The best films of 2020 – all the votes

We asked 104 contributors – British and international – to pick the ten best new films they’d seen in 2020. Here you can browse all 353 films they nominated.

18 December 2020

Sight and Sound

The 50 best films of 2020

Our annual poll of the year’s top movies – at cinemas, festivals or online – as chosen by over 100 of our contributors from around the world.

The 50 best films of 2020

See much more of our review of the year in our Winter 2020-21 double issue

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104 voters

Kaleem Aftab

Critic, UK

In this year of pandemic change, the big themes have seen films distill the lessons of #MeToo into films that dealt with patriarchal structures and trauma. Given this, it’s fitting that my film of the year was Dea Kulumbegashvili’s Beginning, which tied it all in with religion, fatherhood and the state through the police (pertinent in a year that will also be remembered for BLM demonstrations and the death of George Floyd).

Another film that made a mark on me that also seemed to fit in with 2020 was Gunda and its undermining of animal welfare from its vegan director; so too did the many films inspired directly or indirectly by Paris ’68.

Geoff Andrew

Programmer-at-large, BFI Southbank, UK

Inevitably, this year I saw fewer movies than usual, and for various reasons missed acclaimed titles. But for me it was a good year for documentaries; besides those listed I commend Notturno (Gianfranco Rosi), Being a Human Person: Roy Andersson (Fred Scott), Ultraviolence (Ken Fero), The Foundation Pit (Andrey Gryazev) and, best of all, Birds of America (Jacques Loeuille) – not yet widely released, otherwise it would have made my top ten.

Michael Atkinson

Critic, USA

Rounding up a year of filmgoing as merely a long sequence of home-streaming experiences feels rather like itemising a sex life that consists mostly of masturbation – or, more discreetly, perhaps, a year’s diary of hiking adventures you did entirely alone. Or only thought of doing. My list is of course absent of what I’ll see in the fecund last months of the year, but as it is it feels as though a certain type of acidulously composed, quietly menacing demi-art drama is becoming an easy-go-to standard, a situation of which we can hardly complain. There just aren’t any firestarters. Not yet.

Erika Balsom

Critic and scholar, UK

Matthew Barrington

Critic and curator, UK

Nikki Baughan

Critic, UK

James Bell

Features editor, Sight & Sound, UK

Anne Billson

Critic, Belgium

I saw more arthouse films and documentaries than usual, simply because my local arthouse cinemas were rigorous about face masks and social distancing, and the multiplex wasn’t. I walked out of two screenings because I didn’t feel safe. Mostly, though, my habit of sitting in the front row kept me at a reassuring distance from the rest of the clientèle, who as usual preferred to cram all together into the back few rows.

Anton Bitel

Critic, UK

Frequently dismissed or overlooked at the end of the year or in awards season, genre films reflect our less salubrious thoughts, feelings and actions, while often packing a punch – and these confronting entertainments can be delivered with the very highest degree of artistry, while their very morbidity makes them particularly well-suited to these times of infectious disease and endemic fascism – so my choices are drawn largely from them. My very favourite film of the year is Jung Jin-young’s Me and Me, a genre-fluid enigma about identity, loss and love in a world of change. No film, though, has quite captured the 2020 zeitgeist like Rob Savage’s Host, shot over Zoom in lockdown conditions, and very much harnessing the anxieties of social distancing.

Ela Bittencourt

Critic and curator, Brazil/USA

John Bleasdale

Critic, UK

Horror, comedy and, in some cases, horror and comedy seem to have dominated my best viewing in 2020. The resourcefulness of filmmakers to produce engaging brilliant work even in the midst of lockdown has been heartening. Plus the absence of huge tentpole releases has paradoxically made for a bigger tent.

Anna Bogutskaya

Critic, UK

The one good thing about this horrendous year is the abundance of extraordinary first features, savvy creativity, and audiences showing up for original films irregardless of platform.

Nick Bradshaw

Web editor, Sight & Sound, UK

Sophie Brown

Programmer/film journalist, UK

  • The boozy truths and wavy fictions of Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets are intoxicating, and the characters are so compelling. It’s a film that makes you want to stay, late.
  • Watching David Byrne’s American Utopia in a lockdown heatwave was intense; Spike Lee captures a visceral, intimate sense of being at a live performance, while David Byrne and his fellow performers crackle with playful and political brilliance as new connections are made in the music.
  • Natalia Meta creates unease and discord with The Intruder, an Argento-esque vision of controlling relationships and haunted voices.
  • Linear time flows into internal time in Garrett Bradley’s stunning study of love and hope in the face of rigid injustice and a racist system that steals time.
  • Mangrove is powerful storytelling with incredible vision. Shaun Parkes is brilliant as Mangrove-owner Frank Crichlow, and Mica Levi’s score churns with tightly composed tension that tapers with dissonance.
  • Like the Big Bang that kicks off the film, Ema vibrates with violence and chaos, forming new bonds and destroying others in a path of impulse and calculated destruction.
  • An inventive take on the partner-in-crime trope, Queen & Slim inverts the crime and brings the racist police system into focus.
  • Deep listening becomes an act of channelling in Caroline Catz’s playful and inventive Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and Legendary Tapes, featuring the legendary Cosey Fanni Tutti.
  • Jojo Rabbit walked a fine tightrope between devastation and playfulness – swinging between ridiculing fascists and showing the horrific trail of destruction they create. Waititi showed emotional maturity and pulled it off.
  • Color Out of Space was the last film I saw at the cinema before coronavirus landed like a toxic meteor in our collective back garden, and took over my body like a science fiction.

Kambole Campbell

Critic, UK

I have found both solace and political urgency in animated film this year (to be clear, this is not a new phenomenon), especially in the realm of environmentalism with the likes of Wolfwalkers and Weathering With You tackling the climate crisis from very different, but equally inventive angles. It’s been tempting to drift towards escapist choices (which I have, a little), but that urgency has never felt more vital in my lifetime.

Tom Charity

Programmer, VIFF Vancity Theatre/freelance writer, Canada

Ashley Clark

Critic and curator, USA

Andrew Collins

Critic, UK

Fear of COVID-19 kept me at home and introspective, but grateful for smaller films, streaming anything and everything on laptop or TV. The predominance of English-language titles surprises me, but I could have also filled a Top 10 with cracking documentaries.

Philip Concannon

Critic, UK

Inevitably, a number of these films were seen in less-than-ideal circumstances at home, but I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to see Tsai Ming-liang’s Days on the big screen. It was exactly the kind of meditative and immersive experience that I had been craving throughout the long months of lockdown, and a valuable reminder of how uniquely transporting the darkness of the cinema space can be.

Kieron Corless

Deputy editor, Sight & Sound, UK

Mark Cousins

Director and writer, UK

Better small than not at all. I’m happy to see a film on a small screen if its content is the main interest, but I have avoided formally ambitious films on small screens and have done no digital film fests. I can wait to be outscaled by Steve McQueen, Josephine Decker, Chloe Zhao and Pedro Almodovar. Also, when I see a movie at the cinema, I remember its images, ideas and emotions more.

I don’t want the cinema of 2020 to be forgotten. I feel that this year has tenderised us, the way meat’s tenderised when it’s battered. No surprise, therefore, that my first seven choices are all films about rage and tenderness. A trio of same-sex films set by the sea – The Lighthouse, Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Summer of ’85 – set me on fire. Their locations made me long for oceans. Their hot house relationships excited.

Jordan Cronk

Critic/curator, USA

Alex Davidson

Barbican Cinema curator and critic, UK

Appropriately, the fight against injustice is the major theme of many of 2020’s very best works. It was a brilliant year for documentaries and for queer films, and while some of my top ten had to be seen on TVs or desktops through necessity, all gave us cinematic visions which I cannot wait to see on the big screen in the future.

