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Writer Asher Luberto’s 20 Best Movies of 2020

Jan 05, 2021
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It was a strange year for movies. With cinemas opening and closing due to COVID-19 restrictions and a release schedule that kept shifting to match, it was hard to keep track of which movies actually came out this year. The good news: plenty of films did come out this year, and many of them would have been extraordinary achievements in any movie season.

List by Asher Luberto



In an unequivocally terrible year, who didn\‘t need a wacky, exuberant, deeply gratifying burst of optimism? Peter Docter\‘s latest is everything we\‘ve come to expect from Pixar. It\‘s colorful, soulful and deeply relatable, the kind of movie that literally anyone can enjoy.


The Climb

Michael Angelo Covino\‘s The Climb opens with an incredibly entertaining setup that could be ripped right out of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm: two best friends, Mike (Covino) and Kyle (Kyle Marvin), are struggling to bike up a hill in France when Kyle admits to sleeping with Mike\‘s girlfriend, Ava. It\‘s all downhill from there in this seriously hilarious comedy.


Vitalina Varela

You don\‘t come to a Pedro Costa movie expecting a fast pace, but Vitalina Varela takes the director\‘s \“slow cinema\” to new extremes in this story of a Portuguese woman returning to her hometown. A slum where the locals shower in sewers and the camera bathes in darkness, it\‘s a mythic purgatory of lost souls, beautiful to look at yet devastating to experience.


Dear Santa

All you really need to know is that Dear Santa is directed by one of our greatest feel-good directors, Dana Nachman. Bring tissues.


Sorry We Missed You

One of the year\‘s quietest but most devastating films looks at the harsh realities of corporate \“gig work,\” especially for a father living in Newcastle who needs money fast. From director Ken Loach, Sorry We Missed You is a domestic gut-punch of a story, one that\‘s all-the-more blistering for its soft, human touch.



Anya-Taylor Joy is best known for her work on The Queen\‘s Gambit, but I suggest you skip the Netflix show and watch her play the long game in Emma. In Autum de Wilde\‘s adaptation of Jane Austen\‘s 1815 novel, Taylor Joy plays a matchmaker who uses her friends as pawns to get to the dashing Johnny Flynn, a romance that, like the lively and painterly landscapes, springs to life like flower trees in Spring.


Boys State

It\‘s all fun and games at the political boot camp Boys State, until you realize that Boys State the documentary is a depressingly accurate microcosm of the American electoral circus. Then it\‘s all fun and games and… well, it\‘s still all fun and games.


Welcome to Chechnya

It\‘s hard to recommend something that will likely piss people off, especially now, but Welcome to Checnhya, a documentary about the persecution of gays in Chechnya, Russia, is just too good and eye-opening to deny.


Mangrove (Small Axe)

There are two kinds of courtroom dramas—the ones that are made to entertain (The Trial of Chicago 7), and the ones that are made to enlighten (Mangrove). In the process, director Steve Mcqueen forces us to reckon with the racism and discrimination of the 1970\‘s, zeroing in on nine activists who were put on trial for crimes they did not commit.


David Byrne\'s American Utopia

You may find yourself letting a day go by. And you may find yourself living in a familiar place. And you may find yourself watching David Byrne\‘s American Utopia. And you may ask yourself, \“Is this actually better than Stop Making Sense?\” This grand and glorious filmed record of David Byrne\‘s Broadway show, directed by Spike Lee, is just as good as Jonathan Demme\‘s Talking Heads documentary, if not better.


Get Duked!

It turns out that the sight of teenagers tripping balls on hallucinogenic rabbit poop made for the year\‘s funniest moment. This unabashedly boyish comedy—about four delinquents who are hunted by the Duke of Edinburgh—is chock full of laughs, creativity, and trap bangers, with assists from Danny Brown, Run the Jewels and D.J. Beatroot, your next favorite rapper.


Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

Documentarians have already shit on this new project from Bill and Ross Turner, which presents itself as a fly-on-the-wall portrait of a Las Vegas dive bar going out of business but was actually shot in New Orleans, with the brothers casting local barflies as actors. Boo hoo. Show me a more accurate depiction of a dive bar and I\‘ll show you a liar.


Fire Will Come

Embers of hope are few and far between in Oliver Laxes\‘s Fire Will Come, a short and pensive Galician drama that\‘s acted and filmed like a neo-realist classic, with shots of locals toiling in soil and cows basking in the morning sun. It\‘s a parable about communal forgiveness, or a lack thereof, and how things that are left unsaid can grow into a mighty, inextinguishable roar.



As gentle and sweetly comforting as a film you\‘ll find, director Andrew Ahn\‘s tale of an eight-year-old boy (Lucas Jaye) who befriends the elderly veteran next door (the late Brian Dennehy) is defiantly positive; a warm bear hug you wish would never end. Driveways is a film we can all use right now.


Crip Camp

Crip Camp follows a summer camp for disabled youth that gives its attendees a vision of how life can be.



The Sundance Film Festival award winner (which will get a bigger rollout in 2021), is the personal story of a Korean American family that moves from California to a small farm in Arkansas in the 1980\‘s. Time goes by, a few seasons pass, grass grows, plums are harvested. And, slowly, we get to know the family and their story.



This animated delight from Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart tells the story of a girl in 17th century Ireland who longs to become a wolf hunter like her father—only to become besties with a girl who is part wolf, part human. Sound like Princess Mononoke? That\‘s because it\‘s a lot like Princess Mononoke, but with enough magical, mythical, lyrical and profoundly beautiful moments to cast its own unique spell.


Lovers Rock (Small Axe)

The best party I went to all year, and not just because it\‘s the only party I went to all year. Lovers Rock is a heady, pulsating, 68-minute dance party with enough weed and reggae to give you a second-hand high.



What is the meaning of home? What does it mean to move on? Does down the road mean putting things off, or moving things forward? These are the questions Chloe Zhao explores in Nomadland, a road movie where every destination, every cave and ocean and mountain, is a new discovery for the audience and a new place to sleep for the protagonist, Fern (Frances Mcdormand). A nomad by choice, Fern is a modern-day John Wayne. Her home is wherever the road takes her.


Martin Eden

Martin Eden is why I go to the movies. It\‘s epic yet intimate, sensually romantic yet chillingly realistic, a movie so jam packed with ideas and visuals and characters that you don\‘t know where to look, or how to feel. It\‘s life captured in telling detail.

Best Director

Steve Mcqueen (Small Axe)

Best Actor

Luca Marinelli (Martin Eden)

Best Actress

Frances McDormand (Nomadland)

Best Animal Performance

Mommy Pig (Gunda)

Best Cinematography


Best Score

Eurovision Song Contest (yeah, I said it)

Most Underrated Movie

Fire Will Come

Most Overrated Movie

First Cow

Most Likely To Be Remembered 50 Years From Now

Martin Eden


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