COVID-19 leveled the movie playing field this year; dismantling theatrical release schedules and pushing back hotly-anticipated blockbusters. With cinemas closed for the better part of 2020, independent films presented themselves as saviors of the streaming void. For once, films outside the system are leading the entertainment industry in the dark. Whether it be during their limited releases or VOD, without your typical blockbusters, there’s no denying smaller films as the best of the year (not that indies aren’t always superior). Here are the Mandatory Top 10 of 2020: Indie Movies of the Year .
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Indie Movies of the Year
10. 'Color Out of Space'
You know how Nicolas Cage has recently been doing that thing where he makes a movie so bad it’s good? Well, he’s done it again in Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space . The film is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, “The Colour Out of Space ,” and follows Nathan Gardner and his family as they battle an extraterrestrial organism that transforms their rural life into a technicolor nightmare. It’s rad.
9. 'Blow the Man Down'
Bridget Savage’s Blow the Man Down follows two sisters attempting to cover up the death of a less-than-admirable date. In doing so, Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) and Priscilla Connolly (Sophie Lowe) infiltrate the criminal underbelly of their New England town, uncovering a plethora of secrets. Think Fargo , but in New England.
8. 'First Cow'
Based on the novel of the same name, Kelly Reichardt’s film follows two travelers who rely on a landowner’s prized dairy cow to strike it rich in the 1820s (whilst on the run from vengeful bounty hunters). First Cow is at times tense yet absorbing and unhurried, exploring the bonds of friendship, brotherhood, and what it means to be alive.
Based on Rita Kaljenais’ play of the same name (she also wrote this script), Shannon Murphy’s directorial debut follows a terminally-ill teenager who falls in love with a small-time drug dealer. Babyteeth is one of the most surprising, poignant, hilarious, and energetic romances you’ll see this year.
Kantemir Balagov’s Beanpole centers on two young women attempting to rebuild their lives following the siege of Leningrad during World War II. The director’s bleak look at guilt, grief, and PTSD is amplified by long takes and close-ups that convey the emotions of its characters.
5. 'Never Rarely Sometimes Always'
Eliza Hittman’s drama follows Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), who, after finding out she is pregnant, lacks the compassion and support necessary to deal with the unintentional situation. Therefore, she travels to New York City with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder). It's a contemplative journey on the nature of systemic oppression, compassion, and friendship.
Andre Ahn’s indie features Brian Dennehy’s final (and perhaps finest) performance as a Korean War vet, Del. Dennehy’s character befriends the socially-awkward young son of his deceased neighbor's sister. Driveways explores loss, fear, and suffering as a collective, human experience.
Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’s mystery thriller centers on the inhabitants of Bacurau , a fictional town in the Brazilian sertão and its weird happenings (understatement) following the death of its matriarch. The film has been praised for its daring yet quirky narrative and deep-dive into Brazilian society.
2. 'Sound of Metal'
Writer/director Darius Marder’sdebut film, Sound of Metal , follows a heavy-metal drummer, Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) who begins to lose his hearing. The film is being praised for its look at the deaf community (and sound design) as well as Ahmed’s passionate performance as a man losing touch with the world around him—forced to build a new life unfamiliar to him and (most of) the audience.
Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari premiered at the Sundance Film Festival way back in January; the film began on limited release this month before releasing worldwide on Feb. 12, 2021. Even though that’s next year, Minari will be on the tip of everyone’s tongue come awards season. That said, anyone familiar with AMC’s The Walking Dead will be jazzed to be Steven Yeun. He and Ye-ri Han lend powerhouse performances to Minari (Oscar-worthy), a film that follows a Korean American family assimilating to life in 1980s Arkansas.