Top 22 of 2020

While I certainly wouldn’t say 2020 approached the greatness of 2019’s release year, it certainly held up much better than could have been reasonably expected, given all the obstacles eventually overcome. The amount of films is a bit misleading; there were definitely fewer films that I adored, and Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology accounts for a not insignificant percentage of this list.

The following list is formed from the reds, oranges, greens, and blues that I have seen at time of writing that were commercially released in New York City or received a virtual commercial release in 2020. A list, not the list.

1. Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello)

2. To the Ends of the Earth (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

3. Fourteen (Dan Sallitt)

4. I Was at Home, But… (Angela Schanelec)

5. The Grand Bizarre (Jodie Mack)

6. The Traitor (Marco Bellocchio)

7. Heimat Is a Space in Time (Thomas Heise)

8. Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa)

9. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)

10. The Whistlers (Corneliu Porumboiu)

11. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)

12. Ghost Tropic (Bas Devos)

13. Tesla (Michael Almereyda)

14. Liberté (Albert Serra)

15. Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles)

16. The Wild Goose Lake (Diao Yinan)

17. City Hall (Frederick Wiseman)

18. Sibyl (Justine Triet)

19. Red, White and Blue (Steve McQueen)

20. Education (Steve McQueen)

21. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Bill & Turner Ross)

22. Mangrove (Steve McQueen)

My Top 10 Discoveries During 2020 (for first-time viewings of films made before 2000)

  1. Perceval le Gallois (1978, Eric Rohmer)
  2. Femmes Femmes (1974, Paul Vecchiali)
  3. High and Low (1963, Akira Kurosawa)
  4. Beijing Watermelon (1989, Nobuhiko Obayashi)
  5. His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks)
  6. The Love Eterne (1963, Li Han-hsiang)
  7. Peking Opera Blues (1986, Tsui Hark)
  8. Yearning (1964, Mikio Naruse)
  9. The Rocking Horsemen (1992, Nobuhiko Obayashi)
  10. Dirty Ho (1979, Lau Kar-leung)

A Top 100 of the 2010s

Compiled for the run-up to the end-of-the-decade, will be updated until the end of the 2019 list-making season.

