Films of my life – the best movies of 2020

Twenty twenty will be remembered for far more important reasons than what movies were released. However, the Covid-19 pandemic did have a major impact on cinema, and may even have sounded its death knell. After a really successful spring, with receipts up on the previous year, the introduction of global lockdown’s resulted in a major change in the way we watch our movies. Firstly, movies were delayed, especially the highly anticipated tentpole movies, such as the latest James Bond “No Time To Die”, then they were increasingly released via subscription streaming services or pay-per-view. Disney led the way with Mulan, but others soon followed. This worked well for the smaller independent movies, but the impact for blockbuster movies was more muted. For a long time, the future of cinema landed on the shoulders of Tenet. The relative lack of success for Warner Bros. Tenet, especially in the US, almost certainly resulted in studio deciding that from 2021 it will release new movies simultaneously in cinemas and via streaming. Cinema has survived tough times before, but it could yet be the biggest victim of the global pandemic.


Two of my favourite movies of the year were released before the pandemic lockdown, and they went head-to-head at the Oscar and BAFTA awards ceremonies. Generally, Parasite came out on top, and indeed, it is my favourite movie of the year. You can read my review here. I was so inspired by Parasite that I sought out the full back catalogue of director Bong Joon-Ho, who is now one of my very favourite current directors.


The other movie, and a close second choice, was Sam Mendes’ First World War epic 1917, which was both a technical and storytelling marvel. Here is my second, reconsidered review


My next choice, was the only significant new movie during the summer relaxation of lockdown. Tenet is probably the perfect blockbuster – one that you have to watch several times to keep up with the complicated plot. This was a drawback for some reviewers, but is something that I look for in a movie – getting even more out of repeat viewing – and it is a feature of my all time favourite movies.


Of the movies that premiered via streaming, Portrait of a Lady on Fire was the standout. Beautifully performed and directed, it was the best example of movies directed by women, of which there seemed to be far more in 2020 than previously, both blockbuster movies, but especially in independent movies.


Similarly, Queen & Slim was the standout movie for me directed by a black Director, in the year of Black Lives Matters. It was written and directed by woman of colour Melina Matsoukas and is a powerful document of what life can be like for black people in the US in 2020. It also has a great soundtrack. Da 5 Bloods was also excellent, with Spike Lee at his very best again.

Other movies that made it onto my best of list were varied in tone and genre;

Best animated feature was a tie between Soul and WolfWalkers. Very different movies, but both are excellent.

Outstanding British Movie (Film 4) was Calm with Horses, with Cosmo Jarvis showing why many people see him as the next Tom Hardy.

Overall, there were many good films in 2020, most to be found via streaming. I do worry for the future of cinema, but I believe it is the multiplex rather than the small independent cinemas, that have most to fear. If the public fall out of love with going to the cinema and sitting next to strangers in a post-pandemic world. The optimist in me hopes that absence makes the heart grow fonder and people will flock back to cinema. I know I will.