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These Are The Best Movies Of 2020

2020 looked like it was going to be a pretty great year for movies; big studios like Marvel had a full slate of upcoming projects, a new James Bond film was on the horizon, and numerous untold blockbusters waited to delight audiences. However, when COVID-19 — a particularly contagious and insidious form of coronavirus — swept the globe in early 2020, the world came to a standstill as citizens took to their homes and stayed inside in an attempt to slow its spread. This was bad news for movie theaters and moviegoers alike; with large gatherings discouraged in order to stem the spread of the virus, consumers turned their attention to the top shows and best video games of 2020, and going to movies suddenly started looking like a thing of the past.

With many movies delayed until later in the year or shelved indefinitely, the future of the entertainment industry remains in flux, but Hollywood will almost certainly find a way to get new releases out to the public, whether that means theaters finding a way to reopen when the crisis passes or more films going directly to streaming. With that said, by the time movie theaters shuttered due to coronavirus, plenty of great films had already hit theaters. Here are the best movies of 2020 so far — and we'll keep updating the list as more are released.

The Assistant

In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the trial of Harvey Weinstein, movies are trying to represent the fraught and difficult experiences of victims of sexual assault and harassment, and Kitty Green's The Assistant really digs into the heart of this complex matter. Breakout Ozark star Julia Garner leads as Jane, the titular assistant, and the film follows one day in her life as she navigates the ins and outs of working with a powerful boss. However, as she goes through her day, Jane — and the audience — realizes just how complicated and dark things can really get while you're covering for a powerful man involved in serious indiscretions.

Critics soundly applauded Green's first narrative effort (she'd previously worked in documentaries), as well as Garner's central performance and the film's unflinchingly dark look at what really goes on in Hollywood. If you're looking for a searing take on the #MeToo movement and the perpetrators who still manage to evade justice, The Assistant is a tough but necessary watch.

The Way Back

After his stint as Batman and a string of personal issues, including a public divorce, a stint in rehab, and struggles with addiction, Ben Affleck made his return to the big screen in 2020 with The Way Back, which reunites the star with Gavin O'Connor, his director on The Accountant. Affleck stars as Jack Cunningham, an alcoholic separated from his wife Angela (The League's Janina Gavankar) who gets the chance to coach his old high school's basketball team. However, when he gets closer with Dan (Al Madrigal), a teacher at this school, his addiction threatens to derail this new opportunity, and Jack must work even harder to defeat his demons and help his team achieve victory.

Affleck was extraordinarily open in advance of the film's release about how therapeutic the experience was for him, and in terms of his performance, it certainly paid off for him to confront his darkest impulses through art. Critics overwhelmingly praised his performance, saying the role was clearly a personal effort; if he can bring that level of emotion to subsequent projects, his acting comeback appears to be well under way.

Birds of Prey

Suicide Squad wasn't exactly an auspicious first outing for Margot Robbie's portrayal of Harley Quinn, the Joker's violent, psychotic girlfriend, but 2020 gave Robbie and Harley a second chance — and they ran with it in Birds of Prey. Subtitled ...and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, Birds of Prey shines the spotlight on Harley and her fierce, all-female team of vigilantes, which includes the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). As Harley evades detectives from the Gotham City police department, including Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), she also works to bring down Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), who goes by the moniker "Black Mask."

Birds of Prey scored pretty positive reviews from critics, who loved the female-led action sequences and a tighter focus on Robbie's more fully-developed Harley. With a potential sequel in the works, this hopefully isn't the last we've seen of Harley Quinn's solo exploits.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

In the wake of Parasite's popularity, mainstream American audiences might be more willing to watch subtitled films, and anyone looking to explore more international cinematic efforts should definitely check out the historical drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Directed by French filmmaker Céline Sciamma, the film stars Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel as Marianne, a young painter, and Héloïse, who is about to be married to a nobleman in Milan and needs a portrait painted. Typically, Héloïse refuses to sit for any painter, but after forming a bond with Marianne, she agrees to sit for the portrait, and when Héloïse's mother leaves the remote house, the two begin a passionate relationship.

Thanks to Sciamma's precise and careful direction and Merlant and Haenel's incredibly moving performances — all three were nominated for Cesar Awards, along with the film itself — Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which earned nearly universal acclaim, is an emotional, gripping journey. If you want to transport yourself to France and a different time without even leaving your home, cue up Portrait and settle in for a truly moving and beautifully told love story.

