Greatest Films of the 2020s


Greatest Films of the 2020s
2020

2020

Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

The Assistant (2020), 87 minutes, D. Kitty Green
In this #MeToo workplace drama, recent college graduate Jane (Julia Garner) living in Queens had attained her dream job of working as an entry-level assistant to an unseen, powerful film executive-mogul in a Manhattan film production company. During one long work-day, however, she found herself intimidated and verbally berated by her boss, and with concerns about her increasingly-hostile and sexist work environment and the abuse she was suggestively subjected to, she reported to Wilcock (Matthew Macfadyen) the HR Department head, and faced further retribution and disempowerment.

Da 5 Bloods (2020), 154 minutes, D. Spike Lee
In Spike Lee's exploration of war and race, a squad of four African American vets ("Da Bloods"), including Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) returned to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam (50 years after the official end of the war), seeking the remains of their beloved fallen squad leader "Stormin' Norman" (Chadwick Boseman) and conducting a secret mission - the recovery of a treasure of illegally confiscated gold bars that they buried during the war. They were joined by Paul's son, David (Jonathan Majors) "the 5th blood" - and partnered with corrupt Frenchman Desroche (Jean Reno).

The Father (2020), 97 minutes, D. Florian Zeller
This family drama about the deteriorating mind of housebound geriatric father Anthony (Best Actor-winning Anthony Hopkins) caused him to refuse all assistance from his caring daughter Anne (Olivia Coleman). Suffering from dementia, he even mistook another woman (Olivia Williams) as his daughter and became increasingly frustrated and desperate.


Judas and the Black Messiah (2020), 126 minutes, D. Shaka King
In this biographical drama/thriller about civil rights and a period of racial injustice and social upheaval in the US in the late 1960s and 1970s, 17 year-old FBI informant William "Bill" O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) infiltrated into the Black Panther Party's Chicago chapter to learn about its charismatic leader, Fred Hampton (British actor Daniel Kaluuya). The film opened with O'Neal being interviewed for a TV documentary in 1989 before a flashback. A petty car thief and con-man who faced a prison sentence for impersonating a federal bureau officer, O'Neal was pressured by FBI Special Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) to go undercover and gather intelligence on the group, thought of at the time as a threatening terrorist organization by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen), although they were fighting for racial and social justice. With his gifted and intelligent oratorical rhetoric, Hampton unified rival gangs, white rednecks, Black gang members, Puerto Ricans and working-class African-Americans into a multi-racial 'Rainbow Coalition.' The cautionary story told about O'Neal's growing conflict within himself, knowing that he would have to 'turn Judas' on Hampton and his pregnant fiancee Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback) (one of the Panthers herself), although he had been appointed as Hampton's Chief of Security. Ultimately, Hampton was 21 when he died from gunshot wounds during a raid by police officers and agents in December, 1969.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020), 94 minutes, D. George C. Wolfe
Set in Chicago 1927 during a sweaty recording session in a basement studio, tensions rose between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her band members, her ambitious trumpet player Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and the incompetent white studio bosses determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues." Based on the 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning August Wilson play.

Mank (2020), 131 minutes, D. David Fincher
In this thought-provoking, B/W period drama set in behind-the-scenes 1930s Hollywood, renowned screenwriter Herman J. "Mank" Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), a scathing social critic and hard-drinking alcoholic, raced to finish the first draft of his screenplay for Citizen Kane (1941) for its hotshot wunderkind director Orson Welles (Tom Burke). He based his screenplay upon the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) who was involved with a mistress - Hollywood starlet Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). After an automobile accident, Mank was set up in a country home with a personal typist (Lily Collins) and a nurse to fully immerse himself in his work.

Minari (2020), 115 minutes, D. Lee Isaac Chung
In this semi-autobiographical, arthouse immigrant family drama about the American dream, a Korean-American family led by hard-working, patriarchal Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) moved from California to a makeshift trailer on an Arkansas farm in the 1980s in order to farm a five-acre plot of Ozark land. His intention was to grow Korean vegetables for the surrounding Korean community. Their struggles to assimilate into the world in this desolate location were evidenced by his unpleased wife Monica (Han Ye-ri), their precocious 7 year-old son David (Alan Kim) with a heart condition, smart pre-teen daughter Anne (Noel Kate Cho), and by the arrival of Monica's mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung).

