The Best of 2020: Top 20 Movies of the Year

The Best of 2020: Top 20 Movies of the Year

Written By – C. A. Ponch

It was a big year for small inexpensive films. In 2020, only 329 movies were released to the public. That is almost 500 less than what are released on average in a typical year. There wasn’t a single movie nominated for Best Picture that had a budget over 35 million. In fact, all but one of those films were made for under 25 million. This list is populated with a lot of low budget Indie films, but I wouldn’t consider this a weak year. What 2020 lacked in big budgets it made up for in heart and emotion. It was a tragically sad year, and the movies that came out were equally as tragic and emotional. The lack of superhero movies, gave us a very dramatic year and I enjoyed a lot of the drama films that were released. Overall there were more tough to watch films than there were feel good stories, but like America during the pandemic, the film industry fought and will carry on. Some of the best creators, gave us some of their best work. I hope you enjoy reading this list and watching some of my favorites, as much as I enjoyed them.

BONUS: THE RELEASED ACTIONS FILMS

Although none of the action films were good enough to make my top 20 films list of 2020,  I feel it was an accomplishment that these action films hit the screen at all during the pandemic, with so many studios deciding to hold off until 2021 and 2022 for profit. These were the best action films of the year with very few actions films released. I loved the concept of “The Old Guard” with the always entertaining Charlize Theron. “Extraction” was a much better film than what I thought it would be, and the action and cinematography were some of the best of the year. “The Outpost” was a great modern war film, since it’s a true story, it’s mostly action, light on plot but interesting. “The Invincible Man” was the best action horror film of the year with a superb almost Oscar worthy performance by Elizabeth Moss. “Greyhound” is a really fast paced Naval war movie with great sound and film editing.  “Tenet” was amazing in so many ways, with Nolan and his crew doing things I have never seen before on film, now if the movie just could have been less confusing. All they had to do was tighten up the plot and logic and “Tenet” would have been one of the top 5 of the year. I almost considered “Tenet” for the top 20.

The Old Guard ((Netflix – 2020): Ponch: 7/10 – IMDB: 6.6/10 – RT: 80% – Metacritic:  70% 

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Extraction (Netflix – 2020): Ponch: 7/10 – IMDB: 6.7/10 – RT: 67% – Metacritic:  56% 

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The Outpost (Netflix – 2020): Ponch: 7/10 – IMDB: 6.8/10 – RT: 93% – Metacritic:  71% 

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The Invisible Man (HBO Max – 2020): Ponch: 7/10 –  IMDB: 7.1/10 – RT: 92% – Metacritic: 72%

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Greyhound (Apple TV + – 2020): Ponch: 7/10 –  IMDB: 7/10 – RT: 79% – Metacritic: 64%

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Tenet (Rent on OnDemand, Amazon, Apple TV, etc.  – 2020): Ponch: 7/10 –  IMDB: 7.5/10 – RT: 70% – Metacritic: 69%

Streaming on: HBO Max Subscription

THE TOP 20 FILMS OF 2020

20. First Cow (Hulu – 2020): Ponch: 8/10 –  IMDB: 7.1/10 – RT: 95% – Metacritic: 89%

“First Cow” is drama film based on Raymond’s novel “The Half Life”, about a skilled baker nicknamed “Cookie” (John Magaro), who has traveled West and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon in 1820. He connects with a Chinese immigrant named King-Lu (Orion Lee), who is also seeking a new life and wealth. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business selling sweet biscuits to people at the outpost by stealing milk from the only Cow in the area. “First Cow” isn’t for everyone, but it is a beautiful project visually and it’s a wonderful tale of friendship. At first I found it dull, but once the story got moving I appreciated the emotions and subtleness of the story. I am also a little shocked that the Production design was not nominated for an Oscar, they were able to recreate the time period to perfection, making you feel very fortunate to live in the modern day.

