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Arts Culture 20 Must-Watch Movies Of 2020: Cinema Releases That Premiered Digitally

20 Must-Watch Movies Of 2020: Cinema Releases That Premiered Digitally

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020) / Netflix
By Franz Sorilla IV
By Franz Sorilla IV
January 29, 2021
Check out the films of 2020 that resorted to digital streaming, changing the face of entertainment at the turn of the decade.

As global crises affected the economic landscape last year, show business took a hard hit. Theatres closed. Movies supposedly coming soon have been pulled out. Undoubtedly, the unprecedented events of 2020 shook Hollywood at its core. Despite the restrictions and difficulties, studios around the world worked their way around and managed to produce films for everyone to anticipate this 2021 or later. In fact, Netflix just released a teaser of its 70 star-studded films releasing this year. Meanwhile, many of the films that premiered pre-lockdown and those originally slated at the latter part of 2020 have been badly hit financially due to limited theatre releases. Hence, producers resorted to immediate digital release of their films, making our 2020 marked with cinema experience at the comfort of our homes or with our palm-sized screens. Not to mention, many renowned film festivals worldwide thrived in the digital space last year, including our very own Cinemalaya, QCinema, and Metro Manila Film Festival.

Read also: The State Of The Philippine Art Scene During The COVID-19 Pandemic

The future of cinema may seem hazy for now, but with this roster of 2020 films that have brought cinema to our homes, the road ahead is not that rocky:

(The listed films are only those that are also currently available in the Philippines. There is also a number of powerhouse films released in 2020 but still not digitally available in the region)

1/20 Wolfwalkers

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Wolfwalkers
Wolfwalkers (2020) / Apple TV+

Directed by Tomm Moore (The Breadwinner) and Irish artist Ross Stewart, this animated fantasy adventure film is the third instalment in Moore's trilogy of films that highlight Irish folklore. Following The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014), this international co-production follows the story of Robyn, a young apprentice hunter tasked to wipe out the last pack of wolves with her father. By some accident, circumstances led her to a wild native girl named Mebh and with whose friendship she discovered the world of wolfwalkers, an Irish variant of werewolf in local folklore. This epic Celtic-inspired film garnered universal acclaim after premiering at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival, making it one of the best animated films of 2020.

Watch it here

Read also: Top Cinematic Masterpieces Of The 2010s You Have To Rewatch

2/20 Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020) / Netflix

Perhaps the biggest movie release of December 2020, Academy award-winning actress Viola Davis (Fences, The Help) portrays the larger-than-life legendary blues singer and pioneer Ma Rainey. Set in 1927 Chicago, ambitious trumpeter Levee (played by Chadwick Boseman [Da 5 Bloods, Black Panther] prior to his death last year), takes his chance in the music industry as he accompanies the “Mother of the Blues” in her performances and recordings. This film directed by George C Wolfe (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) is based on the 1982 play of the same name written by August Wilson.

Watch it here

3/20 Sound of Metal

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Sound of Metal
Sound of Metal (2020) / Amazon Prime Video

For Darius Marder's directorial debut in full-length feature film, he explores on sound and attempts to weave the music world into a story about the deaf community and addiction. Sound of Metal follows the life of newly-deafened heavy-metal drummer Ruben, played by British Pakistani actor, rapper, and activist Riz Ahmed. Ahmed garnered nominations and critical praise for his performance in this film alongside veteran character actor Paul Raci, who portrayed the supporting deaf character of Joe.

Watch it here

4/20 Da 5 Bloods

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Da 5 Bloods
Da 5 Bloods (2020) / Netflix

Renowned filmmaker Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman, Chi-Raq) revisits the Vietnam War and the horrors of its aftermath in this comedy-drama film that follows the misadventures of the "Bloods"—a squad of five African-American US Army soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division. Tackling themes of father-son relationships, friendship, and racism, this film was one of the hits of Netflix last 2020.

Watch it here

5/20 Sylvie's Love

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Sylvie's Love
Sylvie's Love (2020) / Amazon Prime Video

After its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January, Eugene Ashe's (Homecoming) drama film was released by Amazon Studios. Set in 1950s New York, the film follows Sylvie and Robert whose lives, passion, and relationship blossomed through jazz music. This delightful film was praised for its nostalgic exploration on romance and the African-American people during the mid-20th century.

