The Best Movies of the 2020s So Far

Updated July 18, 2024 • Staff

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.

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100.

Uncropped (2024)

Those unfamiliar with James Hamilton would be forgiven for asking “Why him?” Why does he get a documentary? What makes this photographer so special? But a few minutes in, those questions are immediately replaced with the more appropriate, “Well, why not him?” Hamilton’s work spans decades, and they capture in rich detail a New York that’s long gone, as well as an alternative form of journalism that used to thrive back then (in print no less!), but can now only be found few and far between. It’s enough to see his work, sectioned here in order of their appearance in iconic publications like Harper’s Bazaar, The Village Voice, and New York Observer. Still, they’re complemented by moving images and illuminating interviews beautifully shot in 35mm. Uncropped is reminiscent of other documentaries that also capture New York in its heyday, a distinguished roster that includes films like All The Beauty and the Bloodshed, Paris is Burning, and The Automat. But Uncropped, like Hamilton, has a distinctive edge that marks it as an instant classic. By the end, you can’t help but think, what a rich life Hamilton’s lived, and how lucky we are to see through his vivid, imaginative lens.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Alexandra Jacobs, James Hamilton, Joe Conason, Mark Jacobson, Sylvia Plachy, Thulani Davis, Thurston Moore, Wes Anderson
Director: D.W. Young
Rating: NR
99.

The Old Oak (2023)

Renowned British director Ken Loach’s signature traits are present in The Old Oak: simple, humanistic, and unapologetically hopeful. But this time, we see things unfold through the eyes of Turner’s TJ and Ebla Mari’s Yara, whose endearing friendship anchors the film. They prove that seemingly conflicting things can coexist, like workers’ and immigrants’ rights, local and newcomer needs, old and new ideals. Loach hones in on his characters’ rich and specific lives so that his message doesn’t come across like an advocacy poster, but a richly woven tapestry filled with beautiful and complex meanings. Because it tackles heavy themes, The Old Oak might sound like it’d be heavy to watch, but as in most of the director’s work, you’ll no sooner be uplifted by an outpouring of hope and love.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Chris McGlade, Claire Rodgerson, Col Tait, Dave Turner, Debbie Honeywood, Ebla Mari, Lorenzo McGovern Zaini, Neil Leiper, Rhys Mcgowan, Rob Kirtley, Trevor Fox
Director: Ken Loach
98.

The Boy and the Heron (2023)

The Boy and the Heron isn’t Hayao Miyazaki’s best film, nor is it his most accessible, seeing as the director himself has admitted to getting lost in the world he’s built here. But it is his most personal film to date (apparently he’s out of retirement!) and consequently, it’s one of the most complex Ghibli films to exist. It eschews structure for pure, raw emotion so instead of dialogue and plots, you get wonderfully abstract fantasy worlds and protagonists with near-imperceptible depths. You don’t have to get the story to understand the heaviness, grief, joy, and hope that Mahito, and in turn Miyazaki, feel. You only have to see the delicate turns in the characters’ expressions and their wildly imaginative adventures.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Adventure, Animation, Fantasy
Actor: Aimyon, Jun Fubuki, Jun Kunimura, Kaoru Kobayashi, Karen Takizawa, Keiko Takeshita, Ko Shibasaki, Masaki Suda, Sawako Agawa, Shinobu Otake, Shōhei Hino, Soma Santoki, Takuya Kimura, Yoshino Kimura
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: PG-13
97.

Other Music (2020)

This immersive documentary is about a beloved independent record store that opened in front of a major music chain in Manhattan in 1995. Its founders called it Other Music, a jab at the chain and a reference to the music it would carry.

Other Music would go on to become a mecca that welcomes music fanatics from around the world. Its clerks would become legendary for their shaman-like knowledge, many famous bands would have their start at shows in the store, and Other Music would even re-issue artists who were forgotten.

But in today’s hostile world towards independent cultural institutions, can anything, however influential or successful it may be, live?

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Benicio Del Toro, Bill Callahan, Brian Chase, Chris Pappas, Dean Wareham, Ezra Koenig, Georgia Hubley, Greta Kline, Ira Kaplan, James McNew, Janeane Garofalo, Jason Schwartzman, Jocelyn Samson, Keigo Oyamada, Martin Gore, Matt Berninger, Regina Spektor, Sharon Van Etten, Stuart Braithwaite, Tunde Adebimpe, William Basinski, Yoko Ono
Director: Puloma Basu, Rob Hatch-Miller
96.

The Social Dilemma (2020)

This new documentary is about the exact scale to which social media is harming us, as testified to by people from the industry: ex-executives at Google, Instagram, Facebook, and even the ex-President of Pinterest. All have left their companies for (incredibly valid) ethical concerns that they share here.

It's a blend of interview footage and a fiction film that follows a family who feels more distant because of social media. This allows to see the implications of what the interviewees are saying in real life but quite frankly it also serves as a welcome break from the intensity of their words. How intense? One of them predicts civil war within 20 years.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama
Actor: Catalina Garayoa, Chase Penny, Chris Grundy, Gavin White, Jaron Lanier, Jason Potter, Kara Hayward, Laura Obiols, Lynn Fox, Renée DiResta, Roger McNamee, Skyler Gisondo, Sophia Hammons, Tristan Harris, Vincent Kartheiser
Director: Jeff Orlowski
Rating: PG-13
95.

