These are my 20 favorite films this year, organized on Letterboxd. Other than the obvious COVID-19 pandemic which hindered theater-going, my movie-watching habits remained largely the same, although I definitely spent more time in front of a screen than in past years.
The hours I would normally be disc golfing, going to concerts, or attending parties were instead spent on Zoom calls or simply watching movies and TV shows. I’ve never been much of a TV person, but you can view my Trakt.tv profile to see what I’ve logged. I really enjoyed Cinevent in 2019, and I’d love to go to more in-person or online film festivals in the future.
So let’s get into it. 188 films this year vs 104 in 2019. As I explained last year, I don’t religiously log every single thing I watch, but most of it is there. Letterboxd tallies the number of hours, 296, which is about 13 days straight of watching movies. Check out the 11 reviews I wrote in 2020.
All of the movies released in 2020 that I loved the most happened to come out on streaming platforms (some after 2019 festival premiers, like Troop Zero and Sound of Metal). David Byrne’s American Utopia (HBO Original Special concert documentary) was easily the most enjoyable movie I saw this year. Byrne’s projects are always top-notch. (my) Truth: The Rape of 2 Coreys was arguably the most important in terms of raising awareness. Da 5 Bloods (Netflix Original), Troop Zero and Sound of Metal were also highly entertaining (both Amazon Originals). You can see my other favorites on Letterboxd.
Below are films that I loved and watched this year for the first time (sorted by release date):
- El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story (2019, Netflix Original)
- There’s Something in the Water (2019, Netflix)
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)*
- Ford v Ferrari (2019)
- Parasite (2019)*
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)*
- Making Waves : The Art of Cinematic Sound (2019)
- For Sama (2019, PBS Frontline)*
- Late Night (2019 Amazon Original)
- The Farewell (2019)*
- On the Basis of Sex (2018)
- Tomb Raider (2018)
- The Invisible String (2012, 2020 YouTube)
- Shutter Island (2010)
- The Cell (2000)
- What Lies Beneath (2000)
- Open Your Eyes (1997)*
- Tales from the Hood (1995)
- Tombstone (1993)
- Daughters of the Dust (1991)
- The 400 Blows (1959)*
- Flowers and Trees (1932)
- Shiraz: A Romance of India (1928)
* I’ve been keeping track of the annual 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die since purchasing the 2013 edition. A Trip to the Moon (1902) is their earliest entry, and Little Women (2019) the newest. I watched or rewatched 54 of them this year, bringing my total to 594 from all editions, or 474 in the 2020 edition.
I also discovered a number of other classics and ground-breaking films during my 10 Years 10 Films research. Check out George Cukor’s Holiday (1938), or Dorothy Arzner’s Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), both newly restored on Criterion. Shiraz is the legendary tale of the titular 17th century Mughul prince, and his commissioning of the Taj Mahal to entomb his “favourite wife,” Mumtaz Mahal . The film was meticulously restored in 2017 with a 4K scan, and screened this year at the unprecidented We Are One online film festival. Anoushka Shankar’s new score for the silent film is perfect. The restoration is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and currently Amazon Prime. Part 5 of 10Y10F (1928-1937) was released in July, and I’ll be publishing Part 6 soon!