“Why don’t all movies just come out online?” they asked in those B.C. (before COVID) years. “Who needs movie theatres?” they wondered. Then, in 2020, when the theatres shut down and the films came out online, many of those same people wondered, “Hey, What happened to all the movies?
We can’t say that we had a great time at the movies this year. A “great time” is not a thing one has in 2020. But we did see many, many great movies. The breathtaking experience of watching kaleidoscopic images on the big screen was substituted by months of constant staring on our virtual window along with our loved ones, cuddled together on a couch.
The sheer volume of films on Netflix — and the site’s less than ideal interface — can make finding a genuinely great movie there a difficult task. To help, we’ve plucked out the 10 best films currently streaming.
The films in this list show a wide-ranging assortment including auteur-driven films, populist fare, plentiful arthouse gems, genre films, and many magnificent female-led projects.
And now, without further ado, let the roundup commence!
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Director: Charlie Kaufman
This movie plays around with many familiar Kaufman concepts like dual identities, dream-like realities, and frustrated, lonely men and the women they hope will save them. This film lacks mastery of Synecdoche and a grain of emotional factor, however it is a memorable one.
Promising Young Women
Director: Dennis Harvey
This a tonal roller coaster, It’s a film about a woman searching for catharsis that she’ll simply never find. Cassie works in a coffee shop and has supportive parents, but every day is filled with the reminder of what she’s lost. She is brilliant and beautiful, but she can’t stop herself from fighting back against systems that protect awful men in whatever way she can, even if that fight keeps her locked in a box of her own design.
Sound Of Metal
Director: Darius Marder
This auspicious debut is a deeply personal story concerning Ruben Stone, a punk-metal drummer who unfortunately finds himself suffering from intermittent hearing loss. Ruben is kicked in by a habit of heroin urged by his girlfriend and bandmate Lou to become part of the rural community for deaf recovering adults. Despite being reluctant, he agrees. This insightful glimpse into the deaf community will leave you thunderstruck.
Director: Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles
This genre-bending weird Western has a serious Sergio vibe. Set in the eponymous village of Bacurau, a, the residents find themselves up against aggressive, alien forces as this truly singular The Most Dangerous Game-style iteration unwinds with brio and volcanic splashes of gore. Starring Sônia Braga and Udo Kier on opposite sides each being manipulated by sinister forces, will be revealed to the driving synthesizers of John Carpenter. This is a gruesome gem you’ll be raving about and remembering for a long time.
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
This extreme genre thriller Possessor lands like lightning as futuristic technologies meld with a worn, vintage esthetic. Contract killer Tasya Vos, a corporate agent working under Girder, uses state-of-the-art brain-implant tech to assassinate her targets. A murderer for hire, Vos inhabits her subject’s bodies, against their will, committing the murders through them, before forcing said subjects to end their own lives in a perfect crime scene. As the Possessor lurches forward the theme of voyeurism proves an intriguing one, at times playing out like The Conversation as directed by the Marquis de Sade. Utilizing stylish along with a bevy of suitably brutal and bloody practical effects, Possessor is an uneasy but nonetheless awesome experience.
Director: Chloe Zhao
This Unspooling lackadaisically amidst crumbling, disintegrating towns in the American Midwest, Zhao and her gifted cinematographer Joshua James Richards together showcase landscapes and vistas of poetically scant, perpetual sunsets, a magic hour America that carefully communicates the innate dignity of the peripatetic Fern . As Fern’s family and friends wrestle to reason with her wandering vagabond lifestyle, the immersive and deeply resonant grandeur that’s become Zhao’s trademark, holds sway. Nomadland will roam around your heart and occupy your mind for a good long time.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
“Another Round” reaches beyond its set-up when it becomes a study in individuality. The experiment affects each of the four men differently, and everyone knows that a drunk night comes with a hungover morning. A student near the end gives an exam on the Kierkegaardian philosophies on anxiety and accepting fallibility and failure, which is what all midlife crisis films are about to a certain degree—coming to terms with mistakes after you realize you may be running out of time to correct them.
Director: Lee Issac Chung
It is a classic immigrant story with specific, often unique new details. A Korean American family headed by a father, Jacob (Steven Yeun) and mother Monica (Yeri Han), came from Korea in the 1980s and spent time in California working as chicken sexers, separating baby chicks by gender. Now they have moved with their two American-born children, a serious and mature girl named Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and a six-year-old named David (newcomer Alan S. Kim), hoping to start a 50-acre farm in a small Arkansas town.
Director: David Fincher
In the comprehensive piece, Kael makes a fascinating observation about the interconnected lives of Hearst, Mank, and Welles and the overarching signs it bears on Kane. She writes, “The story of how brilliantly gifted men who seem to have everything it takes to do what they want to do are defeated.” It is this essay that David Fincher asked his father, Jack Fincher, to read for “motivation” to complete the screenplay for Mank as far back as in the ‘90s. And it is the nested lives of Welles-Mank-Hearst that form the central conceit, one that a self-aware Fincher would approach like a visual “essay” unfolding on the screen with actual scene headings.
The Trial Of Chicago
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Mark Rylance proves again why he’s one of our best—he’s the standout of the ensemble when it comes to making Sorkin’s dialogue sound like it’s actually being thought of just before it’s spoken. Frank Langella perfectly captures how dangerous it can be when incompetent men hold an amount of power that they’re incapable of really comprehending.
It is an engaging drama willing to embrace perfection.