The 2020 Jim Ridley Film Poll

The 2020 Jim Ridley Film Poll


First CowFirst Cow

Given the chaos and enervating travails of 2020, it was going to be a challenge to find the right assortment of folks to get at the heart of this unpredictable year in cinema. An international assemblage of critics, filmmakers, podcasters, teachers, actors, exhibitors, publicists, festival programmers, artists and even a beloved horror host stepped up to get hierarchical and reflective. We do this every year in honor of the late, great Jim Ridley, who believed strongly in the value of conversations about film. So buckle up, it’s a wild ride ahead.

The 25 Best Films of 2020

1. First Cow

2. Lovers Rock

3. Possessor

4. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

5. Nomadland

6. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

7. Vitalina Varela

8. Spontaneous

9. The Invisible Man

10. She Dies Tomorrow

11. David Byrne’s American Utopia

12. Driveways

13. Da 5 Bloods

14. (tie) Mank

14. (tie) Tenet

16. Collective

17. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

18. Time

19. Bacurau

20. Promising Young Woman

21. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

22. City Hall

23. (tie) The Assistant

23. (tie) Emma

25. Gretel and Hansel


Jason Adams, Siddhant Adlakha, Sadaf Ahsan, Sean Burns, B.J. Colangelo, Jacob Davison, A.A. Dowd, Alonso Duralde, Steve Erickson, Dr. Gangrene, Odie Henderson, Anthony Hudson, Elric Kane, Brennan Klein, John Lichman, Craig D. Lindsey, Brian Lonano, William Mahaffey, Thashana McQuiston, Richie Millennium, E.J. Moreno, David Ninh, Brian Owens, Matt Prigge, Vadim Rizov, D. Patrick Rodgers, Witney Seibold, Jason Shawhan, Michael Sicinski, Nathan Smith, Sam Smith, James Spence, Scout Tafoya, Kyle Turner, Lisa Williams, Cory Woodroof, Ron Wynn

Of all the filmmakers who could make a movie about the pandemic, which one do you want to see most?

Roy Andersson. Elric Kane

Errol Morris. D. Patrick Rodgers

Jeff Nichols. Thashana McQuiston

There are four filmmakers I’d love to see make a film about the pandemic. First, Spike Lee because his film would reflect his personality: acerbic, witty, unpredictable and ultimately insightful. Second, Martin Scorsese because no one is better at telling all aspects of a complex story, though it would also probably be super-lengthy. Third and fourth, Barry Jenkins and Ava DuVernay, in my view the best of the newer generation of Black filmmakers who could offer their views on how it has disproportionately affected the Black community, the impact on Black families and women, etc. Not that Lee’s wouldn’t as well, but they could present it from a younger perspective than his. Ron Wynn

Truthfully, I think it would be Aki Kaurismäki. He would downplay the global horror and emphasize how local communities came together to provide aid to the weakest and most vulnerable. Michael Sicinski

John Waters of course! I’d love to see his take on this hellhole of a moment. David Ninh

The only artist I care to see tackle this period in history is Larry David, who I trust will approach it with the irreverence and splenetic disgust it deserves. I actively dread the maudlin coronavirus relationship dramas coming soon to a film festival near you. (Twenty bucks says Drake Doremus has shot at least three of them already.) All I know is that when we finally get back to the movies, the last thing I’m gonna want to see up there on a big screen is a fucking Zoom call. Sean Burns

Pedro Almodóvar. The essays he released this spring during Spain’s quarantine were some of the most somber but delightful pieces I’ve read about isolation, and I think he would be the perfect filmmaker to find the humor in the situation without dismissing its drama and gravity. Brennan Klein

I mean, Chantal Akerman. Every time I’m wandering from one room to the next, turning on and off lights, I think of Jeanne Dielman, one of the great films about barely leaving one’s apartment, only going out for necessary supplies. Matt Prigge

