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Underappreciated Films of 2020

Sounds of Cinema will finally unveil the lists of the ten best and worst movies of 2020 on the episode airing March 7, 2021. Full coverage, including rationales for each film, will be posted on this website later that day.

Until then, here are some of the underappreciated movies released in the past year. 2020 was an unusual year and the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many films either being delayed or released directly to home entertainment formats. As a result, some films that should have made a bigger splash got lost. Here are a few titles that didn’t get much press nor did they have traction with the Hollywood awards circuit.

An American Pickle

An early twentieth century European Jew (Seth Rogan) immigrates to the United States. He becomes trapped in a large pickling container and is reawakened in the present day where he meets his great-grandson (also Seth Rogan). An American Pickle was a smart satire about a contemporary man reconciling with his family heritage and it features terrific dual performances by Seth Rogan. Read the full review.

Becky

Teenage Becky (Lulu Wilson) and her father (Joel McHale) meet his fiancé and her son (Amanda Brugel and Isaiah Rockcliffe) at a secluded lake house. A group of white supremacists invade the house and it’s up to Becky to save the day. This was an efficient and brutal piece of work with a startling performance by Kevin James as the leader of the skinhead gang. Read the full review.

Boys State

This documentary about teenage boys attending a week-long political camp was a revealing look at young men learning about politics and about themselves. Boys State raises questions about how we conduct politics and how partisanship corrupts and distorts our values.

Charm City Kings

Charm City Kings was a street drama about three boys navigating the streets of Baltimore. The movie had some great performances, especially from the young cast members, and the street racing scenes were kinetic and exciting.

The Climb

Longtime friends Michael and Kyle (Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin) become estranged when Michael admits to sleeping with Kyle’s fiancé. A few years later the two men try to repair their friendship but fall back into self-destructive patterns. This buddy comedy transcended its genre with smart performances, melancholy wit, and exceptional camera work. Read the full review.

Greed

An ultra-wealthy family gathers on a Greek island for a lavish sixtieth birthday party for the father who is the CEO of a major fashion brand. The story alternates between the party preparations and the backstory of the CEO’s rise to fame and fortune. Greed was a satire that interwove a sophisticated portrait of economic exploitation with black humor.

Greyhound

Starring Tom Hanks, Greyhound was an intense World War II naval film about a convoy of Allied ships escorting a convoy across the Atlantic. There are lots of World War II pictures but this was something that hasn’t been seen in a while.

His House

A refugee couple escapes from South Sudan to the United Kingdom and they are haunted by ghosts. In a year of impressive horror films, His House was one of the better and scarier films.

Hope Gap

An older couple separate after nearly three decades of marriage. Hope Gap was a complex domestic drama with a set of nuanced performances by Annette Bening and Bill Nighy that requires the viewer to think about happiness and relationships beyond the way we’re accustomed to in mainstream films. Read the full review.

Love and Monsters

In the near future, giant monsters have overtaken the surface of the Earth and humans live in isolated shelters. A meek cook (Dylan O’Brien) decides to travel across the monster-infested countryside to reunite with his girlfriend (Jessica Henwick). This was a fun monster movie romp. Read the full review.

Mosul

This tale of a rogue Iraqi SWAT team fighting ISIS was brutal but also featured nuanced characters. Mosul was one of the most interesting feature films about the war on terror.

The Vast of Night

Set in the 1950s, a telephone switchboard operator (Sierra McCormick) and a radio DJ (Jake Horowitz) detect a strange audio frequency that might be extraterrestrial. The Vast of Night was a masterfully crafted piece of cinema that is unlike any recent sci-fi movie.

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