What are the best movies of 2020? Take a look at the picks of Cultural Hater.
Same story repeats itself each year.
We kick off with a list of expected movies. Then predict the big winners, as well as the dark horses, and the big losers too. I did the same, at the beginning of the year, including Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and the new James Bond film among others. In 2020, all of that accounted for nothing, when the whole world starred into the abyss of a global pandemic.
In this new reality of the last few months, cinema as a whole industry has been struggling. But as pointed out in Macklemore’s song about wearing second-hand clothes, one man’s trash is another man’s come-up. Cinemas had to be shut down, meanwhile, streaming services witnessed a surge in demand. The unfavorable circumstances forced some festivals to go online, and thankfully, we still got the chance to watch quality cinema from around the world.
Which movies were considered for the list of the best films of 2020?
The films you see on this list fit one of the following requirements:
- Movies produced in 2020
- Movies appearing on this last premiered at festivals in 2020
- Movies that were available on streaming platforms for the first time in 2020
- Movies from 2019 that were screened for the first time in Poland
Without further ado, let’s begin.
P.S. This is a long-read, so get your coffee, beer, or whatever else you like to sip while digesting content.
Best Drama Movies of 2020
#9 Suk Suk
The Hong Kong director Ray Yeung favors intimacy over expressionism and develops a simmering drama that paints a beautiful, and socially-engaged picture of modern Hong Kong.
The plot of Suk Suk (2019) finds two gay men who develop a genuine affection for each other. Having most of their days already behind them, the men meet in secret and try to keep their blossoming feeling under the floor of their regular lives.
Suk Suk (2019) manages to kill two birds with one stone. Ray Yeung peeks at his protagonists, and how they experience the late youth in a completely new reality. At the same time, it’s a film that tackles the broader issue of an entire generation that dedicated years to build modern-day Hong Kong. As a by-product of such dedication, these people saw time slip through their fingers.
Storytelling rarely gets as dynamic as in Rom (2019) – Tran Tranh Huy’s tale about street-level gambling in the poverty area of Ho Chi Minh. The film’s paced in a way that embodies the vibrant streets of this enormous city. Rom (2019) peeks into the cultural phenomenon of numerology and adds its own social commentary on top.
Rom is the name of the story’s protagonist – a kid who guesses numbers that guarantee either big wins or big losses. Rom’s life ain’t a bed of roses. This sketchy profession works as a magnet for competition, yet there isn’t much room for many number-tellers. The boy dreams of escaping the life of the poor and paves his way. Even if it means breaking more the law.
Tran Tranh Huy rarely gives us a moment to breathe. Cramped between narrow streets filled with raucous masses, Rom (2019) hypnotizes with its charming, lucky-numbers poetry. The world spins around the utopian win as in the finest sci-fi stories. Underneath the feverish pursuit of happiness, Huy sketches an image of the vast majority of the Vietnamese society. Given that over 70% of the Vietnamese are poor people, lottery wins are a sort of religion.
Truth be told, Rom (2019) does feel chaotic at times. However, I’d dare to say it’s a deliberate effect. It’s Rom’s film after all – it represents his struggle – the same hardship that thousands in Vietnam experience daily.
#7 The Forty-year-old Version
A burnout playwright Radha (played by the director and writer of the movie) struggles to find herself a spot. After losing her mother recently, the growing dissatisfaction with her unsuccessful art career weighs heavier. One day, Radha does something crazy though – she decides to start rapping.
In a year so dramatic and draining emotionally, a movie such as The Forty-year-old Version (2020) band-aids the mental wounds for a short duration. Radha Blank smoothly mixes light comedic parts and characters with her own thoughts on gentrification and the definition of artistic success. She sees beauty in the roots of rap music too. Not the bling-ring brag-verses, but the thoughtful storytelling that inspired the genre. And for her protagonist, deliverance from frustration happens because she accepts the reality, and doesn’t force changes either.
