It’s been a year like no other as we face a global pandemic and cinemas have been forced to close their doors up and down the country. However, despite the incredible challenges, the standard of film has been remarkably high. With a shortage of big screens and most of the major blockbusters delayed for the foreseeable, we’ve seen more pictures head straight to on-demand, onto streaming services, or in Steve McQueen’s case, right onto terrestrial television in the form of a mini-series. My favourites of the year are as follows:
20. Richard Jewell
Legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood adapted a Vanity Fair article to tell the story of Richard Jewell, a security guard who was accused of a terrorist attack at the 1996 Olympics. Screen veteran Kathy Bates is terrific in her supporting role, and earned multiple award nominations for the performance.
19. The Invisible Man
Elizabeth Moss is quickly becoming one of the most compelling actresses working day. As well as starring in the television version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, she’s impressed in films such as Us, Shirley, and in Leigh Whannell’s fun sci-fi horror flick The Invisible Man.
The fifth and final instalment of Steve McQueen’s astounding Small Axe series, Education stars Kenyah Sandy in a hugely impressive breakthrough role. The story is inspired by the filmmaker’s own childhood, reflecting on growing up whilst not being able to read.
17. Da 5 Bloods
The latest Spike Lee joint was released on Netflix in the height of the summer, and is an ambitious genre-transcending story of the friendships between a group of Vietnam vets. The late Chadwick Boseman appears in a brief but pivotal supporting role.
A haunting feature debut from writer and director Natalie Erika James, mystery horror Relic tells the ironically memorable tale of a grandmother, mother, and daughter who are faced with the very real terror of dementia.
15. Fanny Lye Deliver’d
After a decade long hiatus, experimental indie filmmaker Thomas Clay returned with puritanical period drama Fanny Lye Deliver’d. Boasting a fantastic quartet of central performances, this artsy piece is one of the weirdest pictures of the year.
14. Eternal Beauty
Written and directed by actor turned director Craig Roberts, this madcap drama cleverly uses colours and comedy to illustrate the complex mind-set of its paranoid schizophrenic protagonist, played by the excellent Sally Hawkins.
13. Uncut Gems
Adam Sandler reminded us that he can be more than a comedy goofball with a career-best performance as jewel dealer Howie in the Safdie brothers exhilarating drama Uncut Gems. Available to stream on Netflix, this rough and ready story of a compulsive gambler is stressful yet essential viewing.
12. The Lighthouse
The less you know about The Lighthouse before watching, the better. If you want to know more, click the link below.
11. Saint Maud
She features all too briefly in the aforementioned Eternal Beauty, but the Swedish-born Welsh actress Morfydd Clark takes centre stage to wow audiences in Rose Glass’ chilling, disturbing, religious horror Saint Maud.
10. Calm with Horses
Multi-talented Cosmo Jarvis is fast becoming one of the most interesting British actors around. As well as his TV appearances in Peaky Blinders and Raised by Wolves, he has impressed in indie drama Nocturnal, and as a henchman with a heart in Nick Rowland’s compelling gangland thriller Calm with Horses.
9. A White, White Day
Centred around the loving relationship between a widowed police chief and his young daughter, Icelandic drama A White, White Day is a visually stunning and emotionally engaging study of grief, anger, and frustration.
Gerard Johnson’s darkly comic thriller Muscle might just be his best work to date. Taking a jab at toxic masculinity, the plot centres around a man in the midst of a midlife crisis who gets way more than he bargains for when he joins the local gym and meets an intimidating personal trainer.
7. The Assistant
Like the entry above, Kitty Green’s The Assistant also explores toxic masculinity, but through the subtle perception of a day in the life of office admin Jane. This timely Me-Too inspired thriller smartly exposes the micro-aggressions at play within a male-dominated work environment.
A joyous celebration of friendship, Sarah Gavron’s Rocks is the feel-good film the country needs right now to lift our spirits. It’s available to stream on Netflix!
Shannon Murphy’s directorial debut Babyteeth is far more than just another tragic teen romance. Full of heartbreak and humour, this will put you through the emotional wringer and is worth watching even for a tremendous supporting performance from the brilliant Ben Mendelsohn.
The second entry from Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series, Mangrove is set in 1970s west London and centres around a Notting Hill restaurant that becomes a social hub for the black community. After a peaceful protest descends into chaos, a courtroom drama ensues. This is a must-see!
3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
A love story for the ages from the acclaimed director Céline Sciamma, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a smouldering French romance set in the late eighteenth century. When an artist is commissioned to paint the portrait of an aristocrat, they embark upon a forbidden relationship. This is passionate filmmaking at its finest.
Visionary director Brandon Cronenberg has crafted a body horror bloodbath with Possssor, following in the footsteps of his legendary filmmaking father David. Slick and stylish sci-fi storytelling with a flair for unflinching violence, this fantastic film is not for the faint-hearted.
Bong Joon-ho’s family thriller Parasite won the Academy Award for Best Picture and it deserves all the praise and plaudits it receives. A story of crime, class, and culture, this masterpiece has no boundaries and switches effortlessly from dark comedy to intense horror. An entertaining, shocking, unforgettable piece of cinema magic.