By Maddy Raven, Film & TV Editor
It’s nearly the end of the hellscape we’ve been calling 2020, and to celebrate, we’ve been working hard at collating Epigram’s Top 25 films of the year. This started out at as the top 10, but there were too many honourable mentions, and so it’s expanded!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the content we’ve been putting out this year, and I’d like to say a huge thank you to every writer who has contributed to the Film & TV section this year.
Coming in at number 1 is Parasite, which is no surprise, and deserves all of the praise it gets. We reviewed Parasite back in January, when it took the Oscars by storm. Guy Atoun wrote beautifully about why it should win Best Picture, and when it did, the wonderful Samuel Vickers (now Deputy Editor), wrote about what this meant for foreign language films. “Bong Joon Ho’s intensely detailed social study is both comic and chilling as he masterfully contrasts two drastically different families living in Seoul,” and we cannot recommend this film enough.
2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
“You dreamt of me?” “No, I thought of you.”
Though it was screened at the Watershed’s French Language Film Festival in 2019 and reviewed by Digital Editor for Epigram, Siavash Minoukadeh, the official release date for this masterpiece of cinema was technically in 2020. And it’s too good to not include. Read the review here.
3. The Lighthouse
Another film with a release date spanning the New Year period between 2019 and 2020, The Lighthouse was reviewed by Guy Atoun, and clearly, we loved it. With Robert Pattinson on the rise again this year, this is one of the multiple films he’s starred in this year to make it into our top 10.
4. Jojo Rabbit
I will defend this film until I die – it’s a personal favourite, and I’m delighted that so many people agree. It also helped Taika Waititi to take home the Oscar for Best Screenplay, and he dedicated his award to the indigenous children of the world (he was the first to win this particular Oscar, though Hammon Peek won two Oscars for sound mixing previously, and is also of Maori descent).
Read our review here.
Robert Pattinson is back! Despite being unsure about this film, many of you loved it and it’s made its way to the top 10 for this year. A glamorous time travel and espionage thriller, Tenet was one of the first films to be released and shown in cinemas after the first UK lockdown, and was an experience many of us will not forget.
6. Uncut Gems
Starring the polarising actor Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems was another pleasant surprise this year. Sandler himself took home the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead with this film, and it was released at the end of January this year.
Read our review here.
7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Hailed by Tilly Long as Charlie Kaufman’s “bleakest mind trip yet”, I’m Thinking of Ending Things messed with everyone’s heads this year. Produced in collaboration with Netflix, it follows Jessie Buckley’s ever-changing female protagonist on a visit to meet her boyfriend’s parents in the middle of a snowstorm. Eerie and surreal, this film is bound to mess with your head, even a little.
Another January release, 1917 took the world by storm, receiving ten nominations at the Academy Awards, winning Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Mixing.
Famously accomplished through the use of long takes and elaborate choreography, it is a story told in two acts: Mendes explained, "it was to do with the fact that I wanted the movie to go from afternoon to dusk, and then from night into dawn...I wanted to take it somewhere more like a hallucination. Somewhere more surreal, almost dream-like. And horrifying too".
This one came out of left-field, and I’m delighted about it. Reviewed by Harri Knight-Davis in time for Black History Month, Rocks tells the story of a young girl who’s left to look after her little brother when her mother leaves, supposedly due to mental health problems. Endlessly familiar to some of us, it features phenomenal acting from newcomers, including Bukky Bakray, and made me absolutely sob.
I reviewed this film back when I wasn’t editor, and absolutely loved it: a film that is ultimately about family bereavement, Onward is very close to my heart. It also doesn’t hurt that it features the fantastic voice acting of Tom Holland Chris Pratt, and some pretty ridiculous slapstick fantasy humour. It definitely constitutes a family viewing.
11. The Gentlemen
Though Will Deans didn’t seem to love it, some of you did! Starring Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey, it features blackmail, a fictional screenplay, £20 million, insider information and even more blackmail.
12. The Personal History of David Copperfield
Dev Patel! Hugh Laurie! Tilda Swinton! Ben Whishaw! This film has a stellar cast and tells the curiously modern tale of David Copperfield, as written by Charles Dickens. It’s beautiful to look at, as well, including over head shots of Dev Patel loping across Kentish hills and cliffs, and an intense shipwreck scene. Years in the making, this film is worth multiple viewings as well.
