My favourite 11 films of 2020

by Toby Woollaston

Despite the rubbish year, there were still some crackers that hit our screens. Here are my top eleven …

Director Marielle Heller on set with Tom Hanks.

1. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (not reviewed) – where do I start? Just go see it.

2. Rosie (review) – elegant and strikingly simple in its exposition, Rosie is an incredibly restrained film that hits all the right beats and leaves you with one of the more hauntingly powerful final images I’ve seen in cinema.

3. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (not reviewed) – a warm, yet wickedly satirical look at race, displacement and ownership. Beautiful, entertaining, and a fantastic sound-track.

4. Alone (not reviewed) – a taut edge-of-the-seat survival nail biter. Director, John Hyams takes a simple time-worn premise and reduces it to an almost primal level with pin-sharp film-making.

5. 1917 (not reviewed) – perhaps more of a technical exercise than anything else, but I found this film engrossing all-the-same. Worth seeing for Roger Deakins’ eyeball popping nighttime-flares-over-town sequence. True visual genius.

6. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (not reviewed) – Kaufman films are an acquired taste and this film’s inner monologues can occasionally feel like wading through molasses. Nonetheless, Kaufman’s intriguing characters linger in your mind, calling for a deep post-view reading. Doing so delivers a wonderfully rewarding experience and if nothing else it’s worth seeing for the brilliant Jessie Buckley.

7. The Lighthouse (review) – an unnerving and claustrophobic monochrome nightmare at sea. Robert Eggers’ formal brilliance along with two highly committed performances from Pattinson and Dafoe deliver a thrilling gothic vision of madness that may well be an oppressive experience, but is something to be admired.

8. A Hidden Life (review) – a deeply moving Terence Malick mood piece and a welcome return to form. A Hidden Life is a graceful and hauntingly beautiful symphony for the senses that is sympathetic to lives of moral fortitude lost in the white noise of history.

9. For Sama (review) – a powerful document of love and injustice and probably the most courageous documentary you’ll ever see.

10. Calm with Horses (not reviewed) – rural Irish gangsters abound in this surprisingly good thriller. Great performances from Cosmo Jarvis and Barry Keoghan.

11. The Australian Dream (not reviewed) – a powerful and challenging doco, that highlights the racial abuse of AFL player Adam Goodes. The film’s impeccable (if somewhat conventional) structure peels back the layers of his fascinating story to great effect.