One of my favorite scenes in cinema is a rare moment of levity in Jean-Pierre Melville’s otherwise bleak WWII drama Army of Shadows. Lino Ventura’s character, a prominent member of the underground resistance to the Nazi occupation of France, takes in a screening of Gone With the Wind while on assignment in London. Emerging from the theater with a sad smile on his face, he tells an associate that he’ll know they’ve won when he’s able to see a great movie like that again in Paris. I’ve thought of this scene often during the COVID-19 pandemic, which I know will be over only when I’m able to see films like the ones listed below in actual movie theaters again (as opposed to seeing them via streaming links).
So here are my top 10 favorite new films from a batshit crazy year, followed by a list of 20 runners-up. I’ve linked to my original reviews where applicable. I’ve only included movies that first became available to watch in 2020 — some films that are making a lot of critics’ list this year aren’t here because I saw them at festivals last year and they already made my “Best of 2019” list (e.g., Vitalina Varela, I Was at Home, But… and Saint Frances). Most of these are currently available to stream or watch in “virtual cinemas,” and the ones that aren’t will be available soon. Enjoy!
10. To the Ends of the Earth (K. Kurosawa, Japan)
9. Zombi Child (Bonello, France) – My Time Out Chicago review here.
8. City Hall (Wiseman, USA) – My review on this blog here.
7. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Hittman, USA)
6. Days (Tsai, Taiwan) – My review at Cinefile Chicago here.
5. Bacurau (Dornelles/Mendonca, Brazil)
4. Tommaso (Ferrara, Italy/USA)
3. City So Real (James, USA) – My review on this blog here.
2. The Woman Who Ran (Hong, S. Korea) – My review at Cinefile Chicago here.
1. Time (Bradley, USA) – My Cinefile Chicago review and interview with director Garrett Bradley here. My interview with subjects Fox an Rob Rich here.
11. Tesla (Almereyda, USA)
12. Divine Love (Mascaro, Brazil)
13. Monster Hunter (Anderson, China/Germany/Japan/USA) – My review on this blog here.
14. Fourteen (Sallitt, USA) – My review at Cinefile Chicago here.
15. Liberte (Serra, France)
16. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Ross/Ross , USA) – My review at Cinefile Chicago
17. Nomadland (Zhao, USA)
18. House of Hummingbird (Kim, S. Korea)
19. Joan of Arc (Dumont, France)
20. Shakedown (Weinraub, USA) – My review at Cinefile Chicago here.
21. Dick Johnson is Dead (Johnson, USA)
22. Wolfwalkers (Moore/Steward, Ireland)
23. Queen of Lapa (Collatos/Monnerat, Brazil) – My Cinefile Chicago review here.
24. The Projectionist (Ferrara, USA/Cyprus)
25. Ham on Rye (Taormina, USA) – My Cinefile Chicago review here.
26. Collective (Nanau, Romania)
27. She Dies Tomorrow (Seimetz, USA)
28. Martin Eden (Marcello, Italy)
29. The Wolf House (Leon/Cocina, Chile)
30. Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin (Herzog, UK)