Movie theaters may be closed, but that’s no excuse for watching the same old thing.
In 2020, streaming services and on-demand rental platforms have kept our love of entertainment alive with new releases each and every week. We’ve lived vicariously through characters imagined in a pre-pandemic world, quietly waiting out one of the weirdest years ever from the comfort of our couches. Sure, it hasn’t all been good, but some of it has been great.
To motivate your next session of streaming, we’ve combed through Netflix’s catalogue of original movies released in the past six months to find the 10 film titles we’ve appreciated the most. From rom-coms and buddy comedies to docs and dramas, there’s plenty new to explore with your queue.
Note: Films previously named in our best movies of 2020 (so far) ranking have been marked with an asterisk and retain their original description.
10. Lost Girls
Inspired by true events surrounding the notorious Long Island serial killer, director Liz Garbus’ Lost Girls pushed grim subject matter right as the pandemic began impacting the United States — so it’s understandable if you missed this film. Make the effort to circle back for a stellar lead performance from Amy Ryan, an excellent supporting performance by icon Gabriel Byrne, and a delicate, yet fearless examination of some of true crime‘s most maddening realities.
How to watch: Lost Girls is now streaming on Netflix.
9. The Half of It
Director Alice Wu’s The Half of It isn’t the best teen rom-com on Netflix. Still, the addition of straight-A student Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) and her journey towards self-acceptance does wonders for 2020’s contribution to the streaming service’s catalogue. (Lookin’ at you, .) A charming combination of unique subject matter and clichéd storytelling, The Half of It explores the perspectives of characters rare to the genre — namely, Ellie who is a queer, Chinese-American teenager — with some of its most predictable narrative turns. You haven’t seen this story, but you’ll feel like you have, and that’s a victory for the genre in its own right.
How to watch: The Half of It is now streaming on Netflix.
8. To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
It’s just so nice when a highly-anticipated sequel actually delivers. Director Michael Fimognari’s To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You pulled Valentine’s Day 2020 back into the world of Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and her havoc-inducing letters with style and sweetness so effective it was nearly impossible to resist a double feature. The promise of an old crush brings John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher) into a love triangle with Lara Jean and original movie sweetheart Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), delivering good-natured drama and universe-expanding moments befitting the second installment in a beloved franchise.
How to watch: P.S. I Still Love You is now streaming on Netflix.
7. The Old Guard
Folks looking for that summer blockbuster thrill, search no further than The Old Guard. Based on the superhero comic books of the same name, director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s movie sucks viewers into a slick, well-crafted world of action and narrative that isn’t particularly unique but delivers its formulaic pieces with enough precision to keep you invested. Charlize Theron crushes as the ass-kicking leader of an immortal warrior fight crew, with performances by Harry Melling, Marwan Kenzari, KiKi Layne, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Van Veronica Ngo, Matthias Schoenaerts, and more.
How to watch: The Old Guard is now streaming on Netflix.
6. The Lovebirds
Described as “an ideal Friday night in” by Mashable’s Angie Han, The Lovebirds may very well be one of the best romantic comedies released this year. (Yes, Palm Springs is in the running too.) Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae star as a couple on the brink of a breakup, whose evening is interrupted by a carjacking and murder that takes them down a ridiculous path of detective work and vigilantism. Stupidly funny and an excellent excuse to buy a unicorn hoodie, The Lovebirds is a date night perfectly fitted to your couch.
How to watch: The Lovebirds is now streaming on Netflix.
5. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
“We have to prove to Iceland and my extremely handsome father that my life hasn’t been a waste.” Embrace the sheer silliness of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga as promised in the ludicrously over-the-top trailer. Yes, it’s exactly what you expect from a Will Ferrell joint, but in ways that are more fresh and fun than anyone could have expected. Rachel McAdams dazzles opposite Ferrell in a musical journey of hopes, dreams, and spectacle.
How to watch: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is now streaming on Netflix.
4. Miss Americana*
Taylor Swift is one of the most famous people in the world, but longtime fans will still find something new in Lana Wilson’s thoughtful, inspiring documentary , which follows the singer through the last few years as she rethinks how she wants to live her life under a massive spotlight. The bits filming her in the recording studio feature cute reveals (Taylor hadn’t ever tried a burrito until a few years ago!), but the documentary is most fascinating when it focuses in on a woman trying to deprogram the misogynistic messaging she received her whole life.
It’s there she’s less a superstar and more just another young woman realizing she was sold a shitty bag of goods in a patriarchal society. Swift speaks candidly about disordered eating, her political awakening, and her relationship to the attention and media in a refreshing way, and by the time she’s once again taking to the stage guitar in hand, it’s all you can do not to stand up and cheer alongside the massive crowd. — Erin Strecker, Entertainment Editor
How to watch: Miss Americana is now streaming on Netflix.
Alan Yang’s feature film directorial debut tells the heartwarming story of Pin-Jui and Yuan, who met in Taiwan as children and young adults but eventually lose touch. In his later years, Pin-Jui finds himself distant from his daughter, their relationship strained by his reluctance to open up over the years. Flashbacks continue to reveal the tender love between Pin-Jui and Yuan until he abruptly marries someone else, and the grown Pin-Jui is compelled to find his old love and return to his roots. — Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Tigertail is now streaming on Netflix.
2. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution*
is a vital documentary that tells the story of the generation of disability activists who first learned to organize while attending the now defunct Camp Jened. Camp Jened was a summer program for children and teens with a wide range of disabilities, and the documentary uses archival footage from the camp’s’ heyday in the 1960s to show the impact its progressive and accessible space had on its campers.
Some of the same people shown as children in the camp footage went on to lead life-changing demonstrations that improved the social status of people with disabilities in the United States, but Crip Camp’s greatest strength as a film is in showing how early access to inclusive spaces gives marginalized community members the opportunity to dream of and create a better world. — Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution is now streaming on Netflix.
1. Da 5 Bloods*
Spike Lee did what Spike Lee does in : He delivered a work of cinema that’s both timely and timeless, marked by stellar performances and a camera lens that tells a story even if you ignore the script.
The film follows four Black Vietnam vets as they return to the former war zone in search of their dead squad leader’s remains…and the millions in CIA gold they plundered and buried before their tour ended. Political differences between the men foster mistrust and complicate their journey, leading to a powerful finale that’s not-so-strangely resonant — this is Spike Lee — for our current moment in history. — Adam Rosenberg, Senior Entertainment Reporter
How to watch: Da 5 Bloods is now streaming on Netflix.