Radha’s journey occasionally bumps due to the long runtime, but the overall effect is nothing short of great. On a rainy day, this is your ray of sunshine.
#6 The Trial of The Chicago 7
There’s a reason why Aaron Sorkin teaches screenwriting over at the Masterclass series that haunts my Youtube and Instagram ads. In his newest script the filmmaker goes back to his finest achievements as a storyteller.
Sorkin, known best for his knife-sharp writing and dynamic dialogues, assembled an insanely talented cast to portray the scandalous trial of seven men who allegedly led to riots against the police in Chicago in 1968 during the Democratic National Convention. Appearing on the screen are – among others – Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, and Abdul Yahya-Mateen II. This top-notch cast delivers the finest collective performance of the year, with Cohen and Langella turning in their careers’ bests.
Although some viewers and critics demonized Sorkin for altering facts, The Trial of The Chicago 7 (2020) embraces the dramatized events and through that lens seems to peek at the contemporary America (not only the U.S. though). Much more than depicting history as it was, this film challenges us to think how much of that story repeats itself today in the form of all the protests, social instability and injustice.
#5 Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Due to the infuriating law that was passed on earlier this year in Poland – a strict abortion ban – Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) hits close to home.
The film follows a girl named Autumn who suspects unwanted pregnancy. But in the state of Pennsylvania – where Autumn lives with her lower-class family – abortion isn’t an option for her. Desperately looking for help, the girl travels to New York and is joined by her cousin.
Hittman’s unique style was already praised in her underrated Beach Rats (2017). This is cinema focused on detail, with a grainy texture and naturalistic approach. But in Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020), the director elevates the experience to what Safdie Brothers achieved in Good Time (2017). Autumn’s journey’s palpably painful, and Hittman’s sensitive direction allows the most heartbreaking moments to hit right the way they should. Both leads scarcely talk and rely on their body language, hence what seems lackadaisical on the surface is, in fact, heartfelt on an emotional level. Hittman tells the story through gestures and moments captured in a documentary style, therefore words aren’t really needed.
In a very personal story, she also manages to paint an image of modern society and how it marginalizes women and strips them of the right to decide about their bodies. At the same time, Hittman avoids demonization of either side – instead, she showcases the tragedy of one individual that speaks volumes about thousands of similar cases scattered around the world. As a consequence, Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) gives voice – a strong, and much, much needed.
#4 Another Round
Many movies about the consumption of alcohol focus on fetishizing liquid percentages as the ultimate root of all evil. Even Project X (2012), the “definitive” party movie, criticizes the very concept of having boozy-woozy fun. When compared to others, Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round (2020) takes a different turn.
The plot of Another Round (2020) follows four friends – teachers who suffer from signs of mid-life crisis. The gentlemen task themselves with verifying a pseudoscientific theory about people being born with 0.5 percentile of alcohol. The hypothesis is that keeping this level constant boosts happiness and unleashes human potential.
Another Round (2020) flawlessly moves between extremes of showing the good and bad of alcohol. Vinterberg covers the full spectrum of the Danish culture of drinking, but he also weaves themes of happiness, bitterness, and mid-life crisis into the canvas. Finally, there’s Mads Mikkelsen’s towering performance. The Nordic actor joins the best performers of the year and could be looking at the Oscars with high hopes.
Coming across a war drama as visceral and grand in scale as 1917 (2020) is a rare experience. The depiction of a suicidal mission of two British troopers who wade through the trenches during World War I is a two-hours long, guaranteed thrill-ride. Moving between an epic drama and an endlessly ambitious arthouse film, 1917 (2020) throws the audience in medias res as no other war movie did before.
The appeal of 1917 (2020) owes a lot to the execution. Sam Mendes made only 34 cuts in the whole film and smartly covered them up to mimic a continuous shot. Hence the whole story canvasses the day-night-day length almost seamlessly.
The cinematography – helmed by Oscar-winner Roger Deakins – conjures up some of the most hellish portraits of war too. The visual artistry was amped up by the incredible sound design and soundtrack that elevated the war experience onto a palpable level. Although I was part of the #TeamParasite during the Oscars, Mendes’ masterpiece deserved more recognition.
