The Best Films of 2020 – Robert Butler

As regularly, the best surprises came in smaller packages: One year after the foreign-language film “Parasite” wowed audiences, critics, and Oscar voters, foreign language films continued to reign supreme with such elegant titles like “To the Ends of the Earth,” “Martin Eden,” and “A Sun”; and it was also a great year for both Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods and David Byrne’s American Utopia) and Steve McQueen (Small Axe Film Series). While it was a bad year in general due to the global pandemic and political polarization, it wasn’t a bad year for movies exactly. In fact, it was rather an extraordinary year that forced many distributors and studios to think outside the box as they attempted to discover the best ways in getting their films released in a COVID anxiety-induced world of a market that is filled with over saturation and instant gratification.

It was also a remarkable year for female filmmakers, perhaps even the greatest year in cinematic history for female voices. Patty Jenkin’s “Wonder Woman 1984” was a subversive and underrated sequel that left clever commentary about societies endless quest for power and greed that received the most streams, but it’s Chloe Zao’s “Nomadland” that’s the real testament to the film’s singular vision about hope and survival in the 21st century as individuals attempt to embark on new beginnings in a society of economic uncertainties that destroys livelihoods through rotted social safety nets and economic disparities; Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” examines the complexities and importance of women reproductive rights; Emerald Fennell’s darkly comedic and equally terrifying “Promising Young Woman” reminds us how rape culture is repeatedly in denial; Regina King’s “One Night in Miami” tweaked history just a little while still making it feel authentic, and both Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks” and Miranda July’s “Kajillionaire” were compassionate and deeply personal films that celebrate their female protagonists as they forgive their parents and their questionable habits and traits that gets in their way of accepting affection and maintaining love.

As for the Oscar buzz films (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, News of the World, The Trial of Chicago 7), none can hold a candle to Sean Durkin’s “The Nest” or to Dan Sallitt’s “Fourteen,” as “The Nest” was a grim chronicle about a fractured family and “Fourteen” was a beautifully heartbreaking ode to friendship. Well, a few do. Pixar’s “Soul” is an innovative animated work of the human experience; David Fincher’s “Mank” is an enjoyable skewering of the film industry and wealthy elites’ influence on politics circa 1930s; Lee Isaac Chung’s endearing “Minari” is a beautiful chronicle of a Korean immigrant family determined to sustain their opportunities in the heartland. While 2020 is a year we all want to forget, the great films of 2020 will always eternally resonate as they all covered essential themes about the human condition while delivering shimmers of hope. The best films of 2020:

Nomadland

1. Nomadland (d. Chloé Zhao)

There were many films I responded to strongly this year, but none quite as much as this rich evocation on hope and survival in a post Great Recession era. I had so many titles in consideration for the top spot, but my intuition told me to go with this. A truly ravishing work, and one of those rare films that actually resonates and speaks to us on a deeply fundamental level. A film about self-discovery, a road movie, and finally a character study that is sophisticated, wise, powerful, and exquisitely crafted. Once the global pandemic hit, many of us contemplated and did some hard thinking about starting over, adjusting to this new reality and way of living, and when people embark in new beginnings and possibilities it is earthly and even elegiac. “Nomadland” is a melancholy lament of grief and modernity, but it’s involving with its affection and curiosity for its characters. The second feature by Chloé Zoe is Oscar-worthy. So is Frances McDormand’s outstanding performance, her best since “Fargo.” Zhao’s singular vision cuts deep, it’s also a breathtaking meditation on unfulfilled promises and new opportunities, and just how the human condition should be shaped around the natural world and experiences over finance, materialism, and status. “Nomadland” is a blessing and a rarity of a film. Release Date February 21, 2021 Limited Theaters

See the source image

2. To the Ends of the Earth (d. Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

A perfect movie, no other film brought me so much joy and gratification as much as this Japanese under-the-radar film. Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa delivers one immaculate moment and scene after another. An emotive story that is hopeful and redemptive, played out by a vulnerable but sincere young Japanese woman who travels to Uzbekistan with her television crew to cover material for a TV program she reports on. She has aspirations of being a singer. Yet she holds a vulnerable duality, she is enthusiastic on-camera, but she holds a lot of internal anxieties and torment when she is alone. Not since “Lost in Translation” has a film about geographical dislocation been so affecting, pure, and vulnerable to watch. With a spare, lovely performance by Atsuko Maeda, this film delivers sharp character depth and solutions in how we must open up more to the unfamiliar, and dive deeper to the outside world. (Virtual Cinemas)