The Invisible Man

If you're looking for a horror movie with a strong social message, The Invisible Man is definitely for you. Based on a short story by H.G. Wells and starring Handmaid's Tale lead Elisabeth Moss, this Leigh Whannell-directed take on the classic tale focuses on Cecilia Kass (Moss), a woman trapped in a controlling and abusive relationship. When her boyfriend apparently commits suicide, Cecilia thinks she's finally free of Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), but when she starts seeing frightening visions of him, it seems that their story may not be quite over just yet.

Critics praised the film's social message and depiction of abuse as well as Moss' central performance, noting how well Whannell succeeded at blending horror and real-life trauma to tell a scarily engrossing story. The Invisible Man isn't the easiest watch, but if you're up for it, it'll be worth it in the end.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Directed and written by Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always tells the story of Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanagan), a 17-year-old struggling with an unwanted pregnancy. After visiting a crisis pregnancy center, she's given literature on adoption rather than termination, but because she still knows how she wants to handle the situation, she gets help from her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) and the two run away to New York City. Trying to terminate her pregnancy leads Autumn through a series of obstacles, from money to secondary clinics and invasive questions about her sexual past, illustrating how difficult it can be for women to get the reproductive health procedures they want and need.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always earned overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, who praised its grace and compassion and Wittman's careful approach to such sensitive material. Reproductive health is still a battle, even in 2020, which this film beautifully illustrates in a careful and sympathetic way.


Jane Austen's work has been adapted for the screen repeatedly, from direct adaptations like Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice to modern takes like Clueless, and 2020 brought the newest spin on Austen's classic work: Emma., directed by Autumn de Wilde. With Split star Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role, Emma. — which uses a period in its title to specify that the film is a "period piece" — uses whimsy and a lighthearted spirit to tell the familiar story of Emma Woodhouse, who seeks to find happiness for everyone she loves while neglecting her own romantic needs. However, when Emma meets the enigmatic and handsome George Knightley, her prospects suddenly start to turn around.

With familiar British actors like Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart making up the supporting cast and de Wilde's steady hand behind the scenes, Emma. proved quite popular with critics. Whether you're a fan of Austen or new to the classics, everyone will find something to love within Emma.


Pixar has been making excellent, emotionally stirring, and visually stunning films for decades, so it's no surprise that Onward is one of the best films of the year. With a voice cast that includes heavy hitters like Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tom Holland, and Octavia Spencer, Onward tells the story of two young elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot (Holland and Pratt, respectively) living in a fantasy world who set out on a mission to find a magical artifact that they think could possibly bring back their father, who tragically passed away. Together, they try to regain their magical skills, and perhaps potentially revive their dad.

A tearjerker with plenty of heart, Onward was unsurprisingly yet another critical hit for the Disney-owned studio. If you're a fan of Pixar's previous films, Onward might not be at the top of the pack along with movies like Toy Story or Up, but it definitely won't disappoint.

Bad Boys for Life

Nearly 20 years after Bad Boys II hit theaters in 2003 — and over two decades after the first film was released in 1995 — the third movie in the Bad Boys saga, Bad Boys for Life, arrived in 2020. With Martin Lawrence and Will Smith reprising their roles as Detective Lieutenant Marcus Miles Burnett and Detective Lieutenant Michael Eugene "Mike" Lowrey, the film finds Mike sustaining a life-threatening injury at the beginning of the film, falling into a coma for months after cartel kingpin Armando Aretas (Jacob Scipio) attacks Mike, who helped put Armando's father in prison. When Mike recovers, he and Marcus set out to get revenge and get to Armando before he attacks anyone else.

Though Bad Boys II received underwhelming reviews, Bad Boys for Life was a return to form for the series. It earned solid reviews across the board, and clearly, if Smith and Lawrence want to revisit the franchise again, audiences and critics alike will welcome them back with open arms.

The Half of It

Netflix has been crushing it lately with teenage romantic comedies like The Kissing Booth and To All the Boys I've Loved Before, and in 2020, The Half of It joined the canon, albeit with a progressive and encouraging twist. Written and directed by Alice Wu, The Half of It serves as a modern spin on the legend of Cyrano de Bergerac — who writes love letters to the object of his affection on behalf of a handsome but dull romantic rival — and stars young up-and-comer Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu, a smart but lonely high schooler on the verge of going to college. However, when popular jock Paul (Daniel Diemer) asks Ellie to help him woo the local deacon's daughter, the equally popular Aster (Alexxis Lemire), Ellie finds herself with two new friends and a whole new set of problems, particularly when she develops feelings for Aster herself.

