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  • Writer's pictureEric Spitz

Top Five Films of 2020

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

In four short days, 2020 will be coming to a close. While many will be relieved to hear that, one must not lose sight of the positives, even in bleak times.

While I wasn't able to have my normal experience of going to the movie theater to see the latest film that's making noise at the box office, I was able to occupy my time safely from home, and enjoy some wonderful gems released in a very odd and unanimously difficult year.

The below list is only in reference to feature length releases, leaving out short films and miniseries (in case you were immediately concerned that The Queen's Gambit or Tiger King didn't make the cut). As a whole, 2020 was a good year for film, even if the experience viewing them was different. I'm looking forward to seeing more releases in 2021, and hope that the clever writing and execution continues as it did for the five films outlined below.



Director: Brandon Cronenberg

Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Platform: Available to rent on Amazon Prime Video

Being a big fan of David Cronenberg (Scanners, Naked Lunch, Videodrome) and because of the reputation Possessor was building for its disturbing imagery, I was naturally curious to see the style his son Brandon utilizes in his second feature release. It's safe to say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and that Brandon is able to successfully step out of the shadow of his father to produce something unique and thought-provoking.

The film primarily relies on visuals and imagery to engage viewers. The visuals are like a perfect blend of a David Cronenberg body horror flick with some Lynchian elements splashed in to create some truly cringe-worthy moments.

Possessor isn't perfect by any means. The pacing is slow throughout the middle, and there's a layer of detachment with the characters. However, the disturbing imagery and philosophy surrounding a parasite versus a host make it well worth the time for an honest watch.



His House

Director: Remi Weekes

Cast: Sope Dirisu, Wunmi Mosaku, Matt Smith

Platform: Streaming on Netflix

Using a healthy balance of subtle "bump in the night" effects and direct imagery, His House does an excellent job of taking a very original approach to a common theme in the horror genre. Adjusting to a fresh start in a small English town after narrowly escaping from war-torn South Sudan, the young couple Bol and Rial quickly discover that there's something that isn't quite right with the house they were recently moved to. Viewers slowly get a better understanding of the kind of past Bol and Rial are escaping from throughout the film's duration, with a heavy sense of grief being shared by both. His House is unsettling, heartbreaking, visually satisfying and successful and providing a glimpse into a culture that isn't talked about extensively in the mainstream media.



Da 5 Bloods

Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters

Platform: Streaming on Netflix

Spike Lee is no stranger to the world of film. 34 years after his feature length debut (She's Gotta Have It), he still remains as sharp as ever with the war drama Da 5 Bloods. In Lee's impressive film resume, he has a knack for creating very distinct and memorable characters, with his latest release being no different. Viewers will be on the edge of their seat rooting for the four remaining bloods as they return to Vietnam in the search for the remains of their fallen squad leader, as well as a buried treasure. The veterans carry the weight of their memories with them as they trek through the land of a very monumental part of their lives, enduring further hardships and complications along the way that proves that the war never truly ends.



Palm Springs

Director: Max Barbakow

Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons

Platform: Streaming on Hulu

When I first heard about Palm Springs and read the synopsis, I'll admit I didn't think I would like it. I had a pre-conceived notion in my head about the style of narrative it would be, and I was pleasantly proven wrong. While time loop films have been done numerous times, and the idea of repeating the same day sounds, well... boring, Andy Siara's clever writing makes the entire experience feel not as repetitive as it sounds. It's the same reason why avid gamers hold Majora's Mask in high regard. The game may only take place over the span of three days, with certain days being repeated as needed through time manipulation, but there's enough possibility in the countless interactions that keep players coming back for more. The plot is well thought out, and is a comparable experience to films such as Timecrimes and Triangle. There's a lot that can go wrong with films that deal with time loops, but this one certainly gets it right.



I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Cast: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette

Platform: Streaming on Netflix

While I generally prefer films that Charlie Kaufman writes as opposed to directs for them being a bit more digestible, there's no denying the sheer genius behind the metaphors of I'm Thinking of Ending Things. The film is beautifully depressing, with layers upon layers to unpack. The dialogue is clever and natural, with Kaufman's brilliant writing shining through. It requires more than one watch to pick up on all of the subtleties, along with a quick search on YouTube to find some of the aspects broken down and explained. However, it's for that reason that gives it some immense re-watch upside in order to capture all of the nuances. I can't speak to how well the integrity of the book is portrayed in the adaptation, but it certainly piqued my interest in reading the book for myself to make that decision. The film certainly won't be for everyone, but offers tremendous value for those that love to read between the lines.

For the complete list of ranked films from 2020 (including short films and miniseries), check it out on Letterboxd.


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