This article is part of our 2020 Rewind. Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year. In this entry, our team counts down the 50 best movies of 2020.
In the year 2019, which now feels like a lifetime ago, Box Office Mojo tracked over 900 new theatrical release movies. By contrast, 2020 saw just 455 such releases, many of which opened to empty theaters due to the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic. It was a year in which the film industry struggled to deal with our new public safety and economic realities — releases were pushed back, blockbusters were sacrificed, and like the rest of the world, it certainly feels like everything broke at least a little bit. In fact, of the 52 films we chose as our most anticipated of 2020, only about 20 ever made their way to audiences via either theatrical or streaming release.
And while we can certainly mourn the shared experiences and anticipated movies that we missed out on in 2020, we’d rather spend our time talking about the movies we did see and did love. In fact, we were delightfully surprised by the ease of assembling a list of 50 movies that we loved, proof that even though we’re all still stuck inside and missing the magic of big-screen cinema, the art of filmmaking was very much alive and well in 2020.
Follow along as we count down the 50 Best Movies of 2020, according to the team at Film School Rejects.
50. Bad Boys for Life
Most of us went into the theater with our arms crossed. After a nearly twenty-year absence, the chance of a third Bad Boys film feeling stylistically or emotionally connected to the originals seemed slim. We’ve experienced Men in Black III, after all. Despite a missing Michael Bay (or because of it), Bad Boys for Life denies the decades that sit between parts two and three. The friendship — and love — are still there. Detectives Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) maintain their bosom buddy bromance while directors Adil and Bilall fan the flames of action. There’s little chance that Bad Boys for Life is your favorite in the franchise, but in a year that needed the safety of a warm blanket, this trilogy-capper provided. (Brad Gullickson)
49. Another Round
Thomas Vinterberg, Mads Mikkelsen, and Thomas Bo Larsen teamed up again to make another Danish masterpiece, this one much lighter fare than their last, with The Hunt. Although, that’s not to say Another Round is all fun and games. That’s only where it begins. After a group of grade school teachers agrees to start secretly drinking on the job – in hopes that it will boost their quality of life, social behavior, and maybe even their teaching skills – the result is astounding. But, the continued under-the-radar success brings higher stakes, and those stakes threaten the covert nature of the once-silly operation as pressingly as the livelihoods of the men who took it on.
Mikkelsen gives yet another revelatory performance, this time as a plain, subtle, and down-to-earth father-teacher. It’s a delightfully charming, gorgeously shot film with the spirit of a graduating senior and the recklessness of a life with nothing to lose (or so it seems). And he knows just when and how to get you in the feels. Vinterberg doesn’t need to sacrifice emotional upheaval in the name of comedy. Instead, he does both, settling on nuance and his peerless ability to express engaging stories grounded in empathy — and, thankfully, drawn-out Mads Mikkelsen dance sequences. (Luke Hicks)
Most YA fare is aimed squarely, and understandably, at young adult audiences, but some find themes, character, and emotion that transcends age to speak to anyone with a heart and a mind. Brian Duffield’s adaptation of Aaron Starmer’s novel of the same name is a bright, poppy tale about teens who begin to randomly explode in showers of blood. Spontaneousis darkly comical but grows increasingly terrifying — this, despite the continued comedy and growing romance — as it comments on an uncertain world that teens are heading into. There’s a metaphor at play regarding school shootings, but that’s only part of the picture as the film delivers a message that’s both damning and hopeful for those looking forward. (Rob Hunter)
47. The Personal History of David Copperfield
The year kicked the dickens out of us, but fortunately, Armando Iannucci gave us some Dickens back. His adaptation of The Personal History of David Copperfield (which actually made its festival debut in 2019) brought me more joy in 2020 than any other movie. It’s a rather goofy take on the autobiographical novel, with a number of character actors, most of them Iannucci regulars like Hugh Laurie and Peter Capaldi, acting as broadly (and hilariously in my opinion) as can be. Dev Patel keeps things contained with his charming portrayal of the title character, who experiences ups and downs in his journey through Victorian England, surviving whichever one of life’s plot twists comes his way. We can use such hopefulness. Between this and Autumn de Wilde’s Emma., films based on 19th-century literary works felt so bright and buoyant in 2020, and I want more like them. (Christopher Campbell)
46. Feels Good Man
Welcome to Hell. Arthur Jones’ documentary is a nightmare tour through the absurd process that saw Matt Furie’s cartoon frog transform from a stoner jokester to a registered hate symbol. Feels Good Man plunges into the insatiable pit of despair that is 4chan and perp-walks the raging incels who found purpose in propping up a loathsome president. The ride churns the stomach and boils the blood, but just when you lose all faith in humanity, the listless comic book artist who spawned a demon takes back his creation. He may be too late, but the battle Furie wages inspires hope.
Feels Good Man might not help you understand our current state as a nation, but it is a perfect record of it. Hundreds of years from now, when the aliens and the robots want to understand the weird that was humanity’s downfall, Feels Good Man will no doubt be their go-to stream. For them, it will be a laugh riot. For us, it’s a death knell. (Brad Gullickson)