2020 has been unlike any year for cinema. In fact, it’s been unlike any year across cultures and society as a whole. Still, there have been plenty of films that have shined a bright light through all the thick and thin. Whether if it was in a theater early in the year or most recently from the comfort of home, moviegoers have had plenty of content to relish in. Have all of these films been necessarily good? Maybe not depending on your taste, but it’s placement in a time like today deserves recognition nonetheless. In celebration of a year as crazy as 2020 being more than halfway done, we list our most favorite moments captured in a single image thus far.
To make everything fair, the frames chosen below only come from films released from January until June. To make up for the limitations of this pool (when the ongoing pandemic first started to take a toll on the film industry), any sort of wide release was honored. Some films in the list below first debuted at film festivals or within smaller releases last year, but were not made widely available to the masses until 2020. To respect the fact that many people across the globe barely got the chance to experience these works in 2020, they made our cut. The list is no particular order and features exclusive excerpts from our coverage when applicable.
Check back at the end of 2020 for our updated list of 50 favorite shots! Did something you like not make our list? Hit us up on our social media. Enjoy and please keep following the proper etiquette in the fight against COVID-19, unless you just don’t want to see any movies in a theater any time soon. Just wear your f*cking mask.
1. Da 5 Bloods
Director: Spike Lee
Cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel
“We spent a lot of time together and got to know one another. We took a lot of that into the film. It seemed like the personalities didn’t change. We just let it roll into the film and found how we could make it work with our characters.” – More with star Isiah Whitlock Jr. in our exclusive interview!
Da 5 Bloods is available only on Netflix.
Director: Autumn de Wilde
Cinematographer: Christopher Blauvelt
You can rent Emma on demand.
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Cinematographer: Guillermo Navarro
“For a brief moment, the film manages to sweep the audience up in the magic that the best children’s movies always seem to possess” – More in our review!
You can rent Dolittle on demand.
Director: William Eubank
Cinematographer: Bojan Bazelli
“We arguably have a better understanding of space than the deepest parts of the ocean thus making the fear of the deep common and entirely rational.” – More in our review!
You can rent Underwater on demand.
5. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Director: Eliza Hittman
Cinematographer: Hélène Louvart
You can rent Never Rarely Sometimes Always on demand.
Director: Tony Cervone
Art Direction by Tal Fishman and Emil Mitev
“The opening scenes with a young Scooby and Shaggy will have plenty feeling a little emotional. Simply because their friendship and the idea at play is so charming.” – More in our review!
You can rent Scoob! on demand.
7. Gretel & Hansel
Director: Oz Perkins
Cinematographer: Galo Olivares
“Cinematographer Galo Olivares makes the woods appear enormous, never-ending, and sufficiently creepy… fittingly, the forest has never been presented in quite as menacing of a way since Robert Eggers’ The Witch.” – More in our review!
You can rent Gretel & Hansel on demand.
8. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Director: David Dobkin
Cinematographer: Danny Cohen
“What is striking about the fantasy elements of Song Contest is that it calls back to a time when Will Ferrell movies were not only defined by his man-child antics… but by how f*cking weird they could get. That sort of unhinged, anything can happen feeling is what makes Will Ferrell, at his best, so exciting to watch.” – More in our review!
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is available only on Netflix.
9. The Call of the Wild
Director: Chris Sanders
Cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski
“Director Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon) is a master at crafting accessible stories to younger audiences without ever babying them.” – More in our review!
You can rent The Call of the Wild on demand.
10. I Will Make You Mine
Director: Lynn Chen
Cinematographers: Carl Nenzén Lovén and Bill Otto
“I was really, really adamant about making this an Asian American movie that had really nothing to do with us being Asian American.” – More with director/writer Lynn Chen in our exclusive interview!
You can rent I Will Make You Mine on demand.
Director: Dan Scanlon
Cinematographers: Sharon Calahan and Adam Habib
“As always, Pixar is able to work our emotions without really trying, bringing out tears of both sorrow and catharsis.” – More in our review!
You can watch Onward on Disney Plus.
