Updated: February 12, 2021 8:20:26 am
2020 was an interesting year for Hollywood. While there were very few theatrical releases, cinema buffs had no shortage of new content as streaming services kept them entertained.
With the big award shows of 2021 just around the corner, it is that time of the year when we look at the best of cinema from 2020.
Here are 15 Hollywood films that you need to watch before the award season begins:
1. Sound of Metal
Sound of Metal follows drummer Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) who loses his hearing. Ruben starts to lose his hearing while drumming on stage and has to make considerable changes in his life. Ruben believes that surgery might get his life back to the so-called ’normal’. Hence despite finding friendships and relationships in his new home, he craves to leave it all behind to get back to his old life. Written and directed by Darius Marder, Sound of Metal boasts an impressive sound design and a moving performance by Ahmed.
Nomadland follows Frances McDormand’s Fern who describes herself as “houseless, not homeless” due to her nomad-like existence. She used to work as a substitute teacher and has now taken up a temporary job at an Amazon warehouse. As she meets fellow nomads, she finds the support of a community in a world where they are all living lonely lives. Directed by Chloe Zhao, Nomadland is a frontrunner in the awards race.
3. The Trial of the Chicago 7
Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 follows the protests by Chicago Seven against the Vietnam War during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The film, starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Daniel Flaherty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Jeremy Strong, is the frontrunner for various ensemble cast awards. In true Sorkin style, the film is fast-paced and keeps you on the edge of your seat through its run. With excellent performances by Cohen and Langella, and Sorkin’s sharp writing, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is one of the best films to have come out in 2020.
Minari is the story of a Korean family living in rural America as they work hard to achieve their ‘American dream’. The intimate portrait of a family that is trying hard to fit in, but also trying to succeed while retaining their traditions is heart-wrenching. Directed by Lee Isaac Chung, the film, starring Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri in key roles, was nominated in the foreign-language category at the Golden Globes which created controversy as many believed that the film should have gotten nominated in the Best Film category instead.
Mank follows Gary Oldman’s Herman J Mankiewicz as he writes Citizen Kane. While the writing credit of Citizen Kane has been a contentious issue since it first released, Mank tries to prove that the plot of the film was, in fact, inspired by events that happened to Mankiewicz. Directed by David Fincher, Mank boasts of impressive performances by Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried.
6. Promising Young Woman
Promising Young Woman talks about issues like rape and sexual harassment that plague our society but are often disregarded as ‘not-so-serious’ by those in power. The film follows Carey Mulligan’s Cassie who wants to take revenge for the death of her friend Nina. Nina was raped in college, but the authorities never took her statement seriously, and the accused went scot-free. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman has been garnering praise for Fennell’s writing and Mulligan’s performance.
7. Da 5 Bloods
This war drama by Spike Lee is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. The film follows four war veterans who return to Vietnam to look for the gold they buried during the war as they also try to find the remains of their squad leader, played by Chadwick Boseman. The Netflix film also stars Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock Jr among others.
8. The Father
The Father premiered at the Sundance Festival 2020 and received rave reviews. The film follows a daughter, played by Olivia Colman, as she sees her father, played by Anthony Hopkins, lose his memory and struggle with his day-to-day life. His grip on reality is weakening, and watching him disintegrate is getting tougher on her every single day. The film is written and directed by Florian Zeller.
9. One Night in Miami
Directed by Regina King, One Night in Miami constructs a fictional world where we get to see Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke have a conversation about issues that are relevant to this day. Their personal differences are evident, which is what makes their conversation interesting. One Night in Miami stars Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr.
Ammonite premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and has since garnered a lot of praise thanks to the performances of Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. Directed by Francis Lee, the film follows Mary, played by Winslet, and Charlotte, played by Ronan, as they find love in each others’ company.
11. Palm Springs
Starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, this Groundhog Day-like film has the two lead characters living the same day over and over again as they start questioning the meaning of life. Directed by Max Barbakow, this romantic comedy, also starring JK Simmons, is one of the surprise hits of 2020.
12. Pieces of a Woman
Pieces of a Woman follows a couple after they lose their child during a home birth. Martha, played by Vanessa Kirby, is trying hard to cope with her loss as she tries getting back to her old life. Sean, played by Shia LaBeouf, turns to his addiction. Martha’s family is suing the midwife as they believe it’s her negligence that caused the baby’s death. Directed by Kornel Mundruczo, the film’s plot unfolds as Martha tries to put her life back together and the midwife faces trial.
13. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Directed by George C Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is set in the 1920s as Viola Davis’ Ma Rainey, a celebrated performer, tries to get back control of her life and career from her white manager. The film marked the last screen appearance of Chadwick Boseman, who passed away on August 28 last year after a long battle with cancer.
14. Judas and the Black Messiah
Judas and the Black Messiah is inspired by a real-life incident involving Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, who was betrayed by an FBI informant posing as one of his own during the 1960s. The film stars Daniel Kaluuya in the lead role of Hampton, and Lakeith Stanfield plays William O’Neal, the titular Judas. Jesse Plemons plays the FBI agent who plants William in the close circle of Hampton. The film is written and directed by Shaka King.
15. The Mauritanian
The Mauritanian follows the trial of a suspected terrorist who has been imprisoned for his involvement in 9/11 but strangely, he has never been charged with any crime, and there seems to be no evidence against him. The film questions the policies of the United States government as they waged a war against terror and labelled people as terrorists on questionable evidence. Based on a true story, this Kevin Macdonald directorial stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim and Shailene Woodley.
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