The Best Movies of 2020 (That I Saw)

I did not make a top 10 list this year.

Usually I’ve seen more than 200 of the year’s new releases; this year I only saw 69. And while it may seem like fewer movies came out this year than usual, that’s really only true of the big-budget blockbusters, most of which got pushed to next summer. The smaller movies came out in approximately the usual numbers, though many got their first release online rather than in theaters.

There were plenty of good movies to choose from; I just didn’t see a lot of them.

Looking at other critics’ top 10 lists, I find 15-20 movies coming up repeatedly that I didn’t see, a few of which, not being plugged into the festival circuit this year, I had genuinely never heard of. (Usually there are 3-5 I didn’t see and none I hadn’t heard of.) Any top 10 list I put together would have too many caveats to make it worthwhile.

(Does anyone remember when Stephen King used to write a regular column for Entertainment Weekly and he’d always do a top 10 list while admitting he’d only seen, like, 20 movies that year? Just wondering.)

Furthermore, in a normal year I would re-watch some of the contenders for my list, especially those I had seen at Sundance 11 months earlier. That wasn’t feasible this year, as I don’t get “for your consideration” screeners anymore and many of the films I would have wanted to revisit aren’t available.

So I don’t have a top 10 list. Instead, here are all of the 2020 movies I saw (note that I saw some of them [*] in 2019), along with the grades I gave or would have given. Links are to my reviews or tweets.

Anything for Jackson B+
*Assistant, The B-
Babyteeth B+
Bad Boys for Life B-
Bill and Ted Face the Music B-
Birds of Prey B-
Black Bear B
Borat: Subsequent Movie Film B
Boys State B
Brahms: The Boy II C+
*Butt Boy B-
*Climb, The B+
*Color Out of Space C+
*Come to Daddy B-
Cuties B
Da 5 Bloods B+
*Deerskin B+
Devil All the Time, The C+
*Dogs Don’t Wear Pants C+
Dolittle D
Downhill B-
Emma. B
Eurovision Song Contest B
Fantasy Island C
Gentlemen, The B
Glorias, The B-
Gretel and Hansel C+
Grudge, The C+
*Guns Akimbo B
Hamilton B+
His House B
Hunt, The B- (the last movie I saw in a theater!)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things A-
Invisible Man, The B+
Kajillionaire C
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist B-
Lovers Rock B
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom B+
Mank C+
Minari A-
Miss Americana B
Never Rarely Sometimes Always B+
Onward B
Palm Springs B+
*Platform, The B+
*Pool, The B
Possessor B
Possum C+
Psychokinesis B-
*Random Acts of Violence C+
Relic B-
Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street C+
She Dies Tomorrow B-
Sonic the Hedgehog B-
Soul B+
Sound of Metal A-
Spree B-
*Swallow B+
Tenet C+
Tesla B
Time A-
*Troop Zero B+
Uncle Frank B-
Underwater B-
Vast of Night, The B+
*VHYes B
Wendy D+
*Why Don’t You Just Die B
WW84 C+

(To find out where you can watch a particular movie, I recommend Just Watch. There’s an app version, too.)

One upside of seeing fewer new releases is that I see fewer bad movies. The ones that look like I probably wouldn’t like ’em? I don’t watch ’em. This is a good way to live.

And what of the Miscellaneous Data I usually compile, where two or movies have random things in common? Same problem as above: I just didn’t see enough of movies. This year didn’t happen. We’ll try again in 2021.