Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist “First Cow” is set in the 1820s American Northwest. (Courtesy A24)

Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist “First Cow” is set in the 1820s American Northwest. (Courtesy A24)

The best movies of 2020

Critics laud dramas by Spike Lee, Kelly Reichardt, Steve McQueen, Eliza Hittman and Chloé Zhao

Although movie lovers were denied the pleasure of sitting in a theater for much of 2020, there was no shortage of notable films released in this wild pandemic year. Among the titles that showed up multiple times in The Examiner’s annual highly unscientific roundup of select critics’ top 10 lists are, in alphabetical order: “Da 5 Bloods,” Spike Lee’s adventure about African-American Vietnam War veterans facing challenges upon a return visit to the country; “First Cow,” Kelly Reichardt’s meditative tale set in the 1820s following travelers on the run who become dependent on a dairy cow; “Lovers Rock,” Steve McQueen’s romantic, violent and musical film set at a 1980s house party in West London; “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” Eliza Hittman’s compassionate story of a pregnant teen, who, on a journey with her cousin, crosses a state line to get an abortion; and “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao’s profile of contemporary woman who loses her job, then goes on a road trip in a van in search of employment.

“Da 5 Bloods” — with, from left, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Delroy Lindo — follows U.S. veterans who return to Vietnam. (Courtesy Netflix)

“Da 5 Bloods” — with, from left, Johnny Tri Nguyen, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Delroy Lindo — follows U.S. veterans who return to Vietnam. (Courtesy Netflix)

Jeffrey M. Anderson, San Francisco Examiner

1. First Cow

2. Vitalina Varela

3. On the Rocks

4. The Vast of Night

5. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

6. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

7. David Byrne’s American Utopia

8. Da 5 Bloods

9. Hamilton

10. She Dies Tomorrow

Runners-up: City Hall, Color Out of Space, Lovers Rock, Mank, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Painted Bird, Promising Young Woman, Relic, Soul, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Tommaso, The Wolf House

Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn and Michael Ward appear in director Steve McQueen’s West London-set “Lovers Rock.” (Courtesy Amazon Studios)

Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn and Michael Ward appear in director Steve McQueen’s West London-set “Lovers Rock.” (Courtesy Amazon Studios)

Anita Katz, San Francisco Examiner

1. Nomadland

2. Mank

3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

4. First Cow

5. Collective

6. City Hall

7. Da 5 Bloods

8. Mangrove

9. The Truth

10. The Painter and the Thief

Sidney Flanigan, left, and Talia Ryder star in Eliza Hittman’s compassionate “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.” (Courtesy Focus Features)

Sidney Flanigan, left, and Talia Ryder star in Eliza Hittman’s compassionate “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.” (Courtesy Focus Features)

Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

2. First Cow

3. Da 5 Bloods

4. Time

5. Lovers Rock

6. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

7. Promising Young Woman

8. She Dies Tomorrow

9. Palm Springs

10. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Frances McDormand stars in “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao’s film about a woman who embarks on a road trip after losing her job. (Courtesy Searchlight Pictures)

Frances McDormand stars in “Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao’s film about a woman who embarks on a road trip after losing her job. (Courtesy Searchlight Pictures)

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

1. Lovers Rock

2. First Cow

3. David Byrne’s American Utopia

4. Nomadland

5. City So Real

6. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

7. The Assistant

8. Mangrove

9. The Vast of Night

10. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Peter Sblendorio, New York Daily News

1. Birds of Prey

2. Hamilton

3. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

4. Mank

5. Mulan

6. News of the World

7. Promising Young Woman

8. Soul

9. Tenet

10. Wonder Woman 1984

Metacritic, aggregator of dozens of film writers’ lists

1. Nomadland

2. First Cow

3. Lovers Rock

4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

5. Da 5 Bloods

6. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

7. Minari

8. David Byrne’s American Utopia

9. Collective

10. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

Movies and TV

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