The 50 Best English & Hindi Films of 2020 & 2021 (So Far)

2020 and 2021 (so far) have been exhausting years, everything was different. Art too, films too. The screens got smaller, we felt a lack of dark cinema halls, but people never stopped narrating stories…

As a year in films, 2020 proved to us that art is nothing but a mere reflection of our lives. Everyone has a story to tell, and each of these stories demand an audience. Before 2020, the scale of our films was large. In the last year, a year that everyone would rather want erased, we had a bunch of small films with bigger aspirations. These were films meant for film festivals, many of them deserved to sweep away the awards.

While it’s true that in times of chaos, most of us found our calm in art, and that we loved the fact that films kept coming to us on our computer (even mobile phone) screens, there’s also been a loss of a certain kind of calm. The Covid-19 pandemic, given it’s reach, urged us to stay home, in isolation. We’ve all felt a lack of collective emotions. Movie theatres have felt the lack too. And honestly, many of these small films we talk about, deserved to be watched on the big screen. I couldn’t help but imagine watching Chloé Zhao’s wonderful Nomadland on the big screen and exploring her leading lady’s journey through loss and isolation.

We’re not saying that 2020, or the few months of 2021, was a great year for cinema. No, it wasn’t. But we did have some wonderful films, especially in the English language. Nomadland, even in a regular year full of films, would still deserve every bit of the Best Picture award at the 93rd Academy Awards. Hindi Cinema, however, stayed behind. Given the situation in India, many filmmakers postponed releases, many stopped shooting films midway and we didn’t have many good films. Anubhav Sinha’s powerful Thappad was perhaps the last film to have released before the first lockdown was implemented and since then we’ve had films like Rohena Gera’s Sir, Anvita Dutt’s Bulbbul among others to keep us entertained. We, at Bombay Balloon, sat down together (virtually) to come up with a list of our favourite English and Hindi films (and maybe one or two from other languages) from the years 2020 and 2021 (so far)…

Kitty Green’s The Assistant

Jane, a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer, just landed her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. Her day is much like any other assistant — making coffee, ordering lunch, arranging travel accommodations and taking phone messages. But as Jane follows her daily routine, she grows increasingly aware of the abuse that insidiously colors every aspect of her workday, an accumulation of degradations against which she decides to take a stand. Source Wikipedia.

Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari

A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Amazon Prime Video.

David Fincher’s Mank

1930s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish “Citizen Kane.” Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Florian Zeller’s The Father

A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality. Source IMDB.

Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland

A woman in her sixties who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Disney+ Hotstar.

Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods

Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal

A heavy-metal drummer’s life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing. Source IMDB.

Watch it here on Amazon Prime Video.

David Byrne’s American Utopia

Spike Lee documents the former Talking Heads frontman’s brilliant, timely 2019 Broadway show, based on his recent album and tour of the same name. Source IMDB.

Steve McQueen’s Small Axe: Lovers Rock

A single evening at a house party in 1980s West London sets the scene, developing intertwined relationships against a background of violence, romance and music. Source Wikipedia.

Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always

After discovering that she is pregnant, Autumn, a teenager, along with her cousin Skylar, sets out to go to New York to have an abortion. Source Wikipedia.

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet

When a few objects that can be manipulated and used as weapons in the future fall into the wrong hands, a CIA operative, known as the Protagonist, must save the world. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Amazon Prime Video.

Garrett Bradley’s Time

Entrepreneur Fox Rich spends the last two decades campaigning for the release of her husband, Rob G. Rich, who is serving a 60-year prison sentence for a robbery they both committed in the early 1990s in a moment of desperation. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Amazon Prime Video.

Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man

Cecilia’s abusive ex-boyfriend fakes his death and becomes invisible to stalk and torment her. She begins experiencing strange events and decides to hunt down the truth on her own. Source Wikipedia.

Joe Mantello’s The Boys in the Band

A visitor turns an evening upside down when he interrupts a gathering of gay men in New York City in 1968. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Steven McQueen’s Mangrove

The true story of The Mangrove Nine, who clashed with London police in 1970. The trial that followed was the first judicial acknowledgment of behaviour motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police. Source Wikipedia.

Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Full of misgivings, a young woman travels with her new boyfriend to his parents’ secluded farm. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Francis Lee’s Ammonite

Acclaimed paleontologist Mary Anning works alone selling common fossils to tourists to support her ailing mother, but a chance job offer changes her life when a visitor hires her to care for his wife. Source Wikipedia.

Kirsten Johnson’s Dick Johnson is Dead

As her father nears the end of his life, filmmaker Kirsten Johnson stages his death in inventive and comical ways to help them both face the inevitable. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Alex Thompson’s Saint Frances

After an abortion, a deadbeat nanny finds friendship with the 6-year-old she’s hired to watch. Source Wikipedia.

Pete Docter and Kemp Powers’ Soul

A jazz musician, stuck in a mediocre job, finally gets his big break. However, when a wrong step takes him to the Great Before, he tries to help an infant soul in order to return to reality. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Disney+ Hotstar.

Phyllida Lloyd’s Herself

Young mother Sandra escapes her abusive husband and fights back against a broken housing system. She sets out to build her own home and in the process rebuilds her life and rediscovers herself. Source Wikipedia.

