The 50 best films of 2020 in the US: 50-21

Andrew Pulver and Benjamin Lee
·7-min read

50

Crip Camp

One of Netflix’s many eye-opening documentaries of the year takes a look at a freewheeling camp for disabled people which turned into a revolutionary group of activists with rousing results. Read the full review.

49

The Lodge

A bracing, bleak little horror movie from the creators of the equally dour Goodnight Mommy which has Riley Keough stuck in a remote cabin with the children of her new boyfriend, a situation that goes from bad to worse to scary very fast. Read the full review.

48

Palm Springs

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg in Palm Springs
Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg in Palm Springs Photograph: Jessica Perez/AP

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are heavy-drinking wedding guests who find themselves stuck in a Groundhog Day-style time-loop in a fun twist on a traditional romantic comedy. Read the full review.

47

The High Note

A lightweight yet charming LA-set comedy about the relationship between a diva-ish singer, played by Tracee Ellis Ross channeling her mother Diana, and her ambitious assistant, played by a never-better Dakota Johnson. Read the full review.

46

Sylvie’s Love

A loving tribute to both Hollywood romances and so-called “women’s pictures” of the 50s and 60s starring a luminous Tessa Thompson trying to juggle marriage, a career in TV and a slow-burning on and off romance with a sweetheart from her past, played by Nnamdi Asomugha. Read the full review.

45

Boys State

Eye-opening film about the governmental role play event organised by the American Legion to teach kids how politics works. Here the Texas version is scrutinised, with debates and power struggles reaching a crescendo in a mock election. Read the full review.

44

White Riot

Documentary about the groundbreaking Rock Against Racism movement that helped to stem the rising tide of far right support in 1970s Britain, with its benefit gigs featuring the likes of the Clash and the Tom Robinson Band. Read the full review.

43

The Perfect Candidate

The fourth feature from Wajdja director Haifaa al-Mansour sees the Saudi film-maker return home for a politically inflected drama that seeks to interrogate the country’s supposed new liberalism, following a female doctor’s attempt to run for office after she is denied a permit to travel abroad. Read the full review.

42

Bacurau

A Brazilian horror-western with an exceptionally disquieting tone, directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles. A woman returns to a remote outback town – the fictional settlement of Bacurau – which appears to have fallen off the map, as a violent group of foreigners assemble nearby. Read the full review.

41

Shirley

Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss stars as celebrated horror writer Shirley Jackson (best known for The Lottery) in a fictionalised biopic that speculates on what happens when a younger couple interrupt her tepid domestic life with husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg). Read the full review.

40

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Individual films don’t often change the course of history, but by humiliating Trump acolyte Rudy Guliani this follow up to Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 hit comedy may have done just that. This time around, the Kazakh journalist is trying to offload his daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova). Read the full review.

39

The Invisible Man

An enterprising adaptation of the HG Wells classic, reconfigured for the MeToo era by horror specialists Blumhouse. Elisabeth Moss is the woman who believes she is being stalked by her controlling boyfriend, who was thought to have killed himself. Read the full review.

38

Saint Frances

Nicely observed US indie written by and starring Kelly O’Sullivan, as a mid-30s woman whose unexpected pregnancy coincides with her getting a job as a nanny for a kid called Frances (Ramona Edith Williams). Read the full review.

37

The Painted Bird

Adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s second world war novel, following a young boy’s attempts to survive in Poland after his parents are taken to a concentration camp, filmed in gruesome, harrowing detail. Read the full review.

36

His House

Impressive horror about husband-and-wife refugees from South Sudan who try and settle in a nondescript British neighbourhood, only to find their living quarters appear to be haunted by a spirit from their past lives. Read the full review.

35

The Boys in the Band

Jim Parsons, Robin De Jesus, Michael Benjamin Washington and Andrew Rannells in The Boys in the Band.
Jim Parsons, Robin De Jesus, Michael Benjamin Washington and Andrew Rannells in The Boys in the Band. Photograph: Scott Everett White/AP

Netflix adaptation of Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking 1968 stage hit about a group of gay men gathering for a birthday party; Jim Parsons, Zachary Qunto and Matt Bomer are among the cast. Read the full review.

34

She Dies Tomorrow

Oddball US indie from Amy Seimetz, about a woman who is suddenly convinced she will die in 24 hours – and whose obsessive paranoia about impending death infects her friends with pandemic-style contagion. Read the full review.

33

The 40-Year-Old Version

Sundance-wowing comedy created by Radha Blank, who acts as writer, director and star in a semi-autobiographical tale of a playwright in New York who decided to become a rapper. Read the full review.

32

Possessor

Sci-fi thriller from Brandon Cronenberg that is just as creepy as his father David’s; it stars Andrea Riseborough as a future-assassin who invades hapless victims’ minds and uses them to assassinate targets. Read the full review.

31

A White White Day

Icelandic thriller about a policeman (played by Ingvar Sigurdsson) who discovers his recently-deceased wife may have been having an affair with a friend of his; his grief and rage builds until violence appears inevitable. Read the full review.

30

System Crasher

German drama about an out-of-control child featuring an astounding performance from nine year old Helena Zengel, as a violent, rowdy kid with whom the established social-work systems simply cannot cope. Read the full review.

29

Vitalina Varela

Austere, compelling film from Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, following the Cape Verdean immigrant of the title as she makes her way to Lisbon to try and find her errant husband. Read the full review

28

The King of Staten Island

Judd Apatow hooks up with SNL star Pete Davidson to create funny, idiosyncratic comedy: Davidson plays a slacker-tattooist whose life has been overshadowed by his firefighter dad’s death. Read the full review.

27

And then We Danced

Intense, winning romance about two male performers who spark a secret relationship in the ultra conservative world of traditional Georgian dance. Read the full review.

26

The Kid Detective

The OC’s Adam Brody comes of age in this deceptively sunny indie about an outgrown “kid detective” who uncovers something dark in his hometown while slowly wrestling with his own demons. Read the full review.

25

About Endlessness

Sixth and apparently final feature from the idiosyncratic Swedish auteur Roy Andersson, a meditation on the human condition filmed with an utterly distinctive combination of colour palette and vividly detailed tableaux. Read the full review.

24

Les Miserables

Award-winning French drama that alludes to the celebrated Victor Hugo novel, following a tough, cynical police patrol as they try to keep the peace on tinder-box streets in the Paris suburbs. Read the full review.

23

Spaceship Earth

Eye-opening eco-documentary the Biosphere 2 experiment in the 1990s, in which a commune of likeminded people built a closed eco-system in Arizona to try and improve humans’ relationship with the natural world. Read the full review.

22

Dick Johnson is Dead

Film-maker Kristin Johnson’s startlingly creative response to her former psychiatrist father’s dementia, in which she stages a string of hypothetical death scenes and afterlife fantasies. Read the full review.

21

Sound of Metal

Riz Ahmed gives a bravura performance performance in a sensitive drama about a drummer who starts to rapidly lose his hearing sending him on a quest to understand a world without sound. Review coming soon.

Check back in the coming days and weeks as we update this list and unveil our picks for top film of the year.