The 2020 Talkies: Talkhouse Film Contributors Share Their Top 10 Movies of the Year

A selection of poll ballots from filmmakers, including David Dastmalchian, Katherine Dieckmann and Alex Ross Perry, choosing their best of 2020.

Late last year, Talkhouse Film contributors and a select few friends of the site voted on their favorite theatrical releases of 2020; you can see the aggregated results here. Below are ballots from a selection of the filmmakers who took part in the voting process.


Vashti Anderson
1. Sound of Metal
2. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
3. The Forty-Year-Old Version
4. Swallow
5. The Assistant
6. Birds of Prey

Sound of Metal: So refreshing to see a fellow South Asian cast in a role that is not tied to race. Good lord, Riz Ahmed has incredible talent, and it glimmers in this beautifully constructed film; Birds of Prey: Fun, fun, female fun. We needed this film in 2020, even though 2020 was not ready for it.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
I know this is 12/19, but it’s one I come back to often and I think even more relevant in 2020:
You Write What You Remember, Even When You Forget


Rodney Ascher
1. Pressure Point (1962, Dir: Hubert Cornfield)
2. The Andromeda Strain (1971, Dir: Robert Wise)
3. Kent State (2020, writer/artist Derf Backderf)
4. Welcome II the Terrordome (1995, Dir: Ngozi Onwurah)
5. This is What a “Second-Person” Videogame Would Look Like (2019, Dir: Nick Robinson)
6. Adventure Time: Distant Lands “Obsidian” (2020, Dir: Miki Brewster)
7. Kurneko (1968, Dir: Kaneto Shindo)
8. Rick and Morty: “Never Ricking Morty” (2020, Dir: Erica Hayes)
9. Reply All: “America’s Hottest Talkline” (2020, Hosts: PJ Vogt, Alex Goldman, Emmanuel Dzotsi)
10. Death Race 2000 (1975, Dir: Paul Bartel)

For whatever reason, likely global catastrophe, I didn’t engage with contemporary movies the way I usually do, but each of these, in their ways, helped me make sense of, find humor in, or escape from the world around me.


Zach Clark
1. Small Axe: Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen, 2020) Amazon Prime
2. Tito (Grace Glowiciki, 2020) Maryland Film Festival 2019
3. Blood Brunch (Various directors/years, programmed by Spectacle Theater) formerly Twitch, and now
4. My First Film (Zia Anger, 2020) Live online performance
5. Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, 2020) Netflix
6. The Dina Martina Christmas Show (Dina Martina & Shane Wahlund, 2020) Pre-recorded online performance
7. Women in New York (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1977), Sparkle’s Tavern (Curt McDowell, 1985), Tell Me That Your Love Me, Junie Moon (Otto Preminger, 1970) Password-protected Vimeo links watched on Zoom with friends
8. The Second Civil War w/ live Joe Dante Zoom Q&A (Joe Dante, 1997) mp4 download via Playtime, Aaron Hillis’ private screening series
9. John Waters presents: Art Movie Hell at the Drive-in with Climax (Gaspar Noe, 2018) and Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1976) Bronx Drive-In at the Bronx Zoo, presented by the 58th New York Film Festival (honking encouraged)
10. Paganini Horror (Luigi Cozzi, 1989) Part of the “Terror Tuesday” series at the Alamo Drafthouse, this sold out screening on March 10, 2020 was the last movie I have seen in a theater to date. Hosted by Daphne Gardner & Kate McEdwards.

Honorable mentions: Bacurau, Liberté, Dragula Resurrection


Yung Chang
1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
2. Murmur
3. Blood Quantum
4. Wild Goose Lake
5. First Cow
6. Jinpa
7. 76 Days
8. A Thousand Cuts
9. Earth
10. Be Water

It’s been a weird year and I have not been able to maximize the movie experience as much as I’d like to have. Here in Toronto, all the cinemas are closed. I yearn to return to those darkened hallowed halls to watch giant visions of sugar-plums dance above my head.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
In memory of Robert Fisk, who died on Oct 30, 2020, I recommend “I Was Fascinated By the Way Film Could Represent Reality”: Yung Chang in Conversation with Robert Fisk.