George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Tensions rise when trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey and her band gather at a recording studio in Chicago in 1927. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7

The film is based on the infamous 1969 trial of seven defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy and more, arising from the countercultural protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The trial transfixed the nation and sparked a conversation about mayhem intended to undermine the U.S. government. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Remi Weekes’ His House

A refugee couple makes a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, but then they struggle to adjust to their new life in an English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham’s Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

Down the road from Woodstock, a revolution blossomed at a ramshackle summer camp for teenagers with disabilities, transforming their lives and igniting a landmark movement. Source IMDB.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Kornél Mundruczó and Kata Wéber’s Pieces of a Woman

A heartbreaking home birth leaves a woman grappling with the profound emotional fallout, isolated from her partner and family by a chasm of grief. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie

A filmmaker on the brink of Hollywood glory and his girlfriend, whose story made his career, find themselves pushed towards a reckoning as a single tumultuous night decides the fate of their relationship. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

J Blakeson’s I Care a Lot

A shady legal guardian lands in hot water when she tries to bilk a woman who has ties to a powerful gangster. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah

Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton. Source Wikipedia.

Ramin Bahrani’s The White Tiger

A rich Indian family’s ambitious driver uses his wit and cunning to escape from poverty and rise to the top as an entrepreneur. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

R. J. Cutler’s Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry

Taking a deeply personal look at the extraordinary teenager, Billie Eilish, and following her journey on the road, on stage, and at home with her family, as the writing and recording of her debut album changes her life. Source Wikipedia.

Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad

Amrita, a young woman, leads a content life with her husband, Vikram. However, their happiness is shattered when he slaps her at an office party causing her to file for a divorce. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Amazon Prime Video.

Rohena Gera’s Sir

An optimistic and determined young woman from a remote village starts her new job as a live-in maid for the cynical son of a wealthy family. They eventually fall in love, but find their relationship forbidden. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Sharan Sharma’s Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl

An ambitious Gunjan Saxena eyes becoming a pilot after being drawn by the idea of a life in a cockpit. Despite facing reservations, she fulfils her dream and serves the country in the Kargil War. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Hardik Mehta’s Har Kisse Ke Hisse: Kaamyaab

An actor rethinks his planned retirement after realizing he is on the cusp of completing his 500th film. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Panga

Jaya, a former Kabaddi world champion, is pushed into making a comeback into the sport by her family. However, she first has to battle her internal conflicts and the expectations society has of her. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Disney+ Hotstar.

Alankrita Shrivastava’s Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare

A disillusioned Delhi wife and her new-in-town cousin navigate damning secrets, dreams and their thorny dynamic on their respective roads to freedom. Source IMDB.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Honey Trehan’s Raat Akeli Hai

When a newly married landlord is murdered, a misfit cop’s investigation is complicated by the victim’s secretive family. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Rajesh Krishnan’s Lootcase

Nandan, a middle-class man, finds a suitcase full of money near his workplace and steals it. However, he is soon chased by a police officer, a notorious gangster and a corrupt politician.Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Disney+ Hotstar.

Anita Dutt’s Bulbbul

Bulbbul, a child bride, grows into an enigmatic woman ruling over her household, hiding her painful past, as supernatural murders of men plague her village. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Nicholas Kharkongor’s Axone

In Delhi, friends from Northeast India prepare a pungent delicacy for a wedding party, sparking conflict and comedy with their unaccustomed neighbors. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Arati Kadav’s Cargo

Aboard a spaceship where souls of the deceased are readied for reincarnation, a lone crew member’s rigid existence is disrupted by a spry new assistant. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Sudhir Mishra’s Serious Men

Tormented with his ‘under-privileged’ societal status, a father capitalizes on his son’s newfound fame as a boy-genius. Little does he realize that the secret he harbors will destroy the very thing he loves the most. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Devanshu Kumar and Satyanshu Singh’s Chintu Ka Birthday

During US invasion of Iraq some illegal migrants are waiting to get back home to India. As one such family prepares to celebrate the 6th birthday of their youngest member Chintu, their kind-hearted Iraqi landlord lends them a helping hand. Source IMDB.

Watch it here on Zee5.

Prateek Vats’ Eeb Aalay Ooo

Hired as a monkey repeller upon moving to Delhi, a young man struggles to find his footing in his unenviable job and his place in an unforgiving world. Source Wikipedia.

Dibakar Banerjee’s Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar

A story of a man and woman who represent two completely different Indias. They are united in one thing only. Their mistrust, suspicion, and hate for each other. Source IMDB.

Watch it here on Amazon Prime Video.

Seema Pahwa’s Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi

After Ramprasad’s untimely demise, his family comes together under one roof for a period of thirteen days. During this time, their insecurities and problems come to the forefront. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Umesh Bist’s Pagglait

Widowed soon after marriage, a young woman contends with an inability to grieve, quirky relatives, and a startling discovery about her late husband. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Neeraj Ghaywan’s Geeli Pucchi

One of the shorts in Ajeeb Daastaans, Geeli Pucchi tells the story of two women who are alike, and yet very different. Ghaywan’s film is a masterclass in queer, Dalit, storytelling.

Watch it here on Netflix.

Special Mention: Jeo Baby’s The Great Indian Kitchen (Malayalam)

Post her marriage, a woman tries to fit into the conventional mould that society has prescribed for married women. But somewhere along the way, she starts feeling that this is not the life she wants. Source Wikipedia.

Watch it here on Amazon Prime Video.

All film stills have been taken from the trailers/songs of the films on YouTube.

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