Brandon’s 10 Favorite Films Of 2020!

I’ll spare you the “What a crazy year this was!” jargon as you already know. You lived through it, too. Like every cinephile, I sure do miss going to theaters and oddly not having that option made me feel like I saw a lot less “important stuff” or “contenders” this year. Yet, at the same time, I kind of did? There were many films at the time of this writing I wasn’t able to get to, didn’t have access too, or hadn’t ponied up $20 for VOD rental or whatnot. Plus, at the start of 2020 I was making a concentrated effort to not cram down films/television so much as I have in years past. Take my time, relax, not hurry. Let the ones I do watch soak up and think about them more. For better or for worse, I’d like what I take in to keep some staying power in my brain. I’m older, I have small children and my short term memory isn’t always what it used to be. However, when crafting my list I was very happy with it in the end, and I do have strong feelings toward every single one of the films on it (plus many of the ones cut) quite a bit. Despite many big films getting moved, the year was still littered with great material. A lot of which, I wish the opportunity to see it in the theater would’ve been an option. Then again, I have some rather against the grain picks this year and I’m pretty satisfied with that.

What the last film you saw in a theater? Mine was Tenet. I lucked out and had a friend rent our local 70mm IMAX just a couple weeks before it released on 4K Ultra-HD. He only invited a simple few (Under 10) to the screening so we’d have plenty of spacing/safety. It was thrilling to be back and watch a larger than life Christopher Nolan film in the best of theaters. I quite enjoyed the film much more than the can’t put their phones down Film Twitter crowd did. Tenet had its bumps, but I think altogether works and tightens and strengthens upon further viewings. I feel fortunate to have seen it in the most ideal surroundings. I’ve felt like I saw a different movie than many others. The A to B of the film made complete sense to me, I had zero audio issues and I had a lot of fun. The action sequences really felt innovative and impressed me. After the film let out, I was excited to return to it soon to hopefully continue to put pieces of the puzzle together. Sure, that pisses some people off, but I like the revisiting power some movies can have. I also believe many people decided they hated this movie for reasons not related to the film before it released and went in looking to tear it up (For which, admittedly, the film does welcome itself to). Its not perfect, its not near his best, but its still good entertainment (for me). John David Washington adds a lot to a Christopher Nolan aesthetic. Here’s hoping they work together again. Before that, my last film seen in theaters would have been Pixar’s first film of 2020, Onward. Yeah, that does seem like almost last year ago. Any-who, lets get to these 10 films I took to most this year.

10. Freaky

A big fan of Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day movies, I was pleased to see my admiration for him grow even more while watching Freaky. I’ll always sign up for an ambitious take on the slasher genre and using Freaky Friday as the base quickly sold me. The fact that they manage it well with both horror and comedy is an impressive feat. The first kill in the film is an all timer, too. Vince Vaughn is great and Kathryn Newton crushes it when she’s in his shoes. Its wild hybrid of her being intimidating/scary and at the same time kind of humorous. Some people wanted more blood from the PG-13 rated Happy Death Day, and Landon manages to deliver while also giving you the same type of vibe and character with his R-rated Freaky.

9. Bleeding Audio

I’ve been a happy champion of this film since I was asked to review it back in September. This is one of my favorite music documentaries I’ve seen and its about a band I never knew existed called The Matches. Director Chelsea Christer manages to tell one of the most human tales of rock and roll while also showcasing the changes in the measured success of the music industry during rise of digital and how the record labels struggled to figure it out. She also opens the floor to the idea of resetting expectations and perceptions of what it truly means to be a “successful musician”. I had the privilege of sharing time with Chelsea to have a conversation about her film and you listen to that HERE.  Once this one concludes running through festivals (SLAMDANCE is coming up!), this wonderful story will hopefully find distribution and you’ll be able to seek it out.

8. Soul

Pixar’s fun little Disney+ Christmas gift is one of their best. Like the jazz on display in the film, Soul is a mood. While the film fills up with plenty of clever jokes and some slapstick comedy, it also has a wonderful exploration of what following dreams truly means as well as recognizing a purpose and importance in your life in front of your face that you might be blind to. But it also has a focus on how you view others and their passions as well. Its very much with the Inside Out family of Pixar movies. Thoughtful, emotional, but never forgetting to have fun. I also feel the animation on this one is gonna go by under the radar and its pretty stellar.

7. Antebellum

I was kind of stunned after thoroughly being engaged with this unique horror film that is was pretty much panned across the board. Antebellum is one of the most visually intoxicating and well told thrillers of the year. It features a top flight performance by Janelle Monae, leading cast with pretty memorable supporting characters. This is a well crafted film that has much more depth beyond just its simple plot turns and character revelations. Its also super eye opening to realize its the first film from its directing duo Christopher Renz and Gerard Bush. This film had so much to say and was a pretty engaging experience to watch, give it a gander.

6. Nomadland

I’m absolutely struck by the mesmerizing authenticity Chloe Zhao has brought to life in Nomadland. Its something she’s quite good at, but here it is on another level. Based on a non-fiction book about the nomad lifestyle, Zhao uses some actual nomads in her film which help shape and draw some of the natural feeling to the film. No, it doesn’t feel like a faux documentary, it honestly feels like life or walking in their shoes. Frances McDormand is nothing short of incredible here, which is no surprise, but even she shares more layers of her range and gives us so much on a physical level that it won’t be surprising to hear her name called to accept more hardware come Oscar time. I’ve been searching for some way to be excited for Marvel’s The Eternals coming next year as I have zero familiarity with that comic title but “the next film from Chloe Zhao” is enough to give me the excitement (Despite reservations about how Marvel films are with directors).

5. Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

When it comes to comic book movies these days, Birds of Prey is exactly in the realm of what I want in my personal taste. A movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, goes bonkers and takes big swings that allows the filmmaker to have some freedom and inject their own personality/style into the source material. In terms of comic book movies, Cathy Yan’s film is like nothing else out there (Yes, its very Guy Ritchie feeling). Kevin Feige would shit a brick if someone turned this film into him and that’s part of why I love it so much. Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask is a hilarious force to be reckoned with. Mary Elizabeth Winstead slays as The Huntress. Birds has such a delicious take on Mr. Zsasz, too. And of course, the film just lets Margot Robbie just do her thing as one of the best things the DC movies have going for them right now. Birds of Prey is colorful, vibrant, violent, funny, queer, feminine, musical and punchy. Just plain, flat out awesome. Anybody else have a craving for an egg sandwich after watching it? Just me?

4. Mank

Hard to believe it has been 6 years since we were served a David Fincher film but it proved worth the wait for this guy. Mank feels very much him and very much his expanding his horizons to something else. I particularly taken in by the sound design which was stellar and a very interesting choice. It truly helped set a mood, a time and a place. Fincher’s film lures one in thinking its some sort of “story of how a movie was made” or “Hollywood being Hollywood” tale that the Academy likes to pat itself on the back for, but Mank‘s true colors lie in the commentary on social and political dealings that populate the film. Its almost discomforting how prescient this film feels both in that it takes place 80 some years ago and that it was filmed before it could have even possibly found relevancy/reflection to events occuring this year. There’s a scene surrounding a birthday party that is just gangbusters and completed sealed the deal for me with the film. Not to be forgotten, the film also is quite a visual treat and does much to evoke the era on its own. Mank both was and wasn’t the film I thought I may be getting and I think its definitely better for that.

3. Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal is a crushing story to watch and Riz Ahmed dominates the film to make sure you don’t forget it. Its a tragic tale and director Darius Marder really has you in Ahmed’s shoes, constantly running through your brain how you would be acting in his situation or how it would affect your own life if you were to lose your hearing. In a story about the loss of hearing, one of its strengths IS how the film plays with sound and paints a very interesting picture on our lead’s traumatic experience and education. Its a film that is about acceptance, communication, community, adaptation and plenty more. This one is going to be pushed hard for Ahmed’s performance, but its much more beyond that and is strong story with a pretty powerful ending.

2. Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods was damn near everything. Spike Lee showcases a loving tribute to war films while cultivating his own Vietnam story with his own flare. There’s a loose nature to the movie with a hair of goofiness that works in its favor to go along with his typical viewpoints on the world as told through his characters. He makes some interesting choices which strengthen the message and psyche of the narrative, like having the men all stay their elder age in the flashbacks when teamed with a Chadwick Boseman. Its a little touch, potentially money saving, but it speaks volumes and adds such a big dimension to the story. The film has many unpredictable turns and heads down a path you just aren’t prepared for before it closes. Delroy Lindo gives one of the year’s finest performances and owns the film. A side note: I saw something pointed out the other day, but I’ll reiterate here – In a time where posters have become cheap photoshop jobs, less a work of art and boring, Da 5 Bloods delivered MULTIPLE outstanding posters.

1.  The Invisible Man

While the year was young when The Invisible Man came out, I sorta had this feeling leaving the theater that it would be fighting for this spot come the end of the year. Leigh Whannell has landed himself in my #1 position twice now in his last pair of outings (Upgrade was my #1 of 2018). Whannell’s film is a hell of a spin on the Invisible Man lore and takes a the perfect direction for the times. He continues to showcase a ton of talent as a director that can pack a whallop with low budgets and lean resources. There are so many memorable sequences in the film with his use of camera movements and special effects. It also carries a damn showstopper of scene. Elizabeth Moss is absolutely dynamite and powers the film, enhancing and showing the ability to carry it all on her own. It’d be something if she and Whannell could team up again. In a perfect world, she easily lands a nomination for this performance, but we’ll see.  The future for Mr. Whannell sees him taking a victory lap with The Wolfman and then potentially being the guy to finally remake Escape From New York. And with the latter, his taking the helm actually makes me excited for such a thing.

Last year, I closed out my top films list with an image of Daniel Craig as James Bond 007 in No Time To Die. Craig’s secret agent swan song was my most anticipated blockbuster of 2020. One year later, as we turn to January of 2021, it remains the blockbuster I’m most eager to see in the coming year. Hopefully I’ll get to see it and hopefully that viewing is in a movie theater. We’re all going to remember 2020, and it will forever be a significant marker in the history of film as its likely the year that starts a significant shift in a our theatrical experience. Where they go from here will potentially look different, probably evolve and as long as there are movies new and old available on a giant screen to see, I’m going to choose to be optimistic. Despite the odd, at home year, film was no different in that still delivered some great movies, from outstanding talent that I’ll hold onto for years to come. Thank you for reading my list, I was happy to share these films and my thoughts with you. See you in 2021!


Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “Brandon’s 10 Favorite Films Of 2020!”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Alright! A full list of films, almost all of which are easy to stream! Great picks that feel very You, and show a taste of how much great variety there is out there.

    I had no doubt Invisible Man was gonna top this list, but glad you really liked Sound of Metal, among other great films here. And high five to one of the other dozens of people who liked Antebellum!

    Here’s hoping we actually see a Bond film (maybe…even in a theater) this year!

  2. Brian White

    I also had no doubt that Invisible Man was going to be your number one, but stoked to see Birds of Prey so high on here. Best list yet! This also reminds me I need to see both Sounds or Metal and Freaky!