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19. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Prime – 2020): Ponch: 8/10 –  IMDB: 6.7/10 – RT: 85% – Metacritic: 68%

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” is a mockumentary comedy film starring Sacha Baron Cohen as the fictional Kazakh journalist and television personality Borat Sagdiyev, and Maria Bakalova as his daughter Tutar. The film is a sequel to 2006’s “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”. “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” much like the original “Borat” is a satirical comedy that reveals some shocking truths and moral commentary about American culture, the COVID-19 pandemic and the US political elections.  I am still shocked that more than a decade later, people are still getting fooled by Cohen. Although, the sequel isn’t as funny as the original, during the pandemic and with the way politics has shifted, it seems this film is more relevant than the first. Bakalova is excellent as Tutar, she somehow matches Cohen’s presence, proving to be equally as hysterical yet endearing. Bakalova’s scene with Rudy Giuliani alone is worth sitting through the whole film to see, even new viewers unfamiliar with Cohen, will be delighted by one of the funniest films of the year.

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18. On the Rocks (Apple TV + – 2020): Ponch: 8/10 –  IMDB: 6.5/10 – RT: 87% – Metacritic: 73%

“On the Rocks” is a comedy-drama film starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones as father and daughter Felix and Laura Keane. Laura (Jones) is suspicious about whether her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans), is cheating on her. Felix helps his daughter in her quest to see if Dean is staying faithful, as the two discover more about their own complicated relationship. “On the Rocks” is a pretty light dramedy, but it’s that fun airiness that made it so enjoyable compared to all the heavy dramas we got in 2020. It reunites Murray and director Sofia Coppola, and much like the Oscar winning “Lost in Translation”, Murray adds humorous charm and levity to every scene. Jones and Murray have amazing chemistry as father and daughter and the duo could have made any plot work that was given to them.  “On the Rocks” is a sweet film that is perfect for when you don’t want something to heavy, that is carried by the performances of its two main actors.

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17. The Assistant (Hulu – Late 2019): Ponch: 8/10 –  IMDB: 6.3/10 – RT: 92% – Metacritic: 79%

“The Assistant” is a drama film that follows Jane (Julia Garner), a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer, who just took a role as an assistant to a powerful entertainment executive. The film takes place over one of her work days, which is much like any other assistant. She performs various menial administrative tasks like making coffee, ordering lunch, and taking phone messages. Over the last several months of her employment, she notices a pattern from her boss of facilitating a culture of deceit, sexual harassment and possible abuse. “The Assistant” is a realistic look at the American entertainment work place, and is a dark look at power and abuse in the office place. Garner is superb and reminds us again why she is one of the best younger actresses in Hollywood. The meeting between Garner and Matthew Macfadyen as the head of the company’s HR department is one of the best acted scenes of the year. This film really makes you think and stays with you long after viewing.

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16. Mank (Netflix – 2020): Ponch: 8/10 – IMDB: 7.1/10 – RT: 83% – Metacritic:  79% 

“Mank” is a biographical drama directed by David Fincher, based on a screenplay by his late father Jack Fincher about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his controversial development of the screenplay for the classic Orson Wells’ film Citizen Kane.  The film follows “Mank” through the development of the screenplay, and how it came to be, to his fallout with Wells over the direction of the screenplay. “Mank” easily received the most Oscar nominations of any movie this year with 10 nominations, as it was a technical masterpiece in all aspects of production especially in its cinematography and production design. “Mank” was shot in black and white giving it a look that felt like it was a film made in the 1940’s time period, yet used every bit of present day technology to make the movie feel fresh and modern. The writing and acting were also superb, and it deserves all of its nominations and praise. “Mank” is worth watching just to witness the technical brilliance, unfortunately, much like a perfectly built robot, the movie lacks emotion and heart. Amanda Seyfried’s presence does give the film some light, but it’s not enough to make us emotionally connect with the film fully. This is a movie that is highly enjoyable if you love the technical aspects of film and the rich history of film making.