  1. La Flor (2018, Mariano Llinás)
  2. Stray Dogs (2013, Tsai Ming-liang)
  3. Twin Peaks: The Return (2017, David Lynch)
  4. Yourself and Yours (2016, Hong Sang-soo)
  5. Mysteries of Lisbon (2010, Raúl Ruiz)
  6. Like Someone in Love (2012, Abbas Kiarostami)
  7. Asako I & II (2018, Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
  8. Mountains May Depart (2015, Jia Zhangke)
  9. Carol (2015, Todd Haynes)
  10. The Assassin (2015, Hou Hsiao-hsien)
  11. Transit (2018, Christian Petzold)
  12. Cemetery of Splendour (2015, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  13. Silence (2016, Martin Scorsese)
  14. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018, Bi Gan)
  15. Martin Eden (2019, Pietro Marcello)
  16. The Day He Arrives (2011, Hong Sang-soo)
  17. Blackhat (2015, Michael Mann)
  18. Phoenix (2014, Christian Petzold)
  19. The Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick)
  20. Certified Copy (2010, Abbas Kiarostami)
  21. Meek’s Cutoff (2010, Kelly Reichardt)
  22. I Heard You Paint Houses (2019, Martin Scorsese)
  23. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  24. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (2011, Johnnie To)
  25. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 (2014, Johnnie To)
  26. Passion (2012, Brian De Palma)
  27. Horse Money (2014, Pedro Costa)
  28. Margaret (2011, Kenneth Lonergan)
  29. Inherent Vice (2014, Paul Thomas Anderson)
  30. Manakamana (2013, Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez)
  31. To the Ends of the Earth (2019, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  32. Mistress America (2015, Noah Baumbach)
  33. Cameraperson (2016, Kirsten Johnson)
  34. The Grandmaster (2013, Wong Kar-wai)
  35. Goodbye to Language (2014, Jean-Luc Godard)
  36. Drug War (2012, Johnnie To)
  37. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, Wes Anderson)
  38. The Wind Rises (2013, Hayao Miyazaki)
  39. Happy Hour (2015, Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
  40. Romancing in Thin Air (2012, Johnnie To)
  41. Before Midnight (2013, Richard Linklater)
  42. Ash Is Purest White (2018, Jia Zhangke)
  43. Grass (2018, Hong Sang-soo)
  44. Right Now, Wrong Then (2015, Hong Sang-soo)
  45. Manchester by the Sea (2016, Kenneth Lonergan)
  46. Frances Ha (2012, Noah Baumbach)
  47. Gone Girl (2014, David Fincher)
  48. Toni Erdmann (2016, Maren Ade)
  49. First Reformed (2017, Paul Schrader)
  50. The Princess of France (2014, Matías Piñeiro)
  51. Tabu (2012, Miguel Gomes)
  52. Parasite (2019, Bong Joon-ho)
  53. On the Beach at Night Alone (2017, Hong Sang-soo)
  54. High Life (2018, Claire Denis)
  55. Hill of Freedom (2014, Hong Sang-soo)
  56. Jauja (2014, Lisandro Alonso)
  57. Moonrise Kingdom (2012, Wes Anderson)
  58. Hanagatami (2017, Nobuhiko Obayashi)
  59. The Other Side of the Wind (2018, Orson Welles)
  60. Listen Up Philip (2014, Alex Ross Perry)
  61. This Is Not a Film (2011, Jafar Panahi & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb)
  62. No No Sleep (2015, Tsai Ming-liang)
  63. Bastards (2013, Claire Denis)
  64. Hahaha (2010, Hong Sang-soo)
  65. Arboretum Cycle (2017, Nathaniel Dorsky)
  66. Uncut Gems (2019, Josh & Benny Safdie)
  67. SPL II: A Time for Consequences (2015, Soi Cheang)
  68. In My Room (2018, Ulrich Köhler)
  69. I Was at Home, But… (2019, Angela Schanelec)
  70. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013, Isao Takahata)
  71. Oki’s Movie (2010, Hong Sang-soo)
  72. Shakti (2019, Martín Rejtman)
  73. The Day After (2017, Hong Sang-soo)
  74. Her Smell (2018, Alex Ross Perry)
  75. An Elephant Sitting Still (2018, Hu Bo)
  76. differently, Molussia (2012, Nicolas Rey)
  77. List (2011, Hong Sang-soo)
  78. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (2013, Hong Sang-soo)
  79. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019, Quentin Tarantino)
  80. My Golden Days (2015, Arnaud Desplechin)
  81. The Traitor (2019, Marco Bellocchio)
  82. The Image Book (2018, Jean-Luc Godard)
  83. Kaili Blues (2015, Bi Gan)
  84. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (2012, Alain Resnais)
  85. Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater)
  86. The Handmaiden (2016, Park Chan-wook)
  87. Two Days, One Night (2014, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
  88. Two Shots Fired (2014, Martín Rejtman)
  89. The Unspeakable Act (2012, Dan Sallitt)
  90. To the Wonder (2012, Terrence Malick)
  91. Sieranevada (2016, Cristi Puiu)
  92. The Color Wheel (2011, Alex Ross Perry)
  93. The Work (2017, Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous)
  94. The Grand Bizarre (2018, Jodie Mack)
  95. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018, Christopher McQuarrie)
  96. The Hedonists (2016, Jia Zhangke)
  97. Faces Places (2017, Agnès Varda & JR)
  98. In Another Country (2012, Hong Sang-soo)
  99. Kate Plays Christine (2016, Robert Greene)
  100. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018, Joel & Ethan Coen)

Top 25 Performances

  1. Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks: The Return
  2. Laura Paredes, La Flor
  3. Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  4. Rooney Mara, Carol
  5. Zhao Tao, Mountains May Depart
  6. Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
  7. Luca Marinelli, Martin Eden
  8. Peter Simonischek, Toni Erdmann
  9. Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
  10. Franz Rogowski, Transit
  11. Hong Chau, Downsizing
  12. Patrick d’Assumçao, Stranger by the Lake
  13. John Huston, The Other Side of the Wind
  14. Lee Yoo-young, Yourself and Yours
  15. Shu Qi, The Assassin
  16. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
  17. Kim Min-hee, On the Beach at Night Alone
  18. Nina Hoss, Phoenix
  19. Lee Kang-sheng, Stray Dogs
  20. Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
  21. Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  22. Anna Paquin, Margaret
  23. Rin Takanashi, Like Someone in Love
  24. Kate Lyn Sheil, Kate Plays Christine
  25. Louis Koo, Romancing in Thin Air

Honorable Mentions (not strict runners-up but rather films that have stuck with me)

