It’s been a funny old year for cinema, but it hasn’t stopped the film world churning out some unforgettable movies in 2020.
Whether they came out at the start of the year in the post-Christmas awards slot, were released digitally over lockdown, or in the inbetween stage when the second wave was just a ripple on the coronavirus tide; quality films have arrived in all shapes and sizes throughout the year.
We polled 13 trusted Yahoo Movies UK contributors for their favourite films of 2020, who named a whopping total of 63 different movies, and these were the 20 films that rose to the top.
Shannon Murphy’s off-kilter coming-of-age drama about a teenager dealing with terminal illness featured a quartet of powerhouse performances from Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Essie Davis, and Ben Mendelsohn, and blindsided everyone that saw it. Devastatingly moving.
Babyteeth is available on DVD, Blu-ray & digital now.
Watch an exclusive Babyteeth clip
19) I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Singular filmmaker Charlie Kaufman returned with another obtuse and emotionally charged psych-out of a horror film for Netflix. His adaptation of the Iain Reid novel took a number of liberties with the source material, and wasn’t to everyone’s tastes, but it remained a unique film for a unique year.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is streaming on Netflix.
The opening salvo in Sir Steve McQueen’s quintet of historical films for anthology series Small Axe won critical acclaim on a COVID-restricted festival circuit, before wowing viewers on BBC One in November. Starring Letitia Wright and Shaun Parkes it shone a light on a corner of British history that we all needed to be reminded of, right now.
Mangrove is streaming on BBC iPlayer now.
Brandon Cronenberg stepped out of his father’s shadow to deliver one of 2020’s most provocative and disturbing sci-fi horrors, with an opening sequence that was hard to beat... and digest. Its body horror might not be for everyone, but it will impress as many as it disgusts.
Possessor is in cinemas and on PVOD now.
16) Crip Camp
Produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, this Netflix documentary about a 1971 summer camp in New York that inspired a wave of disability rights activism won the Audience Award at Sundance in January, before winning over a global audience on the streaming platform. Add it to your ‘watch’ queue now.
Crip Camp is streaming on Netflix now.
Is it a film? It is a musical? A stage play? Who cares. Disney took the brave decision to drop a recording of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s award-winning historical musical on Disney+ at the height of the pandemic just when we all needed it, giving subscribers the escapism they needed.
Hamilton is streaming on Disney+ now.
Watch the stars of Hamilton talk to Yahoo
14) Portrait of a Lady on Fire
French filmmaker Céline Sciamma has delivered her most acclaimed movie to date with the stunning lesbian romance Portrait of a Lady On Fire. Noémie Merlant portrays a painter who is commissioned to paint Adèle Haenel’s aristocrat in order to produce a portrait which will be sent to her suitor. As they bond, their relationship becomes a romance of exceptional passion and power. It’s a potent tear-jerker of a film with a music-inflected finale to rival the power of Whiplash.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire is streaming on MUBI.
13) Lovers Rock
Perhaps a product of a year where going out, socialising and dancing, was halted, or maybe it's because of the sheer genius of Steve McQueen - but Lover's Rock was a transcendental experience that gave me the best night out I've been on all year - Stefan Pape.
Lovers Rock is streaming on BBC iPlayer.
12) Bill & Ted Face The Music
It's not the most ground-breaking movie of 2020 – or even the most critically acclaimed – but in an unrelenting year where bad was followed by worse, being reunited with best-buds Bill S Preston Esq and Ted Theodore Logan was a most triumphant nostalgia hit and the welcome escape we all sorely needed - Simon Bland.
Bill & Ted Face The Music is on Digital from 9 January, and available on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD & VOD on 25 January.
When lockdown closed down the film industry, horror director Rob Savage took matters into his own hands, recruiting his acting and VFX chums to make a feature length film over Zoom. It tells the story of an online seance that goes horrifically wrong. This is is the conference call of nightmares, and also 2020’s most inventive and haunting thrill ride.
Host is in UK cinemas, on PVOD, and streaming on Shudder now.
Written by Nigerian-British playwright and screenwriter Theresa Ikoko and film and TV writer Claire Wilson, and directed by Sarah Gavron, Rocks finds its authenticity through its its pitch perfect casting of an extremely charismatic ensemble of first-time actors, and its absolute trust and teamwork with the very people it seeks to depict, born out of workshops with young people at a range of schools and youth hubs.
Rocks is streaming on Netflix.
9) Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee follows up his Oscar win for BlacKkKlansman with this Netflix drama following a group of Black veterans of the Vietnam War as they return to the country in search of the body of their fallen comrade — and the gold they buried nearby. Delroy Lindo is rightly receiving many of the plaudits for his role as a Trump-supporting powder-keg of a man, but the entire ensemble is uniformly strong. The film is a sprawling journey through the tumultuous, contentious relationship between the protagonists, as well as the damaging legacy of America’s history in Vietnam.
Da 5 Bloods is streaming on Netflix.
Watch Yahoo talk to the cast of Da 5 Bloods
8) The Lighthouse
After announcing his horror credentials with 2015’s The Witch, Robert Eggers recruited Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe for his follow up. They play a duo of lighthouse keepers who slowly unravel in their self-imposed isolation. Shot in Academy ratio monochrome, the film looks like it was dug up from another century, and its unique sense of mania won’t be for everyone, but for those willing to commit, The Lighthouse is a rapidly unravelling slice of chaos that pulls from Greek mythology to produce a bleak commentary on masculinity. Pattinson and Dafoe deal in crazy facial hair and even crazier accents as they carry the audience through the madness, en route to an unforgettable, grotesque final image.
The Lighthouse is streaming on Now TV with a Sky Cinema pass.
Although it feels like a million years ago now, Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning WW1 thriller was released in UK cinemas on 10 January, and was an instant classic. Its bravura, one-take style brought the customers in in droves making it a box office hit, but it was the stunning performances of George Mackay and Dean-Charles Chapman that kept them coming back for more.
1917 is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
6) The Invisible Man
Unmoored from the shackles of Universal’s failed Dark Universe, Saw co-creator Whannell turned The Invisible Man into a very modern tale of gaslighting. The film follows Moss’s abuse survivor as she is tormented by her ex-husband, who is using an invisibility suit after convincing the world he has killed himself. It was a box office hit to the tune of $125m (£100m) worldwide and stands as one of the most well-reviewed horror movies in years.
The Invisible Man is streaming on NOW TV with a Sky Cinema pass.
5) The Trial of the Chicago 7
Aaron Sorkin's whip-smart dialogue and its uneasy parallels to today make The Trial of the Chicago 7 one of 2020's most essential films - Steve O’Brien.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is streaming on Netflix.
4) Jojo Rabbit
Taika Waititi’s WW2 comedy has proven to be a Marmite movie for some, but for others, it’s a masterpiece. Hilarious, sad, uplifting and it features one of the great child performances by Roman Griffin Davis. It came out at the start of 2020, but has endured to make the list - Ben Falk.
Jojo Rabbit is streaming on NOW TV with a Sky Cinema pass.
3) Saint Maud
The scariest / smartest horror film of the year is also one of the best debuts (written and directed by Rose Glass) - mashing up Stephen King thrills with uniquely British chills - Sam Ashurst.
Saint Maud will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, Limited Edition steelbook and Digital platforms on 1 February, 2021.
2) Uncut Gems
There hasn’t been a movie as stressful this year — or perhaps any year — as the Safdie Brothers’ truly bonkers Uncut Gems. The duo handed Adam Sandler his most complex, compelling role in years as the permanently grifting jewellery dealer Howard Ratner — a man whose entire life is based upon the principle of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It doesn’t sound like the stuff of a dynamite thriller but, in the hands of the Safdies and Sandler, it becomes something truly special.
Uncut Gems is streaming on Netflix.
Genres collapse under the weight of Bong Joon-ho's deliciously inventive meditation on class warfare, which only becomes a more towering achievement with each rewatch. Director Bong weaves intricate class commentary into a very entertaining thriller, focusing on the poor Kim family and the way in which they secretly ingratiate themselves into the lives, and indeed the employment, of the wealthy Park clan. Inevitably, their con unravels and chaos ensues.
It’s a triumph of filmmaking on just about every level, cementing director Bong as one of the most acclaimed and sought-after filmmakers in the industry. Whatever he does next, the world will be watching. - Tom Beasley.
Parasite is streaming on Amazon Prime Video UK.
Thanks to contributors: Mark O’Connell, Ben Falk, Tom Beasley, Clarisse Loughrey, Steve O’Brien, Chris Tilly, Simon Bland, Rebecca Lewis, Stefan Pape. Emily Murray, Sam Ashurst, and Simon Brew for their input.