The Nest (2020, UK/Can.), 107 minutes, D. Sean Durkin
In this mature drama (a psychological thriller), shallow-minded, greedy, and obsessive business entrepreneur/stock trader Rory O'Hara (Jude Law) was desperate to keep his privileged status intact. To that end, he proposed a major Trans-atlantic move to his childhood home - taking his riding teacher wife Allison (Carrie Coon) and their two kids from New York City to London, causing a considerable strain on his marriage and family life. As Rory moved into an enormous mansion and took back his old job from his boss Arthur Davis (Michael Culkin) with the goal of buying the firm for huge profits, everything else in the family's life rapidly fell apart, beginning with Allison's sick horse shipped from America having to be euthanized.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020), 101 minutes, D. Eliza Hittman
A non-judgmental, teen abortion drama involving the entire journey of lower middle-class, 17-year-old teen Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) who was faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support. Efforts to force a miscarriage (punshing herself) failed. Parental consent for an abortion in Pennsylvania necessitated that Autumn and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) cross state lines to New York City to terminate her pregnancy.

Nomadland (2020), 108 minutes, D. Chloe Zhao
The Best Picture winner - an intimate and poignant drama about the struggle to live on the open road as a nomad. During the Great Recession of 2011 like so many others, childless and widowed Fern (Best Actress-winning Frances McDormand) lost her job when the United States Gypsum Corporation closed its mine in the company town of Empire, Nevada. She began living in her white, refurbished Vanguard RV and became a modern-day nomad, searching for seasonal work across the American West, working part-time as a waitress and beet farmer, among other things. She met up with other experienced nomads at the Cheap RV Living YouTuber Bob Wells' annual Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Arizona, including romantic interest Dave (David Strathairn).

On the Rocks (2020), 96 minutes, D. Sofia Coppola
A relationship dramedy that told about Laura (Rashida Jones), a New York City writer (with writer's block) and married mother of two. Suspicious of her husband, she began to conduct an investigation into whether her workaholic Dean (Marlon Wayans) was having an affair with his colleague-assistant Fiona (Jessica Henwick). Surprisingly, Laura teamed up with her unfaithful, rich, eccentric, cynical, larger-than-life playboy father Felix (Bill Murray), a divorced, retired NYC art dealer, to spy on Dean's suspected adultery.

One Night in Miami... (2020), 114 minutes, D. Regina King
In this stagey and fictional account of one night in a run-down Hampton House Motel room in 1964 in Miami (Liberty City), four icons of black activism, sports and music gathered together – Black Muslim activist Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), boxing champ Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali) (Eli Goree), pro football great Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and soul singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.). They discussed black issues, personal struggles, their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the ’60s.

Promising Young Woman (2020), 113 minutes, D. Emerald Fennell
In this R-rated crime-drama and feminist revenge-thriller about the sexist culture, emotionally-traumatized, 30 year-old medical school dropout Cassandra "Cassie" Thomas (Carey Mulligan) was living in Ohio with her parents. She had dropped out of school in the aftermath of a horrible crime - the rape of her best friend Nina Fisher by their mutual classmate Alexander "Al" Monroe (Chris Lowell). Nina had apparently committed suicide after the case was inadequately resolved by the school and legal system. To make ends meet, Cassie took a dead-end job as a barista at a cheap coffee shop. At night however, she cunningly sought to avenge her best friend's criminal rape-murder by fake-acting a "drunken vixen" and seeing how supposedly decent 'nice-guy' males tended to treat her inappropriately, to teach them a lesson. She also sought vigilante justice for Nina by having those who wronged her friend 'punished' in similar ways. She set up disbelieving old friend Madison McPhee (Alison Brie), the dismissive medical school dean Elizabeth Walker (Connie Britton), and a former pediatric surgeon-classmate named Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham). After being satisfied with her confrontations, including a contrite confession by rapist Al Monroe's lawyer Jordan Green (Alfred Molina), Cassie began to date Ryan. But then her outlook changed when Madison provided her with a phone-video of Nina's rape - and she noticed Ryan as a bystander. She then decided to target Monroe - the perpetrator of the rape. Cassie blackmailed Ryan into revealing the location of Al's bachelor party. At the celebration in the film's riveting ending, she arrived as a stripper, and brought the loathsome Al upstairs and handcuffed him to a bed before attempting to carve Nina's name on his stomach. He broke free and suffocated her to death with a pillow, and then disposed of her burned body. After her death, Al's remorseful lawyer Jordan Green was mailed a package by Cassie, with the video of Nina's rape and instructions if she was found missing. The police found Cassie's charred remains and subsequently arrested Al.

