Movie theaters closed in 2020, but that didn’t stop a steady flow of quality films.
It was a year when movie lovers had to find the films – whether it be streaming services or video on demand – and the living room became the de facto movie theater.
Some of the best movies came late in the year or in some cases will arrive in early 2021, when the belated awards season kicks into high gear.
Here are my picks for the best films for 2020.
1. ‘Promising Young Woman’
First-time director Emerald Ferrell crafted a film that is very much in the moment – an examination of the #MeToo movement anchored by a knockout performance from Carey Mulligan.
2. ‘Da 5 Bloods’
Like “Promising Young Woman,” Spike Lee’s Vietnam heist film felt more like a time capsule with a message that resonated even more in 2020. The film featured one of the last performances from Chadwick Boseman, one of 2020’s best performances from Delroy Lindo and some of the best work of Lee’s career.
Writer/director Chloe Zhao followed up her emotionally immersive “The Rider” with a film that again put the audience right in the middle of this world. Frances McDormand is truly captivating as a woman living in her van and wandering through the American West. It is scheduled to be released in theaters in February.
4. ‘Sound of Metal’
It’s a special cinematic experience with Riz Ahmed playing a heavy metal drummer and recovering addict who loses his hearing in the middle of a show. Ahmed’s performance is a star-making turn, with writer/director Darius Marder showing a keen sense of the struggles of the deaf community as well as the struggles of an addict.
There were plenty of fantastic documentaries this year, but this was the best – with director Alexander Nanau following a team of investigators at a Romanian newspaper whose probe into a fire at a small venue during a concert uncovered a vast health care fraud within the government. It’s both a fascinating story and a testament to the importance of local journalism.
6. ‘One Night in Miami’
Academy Award winner Regina King made her directorial debut with this fictional account of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown meeting up in a hotel room in Miami to discuss their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 1960s.
King gets the most out of her four leads, especially Leslie Odom Jr. as Cooke, and presents a story that – like “Da 5 Bloods” – resonates with a powerful message.
“One Night in Miami” will be available on Amazon Prime in January.
7. ‘The Invisible Man’
It’s a new twist on a familiar tale – a tense horror film that takes the science-fiction premise and mixes it with real-life situations that only accentuate the terror on the screen. This horror film transcends its genre, much like recent films “Hereditary” and “Us,” with Elizabeth Moss delivering one of 2020’s best performances.
8. ‘Palm Springs’
The funniest movie of 2020 was a delightfully inventive spin on the time-loop genre that featured a smart script from first-time screenwriter Andy Siara and two wonderful performances by leads Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. It’s a film that you may think you can figure out right away, but it’s full of surprises.
9. ‘The Father’
It’s a powerful family drama with Anthony Hopkins playing a man suffering from dementia and Olivia Colman playing his daughter trying to help him adjust to his new normal. “The Father” is scheduled to open in theaters in February.
10. ‘The King of Staten Island’
Writer/director Judd Apatow delivered perhaps the best film of his career, tapping into the enormous talents of “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson to create an entertaining comedy that is also full of raw honest emotion.
Best of the rest
And these are the next 10 films (in alphabetical order) that just missed making my 10 best list: “The Climb,” “David Byrnes: American Utopia,” “Kajillionaire,” Mank,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “On the Rocks,” “Soul,” “Time” and “Trial of the Chicago 7.”