  • Aloha (2015, Cameron Crowe)
  • Another Movie (2018, Morgan Fisher)
  • Aquarius (2016, Kleber Mendonça Filho)
  • Bad at Dancing (2015, Joanna Arnow)
  • Belonging (2019, Burak Çevik)
  • Brouillard: Passage #14 (Alexandre Larose)
  • Burning (2018, Lee Chang-dong)
  • By the Time It Gets Dark (2016, Anocha Suwichakornpong)
  • Camera falls from airplane and lands in pig pen–MUST WATCH END!! (2014, Mia Munselle)
  • Classical Period (2018, Ted Fendt)
  • Clouds of Sils Maria (2014, Olivier Assayas
  • Coherence (2013, James Ward Byrkit)
  • Downsizing (2018, Alexander Payne)
  • Elle (2016, Paul Verhoeven)
  • Garoto (2015, Júlio Bressane)
  • The Ghost Writer (2010, Roman Polanski)
  • Heaven Knows What (2014, Josh & Benny Safdie)
  • Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (2015, Stephen Cone)
  • The Human Surge (2016, Eduardo Williams)
  • I Am Not Madame Bovary (2016, Feng Xiaogang)
  • “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians” (2018, Radu Jude)
  • Journey to the West (2014, Tsai Ming-liang)
  • L for Leisure (2014, Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn)
  • Let Your Light Shine (2013, Jodie Mack)
  • The Lost City of Z (2016, James Gray)
  • The Mend (2014, John Magary)
  • The Midnight After (2014, Fruit Chan)
  • Mrs. Hyde (2017, Serge Bozon)
  • Night Without Distance (2015, Lois Patiño)
  • Nocturama (2016, Eduardo Williams)
  • Non-Fiction (2018, Olivier Assayas)
  • P’tit Quinquin (2014, Bruno Dumont)
  • Personal Shopper (2016, Olivier Assayas)
  • Princess Cyd (2018, Stephen Cone)
  • Resident Evil: Retribution (2012, Paul W.S. Anderson)
  • Six Cents in the Pocket (2015, Ricky D’Ambrose)
  • The Strange Little Cat (2013, Ramon Zürcher)
  • The Social Network (2010, David Fincher)
  • The Son of Joseph (2016, Eugène Green)
  • Stranger by the Lake (2013, Alain Guiraudie)
  • A Touch of Sin (2013, Jia Zhangke)
  • 20th Century Women (2016, Mike Mills)
  • Unfriended: Dark Web (2018, Stephen Susco)
  • Western (2017, Valeska Grisebach)
  • Zama (2017, Lucrecia Martel)

Top 26 of 2019

As I’ve said elsewhere, 2019 was one of the most extraordinary American release years for film I’ve ever seen, benefiting from both a truly fantastic 2018 premiere year and a wonderful slate of American films in 2019. The variety and sheer ingenuity provided so many pleasures and bewitching moments, without ever feeling rote or perfunctory.

The following list is formed from the reds, oranges, greens, and blues that I have seen at time of writing that were commercially released in New York City in 2019. A list, not the list.

1. La Flor (Mariano Llinás)

2. Asako I & II (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

3. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Bi Gan)

4. I Heard You Paint Houses (Martin Scorsese)

5. Transit (Christian Petzold)

6. Ash Is Purest White (Jia Zhangke)

7. Grass (Hong Sang-soo)

8. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho)

9. High Life (Claire Denis)

10. Uncut Gems (Josh & Benny Safdie)

11. In My Room (Ulrich Köhler)

12. Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry)

13. An Elephant Sitting Still (Hu Bo)

14. The Image Book (Jean-Luc Godard)

15. Hotel by the River (Hong Sang-soo)

16. “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians” (Radu Jude)

17. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)

18. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)

19. Little Women (Greta Gerwig)

20. Too Late to Die Young (Dominga Sotomayor)

21. What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? (Roberto Minervini)

22. Non-Fiction (Olivier Assayas)

23. Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar)

24. 3 Faces (Jafar Panahi)

25. Ad Astra (James Gray)

26. Richard Jewell (Clint Eastwood)

My Top 10 Discoveries During 2019 (for first-time viewings of films made before 2000)

  1. Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974, Jacques Rivette)
  2. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933, Fritz Lang)
  3. The Awful Truth (1937, Leo McCarey)
  4. The Mother and the Whore (1973, Jean Eustache)
  5. Mahjong (1996, Edward Yang)
  6. A City of Sadness (1989, Hou Hsiao-hsien)
  7. The End of Evangelion (1997, Hideaki Anno)
  8. Out 1: Spectre (1972, Jacques Rivette)
  9. A Confucian Confusion (1994, Edward Yang)
  10. India Song (1975, Marguerite Duras)

Top 16 of 2018

This year, I definitely cut back on both film watching and writing on films released this year in favor of viewing for my podcast. Perhaps because of this general consistency of viewing, despite an even lower number of films that I truly loved than the doldrums of last year, I feel much more enthusiastic about the riches that this film year had to offer. Many of these filmmakers were known quantities, but they seemed to surprise me and reveal heretofore unknown depths or avenues, in ways that augmented their strengths rather than serving as the sole overwhelming asset.