Never Rarely Sometimes Always' Review: Pointed Film Stays With You Forever : NPR

3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (d. Eliza Hittman)

The momentary misunderstanding of women reproductive rights is a complex issue that shouldn’t be one. Not all teenage women who hold unintended pregnancies stem from women being “promiscuous”. Not all unwanted pregnancies come from rape or incest either. In fact, there are many unwanted pregnancies that occur due to personal issues that many of us will never know about all due to emotional abuses, psychological manipulation, and other internal traumas. Sidney Flanagan in a breakthrough role plays Autumn, a 17-year-old teenage young woman who discovers she has an unwanted pregnancy. She gets very little support besides from her cousin, Skylar (Talia Ryder). Autumn and Skylar end up traveling state lines to New York City as Autumn tries to decide what she wants to do with her unintended pregnancy.  Far from being a didactic and polarizing polemic, filmmaker Eliza Hitman’s third feature is a bold and compassionate work that captures all the gray areas and nuances on the insights of reproductive rights. The final result is a film that’s always emotionally involving and deeply empathetic. (HBO Max)

Promising Young Woman Guide to Release Date, Cast News and Spoilers

4. Promising Young Woman (d. Emerald Fennell)

It was a great year for strong female characters. In “Promising Young Woman” it’s even greater for Carey Mulligan, she plays Cassie in the performance of the year, in the performance of her career. It’s unlike any female character we ever saw in a film. A woman who pretends to be drunk at bars as men show care and concern as they lure her back to their homes only for Cassie to reveal their “nice guy” façade once they realize she is in fact sober once they attempt to take advantage of her. Is Cassie a victim to rape or sexual abuse? She feels anguish and torment in the pits of her stomach, She’s in her 30s and still lives at home, and you can sense she holds emotional scars from something traumatic. She lies and deceives men to expose their ulterior motives, and even exposes the women who enable it. The film is a wickedly dark comedy, as well as a wrenching drama that holds sharp commentary about society’s denial of rape culture, but it’s never mean-spirited. Mulligan’s inviting performance is quite multi-dimensional as it holds a lot of vulnerabilities. Ultimately, she potentially discovers hope after she meets a sincere pediatrician doctor (a wonderful Bo Burnham), but can past traumas and actions from one’s past deceive us? A masterfully crafted film by actress-turned-director Emerald Lilly Fennel, who’s novice debut feature feels like it was helmed by someone at the top of their form. In Theaters VOD (Fandango Now, Google Play) January 15th

Kajillionaire Review: Family is the Real Scam | Den of Geek

5. Kajillionaire (d. Miranda July)

Performance artist, actress, and filmmaker Miranda July’s  third feature is a rewarding experience. Evan Rachel Wood, in one of her best performances, plays Old Dolio, a quirky lonely young woman in her mid-late 20’s who ends up discovering her repressed emotions and yearnings for affection and love. Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger play her grifter parents in which the family survives on cons and petty heist crimes as they scape by in a meandering existence. Gina Rodriquez plays a young woman that joins them in their crimes as Old Dolia ends up discovering new emotions and longings that have been bottled up inside. A quirky and hyper-real film that sees through the eyes of someone in their self-discovery of newfound emotions, and how some of our closest loved ones do not not fully understand us, nor care to. Director July’s vision has always been truly distinctive, her tales have always been tonally kooky and otherworldly, but there is something always painfully resonant and vividly real in what she is saying about human longing. (Amazon Prime Rental)

