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There Were Only 8 Near-Perfect Movies From 2020 According To Metacritic

When looking to see how a film has been received by the public, most people venture to Rotten Tomatoes, a website that aggregates movie reviews. Unfortunately, Rotten Tomatoes reduces film criticism to an unhelpful binary of "Fresh" or "Rotten" cinema. Enter Metacritic, another review aggregation website. Within their system, film reviews are given a numerical score from 1 to 100. This represents the wide array of films that fall somewhere between terrible and great far more fully.

So where do the films of 2020 fit on Metacritic's 1-to-100 scale? Well, naturally, all over the place. But only these eight films reached a near-perfect level of acclaim from critics, with scores of 90 or over. From documentaries to theatrical reproductions to hard-hitting social dramas, these films captured the hearts and minds of the critical landscape, and, according to Metacritic, rank as nearly flawless. Join us as we explore the highest heights of 2020 cinema.


Steve McQueen's "Small Axe" series of films are a fantastic exploration of the lives of Black Londoners in the mid-to-late 20th century. The first film in the series, "Mangrove," is perhaps the most thematically engaging of the bunch. "Mangrove" explores the true story of west London's Mangrove restaurant, a spot that frequently became the target of racist harassment from the local police force. Mangrove supporters mounted a large-scale protest in 1970, which resulted in nine protesters put on trial. It's a case that was truly stranger than fiction, and the film captures its unfolding with aplomb.

Boasting a titanic ensemble of performers, including Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby, Shaun Parkes, and many more, "Mangrove" is a brutal, yet ultimately joyful film about the power of a community coming together to defend itself. It is, above all else, a story about survival in its purest form. With a Metacritic score of 90, "Mangrove" stands as another testament to Steve McQueen's storytelling mastery.


Five years after it originally opened and in the midst of a global pandemic that brought Broadway to a standstill, "Hamilton" found a way to leap into the zeitgeist when a professionally shot version of the musical premiered on Disney+ in July 2020. The film captures the show's original Broadway cast at the height of their powers, finally giving viewers who haven't seen the production a glimpse into what all the hype's about.

Capturing a live production can be tricky, but "Hamilton" wonderfully replicates the theatrical experience. This already-classic depiction of Alexander Hamilton's life, filtered through Miranda's hip-hop, R&B, jazz, and showtune-filled brain, is that rare contemporary musical that leapt right into mainstream popularity. Now it lives in perpetuity on Disney+, and fans around the world couldn't be more thrilled. As the film earned a Metacritic score of 90, "Hamilton" fever doesn't look like it'll be going anywhere any time soon.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Unable to get an abortion in her hometown without parental consent, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) journeys with her cousin to New York City to try and get this procedure taken care of. Thus begins Eliza Hittman's "Never Rarely Sometimes Always," which explores the lives of two young girls just trying to keep themselves sane as the hours go on with brilliantly excruciating patience. It's a film that manages to be simultaneously understated and toweringly expressive — one of the most potent combinations in cinema.

With a Metacritic score of 91, critics agree that "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" is that rare film that slowly but surely seeps under your skin and refuses to leave, simultaneously lifting your spirits and breaking your heart. It's slow cinema at its finest, exploring all-too-relevant contemporary issues in a fantastically human fashion. Even in a year crowded with noteworthy films, Hittman's triumph easily rose to the top as one of the cinematic highlights of 2020.


In a stellar year for documentary filmmaking, Garrett Bradley's "Time" stood out as a stylistically daring and emotionally breathtaking piece of abolitionist cinema. Acting as both a chronicle of Fox Rich's life as well as a documentary of her quest to get her husband released from his 60-year prison sentence for armed robbery, "Time" is a testament to the passion and power of the human spirit. Most of all, however, it is a blazing paean to the pursuit of justice when and where it's needed most — even in the most arduous circumstances.

Filed with both contemporary black-and-white photography and footage pulled from Fox Rich's personal archive of home video, "Time" is not only politically engaging, it is a visually compelling piece of cinematic poetry that seamlessly mixes the past and present. With a Metacritic score of 91, "Time" is a documentary that certainly won't be forgotten any time soon.

David Byrne's American Utopia

"American Utopia," David Byrne's theatrical concert-turned-Broadway show, is captured here with an honest and open hand by Spike Lee. Like "Hamilton," "American Utopia" brought the world of live performance into our living rooms in late 2020, reminding us of the joys and power of connection in a time when those values felt distant. Filled with eye-popping visuals and featuring hit songs like "Once in a Lifetime," "Burning Down the House," and "Road to Nowhere," Byrne's production is as life-affirming as it is wholeheartedly entertaining. No wonder it earned a whopping Metacritic score of 93.

Through impassioned songwriting, a brilliant cadre of performers, and a message of ultimate human understanding, this outstanding concert film brings to mind the Talking Heads' previous cinematic effort, Jonathan Demme's "Stop Making Sense." As "Sense" imagines a fusion of music and cinema for a new century, "Utopia" explores humanity's great journey into the future.


If one 2020 film can be said to have taken critics and audiences by surprise with its grace, humanity, and visionary storytelling, it was undeniably "Nomadland." Chloé Zhao's intimate take on the life of a nomadic woman (exquisitely played by Frances McDormand) travelling through the sprawling United States took the cinematic world by storm. "Nomadland" regales us with imagery and focus in such a beautiful fashion that it is impossible to look away.

At a time when stories focusing on economic disparity are becoming more and more essential, Zhao's down-to-earth film gripped audiences' hearts like no other 2020 production. It won a well-deserved heap of awards, and catapulted Chloé Zhao into worldwide fame as a dazzling champion of quiet cinema (even though Marvel snapped her up to direct their epic "Eternals"). With a Metacritic score of 93, there's no denying that "Nomadland" became the movie we all needed to end 2020.


Alexander Nanau's "Collective," a harrowing and blood-boiling piece of documentary filmmaking, follows the aftermath of a deadly fire that consumed Bucharest's Colectiv nightclub in 2015. As the film chronicles, outrage erupted after the club's safety standards were found to be lacking in the extreme. Over the ensuing months, the country's healthcare system and lack of proper government response put even more victims in peril, with several people dying due to improper medical treatment.

"Collective" is also an impassioned look at the journalists who tirelessly worked to expose the corruption, greed, and negligence at play. Furthermore, it is a poignant exploration of how a lack of care and compassion for our fellow human beings is a sad aspect of society the world over. With a near-perfect score of 95 on Metacritic and a number of awards to its name, "Collective" has undeniably and uniformly shocked, inspired, and infuriated audiences all across the planet.

Lovers Rock

It's only fitting that a list that starts with an entry from Steve McQueen's "Small Axe" series should end that way too. "Lovers Rock," a 68-minute euphoric experience of movement and music, is nothing short of a visual and auditory wonder. Spending the majority of its time at a house party in 1980's West London, McQueen's film is an unabashed ode to Black joy, bundled up in an '80s time capsule. "Lovers Rock" moves through your mind and body with such ease that it unquestionably qualifies as one of the most transportive pieces of filmmaking the cinematic world has seen in years.

With a magnificent score of 95 on Metacritic, it's undeniable that "Lovers Rock" is one of the greatest films of 2020, and likely the decade as a whole. In a year of fear and isolation, this movie gave critics and audiences alike a grand sense of togetherness. One can only hope that in the years to come, the joy and spirit of this film will follow us into our own lives. If not, well, we can always return to McQueen's masterpiece.