David Dastmalchian
1. Minari
2. Mangrove
3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
4. The Invisible Man
5. His House
6. Zappa
7. Mank
8. The Vast of Night
9. Nomadland
10. Swallow

I wish I had room for a #11, it would be Relic. Lots of great viewing experiences this year in the “genre” space and I hope that continues to expand.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Just For a Minute, Let’s Talk About Yahoo Serious.


Luke Davies
1. Sound of Metal
2. Gunda
3. The Personal History of David Copperfield
4. The Trip to Greece
5. Crip Camp
6. Beanpole
7. Babyteeth
8. Ammonite
9. 7500
10. David Byrne’s American Utopia


Katherine Dieckmann
1. Nomadland
2. Lovers Rock
3. Relic
4. Bacarau
5. The Forty-Year Old Version
6. Crip Camp
7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
8. Dick Johnson is Dead
9. Wolfwalkers
10. Promising Young Woman

What did I find myself wanting to see more than once, for a wide variety of reasons? That was my guiding principle this year, and maybe it should be in any year.


Brian Duffield
The Assistant
Bad Education
Bad Hair
Boys State
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
His House
The Nest
Retaliation (fka Romans)
Sound of Metal

I went alphabetical instead of ranked because I just couldn’t make up my mind. I’m sure in years ahead I’ll be able to look back at this list and understand why these are the movies that clawed their way into me the most in this crazy year, but I don’t have that hindsight yet, so these are simply the movies I felt I’d be most disappointed by excluding here.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Derek Cianfrance in Quarantine Finishing I Know This Much Is True


Jeanie Finlay
1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
2. Dick Johnson is Dead
3. The Reason I Jump
4. Lovers Rock
5. Uncut Gems
6. Rocks
7. The Forty-Year-Old Version
8. Being a Human Person / About Endlessness
9. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
10. Saint Maud

Portrait was the last film I saw in a cinema before lockdown. When the screens reopened and I was able to see Rocks, I had forgotten the distinct, overwhelming sensory pleasure of the cinema. What a joy.


Alex H. Fischer
1. First Cow
2. Collective
3. Time
4. Black Bear
5. Boys State
6. Feels Good Man
7. The Nest
8. All In: The Fight for Democracy
9. The Social Dilemma
10. She Dies Tomorrow

Feels Good Man showed me the true power of THE MEME, as idea, as symbol, and in its new-fashioned internet iteration… And I haven’t been able to shake it. It haunts my dreams!

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Jude Law Talks with Sean Durkin and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry on the Talkhouse Podcast


Michael Gallagher
1. Da 5 Bloods
2. The Trial of the Chicago 7
3. The Vast of Night
4. Nomadland
5. Palm Springs
6. Straight Up
7. Horse Girl
8. Jezebel
9. The Way Back
10. An American Pickle


Tom Gilroy
1. The Mountains Are A Dream That Call to Me, Cedric Cheung-Lau
2. The Eleventh Green, Christopher Munch
3. August At Akiko’s, Christopher Makoto Yogi
4. Tesla, Michael Almereyda
5. The Sev7nth Circle (Instagram series), Marilyn Oliva & Jan Libby
6. Bacarau, Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles
7. Hold On Tight (music video), Ayoto Ataraxia & Thomas Azier
8. Wojnarowicz, Chris McKim
9. Etsy Xmas Commercial With Gay Black Couple at Holiday Dinner (commercial)
10. David Byrne’s American Utopia, Spike Lee

Apologies to Eliza Hittman, Hirokozu Koreada, Frederick Wiseman, Tsai Ming-liang, Kelly Reichardt and Bertrand Bonello; I love all your work too much to watch it on a small screen, so I am waiting. The Etsy commercial was the antidote to Trump, the Ataraxia/Azier video capsulized a planet’s panic, and The Sev7nth Circle expanded the storytelling form. Onward!

