Top 10 movies of 2020

Well, 2020 happened. It was a weird year for everyone, but especially for the movie industry. With theaters shut down, most big blockbusters postponed their releases. The Oscars are even postponed for two months later than usual. But without blockbusters dominating the box office and pop culture this year, some truly special and unique movies were able to shine. Movies that aren’t your typical action or adventure experiences. In fact, some of the best movies of the year I saw tackle some really big questions, issues and themes. They can be difficult to watch at times, but they help us grapple with these questions ourselves and take stock of our world, and that makes them even more important.

Here are my top 10 movies of 2020:

  1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Gorgeous, breathtaking, magnificent, captivating, spectacular. I’m cheating a little bit here since this movie technically had its world premiere in 2019, but it wasn’t released wide in the US until 2020. The story of this movie is so simple: an artist is hired to paint a portrait of a wealthy young woman for her upcoming wedding. But their relationship grows into something much more than artist and subject and the slow burn quickly erupts into a fiery passion. So much is done with so little in this movie, with stolen glances between the two main characters saying more than most lines of dialogue. The set design, cinematography and costumes are incredible. There’s so little music within in the film that when it does show up it’s shocking. And there’s literally one line of dialogue spoken by a man in the whole movie. The less you know about this going in, the better you’ll appreciate it, but I couldn’t recommend it more.

2. Soul

Have you ever seen a movie that just makes you want to appreciate the world and life more? Because that’s what Soul did for me. There’s so much to love in this movie – from the absolutely gorgeous animation of the “real world” and the weirdness of the soul world to the existential nature of what life means and how we can all live fulfilled lives. The trademark Pixar humor is there, especially in the second act that was perfectly hidden from all the trailers, and the expected emotional gut punch is one of the studio’s strongest. Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey are fantastic in the lead roles, but the supporting cast truly shines throughout. And the music – both the vibey sounds of the soul world to the energetic jazz – is just outstanding and really becomes a character of its own.

3. Sound of Metal

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

If you lost something that was integral to who you are and how you identify yourself to the world, you’d go to any length to hold on to your identity. In Sound of Metal, heavy metal drummer Ruben slowly begins to lose his hearing, and we watch him fight to hold on to himself, grieve at what he’s lost and slowly learn how to live in his new reality. This movie is both heartbreaking and deals with anger, grief, fear and acceptance. Riz Ahmed is fantastic in the lead role and really brings the audience along through every emotion. Partnered with Ahmed’s performance is the fantastic sound design of the movie, which allows the audience to “hear” what Reuben hears. And we don’t get subtitles for characters using sign language until Reuben learns enough to understand what others are saying. The final shot of this movie is incredible.

4. Palm Springs

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

This is such a fun movie. Palm Springs takes the classic Groundhog Day time loop setup and refreshes the idea by having two people living the same loop together. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are absolutely wonderful and expertly balance the humor and “no consequences” mindset of the early time loops with the exhaustion and despair of feeling like they’ll never get out. There’s some really fun twists as the story unfolds, and the finale takes a surprisingly metaphysical turn and gets pretty wild, but it’s a blast throughout.

5. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Let’s get this out of the way at the beginning: this is a movie about abortion. High-school student Autumn travels from rural Pennsylvania to New York City with her cousin to get an abortion after an unplanned pregnancy. At no point in this movie is abortion glorified or celebrated – instead, it shows the mental toll it can take on a woman and the difficulty she must go through to make a decision like this. The silences in this movie speak volumes and it’s filled with so much empathy that you want to jump into the screen and tell Autumn that everything’s going to be okay. It’s a heartbreaking movie, but extremely powerful, and one that is necessary to discuss.  

6. Boys State

Every year, thousands of high school boys descend on state capitals across the country to participate in a mock-government program called Boys State (there’s also a Girls State – gotta keep those boys and girls separate!). This documentary follows the 2018 Texas Boys State in all its horror and glory. The first 20 minutes of this legitimately felt like a documentary about a cult. Boys State is hyped up for these boys like it’s bigger than the Super Bowl or the most important job interview they’ll ever have. The movie follows four participants as they learn the political process and play the game. Some of them only want to play to win – and will do absolutely anything to do so. But there are others who genuinely want to connect with people and seek power to make positive change. And to see the effects that the current political climate (even in 2018) have on potential leaders of tomorrow is… concerning. Even in a mock situation, some of the things these boys do to win is unnerving. However, there are a few rays of light and I found myself inspired by some of the boys and was able to feel both concerned and hopeful for our future.

