The year 2020 has been a horrible one, to say the least. From affecting livelihoods to disrupting the economy, this year has tested all of us to our limits. The ruthless pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill, including the movie industry and theaters across the globe. But nonetheless, this year also had some spectacular movies to make us laugh, feel, and inspired, while making 2020 a bit more bearable.
Despite the closing of theaters across the world, the rise of online platforms has made watching movies possible from the safety of our homes. Though the inevitable dominance of streaming giants has left fans divided over the future of movie releases, the pandemic forced a few major blockbusters like Black Widow, No Time To Die, and Dune to be delayed for the next year. Our top picks of 2020 might have been vastly different if things would have gone differently, but after hours of debating and brain-storming, we at FandomWire finally present to you the best movies of 2020, ranked in order.
20. The King of Staten Island
A semi-autobiography loosely based on the life of stand-up comedian Pete Davidson, The King of Staten Island was truly a terrific movie dealing with themes of death, love, and moving on. Directed by Judd Apatow, the movie has received widespread acclaim for the way mature themes have been handled with elegance and irreverent humor. Joining Davidson are Bill Burr, Marisa Tomei, Bel Powley, and Steve Buscemi who made the movie a definite pick on this list for their stellar performances.
19. The Outpost
Directed by Rod Lurie, The Outpost is based on the non-fiction book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor. Starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Jones, and Orlando Bloom, The Outpost depicts the real-life event of the Battle of Kamdesh in the war in Afghanistan. Rod Lurie’s flawless approach to bring the horrors of war in this visceral and disturbing movie was praised by war veterans for the uncanny resemblance.
18. His House
A terrifying movie exploring the refugee experience, Remi Weekes’ debut feature movie seamlessly ties in themes of horror that will leave you sleepless for nights. As a couple from Sudan try to assimilate in the United Kingdom as refugees, their haunting past catches up with them as they already deal with the evils of racism and class divide in their surroundings. With strong performances by Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu, His House is a must watch on Netflix.
17. Bad Education
Based on the true story of the largest public school embezzlement in American history, Bad Education is directed by Cory Finley with a screenplay by Mike Makowsky. Starring Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone and Allison Janney as Pam Gluckin, Bad Education has received critical acclaim for its devilishly sharp and detailed plot augmented by both Jackman and Janney’s stellar acting performances. Bad Education has won the Outstanding Television Movie at the 72nd Emmy Awards, with Hugh Jackman winning a nomination for Best Actor.
David Fincher’s Mank was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated movies of this year. Based on the screenplay by the late Jack Fincher, Mank is a biographical drama about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz who was involved in a spat with director Orson Welles for the credits of Hollywood’s greatest movie ever made: Citizen Kane. Fincher’s impeccable direction, engaging cinematography, and strong performances by Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried make this black and white expressionist movie one of the most gorgeously shot feature film of the year.
15. Palm Springs
IGN’s top pick of the year, Palm Springs is an irreverent take on the time loop theme with brilliant absurdist comedy that makes the movie such a refreshing watch. Starring Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, Cristin Milioti, and Peter Gallagher, the movie follows the story of two strangers who get stuck in a time loop when they decide to meet at a Palm Springs wedding. Having re-invented the genre with silly humor, Palm Springs is a well-deserved respite from this terrible year.
14. The Vast of Night
The debut feature of director Andrew Patterson, The Vast of Night should also rank among the top movies that almost no one has seemed to hear of. A compelling sci-fi mystery movie, The Vast of Night is loosely based on the events of the Kecksburg UFO incident and Foss Lake’s disappearance. A thrilling debut by Patterson, the movie effortlessly stitches the expansive scope of the movie with the characters that are in it.
If anyone’s really had a fabulous 2020, then it has to be Anya Taylor-Joy. Having received critical acclaim for her role in The Queen’s Gambit, the British-Argentine actor once again proved her acting prowess in Emma. Based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, this period comedy-drama is a perfect amalgamation of vivid cinematography, exquisite locations, and a riveting period drama filled with humor while still delivering a strong theme of feminism.
12. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Set fourteen years after the first movie, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is a scathing mockumentary on the American culture with Sacha Baron Cohen reprising his role as the fictional Kazakhstani journalist and television personality Borat Sagdiyev. A perfect blend of activism with entertainment, the movie’s sharp humor once again made us realize the glaring flaws of the American culture while still being smartly clever in its delivery.
Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has been the center of attention for reasons more than its mind-boggling plot. Having stayed adamant to release Tenet in theaters, the movie suffered significant losses in box-office collections as major markets like India and China did not open theaters due to the spread of infection. But nonetheless, Tenet is another addition to Nolan’s craft of pushing the boundaries of science-fiction, but this time, it is a blend of James Bond-style spy thriller with the auteur’s firm grasp on the mysteries of time. With memorable performances from John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, Tenet‘s majestic background score by Ludwig Goransson is a treat for fans of authentic cinema.
10. Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods is a refreshing take on the Vietnam war as four veterans regroup after decades to recover a chest of treasure buried in the depths of the dense jungles of Vietnam. The movie’s recurring themes of guilt, sacrifice, friendship, and redemption are splendidly showcased by unforgettable performances from Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, and the late Chadwick Boseman.
9. The Way Back
It’s not easy to bring your real-life demons to reel-life the way Ben Affleck does in The Way Back. Directed by Gavin O’Connor, the movie brings back Affleck and O’Connor once again after their successful stint with The Accountant. The movie follows the story of Jack Cunningham, a former ace basketball player who battles alcoholism as he gets his life back when he is offered to become the coach of his school’s basketball team.
8. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
In late August, the shocking demise of Chadwick Boseman left millions of fans across the world devastated. Despite suffering from an advanced stage of colon cancer for four years, the late actor managed to give some of his career-best performances in recent years. Starring alongside Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the late actor’s last movie that was released posthumously on Netflix. Based on the play by August Wilson, the movie is set in 1927 Chicago following the story of the trailblazing Blues singer Ma Rainey and an upcoming trumpeter named Levee who wishes to follow his own dreams of becoming a known figure against the backdrop of systemic racism, artistic control, and commercial exploitation of music.
7. The Devil All The Time
Studded with this generation’s finest actors, The Devil All The Time is based on Donald Ray Pollock’s novel of the same name. Starring Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Jason Clarke, Bill Skarsgard, Harry Melling, Mia Wasikowska, and Sebastian Stan, The Devil All The Time is a disturbing psychological thriller with a career-best performance from Holland. Set in a post Second World War setting, the movie follows the lives of a disturbed war veteran, a dubious preacher, and a serial killer in Southern Ohio and West Virginia.
6. The Trial of the Chicago 7
Arguably the most powerful movie on this list, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a testament to the fact that how gripping a real-life political stint can be if handled dexterously without meandering around the theme. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the ace director blurs the line between a riveting documentary and a visceral dramatization with remarkable performances from Sacha Baron Cohen and Frank Langella.
This AppleTV+ original movie is by far one of the most beautiful movies ever made, even rivaling the likes of Loving Vincent. Directed by Tom Moore and Ross Stewart, Wolfwalkers serves as the final installment in Moore’s ‘Irish Folklore Trilogy’. When a young apprentice hunter accompanies her father to wipe out the last remaining wolf pack, she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe that is rumored to turn into wolves by night. With picturesque animation and spectacular performances, Wolfwalkers should definitely be on your watch.
4. Another Round
Reuniting Mads Mikkelsen with director Thomas Vinterberg yet again, Another Round (Druk) is another masterpiece that proves why Mikkelsen is the flag-bearer of the resurging Danish cinema. A simple story following the lives of four friends in their 40s, this intoxicating drama is an unforgettable awakening to sip the small beauties of life.
3. The Invisible Man
A modern re-invention of H.G. Wells’ science-fiction novel, The Invisible Man is one of the best horror movies to have come out with a strong reverberation of abusive relationships ringing throughout this intense thriller. Directed by Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man surely ranks among our top 3 picks for its haunting portrayal of abuse, eerie setting, and a compelling performance by Elisabeth Moss.
2. Sound of Metal
Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal starring Riz Ahmed as a prolific drummer who gradually begins to lose his hearing is a purely character-driven movie with a passionate and nonpareil acting performance by Ahmed. Despite its harrowing tone, Sound of Metal shines spectacularly with themes of acceptance, passion, perseverance, and the unpredictable nature of life that sets a benchmark for future movies that wish to tackle the trauma of disability.
A Pixar movie topping the list should not really surprise you anymore. Dubbed as Pixar’s most ambitious movie so far, Soul is a welcome change in an era plagued with mediocre sequels. Starring Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Angela Bassett, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, and Alice Braga, Soul is a wildly imaginative movie that follows the story of a jazz musician who gets separated from his body just before his big break. A heartfelt comeback to Pixar’s array of original and inventive movies, this one just tops the list for one extra quality: a soul.