The Best Movies of the 2020s So Far

The Best Movies of the 2020s So Far

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Saying that 2020 came with a bang just might be the understatement of the century. The year ushered in a global pandemic that upended all of what we knew in the modern world, forcing us to reconsider what we deemed as valuable and even good. 

With more content than ever before, both filmmaker and filmgoer have seen a growth in discernment, and with that, a boost in standards. So far, this has meant more solid techniques, diverse perspectives, and empathetic takes. Below, we list the most notable titles that uphold these qualities—in other words, the very best movies of the 2020s.

80. The Sea Beast (2022)

7.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Chris Williams

Actors

Brian T. Delaney, Dan Stevens, David S. Lee, Doon Mackichan

Moods

Action-packed, Character-driven, Easy

The Sea Beast tells the story of Jacob, a legendary sea monster hunter, and Maisie, a wannabe monster hunter herself. When a dangerous encounter isolates them from the rest of the crew, they’re forced to team up and reconcile their opposing beliefs—Maisie believes there’s good in the beasts, but Jacob has yet to be convinced.

Action-packed, fast-paced, and thoroughly entertaining, The Sea Beast is a perfect weekend watch. The part-Moana, part-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean tale also has the added bonus of being age-appropriate (rated PG), making it suitable for those spending their precious movie time with kids.

79. Entergalactic (2022)

7.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Fletcher Moules

Actors

Arturo Castro, Christopher Abbott, Francesca Reale, Jaden Smith

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Grown-up Comedy

Entergalactic, a vibrant animated romcom from the mind of musician Kid Cudi, follows new neighbors Jabari (Cudi) and Meadow (Jessica Williams) as they navigate their way through the ups and downs of modern love. They’re both established artists at the height of their careers, but when it comes to romance, they’re still scraping for lessons, which they mostly get from equally clueless but funny friends.

Featuring songs from Cudi’s latest record of the same name, Entergalactic doubles as a visual album that comes to life with every beat and movement. It also stars many familiar names, among them Timothée Chalamet, Vanessa Hudgens, Ty Dolla $ign, Jaden Smith, and Macaulay Culkin.

78. I’m Your Man (2021)

7.2

Country

Germany

Director

Female director, Maria Schrader

Actors

Annika Meier, Christoph Glaubacker, Dan Stevens, Falilou Seck

Moods

Feel-Good, Funny, Grown-up Comedy

Romantically pairing up AI with humans is hardly new, and I’m Your Man is aware of that. Instead of spending way too much time explaining the advanced tech that makes the perfect mate possible, the movie zeroes in on its charismatic leads Tom the robot (Dan Stevens) and Alma the indifferent academic (Maren Eggert). Tom is the curious, humanoid automaton who is designed to worship Alma, and Alma is the disillusioned human who is conflicted with the authenticity of her growing feelings for Tom. I’m Your Man is smart and empathetic enough to stay afloat amidst its swirling genres and ethical dilemmas, but it is mostly the chemistry between Tom and Alma that anchors it to the love story that it actually is. 

77. Hustle (2022)

7.2

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Jeremiah Zagar

Actors

Adam Sandler, Ainhoa Pillet, Allen Iverson, Andrea Sooch

Moods

A-list actors, Character-driven, Dramatic

Adam Sandler rarely plays a role straight, but when he does, you know it’s good. In Hustle, Sandler is Stanley Sugarman, a basketball scout stuck in the long game, waiting for his chance to finally coach an NBA team. On a recruitment trip to Spain, Stan discovers a talented but unknown player named Bo Cruz. They fly to the US, where Stan and Bo fight against all odds and hustle for a spot in the NBA draft. 

Inspiring without being too cheesy and informative without being bogged down by too many details, Hustle is a slam dunk of a film; a gritty crowd-pleaser that’s sure to draw anyone in.

76. Swan Song (2021)

7.2

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Todd Stephens

Actors

Annie Kitral, Brandon Lim, Bryant Carroll, Dave Sorboro

Moods

Heart-warming, Lovely, Slice-of-Life

In Swan Song, acclaimed actor Udo Kier stars as the real-life Pat Pitsenbarger, a local queer legend in the small town of Sandusky. He used to live a private but joyful life, beautifying socialities by day and performing in drag at night. But now the aging icon is resigned to live out his days in a bleak retirement home, where he takes part in feeble acts of rebellion to keep himself amused. This is bound to change when Pat returns to town on an oddly specific request. There, he makes peace with old friends and grabs at the chance to revive his inner beauty queen once more. 