Watch it here

6/20 The Trial Of Chicago 7

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_The Trial of Chicago 7
The Trial of Chicago 7 / Netflix

This historical legal drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (Molly's Game) sets to film the true story of the Chicago Seven, a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters who were charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Featuring an ensemble cast, The Trial of Chicago 7 received critical praise for the actors' performances as well as its well-written compelling screenplay. As it was released in select US theatres in September and had wide release via Netflix in October, the film hit close to home for its parallels with the present-day political crises in US and the anticipated presidential election.

Watch it here

7/20 Enola Holmes

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Enola Holmes
Enola Holmes (2020) / Netflix

Giving a pair of fresh eyes on Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes masterpiece, Harry Bradbeer's (Fleabag, Killing Eve) adaptation of the Nancy Springer's young adult novel series was well-received by the general audience as well as by critics. Enola Holmes, portayed by Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), is the youngest sibling of renowned private detective Sherlock Holmes. She takes on an adventure to search for her mother who left clues for her when she disappeared on the day of Enola's 16th birthday.

Read More: Why The Whole Family Needs To Watch Enola Holmes (2020)

Colourful and unsurprisingly "woke" for the modern audience, Enola Holmes gained mixed reviews from critics and the general audience who couldn't help but compare the character on Sherlock. However, Brown's performance was well received, given that this is her first blockbuster film to act in a leading role.

Watch it here

8/20 Emma

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Emma
Emma (2020) / Apple TV+

Another rising star that owned 2020 was Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, The Queen's Gambit) and last February, she top-billed the 2020 adaptation of the 1815 Jane Austen classic novel. Due to early closures of movie theatres, the film was released immediately on Apple TV+ and other Premium Video-on-Demand (VOD) streaming platforms. With this period comedy-drama film, American photographer Autumn de Wilde made her directorial debut for a feature full-length film.

Watch it here

9/20 On The Rocks

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_On The Rocks
On the Rocks (2020) / Apple TV+

This comedy-drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation) was described by critics as "lighter than the films" usually made by Coppola. It follows a father (Bill Murray) and daughter (Rashida Jones) as they tail her suspicious husband (Marlon Wayans). It is a compelling film that tackles marriage and family in a light-hearted manner and showcases Murray's well aged charm.

Watch it here

10/20 Mank

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Mank
Mank (2020) / Netflix

Award-winning filmmaker David Fincher retells the story of how screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz fought director Orson Welles for the screenplay credit of one of Hollywood’s best films ever, Citizen Kane. Shot in classic black-and-white and vintage camerawork, Mank stars the acclaimed actor Gary Oldman in the title role, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton and more. More than its seemingly simple plot, the film explores politics in Hollywood and how prominent figures in the political and media business scenes of California play heavily in the world's most famous cinema industry.

Watch it here

Read also: Top Non-English Films From The 2010s You Should Watch ASAP

11/20 The Old Guard

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_The Old Guard
The Old Guard (2020) / Netflix

Based on Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández's superhero comic book of the same name, The Old Guard follows a team of immortal mercenaries on a revenge mission after they were hired and betrayed by former CIA operative James Copley. This multi-city film featured several stunning locations and had an ensemble cast of actors from various racial descents (as required by its story that entails centuries of background). It's top-billed by Charlize Theron, who in the film showcased some kickass moves with the Filipino martial art, arnis-kali-eskrima system. 

Watch it here

12/20 I'm Thinking Of Ending Things

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_I'm Thinking of Ending Things
I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020) / Netflix

Puzzling, mind-boggling, and melancholic, this psychological thriller film by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) takes cinema to a different level that is almost impossible to digest. Based on the 2016 novel of the same name written by Iain Reid, it follows a young woman (Jessie Buckley) who is contemplating to end her relationship with her boyfriend, Jake, while they were on a road trip to meet his parents at the farm. But more than that, Kaufman expands Reid's concepts and themes that are already filled with philosophical tension to a more surreal rendition.

Watch it here

13/20 Uncle Frank

Uncle Frank (2020) / Amazon Prime Video
Uncle Frank (2020) / Amazon Prime Video

Paul Bettany (Avengers: Infinity War) and Sophia Lillis (It) star in this comedy-drama road movie about a gay man who confronts his past. Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January, Uncle Frank which was written, directed and co-produced by Alan Ball (American Beauty) received average reviews for its entertainment value and powerful performances and shows a realistic view on the struggles of those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Watch it here

14/20 Greyhound

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Greyhound
Greyhound (2020) / Apple TV+

Award-winning actor Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Cast Away) stars in this war film written and directed by Aaron Schneider (Get Low). Greyhound is based on the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester and follows a commander of the US Navy on his first war-time assignment in command of a multi-national escort group sent to defend a merchant ship convoy under attack by submarines. Set in the Second World War at the Battle of Atlantic, Greyhound is a fast-paced war film praised by critics for action sequences that fit perfectly in the movie's 90-minute runtime (that is usually unheard of for films of this genre).