12. Bad Education
Director: Cory Finley
Cinematographer: Lyle Vincent
You can watch Bad Education on HBO Max.
13. Sonic the Hedgehog
Director: Jeff Fowler
Cinematographer: Stephen F. Windon
“We felt very happy that fans seemed to feel that we did get it right because of the fact that it’s not exactly super faithful. We can easily imagine that they are just pissed off that we didn’t do exactly what’s in the comics or later games.” – More from writers Josh Miller and Patrick Casey in our exclusive interview!
You can rent Sonic the Hedgehog on demand.
Director: Benedict Andrews
Cinematographer: Rachel Morrison
“Kristen Stewart is utterly perfect for the role, it’s her defining film of the decade. What Stewart is able to convey through action is rather mesmerizing, performed with a sheer sense of the heart-felt, love, and heart-wrench. It’s all in her eyes and movement, it says so much more than the spoken.” – More in our review!
Seberg is available only on Prime Video.
15. The Hunt
Director: Craig Zobel
Cinematographer: Darren Tiernan
“Not nearly as controversial as it may seem, the film is still nevertheless playing an intricate role in the modern discussion between the cultural effects of cinema and the use of satire.” – More in our review!
You can rent The Hunt on demand.
16. The King of Staten Island
Director: Judd Apatow
Cinematographer: Robert Elswit
“Robert Elswit is an amazing director of photography… talk about using a bazooka to hammer a nail. The guy who did some of the greatest action scenes ever and getting to see him just focus on this was really pretty cool.” More with writer Dave Sirus in our exclusive interview!
You can rent The King of Staten Island on demand.
17. The Half of It
Director: Alice Wu
Cinematographer: Greta Zozula
The Half of It is available only on Netflix.
Director: Josh Trank
Cinematographer: Peter Deming
“It has that same balance of levity, absurdity, tragedy, and drama and… this beating heart in the center of it. So my dream was Tom Hardy because he’s the only actor I know of who has that range.” – More with director/writer Josh Trank in our exclusive interview!
You can rent Capone on demand.
19. The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Whannell
Cinematographer: Stefan Duscio
“Cinematographer Stefan Duscio’s collaboration with Whannell creates a duality between high kinetic energy and anxiety-inducing imagery. The framing is constructed to make viewers continuously feel the presence of the Invisible Man without there actually being anything there, even in times of levity. The results will greatly benefit from repeated viewings.” – More in our review!
You can rent The Invisible Man on demand.
Director: Patrick Vollrah
Cinematographer: Sebastian Thaler
“The cinematography lingers, which allows the actors to be fully immersed into their characters. The visuals bleed from the screen for they are beautifully colorful… there is a freedom to the camera constantly rolling in this extremely tight aircraft set.” – More in our review!
7500 is available only on Prime Video.
21. Birds of Prey
Director: Cathy Yan
Cinematographer: Matthew Libatique
“Every moment in this film is intoxicatingly fun and amusing. It is so evident that the cast and crew had an amazing time crafting this film into the entertaining extravaganza that it is.” More in our review!
You can rent Birds of Prey on demand.
22. Bad Boys For Life
Directors: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Cinematographer: Robrecht Heyvaert
“We didn’t want to disappoint the people that love the franchise and Michael Bay. At the same time, we had to find a way to keep our stamp on it. Finding that balance between giving respect and homage to the Bad Boys movies while keeping it fresh and give our twist to it.” – More with directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah in our exclusive interview!
You can rent Bad Boys For Life on demand.
23. Color Out of Space
Director: Richard Stanley
Cinematographer: Steve Annis
“We realized that we couldn’t show the audience something that’s completely outside the human spectrum. So the answer was to take people right to the edge, or to the outer limits, of that spectrum.” More with director/writer Richard Stanley in our exclusive interview!
You can rent Color Out of Space on demand.
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cinematographer: Sergio Armstrong
Ema is still planned for U.S distribution later this year but is available on Mubi in the U.K, India, and Ireland.
Director: Alan Yang
Cinematographer: Nigel Bluck
Tigertail is available only on Netflix.