Best movies to watch in 2020 (and where to watch them)
It has, understandably, been a pretty slow year in the film biz this year. Coronavirus delayed the release of many eagerly-awaited movies and shut down production on many more, meaning 2021’s offerings might be just as meagre. But who says there isn’t still plenty of amazing stuff to watch this year? We’ve rounded up the best movies and hidden gems from not only the past few months, but the past decade to watch in 2020.
Let’s jump in.
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The World’s End (2013)
Out of Edgar Wright’s ‘Three Flavours Cornetto’ trilogy (which includes Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End), The World’s End is super underrated. Don’t get me wrong, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz deserve their cult classic status, but this 2013 comedy is due for its time in the sun. Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (surprise, surprise), the story follows a group of old mates unwillingly roped into a pub crawl in their hometown to make up for their failed attempt twenty years earlier. That is, until they unintentionally become mankind’s only hope of surviving the apocalypse…
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
I remember seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in the cinema when it first came out. I had no real expectations going into it, but even if I had the highest expectations, they would’ve been blown away. Into the Spider-Verse is by far one of the most unique and beautifully-animated films of all time – and don’t get me started on the soundtrack. Regardless of whether or not you’re into superhero movies, Miles Morales’ multiverse-jumping tale is funny, smart, and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
The Invitation (2015)
The Invitation proves you don’t need a ridiculously huge budget to create a great psychological horror. This sleek, atmospheric thriller will have you second-guessing everything. It stars Logan Marshall-Green as a Will, a grieving father invited to his former home by his ex-wife and her new partner. Already sceptical of their intentions upon receiving the invitation, Will only grows more suspicious as the night plays out in weirder and more sinister ways.
The last decade has produced some pretty amazing sci-fi flicks, but there’s something special about Arrival. After all, how many alien encounter movies have a linguist as their hero? The Denis Villeneuve-directed film follows expert communicator (Amy Adams), who is hired by the US Army to work out how to communicate with the extraterrestrials who just landed on Earth. It’s gripping, heartbreaking, and surprisingly poignant for a movie about aliens.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
While it’s not exactly a hidden gem, watching 12 Years a Slave in 2020 is a whole new experience. The 2013 Best Picture Oscar-winner is based on the true story of Solomon Northup (played impeccably by the amazing Chiwetel Ejiofor), an African American musician and farmer who lived his early years as a free man in New York before being sold into slavery at the age of 32. It’s a gut-wrenching tale of survival, and one which has never been more relevant, given the events of this year.
Annihilation is a mind-bending, monstrous and ridiculously underrated masterpiece. Natalie Portman leads a kick-ass female cast including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez and Tessa Thompson, all of whom play scientists sent into the mysterious quarantined zone known as ‘The Shimmer’, where an alien presence is causing plants and animals to uncontrollably mutate. Annihilation is both terrifying and endlessly thought-provoking, and upon rewatching it, I kept finding new things to be amazed about.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
I can’t say I was ever desperate for someone to make a mockumentary about Kiwi vampires, but after seeing What We Do in the Shadows, I don’t know how I ever lived without it. Directed by (and starring) the always awesome Taika Waititi and Flight of the Conchords alum Jermaine Clement, What We Do in the Shadows is one of those films I could watch time and time again and never get sick of. I mean, it’s about three vampires living in a Wellington sharehouse. What more could you want?
The Invisible Man (2020)
It’s not saying much, given the limited output of cinematic releases this year, but The Invisible Man is one of 2020’s best movies. Loosely based on the iconic H.G. Wells novel of the same name, The Invisible Man is a perfectly-paced thriller starring Elizabeth Moss as an abused woman who believes her ex is stalking her, despite his apparent suicide. Yes, watching it will turn you into a ball of anxiety (well, only for two hours), but honestly, it’s so worth it.
Doctor Sleep (2019)
Taking on the sequel to one of the best horror movies (and books) of all time is no easy task, but Mike Flanagan nailed it with Doctor Sleep. Starring Ewan McGregor as a grown-up, alcoholic Danny Torrence, Doctor Sleep goes in an entirely different direction to The Shining, but the little touches that tie it back to Kubrick’s 1980 classic (including re-shot scenes with uncanny lookalikes) take it to a whole new level.
The Master (2012)
That Joaquin Phoenix didn’t win the Best Actor Oscar for his role Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is something of a travesty. Set in post-WWII America, The Master is a psychological drama that follows a Navy veteran (Phoenix) struggling to settle back into normal life. Seeking some sort of meaning or purpose, he quickly becomes swept up in the cult-like teachings of Lancaster Dodd (played by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman).
It doesn’t get quite as much love as Finding Nemo and Up, but Coco is easily one of the best movies Pixar has produced in the last 20 years. Miguel, a young Mexican boy whose dream is to become a musician, gets more than he bargained for on the Day of the Dead when he suddenly finds himself able to communicate with his ancestors but invisible to the living. It’s a fun, colourful and strangely beautiful exploration of death, with memorable characters, spectacular visuals and a damn good soundtrack.
It’s been compared countless times to the iconic coming-of-age teen comedy Superbad, but Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart is a whole new ball game. Up-and-comers Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play two overachieving high school students desperate to fit years of overdue teenage antics into one night. It’s smart, perfectly cast, side-splittingly funny, and so much more than just the ‘female Superbad’ it’s been branded – it’s better.
Ex Machina (2014)
Caleb Smith (Domnhall Gleeson) is enlisted by billionaire tech genius Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) to administer the Turing test on his new creation – that is, to see if Bateman’s humanoid AI (Alicia Vikander) is capable of thought and consciousness akin to that of a human. Easily one of the best psychological thrillers to come out of the 2010s, Ex Machina is a clever, brilliantly acted, Frankenstein-esque cautionary tale of the horrors that await us when man plays god.
The Lobster (2015)
There’s only one word to use when discussing The Lobster – bonkers. This is a film you’re either going to love or hate, but its outlandish premise might be just enough for you to give it a go anyway. It’s set in a dystopian world where adults have just 45 days to find a mate, or else be transformed into the animal of their choosing. Yep, like I said, it’s bonkers. But as much as it is absurd and dark, it’s hilarious and weirdly thought-provoking. Plus, with a cast including the likes of Colin Farrel, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman and even John C. Reilly, you can’t go wrong.
What would you do if you woke up one day and no one had ever heard of the Beatles? That’s exactly the situation Jack Malik (played by Himesh Patel) finds himself in, and he quickly decides to capitalise on mankind’s collective amnesia by creating the Fab Four’s extensive catalogue himself – and reaping the rewards. Danny Boyle’s 2019 comedy isn’t perfect, but it’s pure, joyous escapism with some stellar performances and a surprisingly amusing Ed Sheeran cameo (with none of the cringe that came with his Game of Thrones appearance).