble of Rocks allows the film to flow effortlessly from moment to moment, building a world that is both hopeful and tragic to the possible outcomes that await Rocks and her little brother. A wonderfully infectious work that deserves to be uncovered from the unpredictable Netflix algorithm keeping it buried away.

Where you can watch it: Netflix (Worldwide)

87. I Am Greta

Director: Nathan Grossman Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 42 Minutes Country: Sweden/USA/Germany/UK Languages: English/Swedish

Synopsis: A documentary about Greta Thunberg and the rise of a louder, younger movement pushing for environmental change. My take: Nothing gets fragile white men from age 32 and up absolutely furious like a teenage girl from Sweden wanting the world to be a better place for her generation and the ones yet to come. If you go through the bullshit amount of review bombs it received, you will see those fragile white men poking their heads out. I Am Greta thankfully doesn’t (at least for me) fall into the trap of becoming a self-congratulatory affair. It illustrates the intricacies of the environmental crisis facing us, further putting into context of who and why Greta Thunberg is the brave, passionate person she is. It’s an intimate, personal and grand reminder that the more Greta Thunbergs we have on our side, the brighter our future looks.

Where you can watch it: Hulu (USA) Most VOD Platforms (UK)

86. Matthias & Maxime

Director: Xavier Dolan Genre: Drama/Romance/LGBTQ Length: 1 Hour 59 Minutes Country: Canada/France Languages: French/English Cast: Xavier Dolan, Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas, Harris Dickinson, Anne Dorval

Synopsis: Two best friends find their relationship tested when they have to share a kiss in a short film a friend’s sister is making. My take: Xavier Dolan returns with an outstanding script and cast that is beautifully articulated and executed in a romance blossoming from a highly unlikely source. Maxime (Dolan) is preparing to leave for Australia, forcing both him and Matthias (D’Almeida) to dissect and dig deep within themselves and figure out what they want and who they are. It’s another excellent entry into Dolan’s catalogue, proving once more why he is one of the most interesting filmmakers working today.

Where you can watch it: Mubi (UK & USA)

85. Los Lobos

Director: Samuel Kishi Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 35 Minutes Country: Mexico Language: Spanish/English/Cantonese Cast: Martha Lorena Reyes, Maximiliano Nájar Márquez, Leonardo Nájar Márquez, Cici Lau

Synopsis: An immigrant mother brings her two sons to America, where they spend their days letting their imaginations run wild as she goes off to work. My take: 2020’s Florida Project, Los Lobos paints a delicate portrait of immigrants trying to find their rainbow in a situation that barely lets them do so. Animated sections of the film let us live inside the heads of these kids, who so badly want to go to Disneyland after promises made by their hardworking and increasingly stressed mother. It’s a film that so easily could’ve been poverty porn, but thankfully the unwavering imagination and bond of two brothers lets Los Lobos become a story of hope in the face of unrelenting circumstance.

Where you can watch it: HBO MAX (USA) 84. Feels Good Man

Director: Arthur Jones Genre: Documentary Length 1 Hour 33 Minutes Country: USA Language: English

Synopsis: Artist Matt Furie finds himself fighting to get his comic character Pepe the Frog off the Hate Symbols Database and reclaiming him as his own once more. My take: Matt Furie is a sweetheart. A guy who just likes to draw cartoon frogs and make comics about friends hanging out, drinking beer and just having a good time. Then the shitheads in the shittier corners of the internet took his character, memed it to death and eventually through the cesspool of 4chan’s shittiest corners, eventually turned it into a symbol of hatred and white supremacy. Matt Furie’s story is partly tarnished thanks to this, and he doesn’t deserve it. We see how Pepe The Frog’s influence in the 4Chan foums expanded well over into Trump’s election campaign, as well as Matt Furie’s eventual lawsuit against Alex Jones and Info Wars. It’s initially all so disheartening seeing an artist completely lose any love and ownership he had for Pepe, but the hopelessness rises through the dirt, giving us a story only fitting of a happy ending for a lovable frog just trying to regain his identity.

Where you can watch it: Apple TV/Microsoft Store (UK) Most VOD platforms (USA) 83. The Dissident

Director: Bryan Fogel Genre: Documentary/Thriller Length: 1 Hour 59 Minutes Country: USA Languages: Arabic/Turkish/English

Synopsis: Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death sent shockwaves to journalists and Saudi dissidents the world over, revealing cracks that point to the country he once loved responsible for his murder. My take: As much a thriller as it is a documentary, The Dissident showcases the frightening power Mohammed bin Salman has not only in Saudi Arabia, but well beyond its borders. Delving into the actual investigation conducted by Turkish authorities as well as visiting Saudi journalists fearing for their lives, The Dissident creates a tense tale of betrayal and the force of absolute power. It’s a sobering film that puts Mohammed bin Salman under a harsh spotlight, crucially reminding us of his seemingly growing impunity that needs to be noted.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD platforms (USA) 82. The Invisible Man

Director: Leigh Whannell Genre: Horror/Thriller Length: 2 Hours 5 Minutes Country: Canada/Australia/USA Language: English Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer

Synopsis: After her abusive ex-boyfriend dies, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) continues to still feel his presence, beginning to suspect he may still be there. My take: An atmospheric and terrifying new spin on a classic tale that is so much more than just being a spooky tale with the odd scare here and there. Leigh Whannell’s smart script turns the classic H.G. Wells into a story about an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship. It’s a startling statement and observation of the torment and scarring an abusive relationship leaves on the people who managed to leave as well as those who are still stuck inside one. A fresh and smart exercise in the sci-fi horror game, The Invisible Man deserves the respect it has earned.

