Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Chadwick Boseman’s performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was a riveting blend of sly exuberance and raw heartbreak; that it was also his last is a tragedy that will haunt me through time. —Todd S. Purdum



I loved all the supporting performances in Mank playing 1930s Hollywood royalty: Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst, Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer, and the most thrilling cameo of all: Bill Nye as Upton Sinclair! —Chloe Malle



Riz Ahmed, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Carey Mulligan deserve Oscars for almost every performance, but this year Chloe Zhao gave us a vision of American loneliness and drift (and makeshift community and possibility) as could come only from someone from an old (and family-based) culture far away. Nomadland brought Paris, Texas, into a new economic reality, while releasing it from time altogether. —Pico Iyer


My Octopus Teacher

Froth marbling emerald swells. The gold and turquoise kelp forest. Psychedelic sea urchins and jelly fish. Dazzling beauty, yes, but even better is a piece of sculpture on the ocean floor. It’s made of rock bits and shells, a grotto by Gaudí, and it blows apart when its creator, a female octopus, bursts forth. My pick for best documentary is My Octopus Teacher, which sees a world-weary filmmaker (Craig Foster) diving in a South African kelp forest every day for a year, where he finds renewed purpose through friendship with an ingenious octopus. Discovery, affinity, gentleness, trust—it’s the most profound relationship of 2020. —Laura Jacobs


Judas and the Black Messiah

The film that made the biggest impression on me this year was Judas and the Black Messiah. I thought it was so well-rendered as both a social history and personal drama. The human element was never overshadowed by the historic dimensions of the story. Masterfully directed and put together. —Randall Poster



I thought the costumes in Emma were gorgeous. I wish I could channel the looks; Anya Taylor-Joy can certainly make them work! —Anne McNally



Each of us has memories from childhood about the summer everything changed and this film, though it tells an incredibly personal story, captures all the universal emotions of those unforgettable days. —Michael Hainey