Best movies of 2020: Xpress reviewers’ Top-5 picks

PRESSING PAUSE: Even with local movie theaters closed or operating at reduced capacity since mid-March, 2020 still provided plenty of quality films. Photo by Neal Reed

With theaters closed or operating at reduced capacity since mid-March, 2020 may not have been a great year for moviegoing, but it was nevertheless another superb year for movies.

As profit-minded distributors delayed their big releases to 2021 and beyond, and Christopher Nolan played cinematic hot potato with Tenet, a few major films made their way to VOD (e.g. Trolls: World Tour and The King of Staten Island) and newer subscription-based services (Disney+’s Soul and Mulan; HBO Max’s Wonder Woman 1984). Elsewhere, Netflix had another strong showing with the likes of Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods and Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, both of which seem primed to take home a few Oscars apiece in late April.

But while the steady stream of high-quality offerings were a welcome surprise, indie distributors such as Kino Lorber, Magnolia Pictures and Oscilloscope Laboratories proved to be the industry’s true heroes. Their partnerships with the Fine Arts Theatre, Grail Moviehouse and other indie theaters across the country to digitally program new releases and share the profits from home-viewing rentals gave access and exposure to obscure but excellent independent films that otherwise might not have even played in the smallest theater at the former Grail location.

The Xpress movie review team was there to cover as much as we could and help readers navigate the suddenly expansive options to enjoy in their living rooms. It’s been an honor to co-lead this section for the past two years with my reviewing partner Bruce Steele, to continue the legacy established by my late mentor and dear friend Ken Hanke and to provide more than 15 talented local writers who love movies the opportunity to apply their skills on a regular basis.

Though some of the reviewers understandably felt that the unusual movie year left them ill-equipped to properly reflect on its merits, nearly half the crew compiled Top 5 lists and reflect on their favorite films of 2020. Please click on the reviewers below to read their picks.

Michelle Keenan
Ali McGhee
Melissa Myers
Cameron Allison
Josh McCormack
Douglas Davidson
Lucas McKee
Bruce Steele
Edwin Arnaudin


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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