The 10 best films of 2020

OPINION: The year 2020 will be remembered for some horrible things, but during it many great films were released.

There were many movies I loved released in New Zealand this year one way or another, but the following 10 are my absolute favourites.

Strongly agree or passionately disgaree? Let me know on Twitter, especially if I left off your favourite.

Babyteeth 2020 film.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

1: Babyteeth

Months on I'm still recovering from this devastating debut. The flawless performances, the lightning in a bottle feel - Babyteeth ripped my heart clean from my chest in a way I will never forget. Eliza Scanlon plays the seriously ill and uniquely special Milla, whose mother and father are lurching and reeling their way through pain and grief. This film is full of bursts of colour and rage and hope and life, and it's quite exceptional.


Da Five Bloods, 2020.
Photo credit: Netflix

2: Da 5 Bloods

The story of a tight group of black Vietnam War veterans who return to the jungle on a hunt for gold - there is no question this is a Spike Lee joint. This is one of the late Chadwick Boseman's final films and alongside him is a standout, Oscar-worthy performance from Delroy Lindo as a rage-filled PTSD sufferer. The potency of this story seeps from the pores of each character and the blood which binds them. It's a film for the moment, and one for the ages.


Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures

3: Nomadland

Oscar-winner Frances McDormand plays the recently widowed Fern who takes to the open road in her trusty van with all her possessions she holds dear, taking us all on a journey beyond the confines of the conventional norms of American life. This wonderful film from Chloé Zhao is both panoramic and intimate, and is an absolute gift of a film.


Savage Kiwi movie 2020.
Photo credit: Madman Entertainment

4: Savage

The New Zealand story of gang lifer Damage unfolds across three distinct chapters, with his falling into the role of enforcer as his appetite for destruction is clearly waning. The broken bodies, the broken lives, the brother against brother - this is a brutal, confronting and very emotional watch.


Christopher Nolan's Tenet.
Photo credit: Warner Bros

5: Tenet

Christopher Nolan's mind-bending heist extravaganza explodes onto the screen with a classic Nolan in-camera action set piece and doesn't let you off the hook until the final credits roll - all the while demanding you keep up, even when in reality you have no bloody idea how to. Being lucky enough to experience this IMAX film on New Zealand's biggest screen in 2020 was an absolute highlight.


A24 film Waves.
Photo credit: A24

6: Waves

Kelvin Harrison Jr is Tyler, a top tier student on a path to be a sporting great whose unravelling makes for hypnotic viewing. This marks the second film in my top 10 to feature an original score from Oscar-winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who help elevate the narrative to an almost spiritual experience.


For Sama.
Photo credit: ITN Productions

7: For Sama

Syrian student Waad Al-Kateab was just 18 when she started filming the shells raining down on her home city of Aleppo. She didn't stop filming for five years.  This is fact, not fiction: this is the cost of war, and the even greater cost of freedom, and while it's difficult to watch, it's important we do.


Soul, Pixar, 2020.
Photo credit: Pixar

8: Soul

What a simply gorgeous way to end an undeniably ugly year - Pixar comes to our rescue in the final act of 2020 with Soul. The story of a music professor who gets a second chance at life this invigorating joyous life-affirming fable is a dazzling treat for the eyes, ears and Soul. Heavenly.


Photo credit: Universal Pictures

9: 1917

The horrors of war are driven home with an urgent intimacy as two young British infantrymen are sent across enemy lines to warn the forward troops of an imminent deadly ambush. This simple plot delivers one of the most powerful war films you will ever bear witness to.


Let Him Go.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

10: Let Him Go

Kevin Costner and Diane Lane anchor my kind of slowburn '60s western. They play grandparents on a mission to take back their little grandson from the notorious Weboy family. The wide open spaces and a screen full of sky offset the growing drama and gripping finale of this film to perfection.

Kate Rodger is Newshub's broadcast entertainment editor.