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The Best Films of 2020

22 December 20 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy, Roshan Chandy, Jamie Morris, Nathan Warby, George White

From countless postponements to forced cinema closures, 2020 hasn’t been kind to the film industry. Even so - be it via socially-distanced seating or a bit of streaming magic - we’ve still managed to watch lots of excellent movies this year. Here are our picks for 2020’s very finest...

Queen & Slim
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Release date: 31st January

Even way back in January, before social issues like race and equality were propelled to the forefront of the conversation, Queen & Slim was a triumph of storytelling. The transpiring months only made its tragic yet hopeful plot more and more poignant. The film's genius lies in the contrast between the believable, endearing love story between the two protagonists, and the volatile social climate their relationship is an escape from. Watching their relationship evolve as they unknowingly become martyrs for an entire movement offers up some of the year's most powerful scenes. A must-watch. Nathan Warby

Parasite
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Release date: 7th February

Parasite’s arrival over here may have been a little bit late - just two days before it became the first ever non-English language film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. However, in due time, this South Korean breakout hit has still managed to captivate UK audiences the same way it did the rest of the world. Bong Joon-ho directs this socially conscious tale of a poor family’s plot to each con their way into working for the same rich household, starring frequent collaborator Song Kang-ho. Both hilarious and tragic, anyone would be hard-pressed to find a film that not only executes its tonal shifts as seamlessly as this one, but uses them to form such an impactful, penetrating narrative. Jamie Morris

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Director: Céline Sciamma
Release date: 28th February

Some films are nothing less than art, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire is certainly one of them. Expertly written and directed by Céline Sciamma, Portrait follows the story of painter Marianne as she falls in love with Héloïse, the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat who has been forced into an arranged marriage. The film is an intricate, beautifully-crafted tale of forbidden romance featuring some of the most stunning cinematography of all time. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel create an irresistible chemistry that is utterly intoxicating from the very beginning to the bitter, painful end. It is a masterpiece that ranks not only as one of the best films of the year, but one of the best of all time. George White

Tenet
Director: Christopher Nolan
Release date: 26th August

Christopher Nolan’s latest head-scrambler was expected to lure audiences back to the cinema as the first big blockbuster to be released post-lockdown. Sadly, that wasn’t to be the case as the film scraped by with $361 million against its $200 million budget. Not everyone loves the movie, with many finding it incomprehensible and inaccessible, but there are so many great moments, such as the inverted fist-fight scenes, the plane crash or the backwards car chase. This is a blockbuster with both brawn and brains, balancing sledgehammer action with cerebral ideas about parallel worlds, paradoxes and fixed points in time. Just listen to Clemence Posey’s advice if you want to enjoy it best: “Don’t try to understand it - feel it.” Roshan Chandy

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Release date: 4th September

Charlie Kaufman’s sensitive depiction of the darkest of the human mind has stayed with me over the last few months. Not only a brilliantly timed psychological horror-drama, this modern folktale gone wrong is a wonderful example of a completely independent cinema offering, not attached to sequels or franchises, just the work of pure human imagination. With a cast of formidable talent, Kaufman has created something that will be talked about for years to come, and maybe even studied one day somewhere by students trying to get to the heart of what film can really be. Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

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