One of the most curious aspects of early quarantine days was the reconsideration of Todd Haynes’ Safe, a film about, among other things, contagion connected to domestic or bourgeois identity. I think, not unlike Soderbergh (whose own Contagion was frequently in discussion), Haynes has a keen eye on the wide web of deceit and interpolation from system and institution to the individual. And what was COVID-19’s irreparable impact, particularly in the United States, if not a failure particularly on a systematic level? I think Haynes would be able to draw the connections easily and astutely, and employ genre tropes in his typically postmodern affect to an effective degree, finding insight that few filmmakers would be able to grasp. Kyle Turner

Karyn Kusama, for an unexpected and complex take. What I always want from a film is an escape, especially during the pandemic, and I trust Kusama to offer that and somehow make me laugh and cringe. Or a version by Cronenberg (David or Brandon). Unhinged is what I crave, in conclusion. Sadaf Ahsan

Honestly, none of them. I know our cinema will inevitably reckon with it in some ways but I’m looking forward to not watching movies about the pandemic once it’s over. Nathan Smith


Of all the 2020 releases that happened during the pandemic, which is the film you most want to see in a theatrical environment?

His House. Odie Henderson

Vitalina Varela had the most amazing cinematography of any movie I watched this year by far. The closest I could come to doing it justice while streaming it on my TV was to watch it at night with every light in the house turned off. I long for the day when I get to see it on the big screen. Richie Millennium

Monster Hunter. Nathan Smith

My mind says Tenet; my heart says Crazy World with a good crowd. James Spence

When I saw Lovers Rock at the digital edition of the New York Film Festival, I really wished I could’ve seen it surrounded by other people. Not with a New York Film Festival crowd, though; no disrespect to the folks who frequent Lincoln Center, but there are some theatrical experiences that demand an audience with roots in the Global South, or at least people among whom letting loose and really expressing yourself at the cinema isn’t considered taboo. Maybe somewhere in Flushing. People would’ve danced in the aisles if this had gotten a theatrical release. I know I would’ve. Siddhant Adlakha

I would have loved the chance to have seen Tremors: Shrieker Island in a theater. Even without a pandemic, I doubt that the film would have had a theatrical run, but it’s what Burt Gummer deserves, and I’ll give anything to see graboids on the big screen again. B.J. Colangelo

Bacurau, because that will always be the most 2020 movie to me, and I’d love to experience the audience’s reaction when that one dude’s head gets blown off, preferably at a rowdy midnight screening. Sean Burns

Has the pandemic affected your ability to focus when viewing a film?

Definitely, and it’s also affected my memory and impacted my desire to see anything new. I watched fewer new films this year not only because accessing them was more difficult, but also because revisiting older TV shows and films felt safer and more comforting. I can tell I’m feeling hopeful about the future, though, because I have a sudden urge to watch everything. Lisa Williams

Focusing on movies at home is always more difficult than focusing on one inside a blackened movie palace — I’m the sort of person who shrieks if somebody even checks the time on their phone inside a theater, but at home most everything is watched from over the glow of my open laptop, in between bathroom breaks. Jason Adams

I hate my phone. Please confiscate it. Siddhant Adlakha

Nah. I was always absolutely riddled with anxiety. Scout Tafoya

No. I do think it’s harder to focus watching at home overall, but I think I’ve been able to focus more during the pandemic because I would much rather focus on movies than reality. William Mahaffey

More than anything, it’s made me become a real-time fact checker while watching documentaries. I’ll pause and try to string together events to determine a possible shooting timeline depending on the doc’s format. This is useless, for example, with Wiseman’s City Hall, but it was incredibly engaging with David Osit’s Mayor. John Lichman

The pandemic has absolutely shifted the way I watch films. I need to turn my phone off because I don’t have the “I’m in church” feeling of a theater, and the comfort of home triggers an almost Pavlovian response to check notifications. Everyone knows everyone is home (or should be!), which has now spiked pressure to stay connected at all times, which is really hurting the way so many of us take time for self-care or entertainment. We’ve all got to rewire ourselves. B.J. Colangelo

Not only to focus while viewing a film, but to watch films in general. The fact that my movie-watching numbers went down, not up, during the pandemic was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I can’t explain it, and I might always regret it. Sam Smith

What’s the musical moment that has stuck with you from this year’s cinematic offerings?