#2 This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection
After seeing This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (2020) by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Lesotho immediately turns into an intriguing spot on a filmmaking map. Beautifully filmed, timely in the era of technological progress pushing against tradition, it’s the slow cinema that inspires.
Mantoa (Mary Twala) is an elderly woman who learns about the death of her grandson. Left with no relatives, she prepares herself for her own departure. Yet when Mantoa learns about the imminent resettlement of her village, the woman decides to embark on that last journey and fight the system.
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese reverently puts the pieces together, and crafts scenes with utmost precision. Each frame is full of vivid colors and eye-pleasing compositions, which are inspired by the rich folklore of Lesotho. Mosese also experiments with screen ratio and uses colors to communicate emotions. That visual aspect brings a lot of value.
Nonetheless, it’s Mary Twala whose role deserves the biggest ovation. Mantoa becomes an object of veneration for Mosese, but the director wants that strong character to remain human. Twala is the driving force of This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (2020), and the reason for which the film justifies its points about fighting for tradition.
#1 Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Based on an ingenious play by August Wilson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) does what Moonlight (2016) did so well. George C. Wolfe, the director, in collaboration with writer Ruben Santiago-Hudson, translated the difficult language of theatrical play to its cinematic equivalent.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) depicts a few hours spent in a recording studio, where the Mother of Blues blesses the microphone with her voice. Although she’s the main star, her trumpet player Levee craves the spotlight too. Over the course of one afternoon, the tensions rise, and cast a long shadow on their creative process.
Wolfe’s direction fully focuses on the exhibition of two powerful forces, invisible to each other and reigning in one of the two rooms where the story takes place. In the upper room, Viola Davis as Ma Rainey fights for her character’s sense of dignity. Below the surface is the kingdom of Levee that he shares with the rest of the band. They need to put up with Levee’s zaniness and unhinged drive towards the spotlight.
Although the two stars barely share screen time, Wolfe masterfully dissects their needs and finds similarities between them too. The rest of the band, comprised of musicians who reconciled with their role, completes the image of making a hit in America in the 30s while being black. Luckily, Wolfe steers away from pompous monologues (such as the ones in Da 5 Bloods (2020) by Spike Lee). He views the characters as they are, and respects their right to feel the way they feel. As a consequence, it’s a feast of powerhouse performances of Davis and Boseman, who make this spectacle absolutely riveting.
In the light of Chadwick Boseman’s death (best known for his role as the Black Panther), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) earns its importance even more. This is the last rodeo of an artist whose talent only started to blossom.
Best Horror Movies of 2020
William Eubank’s Underwater (2020) was both largely underrated, and undeniably flawed too. Drawing from the Alien series, as well as calamities such as Godzilla: King of Monsters (2019), Eubank crafted a thrilling horror movie that should please even the die-hard Lovecraft fans.
Years into the future, a group of underwater engineers experience an explosion in the deepest drilling station. The massive boom opens Pandora’s box as the dark depths reveal deadly creatures that swim out of the Earth’s core. The crew, fiercely led by Norah (Kristen Stewart), attempts to escape the endless corridors of the devastated facility before they fall prey to the predators.
While one of my favorite film journalists Mark Kermode listed Underwater (2020) among the worst films of the year, my perception was entirely different. It’s a silly yet satisfying movie. Eubank pulls the darkest fears out of the underwater setting and combines unseen depths with claustrophobic corridors. The result is an ever-uncomfortable watch that topped many other horror movies this year.
#5 Come True
In a not-so-distant future, a young girl suffers from nightmares that constantly disturb her sleep. She signs up for medical tests of a new technology that turns dreams into live streams. Her haunts become more and more harrowing, while the line between reality and dreams begins to blur.