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Henry Butash on Malick


Megan Griffiths
1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
2. Sound of Metal
3. Nomadland
4. Promising Young Woman
5. Mignonnes (Cuties)
6. Babyteeth
7. The Assistant
8. Collective
9. Minari
10. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

On TV: 1. Normal People, 2. I May Destroy You, 3. The Great, 4. Unorthodox, 5. Pen15, 6. Watchmen, 7. Succession, 8. The Amber Ruffin Show, 9. Mrs. America, 10. What We Do in the Shadows.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
I wrote about how my friend Lynn’s early short film helped guide me through the grieving process.


Chad Hartigan
1. Time
2. Corpus Christi
3. Palm Springs
4. Sound of Metal
5. The Climb
6. You Cannot Kill David Arquette
7. The Gentlemen
8. The Whistlers
9. Black Bear
10. Jungleland

I effectively stopped watching new releases once theaters closed aside from an occasional jaunt to the drive-in. Have absolutely no motivation to seek out a new release when it’s only streaming at home. It has to join the pile of every other film ever made. Why would I press play on Da 5 Bloods when I still haven’t seen Malcolm X? Why watch Mank when I still need to see The Magnificent Ambersons? I miss going to the cinema desperately and can’t wait to see new releases again there.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
During the George Floyd protests I revisited and reposted this all-timer from Terence Nance. More than ever, people in our industry need to study his words.


Jim Hemphill
1. Tenet
2. Da 5 Bloods
3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
4. A Rainy Day in New York
5. The Invisible Man
6. Mank
7. Unhinged
8. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
9. The Assistant
10. Wild Mountain Thyme


Jeremy Hersh
1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
2. Nomadland
3. Time
4. Collective
5. Gunda
6. The Assistant
7. Let Them All Talk
8. Fourteen
9. First Cow
10. Swallow

I loved Black Bear too, but I left it out of contention because I’m biased because it was produced by colleagues of mine. Also, I haven’t seen Minari yet. Favorite performances of the year: Radha Blank (The Forty-Year-Old Version), Carrie Coon (The Nest), Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Bárbara Colen (Bacurau), Sidney Flanigan (Never Rarely Sometimes Always), Candice Bergen (Let Them All Talk), Cooper Raiff (Shithouse), and the ensemble of Small Axe. Also, I know these are TV, but Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You), and Shalita Grant (Search Party).

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Say Her Name by Jasmine Batchelor


Jim Hosking
1. Scheme Birds (Ellen Fiske & Ellinor Hallin)
2. A White, White Day (Hlynur Pálmason)
3. Gunda (Viktor Kossakovsky)
4. Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov)
5. The Woman Who Ran (Hong Sang-soo)
6. The Painter and the Thief (Benjamin Ree)
7. Liberté (Albert Serra)
8. The Nest (Sean Durkin)
9. Being A Human Person (Fred Scott)
10. About Endlessness (Roy Andersson)

A lot of these films really moved me. But not out of my flat.


Joslyn Jensen
1. Shirley
2. Nimic (short film by Yorgos Lathimos)
3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
4. Disclosure
5. His House
6. Miss Juneteenth
7. Swallow
8. Run
9. Tito
10. Fourteen

I keep a still from Shirley as my desktop background and it’s like having a picture of my celebrity crush taped to my locker. This film has the je ne sais quoi kinetics I’ve always admired in Josephine Decker’s direction, combined with an incredible screenplay by Sarah Gubbins. I rewatched the film a second time and again surrendered to all that sharp lipstick-red and lush forest green. Shirley rules!

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Frank Mosley’s essay on the making of his interactive film, Her Wilderness!