It’s a tie between Leslie Odom Jr. leading the audience in an a cappella sing-along of “Chain Gang” in One Night in Miami and Mads Mikkelsen’s amazing dance at the end of Another Round. Craig D. Lindsey

Everybody getting buck to “Kunta Kinte Dub” in Lovers Rock and making the DJ run it back multiple times, the multiple meanings of “Psycho Killer” in Bloodshot, the scene in This Is Paris where she’s getting ready to go onstage for a DJ set at an EDM festival and her drunk German boyfriend reveals himself to be a complete manipulative asshole. Nathan Smith

The usage of Paris Hilton’s “Stars Are Blind” in Promising Young Woman was ingenious. The downbeat string-quartet cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” from the same film was also exhilarating. Also the entirety of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe film Lovers Rock. Witney Seibold

Ethan Hawke’s rendition of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” in Michael Almereyda’s Tesla. I love Tears for Fears! David Ninh

The “Bhankas” number from the Bollywood film Baaghi 3. I have my (extreme) misgivings about the politics of the movie, but as a big, blustery action movie, it’s a terrific sugar rush, and the thing I love about Bollywood is that they give this ass-kicking actioner room for a full-tilt production number at a wedding. Brennan Klein

Keith Sweat’s “Make It Last Forever” in the NYFF short film “A Sudden Darkness.” “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” in WW84. Janis Ian’s “Hymn” in Ask Any Buddy. “Pyaar Tenu Karda Gabru” in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, and its similarly subversive sibling “Megatron Man” in Palm Springs. Robyn’s “Honey” in And Then We Danced. The karaoke number in After Midnight that I daren’t spoil. Several of the arrangements in Valley Girl. “Husavik” in Eurovision Song Contest. And everything in Lovers Rock. Jason Shawhan

In She Dies Tomorrow, when the needle is dropped multiple times, repeating the same version of Mozart’s Requiem. It goes from pretentious to darkly funny and shifts how you view the film in one sequence. Elric Kane

The obvious choice here is the rapturous “Silly Games” sing-along in Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock. But because I’ve already written about that magnificent sequence elsewhere (and suspect that other contributors to this poll will cite it), I’ll go with a much less heralded moment: the scene in The Climb where Kyle, one half of the dysfunctional friendship at the center of the film, does a basement lip-sync pole dance for his fiancée, Marissa (Gayle Rankin), to the tune of Shawn Mullins’ dopey 1998 FM hit “Lullaby.” The scene’s an inspired, unexpected bit of physical comedy that’s a little like The Climb in microcosm, in that it benefits in about equal measure from performance and expertly choreographed action. And I’m a sucker for any needle drop that finds sincere meaning in a bad song: After all he’s already been through, some 15 minutes into the movie, Kyle really could use some reassurance that “everything is going to be all right.” A.A. Dowd

“Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga was my most-listened-to song on Spotify this year, and I feel absolutely zero shame in admitting it. The music is absolutely gorgeous, and it has quickly become one of my go-to “belt my face off at the stoplight” songs. As far as a needle drop is concerned? I still cannot believe that in 2020, God proved that she is real by giving us Carey Mulligan and Bo Burnham singing Paris Hilton’s “Stars Are Blind” in Promising Young Woman. B.J. Colangelo

Carey Mulligan and Bo Burnham singing and dancing along to Paris Hilton’s iconic “Stars Are Blind” in Promising Young Woman. I’ve always felt that song never quite got its due, and maybe this is the moment it was made for all along. It’s a bizarrely perfect choice for a moment in which our heroine finally unclenches, with a sweetly endearing nostalgic purity. Be warned, though: you’ll never get it out of your head. Sadaf Ahsan

The “Silly Games” scene in Lovers Rock. Easily the scene of the year and the moment that most made me lament being trapped in my house for the past 10 months. Odie Henderson

Lovers RockLovers Rock

What are you most looking forward to seeing in 2021?