Watch it here

15/20 The Banker

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_The Banker
The Banker (2020) / Apple TV+

Starring Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Nicholas Hoult (Newness), Nia Long (Life in a Year), and Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction), this drama film follows the true story of the first African-American bankers in the United States, Joe Morris and Bernard S. Garrett Sr. Co-written and directed by George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau), the film is set in 1954 and retells Garrett and Morris early beginnings in the industry and heir success amid racist bank practices of their time. The film was set to have its world premiere at AFI Fest earlier but unfortunately, claims of sexual assault were made against one of the producers of the film who happened to be Garrett Sr's son, Bernie Jr The controversy gave bad press for the film and made Apple TV+ remove the name of the producer from the film and cancel its premiere at the said festival. Still, it had its digital premiere on March 2020.

Watch it here

16/20 Black Box

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Black Box
Black Box (2020) / Amazon Prime Video

Blumhouse Television of award-winning producer Jason Blum (Get OutThe Normal Heart) released its second instalment of its 8-part anthological film series. Black Box is written and directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr and stars Mamoudou Athie (Uncorked) and Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show), among others. This horror film follows a single father who after losing his wife and his memory in a car accident undergoes an agonising experimental treatment that causes him to question his identity. Together with the other three films from the Welcome to the Blumhouse series, Black Box is now available in Amazon Prime Video. The remaining four instalments are slated to be released this 2021.

Watch it here

17/20 The Devil All The Time

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_The Devil All The Time
The Devil All The Time (2020) / Netflix

This psychological thriller film directed by Antonio Campos (Simon Killer, Christine) is an adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock's novel of the same name. Pollock did the narration for the film that weaves together different characters' stories spanning two generations. One of the year's most star-studded films, The Devil All The Time was highly anticipated on Netflix but gained mixed reviews due to limited screen time per actor and its writing that was ought to be enthralling yet rendered poor service to the film, to the point that it became too hilarious for a drama of this extent. Nevertheless, the actors like Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse), Harry Melling (Harry Potter franchise), and Bill Skarsgård (It), delivered gripping electric performances.

Watch it here

18/20 Project Power

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Project Power
Project Power (2020) / Netflix

This superhero film directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Paranormal Activity 3 and 4) starring Jamie Foxx (Ray), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer) and Dominique Fishback (The Deuce) chronicles a man’s pursuit to save his daughter from sinister forces using a drug that imbues a superhuman ability for five minutes. It received mixed reviews from critics, praising it for stellar performances and action sequences but not for its screenplay.

Watch it here

19/20 The Prom

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_The Prom
The Prom (2020) / Netflix

This musical comedy film by Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) is an adaptation of the 2018 Broadway musical by Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin, and Matthew Sklar, who also altogether worked for the film version. Visually entertaining and flashing with camp signature of Murphy, the film received mixed reviews from critics for its archetypal portrayal of characters and half-baked addressing of the social issues it tackled.

Watch it here

20/20 The Midnight Sky

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_The Midnight Sky
The Midnight Sky (2020) / Netflix

Award-winning actor-director-producer George Clooney (Syriana, Argo) adapts the 2016 novel Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton for a supposedly IMAX-worthy film. It follows scientist Augustine Lofthouse whose life's work is devoted to finding habitable planets for humanity's survival. Time jumping to 2049, the film's visually striking cinematography renders post-apocalyptic Earth. However, the film received mixed reviews from critics, mainly due to its poorly written but promising narrative.

Watch it here

20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Hamilton
Soul (2020) / Disney+
20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Mulan
20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Pieces of a Woman
20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_One Night in Miami
20 Hollywood Films Of 2020 That Brought Cinema To Our Homes_Wonder Woman 1984

2021 is finally upon us and indeed more amazing films from last year will soon be available in select theatres and digital streaming platforms. For one, the long-overdue limited theatre release of Wonder Woman 1984 happened just this month. Also this January, Kornél Mundruczó's Pieces of a Woman and Regina King's One Night in Miami, which both premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, were released on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, respectively. Soon Disney+ will be arriving in the Philippines and its biggest releases last year—Mulan, Hamilton, and Soul—will be finally available for streaming.


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