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15. Da Five Bloods (Netflix – 2020): Ponch: 8/10 – IMDB: 6.5/10 – RT: 92% – Metacritic:  82%

“Da 5 Bloods” is a war drama film directed, produced, and co-written by Spike Lee about a group of four American Vietnam War veterans Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norman Lewis), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Paul (Delroy Lindo), who return to Vietnam in search of the remains of their fallen squad leader Norman (Chadwick Boseman), as well as the gold they buried while serving there. “Da Bloods” are joined later by Paul’s son David (Jonathan Majors), who has a turbulent relationship with his father. “Da 5 Bloods” was one of the more interesting stories of the year and is a highly entertaining film. I do think there is some over-acting in the film, but it makes up for it in raw emotion and some powerful moments. Boseman is once again excellent; and before his character completely goes off the deep end, Lindo gives the best performance of his long career. For anyone that loves heist films or war movie history buffs, this is a must watch. The film also supplies a good amount of social commentary on the experience of the Black soldier in Vietnam, but it’s the feel good vibe and playfulness that turns into a psychedelic nightmare that will keep the average viewer fixated on “Da 5 Bloods”.

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14. The Vast of Night (Amazon Prime – 2020): Ponch: 8/10 –  IMDB: 6.7/10 – RT: 92% – Metacritic: 84%

“The Vast of Night” is a science fiction mystery film based in the late 1950’s in a small town in New Mexico about a young switchboard operator named Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) and Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz), a radio disc jockey who discover a weird audio frequency that could be extraterrestrial in origin. The Director Andrew Patterson and the other creators of “The Vast of Night” gave everyone an education in how to make a small budget Sci-Fi film not only work well, but seem like they had a far bigger budget than what was given to them. This is a very inventive film, using kinetic camera work with impressive single-take tracking shots and fantastic sound editing to give the movie a real feeling of suspense. It’s the fear of the unknown that sets the mood of the film from mystery to thriller with a Sci-Fi twist, having characters and viewers alike ask “is this real”? There is a section of the movie where the screen goes black for several minutes with only the voice track that is honestly one of the most enthralling moments of the movie, setting a tone for the rest of the film. The performances of the two leads McCormick and Horowitz, will make you start following their careers after this film. Both actors emerge themselves in the late 50’s rhetoric, with amazing chemistry. “The Vast of Night” is the exact type of Indie Sci-Fi film you make on a small budget for fans of both genres.

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13. The Father (Rent on On Demand, Amazon, Apple TV, etc).  Ponch: 9/10 – IMDB: 8.3/10 – RT: 98% – Metacritic:  88%

“The Father” is a drama film that stars Anthony Hopkins as Anthony, an aging man with dementia who must deal with his progressing memory loss. The movie is told from Anthony’s perspective, showing what it would be like to have dementia and Alzheimer’s. Anthony refuses all assistance from his daughter (Olivia Coleman) as he ages and starts to become out of touch with the fabric of reality. He doubts his loved ones and himself, and is unsure of what’s happening around him and in his head. “The Father” is driven by two of the best acting performances of the year by Hopkins and Coleman. At times this film can be sad, powerful and disturbing all at once. It’s hard to watch Anthony turn away help and not trust anyone around him. The acting is the highlight of this deep drama with Hopkins and Coleman getting the most out of the brilliant screenplay, but the collaboration between the production design and editing teams giving viewers a look inside the mind of a person with dementia was impressive in its subtly. The only drawback to this type of narrative is that sometimes you are as confused as much at what is happening as Anthony, and although this may be what the creators were going for, it’s still a bit jarring. Viewers who are fans of thick Oscar bait dramas will love “The Father”.

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12. One Night in Miami (Amazon Prime – 2020): Ponch: 10/10 –  IMDB: 7.3/10 – RT: 98% – Metacritic: 83%

“One Night in Miami” is a drama film directed by Regina King based on a screenplay by Kemp Powers based on his 2013 stage play of the same name. The movie is a fictional account, set on the night of February 25, 1964 in Miami where Civil Rights Movement icons Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) meet in a room at the Hampton House, celebrating Ali’s surprise title win over Sonny Liston. These men discuss the responsibility of being successful black men during this uncertain time period. “One Night in Miami” really surprised me. I assumed four men in a hotel room just talking was going to be pretty boring compared to the multiple films I have already seen with the main topic being the Civil Rights Movement. All of which had bigger budgets and loftier settings, yet “One Night in Miami” was just as fascinating. It wasn’t just four men talking in a room, it was these four icons talking in a room and the four different ideologies they brought to the conversation. I didn’t realize it was a fictional account until after I saw the film and I am glad I didn’t because I believe that it was a more authentic viewing experience for me.  All four main actors are fantastic but the confrontations between Ben-Adir and Odom Jr. are the highlights of the film. Mix in some very cool music scenes and you have a really well written, engaging film.  Regina King seems to do no wrong on any project she chooses, and “One Night In Miami” is no exception.