The inside of a theater. Craig D. Lindsey

I cannot WAIT to eat buttery popcorn, sneak in outside Popeye’s in my bag, watch tons of trailers and judge them, laugh, cry during a film, or be overcome with nostalgia revisiting an older film, or be overwhelmed by an experience of a new movie that touches me or makes me react. I can’t wait to be able to have that first group drink with my friends after a film and discuss it in depth. David Ninh

If there’s something that screams “must watch in theaters,” it’s a fourth Matrix movie by one of the original directors, Lana Wachowski. Not a single Hollywood action film has rivaled what the original Matrix did. Not one. Come on, it’s a no-brainer. Siddhant Adlakha

I’d love to see In the Heights or Judas and the Black Messiah in a theater. Can’t wait for Ed-DEE’s return to Zamunda in Coming 2 America, either. Odie Henderson

Like surely just about everyone else, I’m looking forward to Dune, as well as the next Bond and Matrix installments. But I’m really, truly crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to see Nobody in a theater — Bob Odenkirk as action star, directed by the guy who did Hardcore Henry? I could not be more interested. D. Patrick Rodgers

Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. All three minutes of Kyle Richards and her bangs in Halloween Kills. It’s a vastly incompent title for a sequel to a vastly incompetent reboot, but God do I love Kyle Richards (and her bangs)! I’m sure they’re going to kill her brutally for being a Real Housewife and give Anthony Michael Hall’s Tommy way more screen time even though he didn’t even originate the role. Anthony Hudson

Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. B.J. Colangelo

No Time to Die is the only movie I am looking forward to, ever. Kyle Turner

Very much hoping that WB sorts out their Dune mess because I very much need them sandworms to gape open their five-story-tall butthole-mouths in spectacular IMAX. Jason Adams

Other people. Michael Sicinski

Do you think theaters are doomed?

Remains to be seen. I think they will find some way to live on, but likely in a mutated or extremely different form than they did previously. It’s hard to imagine multiplexes surviving without the concessions business, and I also feel like dine-in theaters like Alamo Drafthouse will have to pivot since I don’t think people will be wanting to eat full meals in a theater even after they’ve come back. I do think many arthouse or independent theaters will find new, inventive ways to endure, but I also imagine major players like Amazon and Network will use the current situation to exert more control over the network of independent theaters that distribute their product. Nathan Smith

No. I think they will change. I’m willing to bet that we’re going to return to studios owning their own theaters and signing exclusivity agreements with smaller distributors. Independent theaters will survive as community-driven spaces for arthouse, local and repertory cinema. Brian Owens

As we know, yes. But they won’t die forever. E.J. Moreno

No. If anything, the pandemic and the resultant isolation from the theatrical experience that it has caused has for many rekindled their need and desire to enjoy seeing films in a bigger setting and with other people. I purchased a big-screen TV this year right after the pandemic closed theaters. It was the first time in at least five — if not 10 — years that I’ve had a monitor at home. I had gotten used to letting the theater be the place I saw things on a larger screen. Watching movies at home alone doesn’t come close to replicating what it’s like seeing them at a theater, no matter how large the personal screen might be. Being with a group of otherwise unrelated folks and sharing the joint experience is something that I’ve always treasured, but until it was removed, didn’t really understand or acknowledge just how big a part of my life it was. Ron Wynn

Honestly, I think they already kinda were. This doesn’t exactly feel nail-in-the-coffin — I think they’ll always be around, thanks to the tireless work of amazing independent movie houses and their staff. But I don’t think the pandemic or WB signing over their entire 2021 slate to HBO Max bodes well for the future of mainstream cinema chains. Anthony Hudson

No. William Mahaffey

Never! There will always be a need for humans to socially interact and gather in communal art spaces. David Ninh

I certainly hope not, but the theatrical system will never be the same. Eventually more movie theaters will probably show older rep titles, and projected cinema will become a specialty art, like theater and opera. Michael Sicinski

Short version, no. Slightly longer version, only people who actually like movies should be running theaters. Jason Shawhan

No. But I think rethinking the model is absolutely necessary. I also welcome the return of the drive-in that we have seen over the past year. Thashana McQuiston