Critics adored Wu's sweet, sensitive take on teenage love and sexual identity, calling the film an "uncommonly smart, tender, and funny coming-of-age story" and concluding that "The Half of It has everything." If you're looking for a feel-good movie with plenty of heart, The Half of It will be a perfect fit.

The Vast of Night

Directed by Andrew Patterson (and written by him under pseudonyms James Montague and Craig W. Sanger), Amazon's daring science fiction epic The Vast of Night wowed fans back at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and in May of 2020, it finally arrived on the platform's Prime streaming service. Set in New Mexico in the 1950s, the film focuses on teenage DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and his best friend, young switch operator Fay (Sierra McCormick), who accidentally discover potential signs of extraterrestrial life. As they seek to uncover more truth about whether or not aliens are real, Everett and Fay find themselves wrapped up in a national conspiracy theory.

The Vast of Night ultimately garnered praise across the board, with reviewers exalting Patterson's undeniable filmmaking prowess and calling the movie itself an "engrossing sci-fi thriller that transcends its period trappings." Alien movies might be a dime a dozen, but The Vast of Night stands out from the pack nonetheless.

The Old Guard

Charlize Theron's career has spanned genres and decades, but her reinvention as a headlining action hero may be her most exciting move yet, a tradition she continues in the Netflix original film The Old Guard, based on a comic book by the same name. In the film, Theron plays Andromache of Scythia, an Ancient Greek fighter who goes by Andy and leads an intrepid group of immortal soldiers on secret missions across the world, quietly intervening in dangerous situations. 

The squad realizes in the course of their latest mission that they've been tricked by one of their regular CIA contacts (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who has filmed their deaths and rebirths. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Nile Freeman (outstanding newcomer KiKi Layne) is killed in battle, only to realize she can come back from the dead. Once Nile finds the group, they must work together to stop a pharmaceutical executive, Steven Merrick (Harry Potter alum Harry Melling), from performing tests on them to try and discover the secret of immortality.

Directed by Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights auteur Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Old Guard was received well by fans and critics alike, who praised Theron's central performance as well as the excellent action sequences. Theron is one of the best action stars working today, so if you're a fan of her kick-ass roles, The Old Guard is a perfect pick for your next movie night.

Da 5 Bloods

It's always exciting when acclaimed director Spike Lee announces a new project, and on the heels of his first Oscar win for 2018's BlacKkKlansman, audiences geared up for the next "Spike Lee joint," which hit Netflix in the summer of 2020. Imbued with Lee's signature bombastic energy and passion, Da 5 Bloods tells the story of five Vietnam veterans who return to the country decades after the bloody war, seeking both buried treasure and the buried remains of their tough yet beloved squad leader, "Stormin'" Norman Earl Holloway (played by the late Chadwick Boseman in one of his final roles). Constantly shifting between the Vietnam War and the present, Da 5 Bloods is ambitious, loud, and bold, which is exactly what viewers have come to expect from Lee throughout the years.

Unsurprisingly, Lee had another hit on his hands when Da 5 Bloods was released, and critics and fans alike praised his effort, saying, "[f]ierce energy and ambition course through Da 5 Bloods, coming together to fuel one of Spike Lee's most urgent and impactful films." Between Lee's engrossing story and direction and one of the final performances by Boseman, a star lost too soon, Da 5 Bloods is a must-watch.

Palm Springs

You're probably familiar with classic time loop movies like Groundhog Day or television shows like Russian Doll, but Hulu's romantic comedy Palm Springs serves as an entirely new and original take on this twisting, turning genre. The film stars Andy Samberg as Nyles and Cristin Milioti as Sarah, who end up reliving Sarah's sister's wedding every single day in the California resort town of Palm Springs. Having set an immature yet hilarious record during its bidding war at Sundance in January of 2020, Palm Springs is helmed by director Max Barbakow and written by Andy Sciara, all while proudly showing off Samberg's irreverent, goofy influence. Meanwhile, Milioti shines as a troubled, messy thirty-something trying to figure out her life, which is further complicated when she accidentally joins Nyles' endless time loop.

