The best films of 2020 so far!

BBC Culture’s film critics Nicholas Barber and Caryn James pick 5 of this year’s highlights, including Da 5 Bloods, The Hunt and a blood-soaked Brazilian homage to Westerns:


Da 5 Bloods:
Spike Lee’s latest is a passionate, kinetic, thoroughly involving epic, combining intense drama with flashes of wit. As four black American veterans return to Vietnam to recover the body of their lost friend, as well as a cache of gold, Lee takes a long, historical view of the US and its racism. The friends are complicated individuals created with great immediacy – Oscar buzz has deservedly started for Delroy Lindo, whose character is tortured by the past and by post-traumatic stress disorder. Da 5 Bloods is one of Spike Lee’s best, which is saying a lot. (CJ)


The Personal History of David Copperfield: One of cinema’s worst ever injustices is that The Personal History of David Copperfield was snubbed at this February’s Baftas. Even by the standards of its writer-director, Armando Iannucci, this joyous and endlessly inventive film is a glittering achievement that raises the bar for Charles Dickens adaptations. The clever part is that it’s a loving celebration of the author’s prose, but it is also wonderfully cinematic in its use of vibrant colours, split screens, captions, voiceovers and fantasy sequences. And while Iannucci roots it firmly in the poverty and class system of Victorian England, it’s also bracingly modern, not least in its multicultural casting (Dev Patel is terrific in the lead role). BBC Culture’s review called it “a warm and lively David Copperfield for today”. (NB)



Never Rarely Sometimes Always:
This quietly profound drama follows 17-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), pregnant in a small town in Pennsylvania where abortion is restricted, as she and her cousin secretly take a bus to nearby New York City to terminate the pregnancy. Far from a message movie, writer and director Eliza Hittman’s film is an eloquent, intimate story about choices, secrets, and the sad, desperate decisions young women sometimes make to save their own futures. The camera silently captures the heartbreak on Autumn’s face, as well as the dreary texture of her town and the bright, overwhelming reality of New York. The film is wrenching in its honesty yet exhilarating in its empathy. (CJ)


The Hunt:
The Hunt was controversial before anyone had seen it. A comedy thriller about a gang of privileged liberals (including Hilary Swank) who kidnap some right-wing ‘deplorables’ (including Betty Gilpin) and then pick them off for sport, its release was postponed last year after two mass shootings in America, and it was condemned by US president Donald Trump on Twitter. But when it finally came out this spring, just before cinemas shut down, Craig Zobel and Damon Lindelof’s film turned out to be an exhilarating rollercoaster ride that kept you guessing as to who was on whose side and who was about to be killed. Caryn James praised it in her BBC Culture review as “a smart satire” and “a sly, acerbic, fun-to-watch send-up of the political divide in America”. So far, none of 2020’s releases has been better at eliciting whoops and winces from its audience. (NB)


One of the strangest, most inventive films of the year is this sly Brazilian gem, set in a poor, isolated village called Bacurau. The tight-knit community, including Sônia Braga as its often-drunk doctor, is oppressed by a corrupt politician, and confused about why Bacurau has suddenly disappeared from any map, printed or online. When the village is invaded by mercenaries, the film morphs into a blood-soaked homage to Westerns. You can analyse the movie’s subtext about Brazilian politics or just enjoy its engaging, genre-bending audacity. Directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles have created a dazzling piece of filmmaking, which shared the Jury Prize at Cannes last year. (CJ)



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