I don’t think I need to remind of you this, but 2020 has been a wild year. Like the rest of the industries plagued by COVID-19, the movie industry has seen some dramatic and unprecedented changes. As movie theaters remain shuttered, film fans have found themselves flocking to streaming services, VOD and virtual cinemas. Though the selections seem to be fewer, there’s no shortage of quality films out there to be seen. The good news is, you can watch a lot of these right now.

This is not a ranking. Rather, it’s an alphabetical list of the 8 films I’ve enjoyed the most so far this year. Plus, a few honorable mentions to boot. Up and coming directors and veterans have released some great work this year. With talents like Spike Lee, Eliza Hittman and newcomers, like Shannon Murphy and Kitty Green releasing films, 2020 has graced us with some wonderful work. Here are the films and where you can watch them.

The Assistant

Kitty Green’s searing look at Weinstein adjacent workplace harassment says a lot by not saying much. Julia Garner (Ozark) plays Jane, a secretary at a film production company in New York. It’s a taciturn but powerful performance as she becomes caught between loyalty to her boss (and his influence to her prospects of a more lucrative career) and reporting the sexual assault she knows is happening. Taking place all in one, long day, Green’s exploration of the toxicity of a male dominated profession feels prescient. In the banal nature of Jane’s day, the villain is never seen, but his chilly, unsettling presence is felt throughout.
Where Can You Watch It: Currently available to rent on iTunes, Amazon etc. Coming to Hulu on July 20


Babyteeth is a charming new indie film from Australian director ...

Babyteeth is a quirky but emotionally affecting drama about a young girl dying from a terminal illness. Milla (Eliza Scanlen of Little Women) falls in love with a drug dealer, much to her parents chagrin. Stop me if you heard this before. However, the quartet of performances in this film are enough to put it above tear jerkers like The Fault in Our Stars or other similar “sick young teenager going through a rebellious phase” movies. Great performances form its Australian cast like Essie Davis (The Babadook) and Ben Mendelsohn also elevate this oddly charming movie. Scanlen and Toby Wallace, the boyfriend, are the standouts though. Babyteeth balances its devastating, raw emotions with some genuinely quirky and fun moments.
Where Can You Watch It: Available to rent on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Bad Education

Hugh Jackman (front) in 'Bad Education.'

Cory Finley’s debut Thoroughbreds was a wonderfully constructed and delightfully fun film. With Bad Education, Finley explores the perils of buying your own hype. A stellar Hugh Jackman plays a New York school district superintendent, Frank Tassone. It’s a fact based story about the scandal of embezzlement from the school’s funds and detailed scam to elevate the school’s status. Finley’s infectious and fun energy never undercuts the films message. Exploring the humanity of the characters, but never letting them off the hook for their misdeeds, Bad Education deftly balances its rich characterization with an expert take down of the elaborate con at the center.
Where Can You Watch It: Available on HBO

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

Crip Camp' Review: After Those Summers, Nothing Was the Same - The ...

One of the more affecting documentaries of the year is the story of the fight to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. Crip Camp explores the counter-culture of the 1970’s and the strife to pass the ADA through the eyes of disabled teenagers at a summer camp. The camp, located just down the road from Woodstock provided a safe haven for these teenagers. It’s a film about the importance of inclusion and exposing those with institutional power. It’s beautifully directed and is never mawkish. Perhaps now more than ever, Crip Camp is a relevant reminder about the power of protest, and the greatness that can be achieved through unity.
Where Can You Watch It: Available on Netflix

Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods' Review: Black Lives Mattered in Vietnam, Too - The ...

A truly extraordinary performance from Delroy Lindo helps to anchor Spike Lee’s latest. Make it two in a row for Lee, fresh off his first competitive Oscar win for BlacKkKlansman. Da 5 Bloods is lengthy, and juggles many hats at once, but Lee’s vision is strong and the movie never falters. for the most part. The film follows four African-American Vietnam vets (played by Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) as they return to unearth gold they buried during the war, and bring the remains of their squad commander, Stormin’ Norm (Chadwick Boseman), back stateside. Playing with all kinds of aspect ratios and never short of ambitious and interesting choices, Da 5 Bloods is a unique experience. It also happens to be one of the very best films of the year.
Where Can You Watch It: Available on Netflix


Driveways' Is the Best Movie I've Seen All Year | InStyle

Tender and subtle, Andrew Ahn’s Driveways strikes a wonderful balance of heart and understated drama. The performances are wonderful particularly from the late, great Brian Dennehy. Hong Chau is impressive as well. Where Driveways really shines is the relationship between young actor Lucas Jay and Dennehy. Jay plays a young boy named Cody who befriends the cranky old neighbor, Del (Dennehy), who lives next door to the home of Cody’s deceased, hoarder aunt. The movie reflects on the beginnings of life and its end. It’s a brief 83 minutes, but says so much about life and our paths in such a small time frame. Driveways functions as a coming of age tale of sorts, with Cody learning some transformative life lessons.
Where Can You Watch It: Available to rent on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Les Miserables

Les Misérables movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger Ebert

I know what you’re thinking. No, this is not the film starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway based on Victor Hugo’s novel. Rather, this version is directed by French filmmaker Ladj Ly. That’s not to say it bares zero resemblance to Hugo’s novel. It’s set against the backdrop of the 2005 Paris riots. Ly chooses to tell the story from the perspective of the police in the film. When tensions rise between the gangs and local police turn violent, they are forced to deal with the fallout of their actions. Les Miserables is another eerily prescient film to come out in 2020. Ly examines Hugo’s themes, setting them in a modern context, and through gritty, street level views of police interaction with impoverished neighborhoods in Paris. It’s an extraordinarily tense film and a strong narrative debut for Ly.
Where Can You Watch It: Available on Amazon Prime Video

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

At The Movies: The Great Unknown - Rye Record

Eliza Hittman’s previous films, It Felt like Love and Beach Rats, are paradigms of her intimate filmmaking style. The realism on display her films are sublime. With her biggest release yet, Hittman has captured an experience that is essential, and harrowing. Her undeniable eye for deeply personal stories in the aforementioned films and her latest triumph make her one of the industries biggest talents. Newcomer Sidney Flanigan gives a wonderful performance as a girl traveling to New York City to undergo an abortion. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a rare, empathic window into a world many can’t and never will be able to understand. Most still will never be able to understand. With Hittman’s clear eyed vision, it gives a reason to open the viewers eyes, and hopefully, give these characters (and real life people like them) the empathy Hittman has for them. A stunning acheivement and my pick for the best film of the year thus far.
Where Can You Watch It: Available to rent on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Honorable Mentions
On The Record (HBO Max)
Onward (Disney+)
Shirley (Hulu)
Sorry We Missed You (VOD Rental)
Tigertail (Netflix)
True History of the Kelly Gang (VOD Rental)
The Vast of Night (Amazon Prime Video)