The following list is formed from the reds, oranges, greens, and blues that I have seen at time of writing that were commercially released in New York City in 2018. A list, not the list.

first reformed

1. First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

other side

2. The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles)

day after

3. The Day After (Hong Sang-soo)

fallout

4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie)

ballad

5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel & Ethan Coen)

bisbee

6. Bisbee ’17 (Robert Greene)

burning

7. Burning (Lee Chang-dong)

zama

8. Zama (Lucrecia Martel)

soleil

9. Un beau soleil intérieur (Claire Denis)

beale street

10. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)

before we vanish

11. Before We Vanish (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

isle of dogs

12. Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)

camera

13. Claire’s Camera (Hong Sang-soo)

lazzaro

14. Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)

girls

15. Support the Girls (Andrew Bujalski)

star

16. A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper)

My Top 10 Discoveries During 2018 (for first-time viewings of films made before 2000)

  1. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, Orson Welles)
  2. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Vincente Minelli)
  3. Only Angels Have Wings (1939, Howard Hawks)
  4. Late Spring (1949, Yasujiro Ozu)
  5. Napoléon (1927, Abel Gance)
  6. A Star Is Born (1954, George Cukor)
  7. Sansho the Bailiff (1954, Kenji Mizoguchi)
  8. Taipei Story (1985, Edward Yang)
  9. Gertrud (1964, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  10. That Day, on the Beach (1983, Edward Yang)

Top 19 of 2017

2017 was, to put it mildly and flippantly, an utter oddity of a year in so many ways. When I look at my list, the overall quality of the films themselves was perhaps no poorer than in the monumental selections of the past two years, but there was a certain bewilderment, a malaise that put me at a distance. With the exception of Twin Peaks: The Return, there was practically no film where my love was not complicated in some way, and it seems equally due to the films as it is to the year at large.

The following list is formed from the reds, oranges, greens, and blues (plus a few more) that I have seen at time of writing that were commercially released in New York City in 2017. It is a snapshot rather than a permanent fixture.

no1

1. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo)

no2

2. The Work (Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous)

no3

3. Faces Places (Agnès Varda & JR)

no4

4. Princess Cyd (Stephen Cone)

no5

5. Good Time (Josh & Benny Safdie)

no6

6. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (S.S. Rajamouli)

no7

7. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)

no8

8. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach)

no9

9. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

no10

10. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Paul W.S. Anderson)

no11

11. The Son of Joseph (Eugène Green)

no12

12. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Robin Campillo)

no13

13. Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda)

no14

14. Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)

no15

15. The Post (Steven Spielberg)

no16

16. Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro)

no17

17. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson)

no18

18. The Human Surge (Eduardo Williams)

no19

19. Downsizing (Alexander Payne)

My Top 10 Discoveries During 2017 (for first-time viewings of films made before 2000)

  1. A Touch of Zen (1971, King Hu)
  2. The Terrorizers (1986, Edward Yang)
  3. Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)
  4. Rio Bravo (1959, Howard Hawks)
  5. A New Leaf (1971, Elaine May)
  6. Ashes of Time (1994, Wong Kar-wai)
  7. Surviving Desire (1991, Hal Hartley)
  8. Do the Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee)
  9. The Unbelievable Truth (1989, Hal Hartley)
  10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper)

Top 23 of 2016

2016 definitely wasn’t my first year of cinephilia, but it feels in many ways like the first concrete step towards it becoming my all-consuming passion. From joining and becoming immersed in Twitter to watching more and more to writing on here, Seattle Screen Scene, and Brooklyn Magazine, it’s been rather extraordinary.

The following list is formed from the reds, oranges, greens, and blues that I have seen at time of writing that were commercially released in New York City in 2016. It is woefully inadequate and incomplete, but nothing ever is in cinephilia.

1. Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)

2. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)

3. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)

4. My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin)

5. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)

6. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo)

7. Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene)

8. Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (Stephen Cone)

9. O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman)

10. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

11. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)

12. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)

13. SPL II: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)

14. Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

15. The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig)

16. Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

17. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)

18. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)

19. The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra)

20. Sully (Clint Eastwood)

21. Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno)

22. Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater)

23. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)

My Top 10 Discoveries During 2016 (for first-time viewings of films made before 2000)

  1. A Brighter Summer Day (1991, Edward Yang)
  2. Chungking Express (1994, Wong Kar-wai)
  3. Trust (1990, Hal Hartley)
  4. Wavelength (1967, Michael Snow)
  5. Manhunter (1986, Michael Mann)
  6. The Devils (1971, Ken Russell)
  7. Carlito’s Way (1993, Brian De Palma)
  8. Out 1 (1971, Jacques Rivette)
  9. Ran (1985, Akira Kurosawa)
  10. Days of Being Wild (1990, Wong Kar-wai)

In conclusion: