This year, instead of having our readers and writers vote for the films of the year we decided to collect all the data from the big publications and figure out which films came out on top.
Some publications formatted their lists differently – both Vulture and the New York Times had two to three different people give their personal lists instead of one ‘official’ one – and the dates for films that qualify differed – Empire and the Guardian included Parasite and the former also included Jojo Rabbit, both of which could be argued as 2019 releases.
The Guardian also counted Steve McQueen’s Small Axe Anthology (a series of five films) as television rather than film so we looked at the rating they gave it in their TV of the year list and factored that in.
Rocks stole the hearts of everyone who watched it when it came out earlier this year. Set in London, 16-year-old Shola finds herself having to look after her younger brother alone after being abandoned by their mother.
Empire called it “a loving ode to friendship in the capital” and it has been hailed by many as a raw, empowering film made for, and about, women. The cast and crew of the film were mostly women, a conscious decision by director Sarah Gavron.
It is available to stream on Netflix.
9. City Hall
This documentary gives a comprehensive look into Boston, Massachusetts’ city government under Mayor Marty Walsh. It covers topics like racial injustice and climate action and is insanely interesting. Unlike other political documentaries, it doesn’t dumb anything down, instead, it almost adores the complexity of the system.
At four and a half hours it is loooong (almost ridiculously so) but director Frederick Wiseman does a good job at making the time fly.
8. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Writer/Director Eliza Hittman brings us a coming of age film about Autumn, a young woman who travels to New York to get an abortion due to restrictive laws in her home state. While it is fictional, it is clear that intensive research was done. Abortions are a complicated but relatable story for many women around the world and Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a sincere and powerful portrayal.
Unknown star Sidney Flanigan is incredible as the 17-year-old lead and it is likely we will be seeing much more of her in the future.
Western/Thriller Bacurau is a weird and exciting film about a small town in the Brazilian outback. It is kind of hard to explain the plot without giving much away but one thing is clear – it is entirely unique in its style.
While slightly slow-moving at times it is in no ways boring. Definitely a must-watch for anyone who is even remotely interested in cinema.
6. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Academy Award-winning director Charlie Kaufman’s latest film I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an adaptation of a book of the same name. The thriller sees a young woman questioning her relationship with Jake but everything isn’t as it seems.
Some may find the film slightly confusing due to the surreal nature of the film but it was loved among reviewers. It’s a bit like marmite, you either love it or you hate it.
Available to stream on Netflix.
Read Brig’s full review here.
Garrett Bradley’s Time is a stunning documentary about powerful matriarch Fox Rich. The film follows her as she holds her family together while fighting for the release of her husband from prison. We learn of the years of heartache and pain that Rich has held while successfully bringing up her sons to become strong, black men.
The black and white visuals combined with the beautiful piano scores moves the film from a regular documentary into a piece of poetic art. It is available to stream on Prime Video.
Read Brig’s full review here.
4. First Cow
Based on the novel “The Half-Life”, First Cow follows a cook as he travels to Oregon to join a group of fur-trappers. There he finds a connection with Chinese immigrant King-Lu and so they collaborate on a business together.
Like a lot of films by popular production company A24 the visuals on this film are incredible. The acting is superb and, although it might not seem like your cup of tea, it is a must-watch for everyone.
3. Dick Johnson is Dead
Dick Johnson is Dead is a heartfelt portrait of Alzheimer’s and love. This film sees director Kirsten Johnson find creative ways of (fictionally) killing her dad as a way to cope with his death. From falling down the stairs to an air-conditioner falling on his head the ways of dying get more and more ridiculous but the message stays the same – Kirsten doesn’t want to live without her dad.
There’s not much to say about this film except WATCH IT. It is silly and incredibly emotional at the same time.
Available to stream on Netflix.
2. Martin Eden
Luca Marinell’s (also seen in The Old Guard) performance as sailor and aspiring writer Martin Eden is phenomenal and the use of Super 16mm film is stunning. Adapted from the book by Jack London the film takes some creative licence – like moving the location to Italy- but it seems many loved it just as much.
Worth the watch even if it is just to see Marinell looking very (very handsome).
1. Lovers Rock
The second film from Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series has taken the top spot this year and it is clear why. Set in 1980s London at a blues night – a common tradition for the West Indian community – Lovers Rock is a warm, rhythmic love story between Martha and Franklin.
It is hard to fully communicate the way the story envelops the viewer. It has a slow, hypnotic energy that grips on to you from beginning to end. Director Steve McQueen has a magic when it comes to storytelling that is unlike any other.
The Small Axe series is one of the most interesting things to come from 2020. Each episode/ film stands strong in its own right but together it is a powerhouse of culture and talent. All parts are available to watch on BBC iPlayer. You can read Brigs review of Mangrove, the first in the series, here.
You can find the raw data used to make this article here.
Featured image credit: The BBC.
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