The 20 Best Movies of 2020, Ranked

A comprehensive list of the best movies of 2020 ranked, including Minari, Tenet, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and more

steve coogan and rob brydon in the trip to greece 2020
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in The Trip to Greece (2020)

I began work on Cinephile Corner towards the middle of 2021, so the only time that I’ve spent on the year 2020 was retroactive to what I was doing. Much of the time spent that year was indoors due to the pandemic, and many of the movies that grace my top 20 list were ones that I saw on streamers as I was locked inside like much of the country.

If my memory serves me correct, I discovered Letterboxd around this time and began to discover what would ultimately become a huge part of my life: movies. Years removed, I feel like such a naïve viewer, responding to movies in ways I’m not sure I would just four years later. But I tried to reflect on both my love for the movies down below when I first saw them, as well as in my current state thinking about how they’ve shaped my taste as the decade has progressed.

So while I probably wouldn’t say a movie like The King of Staten Island feels vital to me right now, it sure did when it came out. 2020 was right in the middle of my college years, so the Pete Davidson, Bill Burr, Judd Apatow comedy was nearly identical to the kind of humor and entertainment I was looking for while the world fell apart.

I’m sure there are so many movies I haven’t seen yet from this year that would make my list, and I’m also sure I’ll look back on this five years from now and think I’m ridiculous for putting something like I’m Thinking of Ending Things or Minari as low as I ultimately did. But these are time capsules, and to make things even worse, this is kind of a time capsule of a time capsule years ago. I’m trying my best here, just work with me.

And quick side note – release dates can get a bit wonky around the beginning of the 2020s. With the pandemic, as well as theatrical windows getting slimmer and slimmer (and rarer and rarer), it’s hard to pinpoint what year a movie should be included on such a list. I mostly went by United States wide release dates, as well as accounted for around what period I was able to actually see the film. In 2020, I lived in a city that didn’t necessarily get a bunch of arthouse pictures, so something like Portrait of a Lady on Fire wasn’t even an option to see until 2020 came along. Therefore, it appears here. Deal with it!

It’s around this time that I like to give a quick shoutout to movies I haven’t seen yet but I hope to one day. And like so many years, this one is long. Let’s all pour one out for: The Father, Freaky, Love and Monsters, Da 5 Bloods, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Time, Kajillionaire, One Night in Miami…, The Way Back, Extraction, Rebecca, Undine, Birds of Prey, and the Small Axe series. I hope to see you all eventually – and maybe even update this list to include a few of them.

But for now, here’s how I’d rank the 20 best movies of 2020:

20. The Invisible Man

the invisible man

19. His House

his house netflix

18. Minari

minari lee isaac chung

17. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

im thinking of ending things charlie kaufman

16. Mank

mank david fincher

15. Sound of Metal

sound of metal riz ahmed

14. On the Rocks

on the rocks sofia coppola

13. Nomadlands

nomadland chloe zhao

12. Possessor

possessor brandon cronenberg

11. Onward

onward pixar

10. Dick Johnson is Dead

dick johnson is dead netflix

9. The Empty Man

the empty man david prior

8. Tenet

tenet christopher nolan

7. The Trip to Greece

the trip to greece steve coogan rob brydon

6. Boys State

boys state documentary 2020 apple tv+

5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

portrait of a lady on fire celine sciamma

4. The Vast of Night

the vast of night movie 2020

In every facet, there’s something to like about The Vast of Night. Some may critique its pacing or ambiguous ending, but I found it to be a completely immersive and enthralling portrait of the 50s while opening the doors to something much deeper and ethereal. The movie proves that low budgets and COVID times aren’t real excuses for making lackluster films. An invigorating debut from Andrew Patterson. The Vast of Night movie review

3. The King of Staten Island

king of staten island pete davidson

2. Another Round

another round mads mikkelsen

1. Shithouse

shithouse cooper raiff

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