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11. Ma Raineys Black Bottom – (Netflix – 2020): Ponch: 9/10 – IMDB: 7.1/10 – RT: 98% – Metacritic:  87%

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is a musical drama film based on the play of the same name by August Wilson. The film, and its source play, focus on one of Ma Rainey’s (Viola Davis) recording sessions in 1920s Chicago. Tensions and tempers begin to rise over the course of the afternoon as Ma argues with her manager and producer over control of her music, and the studio band members become more impatient with the delays. Ma insists on proper treatment of her and the band member’s like the ambitious trumpeter Levee (Chadwick Boseman) who after a lifetime of oppression wants his own shot at stardom in the music industry. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” much like Willson’s “Fences” also staring Davis is more of a recorded play than a true cinematic experience, but the level of detail in the film and raw emotions in the actors’ performances make it one of the best of the year. The costume design, make-up and hair styling was the best of the year, just gorgeous, as the beautiful reds and golds just popped on screen. Davis and Boseman are wonderful as usual. I think Davis is so good in everything she does that we as viewers (and the academy) take her for granted. Like most play adaptions, there is a lot of dialogue, but the cast members are all pretty engaging. Boseman’s performance in this film cemented his legacy, and knowing we will never get a chance to see this brilliant young actor again is heartbreaking.

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TOP 10 FILMS OF 2020

10. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix – 2020): Ponch: 9/10 – IMDB: 7.8/10 – RT: 90% – Metacritic: 77% 

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” is a historical legal drama film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, that is based on the infamous 1969 trail of the Chicago Seven, a group of anti–Vietnam War protesters charged by the federal government with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film features a huge ensemble cast including Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffmam, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Richard Schultz, Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark, Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman, John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, Mark Rylance as William Kunstler, Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin, Alex Sharp as Rennie Davis, Daniel Flaherty as John Froines, Noah Robbins as Lee Weiner, and Ben Shenkman as Leonard Weinglass. For fans of court room dramas, you can’t do much better than one written and directed by Sorkin. He brings a quick wit, sophistication and gravitas to his work unmatched by most of his contemporaries. Loaded with Oscar winning and nominated actors, who all get to play with Sorkin’s rich dialogue, you get a very entertaining and fun movie for such a weighty topic.  Don’t go into this film expecting “A Few Good Men”; “The Trail of Chicago 7” isn’t as good of a film, and doesn’t have the same tone as Sorkin’s military legal drama, but that’s what makes it unique. The witty humor makes it a little breezier than most court room dramas, and the actors seem to be having a good time. Abdul-Mateen and Cohen are the standouts but every cast member is on point. Alan Baumgarten’s film editing takes the film to another level, making it one of the best of the year.

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9. Minari (Rent on On Demand, Amazon, Apple TV, etc.  – 2020): Ponch: 8/10 –  IMDB: 7.6/10 – RT: 98% – Metacritic: 89%

“Minari” is drama film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung. The film is a semi-autobiographical take on Chung’s upbringing in the 1980’s, about a Korean American family who moves to Arkansas from California to start a farm. In search of the American dream, they have a lot of challenges and suffer setbacks while discovering their strong resilience and how it’s the family not a house, that really makes a home. Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri play Jacob and Monica Yi. Jacob is optimistic about the farm and life they will make for themselves in Arkansas, but Monica is disappointed with their circumstances and living conditions, worrying about their daughter Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and son David (Alan Kim), who has a heart condition. Jacob and Monica work sexing chicks at the nearby hatchery, and to help watch the children during the day, they arrange for Monica’s mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) to travel from South Korea. As Americans we really need to see more films like “Minari”. With so many disturbing, negative, and dark films that come out every year, “Minari’s” was a shot in the arm filled with positivity and heart. This film highlights the talent of Steven Yeun far beyond his “The Walking Dead” days, proving he can be a leading man in the right vehicle for his talents. Yuh-jung is a charming revelation and steals every scene she is in. Although it did need some stronger camera movement in certain scenes, the movie is shot beautifully, and the film highlights the landscape as an influential aspect to the story. “Minari” is a warm and charming film with very tender moments, reminding us about the true power of the American spirit.

