Atlanta Film Critics Circle picks top films of 2020

Issues of homelessness, social justice and work of women filmmakers make list
Frances McDormand in "Nomadland." (Searchlight Pictures/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Frances McDormand in "Nomadland." (Searchlight Pictures/TNS)

The story of woman made homeless by the 2008 economic crash; an imagining of what happens when four legends meet for a night; a paean to justice ushered in by the #metoo movement.

These were some of the picks of the Atlanta Film Critics Circle for the best films of 2020. The group of 25 critics who write for publications across Georgia, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, announced their choices Monday.

Women garnered some of the top nods including Cholé Zhao, who was named best director for her film “Nomadland.” The film was also the critic’s top pick for best film. It features Frances McDormand’s stunning performance as a late middle-aged woman reduced to homelessness, living in her van trying to make ends meet in the gig economy.

From left, director/writer Chloe Zhao, director of photography Joshua James Richards and Frances McDormand on the set of "Nomadland." (Searchlight Pictures/2020 20th Century Studios)

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Emerald Fennell, of “Call the Midwife,” and “Killing Eve” fame, was chosen for best screenplay for her dark comedy thriller, “Promising Young Woman.” The revenge fantasy about sexual assault and consent also earned Fennell a special best first feature film award from the critics. Carey Mulligan was named best lead actress for her role in the film, as well.

Carey Mulligan stars as "Cassandra" in director Emerald Fennell's PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, a Focus Features release. (Courtesy of Focus Features/TNS)

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And first-time feature-film director and Oscar winner Regina King’s film, “One Night in Miami,” earned actor Kingsley Ben-Adir a best breakthrough performer nod. He portrayed Malcolm X in the film that imagines what might have happened when Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown met one evening after Ali beat Sonny Liston for the heavyweight boxing title in 1964.

Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) arrives at a place of peace by the end of “One Night in Miami.” (Patti Perret/Amazon/TNS)

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The coronavirus pandemic forced many studios to stream movies rather than opening them in theaters, though the move to streaming was well underway before the pandemic closed many movie houses in 2020.

“The ability to stream has never been more critical than it has been in 2020,” said critic and AFCC member Emma Loggins in a statement announcing the top films. “Year after year, we’ve continued to see cinema’s evolution and how Hollywood meets the fan on their terms. This past year especially, some of the best films were delivered by Netflix and Amazon Prime.”

And the winners are:

Top 10 Films:


“Promising Young Woman”

“Sound of Metal”

“The Trial of the Chicago 7″


“One Night in Miami”

“First Cow”

“The Father”


“Da 5 Bloods”

Best Lead Actor:

Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”

Best Lead Actress:

Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Supporting Actor:

Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”

Best Supporting Actress:

Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

Best Ensemble:

“The Trial Of The Chicago 7”

Best Director:

Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Best Screenplay:

Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”

Best Documentary:


Best International Film:

“Another Round” (Denmark)

Best Animated Film:


Best Cinematography:

Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”

Best Original Score:

Trent Reznor And Atticus Ross, “Soul”

AFCC Special Award for Best Breakthrough Performer:

Kingsley Ben-Adir, “One Night In Miami”

AFCC Special Award for Best First Feature Film:

Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”