The Man Who Sold His Skin (2020)

Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s new movie is about an arrogant European artist who tattoos a Syrian man's back, essentially turning the man's body into artwork. 

The man, as a commodity, is able to travel the world freely to be in art galleries, something as a simple human with a Syrian passport he couldn’t do. Seems unlikely? It’s based on a true story.

But Ben Hania is not really interested in the political statement aspect of this unlikely stunt. Instead, she looks at what this would do to a human-being, to the man's self-esteem, his relationships, and the turns his life takes. It's a fascinating movie.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Adrienne Mei Irving, Anissa Daoud, Christian Vadim, Darina Al Joundi, Fayçal Hassaĭri, Husam Chadat, Ichraq Matar, Ingo Brosch, Jacques Germain, Jan Dahdouh, Koen De Bouw, Marc de Panda, Monica Bellucci, Nadim Cheikhrouha, Najoua Zouhair, Patrick Albenque, Rupert Wynne-James, Yahya Mahayni
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Man Who Sold His Skin (2020) on Amazon Prime for free
94.

Mayor (2020)

Mayor follows Musa Hadid, the mayor of the de-facto capital of Palestine, Ramallah, over two years as he tries to make his constituents’ lives better under occupation. With shootings, sieges, and a wide array of life-threatening situations taking place, his focus remains on cheesy Christmas decorations and funny city-branding attempts.

The director follows the mayor everywhere, including in his home and with his family, examining the toll of the unique job. Ramallah is portrayed like it were any other capital—except for the daily reminders that it’s very far from that.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Documentary, Drama
Director: David Osit
93.

The Hand of God (2021)

The Hand of God is the autobiographical movie from Paolo Sarrantino, the director of the 2013 masterpiece The Great Beauty. He recently also directed The Young Pope with Jude Law and Youth Paul Dano, both in English. He is back to his home Italy with this one. 

More precisely, he’s in his hometown Naples, in the 1980s, where awkward teenager Fabietto Schisa’s life is about to change: his city’s soccer team Napoli is buying the biggest footballer at the time, Diego Maradona.

Sarrantino, who is also from Naples, made this movie that is half a tribute to the city and half to what it meant growing up around the legend of Maradona.

The Hand of God is to Sarrantino what Roma was to Alfonso Cuarón, except it’s more vulgar, fun, and excessive. It is equally as personal though, and it goes from comedy to tragedy and back with unmatched ease.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Alessandro Bressanello, Alfonso Perugini, Betti Pedrazzi, Birte Berg, Ciro Capano, Cristiana Dell'Anna, Daniele Vicorito, Dora Romano, Enzo De Caro, Filippo Scotti, Lino Musella, Luisa Ranieri, Marina Viro, Marlon Joubert, Massimiliano Gallo, Monica Nappo, Renato Carpentieri, Sofya Gershevich, Teresa Saponangelo, Toni Servillo
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
92.

The Father (2020)

The Father is a compelling inner look at the ways dementia distorts memories. By occupying the unstable headspace of 80-year-old Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), the film allows us to experience his frustration and confusion firsthand. We, too, are unsure about the ever-shifting details we’re presented with. Conversations are circular and time seems inexistent. The faces we know are swapped with names we don’t know. Even the tiniest elements, such as the wall tiles and door handles, are constantly changing in the background. We grasp for the slippery truth with Anthony but always come up empty and unsure.

In a thoughtful move by director Florian Zeller, we also get a glimpse of the lives surrounding Anthony. The daughter Anne (Olivia Colman), in particular, is often the victim of her father’s tirades, but she takes care of him still, conflicted as to where to draw the line between his needs and hers. 

With its fluid editing, subtle detail-swaps, and empathic portrayal of characters, The Father is just as technically impressive as it is movingly kind.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama, Family, Mystery
Actor: Anthony Hopkins, Ayesha Dharker, Brian Rodger, Evie Wray, Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Roman Zeller, Romulus Stoicescu, Rufus Sewell, Scott Mullins
Director: Florian Zeller
Rating: PG-13
91.

The Falls (2021)

All the synopses going around the internet won’t fail to let you know that The Falls takes place at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. The film is certainly marketed that way, with commercial posters featuring the leads in ubiquitous face masks, socially distanced from the blurred crowd. 

But interestingly, The Falls is not just a situational, pandemic-era story. More than anything else, it tells the story of Pin-wen and Xiao Jing, mother and daughter who, despite previously living a life of comfort, are now dealt with unfavorable circumstances (exacerbated but not entirely caused by the pandemic). Now, they are forced to navigate life with only each other, and it’s in the isolation they instate from the rest of the world do they forge a genuine and heartwrenching bond any and all family members will immediately recognize and perhaps even sympathize with. 

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama, Family
Actor: Alyssa Chia, Chen Yi-wen, Chen Yiwen, Gingle Wang, Guan-Ting Liu, Huang Hsin-Yao, Kuan-Ting Liu, Lee-zen Lee, Liang-Tso Liu, Shao-Huai Chang, Shau-Ching Sung, Tiffany Hsu, Waa Wei, Yang Li-yin, Yi-Wen Chen
Director: Chung Mong-hong
Rating: Not Rated

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Falls (2021) on Amazon Prime for free

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