The Best Movies of 2020, According to Over 230 Film Critics — Year in Review

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Nomadland,” and “First Cow” have been named the best films of 2020 in IndieWire’s annual critics poll.

“Nomadland,” “Lovers Rock” and more of the year’s best films

The 2020 IndieWire Critics Poll included input from over 230 film reviewers from around the world. Critics from IndieWire, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and other major outlets voted for the year’s top films and performances alongside critics from local newspapers and websites, freelancers, and contributors on film from across Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The end results were published earlier this month, with “Nomadland” claiming best film and Riz Ahmed in “Sound of Metal” taking the title for best performer of the year. Participants in the 2020 critics poll were only allowed to vote for films and performances in films that received theatrical or VOD releases in North America over the past calendar year.

While the general critics poll article revealed the voting results for the 10 best films of the year, IndieWire can now present a complete ranking of the 50 films from 2020 that ranked highest according to the over 230 film critics who participated in the poll. For the first time in the IndieWire Critics Poll’s history, the No. 1 film is directed by a woman (Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland”). Female directors had a strong showing in this year’s results, with the top three films of the year all hailing from female filmmakers (joining Zhao are Eliza Hittman with “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” and Kelly Reichardt with “First Cow”). The poll’s Best First Film category was also topped by “Promising Young Woman,” directed by Emerald Fennell.

Check out the complete list of the IndieWire Critics Poll top 50 films of 2020 below.

Photo:Searchlight

“Nomadland”

Director: Chloé Zhao

Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Bob Wells

Accolades: Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Read IndieWire’s review: “Nomadland” is the kind of movie that could go very wrong. With Frances McDormand as its star alongside a cast real-life nomads, in lesser hands it might look like cheap wish fulfillment or showboating at its most gratuitous. Instead, director Chloé Zhao works magic with McDormand’s face and the real world around it, delivering a profound rumination on the impulse to leave society in the dust.

Photo:Focus Features
  1. “Da 5 Bloods”
    Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Paul Walter Hauser, Jean Reno, Chadwick Boseman

Read IndieWire’s review: “Da 5 Bloods” doesn’t always gel as it careens through overstuffed plot twists and disparate tones, with some big moments better executed than others. Still, that freewheeling energy is in short supply, and this pure distillation of a Spike Lee joint illustrates the rarity of an American filmmaker so confident in his sensibilities and style that nothing can slow them down.

Photo:Kino Lorber
  1. “Martin Eden”
    Director: Pietro Marcello

Cast: Luca Marinelli, Carlo Cecchi, Jessica Cressy, Vincenzo Nemolato, Marco Leonardi

Read IndieWire’s review: Pietro Marcello’s “Martin Eden” is a dreamy and surprisingly faithful Jack London adaptation made with more than 100 years of hindsight, one that doesn’t bend over backwards to prevent modern audiences from missing London’s points. London’s novel is all the more powerful because it’s not prescriptive — because it gives readers just enough rope to hang themselves, and sets them all the same traps that Martin himself falls into

Photo:Kino Lorber
  1. “Bacurau”
    Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles

Cast: Sônia Braga, Udo Kier, Bárbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira, Karine Teles

Accolades: Jury Prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival

Read IndieWire’s review: “Aquarius” director Kleber Mendonça Filho returns with a wonderful and demented Western about the perils of rampant modernization. In some respects, the film can be seen as a logical continuation of the Brazilian critic-turned-auteur’s two previous features. Much like 2012’s revelatory “Neighboring Sounds,” for example, “Bacurau” is a patient and sprawling portrait of a Brazilian community as it struggles to defend itself against the dark specter of modernity. And much like 2016’s unshakeable “Aquarius,” “Bacurau” hinges on an immovably stubborn woman who refuses to relinquish her place in the world — who won’t allow our blind lust for the future to bury her meaningful ties to the past.

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