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The very best crime movies of 2020

2020 was not a good year for cinema. It wasn’t a good year for anyone, really. Apart from investors in Zoom, of course.

The film industry had never seen twelve months like it. Long periods of empty cinemas and severely delayed productions saw an almost immediate slowing down of movie releases.

Normally we’re spoiled for choice when we bring you our list of the past year’s most incredible crime films. The pool from which we had to select our favourites was considerably smaller this year, but that’s not to say that we struggled. The quality was out there, it just wasn’t always right in front of us.

We’ve saved you the hassle of having to draw up your own shortlist of the best crime films of 2020. Here’s our pick of the best flicks the genre had to offer…

The best crime movies of 2020:

John David Washington stars in Tenet, one of the best crime movies of 2020

Tenet

When Christopher Nolan takes on a crime flick, you know you’re not in for a run-of-the-mill two hours. Firstly because, well, he doesn’t make two hour films; Tenet clocks in at a derrière-numbing 150 minutes. And secondly because his work is always as quirky as it is cerebral.

Ostensibly, this is a crime film – an intelligence agent has to stop a violent Russian oligarch/gangster/terrorist from effectively starting World War Three. But in true Nolan style, it’s also a trippy science fiction smörgåsbord of action, thriller, drama and time travel caper. Well, sort of – it’s infinitely more complicated than that…

Starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson in the leads – both of whom are excellent – Tenet effectively propped up the entire film industry this year. It took well over $350m at the box office, pretty much keeping independent picturehouses and entire cinema chains afloat. It deserves its place here for that alone. It helps that it’s also really rather good.

IMDb rating: 7.8

Tom Holland stars as Arvin in The Devil All the Time, one of the best crime movies of 2020

The Devil All the Time

If there’s been one strain of crime movie that’s really blossomed since the turn of the century, it’s Southern Gothic. There’s been Killer Joe, Winter’s Bone, No Country For Old Men, Cold in July, Django Unchained, Frailty… We can now add Antonio Campos’ absorbing The Devil All the Time to that list of cinematic luminaries.

Based on the book of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, this intoxicating Netflix crime drama isn’t exactly a fun watch. In fact, it’s pretty harrowing and never anything less than bleak. Saturday night popcorn fare it ain’t. That doesn’t mean it’s not of the best crime movies of 2020, though.

Tom Holland ably leads a cast including the likes of Mia Wasikowska, Jason Clarke, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough and Sebastian Stan. With yet another interesting role provided for Robert Pattinson this year as a paedophile preacher.

IMDb rating: 7.1

Tom Hardy stars as Al Capone in Capone, one of the best crime movies of 2020

Capone

Capone is something of a curious one. When news hit that Tom Hardy was to play Al Capone in a biopic, film fans got excited. His take on real-life crims Charles Bronson and the Kray Twins provided plenty of quality in the past. Surely this epic sweep through the life of the most famous gangster of all time would do similar…?

The final result was quite odd. Josh Trank’s picture wasn’t the crime classic most folk had hoped for. Instead of having Hardy playing Alphonse Gabriel Capone during his Tommy gun-firing heyday, this brave film only shows the man’s decline. Syphilis and adult nappies, the lot.

As you’d expect it’s a bold and fearless performance from Hardy, who has no intention of giving us a glamorous antihero whatsoever. This is a deeply flawed man looking back upon his life of crime with regret. Capone’s not perfect, but it’s original and not a film you’ll forget in a hurry.

IMDb rating: 4.7

Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia Kass in The Invisible Man, one of the best crime movies of 2020

The Invisible Man

On the surface, you’d think this film has no place on our list of the year’s best crime films. We’d argue that it does, though. An adaptation of H G Wells’ science fiction novel, The Invisible Man, is part of Universal’s Classic Monsters universe. But while it has elements of sci-fi and even horror, this 2020 version takes a much more realistic approach.

Rather than having Elizabeth Moss as a scream queen hounded by a translucent bad guy, this excellent film – made on a shoestring budget of just $7m – is more of a psychological thriller, a study of obsession and a dark look at the grotesqueries of stalking. Moss, as you’d expect, absolutely bosses things as usual.

It’s fresh, clever, unnerving and utterly chilling. And infinitely better than it has any reason to be.

IMDb rating: 7.1

Matthew McConaughey stars as Michael Pearson in The Gentlemen, one of the top films of the year

The Gentlemen

Guy Ritchie’s crime capers can go one of two ways. They can either be Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Revolver. Snatch or RocknRolla. Basically, great or really quite dreadful. His latest, The Gentleman, is (thankfully) the former.

Released back in January, it’s a frenetic and stylish crime/action/black comedy mash-up that’s very much in the Ritchie mould, with the kind of impressive ensemble cast you’d expect. Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Eddie Marsan and Jeremy Strong all appear, with Farrell and Grant particularly enjoying themselves.

McConaughey plays a drug kingpin planning his retirement. When his plans to sell his thriving cannabis empire are thwarted in a dodgy deal, it all goes a bit ‘Pete Tong’ – as Vinnie Jones might have said if he were in it (he’s not).

It’s not exactly The Third Man or The Godfather, but it’s thoroughly entertaining.

IMDb rating: 7.8

Tuppence Middleton stars as Abby in Disapperance at Clifton Hill, one of the best crime movies of 2020

Disappearance at Clifton Hill

This Canadian thriller snuck out back in February, soon finding itself on Netflix across the world. It’s a clever and suspenseful little picture that makes the most of its Niagara Falls setting and small but talented cast.

The film is anchored by a subtle but mesmerising performance by Tuppence Middleton, who plays a pathological liar who returns to her hometown after a mental breakdown only to get caught up in investigating a disappearance from her youth. The classic unreliable narrator routine works well here in what’s a smart and original little film noir.

Oh, and look out for a rare appearance in front of the camera from legendary Canadian director David Cronenberg as a mysterious podcaster.

IMDb rating: 5.5

Lulu Wilson stars as Becky in Becky, one of the top films of 2020

Becky

A family getaway at a lakeside retreat is spoiled, as it usually is, when psychotic white supremacists turn up in this quirky and fast-paced action crime thriller. Things quickly turn violent and get more violent from there.

Kevin James from King of Queens is stunt casting to a degree as the main Nazi bad guy, but he more than holds his own. It’s kind of irrelevant anyway; the film is entirely owned by young Lulu Wilson. In the central eponymous role, Wilson is a tiny powerhouse. This is a revenge flick, but instead of Liam Neeson, we have a 13-year-old girl. Which is about as daft and fun as that sounds.

IMDb rating: 5.8

Andrea Riseborough stars as Tasya Vos in Possessor, one of the greatest films of 2020

Possessor

This list of the best crime movies of 2020 has already seen one mention for the Cronenberg family. While old man David was making a curious cameo in Disappearance at Clifton Hill, his son Brandon was directing one of the most remarkable indie films of recent years.

Possessor counts as a crime film. Sort of. Its plot – technically – revolves around the exploits of the ever-fantastic Andrea Riseborough’s assassin as she carries out hits for her boss Jennifer Jason Leigh. That’s a very basic synopsis, though. The reality is a whole lot crazier and original than that. It’s a better watch when you don’t know what to expect, trust us.

It’s incredibly stylish, smart and violent. And quite possibly the best film of the year. Go watch it.

IMDb rating: 6.4

Have we missed any of the best crime movies of 2020? Let us know in the comments below…

Steve Charnock
Steve Charnock
Steve Charnock

Steve Charnock is a freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card.

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