James Marsh
1. Collective
2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
3. Beanpole
4. Another Round (aka Druk)
5. The Painter and the Thief
6. The Human Factor
7. My Octopus Teacher

Only 7 choices and just 3 of those experienced in the cinema. I found consolation in the certainty of older movies. The surprise of the year was Another Round. In any other year, I may have dismissed it or not even bothered to watch it. But it was the one film that gave me joy this year.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Dinner with Scorsese


Anna Mastro
1. The Forty-Year-Old Version
2. My Spy
3. Sound of Metal
4. Emma
5. Troop Zero
6. The Assistant
7. Palm Springs
8. Unpregnant
9. The Donut King
10. Wander Darkly

I’m not usually one for action comedies, but My Spy made me laugh so hard, I could watch it with my family and we actually watched it twice.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
For me it’s a tie between Mike Hadreas (Perfume Genius) Talks with Jeremy O. Harris (Slave Play) on the Talkhouse Podcast and Diplo (Major Lazer) Talks with Charley Crockett on the Talkhouse Podcast


Roberto Minervini
1. DAU. Natasha
2. The Painted Bird
3. DAU. Degeneration
4. The Year of Discovery (El Año del Descubrimiento)
5. Notturno
6. Berlin Alexanderplatz
7. Siberia
8. Moving On (Nam-mae-wui yeo-reum-bam)
9. First Cow
10. Dear Comrades (Dorogie tovarishchi)


Dito Montiel
1. Critical Thinking
2. Troop Zero
3. Don’t F with Cats
4. Wild Wild Country
5. Tiger King
6. The Vow
7. Crazy, Not Insane
8. My Octopus Teacher
9. Over the Moon
10. Pinocchio

Put a lot of documentaries because that’s all I really watch. I’m prejudiced to Critical Thinking as the madness behind that makes it a miracle it ever even got to filming.


Alex Ross Perry
1. The Nest
2. Liberté
3. Beanpole
4. Host
5. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
6. Emma
7. The Vast of Night
8. Tenet
9. Amulet
10. Zombi Child


Jennifer Phang
1. The Forty-Year-Old Version
2. Crip Camp
3. Tenet
4. Palm Springs
4. I Will Make You Mine
6. Radioactive
7. The Half of It
8. Pahokee
9. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
10. Hamilton


James Ponsoldt
1. First Cow
2. Nomadland
3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
4. Minari
5. Lovers Rock
6. Shirley
7. I Used To Go Here
8. Kajillionaire
9. The Hunt
10. The Assistant

In this weird asterisk year – one in which many wonderful films were released – the comfort food that I watched (and then immediately rewatched) is How to With John Wilson. I didn’t realize how much I needed this series. Seen as six meditations on a common theme, “How To” reminds me of everything I love and miss about people.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
I Guess A 30-Year-Old Beastie Boys Record Is My Best Friend Now?


Cooper Raiff
1. Collective
2. First Cow
3. Time
4. David Byrne’s American Utopia
5. Nomadland
6. Minari
7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
8. Dick Johnson is Dead
9. Lovers Rock
10. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

I also liked that movie Shithouse.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Kelly Reichardt Talks with Olivier Assayas for the Talkhouse Podcast


Leah Shore
1. Color Out of Space
2. Spree
3. Crazy, Not Insane
4. The Forty-Year-Old Version
5. Da 5 Bloods
6. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
7. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
8. Cats
9. Gretel & Hansel
10. Mucho Mucho Amor

I’d like to set the record straight and say that Cats was one of the best experiences I had at a movie theater. I sincerely think this piece of weirdo crap is the funniest film I’ve seen in forever. It’s a great reminder to not take yourself seriously as a human or cat.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Darren Aronofsky Talks with Alejandro Jodorowsky (Psychomagic: A Healing Art) for the Talkhouse Podcast


Chelsea Stardust
1. The Invisible Man
2. Freaky
3. His House
4. Birds of Prey
5. Beastie Boys Story
6. Gretel and Hansel
7. The Vast of Night
8. Swallow
9. Class Action Park
10. Shirley

I had a hard time deciding between The Invisible Man and Freaky for my #1 choice. With The Invisible Man, writer-director Leigh Whannell perfectly reinvents a classic Universal Monster Movie and Chris Landon, the director of Freaky, once again proves he is the master of blending comedy, horror and heart.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
I Guess A 30-Year-Old Beastie Boys Record Is My Best Friend Now?


Travis Stevens
1. Possessor: Uncut
2. The Painter and the Thief
3. Da 5 Bloods
4. The Invisible Man
5. Sound of Metal
6. Marcel Duchamp: The Art of the Possible
7. La Llorona
8. Palm Springs
9. His House
10. The Strings

With Celebration, Olivier Meyrou creates a fashion documentary as horror film. Yves Saint Laurent moves through the proceedings as a revered force, a legendary beast of creative excellence and precision, silently slipping through the halls of his couture house while the iron hand of Pierre Bergé keeps the village working harmoniously and the design icon safe from the outside world. Breathtaking in its structural, audio and visual boldness, the documentary is almost experimental in its construction, but never loses the emotions at play. The past, the present and the future, are all evoked without being linear. You feel the weight of history, of what’s been created, the cost of that creation and the work required to keep it up. An incredible film, made even more impressive by the 13 year delay it took for it to be released (and the clear influence on Phantom Thread).

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Racist? by actress Sheila Vand, on the many examples of microaggression she’s faced in her career.


Richard Tanne
1. Aviva
2. Dave Chappelle: 8:46
3. Eric Andre: Legalize Everything
4. Let Him Go
5. Superman: Man of Tomorrow
6. Color Out of Space
7. Synchronic
8. Guns Akimbo
9. Liberté
10. In Search of the Last Action Hero

Aviva is something to behold. A sun-soaked dance movie that tracks the tumultuous inner and outer life of a man trying to forge peace between his masculine and feminine sides. Writer-director Boaz Yakin pulls inspiration from the likes of Pina, Buñuel, Fosse, and Woody Allen, but Aviva somehow remains nothing if not a singularly new and original vision.


Alex Thompson
1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
2. Wonder Woman 1984
3. The Last Dance
4. The Assistant
5. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
6. Seberg / Happiest Season / Underwater [A note here: This was the year of Kristen Stewart. Like the method-styled movie stars of the ’70s, in bad, mediocre or good, she operates at an aggressive murmur, almost in an effort to counteract her natural charisma. But what she is is an undeniable, old-school movie star, with all the power that brings to the screen.]
7. Mayor
8. Pahokee
9. Mank
10. Sound of Metal

My overwhelming blindspots: Dick Johnson is Dead, My Psychedelic Love Story, Zappa, City Hall, Boys State, Babyteeth, Black Bear, Small Axe Anthology, Soul, Relic, Shithouse, Nomadland, She Dies Tomorrow.


Joshua Z Weinstein
1. Lovers Rock
2. Bacurau
3. Nomadland
4. First Cow
5. Time
6. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
7. Sound of Metal
8. Soul
9. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
10. Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children

Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children: I have witnessed some of the most dramatic moments of the year on this Instagram channel (the best clips keep on getting deleted and the many sub-pages get renamed with different spellings of the title). One recent video is from the perspective of a man’s cellphone camera as he runs through a hospital lobby at night yelling, “Where are all the COVID patients?” There is such rage, paranoia and fear in the clips. Weirdly, they begin to emulate the Star Wars narrative, the protagonists in each vignette believe they are the one person who can stop the evil empire. This is a window into our country behind the headlines, and the comments are just as enlightening as the videos.


Eleanor Wilson
1. Black Bear
2. Time
3. Feels Good Man
4. First Cow
5. Kajillionaire
6. Shirley
7. She Dies Tomorrow
8. Scare Me
9. The Nest
10. Boys State

Black Bear is the best portrayal of filmmaking on film since Real Life.

Favorite Talkhouse Film piece of 2020:
Video Essay: Indecent Proposal: Would You Do It?


Caveh Zahedi
1. Dick Johnson is Dead
2. Ham on Rye
3. The Last Dance
4. The Infiltrators
5. My Octopus Teacher
6. The Social Dilemma
7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
8. Hamilton
9. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
10. The Hunt

I loved Ham on Rye. It’s an astonishingly assured debut by a truly talented young filmmaker. It has a completely unique sensibility and is utterly uncompromising.