7. Da 5 Bloods

The Vietnam War defined a generation and changed the world, but for many who were there, the war never ended. Da 5 Bloods follows a group of Black American Vietnam veterans who return to the country to search for a forgotten treasure and say their final goodbye to a fallen soldier. A lot of this is hard to watch, and rightfully so. It shines a light on some of the darker flaws of American history – the Vietnam War, racism and civil rights, PTSD and the treatment of veterans. This was one of Chadwick Boseman’s final film performances before he died, and even as he was undergoing cancer treatments, he was an absolute force of nature in his few scenes here. The rest of the main cast is also incredible, but Delroy Lindo and Jonathan Majors give the best performances out of the bunch.

8. Wolfwalkers

This movie has everything I love – beautiful, unique animation, Irish accents, folklore and mythology, and magic. A young hunter comes to Ireland with her father who has been tasked with wiping out a threatening wolf pack, but she meets a girl in the woods who shows her that the wolves are not as dangerous as they may seem. Wolfwalkers tells the familiar story of enemies becoming friends through a new understanding of each other and seeing the world through each other’s eyes. There’s a real heart to this movie that pulls you in through its humor and some of the darker moments. It’s a story about relationships – between enemies, friends, and parents and children. There’s also a strong environmental message about learning to coexist with nature and not only to control it.

9. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

The one major studio superhero movie we got this year came from DC and Harley Quinn. Birds of Prey is a delightfully weird breath of fresh air. Margot Robbie clearly loves playing Harley, and she shines in the role. She has made Harley one of the true stars of the DC movie universe. The rest of the cast is fantastic too – my personal favorite is Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress, full of angst and anger. Ewan McGregor gives his all as the villainous Roman Sionis and looks like he had a blast doing so. The story structure is just as chaotic as the movie’s title, but it works well for Harley’s vibe. And the action scenes are absolutely incredible – particularly the climactic battle in the fun house.

10. Promising Young Woman

Believe women. In Promising Young Woman, a young woman makes it her mission to get revenge on men take advantage of women. She’s driven by a tragedy from her past and can only find solace in making sure no other woman goes through what happened to her best friend. Carey Mulligan is electric in the lead role, and the men she encounters are all expertly played by men known for being the “nice guys” in other movies and shows, done purposefully to make the audience even more uneasy. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous throughout. Promising Young Woman is about revenge, yes, but it’s also about grief, trauma and male privilege. I don’t think I blinked or breathed during the entire final act of this movie. Believe women.

And the ranking of all the other 2020 movies I watched:

11. Emma.
12. Kajillionaire
13. The Invisible Man
14. First Cow
15. Trial of the Chicago 7
16. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
17. One Night in Miami…
18. The Assistant
19. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
20. Bad Education
21. Onward
22. Swallow
23. Shirley
24. Mank
25. Bill & Ted Face the Music
26. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
27. Happiest Season
28. Tenet
29. Miss Americana
30. The Lodge
31. Shawn Mendes in Wonder
32. Black Bear
33. The Old Guard
34. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
35. Wonder Woman 1984
36. Enola Holms
37. Prom
38. The Devil All the Time
39. The Lovebirds
40. The Boys in the Band
41. The Half of It
42. The Hunt
43. Sonic the Hedgehog
44. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
45. To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
46. The Babysitter: Killer Queen
47. Godmothered
48. The New Mutants
49. Holidate
50. Scoob!
51. The Witches
52. The Princess Switch: Switched Again
53. Mulan
54. The One and Only Ivan
55. Trolls World Tour
56. Christmas on the Square
57. The Kissing Booth 2

Best movies I’ve watched during quarantine (so far)

We’ve all been spending a lot of time at home lately as we protect ourselves and other from COVID-19. I’ve used a lot of my extra time at home to watch a lot of movies, especially ones that I haven’t had time to watch or have been on my list for a long time. Plus, some new releases are being sent directly to our homes now.

So here are some of the best movies I’ve watched over the past few months, including some iconic classics and new releases.  