Where you can watch it: Showmax/Google Play Store (SA), HBO MAX (USA), Most VOD platforms (UK)

81. A Sun

Director: Chung Mong-hong Genre: Drama Length: 2 Hours 36 Minutes Country: Taiwan Language: Mandarin Cast: Kuan-Ting Liu, Chien-Ho Wu, Yi-wen Chen, Samantha Shu-Chin Ko, Greg Han Hsu Synopsis: A tragedy begins to cause a domino effect within a family of four, tearing them apart. My take: One of the true hidden gems lurking around on Netflix, A Sun is a sweeping epic that doesn’t go kindly on the family at the center of a storm; constantly building and swirling around them, never quite knowing when things are going to change for the worse. The expectations set out by our characters are met with tragedies that have a cruel sense of humour, creating a film that thrives on not playing it safe.

Where you can watch it: Netflix (Worldwide)

80. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Director: Goerge C. Wolfe Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 34 Minutes Country: USA Language: English Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Colman Domingo, Jeremy Shamos, Jonathan Coyne, Taylour Paige, Dusan Brown

Synopsis: Ma Rainey and her band spends the day recording a song at a recording studio in Chicago, 1927. However tensions begin to rise between her, the band and management. My take: A ferociously performed adaptation of the stage play, centring on Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and Levee (Chadwick Boseman). Levee’s tragic unravelling through hope, rage and crushing disappointment makes Ma Rainey’s an important point of discussion about the sheer inequality black artists in the industry faced and unfortunately, are still facing today.

Where you can watch it: Netflix (Worldwide) 79. Eastern

Director: Piotr Adamski Genre: Thriller/Western/Drama Length: 1 Hour 18 Minutes Country: Poland Language: Polish Cast: Maja Pankiewicz, Paulina Krzyzanska, Marcin Czarnik, Tomasz Sobczak, Krystyna Czubowna

Synopsis: In a dystopian world, where the rules are set by ruthless patriarchal codes, two young girls are forced to take bloody revenge to save the honour of their families. My take: A wildly original take on the Western genre, Adamski takes the tropes of the genre (in this case, revenge) and blends them with medieval honour codes, setting them in suburban Poland. It feels like a fable, with characters living by this code in a modern society that appears to be separated from their world, yet entirely aware of it. It’s an interesting exercise in where you can still take the genre, implementing new ideas and themes that keep the genre fresh and exciting when it so often veers off into safe territories.

Where you can watch it: Curzon Home Cinema (UK)

78. Class Action Park

Directors: Seth Porges, Chris Charles Scott III Genre: Documentary Length: 1 Hour 30 Minutes Country: USA Language: English

Synopsis: A documentary that unwraps the truly legendary Action Park which was deemed as the World’s most dangerous theme park. My take: Hysterical in its outrageousness, Class Action Park is a love letter of both nostalgia and disdain to a place with a lunatic owner, the most apathetic staff imaginable, and a record number of lawsuits it appeared to take pride in. Class Action Park is one of the most entertaining films of 2020, with hilarious stories from interviews with attendees and the staff themselves.

Where you can watch it: HBO MAX (USA)

77. Patrick

Director: Tim Mielants Genre: Black Comedy/Mystery/Drama Length: 1 Hour 37 Minutes Country: Belgium/Netherlands Languages: Flemish, French, English, Dutch, German Cast: Kevin Janssens, Hannah Hoekstra, Jermaine Clement, Pierre Bokma

Synopsis: A handyman in a nudist community goes on the hunt for his favourite hammer, which has mysteriously vanished. My Take: A strange little Belgian film tackling themes of grief, identity and the need to move on. Patrick is a darkly funny original film that takes all the black comedy leanings of a Coen Brother film and adds a unique European flair to it. Led by an outstanding Kevin Janssens as the titular lead character, Patrick is a fun descent into the pain and sadness of a man who just wants his favourite hammer back.

Where you can watch it: Apple TV/Google Play/YouTube (UK)

76. Pieces of a Woman

Director: Kornél Mundruczó Genre: Drama Length: 2 Hours 6 Minutes Country: Canada/Hungary/USA Language: English Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie

Synopsis: A couple go through a tragic home birth, leaving them dealing with the emotional and psychological aftermath that follows. My Take: An emotionally draining experience, Pieces of a Woman is an exercise in exploring the overwhelming anguish one such incident has on a couple trying to move on from it. The masterfully orchestrated home birth sequence is made to look like a long, single take, effectively setting up the inevitable tragedy that is on the horizon. Vanessa Kirby’s lead turn is nothing short of devastating. Director Mundruczó lets his cast take control of their characters, and with Kirby in particular, she relishes in this; allowing for her character to go through the motions of sorrow, anger and eventually acceptance. This liberating sense of creativity pays off, giving us a performance that is unforgettable; pushing Pieces of a Woman to towering heights.

Where you can watch it: Netflix (Worldwide)

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