The Ten Best Movies of 2020 – Flix 66

Good or Bad (mostly bad… perhaps terrible), 2020 is definitely a year to remember for a variety of reasons. But I’m gonna focus my attention on movies.  With theaters closed due to a pandemic for most of the year and big blockbuster movies moving dates to 2021, smaller independent films had more time to shine. The already growing trend of streaming services hit big and we watched most of our movies from the comfort of our homes. As I’m sure most of you can attest to, much of your viewing habits probably came in the form of binging tv shows (new and old). But while I loved seeing and listening on repeat to the stage production of Hamilton, waiting week to week for the next episode of The “Mandalorian” Season 2 on Disney Plus, binging “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix, or just keeping things easy with “The Boys,” “Schitt’s Creek,” and “Cobra Kai,” these shows do not qualify for the list. But there were some very good movies that came out in 2020, so I kindly added where you might be able to stream a few of them. While the titles on my Ten Best Movies of 2020 may not seem as recognizable to the average moviegoer, I believe these films are definitely worth checking out – the top five especially. As usual, I’ve added a few more to my ten as it’s an ongoing changing process.
14. MINARI – Following a Korean family who moves to Arkansas to start a farm in the 1980s, MINARI is about struggle, hardships, tradition, growth, and family.
13. LET HIM GO – Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are on a mission to find and save their grandson from the clutches of an abusive step father and his wicked family. Utilizing interesting characters in an unusual and terrifying scenario, the film is patient as it builds tension to a thrilling climax
12. A SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE: FARMAGEDDON – Absolutely delightful. And unlike Pixar’s SOUL and ONWARD, which I also enjoyed but found more flawed, FARMAGEDDON is fit for everyone of all ages. After a friendly alien lands near the farm, Shaun and the rest of the farm animals must help figure out a way to send it home. Full of humorously endearing homages to so many great sci-fi films before it, FARMAGEDDON has a smile-inducing charm and heart-warming perfection in its simplicity. (Netflix)
11. THE ASSISTANT – Julia Garner (The Ozarks) delivers one of the best performances of the year as an assistant to a powerful executive.  The movie follows one day in her life doing mostly remedial to awful tasks as an assistant.  From the time she wakes up making the coffee to being forced to turn a blind eye to at the very least, questionable, morally corrupt actions from her boss, who is never seen, THE ASSISTANT is detailed and observant through it’s construct. (Hulu)
10. PALM SPRINGS – Can we all start giving Andy Samberg his due respect? The actor, comedian, and former SNL player lifts every piece of material that he touches. PALM SPRINGS is sort of an unofficial companion piece to GROUNDHOG DAY as Samburg’s Nyles is reliving the same day over and over, which happens to be as a date at a wedding in Palm Springs. Continually funny with great characters who have surprisingly mature growth, PALM SPRINGS is the unexpected comedy hit of the year. (Hulu)
9. THE HALF OF IT – Maybe because it was the first real movie I saw during the pandemic or that I’m a secret sucker for teen love done right, but I was completely overtaken by THE HALF OF IT. A timeless story passed on through the years, the film follows a brainy teen who agrees to write a love letter for a love-stricken jock. The conflict arises when she too is in love with his crush, while also finding him to be an unlikely best friend.  THE HALF OF IT nails all the feel good fun necessary for this light, easy, and sometimes cheesy genre. (Netflix)
8. DRIVEWAYS – A subtle film about friendship and kindness, DRIVEWAYS is quiet yet compelling. The great and late Brian Dennehy shines in his final supporting role as an elderly lonely veteran who befriends a lonely young boy and his mother.
7. THE OUTPOST – I’m not sure why I haven’t heard more about THE OUTPOST, but it is a heroic, thrilling true account about a small team of U.S soldiers defending a poorly positioned outpost in Afghanistan. Director Rod Lurie places the audience inside the terrifying battle ground and the cast is equally good providing a lot of character and heart for these brave men. (Netflix)
6. NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS – A deep and personal look into a teenagers struggle as she and her best friend venture to New York to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Director Eliza Hittman doesn’t pull any punches and shows the true hardship of the decision and all the undeserved abuse she takes. It is anything but an easy choice. Whether I agree or not with her choice, I grew as a person, gaining a new perspective on a difficult situation and for that I am thankful.
5. TENET – This quite possibly could be considered one of Christopher Nolan’s weaker films, but even as a weaker film, TENET is an impressive sight to behold. And it still is one of the best of the year.  The imagination of this man seems to have no bounds and if there was ever a reason to make sure stunt men had a category at the Academy Awards, it’s this film. Choreographed forward and backward, the action and practical effects are nothing short of amazing.
4. THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN – Aaron Sorkin has always been a fantastic writer, but he now is proving to be a more than competent director. Based upon the true story on the trial about who incited the Chicago riots, Sorkin delivers an energized courtroom drama that finds an unfair justice against some very flawed characters. Anchored by strong performance from a large cast, most notably from Sacha Baron Cohen, THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN is most triumphant in the writing and editing of this emotional and timely film that appears as though it could have happened yesterday even though the events were more than fifty years ago. (Netflix)
3. SOUND OF METAL – Following a drummer who suddenly loses his hearing, SOUND OF METAL finds every moment to properly involve the audience. Choosing to switch back and forth to the sound or lack thereof to someone affected by the loss of hearing and not placing subtitles to the sign language , the audience feels the confusion one might go through. All the performances are wonderful and I can’t recommend this movie enough. (Amazon Prime)
2. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN – Director Emerald Fennell crafts a wickedly on point dark revenge thriller.  Somehow walking the line of horror, drama, and comedy, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN delivers a brutal honesty that I hope is not lost on the viewer. Cleverly casting comedians or comedic actors in most of the male roles, the audience is disarmed on how treacherous males can be when picking up women. Carey Mulligan is a revelation as a broken, traumatized young woman seeking vengeance to anyone who might seek to take advantage of her.
1.THE VAST OF NIGHT – A minimalist approach to the science fiction genre, THE VAST OF NIGHT perfectly captures place, time, character, and mood. Easily my number one movie of the year. Studios should take note on a ‘less is more’ approach and how important these characteristics can effectively be accomplished.  Set in the 1950’s, something strange is happening over the radio waves one evening in a small town. Almost completely dialogue driven, THE VAST OF NIGHT is an unexpected edge of your seat thriller. (Amazon Prime)
HONORABLE MENTIONS: If you need more recommendations, these movies definitely had some interesting and unique aspects worth mentioning. They are not perfect by any means, but they have something that might be right for you depending on your taste.
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