The Nest Is One of the Best Films of the Year | Vanity Fair

6. The Nest (d. Sean Durkin)

The Canadian director Sean Durkin returns from an 11 year hiatus as he marks his sophomore debut with a shattering story on a the destruction of a marriage and family. Carrie Coon, in one of the year’s finest performances, plays a woman who notices that her marriage and lifestyle is slipping away. Jude Law plays her deceptive husband, who doesn’t deceive her from infidelity’s, but he isn’t honest about their finances as he overspends way beyond their means to live a complimentary lifestyle during the 80s. The film examines the disappearance of love, economic ruins, and how life unravels itself in unexpected ways. “The Nest” is one of the most elegantly made films of the year, as well as one of the most cautionary. Richly dramatic and emotionally complex, “The Nest” isn’t a cold film, it’s rather a highly engaging one that examines how the the best policies are in fact family, kindness, and honesty over class and status.  (Amazon Prime Rental)

Fourteen – DeFacto Film Reviews

7. Fourteen (d. Dan Sallitt)

Possibly the year’s most heartbreaking film; highly regarded film critic-turned-filmmaker Dan Sallitt brings his cinematic passions of dramatic invention to a powerfully moving story centering on two childhood friends living in New York City whose lives and friendships go through many upsides and detours during the course of a decade or so. They encounter different people throughout their passage of time, are in-and-out of relationships, and experience other adversities, challenges, and hardships. “Fourteen” sheds honest light on what defines a true friendship-Sallitt tenderly expresses the trials and tribulations of what these women go through. The movie captures the highlights of friendship, as well as the agonizing parts. The film absorbs you with its deep characterizations, and no other ending pulled me emotionally in as much as this one. “Fourteen” is a deeply personal and singular framework, one that demands a wider audience. It’s a low-budget indie show under $80k that pulls off just as much resonance as any mainstream indie film, and pulls a far harder emotional punch than any film that is currently being praised in your newsfeed. (Apple TV+)

Movie Review: 'Martin Eden,' starring Luca Marinelli

8. Martin Eden (d. Pietro Marcello)

A virtuoso performance by Italian actor Luca Marinelli as the title character to Jack London’s celebrated novel is one of the most emotionally wrenching and artfully crafted films of the year. Raised in the poor slums of Rome with little culture, Martin Eden (Marcell) holds a passion for literature, and has the pursuits of being a writer. Marcello pours his soul into the performance. The film is a towering tribute to artistry and the creative process, which is surely autobiographical on Jack London’s life, and a remarkable Italian adaptation and interpretation of the beloved book. The films ends with a ravishing image that will forever plague my mind. The period is vividly re-created by director Pietro Marcello who uses brilliant aesthetics and -re-creation of various periods to make the story more universal in nature. The result is experimental and the most formally daring film of the year. (Kino Lorber Virtual Cinema/The Film Lab Virtual Cinema)

Film Review: Sound of Metal – SLUG Magazine

9. Sound of Metal (d. Darius Marder)

Another towering cinematic debut from Darius Marder, “Sound of Metal” is a despairing but sympathetic drama about a heavy-metal drummer who begins losing his hearing. The movie chronicles his journey of enduring deafness, he meets deaf mentors along the way, many who show great concern and empathy for him, especially by a deaf community leader (Paul Raci in standout supporting role) and his fellow bandmate and girlfriend (Olivia Cooke). Riz Ahmed plays the role in the most expressive performances of the year, he pours every inch of his soul into this performance about a recovering drug addict who’s now enduring deafness that crushes his creative momentum and dreams. What could have been dreary or some hokey Oscar-bait disease movie, ends up becoming empowering  and emotionally raw thanks to Marder’s stellar direction and attention to characterizations. (Amazon Prime)

On the Rocks,” Reviewed: Sofia Coppola's Self-Questioning Film About a Father's Destructive Dazzle | The New Yorker

10. On the Rocks (d. Sofia Coppola)

Sofia Coppola wrote and directed this poignantly moving and sharply comedic film about a father-and-daughter who go incognito in the middle of the night in New York City to find out if the daughters husband is being unfaithful to her. Rashida Jones is the insecure wife who feels her marriage is falling apart as her husband (Marlon Wayans) is barely home as he is always out with his co-workers, who just happen to be attractive females. Bill Murray plays the aging playboy father who travels back to town to reconnect with his daughter. Part screwball comedy, part hang-out movie, Coppola’s latest is very humanistic and wise. Jones and Murray are charming together, and Coppola and Murray reunite again as they recapture their ambience that was so evident in “Lost in Translation.” 2020 was certainly a distressing year, “On the Rocks” is the coping mechanism film of the year that delivers much needed delight and joy. (Apple TV+)

