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Flixist’s best-reviewed movies of 2020

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Depending on your perspective, 2020 has either been the longest or the shortest year of our lives. Spending so much time away from others felt surreal and it only seems like yesterday that we climbed into our burrows to hunker down when actually it was nine months ago. Oh God it’s been nine… Regardless, 2020 was still a year and since last time we discussed the worst-reviewed movies of 2020, it’s only fair now to talk about the best-reviewed movies of 2020.

Like I said last time, Flixist has gone through a bit of a transition in the past year, most evident in our saucy new layout. But unlike our last list where we changed our qualifier for what was a worst movie contender, we’re not making any changes for our best criteria. In order to be considered one of the best-reviewed movies of 2020, as always, the movie needed to score an 8.5 or above. We’ve been a lot more strict and stringent on giving out 8.5s and only gave out a single 9 this year, and even then it was for a TV show.

Why so strict with the scores you may ask? Because we want our ranking system to mean something. When we say a movie is one of the best of the year, we mean it. We’re not just going to put together a list of 30 or so movies that scored above an 8 because then it weakens what this list represents; a guide to our best-reviewed movies of 2020. Being on this list should be special. We define a 8.5 as “one of the best films of the year. You should see it immediately, without question” and that alone should be a solid benchmark to make this list. If you’re one of the best films of the year, you deserve a list dedicated to your greatness.

So in chronological order, as well as in ascending score order, here are Flixist’s best-reviewed movies of 2020!

Small Axe

Steve McQueen’s Small Axe is an anthology film series that debuted over the Fall of 2020 on BBC One and Amazon Prime. The anthology of five feature-length films chronicles different lives from the 1960s through the 1980s in London’s West Indian community. The entire project, as a whole, focuses on black joy, black ingenuity, and black perseverance with four of the five installments having garnered an 8.5 or above from us. In lieu of giving each of them an individual spot since they all fall under the same umbrella, here is our coverage for each film that scored an 8.5 or above. All reviews were written by Hubert Vigilla.

Mangrove – 8.5
Lovers Rock – 8.6
Red, White, and Blue – 8.6
Education – 8.5

1917 – 8.5

“You’re already aware that 1917 is good. Even if it hadn’t just received the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama and Best Director there was a lot of evidence to point you in that direction. For one, it comes from one of the best director/cinematographer duos to ever work together, Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins. For another, it’s written by Mendes and up-and-coming screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns. And finally, it’s a WWI movie and Hollywood loves making good World War movies.” – Matthew

The Willoughbys – 8.5

“At a time where most family movies are releasing digitally for $19.99 to rent, The Willoughbys isn’t just an affordable alternative to the major studio system’s shift to digital releases, but an all-around excellent family movie. While I decided to watch this out of sheer boredom, it turned into one of the best decisions I made all month. Grab the kids, gather around, and watch some manic animation.” – Jesse

Nomadland – 8.5

“I admired Nomadland more just an hour after finishing it. Writing now, with additional time to process Zhao’s film and its complex emotions, it’s more haunting. My feelings and thoughts, like the lives on screen, are unresolved. It made me think of driving away from a city you loved. From a distance, the beauty of that place seems more apparent.” – Hubert

The musicians of David Byrne's American Utopia directed by Spike Lee for HBO

David Byrne’s American Utopia – 8.5

“I teared up a lot throughout American Utopia. It made me miss a lot of things I love about going out in New York. Between songs, Byrne waxes about daily life and the state of the country…The homespun phenomenology occurs over the incipient keyboards of ‘This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),’ my favorite song by any artist. With simplicity, Byrne declares, ‘Looking at people–that’s the best!’ Cue “This Must Be the Place,” my sobs.” – Hubert

Soul movie review

Soul – 8.5

“Have you been wondering just how you could possibly end 2020 on any sort of positive note?… There just didn’t seem to be a good way to end it. Nothing that could wrap this giant ball of suck up and remind us that better days are ahead. Enter Pixar and their best director working, Pete Doctor.” – Matthew

Review: Spontaneous

Spontaneous – 8.6

“This is the kind of twisted love-story I would have loved to watch growing up. It has buckets of blood, a great sense of humor, and a simple metaphor that Duffield and crew are able to stretch out for just long enough… This is the kind of movie where if you’re up for all of the sickeningly awesome blood, you’ll also find a wonderful love story with a true beating heart behind it.” – Jesse

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – 8.7

“Critics are starting to talk about some of the best films of the year and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom deserves to be in that conversation. Boasting two of the best performances of the year, a rock-solid supporting cast, and a script that is to die for, it’s hard to think of any faults of the film. I can only think of ways to enhance what’s already good about it.” – Jesse

The Reason I Jump – 8.8

“[The Reason I Jump] is a lucid, thoughtful, and compassionate exploration of the world of non-speaking autistic people, seeing them as individuals and inviting them to lead the conversation. It’s faithful to 13-year-old Naoki Higashida’s book which I urge you to read if you’ve not done.” – Sian

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.