Bolstered by terrific supporting performances from J.K. Simmons, June Squibb, Meredith Haggerty, Camila Mendes, and more, Palm Springs is as delightful as it is carefully plotted. Reliving the same day forever definitely isn't fun, but you'll certainly want to relive your time with Sarah and Nyles when the film ends.

First Cow

A new movie from Kelly Reichardt, the ambitious yet minimalist filmmaker responsible for indies like 2008's Wendy and Lucy and 2013's Night Moves, is cause for celebration in certain film circles. With 2020's First Cow, Reichardt stands to gain even more ardent fans. Based on the novel The Half Life by Jonathan Raymond (who also worked on the screenplay), First Cow stars John Magaro (The Big Short), Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger and Winter Soldier), and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development). The film tells the stories of various people making their way through the Oregon Territory in the early 1800s. Along the way, chef Otis "Cookie" Figowitz (Magaro) and Chinese immigrant King-Lu (newcomer Orion Lee) start stealing milk from a wealthy man's cow, but when the cow and Cookie form a bond, it complicates their secret situation.

Critics loved Reichardt's latest project, saying that First Cow "[revisits] territory and themes that will be familiar to fans of her previous work — with typically rewarding results." Whether you're a longtime fan of Reichardt's work or First Cow will be your first go-'round with this director, you'll want to catch this clever, perfectly crafted film.


When Lin-Manuel Miranda appeared at a 2009 White House poetry event and announced that he was working on a hip-hop musical about the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, he was met with chuckles, but when the Broadway show arrived in New York in 2015, Miranda ultimately got the last laugh. Hamilton ultimately became one of the biggest shows in the Great White Way's history, raking in crazy profits, winning Grammy and Tony Awards, and drawing every huge celebrity into its audience... but unfortunately, that made tickets all the more difficult to get, especially if you wanted to see the original Broadway cast.

Luckily, Miranda (who also played Hamilton in the show's initial run) had the foresight to film the original cast, and in June of 2016, the entire original production was filmed across several shows. Though the filmed version of Hamilton was originally slated for a theatrical release, the powers that be at Disney+ decided their subscribers needed a little cheering up, and the film arrived on the streaming service just in time for Independence Day. In the end, the Hamilton movie captures the best moments of the now-legendary musical perfectly — with plenty of close-ups to boot, showing off moments that would have been tough to see from a faraway seat — and critics and fans alike praised it soundly, proving the fervor around Hamilton may never die down.

Bill & Ted Face the Music

It's been decades since Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey hit theaters in 1989 and 1991, respectively, but during the COVID-19 crisis, audiences were treated to a new Bill & Ted adventure, with Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves returning as the title duo. By now, Bill and Ted have wives and daughters, but they also have a bigger problem to deal with: it was predicted that the two rockers would write a song that would save humanity, but they haven't come through yet, and the time-space continuum is in danger of collapsing. Though the two try and time travel to steal the song from themselves in the future, they end up messing with their own timeline too much, and their daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) must help them save the world by co-writing the song along with them.

2020 was the perfect year for a feel-good flick like Bill & Ted Face the Music, and critics soundly praised the film, saying that the movie is "...as wholesomely goofy as its heroes" and that "Bill and Ted Face the Music is a rare long-belated sequel that largely recaptures the franchise's original charm." If you need a pick-me-up, you'll definitely want to check out Bill and Ted's latest adventure.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Known for projects like Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and his recent novel Antland, writer and filmmaker Charlie Kaufman is all about pushing boundaries. That's certainly evident in his latest cinematic effort, I'm Thinking of Ending Things. This Netflix film, which stars Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis, among other talented actors, tells the story of a young woman (Buckley) who takes a weekend trip with her boyfriend, Jake (Plemons), to meet his parents (Thewlis and Collette). However, as the movie progresses, viewers start to wonder what's real and what's not, thanks to the film's dreamlike quality, surreal sequences, and constantly shifting plot. Adapted from a novel by Iain Reid, I'm Thinking of Ending Things is a bizarre yet fascinating trip that will keep you engaged and guessing for the entire run time, and critics agree.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things turned out to be yet another hit for Netflix, with critics and fans praising Kaufman's mind-bending narrative, Buckley's star-making performance, and the movie's overall statement on the human condition. If you're ready to scramble your brain in the most enjoyable way, check out I'm Thinking of Ending Things.