Runners-Up (In Alphabetical Order)

Spike Lee's “Da 5 Bloods,” Reviewed: Vietnam and the Never-Ending War of Being Black in America | The New Yorker

Da 5 Bloods (d. Spike Lee)

Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” with Delroy Lindo delivering the performance of his career, who leads his fellow Vietnam-war veterans back to Vietnam in search of a neglected treasure. The vets hold trauma, are neglected by a system that never showed them true appreciation for their service, and Lee’s modern narrative that traces back to American’s endless addiction to war is essential in our ongoing conflicts that haunt our subconscious. The late Chadwick Boseman also delivers a stand-out supporting performance.  (Netflix)

Ava DuVernay's ARRAY Acquires Isabel Sandoval Drama 'Lingua Franca' – Deadline

Lingua Franca (d. Isabel Sandoval) 

As the writer, director,  producer, and lead actress of her latest feature “Lingua Franca,” Isabel Sandoval’s indie drama is a stunning revelation among today’s new and fresh voices emerging in indie cinema. While “Lingua Franca” might seem like, but is not only, an unconventional love story about two vastly different people coming together and falling in love from different backgrounds and circumstances. Instead, the film also explores rich political and philosophical themes that holds timeless commentary and a deeply personal vision.  Sandoval stars as an immigrant transgender Filipino caregiver who ends up falling in love with her patient’s grandson, Alex (Eamon Farren). Their relationship grows with tenderness and grace as it faces many challenges and complexities in an uncertain world.  However, the candle has to keep burning as Sandoval offers shades of hope, indicating how two estranged people can succeed while human progress slows down. Sandoval triumphs in transporting us to an intimate and empathetic vision of what it means to be a transgender immigrant living in the Trumpian era. (Netflix)

Mank' Official Trailer: Netflix Brings David Fincher Back to Theaters | IndieWire

Mank (d. David Fincher)

Is as strong  as any American film from the 1940s, and in the same spirit. Highly regarded American filmmaker David Fincher plays great tribute in his non-conventional biopic of  Herman J. Mankewicz aka “Mank” played with perfection by Gary Oldman. The film follows the years leading up to the origins of what led to Orson Welles’s “Citizen Kane” that Mank co-wrote. The film is far from being another film that’s a condemnation of the film business though, it examines class, how money influences politics, and explores how Mank’s acquaintance with William Randolph Hearts lead resentment and to the foundations of his and Welles’ creation of Charles Foster Kane in the renowned “Citizen Kane.” Amanda Seyfried is also wonderful as Marion Davies.  (Netflix)

Minari' Review: Growing Up Korean Outside Little Rock, Arkansas - Variety

Minari ( d. Lee Isaac Chung)

Inspired by Lee Isaac Chung’s parents own immigration to America in the 1980s, it tells the story of a family embarking fresh opportunities in America’s heartland as they struggle financially as they pour their resources into growing their own farm. Steven Yeun plays the determined father, Han Ye-ri is caring as the mother, and Youn Yuh-jung delivers the standout performance as the grandmother, and actors Alan Kim and Noel Nate Cho are wonderful as the children. Will Patton plays a devout Christian who endlessly prays, yet his devotion is never mocked and is executed with sincerity. One of the most emotionally satisfying films of the year about a family’s struggle in capturing the American dream.  (Limited Theaters February 21st)

Soul: Jamie Foxx Explains Why The Barbershop Scenes Are Integral To The Film

 Soul (d. Pete Docter and Kemp Powers)

Pixar rarely lets down, but “Soul’ is perhaps the studios greatest accomplishment since “Finding Nemo” and every bit as wonderful as Docter’s own directed films “Up” and “Inside Out.” The animation of course is exquisite. The story is the most existential and metaphysical in Pixar’s milieu, and the visual artistry on display is of course impeccable. The afterlife has rarely seen in animated films. It’s truly uncanny material for a family film, but the film is welcoming and deeply profound as it delivers great wisdom on what it means to hold purpose in our exitance. The voicework by Jamie Fox, Tina Fey, and Angela Bassett are also wonderful. (Disney+)