I hate to say it out loud, but movie theaters as we have come to know them are indeed certainly at an end. The pandemic, as has been repeatedly stated by those who write about such things, accelerated audience’s slow spurn of the theatrical experience. The idea of a theatrical opening as large as that of Avengers: Endgame is now officially behind us, as I suspect most audiences — who were already facing in this direction — will comfortably take strides toward streaming services. While I, an aging film critic, still deeply and personally value the theatrical experience, I understand that cinemas may remain in the purview of fringe cineastes and old-world nostalgia junkies. 2020 also saw the end of the 1948 Paramount Decrees, allowing studios to once again buy their own movie theater chains and potentially reestablish vertical integration. Theaters will survive in two forms: On the one hand, we’ll have tiny black-box indie houses that play independent films, international films and otherwise-described “art” movies. On the other, we’ll have gigantic theme-park-like palaces that will handle large-scale releases, charge $100 per person, and include all-day experiences alongside the movies themselves. I suspect there will be no middle ground. Witney Seibold

Individually, lots of theaters are going to have a tough time — plenty have already shut down around the globe, and the move toward streaming premieres by studios in multiple countries will only make things tougher — but so long as the collective experience is available, the concept of the movie theater isn’t going anywhere. Traditional theaters for stage plays are still around, even in places that aren’t Broadway or West End, so the movies will likely live on in their original form (probably with more bells, whistles and gourmet food from exhibitors to attract more customers). Siddhant Adlakha

I believe that theaters will continue. The blithe alternative is too grim for words. It will be a rough road ahead with pain and unexpected developments, but I like to think there is a wellspring of support and enthusiasm waiting to come forward (Denis Villeneuve expressed it best in his Dec. 10 statement). The movie theater, as an entity and industry, has weathered and faced many trials and changes. It has experienced the arrival of sound and color, the fallout of legislation, the arrival of television, national disasters, change in projection format, and the full scope and breadth of history. Now it faces as great an uncertainty as it has ever encountered: the fallout created by COVID-19 and the state of the business as molded by the decision makers. The crack that formed from Alice in Wonderland in 2010, has now been completed subsequently by Trolls World Tour in April and the marching orders of Jason Kilar in December: All bets are off, the theatrical window is gone. The ending of the decrees as established by United States v. Paramount Pictures is the tree that could bring chaotic fruit. Last year in this poll, in giving my thoughts on the acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney, I touched on how we are in the Silicon Valley age of Hollywood. I’m not alone with having come to that notion, and this year has further cemented the truth of it. Films are not singular entities anymore. For studio-orientated streaming services they have become marionettes in suspended animation, a charnel house of hard drives. It’s fitting (and pure perspective irony) that the most topical moment would come from a film distributed by Netflix. In Mank, Louis B. Mayer’s Sermon in the Hallway (for my money, the best scene of 2020) brings everything to the surface, especially in his closing lines: “This is a business where the buyer gets nothing for his money but a memory. What he bought stills belongs to the man who sold it. That’s the real magic of the movies, and don’t let anybody tell you different.” We might now say the dream factories have replaced foremen with landlords. To quote Prince, “And if there’s life after, we will see.” James Spence

I don’t own a 75-inch TV with huge speakers; on the other hand, I was able to see four or five movies a week in the theater for free through various means before March. So I know that I value the theatrical experience more than most people. If I’d wager a guess, I’d suggest that far fewer films will be released theatrically, with multiplexes showing three or four blockbusters at a time to a more upscale audience that treats moviegoing like seeing a Broadway play. (Will anyone want to pay $12-$18 and take the risk, however small, of catching a virus to see Liam Neeson Dad-Revenge Thriller No. 20?) The masses will watch movies from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime on their phones. In the dozen American cities with the largest thriving arts scenes, museums and nonprofit spaces will still screen restorations of Godard or Welles films and show new films by Hong Sang-soo or Lucrecia Martel, if only for a day or two. Steve Erickson