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8. Promising Young Woman (Rent on On Demand, Amazon, Apple TV, etc.  – 2020): Ponch: 8/10 –  IMDB: 7.5/10 – RT: 91% – Metacritic: 72%

“Promising Young Woman” is a dark comedy thriller film about a young woman named Cassie (Carey Mulligan) who is traumatized by the tragic loss of her best friend Nina. Cassie wants to avenge her friend’s death, by living a secret double life by night as a vigilante against men who take advantage of women; by acting like she is intoxicated and vulnerable, revealing her sobriety when they try to take advantage of her. Cassie goes on a date with a former medical school classmate, Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham), who mentions that Al Monroe (Chris Lowell) is getting married. She begins a plan to exact revenge on Al and the other people like Madison McPhee (Alison Brie) and Dean Elizabeth Walker (Connie Britton) who played a role in Nina’s demise. A lot of movies try to go for a more timeless feel or they are Oscar darling period pieces given a fresh take, but “Promising Young Woman” feels like a movie in present time that was made for 2020. It’s one of the only movies on this list that feels fresh and modern, with a very stylish appeal dealing with some very heavy topics in the middle of the #MeToo movement. I had issues with the ending but really loved the journey up until that point. Mulligan is a force showing incredible dramatic timing and range with a pinch of quick wit and humor. She carries the rest of the cast on her back, being able to switch between sarcastic humor and cold stone-faced drama. This is best witnessed in the scene between her and Britton’s Dean Walker, which is the high point of tension of the film showing us how truly disturbed Cassie is, even if her intensions are good. Emerald Fennell’s writing is very sharp and she does a wonderful job in her directorial debut getting the most out of Carrie Mulligan and the rest of the cast. With “Promising Young Woman”, Fennell gives us a well-crafted thriller that is worthy of all the attention it has received.

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7.  Soul (Disney + – 2020): Ponch: 10/10 – IMDB: 8.1/10 – RT: 95% – Metacritic: 83%

“Soul” is an animated fantasy comedy-drama film produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney Pictures. The film follows Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) a New York City middle school music teacher, whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he wanted it to. He loves jazz and is still waiting for his big break as a jazz musician long after his prime. Right before his big break, his excitement distracts him, and he falls down a manhole, taking his soul to the “Great Beyond”. Joe seeks to reunite his soul and his body, when he travels to another realm to help Soul 22 (Tina Fey) find their passion, and he soon discovers more about his own life’s meaning and passions. Sometimes the best animation studio puts out the best animated film, and Pixar is consistently putting out the best of the year. “Soul” was easily the best animated film of 2020 and it wasn’t really close. Not only is the animation extremely visually pleasing, but also very creative. Foxx, Fey and the other voice actors give wonderful performances. “Soul” is a fun and very touching experience for both adults and kids alike.

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6. Hamilton (Disney + – 2020): Ponch: 10/10 – IMDB: 8.5/10 – RT: 98% – Metacritic: 90%

“Hamilton” is a historical fiction musical film consisting of a live stage recording of the 2015 Broadway musical of the same name. The film was directed and produced by Thomas Kail and produced, written, and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda also stars as Treasury Secretary and Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, along with the original Broadway cast including Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr and Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson. The musical depicts a dramatized account of the life of Hamilton: An orphaned immigrant from the Caribbean island of Nevis, covering his arrival in New York City in 1776, to his own death in a duel with Burr in 1804. “Hamilton” the movie, was a hard film to rank, and I almost didn’t even include it. It is just a recording of the live stage musical and I am pretty positive this is going to be turned into a live action film someday soon, but with so many of this year’s films being low budget adaptations, “Hamilton” didn’t seem that far off and seemed to fit right in with the 2020 Year of the Indie feel. Although they would never be able to match the energy of a live performance, the cameras did capture the performers faces and emotions that people in the bad seats would never see. The movie also gave people who never had the opportunity or budget to see it in person, and opportunity to witness one of the greatest musicals with one of the most creative concepts of all time. I’m sure a Hip-Hop musical about Alexander Hamilton’s life in the 1700’s, wasn’t an idea that anyone thought would work, let alone become a phenomenon. The writing and performances are stellar, and the songs are all incredibly likeable. Miranda is a nice center for the show to always come back to and although this was Diggs breakout, it’s Odom Jr. as Burr who is the star. He powers every scene he is in with his presence and beautiful voice. “Hamilton” is universal and one of the only films on this list that every true American could enjoy. If my rankings were strictly based on the live stage show and not as a film recording of the show, it would be number one on this list. 