Maria Delgado

Academic, critic and curator, UK

The films I loved this year were often rooted in a disembodied world, a society in violent flux, with individuals confronting conflict, loss and/or guilt. They captured the sense of an ecosphere – whether private or public – that feels dangerously ‘out of joint’. These films may, with the exception of Almodóvar’s The Human Voice, have been filmed pre-COVID-19 but they eerily capture the zeitgeist of a year where containment and revolt have confronted an unjust and profoundly unequal body politic.

New Order’s visceral power terrified; the creepy horror of A Common Crime disarmed. Both are set in profoundly unequal societies that implode in differing ways. Courtroom 3H provided a space for listening to testimony, and in so doing offered a striking insight into the faultlines of American society, brutally exposed by the murder of George Floyd. Josep provided impassioned storytelling in ’drawing’ the experience of a political refugee in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War with compassion and humanity.

For performances that moved, inspired and engaged – the ensemble cast of Mangrove; Ali Suliman’s desperate father in Ameen Nayfeh’s 200 Metres; Eli Goree as Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Aldis Hodge as the athlete and actor Jim Brown, Leslie Odom Jr as singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X in Regina King’s evocative One Night in Miami…; and Tilda Swinton in The Human Voice.

Almodóvar layered melancholy and madness layered to brilliant effect in a refashioning of Cocteau’s play that felt timely and liberating. I have returned to two small films that I saw at the start of the year for their belief in the power of creativity to encourage us to process the present and re-envisage a better future. The Poets Visit Juana Bignoni was a small gem, a quirky, beautiful film made by two women about creativity, legacy and inheritance, focusing on the well-known Argentine poet Juana Bignozzi. Bignozzi died in 2015, leaving her home to one friend, her belongings to a second friend and her literary estate to a third, the journalist and poet Mercedes Halfon – who co-directs this witty film about the processing of Bignoni’s estate with El Pampero’s Laura Citarella. The Mole Agent was a wry comic documentary, largely set in a care home, with a spry 83-year old amateur spy at its centre. Alberdi’s treatment of ageing and loneliness has an uplifting wit and playfulness that is utterly inspiring. A film of great humanity and warmth.

Mar Diestro-Dópido

Film critic/researcher, Sight & Sound, UK

I have to admit that for me, cinematographically, 2020 and the lockdown will forever be linked to Almodóvar. The sheer pleasure in translating his candid and charismatic diaries was as immersive as watching any of this films, only topped up by interviewing him for the utter cinematic feast that is The Human Voice. What a desperately needed film treat! And admittedly in another format, I May Destroy You simply blew my brain away…

Alex Dudok de Wit

Critic, UK

In a normal year I watch more short films than features, but not this time. Programmes of shorts demand a special kind of concentration: we have to recalibrate our focus every ten minutes or so as the subject (and, in animation’s case, often the medium) changes. A dark cinema is conducive to this; less so my laptop set-up in my bedroom, which has doubled up as my workspace for much of the year. Also, the barrage of the day-long Covid live blog leaves me hungry for long-form stuff come TV time. In 2020, then, I gravitated toward features and series – but I’ve carved out space in my list for three exceptional shorts, two of which I saw at virtual festivals.

Jamie Dunn

Critic, UK

Cinephiles can sometimes be guilty of living vicariously through cinema, but in 2020 this was basically a prerequisite. Those missing the ebb and flow of a sweaty house party in high summer or the elation of a live gig were catered for, respectively, by sensuous party movie Lovers Rock and exuberant concert film American Utopia. And if it was the boozy bonhomie of your local howff that you craved, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, a rambunctious portrait of a Vegas dive bar on its final night of trading, was just the ticket.

With lockdown forcing celibacy on single people, two deeply sexy gay romances, End of the Century and No Hard Feelings, reminded us of the thrill of casual encounters with new lovers. Those missing their best friends, meanwhile, had First Cow and Never Rarely Sometimes Always, stories centred on platonic friendships that act as a balm against harsh, unforgiving worlds.

As well as distractions from the new normal, there were reminders of our post-COVID world too. Two stunning studies in loneliness, Nomadland and Saint Maud, showed the darker side of self-imposed isolation, while anyone with death on their mind (particularly the death of an elderly parent) was forced to confront it head-on in Dick Johnson Is Dead, surely the most moving film ever made featuring serial patricide.

The Ferroni Brigade

Critics, Austria,Germany

Thomas Flew

Critic, UK,Ireland

Hanna Flint

Critic, UK

This year has been unprecedented but the film calendar has not suffered for it. A diverse array of filmmakers have kept cinema alive and smaller films with big themes, characters and narratives have been allowed to shine outside of the shadow of tentpole releases.

Charles Gant

Film critic and journalist, UK, UK

I haven’t checked by looking at my votes in previous years, but I can’t help feeling that my list this year is less dominated than usual by films coming hot and heavy at Oscar voters via fall festivals. Too often, I’m sure, my attention has focused disporoprtionately on those.

My ten choices for 2020 include a majority of titles that premiered at 2019 fests or at January’s Sundance, and – without any regard by me to the gender of filmmakers – an even split between films from male directors and female directors. Also: three British/Irish films. I can’t help thinking that a delayed 2021 Oscars season and the general disruption has helped create a more-level playing field in 2020, with a lot less distraction at year’s end from brand new shiny things.

Jane Giles

Curator, UK

Chaos reigns.

Devika Girish

Critic, USA

As much as I’ve cherished gorgeous, cinematic images this year – particularly those shown on a big screen, in the dark of the theatre – two films that have stayed the longest with me demonstrated how beautiful and revelatory a reprieve from the visual can be: Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati’s Expedition Content and Nicolás Zukerfeld’s There Are Not Thirty-Six Ways of Getting on a Horse. And the film that sunk most deeply into my bones during this ceaseless homebound quarantine: Song Fang’s beguilingly simple, stilling The Calming.

Carmen Gray

Critic, Germany

Steph Green


Simran Hans

Film critic, the Observer, UK

It’s strange to see both the release schedule and the festival circuit painting on a happy face and trudging on, despite the unprecedented blows the film industry has weathered since March. I myself feel a little left behind. I don’t know if these are ten of the year’s best films or if they’ll stand the test of time, but for me they represent a rare collection of worlds I found myself absorbed in – no mean feat in the middle of a pandemic.

Rebecca Harrison

Critic and academic, UK

A strange year for cinema, with few opportunities to watch movies in theatres beyond last year’s festival hits (Parasite, Uncut Gems) and the bold, brash and lovable Birds of Prey. Perhaps that’s why my picks for 2020 have tended towards the domestic, with big emotions and important political stories about resistance and self-belief situated in local neighbourhoods (Mangrove), in personal psychodramas (Make Up) or in confined spaces (Limbo). Even the more fantastical and escapist films (Wolfwalkers; Black Is King) speak to the significance of place and belonging, of family and community.

But whether in the home or outside of it, one thing is clear: cinema is a vital part of our lives and integral to how we continue to understand ourselves. Long may that continue.

Molly Haskell

Critic, USA

#11. Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue (Jia Zhangke

My footnote would be: there are a number of films I haven’t managed to see, so please snarky Twitterers, don’t shame me for omissions.

Michael Hayden

Film programmer and lecturer, UK

Tim Hayes

Critic/curator, UK

If the removal of films and cinemas and festivals doesn’t spark a bit of self-analysis among film critics, what will? Critics pleading with audiences and distributors to do specific things was the most proactive step film criticism has taken in years, marred only by the unlikelihood of either camp taking any notice; but good habits have to start somewhere. In the middle of it all, various fine films found their paying audience on various screens with or without our help.

Philip Horne

Critic and academic, UK

At a moment when the future of cinema (and much else) seems in doubt, these have been heartening in a years mainly devoted to exploring the past and catching up on things missed. Polanski’s Dreyfus film is a sober masterpiece about prejudice and justice.

Melanie Hoyes

Researcher, executive and critic, UK

Considering the madness of 2020 and the ever-shifting landscape of film releases and cinema opening, this year has been an exciting and diverse year for films across the board. It is notable that this list spans genre and narrative, stories from across the globe and is also hugely representative in front of and behind the camera, in progressive and exciting ways. Imagine what’s to come!