The Nest

Psychological thrillers have been having a serious moment lately, and 2020 brought yet another worthy addition to the genre with Sean Durkin's The Nest. Set in the 1980s, The Nest tells the story of Rory O'Hara (Jude Law) and his wife Allison (Carrie Coon), who relocate from New York City to the English countryside with their two children. Trapped in an isolated country home in Surrey, the family has trouble adjusting, which is only made worse when Allison discover's Rory's financial woes. Left alone in the countryside with only her horse Richmond, for company, Allison's concerns put a strain on her marriage and family.

Between Law and Coon's commanding performances and Durkin's skilled direction and excellent script, The Nest fared well with critics and audiences, with critics writing that the film "wrings additional tension out of its unsettling story with an outstanding pair of lead performances." If you're looking for intense family drama with plenty of surprises, you should definitely check out The Nest.

Enola Holmes

After gaining international fame and acclaim as the powerful, mysterious Eleven in Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown has become one of Hollywood's most in-demand young stars — and her 2020 film project Enola Holmes proved to be a perfect vehicle for this burgeoning talent. Brown leads the film, which is adapted from the first novel of Nancy Springer's book series of the same name, as the younger sister of famed sleuth Sherlock (played by Henry Cavill) and government stooge Mycroft (Sam Claflin). After a blissful childhood with her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola is an intensely educated, sharp-eyed teenager, and when Eudoria disappears, only Enola can put together the clues to find her.

It's no surprise that Brown blew both critics and fans away in her turn as Sherlock Holmes' talented younger sister, with critics declaring, "Enola Holmes brings a breath of fresh air to Baker Street — and leaves plenty of room for Millie Bobby Brown to put her effervescent stamp on a franchise in waiting." Whether you're a fan of Stranger Things or the classic Holmes stories, you'll find something to love about this new spin on familiar material.


Crafted by delightfully offbeat writer-director Miranda July, Kajillionaire is quite unlike any other film you'll see in 2020. Led by an incredible cast, Kajillionaire tells the story of a woman who goes by the name Old Dolio Dyne (Evan Rachel Wood), whose parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger) have raised her to be a grifter and scam artist, working with them to pull off various cons. However, everything changes when the family meets Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), who not only joins them in their scams, but charms Robert and Theresa so thoroughly that she begins to take Old Dolio's place.

Kajillionaire, thanks to its pitch-perfect leading performances and July's incredibly unique sensibilities, is definitely one of the strangest comedies of the year, but as critics noted, "fans of writer-director Miranda July wouldn't have it any other way." Ultimately, Kajillionaire is worth the watch for any Miranda July fans, and might even help the filmmaker gain some new followers along the way.

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Television and film writer Aaron Sorkin never shies away from difficult, morally complicated stories — a trend he continued when he took on the real story told in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Set in the 1960s, Sorkin's film boasts an all-star cast that includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Michael Keaton, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeremy Strong, and Mark Rylance, among others, and tells the true story of seven men protesting the Vietnam War. After crossing state lines, the defendants were accused of inciting riots and fomenting conspiracy after tensions flared at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Sorkin's knack for wordplay, his top-notch cast of performers, and his smart direction earned accolades for the film, which hit Netflix weeks after its initial theatrical release on September 25. Ultimately, critics praised the movie, calling it "an actors' showcase enlivened by its topical fact-based story" and noting that it "plays squarely — and compellingly — to Aaron Sorkin's strengths." If you're a fan of The West Wing, historical dramas, or both, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a perfect pick.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

A critically successful and/or amusing sequel to 2006's Borat probably seemed like an unlikely prospect in 2020, but then again, this year was nothing if not full of surprises — and at least Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was a pleasant one. Reprising his role as the bumbling Kazahkstani journalist Borat, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen crafted a new story, a feat made all the more difficult by the fact that since his first Borat film arrived 14 years previously, the character has become one of the most recognizable in the world. However, Cohen had more tricks up his sleeve, smartly centering the movie on Borat's rocky relationship with his daughter Tutar, played by outstanding newcomer Maria Bakalova.

Naturally, Cohen stirred up controversy left and right, whether he was invading political rallies in a Donald Trump mask or leading Trump lawyer and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani into a seemingly compromising position, but the results are undeniably hilarious, and critics and fans alike agree. With critics noting that the film perfectly highlights "Cohen's comedic creation" and that Borat "remains a sharp tool for exposing the most misguided — or utterly repugnant — corners of American culture," you should have zero hesitations if you're thinking about checking out Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.


