You sit in the library, warm coffee in hand, and scour the endless rows of movies on Netflix. Twenty minutes pass. Your eyelids grow heavy and before you know it, you’ve scrolled through Coming Soon for the sixth time. You’d go to the theatres, but you’d rather not spend $14 on a Cineplex dud, only wishing to get your time, money, and brain cells back. Finding great movies is like unearthing treasure in your backyard. It’s possible but takes time and effort. To ease your search and keep your stresses in the classroom, we’ve rounded up ten must-see movies for 2020. Some blur genres and some are remakes, but all offer unique stories sure to grip and move us. So, take a sip of your now stale coffee and soothe into your seat with these picks.
The Top 10
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Feb. 14)
After torching the competition at Cannes, Portrait of a Lady on Fire hits big screens this Valentine’s Day. Noémie Merlant plays Marianne, a young woman hired to paint the wedding portrait of the noble Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). One problem: Héloïse doesn’t want to marry. As intimate embers kindle, the story explores queer love and its oppression in society. Shot with an 8K camera, every strand of hair and smile shimmers in the sun. And if the plot isn’t romantic enough, did I mention it’s in French?
Promising Young Woman (Apr. 17)
From Drive to Wildlife, Carey Mulligan knows how to play complex female leads. Here she plays Cassie, a mysterious woman who feigns drunkenness to right her wrongdoers. Newcomer Emerald Fennell directs, and Margot Robbie produces. McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) even makes an appearance. Judging from the trailer, Promising Young Woman blends satire with sardonicism. Add in cherry-red lipstick, sprinkle in some Britney Spears’ Toxic, and you get this—a feminist revenge thriller with teeth.
Soul (June 19)
You better pack Kleenex because it’s about to get messy. Pete Docter—the man behind Monsters Inc., Up, and Inside Out—is back and ready to destroy our emotions. Soul follows music teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) as he lives a meaningless existence. An accident occurs and Gardner loses his soul to an afterlife, where it must develop and transfer into awaiting newborns. It’s an original story, albeit strange, that questions what really matters in life. If trailers provide any sign, Soul will make you cry, smile, and swoon with its relatable characters, jazzy music, and gorgeous graphics.
Tenet (July 17)
July 16, 2010 brought us Inception. Nearly a decade later to the day, its spiritual sequel drops with Tenet. The film sees director Christopher Nolan back to his patented tricks, shifting time and perspective, jumbling our minds, and scrambling our sanity.
Aside from its cryptic trailer, we know little about Tenet. Robert Pattinson revs it in a backwards car chase. Time slows down. The car crashes, then proceeds (precedes?) to reverse into its unharmed state. I’m confused too, but Nolan knows what he’s doing. With a massive $205,000,000 budget, epic 70mm IMAX film, and blaring synth score, Tenet will make your palms sweat and heart implode.
The French Dispatch (July 24)
No listed film is more unknown than Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. We know it headlines Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, takes place in a fictional French town, and alternates between three storylines. That’s it. In a year devoid of promising comedies, The French Dispatch is among our lone hopes for laughter. It’s also described as a “love letter” to journalism, and that alone piques our interest.
The Witches (Oct. 9)
Remember that “kids” movie where witches turn one boy into a mouse then plot to destroy all children? Yeah, the 90s were weird. But it’s 2020 now and here comes a fresh adaptation of Roald Dahl’s creepy classic The Witches. Anne Hathaway replaces Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch. Robert Zemeckis sits in the director’s chair, a man who’s given us timeless classics from Back to the Future and Forrest Gump to Cast Away and The Polar Express. If The Witches is anything close to those, we’re in for a wicked treat.
Eternals (Nov. 6)
We live in a post-Endgame world. Thanos has died, Captain America has retired, and suddenly, the universe feels a bit empty. Enter the Eternals, an ancient space race ready to ignite Marvel’s fourth phase and save humanity from the villainous Deviants. The squad stars the unaging Angelina Jolie, a ripped Kamail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, and Kit Harington. Director and Cannes award winner Chloé Zhao is still filming Eternals, so details remain mysterious. When the trailer drops, the internet might break.
Godzilla vs. Kong (Nov. 20)
First there was David vs. Goliath. Then we had Ali vs. Frazier. Now, it’s Goliath vs. Goliath as the eponymous giants clash: a lizard and an ape with the earth as the boxing ring. While the origin stories were forgettable blockbuster fare, a new director Adam Wingard injects some promise. Godzilla vs. Kong may have a messy plot and bland human characters, but it will feature gorgeous special effects and gargantuan battle sequences. Either way, I got my money on Kong.
Dune (Dec. 18)
Directed by Canada’s darling Denis Villeneuve and based on Frank Herbert’s magnum opus, Dune follows Leto Atreides’ quest for “the spice,” a life-extending, cognition-boosting substance on the desert planet Arrakis. It’s a tale of cosmic tribes, colossal sandworms, and Nietzschean superhumans. Dune also features an absurdly loaded ensemble with Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgård, and Josh Brolin, to name a few.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (TBA)
We’re ending with a bang here. Charlie Kaufman, the king of existential filmmaking, adapts Canadian author Iain Reid’s breakthrough novel of the same name. The story follows an unnamed protagonist (Jessie Buckley) who travels to meet her boyfriend’s parents. Secretly, she wants to end things. As the couple drive through the snowy country sideroads, weird stuff happens—from eerie voicemails to parents who smile a little too much. If the film follows the novel, you’ll experience among the most bizarre, unsettling endings in recent memory.