Welcome to our Mid-Year Report, a series of lists in which we break down the best movies and shows we’ve watched so far in this astronomically strange year, 2020. This list is all about the best movies we’ve seen.
How do you feel about the state of movies in 2020? The fact that we’re talking about 2020 is already a complicating factor in the question. That’s going to vary based upon where you live, what you do to earn a living, and how you’ve spent your time as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s even a chance that a list of the Best Movies of 2020 is the furthest thing from your interests, given the state of the world. One of the things we’re learning this year is that no matter how you got here, what matters to us is that you made it safely.
As the year moves forward, we hope that you are staying as safe as possible. Movies can be a refuge from anxiety about the state of the world. They can help us through tough times. They can also help us understand tough times. They are, above all, an endless source of inspiration.
We miss seeing movies alongside you. That’s true. And while we’re sure that if you’ve made it all the way to this page and you are still reading, you miss it, too. The good news is that we can share that sadness and continue to share a love of movies. And when we’re ready for them, movies continue to be there for us.
It’s also true that this is just another list of the 25 Best Movies of 2020. But it’s also a list of the movies that have been there for us so far in 2020. If you find something in here that helps inspire you in some way, we’ll feel like we helped. We want every single person reading this to be here when we publish our list of the 50 best in January. Or February. We’ll figure it out. Just be here.
Please enjoy our list of the 25 best movies we’ve seen so far in 2020.
And Then We Danced
And Then We Danced is revolutionary in its very existence. The movie is set and was filmed in the nation of Georgia, where homosexuality is still heavily condemned, so director Levan Akin kept the nature of the film’s plot — a riveting, emotionally all-encompassing gay love story — under wraps during production. Screenings in Georgia apparently led to conservative boycotts and charged encounters between riot police and protestors.
Fortunately, the story was still told, and it’s a fantastic one: Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani), a delicate, skilled traditional dancer is shaken by the arrival of a confident new dance partner, Irakli (Bachi Valishvili). Gelbakhiani is assured yet vulnerable in his performance as a young, disciplined person coming to terms with his sexuality in a dangerous environment. The movie harnesses the cinematic power of dance and motion in a way that few others ever have. The central love story unfolds like fireworks in the belly, a dizzying mix of chemistry and risk that will ultimately leave you breathless. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
A young woman working as an assistant to a powerful Hollywood producer struggles with being the new girl while witnessing questionable behaviors of a predatory nature. The producer isn’t named here, but the target is clearly someone of the Weinstein variety, and the film delivers a searing commentary on an environment that allows harassment and punishes dissent. The assistant earns our empathy, but the film spreads the culpability around in raw, unflinching fashion. (Rob Hunter)
Shannon Murphy’s feature directorial debut is a wild card of a movie. On the DVD sleeve, it’d be described as a drama about a teen girl dying of cancer. It’s actually a love letter to family dysfunction and the uneasy, beautiful type of equilibrium people in unusual circumstances often manage to create. Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis put in great work as an unorthodox pair of parents, while Eliza Scanlen, completing a trilogy of singular, knock-out sick teen girl performances (see also: Sharp Objects, Little Women), plays their daughter.
Scanlen’s Milla is a quiet and self-possessed girl who finds herself falling for a local homeless boy, Moses (Toby Wallace), in between violin lessons and school days. Moses cuts her hair, takes her to a club, and lounges around her pool with the red-rimmed eyes of the perma-stoned. Drug abuse is a recurring theme in Murphy’s richly designed film, as are transgressive relationships, but in the end, it’s mostly about love in all its inexplicable forms. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
A small village in rural Brazil finds itself targeted by outside forces, and their only hope for survival rests in their ability to stand together and fight back. The specifics of this tale include Udo Kier as the man leading the infiltration of the tiny community, but the bigger commentary here is on the very real threat faced by indigenous cultures and towns unable to resist the steamroller of modernity. It’s an attractive, captivating, and thrilling film designed to give viewers pause. (Rob Hunter)
Bad Boys for Life
Nostalgia is a powerful tool, but that doesn’t mean it’s always used for good. This is especially true when it comes to belated sequels to popular movies, which, more often than not, fail to live up to the lofty standards of their predecessors (I’m looking at you, Zoolander 2). Fortunately, that isn’t the case for Bad Boys for Life, which is by far the best film in the entire series.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have always had great chemistry together, but it really shines here thanks to a great script that allows them to sink their teeth into some hilarious dialogue. And the banter is very funny when the two old dogs are butting heads with their younger colleagues, which all ties into a bigger story about two relic cops who are struggling to come to terms with the modern world.
The movie is also truly bonkers, with a villain who’s basically a witch and has a badass son who unleashes some glorious carnage because he’s angry and misunderstood. Furthermore, in a modern Hollywood obsessed with pixelated action sequences, Bad Boys for Life’s decision to remain practical for the most part is a breath of fresh air. The motorcycle chase sequence is outstanding, and you get the impression that everyone involved was out to prove that this franchise can still hang with the best of them. (Kieran Fisher)