Make no mistake: 2020 has been the worst. But there are always silver linings if you look for them. Hollywood — like so many other industries — has found safe and creative ways to start up production on several films again. Film technicians, effects experts and editors have pushed ingenuity to the limit as they discover new methods for collaborating virtually. Actors and actresses have joined celebrities of all types to leverage their star power and call attention to important issues (like this hilarious PSA with Paul Rudd) or contribute to important pandemic-related causes.
And you know what else? Some great movies were released, too.
Here are nine 2020 movies that are excellent by any year’s standards.
The Outpost – Starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones and Orlando Bloom—and based on real events—this film depicts the threat American soldiers faced when stationed at a what was considered a “deathtrap” base in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) – Please allow me a moment as I realize that this is the last movie I saw in theaters back in early February. Sniff. Thankfully, I loved it. My full review is here, but if you’re looking for colorful adults-only mayhem, you’ve found your girl in Quinn.
Emma – One of the year’s biggest crowd-pleasers in theaters before everything went to hell, this adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name stars Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular character, who’s known for her matchmaking prowess.
Just Mercy – While technically this dramatic true story came out in a few theaters at the end of 2019 in order to qualify for the Oscars, it didn’t expand in the US until January. Starring Jamie Foxx and People’s newly crowned Sexiest Man Alive—Michael B. Jordan—the film tells the story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan), who worked to appeal what he believed to be the wrongful murder conviction of death-row inmate Walter McMillian (Foxx).
Words on Bathroom Walls – This romantic drama starring Charlie Plummer and Taylor Russell expertly tackles the sensitive topic of mental health within the context of the characters’ senior year of high school.
Miss Juneteenth – In this mother-daughter drama that’s generating some awards buzz, a single mom and former beauty queen (Nicole Beharie) tries to encourage her unenthusiastic teenage daughter (Alexis Chikaeze) to compete in their Texas town’s annual Miss Juneteenth pageant in order to earn a college scholarship.
Relic – The trend in “horror films that are actually great movies” continues with this Jake Gyllenhaal-produced, dread-filled drama about two sisters (Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote) who return home to find a sinister presence taking over their elderly mother’s (Robyn Nevin) mind and body.
Kajillionaire – What kind of person would you be if you were raised by con artists (Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins) who treated you more like an accomplice than a daughter? This is the question facing Evan Rachel Wood’s character when a new friend (Gina Rodriguez) forces her to take stock of her life and relationships.
The Way Back – Ben Affleck turns in one of the best performances of his career as an alcoholic construction worker with a painful past who’s asked to coach the same high school basketball team where he was once a star player. The entire cast is great, the plot is not at all predictable, and it’s got some truly rousing basketball scenes as well.
What’s the best movie you saw this year?