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TOP 5 FILMS OF 2020

5. Judas and the Black Messiah (HBO Max – 2020): Ponch: 10/10 –  IMDB: 7.8/10 – RT: 96% – Metacritic: 85%

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is a biographical drama film about William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) who was offered a plea deal by the FBI to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in the late-1960s Chicago, and gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). “Judas and the Black Messiah” has very few weaknesses. It’s well written, and filmed with incredible performances. It’s one of the only films in 2020 that didn’t feel like it was an Indie on a low budget. It felt legendary in both the real life story that needed to be told and the execution of the film itself. Kaluuya is a super-star, who is red hot after three hits in “Get Out”, “Black Panther” and “Queen & Slim”. This was his finest performance yet as he energizes every seen as the charismatic Hampton. Stanfield is an extremely under rated actor and his subtle style works as well here as it does for him in “Atlanta”. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is full of gripping dramatic moments, but I think it’s the more thrilling action scenes that set it apart from a lot of the other Oscar nominated films on this list. Also that ending; it stays with you long after viewing. This was a complete film, the music was excellent and cinematography was some of the best of the year. If it had a flaw and that really does depend on whether you view it that way, was that the creators didn’t define a protagonist or lead actor. They really did try to make you feel for O’Neal as much as Hampton. It was interesting that the contrast of styles between both actors was similar to that of the characters they played. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is one of the top five films of the year.

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4. Palm Springs (Hulu – 2020):  Ponch: 10/10 –  IMDB: 7.4/10 – RT: 94% – Metacritic: 83%

“Palm Springs” is a science fiction romantic comedy film set in Palm Springs, CA following Nyles (Andy Samberg), who attends the wedding of Tala (Camila Mendes) and Abe (Tyler Hoechlin) with his cheating girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner).  All is not as it seems as Nyles gets sucked in to a time loop situation, with half-sister of the bride and potential love interest Sarah (Cristin Milioti) and Roy (J. K. Simmons), another person trapped within the time loop. A lot of people will disagree with me ranking “Palm Springs” this high; especially pundits who may not even think it belongs on a top 20 list, but this was the best comedy of the year, in a year with a lot of sad movies and very few great comedies. A lot of movie goers don’t want a tear jerker every Friday night and this film is a nice alternative to most of the other great films of 2020. “Palm Springs” is a very interesting take on the standard romantic comedy and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Imagine being stuck in the same place, trapped in the same day over and over. Sound familiar? And no, I’m not talking about Bill Murray in the classic “Groundhog Day”, I’m talking about most Americans during the pandemic in 2020. There were days I woke up and didn’t know what day it was, reliving the same things I did the day before and the day before that, feeling trapped in the house. The pandemic seemed to make “Palm Springs” all that more relevant. Samberg is hilarious and perfect as the slacker self-doubting Nyles. He is able to pull off a lot the humorous wit and bravado in some scenes when needed. The real draw is the immensely charming Milioti, who I imagine is going to get a lot more work and attention after this movie. The duo has so much chemistry, that I had to search whether they were a real life couple. I could see them being the next big on-screen comedy couple like Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore or Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. They are that strong together. The setting is beautiful and co-stars like Simmons and Hagner are equally as funny and well-cast. “Palm Springs” is the best comedy of the year and one of the best romantic comedies of all time

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3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (HBO Max – 2020): Ponch: 10/10 –  IMDB: 7.4/10 – RT: 99%

