(This article is part of our Best of 2020 series.)
One silver lining to the dark cloud of 2020 was the variety of movies released throughout the year. Living in the UK, it’s likely that my list will be significantly different from the others on this site. But as I didn’t get a chance to see these films before 2020 I think it only makes sense to form my list based on UK release dates.
Some honourable mentions go to Jojo Rabbit, Host and Pixar’s wonderful new film, Soul. There are also a few big hitters I didn’t get to see this year including Tenet, Mank and Hamilton, but to be honest I’m more than happy with the quality of films already on my list. So please read on for my top 5 films released in the UK in 2020.
A film that took me completely by surprise, I knew nothing about Swallow going into it. The name sounded interesting and there was an eye-catching thumbnail on the streaming site I was using. It drew me in from the first minute with its unique lighting and colours. Not to mention Haley Bennett’s performance, which is one of the best I’ve seen in years. A word of warning though, Swallow is not for the faint of heart, as it deals with the eating disorder pica (the lead character Hunter copes with the stresses of maintaining a perfect lifestyle for her husband by eating and consuming various items that are not food). I won’t say any more than that, but as long you’re not overly squeamish, Swallow is definitely worth seeking out.
Outstanding from a technical point of view but also just a great piece of cinematic action, 1917 was the last film I got to enjoy in theatres before things went all 2020 on us. But what a film to go out on. The one-shot filming style worked perfectly within the haunting hellscape of World War 1. It’s a film I haven’t rewatched since as I want to keep that initial cinematic experience fresh in my memory. You can check out my full review here.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
A love story about a noblewoman and the artist tasked with painting her portrait in secret, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a slow and quiet film but one that’s full of atmosphere and tension. The moments of calm reflection and silence actually feel like the most impactful, such is the directorial style of Céline Sciamma. But it was the final scene that really elevated the entire movie for me, as the camera simply focuses on the face of Adèle Haenel while she expresses pure emotion without saying a single word. Fantastic.
The winner of this year’s best picture Oscar and deservedly so, I had to wait until February 2020 to see what the hype was all about. Thankfully, it was worth the wait. I’ve been a big fan of Bong Joon-ho for a long time and Parasite instantly became my favourite film of his. The twisting story, dark themes about class division and the gorgeous cinematography. All these hallmarks of the best of Korean cinema are more or less perfected with Parasite.
I’m not sure if it’s even worth trying to explain why The Lighthouse is my favourite film of 2020. It’s such a unique and crazy experience that you really have to watch it and take it in personally to understand why it’s so great. The performances have to get a mention though. Halfway through I remember thinking Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of an aged Lighthouse keeper was mindblowing and unlike anything I’d seen before. By the end I thought Robert Pattinson was even better. It’s probably not for everyone but just like Robert Eggers’ previous film The Witch, I fell in love with it. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
What do you think of my favorite films from the past year? Anything you would add?