Taiwan movie selected for Toronto International Film Festival | Taiwan News | 2019/08/16

 A Sun (d. Chung Mong-hong)

This Taiwanese family drama was tragically neglected by mainstream film critics, however, it’s creating some attention as Variety film critic Peter Debrudge proclaimed it the best film of 2020. Debrudge also cited outrage in just how little attention the film received in the United States. I strongly concur with Mr. Debrudge’s plight, it’s a truly spellbinding story about a family attempting to unwind itself back together from tragedies that pulled them apart. The father, A-wen (Chen Yi-wen) is a driving instructor, the mother Qin (Samantha Ko) stays at home and mostly keeps to herself. They have two sons: the older brother A-Hao (Greg Hsu) has recently graduated high school and has aspirations in getting into the medical field; he has a younger brother A-Ho (We Chien-ho) who is in a street gang and a delinquent who is sentenced to a juvenile detention center after committing a horrific violent act during the opening scene of the film. It’s a deep emotional experience that doesn’t deserve the“ under the radar” status. When you don’t hear of these smaller foreign films, or when they don’t reach the hype of something like “Parasite” or “Roma” it might make you feel skeptical.  Just reflect to yourself that it’s also just as rewarding and as greatly executed as any of the films receiving all the buzz and hype right now, I assure you. (Netflix)

Honorable Mentions (Other strong titles of 2020–In Alphabetical Order)

The Assistant (d. Kitty Green)
Bacurau (d. Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles)
David Byrne’s American Utopia (d. Spike Lee)
Ghost Tropic (d. Bas Devos)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (d. Charlie Kaufman)
One Night in Miami (d. Regina King)
Palm Springs (d. Max Barbakow)
Possessor (d. Brandon Cronenberg)
Small Axe: Education (d. Steve McQueen)
Small Axe: Lovers Rock (d. Steve McQueen)

 

Top 5 Best Documentaries of 2020–In Alphabetical Order

City Hall (d. Frederick Wiseman)
Collective (d. Alexander Nanu)
Feels Good Man (d. Arthur Jones)
This Is Not a Movie (d. Yung Chang)
Time (d. Garett Bradley)

 

Ryan R. O'Guinn

R.I.P. Ryan O’Guinn (Former Editor-in-Chief–Defacto Film Reviews) 

January,6 1988–January 30, 2020

 

 

 

 

By |2021-01-15T23:11:36+00:0001/14/2021|33 Comments

About the Author:

Robert Butler is an award-winning filmmaker whose most recent feature length movie, "Blood Immortal," won Best Horror Feature Film at the 24th annual Indie Gathering International Film Festival and is now available to own on DVD and on Digital platforms. His favorite films include: Mulholland Dr., 2001: A Space Odyssey, Persona, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, Sunset Blvd., Lost in Translation, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, and Contempt.

33 Comments

  1. Jeff 01/14/2021 at 12:43 am - Reply

    There are some really good films and some that I have been waiting to see. Unfortunately with some on Apple+ and Amazon, two services I don’t currentlsubscribe to, it may be some time before I see them. I’ve been waiting for Kajillionaire and Promising Young Woman since their trailers first dropped. On the Rocks looks good I’ve finally seen a trailer for it. Da 5 Bloods, Soul, and Mank are in my queue to watch currently. I can add Never Rarely Sometimes Always as I do have that streaming service. I’ve been looking for quality films as the only films that have stood out for me in 2020 were ANIARA, Ad Astra, and Old Guard.

  2. Shane Bunde 01/14/2021 at 1:09 am - Reply

    The only one I’ve seen from the list is On the Rocks, but there are several here that I’ve been meaning to watch, including sound of metal, promising young woman, and Nomadland. This is a very strong list that shoes that even through a global pandemic the film industry is still very much alive!