Anthony Scott Burns, the creator of Come True (2020), imbues the cinematography with soft, purple glimmer, and lets the mellow colors ooze their sleepy atmosphere. Underneath the calming glow, Burns hides a drama and a horror movie. The two entwine each other, yet the director separates them quite strictly.
The scary, disturbing dreams of the protagonist are totally mind-bending. The probing movement of the camera slowly drills further down the rabbit hole exposing mutilated bodies and dark sets with a human figure in the center of every dream. These images conjured up by Anthony Scott Burns are inspirations drawn from many genius minds – Zdzisław Beksiński, Santiago Caruso, Francis Bacon, and Ken Currie to name a few. They’re the definition of hauntingly beautiful.
A couple, a broken car and a creepy house hosting even creepier people inside.
On paper Honeydew (2020) checks out most of the B-grade slasher. But director Devereux Milburn defines his film by allowing the horror to simmer. Horrors arrive unobtrusively. Honeydew (2020) combines its awkward – even comedic – atmosphere of the first half with the second half being terror-filled, blood-curdling, and eventually traumatizing. Some of these deranged ideas will leave viewers flabbergasted, although Milburn steers away from on-screen violence. In Honeydew (2020), it is the unseen that scares you most.
In Joko Anwar’s folk horror Impetigore (2020), the depths of the Indonesian jungle host all kinds of witchcraft, devils in human skin, and whatnots. Frights begin to unwrap when two city girls travel to the rural part of the country. One of them wants to find her roots and claim the familial possessions.
In Impetigore (2020), descending into the abyss happens gradually. Disturbing, and most terrifying moments are cautiously built-up, and the Indonesian filmmaker values creepy mood over cheap jump scares. Exploration of folk tales and beliefs serves as grounds to show the gap between modern city life and less developed, stuck-in-the-past outskirts.
Anwar fully embraces the creepy potential of Impetigore (2020) too. The neatly designed, subjective camera movements delivers the thrills in less obvious moments. On top of that comes the brilliant lighting and color grading. The creepy village baths in soft, red-and-orange luminescence that brings the likes of The Wicker Man (1973), Kill List (2011), and The Witch (2015) to mind.
To live up to the expectations stemming from the fact of being a Cronenberg isn’t easy. Yet Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor (2020) proves the like-father-like-son affection for the bizarre, gruesome, and disturbing.
Possessor (2020) is set in the near future. A certain corporation specializes in hijacking minds – a method used to assassinate and do all the shadiest shenanigans. One of the most established names in this nasty industry is Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough). Her next mission is to crawl inside the mind of a low-key employee of another huge corporation (Christopher Abbott) and steer him towards a grueling homicide. This won’t be a piece of cake.
Possessor’s (2020) slow-burn beginning sets a cyberpunk-like mood. With bright neon lights and minimalist designs all around, the pacing reminds me of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Cronenberg takes his time to develop the plot up to the point when it free-falls like crazy, spiraling into a labyrinth of unbelievable twists, gore, and truly disturbing scenes.
Violence never reigns though neither does it become the main interest of Possessor (2020). Through the blood-soaked linings of this plot, Cronenberg knits a philosophical tale about mind control and the degree to which our lives are just samples for data mining companies. This depth enriches Possessor (2020) and makes this body horror a thing to cherish – not only by horror freaks but ardent fans of Stanisław Lem’s novels too.
#1 His House
Remi Weekes’ refugee horror haunted me ever since I watched it. The film finds a couple from South Sudan – Rial and Bol – who arrive in the UK to start over. Their cross-border nightmare isn’t over yet, because soon the two are followed by a malefic spirit called Apeth.
The debuting director Remi Weekes wraps the flesh of horror around a drama backbone. At its core, His House (2020) vivisects how hard it is to live away from your own people and customs. What distinguishes His House (2020) from any other immigrant drama is that a new home means fear, uncertainty but also an escape from the monsters of the past. As Bol and Rial fight the monstrosities in the house, Weekes lays out a shocking plot twist and poses a question – should we condemn them? Do they deserve to be consumed by the ghosts of the past?