No. Scout Tafoya

I think that multiplex theaters as we know them are about to transform into a brand experience. Much like how Amazon is currently buying abandoned malls and factory spaces to transform them into fulfillment centers, I see a future where eating, shopping and film watching will become “an experience.” The Don Draper six-martini pitch would be,“Can’t afford to go to Orlando? Come on down to The Disney Place where you can eat your Avengers tie-in meal as you watch a Pixar film and please exit through the gift shop. If you’re looking for a more adult experience, buy a ticket at the 21-and-up Searchlight Theater, where you can enjoy a glass of wine, see Nomadland and please exit through the gift shop!” Independent theaters will get through or, God help us, have to become slaves to regional festivals in a Basket Case type of relationship — but with fewer martinis, more sponsorships by Stella Artois. John Lichman

No. If anything, there will be a stronger desire for the theatrical experience once it is safe. Jacob Davison

Theaters aren’t doomed, but the way that films are released is going to have to take a massive shift. Accessibility has always been key, and it has led to a major factor in the rise of piracy. Day-and-date releasing is a good thing. Those who feel safe enough to go to a theater will still go. Those who cannot will stay home. Spreading the release across the platforms also means prices can go down because films aren’t having to bank on just theaters, and audiences are happier. B.J. Colangelo

I think if we ever get to a place where we can gather again, and any of them have survived by then, theaters have a chance. I think one thing people won’t be jumping at the opportunity to do after all this is to stay at home and watch a movie. They’ll be itching to be literally anywhere else. Brennan Klein

I sure hope not. There is something special about the theatrical experience, and I suspect once things open up safely again post-COVID, people will want to keep that entertainment option going. There will be some changes with streaming becoming more accepted, but I don’t think theaters are going anywhere, especially niche theaters like the Belcourt. Dr. Gangrene

Hell no. It’s still an experience. It was never just about the movies. It’s the altar of worship and for many that desire will only be intensified. The economic model may change and we may lose some, but theaters will be around for our lifetime and beyond. Elric Kane

No. People forget theaters have survived television, cable, VCRs, DVDs, video on demand. They’re always gonna find some way to stick around. Craig D. Lindsey

Absolutely not. D. Patrick Rodgers

I think what might end up being doomed is the lackadaisical direction theaters were heading in before the pandemic. While going to the movies is a sacred activity, engaging with chain theaters was never the benefit. One of the reasons the theatrical model struggled before the pandemic was that chain theaters were becoming a burden to engage with. The subscription model certainly helped financially, but consider the lack of care in maintaining cleanliness, in not always providing quality, reasonably-priced refreshments, in not controlling unruly patrons and in-movie cell phone use and in facilitating shoddy projection and improper masking. People will want to go back to the movies — they already are in Nashville. The movie theater will for sure survive this. Ones like the Belcourt are primed to succeed when the world starts to course-correct, because they value the customer and the experience. If the chains wish to thrive in a post-COVID world and combat the rise of streaming, I suggest they start doing the same thing. Cory Woodroof

If television didn’t kill them, streaming won’t either. However, my fear is that smaller arthouse theaters won’t survive. We’ll be left with multiplexes that will play Marvel vs. DC on every screen. The allure of going to a theater after all this is over will pump money back into the cinema industry. But we’re going to lose a lot of small theaters. Odie Henderson

Not entirely. The chains may or may not be doomed, but they could always be purchased by the studios, bringing back the pre-Paramount v. United States era. But the people kvetching about the movie-theater experience being dead forget that going to the movies is a great and relatively cheap way to get the hell out of your bad apartment or home. Who are these maniacs who want to sit on their stupid sofas and stare at their stupid television sets after this? Matt Prigge

My hope is that arthouse theaters will endure. They’ve done a lot to adapt with makeshift drive-ins and virtual screenings as well as traditional indoor screenings. I think there will always be people who want to see an independent film, a film festival or a classic movie on the big screen.  I’m not sure if multiplex theaters will survive if streaming services like HBO Max and Disney Plus put their new films directly on their services.  Brian Lonano

I genuinely don’t know. I don’t have a thorough enough understanding of the way that they function. But my guiding light to better wading through the complicated politics of theaters’ survival and accessibility to audiences is Peter Labuza, whose work is always very illuminating. Kyle Turner

I believe with every fiber of my being that there’s something innately magical about the theatrical experience that will survive this. It will be changed in some ways, but pre-pandemic it was already headed toward becoming boutique and expensive — this has just exacerbated that slide. People in cities will be fine — people in small towns are gonna have to drive.
 Jason Adams