Metacritic: 91%

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is a drama film written and directed by Eliza Hittman, about two teenagers, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) from rural Pennsylvania who travel to New York City to seek out an abortion clinic for an unwanted pregnancy. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” isn’t a feel good movie and at times is hard to watch. This is a beautiful and sad movie that hits you so hard, you think about it several days after seeing it. At times it comes off as almost a thriller or horror film as you are pleading to the screen “what are you doing?” and “please be careful”. Hittman makes you feel every emotion with long pauses and silences that are as impactful as any long monologue. The grace and sophistication in which Hittman and the young actresses handle the sensitive subject matter is eye-opening and exceptional. This is not a film that anti-abortionists are going to enjoy or most likely even watch, but they really should watch to see what they are rallying against. This film should be used as an educational video. Flanigan and Ryder are practically unknowns but both at times are marvelous in their execution particularly in the scene that gives the film its name. There isn’t a more devastatingly tragic scene in any movie this year and Flanigan delivers more raw emotion in those moments than contemporaries twice her age do in a whole career. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” was sadly overlooked by the academy and deserved to be in the conversation for Best Picture.

Streaming on: HBO Max Subscription

2. The Sound of Metal (Amazon Prime – 2020): Ponch: 10/10 –  IMDB: 7.8/10 – RT: 96% – Metacritic: 81%

“Sound of Metal” is a drama film directed and co-written by Darius Marder about Ruben (Riz Ahmed) an ex-addict, and one half of the heavey-metal duo Blackgammon, along with the singer and his girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cook). Ruben is the drummer of the band, whose life falls apart when he begins to lose his hearing and can no longer perform. They find a rural shelter for deaf recovering addicts run by a man named Joe (Paul Raci), a recovering alcoholic who lost his hearing in the Vietnam War. “Sound of Metal” is a movie about accepting change and how people deal with it in their own lives and how it affects others. It’s something we can all relate to, however “Sound of Metal” is also about sudden irreversible life altering change, which is something very few of us ever have to go through on that deep of a level. In all due respect to the fans of Carrie Mulligan, Anthony Hopkins, Frances McDermant, Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis and all the other top actors of 2020, but Riz Ahmed gave the best performance of the year and deserved the Oscar for Best Actor. The UK born Ahmed learned how to drum specifically in the Heavy Metal genre and learned American Sign Language in less than 7 months, and did it all with an American accent, not his natural British one. This was a performance for the ages, that I am still shocked wasn’t recognized as the best of the year by the academy. Ahmed was aided by a brilliant Paul Raci, who was equally as believable. “Sound of Metal” gave us some of the top film editing of the year and it is one of the best sound edited movies of all time. It is truly an Indie masterpiece and was one of the top 3 movies of the year.

 Streaming on: Amazon Prime Subscription

1. Nomadland (Hulu – 2020): Ponch: 10/10 –  IMDB: 7.6/10 – RT: 95% – Metacritic: 94%

“Nomadland” is a drama film written, edited, produced, and directed by Chloé Zhao, and is based on the 2017 non-fiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder. The film follows Fern (Frances McDormand) a woman in her sixties, who leaves her hometown after her husband dies, losing everything including her home in the “Great Recession”.  Fern becomes a nomad, embarking on a journey through the American West, living in a van and moving from town to town.  Along the way, she meets Dave (David Strathairn) and a number of real-life nomads playing fictionalized versions of themselves. “Nomadland” is a very unique film in that it’s so well executed, you aren’t quite sure if it’s fictional. If you weren’t familiar with Frances McDormand, you may think you were watching an extremely captivating documentary. It’s one of the most original movie ideas ever, and the way that Zhao directed and got the most out of the non-acting nomads was astounding. She was easily the best director of the year. Frances McDormand who was also a producer of the film, gave one of the top performances of the year. Building off of her wins in “Fargo” and “Three Billboards”, she is making a case for being one of the top five actresses of all time. “Nomadland” gave us beautiful picturesque cinematography of the American Western states and taking in all that beauty, you consider dropping everything and hitting the road yourself.  This is film is gorgeous, thought-provoking, immensely original and as close to perfection as you will see. It deserved the Best Picture award at the Oscars, because it was the best movie of the year.

 Streaming on: Hulu Subscription

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