MUBI's Favorite Films of 2020

MUBI's team of curators choose their favorite film premieres and home viewing of 2020.
Daniel Kasman, Anaïs Lebrun, Chiara Marañón

Whether a viewer in 1896 or 2020, cinema has always been a dynamic and variable experience. Cinema as an event—as a manifestation of a meeting point between the art of moving images and an audience, big or small—has never fit any one definition, and this last year, so severely disrupted by a global pandemic, has deeply underscored the versatility and resilience of our great love.

Our viewing this year, like that of so many, has been strange: compromised, confrontational, escapist, euphoric, painful, revelatory—encompassing all of the reactions one can have to film. How we encountered our favorite movies and most meaningful cinematic experiences of the year was hardly new: A by-now-normal mix of festivals, theatres, various subscription and transactional streaming services, as well as private screener links and gems buried on over-stuffed hard drives. But for most of the year, the communal experience shrunk to living rooms and glowing screens.

After March, the cinematic lifeblood of audience vitality and a public shared encounter with something special evaporated, to be replaced by the more pensive, repeated—and, frequently, distractedly anxious—solitary or isolated home viewing. Our lists this year of favorite films reflects this. Previously divided between premieres and revivals, this year it is split between (or blended from) viewing that took place in cinemas and those that took place at home. The latter is a new venue for encountering film premieres, but it is not cinema's final resting place. Rather, these mixed encounters, all sorts of movies discovered in all manner of ways, can only give us hope for the future.

Daniel Kasman

Cinema Viewing

Days (Tsai Ming-liang, 2020)

The Giverny Document (Single Channel) (Ja'Tovia Gary, 2020)

Hallelujah (King Vidor, 1929)

The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannell, 2020)

Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen, 2020)

Reckless Eyeballing (Christopher Harris, 2005)

Time (Garrett Bradley, 2020)

Home Viewing

City Hall (Frederick Wiseman, 2020)

The Country Doctor (Henry King, 1936)

Dance, Girl, Dance (Dorothy Arzner, 1940)

Duvidha (Mani Kaul, 1973)

Figure Minus Fact (Mary Helena Clark, 2020)

Girlfriends (Claudia Weill, 1978)

Isle of Flowers (Jorge Furtado, 1989)

Labyrinth of Cinema (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 2019)

Her Socialist Smile (John Gianvito, 2020)

My First Film (Zia Anger, April 10, 2020 performance)

Season of the Witch (George A. Romero, 1972)

The Whip Hand (William Cameron Menzies, 1951)

Wild Nights with Emily (Madeleine Olnek, 2018)

Working Girl (Mike Nichols, 1988)

Anaïs Lebrun

Last and First Men (Jóhann Jóhannsson, 2020)

Trolls (Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn) (perfect with the subtitles on for a free karaoke session)

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Joe Talbot, 2019)

Undine (Christian Petzold, 2020)

All the Dead Ones (Marco Dutra, Caetano Gotardo, 2020)

VHYes (Jack Henry Robbins, 2019)

Villa Empain (Katharina Kastner, 2019)

Bad Tales (Damiano D'Innocenzo, Fabio D'Innocenzo, 2020)

The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019)

Lovecraft Country, S1E8 - Jig-a-Bobo (Misha Green, 2020) 

Chiara Marañón

 Cinema Viewing:

The Year of The Discovery (Luis López Carrasco, 2020)

Moving On (Yoon Dan-bi, 2019)

Cemetery (Carlos Casas, 2019)

Variety (Bette Gordon, 1983)

All The Vermeers in New York (Jon Jost, 1990)

The Woman Who Ran (Hong Sang-soo, 2020)

The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) (C.W. Winter, Anders Edström, 2020)

Los Conductos (Camilo Restrepo, 2020)

Mama (Li Dongmei, 2020)

Hopper/Welles (Orson Welles, 2020)

City Hall (Frederick Wiseman, 2020)

Home Viewing:

About Some Meaningless Events (Mustapha Derkaoui, 1974)

The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996)

Fragile As The World (Rita Azevedo Gomes, 2001)

Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen, 2020)

Don't Bother To Knock (Roy Ward Baker, 1952)

Intimate Distances (Philip Warnell, 2020)

Le Trou (Jacques Becker, 1960)

Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1936)

There are not Thirty-Six Ways of Showing a Man Getting on a Horse (Nicolás Zukerfeld, 2020)

Outrage (Ida Lupino, 1950)

À l'abordage (Guillaume Brac, 2020)

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