Pamela Hutchinson

Critic, UK

I took a lot of joy from David Lynch’s daily appearances on YouTube this year, as well as the hugely impressive online iterations of Il Cinema Ritrovato and the Pordenone Silent Film Festival.

Wendy Ide

Critic, UK

Juliet Jacques

Writer/filmmaker, UK

Nick James

Critic and former Sight & Sound editor, UK

Choices were limited – survival of the fittest? Cinema died again, in lieu of another rebirth. We have to save our cinemas by going to them – it works practically, if not economically. It remains a better experience than the box in lockdown (although it’s the box that paid for my film of the year). The lesson of The Disciple is that art is about full immersion.

Tara Judah

Critic and programmer, UK

  • This year, my list reflects films that moved me in significant ways, the first of which is Karrabing Collective’s Day in the Life, one of the most extraordinary experimental, political works I have ever seen.
  • Vitalina Varela is so stunningly cinematic that watching it felt like a great unveiling.
  • I was already a devoted fan of Josephine Decker’s stunning body of work, but Shirley cements for me her moral and visual project of exploring a creative haunting by a Jungian shadow artist.
  • Relic possesses the rare ability to balance tonal opposites, scaring and embracing her audience at once, something I consider incredibly impressive for a first time feature filmmaker.
  • Undine delivers on expectations and submerges its viewer in lush visual motifs and dense historical complexity, all the while giving an impassioned love story for the ages.
  • Ultraviolence is one of the most important and urgent documentaries of the day and it should be mandatory viewing.
  • Lynne Sachs’s body of work first came to my attention via Sheffield Doc/Fest’s online focus and I am now completely immersed in her craft.
  • Poetic and personal at once, Film About a Father Who invites us into her family with kindness and curiosity.
  • 180° Rule floored me during LFF at Home – another debut that is formally astonishing and emotionally wrenching.
  • Evans Chan’s We Have Boots has come back to me throughout the year, after first seeing it at IFFR, and it now sits as one of the most important documents of the year in an ongoing resistance we must continue to talk about, support and fight for.
  • Nelson Makengo’s Nuit Debout was my BFMAF at home highlight, striking for its imagery and also for its reminder about so many things my privilege allows me to take for granted.

There are many more films that will seem like omissions and perhaps it is only that my eyes await them, as I was unable to see the usual level of films this year, though I have still witnessed great talent, art and beauty.

Ella Kemp

Critic, UK

Philip Kemp

Critic, UK

This isn’t in order of preference, which I always find impossible to decide.

Robert Koehler

Critic, USA

Leila Latif


It wasn’t the year in film that we expected or hoped for but with so many tentpole films moved to 2021 some wonderful work that may have been overshadowed has been able to shine. I tried to choose films that spoke to me personally but also to the time we presently find ourselves in. When we are so cut off from one another these films acted as a lifeline, reminding of the importance of great art, of human connection, of the world we left behind and of the way it needs to be rebuilt.

Elena Lazic

Critic, UK

Michael Leader

Critic, UK

Beatrice Loayza

Critic, USA

Guy Lodge

Critic, UK

A strange and challenging year for film, but by no means a fallow one. 2020 invited deeper consideration of how we define and consume cinema, particularly in the temporary absence of bigger screens, and the answer lay in the vision and scope of the storytelling.

I can’t say I wouldn’t rather have first experienced Charlie Kaufman’s astonishing, expansive new film in a cinema than on the sofa, but it hasn’t lingered any less in my mind for that difference. On the other hand, I was lucky enough to see Sandra Wollner’s ingenious debut in a cinema, but would trade that advantage if it meant this profoundly upsetting provocation – banned from certain festivals, and scaring off many a distributor – could get the general release it merits on any size screen.

Looking over my list, it’s not exactly a happy one: perhaps the most upbeat selection here is Kirsten Johnson’s playful gut-punch of a documentary exploring her father’s dementia and imminent death. Put it down to my pandemic mood or simply how the cookie crumbled in 2020. But cinema itself has given us reasons to be hopeful.

Violet Lucca

Web Editor at Harper’s Magazine, USA

Roger Luckhurst

Critic and academic, UK

An impossibly odd year to assess, outside the pipe of festivals and release schedules, audiences fractured by streaming and ways of viewing merging ever more with TV. I’ll be fascinated to see if critics, too, have moved beyond consensus, their viewing dispersed across lockdown platforms.

Andrew Male

Critic, UK

I’m surprised and delighted that nine out of my ten best are films directed by women. The fact that my to-watch list still included The 40-Year-Old Version, Nomadland and Never Rarely Sometimes Always means that it could easily been a full house.

Ian Mantgani

Writer, filmmaker; UK

An incomplete list for an incomplete year: globally, a year interrupted. The tactile party vibe of Lovers Rock was redemptive in the year of social distancing, though many of the best films were meditations on captivity. Honourable mentions: Martin Scorsese and Mati Diop’s lockdown shorts; Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, which was an impish squirm from the tightening grip of authoritarianism; Time, which was a poem of perseverance.

Giovanni Marchini Camia

Critic and curator, Italy

Demetrios Matheou

Critic, UK

Given the enforced isolation and self-reflection of the pandemic year, it feels fitting that many of its most resonant films deal with the struggle to assert identity, for individuals and communities alike. The underlying politics of the titles here and others (Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 makes an interesting companion piece to Mangrove) is no accident. Even Spike Lee’s concert movie is fuelled by the chiding of America’s moral decline, presciently offering an answer as to why the Covid crisis became a disaster. There may have been fewer films on offer this year, but those that have seen the light have been so remarkably spot on.

Ross McDonnell

Writer and programmer, UK/Ireland

There are several other remarkable films I would have liked to include, such as Amel Alzakout and Khaled Abdulwahed’s Purple Sea, Pablo Larraín’s Ema, Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, Tsai Ming-liang’s Days, and a pair of especially bold adaptations of great novels: Greta Gerwig’s Little Women and Pietro Marcello’s Martin Eden. I excluded some films that did receive wide (streaming) releases in 2020, but that I first saw what feels like a long while ago, such as Frank Beauvais’s Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream and Jodie Mack’s The Grand Bizarre. Other highlights were Alice Rohrwacher’s Viennale trailer Ad una mela, the launch of Arsenal Berlin’s new virtual cinema Arsenal 3 at the beginning of lockdown, and Screen Slate’s series of programmes (presented with Electronic Arts Intermix, Anthology Film Archives, the Brooklyn Rail, among others) streamed throughout the summer via Twitch and Vimeo.

Katherine McLaughlin

Critic, UK

Most of the films I’ve chosen this year I’ve found thrilling or compelling in terms of how they’re formed and what they have to say.

  • Birds of Prey is a refreshingly fun take on the break-up movie and His House toys with the haunted house film in an affecting and clever manner; the design and set pieces on both films are incredibly creative.
  • The only documentary on my list is Dick Johnson Is Dead, a deeply personal and endlessly inventive film by Kirsten Johnson that acts as daring tribute to a father suffering through dementia and a love letter to the magic of cinema.
  • The plight of a black female playwright trying to find her place in the world, creatively and sexually, is tackled with biting wit in Radha Blank’s funny and insightful feature debut The Forty-Year-Old Version – the title itself a play on a Judd Apatow film as a way to make a point about popular storytelling. Blank is quoted as saying, “Throughout history, people have appropriated Black culture. I thought, why can’t we have a self-deprecating Black protagonist of a certain age who comes to a realization of herself?”
  • The menopause is something that has been severely underserved in cinema so Daria Woszek’s compassionate, Hopperesque, candy-coloured portrait of womanhood and ’the change’ as liberating in Marygoround frankly came as a joyful and deeply moving surprise.
  • Again, in Natalia Meta’s impressively directed psychosexual thriller The Intruder, women’s inner lives are explored from a female perspective and expressed in a unique way with Meta using sound and music to bring her film to a satisfying climax.
  • Natasha Kermani’s second film Lucky is a satire written by and starring Brea Grant (who has written and released two great genre films in 2020). It plays with horror tropes to deliver a fresh and provocative take on the slasher film.
  • Kajilionaire is a perfectly formed love story that simultaneously toys with the heist movie and pulls together the anxieties and delights of parenting in gloriously surprising fashion.
  • Another Round stars Mads Mikkelson in one of his best performances as it investigates the highs and tragic lows of alcohol.
  • Shirley digs deep into the writer’s psyche and acclaimed body of work in chilling, alluring and tantalising style and features a great central performance by Elisabeth Moss.