Emmy Award-winner Sarah Paulson had a pretty good year in 2020 thanks to buzzy projects like Netflix's Ratched and FX's Mrs. America, and Hulu's Run proved to be yet another success for this talented performer. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty, who also penned the screenplay alongside Sev Ohanian, Run tells the story of Chloe (Kiera Allen), a homeschooled teenager whose overprotective mother Diane (Paulson) keeps her locked in their home at all times. Told that she suffers from a chronic illness, Chloe begins to suspect her mother hasn't been entirely honest without her throughout her life, especially as she hopes to start college and move out.

Paulson struck gold once again with Run, with critics praising her performance as well as the thriller's intense twists and turns. After Run's premiere, critics wrote that the film was elevated by its "solid acting and expertly ratcheted tension," and that ultimately, the film "transcend[s] its familiar trappings to deliver a delightfully suspenseful thriller." If you love a good thriller, you'll want to run, not walk, to watch Run.

Happiest Season

Making history as the first LGBTQ+-centered romantic comedy to be produced by a major studio, Happiest Season is a perfectly crafted effort from director, writer, and actor Clea DuVall, who wrote the script alongside the film's supporting actor Mary Holland. As the film begins, Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (Kristen Stewart) are the perfect couple, and Abby is even ready to propose. However, when the two visit Harper's family for the holidays, they run into a big problem: Harper hasn't come out to her family yet, forcing Abby to pretend that the two are just friends. From there, between running into Harper's ex-girlfriends and boyfriends and navigating the turmoil of holidays with family, a rift grows between Abby and Harper.

With supporting performances from stars like Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, and more — as well as standout turns from both Davis and Stewart — Happiest Season is one of the most charming movies of the year, and an ideal addition to the holiday romantic comedy canon. If you're a fan of heartfelt stories with happy endings, Happiest Season is definitely a great pick.


After a few years working in television on projects like House of Cards and Mindhunter, acclaimed director David Fincher returned to film for his first movie since 2014's Gone Girl, bringing his Old Hollywood epic Mank to Netflix. Using a screenplay from his late father Jack, Fincher dives deep into the story behind the legendary film Citizen Kane, examining the strife and working relationship between famed filmmaker Orson Welles (played by Tom Burke) and Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman). As the two work to create the film of their dreams, similarities emerge between Kane's main character and powerful newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), causing problems for the duo.

There's no question that Fincher is one of the most acclaimed directors of his generation, and Mank continues his tradition of well-received films. After the film dropped on Netflix in early December, critics wrote that the movie is "sharply written and brilliantly performed," looking "behind the scenes of Citizen Kane to tell an old Hollywood story that could end up being a classic in its own right." Whether or not you're a fan of Citizen Kane, Mank is guaranteed to keep you entertained from beginning to end.

Black Bear

Former Parks and Recreation star Aubrey Plaza had a good year onscreen in 2020, appearing in a high-profile supporting role in Happiest Season and leading a small ensemble in Black Bear. Written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine (Gabi on the Roof in July, Wild Canaries), Black Bear tells the story of a young couple, Gabe (Girls' Christopher Abbott) and Blair (Alias Grace's Sarah Gadon), who invite an intriguing filmmaker, Allison (Plaza) into their home on a whim. However, when Allison ends up causing issues between the two, the entire situation goes awry... in the weirdest, most fascinating way possible.

Black Bear earned raves from critics after its limited December release, with reviews calling it "a fascinating look at the creative intricacies of show business" and writing that "Black Bear is a provocative, mind-bending experience" that features Plaza in one of her best performances to date. To top it all off, Black Bear bears the distinction of being an environmentally friendly film; it was shot in a house entirely powered by solar energy, earning accolades from the Environmental Media Association.


Produced by and starring venerated actor Frances McDormand — who took home her second Oscar in 2017 for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriNomadland presents a stunning look at a woman living in isolation as audiences accompany her on a cross-country journey. The film, directed by Chloé Zhao (who also helmed The Eternals for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, arriving in late 2021), tells the story of McDormand's Fern, who loses her job and decides to spend her days traveling through the American West. The movie also features some real-life nomads who choose to live their lives on the road, including characters played by Bob Wells, Linda May, and Swankie.