Soul (2020), 100 minutes, D. Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
In this 23rd Disney/Pixar animation - the first Pixar feature with a black main character, a jazz pianist named Joe (voice of Jamie Foxx) who taught middle-schoolers, had lost his passion for music. One day he learned from one of his former students that legendary saxophonist Dorothea Williams (voice of Angela Bassett) had an opening for a piano player - he applied and was given an audition and invitation to play with her, but then fell into a open manhole, and his soul began its ascent on an escalator to heaven. He raced back down to the "Great Before" (a cotton-candy colored departure lounge, or purgatory, for fresh, new souls readying for their journey to Earth) where he mentored a cranky and cynical soul known as Number 22 (voice of Tina Fey). In the process of finding his way back, he was transported out of his body into a therapy cat, while Number 22 occupied his body. Joe was forced to enlist the aid of Moonwind (voice of Graham Norton), a spiritual sign twirler to get back.

Sound of Metal (2019), 120 minutes, D: Darius Marder
[Note: The film was from 2019 – premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, although was considered for awards with 2020 films.]
With strong language and an R-rating from director Darius Marder (with his directorial debut film), this was an engrossing musical drama about Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) - a drummer who was a member of Blackgammon, a heavy-metal rock band duo. Also in the band was his shriekingly-loud girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) who sang the lead vocals and played a guitar. The central conflict of the drama arose when Stone (who was already a recovering drug addict) had a sudden loss of hearing but stubbornly continued to perform when diagnosed with deteriorating and severe ear damage. He was instructed to stay away from loud noises - a death sentence for a drummer. He investigated the expensive option of cochlear implant surgery while reluctantly attending a special rural camp-community for the deaf and hard of hearing, in order to learn how to cope with life (and silence) as a deaf person, and learn American Sign Language (ASL). The camp was managed by kindly and compassionate Vietnam War veteran Joe (Paul Raci) (who was a recovering alcoholic and also deaf). Although Stone went along with the camp's program, his main objective was the surgery, although it did not turn out to be the life-saving cure he had hoped for, and he realized he was unable to return to his old way of life.

Tenet (2020), 150 minutes, D. Christopher Nolan
In this ambitious, complex (confusing), very cerebral, Bond-like spy action sci-fi film (with a time travel component), an international CIA secret agent/operative known only as the Protagonist (John David Washington) was given a secret mission to save the entire world from an apocalyptic World War III attack. Armed with only one code word, the palindrome Tenet, he journeyed through a world (beyond real-time) of international espionage and arms dealers, to investigate how wealthy and malevolent Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) possessed a time-based weapon of the future that was capable of reversing time. His only contact with Sator was through his estranged art dealer wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki).

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020), 129 minutes, D. Aaron Sorkin
This mature, suspenseful courtroom drama was the story of seven anti-war activists on trial in 1969, stemming from various charges surrounding the bloody and excessive uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois involving riot police. They argued for their rights of free speech and social justice protest, but had been arrested for organizing anti-war protests without proper permits. The defendants included hippies Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong) of the Youth International Party (known as the YIPpies), the more clean-cut Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) and Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp) of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and Black Panther Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Their defense lawyers William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) and Leonard Weinglass (Ben Shenkman) faced the Nixon government's young prosecutor Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and biased Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella).

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), 151 minutes, D. Patty Jenkins
This lengthy escapist sequel to the 2017 superhero comic-book film was the 9th film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) series-franchise. It was set in the Reagan era of the 1980s, and opened with some backstory on the home island of Themyscira where young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competed athletically in an exciting and compelling opening sequence, and was taught truth and honesty from her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) and mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), the Amazonian Queen. Then fast-forward to 1984 in Washington, DC where Amazon princess and warrior Diana (Gail Gadot) was working as an archaeologist at the Smithsonian with the museum's inept and insecure geologist/gemologist, Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig) who was admiring and envious of Diana. One of the gems was a mysterious citrine crystal (a Dreamstone with the magical power to grant a wish). Wonder Woman took on two new foes who were allied together during the Cold War - The Cheetah (Barbara who was transformed into a fanged, furred, and clawed super-human adversary by the gem), and con-man/oil-man tycoon/TV celebrity and businessman Maxwell "Max Lord" Lorenzano (Pedro Pascal) who took possession of the gem.


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