It’s a simple story with a simple premise, but Swan Song is elevated by Krier’s powerful presence and director Todd Stephens’ obvious love for his hometown. Every diss Krier drops as the sassy Pat is to be savored, and every tribute Stephens makes to town life is to be admired. Filled, too, with colorful and euphoric moments that celebrate gay pride, Swan Song makes for quite the lovable film. 

75. Our Friend (2020)

7.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Actors

Ahna O'Reilly, Casey Affleck, Cherry Jones, Dakota Johnson

Moods

A-list actors, Depressing, Slice-of-Life

Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck star in this comedy-drama as a small-town couple, one of whom gets diagnosed with a terminal illness. Their best friend (Jason Segel) puts his life on hold and moves in with them, picking up the husband when he faints at the hospital, shaving his head in solidarity with the wife, and even taking care of the dog who also gets sick.

It might seem like just another terminal illness drama, but Our Friend is based on a true story, and it’s as much about the illness as it is about how to be there for people, and reversely, the power of people being there for you.

74. Zappa (2020)

7.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Alex Winter

Actors

David Harrington, Frank Zappa, Gail Zappa, Ian Underwood

Moods

Instructive, Thought-provoking

Frank Zappa’s creative scope could barely be defined –  a mix of rock, composition, design, and in his early days even filmmaking.  This documentary does its best to summarize the un-summarizable, starting with Zappa’s last time playing guitar and going back to early details like an infatuation with explosives as a kid. 

Zappa’s overwhelmingly full life is focused on the documentary in the study of his incredible work ethic and unique creative philosophy. Far from the drugged hippie perception he was often met with, Zappa was hard-working, business-aware, and didn’t take drugs.

The manifestations of his exceptional intellect and unique character are abundant in a film that will please his fans and send anyone new to him into a deep Wikipedia rabbit hole.

73. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

7.2

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America, USA UK

Director

Eliza Hittman, Female director

Actors

Brian Altemus, Carolina Espiro, Christian Clements, David Buneta

Moods

Challenging, Discussion-sparking, Intense

This difficult movie is about a seventeen-year-old from the U.S. underclass who has to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Autumn is creative, reserved, and quiet, but those are not qualities that her environment in rural Pennsylvania seems to value. On the opposite, she is surrounded by threats, including disturbing step-father and boss characters. 

Dangers escalate as Autumn decides to travel to New York to have an abortion. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is about unplanned pregnancies as much as it is about just how dangerous it is to be a teenage girl living in America.

72. Cha Cha Real Smooth (2022)

7.3

Country

United States of America

Director

Cooper Raiff

Actors

Brad Garrett, Colton Osorio, Cooper Raiff, Corrie Danieley

Moods

Character-driven, Easy, Emotional

Primarily, Cha Cha Real Smooth follows Andrew (Cooper Raiff) as he figures out what to do with his life post-college. But peripherally, it’s also about love, friendship, coming of age, and parenthood. Sometimes the movie wobbles under the weight of all it wants to be and you start to wonder whether it would benefit from a leaner script and a tighter focus. 

But ultimately, Cha Cha Real Smooth is endearing and a breeze to watch. Andrew is relatable as a know-it-all who doesn’t actually know it all, and Domino (Dakota Johnson) is moving as a young mother consumed by both her envy and love for Andrew. Despite its occasional unevenness, the film’s big emotional heart triumphs, and sometimes that’s the best that you can hope for in a story about one’s 20s.

71. The Kid Detective (2020)

7.3

Country

Canada

Director

Evan Morgan

Actors

Adam Brody, Alicia Brand, Amalia Williamson, Avery Esteves

Moods

Funny, Grown-up Comedy

In The Kid Detective, Adam Brody stars as Abe Applebaum, a once-beloved child prodigy turned pathetic P.I. stuck in the glory days of his past. At 32 years old, he’s still solving petty mysteries and coasting on his parents’ money, but things start to change when he is finally dealt with a real, adult case: a murder that confounds even the local police. As Abe uncovers more details about the case, he also unwittingly finds a connection to his traumatic past and begins a long-overdue coming-of-age journey. 

Released during the first year of the pandemic, The Kid Detective understandably flew under the radar when it first came out, garnering sufficient critical praise but not enough fanfare. It will no doubt find a second life among film lovers, though; it’s too smart and riveting to go unnoticed. Most impressive is how director Evan Morgan, in his feature debut, deftly balances multiple genres in a movie that often feels as if Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, and modern stoner humor were somehow rolled into one. The gags consistently amuse, the drawn-out mysteries pay off, and the human element persists throughout. Adam Brody, himself a kid celebrity back in the day, expertly carries this delightful and sobering film. 

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