• Mark Mathews

The Best Films Of 2020


2020 has been an absolutely SUPERB year for films, in my opinion. Granted, for most other things it's been absolutely terrible, but hey, we're here to talk about, The Best Films Of 2020, so let's waste no more time and dig into the top ten films*, in my own humble opinion!


*All films below are based on release dates here in the UK, so there may be a couple that were technically released in 2019. But as I don't live in the U.S, I'm counting from when us Brits got to see 'em!


Parasite

I still can't believe that I saw this film THIS year! The idea of being in a cinema and watching a movie is sooooooooo pre-COVID! Alas, there I was in the cinema in Canary Wharf with my best mate, watching one of the best films of the year: Parasite.


From director Bong Joon Ho comes a Korean tale that transcends geography and language and tells a universal story revolving around class, ambition, and family relationships. But what is truly remarkable, aside from the incredible casting, and wonderful textured look to the film, is how the story mutates from being something that you think you know, into something that is nowhere near where you saw it heading. Remarkable.


The Lighthouse

William Dafoe and Robert Pattison star in Robert Eggers' psychological thriller, The Lighthouse, a film originally based on Edgar Allen Poe's story of the same name, although Egger's has since stated that the final draft of the film held very little resemblance to it.


Alas, this is a film that has EVERYTHING that I ever want to see in a flick: It's unequivocally, uniquely bombastic in its style, the humour is dark, the tension is palpable, the performances are out of this world and the direction and story have you questioning, celebrating and pondering for months and months afterwards.


if push came to shove, I would probably place The Lighthouse as my number one film of the year.


The Gentlemen

2020 threw up a few surprise films that, on paper, I was sure I wouldn't like, but turned out to be highly enjoyable. The Gentlemen, was one such film.


Directed by Guy Ritchie, the story is kind of what you'd expect from him: Gangsters bribing, scheming, and blackmailing each other which in turn sends alternate, yet connecting plots firing off all around it. I've nothing against, Ritchie, in actual fact 'Lock Stock...' was a bit of a seminal film for me just before I went to film school. It felt like we had someone in the UK that had their own language and style that, say, Tarringtino had. But after 'Snatch' I just got a bit bored. It all felt like he was a bit of a one-trick pony and that was that.


However, The Gentlemen, reinvigorated my thoughts on him and I believe it is possibly Ritchie's best work to date, helped along greatly by the absolutely magnificent performance from Hugh Grant. The story is tight, with barely any fatty bits needed trimming, the cast is STELLER and it is about as entertaining as they come. A film well worth checking out.


Palm Springs

A second, surprisingly fun film of the year was Palm Springs, which I put on whilst suffering from a dose of 'Longhaul COVID', which has plagued this year for me. I wanted something that would require no attention span at all, but what actually transpired was a film that seems to have made a grab at the Rom-Com genre with both hands and succeeded in making it, well...very watchable!


Andy Samberg (Niles) and Cristin Milioti (Sarah) have great chemistry in a story that is, in its essence, a re-hash of, Groundhog Day. But director, Max Barbakow puts a beautiful enough skew on both the familiar story and the pre-conceived ideas of a romantic comedy, that it becomes a thoroughly entertaining and funny flick to watch.


My Octopus Teacher

There was a good selection of documentaries that cropped up this year and, My Octopus Teacher is certainly one of the best.


Following filmmaker, Tom Foster, who returns to the seas he remembers playing in as a child, he forges a strong bond with an Octopus and documents the year he got to spend with it. The cinematography is beautiful, but the underlying story of this friendship and how it helps Tom through a troubled time in his life (which is never fully revealed, but I assume he is going through a divorce) is fascinating. The connection between man and beast is poetic and breathtaking and like all great documentaries, leaves you asking questions about meaning and existence in this mortal coil. A really spectacular film.


Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

This was a late entry to this list, having only seeing it towards the end of December, but it is so extraordinary it had to knock Beastie Boys Story out of the top ten (Sorry, Spike Jonze!) and be included!


Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, tells the story of the final night at a dive bar in Las Vegas that is closing down. It is shot as a documentary, but the fascinating part of it all is that the bar, (The Roaring 20's) is actually based in New Orleans and the patrons of said bar play improvised versions of themselves. It is an astonishing, inebriated watch that captures the pitiful joys and sadness of a 24 hour period in such a bar with the motley crew of characters it attracts. It is certain that I will be banging on about this film for a long time to come.


Dick Johnson is Dead

Oh, what a treat it was to stumble upon this absolute BEAUTY of a documentary. Directed by Kirsten Johnson, Dick Johnson is Dead documents Kirsten's Dad, Dick, as he deals with dementia. It is spirited, loving, funny, surreal and a beautiful watch from start to finish. I can not recommend this enough and there is one part in the film, (which I won't say for fear of a spoiler!) that made me cry with laughter for about twenty minutes non-stop. I'm still not even entirely sure if it was meant as a joke, but it is HILARIOUS!!


The 40-Year-Old Version

Another one that I came across by accident, and one that really grabbed my attention from the outset, was The Forty-Year-Old Version. Written, directed, and starred in by Radha Blank, the film follows Radha as she chases some kind of success as a playwright before she is forty, but finds herself falling back into writing rhymes within the hip-hop world.


The film has an understated charm and soft comedic timing to it, that is very reminiscent, in terms of style and look, of the old nineties indie flicks like, Buffalo 66. In fact, Radha Blank really has the imprint of Vincent Gallo about her, in that she did so much within the production of this film. A good watch.


I'm Thinking Of Ending Things

Now, this one may cause a slight marmite situation, which I do understand, because Charlie Kauffman (who wrote and directed, I'm Thinking Of Ending Things) is perhaps not for everyone.


Personally, I love his writing: Being John Malcovich and Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind are masterstrokes of writing, in my opinion, so, I'm keen for the kind of art-house, non-linear kind of storyline that he writes and I'm Thinking Of Ending Things is well and truly within that vein.


The film is mesmerizing and is a real chin/head-scratcher throughout. The through-line may appear to simply be a tale about a boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) taking his girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) to meet his parents for the first time, but Kauffman is reaching much deeper territory and before long you are questioning and trying to work out what the hell is going on...I won't spoil it by saying what is happening! But it is fantastic and so worth your time. Also, Toni Collette is in it and she is just, always, superb!


The Outpost

I sure do love a good war film, but there are so many bad ones that get made I often go in to see them prepared to be disappointed. The Outpost did NOT disappoint though, and it has one of the most insane, involving, and anxiety-inducing battle scenes that I've seen since Saving Private Ryan.


Set in Kamdesh, Afghanistan in 2012 and based on the true story of Camp Keating, an American protected outpost set up to stop the influx of the Taliban, the film follows the absolute disastrous devastation of this outpost. Rod Lurie directs and does an absolutely superb job of placing you right in the middle of the carnage and the cast is not short of being perfect in their portrayal of these unfortunate soldiers, with stand-out performances from Caleb Landry Jones and Scott Eastwood. If you like your war movies, this is one not to be missed.


So there ya go. Ten of my film highlights of the year. Let me know what you think in the comments.


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