I dearly hope and cling to my sincere belief that the great independent theaters that are invested in their community and their loyal audiences will be able to weather this storm and come out on the other end. But cookie-cutter corporate shitholes like AMC have spent the past decades diminishing and devaluing the moviegoing experience, openly contemptuous of their patrons and constantly giving them less for more money. No tears will be shed here if these ugly behemoths finally go under for good. Sean Burns

My heart is not very invested in how Regal or other theater chains will do. But my hope is that boutique theaters like the Belcourt will find the ways and funds to carry on until we’re on “the other side” of this. The show must go on. Sam Smith

Theater-going is what I miss most from before times. While nostalgia isn’t enough to keep an entire industry alive, I do believe there will always be a taste for going to the movies. It may become a more niche activity, and perhaps some multiplexes will become not much more than sentimental landmarks, à la vintage moviehouses. Still, streaming has already become the new theater, and that’s a big win for accessibility. I hope more theaters look at how they can pivot to digital, like TIFF and Metrograph’s new streaming platforms, because new avenues are what will keep the old alive. Sadaf Ahsan

I'm Thinking of Ending ThingsI’m Thinking of Ending Things

What’s the thing you saw over the past year that’s given you strength/hope and kept you going?

The spirit or resilience, resistance and creativity on display throughout Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In an era of unrelenting hostility, racism and oppression, there were still people making amazing artistic statements, persevering in spite of things, standing up to challenges and displaying an independent, unbowed attitude about life. Ron Wynn

Grogu. Sam Smith

Even before the pandemic nobody was gonna be describing me as a party person anymore, but the Lovers Rock chapter of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology was so suffuse with the joy of bodies and community and music it reminded me of how life’s smallest pleasures — the senses right at our fingertips that we often take for granted — make it all worthwhile. It was a much-needed trip outside of my own head.
 Jason Adams

36 Cinema’s presentation of Petey Wheatstraw with live commentary provided by Donnell Rawlings, Mike Sargent and (moderator/36 Cinema co-founder) Mustafa Shaikh. John Lichman

I sometimes read from industry insiders about how “there aren’t any movies to watch!” I’ve also read some absurd statements about how the longer the pandemic goes on, the less quality movies there will be. This is so false. There are constant streams of new work itching to be released and be distributed. And of course filmmakers are resilient and still making work. David Ninh

Miranda July’s Kajillionaire was particularly moving to me as I reflect on 2020 and enter 2021. The film addresses the transformative qualities of verbal affection and physical touch, and Evan Rachel Wood’s Old Dolio Dyne is probably my favorite character of the year. Lisa Williams

Bill and Ted Face the Music. It had an incredible idealistic message, and seeing it to the horn-honking delight and cheers of a drive-in audience really brightened my Summer. Jacob Davison

I don’t have a specific movie to give as an example, but honestly just seeing that people are still attempting to create this past year has been inspiring and helped me keep going. To also want to continue to create and keep going. Specifically all my fellow independent filmmakers. Thashana McQuiston

Studios absolutely losing their minds. A year ago it was all monopolies and superhero bullshit. Now? Nobody knows; everyone’s going out of business, but movies are still happening, baby! Scout Tafoya

Letterkenny. Jason Shawhan

The five-week Small Axe cycle wherein we were treated to an immediate and awesome series of films from one filmmaker gave me flashbacks to The Decalogue and other ambitious, monumental film projects of the past. I felt like I was watching something not just great, but important. Witney Seibold

Happy-Go-Lucky. In my usual focus on departing monthly titles from The Criterion Channel, the stars aligned to view this wonderful film. Pauline “Poppy” Cross is someone we’ve encountered at some point in our lives, and we’ve also been that person to others. It is a great reminder that happiness doesn’t exist in a vacuum: All of life, however positive or negative, is accounted for. Out of many great films I’ve watched this year, it reached the deepest with its charm, humor and steady artistry. James Spence

Every Wednesday night for six months straight, my friends and I met online and watched bad movies together. That kept my mind in a good place. Brian Lonano