Henry K. Miller

Academic and critic, UK

I’ve given a less than glowing review to Mank, but want to see it again in a cinema – as it deserves.

Sophie Monks Kaufman

Contributing editor, Little White Lies, UK

James Mottram

Critic, UK

Some wonderful performances (Vanessa Kirby, Julia Garner, Frances McDormand), some brain-teasing narrative (Tenet, I’m Thinking of Ending Things) and some absolute provocation (New Order). In a difficult year, cinema has still come out fighting.

Christina Newland

Critic and curator, UK

Kim Newman

Critic, UK

If it counted as a film, Scott Frank’s The Queen’s Gambit would be on my list.

Ben Nicholson

Critic and curator, UK

It’s been a strange year and the above list is notable for not including a single film seen on a big screen. It’s difficult to know whether other things I’ve seen might have struck more of a chord in the cinema.

Beyond the ten I’ve selected, other highlights include: the excellent, unrelentingly tense The Invisible Man; Jonathan Perel’s sobering and vital Corporate Accountability; Viktoria Schmid’s infinitely thought-provoking A Proposal to project in Scope; Jennifer Boles’s exercise in archival slow cinema A Reversal; and Chris Peters’s computerised re-imagining of a Sight & Sound favourite, Vertigo A.I.

Fingers crossed for a lot more time spent in the cinema in 2021.

Chrystel Oloukoi

Critic and academic, UK,USA,Nigeria

Caitlin Quinlan

Critic and curator, UK

Naman Ramachandran

Critic, UK/India

Rather than the usual whinge about an ’unprecedented year’ (that much abused phrase), I decided not to bemoan my lot of not being able to attend festivals around the world, rather making the best of what was available to me at home. In the absence of a cinema and audience, festival viewing links cast to my TV was the next best solution and I must say it was a surprisingly intimate and intense experience.

Looking at my list I see a theme of societies and communities in conflict (Zanka Contact, Hong Kong Moments, Night of the Kings, New Order). The Best Families and The Predators felt like natural successors to the class excoriation of Parasite; The Salt in Our Waters in many ways reflect this year’s man vs nature struggle; La Fortaleza and Another Round mirror the two extremes of excess this year has wrought; the restless quietude in The Disciple sums up the year neatly.

Alex Ramon

Critic, UK

In this strangest, most disturbing of years, when the taken-for-granted experiences of cinema-going and festival attendance were abruptly curtailed, the most accomplished new films that arrived were a deeply appreciated stimulus and sanctuary.

In his sensational ‘Puritan western’ Fanny Lye Deliver’d, Thomas Clay produced a stone-cold British cult classic in the making, while Steven McQueen’s Mangrove was a scorching introduction to the altogether admirable Small Axe. In The Hater, Jan Komasa offered a subversive and gripping take on contemporary Polish reality and online culture, while Babyteeth and Marygoround brought distinctive blends of humour, lyricism and unruliness to their portraits of their female protagonists. I’m Thinking of Ending Things dazzlingly deconstructed the culture-fed nature of fantasy, while Richard Jewell’s government and media critique offered a moral tonic. And leave it to Guy Ritchie to provide the year’s guiltiest pleasure with his hilarious, intricately plotted The Gentlemen.

Vadim Rizov

Managing editor, Filmmaker magazine, USA

Jonathan Romney

Critic, UK

2020 was not a normal year for looking back on – among other reasons, because under these strange new conditions, it’s been difficult to properly keep tabs on what you’ve seen, and to understand how the conditions of watching affect what particular films mean to you. Given our sudden full immersion in life online, could it be that the films we saw in cinemas – mainly before March, and, for the lucky among us, at live festivals from September on – are those that will really stick with us, while films watched on laptops and TVs will end up lost in an undifferentiated flow of content seen, noted, then half-forgotten?

One thing we’ve learned in 2020 is that the traditional exposure offered by festivals and theatrical releasing means that certain films get talked about substantially, while others significantly miss out. What would have been this year’s Parasite if Cannes had happened? Who would have been the filmmakers and actors in the spotlight if all the usual PR opportunities and festival visits had taken place? Maybe we’ve seen a sort of levelling-out in which all films are suddenly as important as all others – but it may also mean that many works and their creators aren’t getting the shot at importance that they deserve.

So, along with my Top 10 list, I’ll just say, keep an eye on new talents Anna Cazenave Cambet (Gold for Dogs), Giovanni Aloi (The Third War), Janis Rafa (Kala Azar) and the d’Innocenzo brothers (Bad Tales), who also livened up a year that needed its flashes of hope.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Critic/teacher, USA

The above order is alphabetical. The meditative and solitary aspects of film-watching have increased during the pandemic, when many of us are exiled to our laptops; fortunately, online platforms for post-screening discussions have grown as well.

Julian Ross

Curator/scholar, Netherlands

Joshua Rothkopf

Critic, USA

Unwittingly, so many of the best films of the year took on the tone of personal catastrophe: gaslit, frustrated, cut off from the rest of the world. I’m looking forward to a year with a little more oxygen in it.

Sukhdev Sandhu

Associate professor, New York University, USA

William Fowler and Matthew Harle’s London and Landlords: An Unfinished Video History – the last I saw before lockdown – was a sad, sometimes eerie and, I now realise, uncannily prescient portrait of the ground being taken from below people’s feet.

Ren Scateni

Critic and academic, UK

If 2020 brought much discomfort and disruption, it also pushed festivals to break free of their somewhat limiting geographical spaces. Never before had my festival calendar looked so exciting and at the same time overwhelming, and yet navigating smaller festivals proved to be crucial to my film education in this cursed year. From Berwick Film and Media Art Film Festival to Open City Documentary Festival, images of films watched on my laptop kept resurfacing among my memories. Lisa Spilliaert’s hypnoting N. P, Jessica Sarah Rinland’s meditative Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another and Minh Quý Truong’s animistic The Tree House are just a few of them.

Jourdain Searles

Critic, USA

Women directors did the best work this year – and yet I worry that the awards season won’t reflect that.

Andrew Simpson

Curator and critic, UK

In this utterly strange year, some things for which I’m grateful:

  • for three films (Air Conditioner, The Trouble with Being Born, First and Last Men) exploring the role of technology in post-colonial, post-human and extra-terrestrial futures, and how traumatic pasts will colour all of them (Brandon Cronenberg’s nerve-jangling Possessor could easily have made the list for the same reason);
  • for Spike Lee, who gave us one the year’s most righteous entertainments, and once again proved himself to be one of cinema’s great historiographers; for Tsai Ming-liang, still a visionary of modern loneliness and urban hauntology, and who in retrospect may have been making films about Covid all along;
  • for Eliza Hittman, who so humanely explored the personal cost of political decisions (this being written in the week of Amy Coney Barrett’s election to the Supreme Court);
  • for Kelly Reichardt’s gentle-yet-barbed foray through the early farmlands of American capitalism;
  • for Charlie Kaufman’s beautiful, heartbreaking brain;
  • for Alchemy Film & Arts, whose festival in May was delivered with all the vim, curatorial care and excitement of the real thing, despite being online, with Stephen Broomer’s phantasmagorical odyssey Phantom Ride – a veritable ghost train of histories both personal and cinematic – capping off a fantastic programme;
  • and finally, for Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, a docu-fiction experiment that easily passes for the real thing, its story of Las Vegas barflies enjoying the last hurrah of The Roaring ’20s serving up a cocktail of human solidarity, fatalism and profundity that no other film could match this year. It’s a perfect snapshot of where we find ourselves, and an ode to going out in style – I love this film beyond (double, triple) measure.

Leigh Singer

Critic and curator, UK

This unprecedented year has no doubt skewed and limited theatrical releases and the two best films released in UK cinemas this year, Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Parasite, were on my list last year. But the strength in depth of 2020 films, including terrific work premiering on streaming platforms, suggests a future both artistically promising and extremely precarious for the industry itself. Where we’ll be in 12 months time is anyone’s guess.

Josh Slater-Williams

Critic, UK

Given so many release delays this year, I restricted my own choices to features that received their world premiere in 2020, as long as they’ve been available to the UK public at large in some channel or other. Despite so many major titles being pushed back, plenty of films of merit have made their way to our screens in this extremely strange period.

An incredible balm released at just the right moment, the earnestly sweet Bill & Ted Face the Music was the year’s most pleasant surprise. With unexpected pathos regarding a life of unfulfilled goals and genuinely touching optimism concerning the power of companionship and compassion in uniting the world for a greater good, it is infectiously enjoyable and borders on profound at times. I’ve seen it twice and was deeply moved by the film’s climax on both occasions.

Christopher Small

Critic and curator, UK

A terrible year on world-historical terms: that goes without saying. Also, for the most part, a fine year in movies. I should stipulate: this is the best of what I saw this year up to 26 October 2020 at 18:38.

Imogen Sara Smith

Critic, USA

Anna Smith

Critic, editor, broadcaster; UK

A fantastic year for female directors!

Kate Stables

Critic, UK

Isabel Stevens

Production editor, Sight & Sound, UK

Brad Stevens

Critic, UK

A list of my retrospective discoveries from 2020 might be at least as meaningful: Frank Capra’s So This Is Love (1928), Michael Powell’s Bluebeard’s Castle (1963), Bill Gunn’s Stop (1970), Anna Karina’s Vivre ensemble (1972), Claude Chabrol’s Alice ou la dernière fugue (1976), Jane Wagner’s Moment by Moment (1978), Otar Iosseliani’s Chant d’hiver (2015).

Amy Taubin

Critic, USA

Lou Thomas

Digital content producer, BFI, UK

While the real terrors were happening out in the real world, it was a landmark year for horror and horror-adjacent films on screen. It certainly would have been very easy to compile ten greats from that genre alone.

Of the many omissions, a word about Host. Rob Savage’s film wasn’t the greatest film of the year but for me was the most important – a quick, sharp feature made for a tiny budget under lockdown conditions and the best example of what can be done by creative filmmakers under the worst possible circumstances.

David Thompson

Critic, curator, filmmaker; UK

Matthew Thrift

Critic, UK

Matt Turner

Critic and curator, UK

“The moon is beautiful, and if you appreciate the moon then you will probably like my films.”
— Tsai Ming-Liang

Ginette Vincendeau

Professor in film studies, UK

I am longing to relive the experience of seeing a film in a crowded cinema.

Becca Voelcker

Critic, academic and curator, USA/UK

Kelli Weston

Critic, UK

Catherine Wheatley

Academic and critic, UK

Charlotte Whitehouse

Critic, UK

Samuel Wigley

News and features editor, UK

Mike Williams

Editor-in-Chief, Sight & Sound, UK

Craig Williams

Critic and curator, UK

Neil Young

Critic/curator, UK/Austria

“After a lull the epidemic broke out badly in Des Moines and immediately the usual agitation of ’close the theatres’ was started. First the use of influenza masks as a compulsory measure was tried out, with poor results, as patrons either regarded the use of the mask as an imposition or a joke…
“Finally it was decided to permit the theatres to remain open by using half capacity, spreading the seating arrangements through alternate rows. This is working out with fair results and managers say is far better than closing altogether. Programs have been considerably curtailed and less expensive features offered for the time being.”
— The Moving Picture World, 21 December 1918

“Panic in the Streets ends with a cathartic ritual cleansing as the infected criminal and major carrier (Jack Palance) is shot down while scrambling, climbing, fighting, running from the police, and demonstrating a will to escape – and, as implacable as any virus, contaminate the free world.”
— J. Hoberman, the Paris Review, 16 March 2020

354 films

180° Rule

Farnoosh Samadi, Iran

Voted for by: Tara Judah

193 Octillion

Anya Tsyrlina, Switzerland

Voted for by: Neil Young

200 Meters

Ameen Nayfeh, Palestine, Italy, Sweden

Voted for by: Maria Delgado


Sam Mendes, USA, UK

Voted for by: Steph Green

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Marielle Heller, USA

A Common Crime (Un crimen común)

Francisco Márquez, Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland

Voted for by: Maria Delgado

A Dog Barking at the Moon

Xiang Zi, China, Spain

Voted for by: Ren Scateni

A Hidden Life

Terrence Malick, USA, UK, Germany

Voted for by: Tim Hayes

A metamorfose dos pássaros (The Metamorphosis of Birds)

Catarina Vasconcelos, Portugal

Voted for by: Thomas Flew

A Rainy Day in New York

Woody Allen, USA

A Shape of Things to Come

Lisa Malloy and J.P. Sniadecki, USA

A Thousand-Year Stage (Qiannian wutai)

Daphne Xu, China

Voted for by: Becca Voelcker

A Time to Stir

Paul Cronin, UK, USA

A White, White Day

Hlynur Pálmason, Iceland

Voted for by: Mark Cousins

About Endlessness

Roy Andersson, Sweden

After Love

Aleem Khan, UK

Again Once Again

Romina Paula, Argentina

Voted for by: Ross McDonnell

Air Conditioner

Fradique, Angola


John Hyams, USA


Andreas Hykade, Germany

Voted for by: Alex Dudok de Wit


Mikhaël Hers, France

Voted for by: Philip Concannon

Amants (Lovers)

Nicole Garcia, France

Voted for by: The Ferroni Brigade


Francis Lee, UK

An Easy Girl

Rebecca Zlotowski, France

Voted for by: Beatrice Loayza

An Officer and a Spy

Roman Polanski, France, Italy

And Then We Danced

Levan Akin, Georgia

Voted for by: Anna Bogutskaya

And Yet We’re Not Super Heroes

Lia Bertels, Belgium, France

Voted for by: Alex Dudok de Wit

Another Round (Druk)

Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark


Ana Vaz, Brazil, France, Portugal, Netherlands


Christos Nikou, Greece

Voted for by: Wendy Ide


Alyx Ayn G. Arumpac, Philippines

Voted for by: Alex Davidson

Atarrabi & Mikelats

Eugène Green, France

Voted for by: Kieron Corless


Gints Zilbalodis, Latvia


Shannon Murphy, Australia


Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, Brazil

Bad Education

Cory Finley, USA


Kantemir Balagov, Russia


Dea Kulumbegashvili, Georgia

Being a Human Person

Fred Scott, UK, Sweden

Voted for by: Mike Williams

Best Before Death

Paul Duane, USA, UK, Ireland

Voted for by: Anne Billson

Bill and Ted Face The Music

Dean Parisot, USA

Birds of Prey

Cathy Yan, USA

Black Is King

Beyoncé, Jenn Nkiru, Blitz the Ambassador, Jake Nava, USA

Voted for by: Rebecca Harrison

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross, USA


Jay Roach, Canada, USA

Voted for by: Ginette Vincendeau

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Jason Woliner, USA

Bottled Songs: My Crush Was a Superstar (Chloé Galibert-Laîné)

Chloé Galibert-Laîné, France

Voted for by: Jonathan Rosenbaum

Boys State

Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss, USA

Voted for by: Alex Davidson

Calm with Horses

Nick Rowland, UK

Voted for by: Charles Gant


Alfonso Amador, Spain

Voted for by: Christopher Small

Cane River

Horace Jenkins, USA

Voted for by: Violet Lucca


Emily Harris, UK

Voted for by: Anna Smith


Damian Mc Carthy, UK

Voted for by: Anton Bitel


Carlos Casas, France

Voted for by: Kieron Corless


Oda Kaori, Japan

Chess of the Wind (Shatranj-e Baad) (1976)

Mohammed-Reza Aslani, Iran

Voted for by: Violet Lucca

Children of the Sea

Ayumu Watanabe, Japan

Cidade Pássaro (Shine Your Eyes)

Matias Mariani, Brazil, France

Voted for by: Kaleem Aftab

Cinetracts ’20

Various, USA

Voted for by: Matthew Barrington

Circumstantial Pleasures

Lewis Klahr, USA

Voted for by: Ben Nicholson

City Hall

Frederick Wiseman, USA

Voted for by: Robert Koehler

Claudette’s Star

Ayo Aingbade, UK

Voted for by: Matthew Barrington


Chinonye Chukwu, USA


Alexander Nanau, Romania

Color Out of Space

Richard Stanley, USA

Voted for by: Sophie Brown, Tim Hayes

Communicating Vessels

Maïder Fortuné, Annie MacDonell, Canada

Voted for by: Julian Ross, Matt Turner

Communism and the Net, or the End of Representative Democracy

Karel Vachek, Czech Republic

Voted for by: Christopher Small

Corporate Accountability (Responsabilidad empresarial)

Jonathan Perel, Argentina

Voted for by: Matt Turner

Courtroom 3H

Antonio Méndez Esparza, USA

Voted for by: Maria Delgado

Crip Camp

Nicole Newnham and James Lebrecht, USA

Cuties (Mignonnes)

Maïmouna Doucouré, France

Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee, USA

Dark Waters

Todd Haynes, USA

Voted for by: Ginette Vincendeau

DAU. Degeneratsia (DAU. Degeneration)

Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Ilya Permyakov, Germany, Ukraine, UK, Russia

Voted for by: Carmen Gray, Vadim Rizov

DAU. Natasha

Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Jekaterina Oertel, Germany, Ukraine, UK, Russia

David Byrne’s American Utopia

Spike Lee, USA

Day in the Life

Karrabing Collective, Australia

Voted for by: Tara Judah

Days (Rizi)

Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan

Delete History (Effacer l’historique)

Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern, France, Belgium

Voted for by: Elena Lazic

Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and Legendary Tapes

Caroline Catz, UK

Voted for by: Jane Giles, Sophie Brown

Dick Johnson Is Dead

Kirsten Johnson, USA

Die letzte Stadt (The Last City)

Heinz Emigholz, Germany

Disciple, the

Chaitanya Tamhane, India


Sam Feder, USA

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants

J.P. Vakeappa, Finland

Voted for by: Anna Bogutskaya

Don’t Rush

Elise Florenty, Marcel Türkowsky, Belgium

Voted for by: Matt Turner


Bruce McDonald, Canada, Luxembourg, Belgium

Voted for by: Kim Newman

Earth and Blood

Julien Leclercq, France

Voted for by: The Ferroni Brigade


Pablo Larraín, Chile


Autumn De Wilde, UK

Voted for by: Steph Green, Kim Newman

End of the Century

Lucio Castro, Argentina

Voted for by: Jamie Dunn

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

David Dobkin, USA

Voted for by: Catherine Wheatley

Everything that is forgotten in an instant (Todo lo que se olvida en un instante)

Richard Shpuntoff, Argentina

Voted for by: Christopher Small

Expedition Content

Ernst Karel, Veronika Kusumaryati, USA

Eyimofe (This is My Desire)

Arie Esiri, Chuko Esiri, Nigeria

Family Romance, LLC

Werner Herzog, Germany

Voted for by: Roger Luckhurst

Fanny Lye Deliver’d

Thomas Clay, UK

Fauna (Flora y fauna)

Nicolás Pareda, Mexico

Film About a Father Who

Lynne Sachs, USA

Voted for by: Tara Judah

Finding Jack Charlton

Gabriel Clarke, Pete Thomas, UK

Voted for by: Andrew Collins

Fire Will Come

Oliver Laxe, Spain

Voted for by: Michael Atkinson

First Cow

Kelly Reichardt, USA

France Against the Robots (La France contre les robots)

Jean-Marie Straub, Switzerland

Voted for by: Jonathan Rosenbaum


Viera Čákanyová, Czech Republic, Slovakia

Voted for by: Thomas Flew

Further Radical

Stefano Canapa, France

Voted for by: Neil Young


Lynne Siefert, USA

Voted for by: Thomas Flew

Genius Loci

Adrien Merigeau, France

Voted for by: Alex Dudok de Wit

Genus Pan

Lav Diaz, Philippines

Ghost Strata

Ben Rivers, UK

Voted for by: Kieron Corless

Ghost Tropic

Bas Devos, Belgium

Voted for by: Imogen Sara Smith

Glimpses from a Visit to Orkney in Summer 1995

Ute Aurand, Germany

Voted for by: Christopher Small

Gold for Dogs (De l’or pour les chiens)

Anna Cazenave Cambet, France


Michael Winterbottom, UK

Voted for by: Tim Hayes

Gretel & Hansel

Oz Perkins,

Voted for by: Anne Billson


Aaron Schneider, USA

Voted for by: The Ferroni Brigade


Victor Kossakovsky, Norway, USA

Happy Valley

Simon Liu, Hong Kong

Voted for by: Julian Ross

Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful

Gero Von Boehm, Germany

Voted for by: Geoff Andrew

Henry Glassie: Field Work

Pat Collins, Ireland

Voted for by: Geoff Andrew

Her Name Was Europa

Anja Dornieden & Juan David González Monroy, Germany

Voted for by: Julian Ross

Her Socialist Smile

John Gianvito, USA


Phyllida Lloyd, Ireland, UK

Voted for by: Mar Diestro-Dópido

His House

Remi Weekes, USA


Devereux Milburn, USA

Voted for by: Anton Bitel

Hong Kong Moments

Bing Zhou, Hong Kong

Voted for by: Naman Ramachandran


Orson Welles, USA


Rob Savage, UK

Human Voice, the

Pedro Almodóvar, Spain

Voted for by: Isabel Stevens

I ran from it and was still in it

Darol Olu Kae, USA

Voted for by: Matthew Barrington

I Was at Home, But…

Angela Schanelec, Germany, Serbia

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Charlie Kaufman, USA

I’m No Longer Here

Fernando Frias, Mexico

Voted for by: Leigh Singer


Samir Guesmi, France

Voted for by: Elena Lazic

In Between Dying

Hilal Baydarov, Azerbaijan

Voted for by: Carmen Gray

In My Room

Mati Diop, France

Voted for by: Ross McDonnell

In Sudden Darkness

Tayler Montague, USA

Voted for by: Simran Hans

Infinity Minus Infinity

Otolith Group, UK

Voted for by: Matthew Barrington

Intimate Distances

Phillip Warnell, USA

Voted for by: Vadim Rizov

Intruder, the

Natalia Meta, Argentina, Mexico


Matías Piñeiro, Argentina

Voted for by: Vadim Rizov

Isadora’s Children

Damien Manivel, France, South Korea

Voted for by: Ross McDonnell

Ital Tek: Leaving the Grid

Ruben Fro, Japan

Voted for by: Neil Young


Roman Polanski, France, Italy

Voted for by: Philip Horne

Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waititi, USA

Voted for by: Sophie Brown


Aurel, France, Spain, Belgium

Voted for by: Maria Delgado


Miranda July, USA

Kala Azar

Janis Rafa, Netherlands

Voted for by: Wendy Ide, Julian Ross

Kill It and Leave This Town (Zabij to i wyjedz z tego miasta)

Mariusz Wilczyński, Poland

Voted for by: Alex Dudok de Wit

La Chichigua (The Kite)

Laura Sanz, Dominican Republic

Voted for by: Ian Mantgani

La Daronne

Jean-Paul Salomé, France

Voted for by: Ginette Vincendeau

La Forteleza

Jorge Thielen Armand, Venezuela

Voted for by: Naman Ramachandran

La Llorona

Jayro Bustamente, Guatemala

Voted for by: Anton Bitel

Labor of Love

Sylvia Schedelbauer, Germany

Voted for by: Vadim Rizov

Labyrinth of Cinema

Nobuhiko Obayashi, Japan

Last and First Men

Jóhann Jóhannsson, Iceland

Voted for by: Wendy Ide, Andrew Simpson

Last Year in Dachau (L’année dernière à Dachau)

Mark Rappaport, USA

Voted for by: Jonathan Rosenbaum

Les Miserables

Ladj Ly, France

Les Parfumes

Gregory Magne, France

Voted for by: Roger Luckhurst

Let’s Scare Julie

Jud Cremata, USA

Voted for by: Kim Newman

Letter to a Friend

Emily Jacir, Palestine

Voted for by: Ela Bittencourt

Light from the Chocolate Factory

Dag Johan Haugerud, Norway

Voted for by: Kaleem Aftab


Ben Sharrock, UK

Little Girl (Petite fille)

Sébastien Lifshitz, France

Little Women

Greta Gerwig, USA

London and Landlords: An Unfinished Video History

William Fowler & Matthew Harle, UK

Voted for by: Sukhdev Sandhu

Los Conductos

Camilo Restrepo, France, Brazil

Lovers Rock

Steve McQueen, UK


Natasha Kermani, USA

Voted for by: Katherine McLaughlin

Lucky Grandma

Sasie Sealy, USA

Voted for by: Sukhdev Sandhu

Lulu Faustine

Stephen Broomer, Canada

Voted for by: Ben Nicholson

Lynn and Lucy

Fyzal Boulifa, UK

Make Up

Claire Oakley, UK


Cristi Puiu, Romania, Serbia, Switzerland, Sweden, Bosnia & Herzegovina

malni: towards the ocean, towards the shore

Sky Hopinka, USA

Mamá, mamá, mamá (Mum, mum, mum)

Sol Berruezo Pichon-Rivière, Argentina

Voted for by: Thomas Flew

Mandibles (Mandibules)

Quentin Dupieux, France, Belgium


Steve McQueen, UK


David Fincher, USA

Marshawn Lynch: A History

David Shields, USA

Martin Eden

Pietro Marcello, Italy

Martin Margiela: In His Own Words

Reiner Holzemer, Germany

Voted for by: Anne Billson

Marygoround (Maryjki)

Daria Woszek, Poland

Mat and Her Mates

Pauline Penichout, France

Voted for by: Christopher Small

Matthias and Maxime

Xavier Dolan, France

Voted for by: Steph Green


David Osit, UK, USA

Voted for by: Ashley Clark

Me and Me

Jung Jin-young, Korea

Voted for by: Anton Bitel

Midnight in Paris

Roni Moore, James Blagden, USA

Voted for by: Kelli Weston

Midnight Traveler

Hassan Fazili, Qatar

Voted for by: Sophie Monks Kaufman


Philippa Lowthorpe, UK

Voted for by: Nikki Baughan

Mishima: The Last Debate (Mishima Yukio VS Tōdai Zenkyōtō: 50-nenme no shinjitsu)

Toyoshima Keisuke, Japan

Voted for by: The Ferroni Brigade

Miss Juneteenth

Channing Godfrey Peoples, USA


Sam Pollard, USA

Voted for by: Jonathan Rosenbaum


Oliver Hermanus, South Africa

Voted for by: Guy Lodge

Mogul Mowgli

Bassam Tariq, UK

Mon Amour

David Teboul, France

Voted for by: Carmen Gray


Argyris Papadimitropoulos, USA, UK, Greece

Voted for by: Kaleem Aftab


Hong Khaou, UK

Moving On

Yoon Danbi, South Korea

Mr Jones

Agnieszka Holland , Poland

Voted for by: Andrew Collins

My Mexican Bretzel

Nuria Giménez, Spain

Nationtime - Gary

William Greaves, USA

Voted for by: Ashley Clark


Artavazd Pelechian, Armenia

Voted for by: Carmen Gray

Never Gonna Snow Again

Małgorzata Szumowska, Poland, Germany

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Eliza Hittman, USA

New Order (Nuevo Orden)

Michel Franco, Mexico, France

Night of the Kings

Philippe Lacote, France

Voted for by: Naman Ramachandran

No Hard Feelings (Futur Drei)

Faraz Shariat, Germany

Voted for by: Jamie Dunn, Alex Davidson

Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin

Werner Herzog, UK

Voted for by: Sukhdev Sandhu


Chloe Zhao, USA


Gianfranco Rosi, Italy, France, Germany

Ochite mi sini, rokljata sharena (Blue Eyes and Colorful My Dress)

Polina Gumiela, Germany

Voted for by: Thomas Flew

On a Magical Night

Christophe Honoré, France

Voted for by: Alex Ramon

On the Rocks

Sofia Coppola, USA

On-Gaku: Our Sound

Kenji Iwaisawa, Japan

Voted for by: Alex Dudok de Wit

Onania Club

Tom Six, USA

Voted for by: Kim Newman

Once Removed

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, United Arab Emirates

Voted for by: Julian Ross

One Night in Miami…

Regina King, USA

Only the Animals

Dominik Moll, France, Germany

Voted for by: Catherine Wheatley

Painter and the Thief, the

Benjamin Ree, Norway

Voted for by: Leila Latif

Palm Springs

Max Barbakow , USA

Paris Calligramme

Ulrike Ottinger, Germany, France

Voted for by: Kaleem Aftab


Tim Mielants, Belgium, Netherlands

Voted for by: Anton Bitel

Perfect Ten

Eva Riley, UK

Phantom Ride

Stephen Broomer, Canada

Voted for by: Andrew Simpson

Pieces of a Woman

Kornél Mundruczó, Canada, Hungary, USA

Voted for by: James Mottram

Ping jing (The Calming)

Song Fang, China

Point and Line to Plane

Sofia Bohdanowicz, Canada

Voted for by: Ross McDonnell

Portrait of a Lady On Fire

Celine Sciamma, France

Voted for by: Mark Cousins


Brandon Cronenberg, Canada, UK

Postdigital Flipbook

Pablo-Martín Córdoba, France

Voted for by: Neil Young

Promising Young Woman

Emerald Fennell, USA

Voted for by: Sophie Monks Kaufman


Alice Winocour, France

Voted for by: Anna Smith, Nikki Baughan

Purple Sea

Amel Alzakout, Khaled Abdulwahed, Germany

Queen & Slim

Melina Metsoukas, USA

Quo Vadis, Aida?

Jasmila Žbanić, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Voted for by: Kaleem Aftab


Jenny Brady, Ireland

Voted for by: Ross McDonnell


Natalie Erika James, Australia, USA


Merawi Gerima, USA

Voted for by: Chrystel Oloukoi


Peter Mackie Burns, Ireland

Voted for by: Kate Stables

Richard Jewell

Clint Eastwood, USA

Ride Your Wave

Masaaki Yuasa, Japan

Voted for by: Kambole Campbell


Kawasaki Minoru, Japan

Voted for by: The Ferroni Brigade


Sarah Gavron, UK

Saint Frances

Alex Thompson, USA

Saint Maud

Rose Glass, UK

Salt in our Waters, the (Nonajoler Kabbo)

Rezwan Shahriar Sumit, Bangladesh, France

Voted for by: Naman Ramachandran

Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer

Mark Landsman, USA

Voted for by: Philip Horne

Schoolgirls (Las niñas)

Pilar Palomero, Spain

Voted for by: Jonathan Rosenbaum

Sea Fever

Neasa Hardiman, Ireland, UK, Sweden, Belgium

Voted for by: Andrew Male

Septet: The Story of Hong Kong

Sammo Hung, Ann Hui, Patrick Tam, Yuen Woo-ping, Johnnie To, Ringo Lam, Tsui Hark, Hong Kong

Voted for by: The Ferroni Brigade


Geraldo Sarno, Brazil

Voted for by: Ela Bittencourt

Shadow Country (Krajina ve stínu)