Acceptance of that past becomes the crucial theme of this film. Having built strong foundations – both thoughtful and thought-provoking – Remi Weekes ornaments His House (2020) with nightmares from hell. As much as I love horror movies, the scares served by the British filmmaker are deeply traumatizing and fostered by tremendous set design and costumes.
I’ll dare to say that His House (2020) is the best horror movie of 2020.
Best Sci-Fi Movies of 2020
#2 The Trouble With Being Born
I always enjoyed sci-fi films that tackle the moral aspect of technological progress (yes, I totally dig Black Mirror too). Pulling off an independent sci-fi project is even more of a hustle, but The Trouble With Being Born (2020) combined both of the above – a minute budget with an ambitious premise.
A man lives in a spacious house with an android. Their disturbing relationship that lands between a lover and a daughter ends abruptly when the android girl’s lost. After finding a new home, the role of the android changes, but the memories of the previous owner cast a dark shadow on the new one.
Sandra Wollner brings forward an intriguing dilemma. Unlike the well-praised Ex Machina (2015), Wollner doesn’t explore the predatory instincts of machines. Instead, the director tries to understand the flaws in human design, and what’s their impact on AI’s programming. Particularly curious is the way the android deploys the same behavioral pattern in two varying situations. Due to the circumstances, the characters, and well, humans themselves, this way of addressing the issue fails. According to Wollner, it’s this very disarray of feelings and memories that poses threats to our co-living with machines.
#1 Last and First Men
The death of an Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson remains one of the biggest losses of the film industry in the last decade or so. His disturbing, otherworldly creations met with praise and received two Oscar nominations on top of many other prestigious awards. But little did we know about Jóhannsson’s skills as a filmmaker. Sadly, his debut was all that we’ll all ever get to see.
In Last and First Men (2020), Jóhann Jóhannsson adapted Olaf Stapledon’s sci-fi novel. A bleak, dystopian vision of humans who live millions of years in the future and who send a message to our days. Tilda Swinton narrates the spectacle, with a soothing voice and cold, scientific language. To accompany the narrative, Last and First Men (2020) shows Spomenik monuments – symbols of post-Yugoslavia anti-fascist movements. Together with the DP Sturla Brandth Grovlen, Jóhannsson conjured up images that bend the laws of physics, thus causing the Soviet buildings to look cold, and inhuman.
A fully immersive experience such as this requires patience, and it’s definitely to be enjoyed mostly by fans of slow cinema and Jóhannsson’s dark and mesmerizing music.
Best Thrillers of 2020
#3 The Devil All The Time
Many viewers deemed this film too visceral and excessively violent. In other cases Antonio Campos’ The Devil All The Time (2020) went off the radar, drowning in the waves of content uploaded to Netflix.
Campos goes all Cormac McCarthy-like. He paints a gritty image of rural America during post-war times. Tom Holland’s spirited character stays in the center as the binding tape between numerous crooks and devils. Campos bashes the small-town ways of faith by featuring a rapist reverend (ridiculously odd part by Robert Pattinson), throws in a couple of hitch-hiking killers, and adds other types of deranged figures. Dismal rules in The Devil All The Time (2020), yet Campos does not leave us in the dirt only to enjoy the view.
Setting aside the ruthlessness, the director seeks for a glimmer of hope – a fainting light in the darkest of tunnels. Hence his film can’t be viewed as any masochistic tribute to violence. Rather than that, this is a cautionary tale about evil looming from everywhere.
Films about basement creeps who go loco one day aren’t particularly inventive. Unless it’s Rent-a-Pal (2020) where the story isn’t set to make the protagonist look appalling. On the contrary, Jon Stevenson’s blissful thriller sympathizes with David. It’s only when David finds the damned tape Rent-a-Pal when things go south.
