What were your favorite movies from 2020? Often when we look back on our favourite movies, we usually remember seeing them in the theatre. For the most part, we won’t do that with the films of 2020 for obvious reasons. Still, this most unusual of years brought us several memorable films, even if we had to rely on streaming services to watch them. This was the year that made the investment in a home theatre and comfortable home theatre seating seem more worthwhile than ever before.
Rather than a list of the best films of the year, we put together a list of some of our favourite films. These are films that were enjoyable even if not necessarily high art. After all, we all needed a little entertainment to keep us going over the past several months. In no particular order:
This family drama manages to be sweet without becoming saccharine. It was thus a welcome viewing in a year that saw too much negativity. A semi-autobiographical tale, it follows a Korean-American family as they move from California to rural Arkansas during the 1980’s so that father, Jacob (Steven Yeun) can pursue his dream of starting a small farm. His wife does not share his passion and their children watch as the strain upon their marriage grows. Named for a Korean herb that is hardy enough to grow wherever it’s planted, the film is about hope, family, and the belief that love is enough to save us.
This festival film appeared on HBO with little fanfare near the beginning of the pandemic, which is a pity, as it is deserving of more attention than it received. Frank (Hugh Jackman) is a school superintendent who is both charming and well-loved. When Rachel (Geraldine Viswanathan), a reporter on the school newspaper, approaches him for some quotes regarding a skywalk that the school plans to build, Frank encourages her to approach the story like a top journalist would, resulting in her digging deeper and uncovering some irregularities in the school’s finances. What follows is a fascinating character study and moral thriller that slowly reveals details about Fred and makes us strangely root for those we know are in the wrong.
Adapted from a short story by H.P. Lovecraft and starring Nicholas Cage, Color Out of Space is a mix of horror and science-fiction with a good dollop of psychedelia. Cage stars as Nathan, a farmer with a desire to raise alpacas. He and his family find their lives changed when the sky turns a purplish colour and a mysterious meteor crashes in their yard. Strange events follow, but what is the cause? Has the meteor brought something evil to earth?
Let Them All Talk
Famous author Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) reunites with two old friends (Candace Bergen and Dianne Wiest) to rebuild their relationships and settle ancient feuds on a cruise. Seeing the three women starring together is a treat on its own, but the film (actually shot over 2 weeks on the Queen Mary 2) is surprisingly deep as it examines the lives of these women, often through the eyes of Hughes’ nephew (Lucas Hedges). With many of the scenes reportedly heavily improvised, it is a film filled with excellent performances and one that may just move you to book a cruise once life returns to normal.
David Byrne’s American Utopia
What do you get when you mix the considerable talents of Spike Lee and David Byrne (former front man of the band Talking Heads)? You get one of the greatest concert movies ever made. Quite an achievement for Byrne who, along with Talking Heads was in one of the other greatest concert films, Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense. This mix of new and old songs, Byrne uses music to examine connections between people and the role of individuals in community. More than just a recording of a musical performance, the film puts you onstage with an ensemble of incredibly talented singers, dancers, and musicians. Byrne and Lee’s individual gifts come together to create what can easily be considered a work of art.
Da 5 Bloods
Another entry from Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods is a look at the trauma from the Vietnam war in the lives of black veterans. Delroy Lindo leads the cast as Paul, who leads his fellow veterans back to Vietnam to recover the remains of their squad leader Norman (the late Chadwick Boseman). While there, they also intend to seek out the gold that they buried in the jungle all those years ago. Jumping from present to past, from humorous to emotional, the movie focuses on betrayal, empathy, forgiveness, and whether America was ever great to begin with.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Taking its title from potential answers to questions being asked of a pregnant teenager at Planned Parenthood, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is the story of a teenage girl travelling from her hometown in Pennsylvania to New York to terminate her pregnancy without her parents finding out. The scene in which the questionnaire is answered is a powerful scene, with young Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) seeks the right option to respond. The closeup of the young woman as a dozen emotions cross her face reveals its own story, one that will likely stay with you after the movie draws to a close.
While this year may have been missing many of the usual summer blockbusters and tentpole movies, that doesn’t mean that the year was a total write-off. These are some of our favorite movies from 2020 – we are sure you have yours too. Many excellent movies were released, even if they mostly ended up on streaming services or online rental – perfect to watch in your own home theatre chairs.
Smaller in scale than the bigger-budget films that have dominated theatres in recent years, these movies still offer up engaging stories and wonderful performances. Although 2020 may be looked back on as the year that wasn’t when it comes to movies, there was still plenty of cinematic entertainment to be had if you were willing to take a chance on something new.