Bohdan Sláma, Czech Republic

Voted for by: Samuel Wigley

She Dies Tomorrow

Amy Seimetz, USA


Josephine Decker, USA

Shiva Baby

Emma Seligman, USA

Voted for by: Ela Bittencourt


Abel Ferrara, Italy, Germany, Mexico


Alex Kasses and THISDISPLAY, Austria

Voted for by: Neil Young

Sleep (Schlaf)

Michael Venus, Germany

Voted for by: Lou Thomas

Slow Machine

Paul Felten, Joe DeNardo, USA


Pete Docter, Kemp Powers, USA


Morgan Quintance, UK, USA

Voted for by: Sukhdev Sandhu

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth, Matt Wolf, USA

Special Actors (Supesharu Akutâzu)

Shin’ichirô Ueda, Japan

Voted for by: Kim Newman


Eugene Kotlyarenko, USA

Stories from the Chestnut Woods

Gregor Božič, Slovenia

Voted for by: Elena Lazic

Strasbourg 1518

Jonathan Glazer, UK

Stray Dog

Luke Hefferman, UK

Voted for by: David Thompson

Striding Into the Wind

Wei Shujun, China

Voted for by: Samuel Wigley

Summer of 85

Francois Ozon, France


Jessica Swale, UK

Voted for by: Melanie Hoyes

Sun Dog

Dorian Jespers, Belgium

Voted for by: Neil Young


Harry Macqueen, UK

Voted for by: Steph Green

Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue (Yi Zhi You Dao Hai Shui Bian Lan)

Jia Zhang-ke, China

Voted for by: Molly Haskell

System Crasher

Nora Fingscheidt, Germany


Keisha Rae Witherspoon, USA

Voted for by: Ashley Clark


Christopher Nolan, USA


Michael Almereyda, USA

Voted for by: Amy Taubin

The Assistant

Kitty Green, USA

The Best Families

Javier Fuentes-León, Colombia, Peru

Voted for by: Naman Ramachandran

The Blind Rabbit

Pallavi Paul, India

Voted for by: Juliet Jacques

The Building

Tatjana Kononenko & Matilda Mester, Germany

Voted for by: Juliet Jacques

The End of Suffering (A Proposal)

Jacqueline Lentzou, Greece

Voted for by: Ben Nicholson

The Fantastic

Maija Blåfield, Finland

Voted for by: Neil Young

The Forty-Year-Old Version

Radha Blank, USA

The Gentlemen

Guy Ritchie, UK

Voted for by: Alex Ramon

The Girl with a Bracelet

Stéphane Demoustier, France

The Half of It

Alice Wu, USA

Voted for by: Melanie Hoyes

The Hater (Sala samobójców. Hejter)

Jan Komasa, Poland

Voted for by: Alex Ramon

The Human Voice

Pedro Almodóvar, Spain

The Hunt

Craig Zobel, USA

Voted for by: Kim Newman

The I and S of Lives

Kevin Jerome Everson, USA

Voted for by: Matthew Barrington

The Inheritance

Ephraim Asili, USA

The Invisible Man

Leigh Whannell, USA

The Killing of Two Lovers

Robert Machoian, USA

Voted for by: Robert Koehler

The Lighthouse

Robert Eggers, USA, Canada

Voted for by: Mark Cousins

The Mole Agent

Maite Alberdi, Chile

Voted for by: Maria Delgado

The Nest

Sean Durkin, USA

The Observer

Chloé Galibert-Laîné, France

Voted for by: Ben Nicholson

The Old Guard

Gina Prince-Bythewood, USA

Voted for by: Melanie Hoyes

The Other Lamb

Malgorzata Szumowska, USA, Ireland, Belgium

The Painted Bird

Vaclav Marhoul, Czech Republic

The Perfect Candidate

Haifaa al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia

Voted for by: Hanna Flint

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Armando Iannucci, UK

The poets visit Juana Bignoni

Laura Citarella, Mercedes Halfon, Argentina

Voted for by: Maria Delgado

The Predators

Pietro Castellito, Italy

Voted for by: Naman Ramachandran

The Roads Not Taken

Sally Potter, UK

Voted for by: Brad Stevens

The Salt of Tears (Le sel des larmes)

Philippe Garrel, France, Switzerland

The Spider and the Bee

David Lynch, USA

Voted for by: Ian Mantgani

The Swerve

Dean Kapsalis, USA

Voted for by: Anton Bitel

The Traitor

Marco Bellocchio, Italy

The Trip to Greece

Michael Winterbottom, UK

Voted for by: Philip Horne

The Trouble with Being Born

Sandra Wollner, Austria, Germany

The Truffle Hunters

Gregory Kershaw, Michael Dweck, USA, Greece, Italy

Voted for by: Tom Charity

The Truth

Hirokazu Koreeda, France

The Two Popes

Fernando Meireilles, UK, USA, Italy, Argentina

Voted for by: Philip Kemp

The Viewing Booth

Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Israel, USA

The Whistlers

Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania

The Wild Goose Lake

Diao Yinan, China

Voted for by: Tom Charity

The Wolf House

Joaquin Cocina & Cristobal Leon, Chile

Voted for by: Michael Atkinson

The Woman Who Ran (Domangchin yeoja)

Hong Sang-soo, Korea

The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin)

C.W. Winter, Anders Edström, USA, Sweden, Japan, Hong Kong, China, UK

The World of Tomorrow Episode 3: The Absent Destinations of David Prime

Don Hertzfelt, USA

The World to Come

Mona Fastvold, USA

Voted for by: Jonathan Romney

The Year of the Discovery

Luis Lopez Carrasco, Spain, Switzerland

There Is No Evil (Sheytan vojud nadarad)

Mohammad Rasoulof, Germany, Czech Republic, Iran

Voted for by: Carmen Gray

Things We Dare Not Do

Bruno Santamaría Razo, Mexico

Voted for by: Kelli Weston

This is an Address

Sasha Wortzel, USA

Voted for by: Ashley Clark

This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection

Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Lesotho, South Africa, Italy


Garrett Bradley, USA


Abel Ferrara, Italy

Voted for by: Philip Concannon

Tremendous Cream

Alexei Dmitriev, Russia

Voted for by: Neil Young

Trouble Sleep

Alain Kasanda, France, Nigeria

Voted for by: Chrystel Oloukoi

True History of the Kelly Gang

Justin Kurzel, Australia


John Smith, UK

Voted for by: Erika Balsom


Ken Fero, UK

Voted for by: Tara Judah


Christian Petzold, Germany, France

Up at Night (Nuit Debout)

Nelson Makengo, D. R. Congo

Voted for by: Tara Judah

Uppercase Print

Radu Jude, Romania

Voted for by: Geoff Andrew

Vast of Night

Andrew Patterson, USA


Sofie Benoot, Liesbeth De Ceulaer, Isabelle Tollenaere, Belgium

Voted for by: Thomas Flew

Vitalina Varela

Pedro Costa, Portugal


Lorcan Finnegan, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium

Waiting for the Barbarians

Ciro Guerra, Italy, USA

Wasp Network

Olivier Assayas, France, Brazil

We Have Boots

Evans Chan, Hong Kong

Voted for by: Tara Judah

Weathering With You

Makoto Shinkai, Japan

Voted for by: Kambole Campbell

Welcome to Chechnya

David France, USA

White on White

Viera Čákanyová, Slovakia, Czech Republic

Voted for by: Christopher Small

White Riot

Rubika Shah, UK

Voted for by: Jane Giles

With Love – Volume One: 1987-1996

Michael Pilz, Austria

Voted for by: Christopher Small


Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, Ireland, France, Luxembourg

Women According to Men

Saeed Nouri, Iran

Voted for by: Jonathan Rosenbaum

Z = |Z/Z•Z-1 mod 2|-1: Lavender Town Syndrome

Andrew Norman Wilson, USA

Voted for by: Ben Nicholson

Zanka Contact

Ismaël El Iraki, France, Belgium, Morocco

Voted for by: Naman Ramachandran