It would be easy to call this year a total wash. Yes, it’s been a shit one all-round, and for many, it’ll continue right into the new year, and yet, as we move to the end of 2020 and hope for a better 2021 we can take solace that there have been some great films that are well worth our time. Here are presents the top ten films released in the United Kingdom in 2020.
Both Hamilton and David Byrne’s American Utopia were delights this year, however, they do not count as films as they’re filmed stage shows but both showed the world that live performance has been missed sorely this year and we want it to return soon.
Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in Supernova.Beautifully moving drama about a same sex couple facing one’s own illness. Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci are perfectly cast as a couple long in the tooth but still in love. Harry Macqueen’s film is an understated but quietly devastating exploration of what degenerative illnesses can do to people and offers plenty for his two leads to deal with.
WONDER WOMAN 1984
A bigger, brasher, more confident sequel from Patty Jenkins sees Diana face down against the greed and excess of the 80s. Jenkins has a better handle on the love story, the multiple plot lines and the action this time around making for a film that feels every bit as hopeful as it does exciting. Gadot and Pine burn with chemistry in their scenes, and newcomers Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal play their nemesis roles perfectly.
Featuring a career best performance from Vince Vaughn and a fun twist on the slasher genre, Freaky offers those who loved Landon’s previous work Happy Death Day more of the nasty funny thrills he’s carving a name for. It’s silly to think but Vaughn and Newton should absolutely be in the awards conversation for their comic performances that allow them both to try out something new.
Like pure cinematic anxiety, the Safdie brothers’ hyper tense story of a gambler’s self destruction over the course of a short period is a career best from Adam Sandler, and a tour-de-force for lovers of what cinema can do at it’s absolute best. Grabbing you from the off and never letting go this is a taut, painful watch but one of the best pieces of visceral cinema made in a long long time. It also provided ample memes.
THE INVISIBLE MAN
Leigh Whannell’s revamp of the Universal horror film goes less for the fantastical and more for the psychological. Telling a tale of mental and physical abuse, gaslighting and the fear of spousal violence, this horror film has the confidence of the director of Upgrade but with more substance. Elisabeth Moss and Aldis Hodge keep the film together even as it goes towards the silly but thanks to Moss’ powerhouse performance the film keeps us on board until the shocking end.
Fincher’s love letter to Hollywood is also a searing critique of it. Written by his late father, Fincher makes a film that feels like it was made in the 40s. Gary Oldman offers some of his best work as the alcoholic and difficult Hermann Mankiwiecz while the supporting cast offers him great buffers, of note are Amanda Seyfried, Tuppence Middleton and Charles Dance, while the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is brilliant also. It might be one for movie buffs but it’s also Fincher at the height of his powers.
DA 5 BLOODS
Spike Lee’s Vietnam meditation on race, friendship and trauma packs a powerful cast: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Norm Lewis and the late Chadwick Boseman all hold the film aloft even when things get silly towards the end. Lindo has never been better but he’s not alone as the whole cast is up to Lee’s crisp direction and message about the erasure of Black Americans fighting in Vietnam. As fiery as any Lee movie, it also offers an interesting look at what could draw some Black people to the Trump side of things.
Groundhog Day but with the Andy Samberg charm, this time loop rom-com is heavy on both the laughs and the heart. It works best because it doesn’t short out on exploring the two characters and making them fully rounded individuals, both capable of good and bad. Samberg and Cristin Milioti are perfectly cast in their roles, and J.K. Simmons is sublime support.
Taking refugees and planting them in both the grimmer parts of the UK and a haunted house like no other, His House is a meditative horror with ideas at its heart. Weekes conjures images pulled straight from nightmares and the jumps are bone chilling in the extreme but what keeps it grounded is Sope Dirisu and Wumni Mosaku as the couple at its core, fighting for a new home and trying to find peace with their actions in the past. Moving and scary in equal measure.
It was the best film of the year when it was released in the UK in February, it’s now mythic Oscar winning streak cemented as such. Director Bong Joon-ho’s thrilling genre mash up defies conventional explanation but reminds us that he is a director of immense talent, his cast are also fantastic, woefully overlooked by the academy at large but it doesn’t stop the film from being the best film of 2020, and probably for a long long time. Peaches all round.