  3. Billy O. 01/14/2021 at 1:44 am - Reply

    I have been anxiously waiting your and Noah’s list. I love your list, as always you tend to separate yourself from what most critics are doing while still praising the films that deserve the acclaim. I honestly couldn’t get into Kajillionaire as you know, but these are my favorite films of 2020,

    1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
    2. Martin Eden
    3. Fourteen
    4. Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee’s greatest since Malcolm X)
    5. Lovers Rock
    6. Vitalina Varela
    7. First Cow
    8. Nomadland
    9. Bacuraru
    10. Promising Young Woman

    Honorable Mentions in real no order, just films I rated an A-/B+ in 2020

    American Utopia, Mank, Soul, To the Ends of the Earth, Zombi Child, Minari, Ghost Tropic, Possessor, City Hall, Collective, Tomosso, Sound of Metal, Yourself and Yours, A Sun, On the Rocks, Sorry We Missed You, The Nest, The Wolf House, Education, Palm Springs, Soul, Shirley, God Yes God, Time

    I also need to get on that Letterboxed app

  4. Michelle Kisner 01/14/2021 at 2:14 am - Reply

    My top 10 Films of 2020

    Possessor
    I’m Thinking of Ending Things
    Nomadland
    Minari
    We Are Little Zombies
    Labyrinth at Cinema
    Soul
    Borat Subsequent Movie Film
    First Cow
    Crazy Samurai Musashi

    My list was quite eclectic, but it was a strange year for film.

    -Michelle Kisner
    https://www.spoilerfreemoviesleuth.com/

  5. Ryab 01/14/2021 at 3:41 am - Reply

    Awesome reviews as always!!! My first and only choice for reviews is here and the reviews speak for themselves

  6. Rebeca 01/14/2021 at 6:16 am - Reply

    Nomandland in #1 as it should!!!!!

    Haven’t seen all of them but this list is pretty solid. I’m glad Kajillionaire made the cut, incredible movie that is very underrated.

  7. Don O'Guinn 01/14/2021 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    I’m not a movie buff, whatsoever, so my ignorance of the industry is encyclopedic. Some very well-written reviews, however, from an expert in the field. I appreciate the time and energy Rob Butler puts into his passion and for sharing it with so many. I am especially grateful for his tribute to my beloved son, Ryan O’Guinn. Ryan and Rob were best buddies and Ryan so enjoyed his work on films and doing the editorial work for DeFacto Film reviews. Thank you, Rob, for this thoughtful tribute and for years of awesome friendship with Ryan.

  8. JENNIFER GENTNER 01/14/2021 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    This is a great list with a diverse group of films. There are still quite a few on this list I’d like to see. I know it was a crazy time to release films, but thank goodness for streaming.

  9. Kelly 01/14/2021 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    FANTASTIC review – I knew I could count on you to create a guide of the next movies I’m going to check out, thank you!! 🙂

  10. Linda 01/14/2021 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Just watched it On the Rocks. It was so good.

  11. Alex 01/14/2021 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    Man I am really far behind on my movies for last year. I still haven’t seen most of these! But I’m looking forward to watching them!

  12. Rob E / Attack on Show 01/15/2021 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Love the honerable mention for Palm Springs. I really thought that was well done for a topic that’s been made over a few times.

  13. Zachary 01/15/2021 at 3:20 am - Reply

    To the Ends of the Earth, Fourteen, A Sun, Lingua Franca, and The Nest are undervalued by film critics. Did you get to see Songs of a Humminbird and Residue yet?

  14. Brent G 01/15/2021 at 3:27 am - Reply

    Thanks Robert!
    I really appreciate that Rob spends, what is obviously, a substantial amount of time critiquing and praising this past year’s films.
    Like many people, I can get locked into watching the ‘latest and greatest’, blasted by the big money movies and just plain ole’ laziness, I’d miss out on great film making.
    Rob, in his passion for film, dives into many genre’s so he can share his passion with us, to give people a chance to experience the delight he gets from watching.
    While 2020 and now 2021, being some of the most discombobulating times for most of us, Robert brings us the comfort of being consistent with his top 10.
    Great job, man and thank you!

  15. Curtis 01/15/2021 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Love the ones I’ve seen! Excited to check out the ones I haven’t!
    Boys In the Band and Wolfwalkers will probably be in my top ten!