Dick Johnson Is Dead actually made me believe, in the midst of all of this insanity, that death can be faced with humor, integrity and awe — rather than trepidation and fear. I’m also thoroughly convinced that funerals should take place while someone is still alive. Brian Owens

Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock, from the Small Axe series. Someday soon, we will be together again. And we will dance. Michael Sicinski

I don’t always turn to cinema for hope in the sense of positivity and inspiration. To quote The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony,” “I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me.” I found them in She Dies Tomorrow and Possessor, among new films, and many older horror films: Lake Mungo and Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 were real revelations. But the Japanese-Mexican avant-garde documentary Cenote and Lovers Rock offered visions of transcendence and community that suggest models for improving the world, rather than “going back to normal” once everyone takes the vaccine. Steve Erickson

Spontaneous. Just taps into something we all went through this year — both the sadness and absurdity of it. But ultimately we go on. Elric Kane

There’s been a pattern of angry women who just can’t take it anymore in many great films this year: The Invisible Man, The Assistant, Promising Young Woman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Swallow, Kajillionaire, Unpregnant, the list goes on. These are women taking control of their bodies and choices and predicaments in ways that are sometimes violent, sometimes quiet, but always bold. They are so passionately themselves. It has felt like a breaking point, and more than anything, it has felt real. Cinema’s primal scream, it’s given me hope for women on and off screen to reclaim all of their narratives and to be vicious if they have to. There’s great momentum to be found in no longer choosing to play nice. Sadaf Ahsan

An image one of my friends captured at protests in Brooklyn of a police van on fire. Nathan Smith

Wonder Woman 1984. E.J. Moreno

Birds of Prey. Written by, directed by, produced by, and starring all women? A comic-book movie with minimal CGI, brutal violence, foul language, a carnival’s worth of comedy, at least five confirmed queer characters, and the feminist liberation storyline of one of my all-time favorite chaos queens? Of course this is the one comic-book movie worth its salt that the masses didn’t pack the seats for. Your loss. My win — big time. Anthony Hudson

American Utopia. I kept returning to it when things felt most dire and hopeless. Odie Henderson

The thing that saved me this year was the Knoxville Horror Film Fest drive-in experience. Being able to not have to cancel and creating a safe and really fun experience that still felt true to the fest was like a balm for my soul. William Mahaffey

My wife got me into Schitt’s Creek and MasterChef Junior, which have been bright lights in a difficult pandemic world. With Schitt’s Creek, I didn’t know that both Eugene Levy had a son and that his son is somehow even funnier at reacting to things than his dad is. Nomadland and Dick Johnson Is Dead were the best things I watched as far as coping with the pandemic. Cory Woodroof

This is not exactly what you asked for, but in the early days of quarantine I bought Warner Archive’s first Tex Avery set (which is actually his MGM work, after he quit or was fired by the Leon Schlesinger unit, whose cartoons were released by Warners). I wound up doing a massive deep-dive on cartoons. Most of it was Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies, but I also at least dipped into Disney, Max Fleischer, UPA and more. I read books about cartoons. Now I know a ton about cartoons that I didn’t before! I love projects like this, and it was good for me to find something that was both a balm — a good way to escape from bad or even vital news, at least for a bit — and something productive, that kept me active and interested. Matt Prigge

Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, which is about living at the end of the line, once your dreams have been shattered and you feel like you have nowhere else to go. It takes place on the open road, but it reflected the yearlong pandemic isolation more than anything else I saw this year. Siddhant Adlakha

Digitally distanced movie nights through Netflix Watch Parties, Twitch streams or just old-fashioned Twitter watch-alongs have really kept me hopeful for the future. We’re still a culture that loves movies, loves talking about them, and longs for that sense of community. It may look a little different right now, but the spirit has not gone away, and it never will. B.J. Colangelo

Believe it or not, it’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. If Sacha Baron Cohen can find some decent people in this fucked-up place (and make Giuliani look like a creep in the process), then there’s still hope for humanity. Craig D. Lindsey

Less a movie and more the real-time footage of people in the streets protesting and fighting for racial and social justice. It’s galvanizing to see, and even more so to be out there with them. Kyle Turner

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