Clockwise from Top Left: Promising Young Woman (Focus Features); The Invisible Man (Universal Pictures); Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Studios); Da 5 Bloods (David Lee/Netflix)

Cinema has always been an escape, and that escape was sorely needed in 2020. Unfortunately, it was often difficult to get that full immersive experience in a theater during a pandemic. In fact, only one of the movies that made my top 10 list this time around was viewed that way, while the rest I took in at home while doing my best to ward off distractions. So with that in mind, I’m in the mood to just celebrate what I loved most about the movies that I loved that somehow found a way to arrive into the world in the past 12 months. So get ready for a tidal wave of enthusiasm as you read ahead!

10. Shirley: Elisabeth Moss played Shirley Jackson, and man, I was just intoxicated by that whole deal she had going on with Odessa Young. As for Michael Stuhlbarg as Shirley’s wife Stanley … whoo, his withering glances gave me chills.
9. Bad Education: Hugh Jackman’s performance as school superintendent Frank Tassone is one of those seemingly straight-down-the-middle efforts that stuns with its layers. It’s the sort of tightly pressed arrangement I can’t stop thinking about.
8. Swallow: Haley Bennett wins my vote for Best Performance of the Year as a spooked housewife diagnosed with pica, as she consumes household objects like marbles, batteries, and a mini-screwdriver. Chilling suburban horror can just blow me away.
7. American Utopia: David Byrne is still making great music, he’s still putting on great shows, and he still knows how to turn those shows into damn good movies. Bringing on Spike Lee as director was an ace choice.
6. The Trial of the Chicago 7: I quite enjoy it when charismatic characters fight in court against outrageous miscarriages of justice. The Trial of the Chicago 7 has that in spades.
5. Tenet: Some moviegoers found Tenet to be hard to follow, but it made perfect sense to me! I guess I’m just on the same wavelength as Christopher Nolan. Bullets going backward, cars going backward, entire scenes played in reverse? It all looks so cool, and the explanations for these happenings tickle my brain.
4. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: I didn’t know it was possible to turn Borat into a phenomenon yet again, but hell yeah, Sacha Baron Cohen pulled it off. Mr. Sagdiyev had me laughing immediately and non-stop, and he also warmed my heart with the loveliest father-daughter tale in quite some time.
3. The Invisible Man: I keep playing in my head over and over again the moment when Elisabeth Moss grabs the titular boogeyman’s arm while she’s in the shower and triumphantly shouts, “There you are!” It’s so massively cathartic. The Invisible Man is filled with sequences like that, like the devastating one in the restaurant, which wins my vote for Scene of the Year. Horror is truly the genre where we exorcise our era’s biggest demons, and I loved to see it happen in The Invisible Man.
2. Da 5 Bloods: I love Delroy Lindo’s aching lead performance, I love Spike Lee’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink messiness, I love the tension of the bomb defusions, I love how Da 5 Bloods is so insistent about confronting the past that keeps hanging around with us.
1. Promising Young Woman: It’s a revenge thriller, it’s a black comedy, it’s a rom-com, and it’s an excellent version of all of those. How can I resist? Answer: I can’t!