The Movies and Shows You HAVE to See from 2020

Movies and shows you need to see from 2020
What were your favorite movies and shows of 2020?

This year in movies has been super weird. COVID-19 made it weird. It's a real weird time.

But just because movie releases were delayed and film and TV production came to a grinding halt for much of the year, that doesn't mean that some exceptional gems didn't manage to will themselves into existence. 

Here are the No Film School staff's favorite movies and shows of 2020, the absolute weirdest year in entertainment in recent memory.

Bad Boys for Life, dir. Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi

This was the last movie I saw in theaters before everything shut down in Los Angeles. I was unable to see it right away when it came out in January, but it stuck around because it was a fun and exciting conclusion to the Bad Boys saga. It has a lot of heart, and fittingly should be remembered as something great that happened in 2020.—Jason

Freaky, dir. Christopher Landon

Freaky was the most original spin on a concept I saw all year. Every minute of this movie made me happy. From its wild body switch to its epic ending. This was the movie that made me miss theaters the most, because I wish I could have seen your reactions to it.—Jason

The Assistant, dir. Kitty Green

This masterfully handled day-in-the-life story of a young assistant was the perfect take on a real-world Hollywood abuser. Julia Garner gives an incredibly nuanced performance as the beleaguered third assistant, always a second away from a verbal thrashing, and tasked with facilitating and cleaning up her unseen boss' cruelty. A bit of a stressful watch if you've ever been an assistant and ended the day late, alone, and hungry, but definitely one of the year's most important films.—Jo

Emma, dir. Autumn de Wilde

This was one of the last movies I got to see on the big screen this year. I saw it twice, in fact. Some people are picky about their Austen adaptations, but I just loved de Wilde's sense of humor about the storytelling, her attention to detail and how every single element worked to reveal more about the characters (Emma's ringlets!), and the opportunity to spend time with all these great actors. It's a happy ending, but I cry at the wedding every time.Jo

Possessor, dir. Brandon Cronenberg

Young Cronenberg made me feel weird, and I liked that feeling a lot.V

Never Rarely Sometimes Maybe, dir. Eliza Hittman

Pit in my stomach + horrible sorrow forever. I hate this movie. I love it.V

Lovecraft Country, dir. Victoria Mahoney

Ambitious, genre-defying, impactful, and yes, weird.  But stick with it because as soon as you finish the series… you’ll want to start it all over again.Michelle

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuMF1-2aQv8

Shithouse, dir. Cooper Raiff

Usually when a film wins the Grand Jury prize at SXSW you'd have to go out of your way to not hear about it. However, 2020 is a weird year for many reasons, and unfortunately many might have missed seeing one of the best movies of the year. It's a sincere look into the college experience, loneliness, and relationships but with a fresh voice helmed by writer, director, and actor Cooper Raiff.Jourdan

How to With John Wilson, dir. John Wilson

As a fan of the do-it-all filmmaking approach, John Wilson brings his sardonic documentary styles to audiences worldwide with his surprisingly heartfelt HBO series produced by Nathan Fielder.Jourdan

The Queen’s Gambit, dir. Scott Frank

Anya Taylor-Joy was already on my radar as an incredible actress, but this miniseries made me fall in love with her. Also, I never thought I’d be so invested in a game of chess (well, multiple games of chess).—Jasmyne

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDrieqwSdgI

Ramy, created by Ari KatcherRyan WelchRamy Youssef

As a person of faith myself, it was really refreshing to see Ramy Youssef portray what it’s like to be a young person trying to reckon living out your faith while also wanting to be a part of society as a whole. More specifically, the community of Millennials. The show also does an incredible job with representation of different kinds of people without feeling like it’s trying to meet some sort of diversity quota.Jasmyne

I’m Thinking of Ending Things, dir. Charlie Kaufman

This crazy, scattered film dives deep into the psyche of the character's mind. The climax of the film is justified by the little hints given throughout the film that at first watch didn’t seem like logical points in time. Crazy watch that requires a few watches before I could understand everything.Alyssa

High Fidelity, dir. Natasha Lyonne

The gender-swapped version of the movie, and it was so good. The breaking of the fourth wall, the music, and the story that revolves around the chaos of modern relationships makes the short season an easy, one-day binge watch and felt relatable in the sense of “oh-my-life-is-spiraling-out-of-my-control,” which I love. The end does allude to a second season, but Hulu canceled the show due to a lack of viewers within its initial release.Alyssa

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpDx9msKh_Q

Dick Johnson is Dead, dir. Kirsten Johnson

This deeply personal doc from accomplished cameraperson and filmmaker Kirsten Johnson is nothing short of a cinematic assault on mortality. Kirsten Johnson documents her father’s dementia, and dramatizes his death many times, allowing everyone to approach ideas of loss, permanence, and how filmmaking and cinema can preserve memories as well as create new ones. I interviewed Kirsten on the No Film School Podcast, and her thoughts on everything from how you treat a crew to camera choice to what happens when we die make it one of my personal favorites.George

What do you think were the best films and TV shows that came out this year? Let us know down in the comments!     

Still feeling nostalgic about 2020? Then check out the rest of our Year in Review 2020 coverage for more of our top picks, industry trends, and end-of-year takes.

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1 Comment

How do you leave off the Small Axe series from a list about the best work of 2020?

December 31, 2020 at 9:20AM

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