Stevenson gets the gist. While most thrillers create patchworks of characters, a kind of humanized Frankensteins that are deemed hopeless, David stands out in that crowd. He’s what some claimed Todd Phillips’ Joker was – a hurt loner who loses his grip in the act of total despair. Brian Landis Folkins’ role as the protagonist keeps the momentum going, and special kudos go to Will Wheaton for pulling off a role played entirely on a VHS tape. In comparison, wet-hair Samara can take notes.
#1 I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Charlie Kaufman’s odd I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020), polarized viewers. Some clamored that it’s indie garbage, while others viewed this film as mind-bending and challenging. Since it appears on this list of best movies of 2020, you probably know which group it’s for me.
A young woman (played by Jessie Buckley) joins her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents’ farmhouse. She’s uncertain about the future of their relationship and if the family gathering should even happen. Once they arrive, things get awkward.
Altering a short story by Iain Reid, Charlie Kaufman narratives here in the most Kaufmanesque manner possible. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) elaborates on the vanity and mundanity of life as it penetrates the mind of a depressed person whose best days are long gone. Many scenes feel like distorted flashbacks – memories and dreams blending into an improbable story of how life could be. Obviously, the outcome of these thoughts is more bitterness.
As already explained, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) won’t appeal to everyone. Kaufman’s directorial style is very unique, strangely hypnotizing, and operating with metaphors that lead even the happiest person on Earth to an existential crisis.
Best Documentaries of 2020
#2 Tiger King
I’ll always connect the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic with Tiger King (2020), the unbelievable Netflix hit about the notorious world of private zoos in the US.
Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin took investigative documentary onto a whole another level with Tiger King (2020). What kicks off as a sketch of the evil-doers behind private zoos blossoms into a rich image of pre-Trump America. Goode and Chaiklin take the tour into Florida and observe the growth of a man so ridiculous that even Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t create such a zany character. Tiger Kin (2020) glued me to the screen for its entire runtime. I couldn’t care less about its flaws and the comfort-zone direction – Joe Exotic’s tale had me at the edge of my seat and, most importantly, helped me to escape from the horrors rolling out in the news.
#1 Feels Good Man
In less skilled hands, Feels Good Man (2020) – a docudrama that explains the long and dark history of Pepe the Frog as well as its creator Matt Furie – would be a flat, forgettable movie. Yet the ambitions of its director reach farther than checking the facts and showing them in chronological order. In fact, filmmaker Arthur Jones combines the macro scale of the Internet culture with the minute scale of one individual’s life entangled in the intricacies of hate speech, politics, and online discrimination.
By tackling a seemingly silly topic – a meme that shifted its meaning from a weird-but-kind character to a flagship emblem of the alt-right and “meme’ing a president into the White House”, Jones finds incredible depth there. Feels Good Man (2020) criticizes neither of the sides – the so-called NEETs, Trump campaign manager, artists, etc. On the contrary, the wisdom of this documentary movie lies in the ability to dispute the reasons of each of the parties.
On the other hand, this is also a drama about the influence of art on modern culture and how art pieces span over to responsibility and claiming one’s rights to them. In the era of the Internet, in which proving ownership is like throwing darts after a six-pack, Jones observes the toll it takes on Furie with both respect and admiration.
Bonus Shoutouts of 2020
Beauty Water – Weirdest Film of the year
I’ll say that right away – my experience with Korean anime was pretty much non-existent before seeing Beauty Water (2020). But this deliciously wicked and on-so-many-levels wrong film is the equivalent of my beloved trip with Kuso (2017) set in 2020.
Beauty Water (2020) finds an unattractive, lacking in self-confidence woman who works as a make-up specialist. One day, she learns about some magical compound – the titular Beauty Water – which turns every single body into an Instagrammable work of art. A transition doesn’t come without costs though, and soon the protagonist learns the terrifying truth about the secrets of the beautifying chemical.