My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away

When HBO Max launched during quarantine, one of their biggest selling points was the entire library of films from Studio Ghibli, the legendary Japanese animation company. I had never seen any of the Ghibli films, but everywhere I went online people said they were some of the best animated movies of all time, right up there with the best of Pixar and the Disney renaissance. So some of the first movies I watched on HBO Max were three of the most famous Studio Ghibli films: My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away.

And let me tell you: everyone was not lying when they said these movies are phenomenal. They’re gorgeous, full of creativity and adventure, and strangely comforting to watch. The soundtrack for each movie is a huge standout as well. Highly, highly recommend these three movies and I intend on making my way through the rest of the Studio Ghibli catalog.

Where to watch: HBO Max

Tom Hanks mini-thon: Big, That Thing You Do, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle and A League of Their Own

For a couple of weeks during this quarantine, I went through a late 1980s-1990s Tom Hanks marathon. Hanks has been in so many iconic movies it’s hard to keep track of them all. Big is honestly so good mainly because of Hanks’ performance and that piano scene is truly something special. The only issue with the movie is the uncomfortable romantic relationship.

That Thing You Do was Hanks’ first time directing a movie and it is almost too much fun. If you don’t walk away from the movie with the title song stuck in your head then you weren’t paying enough attention. Hanks is great, but the true stars are the band members and a young Liv Tyler.

Was there a more dynamic duo in the 90s than Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? The pair cemented themselves in romantic comedy history by starring in You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. While both were highly enjoyable, I thought the premise of You’ve Got Mail was much better than Sleepless in Seattle. But you can’t deny the finale of Sleepless in Seattle is one of the most satisfying in movie history.

A League of Their Own had been on my list for a long time, mainly because of the iconic line, “There’s no crying in baseball!” This is probably the first time I’ve ever seen Hanks in an antagonistic role, but unsurprisingly he does a great job. But he’s not the focus of this movie. The women of the team are all so delightful and interesting that it’s almost impossible not to root for them. And the fact that it’s based on true events makes it even more resonant.

Where to watch: Big (rent on Apple or Amazon), That Thing You Do (HBO Max), You’ve Got Mail (HBO Max), Sleepless in Seattle (Netflix), A League of Their Own (rent on Apple or Amazon)


Recently, I’ve been using my quarantine time to educate myself on racial injustice and systemic racism. 13th is a documentary showing the history of the U.S. prison and legal system and how it has been disproportionately biased against Black Americans for decades. From the 13th amendment to Jim Crow laws to the War on Drugs and the 1994 crime bill, Black Americans have been consistently dehumanized and overly criminalized. 13th is powerful, haunting, and should be required viewing for everyone right now.

Where to watch: Netflix

Do the Right Thing

Another essential piece of my racial injustice education was Do the Right Thing. Spike Lee’s masterpiece was released in 1989 but tells an eerily relevant story that could have happened last week. It begins as a slice-of-life style movie wandering lazily between different areas of a Brooklyn community. But tensions boil under the surface throughout the movie until they erupt in a horrible but familiar tragedy.

Where to watch: rent on Apple or Amazon

The Sound of Music

Embarrassingly, I had never seen The Sound of Music until this year. Sure, I knew the general story and most of the iconic songs, but I had never sat through the full three-hour experience. And honestly, it’s pretty great. The story and characters are fun and the music is even better when heard in context (although I’m still not sure how “My Favorite Things” became a Christmas song). The final act does feel like it comes from an entirely different movie, but overall it’s easy to see why this is such an iconic piece of film history.

Where to watch: Disney+

Palm Springs

This new 2020 release is the latest in the long line of Groundhog Day-inspired movies. Palm Springs tweaks the formula so multiple people can get trapped in the same time loop together. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti are SO GOOD together and their chemistry and the movie’s script make this such an effortlessly fun movie. Palm Springs also features a fantastic supporting cast and a wildly entertaining finale.

Where to watch: Hulu


Another embarrassing confession: I’ve never paid much attention to Jane Austen adaptations. I’ve never seen any Pride & Prejudice movie, although I did finally read the book a few years ago. But the trailers for the 2020 adaptation of Emma. (there’s a period in the title because it’s a ~period piece~) made it look so intriguing that I had to watch it. And I was definitely not disappointed. The humor in this movie is spectacular and it’s easy to see how much fun the cast had making this. I was particularly obsessed with the aesthetic, production design and cinematography of the movie.

Where to watch: rent on Apple or Amazon