13. Lovers Rock
Part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series, Lovers Rock was released at the London Film Festival this year – the festival was both online and in person in areas where cinemas could open. Jake Kuhn loved this film, and it is a masterclass in how to pay attention to the smaller details in life.
14. Another Round
Another LFF release, Another Round stars Mads Mikkelsen in a bizarre drinking game with high stakes. Teachers Martin, Tommy, Peter and Nikolaj are worried that their lives are becoming stale and boring, and when it is suggested to them that having a low alcohol content in their blood at all times will help them to be happy, they take to this opportunity with gusto, and with varying effects.
15. Sound of Metal
Riz Ahmed is another actor who has dominated 2020, both with this film and Mogul Mowgli, which he produced and starred in. Sound of Metal tells the story of Ruben, the drummer and one half of metal duo Blackgammon. Though music is his life, Ruben discovers that he is actually losing his hearing, and must come to terms with the loss of one of his senses. A beautiful story exploring the culture and attitudes around deafness, Sound of Metal was released on Amazon Prime early this month.
16. Da 5 Bloods
Starring the late Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods is a Spike Lee feature for Netflix. It was reviewed upon its release by Julius De La Rama, and it was the violent shot of energy 2020 needed. “Da 5 Bloods delves into ambitious territory, attempting to be a buddy heist, a recovery mission and a war film. The film operates at its best level when it considers the application of violence, and how the effects trickle down, whether you were a soldier or a civilian.”
A late entry, Possessor is a horror film – the genre seems to be re-entering the mainstream domain this year, and Harri Knight Davis loved it.
18. The Half of It
A modern day, queer Cyrano de Bergerac, The Half of It was quietly released onto Netflix earlier this year. Teenager Ellie Chu begins writing love letters on behalf of the inarticulate Paul Munsky to his crush, Aster Flores in this heartwarming coming-of-age tale.
19. Saint Maud
Saint Maud took the world by storm, and Sarah Howes went to a preview of it for Epigram! “Rose Glass’s debut feature film, as both writer and director, is a tragic horror with spectacular unsettling images and a haunting emotional core.” Make sure you don’t watch this film alone.
20. Enola Holmes
Surrounded by controversy, Enola Holmes was a Netflix release this year, telling the story of the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, as played by Millie Bobby Brown. Isha Vibhakar loved it.
21. The Devil All The Time
An American psychological thriller with overt Southern gothic themes, this film garnered praise for the performances given by Tom Holland and, you guessed it, Robert Pattinson (I told you, he dominated this year).
22. Dick Johnson is Dead
Slightly different from the fiction we seem to have loved this year, Dick Johnson is Dead is a documentary film about Richard Johnson (“Dick”), a retired clinical psychiatrist who has dementia. With his daughter, director Kirsten Johnson, he takes part in a series of imaginative re-enactments of all the ways in which he could die.
23. The Invisible Man
Released before the first UK lockdown, this film stars the ever-impressive Elisabeth Moss as a woman fleeing her abusive partner. The Invisible Man mixes horror and sci-fi, and most importantly, plays on the very real horror of domestic abuse, and particularly explored the fears of the female audience – though the male gaze is eternal, imagine if there was literally a guy stalking you and convincing everyone around you that you were crazy. It’s not that hard for some people.
Reviewed by our wonderful Digital Editor, Katya Spiers, Babyteeth tells the story of terminally ill teenager Milla and her drug-dealer boyfriend, Moses. Eliza Scanlen has done well this year, having starred in both this and The Devil All The Time, and she seems set to be making more appearances as her career progresses.
And last, but not least, is Kajillionaire, the bizarre feature from Miranda July which was released at the LFF this year. Old Dolio Dyne (Evan Rachel Wood) is a young woman in a co-dependent relationship with her con artist parents, but everything changes when she meets Melanie (Gina Rodriguez). It was part of my own personal picks of the LFF this year, and I highly recommend it.
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, well done! Thank you, again, to everyone who’s stuck with us this year, both in terms of writing, and editing. We hope you have a wonderful holiday, and that 2021 brings us even more wonderful films to watch together.
Featured: A24, Christopher Raphael, Erik Chakeen, IMDb, Matt Kennedy / Focus Feature, Netflix, Inc., Parisa Taghizedeh, Robert Viglaski / Legendary Pictures, 2020, TIFF, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros Pictures, 2020
Is one of your favourites featured in our top 25?