Beauty Water (2020) effortlessly moves between creepiness and heartfelt drama, and Kyung-hun Cho’s direction fully embraces this grisly, whimsical vibe. Cho conjures up images straight from the body-horror nightmares you can imagine – melting skin, and breaking bones, but also many forms of physical ugliness that’s often not physical at all. There’s a critique regarding social media too, and how this maniacal pursuit of perfect beauty generates frustration and causes pain for many vulnerable individuals. Finally, there’s the film’s last half an hour that constitutes the most fucked-up (can’t call any other way) ending to a film in 2020.
Cyst – Silliest Film of the year
By no means good, or even an average filmmaking exercise, Cyst (2020) needs to appear on your annual watchlist. A small clinic, which is run by a mad scientist-type doctor, becomes a hunting ground for a giant mutated cyst.
Suffice to say, Cyst (2020) provides audiences with the delicious, so-bad-its-good kind of entertainment. And here’s the cake’s topping: Greg Sestero, co-star of the infamous The Room (2003), shows up for a short yet hilarious cameo.
Best TV Shows of 2020
The Servant (2019-)
M. Night Shyamalan had his fair share of brilliant films, however, these were balanced out by the likes of the highly anticipated and really bad Glass (2019). Thankfully, Servant (2019-) reinforced the group of Shyamalan’s successes.
The story finds a Philly-based couple who recently faced the loss of their newborn kid. As part of post-trauma therapy, they hire a nanny to look after a doll that resembles their lost child. Things do get disturbing when the house is once again filled with newborn’s cries – a sign of either losing one’s mind or a sinister laugh of evil.
Shyamalan confines the story within the walls of a beautiful house and keeps the characters constantly interact with each other, leaving the pot to simmer. Servant (2019-) teases all kinds of horrors, and some viewers will surely be wondering about this constant winding up. However, there’s a method in this ever-increasing crescendo, and Servant (2019-) does deliver a cliffhanger that you want to follow through.
This one season of ZeroZeroZero (2019-), a drug-themed story spanning across several continents provided the same amount of excitement (or even more) than Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico (2018-) ever did.
Almost like in the movies of Quentin Dupieux, ZeroZeroZero (2019-) also centers around an inanimate protagonist – a cargo of cocaine that travels from its Mexican producers all the way to the distributors in Italy. Over the course of its long journey, the creators of the show – Leonardo Fasoli, Mauricio Katz, and Stefano Sollima – scrutinize every step of the process. It’s viewed from the perspective of several characters, and through these lenses, ZeroZeroZero (2019-) shows how far the hands of the drugs business reach.
The Outsider (2020-)
Let me say that literally anything starring Ben Mendelsohn turns into gold. The Australian actor returned to television after a brilliant run with Netflix in Bloodline (2015-2017). In The Outsider (2020-), a horror show based on Stephen King’s novel, Mendelsohn shines along with many other co-stars.
Outsider (2020-) begins with an investigation into the gruesome murder of a kid. In the light of no clues, and more bodies showing up, the detectives turn to a medium who claims the entity responsible for the atrocious crimes is a demon.
King’s novels rarely had the right treatment – just think of the abomination The Mist (2017). Luckily for the creators of The Outsider (2020-), the source material favored taking a thriller route instead of an over-the-top horror one. The series rarely opts for supernatural elements, and it mostly revolves around the powerlessness of people who are expected to solve mysteries the traditional way. Plus, it’s super blood-chilling and disturbing.
Raised by Wolves (2020-)
I had a hard time sinking my teeth into Raised by Wolves (2020-). Ridley Scott’s newest sci-fi series looked worryingly cheap and heralded one of the biggest flops of the year.
As it turned out later, Raised by Wolves (2020-) needed time to blossom. The series top stars – Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim – nailed their roles as androids responsible for establishing a new society on a desolate planet. Their confident performances carried the spectacle in its slower moments and the less swift plot tangents. Scott finally left the Alien alone and developed a new, brave world together with creator Aaron Guzikowski. Even if the story’s uneven, Raised by Wolves (2020-) left one hell of a cliffhanger to follow up to. Color me intrigued and wanting more.
What were your favorite films and tv series of 2020? Share your picks in the comments.