  16. Andrea 01/16/2021 at 1:55 am - Reply

    My Top 10 (I still need to see a few like Nomadland and Minari

    1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
    2. Lovers Rock
    3. First Cow
    4.Mank
    5. Da 5 Bloods
    6. Kajillionaire
    7. On the Rocks
    8. Promising Young Woman (I just watched it!)
    9. The Nest
    10. Palm Springs

    Honorable Mentions: Tenent, David Byrne’s American Utopia, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Forty-Year-Old-Version, Black Bear, Borat 2

  17. Ryo 01/16/2021 at 4:51 am - Reply

    So happy you like To the Ends of the Earth, we appreciate you! From Japan with love! Stay safe and health.

  18. Curt Pennington 01/16/2021 at 5:47 am - Reply

    Haven’t gotten a chance to see many that made your list, but I definitely agree with “Promising Young Woman.” Watched it earlier today and LOVED it!

  19. Joe Johnston 01/16/2021 at 6:17 am - Reply

    What a great list. Roger Ebert was my favorite critic. When he liked a movie and Gene Siskel didn’t, I knew I’d like it. When Siskel and Ebert agreed, I knew I’d probably like it. When Siskel LOVED a movie Ebert didn’t, I knew I’d probably not like it. And when they both didn’t like it, it was a wild card. Richard Roeper was a pretender. Anyway, Rob Butler’s crit is as legit as Ebert’s in my book, and this list is a guidebook for what I should put on my watchlist. Excellent prose, excellent points.

  20. Lauren 01/16/2021 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    I watched on the rocks last night! I really enjoyed it!!

  21. Eric Dodson 01/17/2021 at 5:05 am - Reply

    Ok, saw on the rocks and loved it. I would put it maybe in her top four, but it’s been a long time since I saw LIT and VS. the only feature of hers I have yet to see is bling ring. I might watch it now.

    For the record I’m a huge fan of hers already, and I found it really cool when I see you really start to talk her up. I think Marie Antoinette is perfect

  22. Chris Cavazos 01/18/2021 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Robert Butler’s Annual Best Films of the year never disappoints. Thank you so much for sharing your film impressions in words in a way that is artistic as your own filmmaking is.

  23. Kendra 01/19/2021 at 4:12 am - Reply

    Incredible list!!

  24. Kelly 01/23/2021 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Great list. This is my pandemic viewing guide!

  25. Charlie 01/24/2021 at 2:58 am - Reply

    I saw On the Rocks when it was first released. Thoroughly enjoyed it!

  26. David 01/26/2021 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    If you are looking for movies that are out of your wheel house. This site will steer you in the right direction.

  27. Eva 01/30/2021 at 2:09 am - Reply

    Excited to see these movies! Haven’t had the time to see a lot somehow with Covid. Keep getting stuck in the same cycle of watching old things I’ve seen. Love this list! Killer female director representation!

  28. Mason 03/15/2021 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    I haven’t seen ANY of these and I should really get on it.

  29. fathor 03/21/2021 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    In fact no matter if someone doesn’t know after that its up to other users that they will help, so here it happens.|

  30. Christopher Jarvis 04/11/2021 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    1. Ema
    2. Kajillionaire
    3. House of Hummingbird
    4. First Cow
    5. Sound of Metal
    6. Promising Young Woman
    7. Nomadland
    8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
    9. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
    10. Shirley

  31. Ean 04/17/2021 at 4:14 am - Reply

    Need to see a lot still, but I just saw On the Rocks and I really enjoyed it, thought it held up to scrutiny from any angle you could look at it from. I could tell within minutes that it was a meticulously well crafted movie. Definitely the best I’ve seen in quite a while.

  32. Ean 04/17/2021 at 4:21 am - Reply

    Just watched On the Rocks and I thought it was great. I really enjoyed it, thought it helped up to scrutiny from any angle you could look at it from. I could tell within minutes that it was a meticulously well crafted movie. Definitely the best I’ve seen in quite a while. Thanks for the recommendation!

  33. Dotty Perro 05/06/2021 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Wow, this article is good, my younger sister is analyzing these kinds of things, so I am going to tell her.|

Leave A Comment