"Ranking the best movies," you're saying, "during a year when the theater industry was crippled by the pandemic? Why even bother?" It's something we've struggled with as a vertical all year—so much so that we relegated our midyear list to an episode of Watch Less. It doesn't help that putting these lists together is a frustrating act in its own right; still, quality work needs to be highlighted, and even if your favorite theater collected more cobwebs than popcorn purchases, movies did in fact come out this year, despite the circumstances.
For what it's worth, an examination of the best movies of 2020 is also a look at the alternative to a theater release. Of the films highlighted on this year's list, half premiered on a streaming service. Even in an era when there's stigma attached to the idea of a film dropping first on Netflix or Hulu, there have been some stellar exceptions to the stereotype. And in a year mostly devoid of tentpole releases or superhero fodder, 2020 has shown that there is room for some inventive thinking and art imitating life, and that there are some extremely talented new directors and visionaries out there.
From time-twisting action flicks and romcoms to ruminations on life in today's America to one of the more disturbing horror films we've seen in recent memory, here are the best movies of 2020.