Critics have gushed over Zhao's stark, smart direction and McDormand's unsurprisingly great leading performance (with the actor emerging as a front-runner for the 2021 Academy Awards), writing that the film is "a poetic character study on the forgotten and downtrodden" that "beautifully captures the restlessness left in the wake of the Great Recession." Whether you simply miss traveling or dream of living on the road, Nomadland is a quiet, introspective, and gorgeous drama you won't want to miss.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Between Viola Davis' commanding lead performance and an astounding turn from the late Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is one of the most essential films of 2020. Directed by George C. Wolfe and adapted from a play by Black writer August Wilson, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom takes place over the course of one difficult day in a Chicago recording studio, where blues legend Ma Rainey puts up a fight over exactly how to record her music. Just to make everything more difficult, her trumpet player Levee (Boseman) is every bit as much of a diva as Ma Rainey herself, leading to an explosive showdown as the day winds to a close.

Davis is undeniably great in the film as the haughty, powerful Ma Rainey, but it's Boseman's performance — the last one he filmed before his tragic death in August 2020 — that makes the movie one of the best of the year. Critics overwhelmingly agreed, writing that the movie is "framed by a pair of powerhouse performances," paying "affectionate tribute to a blues legend — and Black culture at large." Whether or not you're a fan of the theater, Wolfe's theatrical direction and Boseman and Davis' incendiary performances all come together to make Ma Rainey's Black Bottom an unforgettable cinematic experience.


Pixar's original stories are pretty much always touching, deeply heartfelt tales of humanity, love, and loss, and their 2020 release, Soul — which hit Disney+ on Christmas Day — is no exception. As the film begins, music teacher and aspiring jazz pianist Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) finally gets his big break when he's invited to play at a club with the legendary Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett), but just hours before the show, he falls down a manhole and suffers near-fatal injuries. Finding himself in the afterlife, Joe must team up with the troublesome lost soul 22 (Tina Fey) to return to his body, make the show, and achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a successful professional musician.

Thanks to a stellar voice cast and a pitch-perfect story and direction by Pete Docter (who also helmed the introspective Inside Out), Soul proved to be yet another hit for Pixar, with critics calling the movie "a film as beautiful to contemplate as it is to behold" that "proves Pixar's power to deliver outstanding all-ages entertainment remains undimmed." Grab the tissues, prepare yourself for an intense emotional journey, and check out Soul.

One Night in Miami

Fresh off of her award-winning leading performance in HBO's limited series Watchmen, Regina King heads behind the camera for One Night in Miami, which made its debut at the Venice Film Festival before a limited theatrical release in December 2020. Adapted by Kemp Powers from his own stage play of the same name, King's directorial debut imagines the details of a real-life meeting between Black legends Sam Cooke (Hamilton's Leslie Odom Jr.), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) at a Miami hotel in the mid-1960s.

Clearly, King is just as talented behind the camera as she is in front of it, based on the rave reviews One Night in Miami received ahead of its Amazon Prime streaming release in January 2021. Critics have said that One Night in Miami is "a hauntingly powerful reflection on larger-than-life figures" which "finds Regina King in command of her craft in her feature directorial debut," so you definitely won't want to miss this buzzy, powerful film about some of history's most influential men.

Promising Young Woman

Crafted by writer-director Emerald Fennell — who helmed season two of the popular series Killing Eve and also appeared on The Crown as a young Camilla Parker-Bowles — Promising Young Woman is a searing, unsettling, and clever look at vengeance and retribution in the post-#MeToo era. Carey Mulligan leads the film as Cassie Thomas, a young woman who works at a coffee shop by day and hunts down apparent "nice guys" by night, playing drunk until the men prey on her and she can take her revenge. In doing so, she believes that she's honoring her late best friend, who was assaulted and never recovered.

Flanked by supporting performers Connie Britton, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Adam Brody, Max Greenfield, Alison Brie, Bo Burnham, Chris Lowell, and Laverne Cox, among others, Mulligan shines in Fennell's film, and critics have taken notice. After the film's theatrical release on Christmas Day 2020, critics wrote that the film is a "career highlight" for the actor, calling it "a boldly provocative, timely thriller" as well as "an auspicious feature debut for [Fennell]." Promising Young Woman might not be an easy watch, but it's a necessary one.