Best movies that have premiered during COVID-19

Written by:
September 30, 2020
Limelight

Best movies that have premiered during COVID-19

It’s safe to say that there hasn’t been a year like 2020 in the history of modern cinema. With the devastating COVID-19 pandemic affecting every aspect of our lives and movie theaters largely shut down for the sake of safety, many major film releases have been pushed back or indefinitely delayed. However, although the future of in-person moviegoing remains unclear, a number of highly acclaimed films have debuted and found their own audiences on streaming services and video on demand.

To determine the best films that have premiered so far during the era of COVID-19, Stacker compiled data on the top movies from March 2020 to the present. We then ranked them according to Metacritic data available as of Sept. 17, 2020. Any ties were broken by IMDb user ratings of films, and only movies that have been released to the public (virtually or in theaters) were considered.

The list is rich with documentaries, many of which—such as Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” and James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham’s “Crip Camp”—premiered at film festivals and earned awards earlier in the year. High-profile directors like Spike Lee and Charlie Kaufman also released work during the year through streaming services (through “Da 5 Bloods” and “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”). The professional recording of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” premiered early due to the pandemic: While the filmed version was originally supposed to hit theaters in October 2021, it was moved up for a Disney Plus release on July 3, 2020.

Keep reading to learn more about the best films that have premiered in the COVID-19 era, starting at #50 and counting down to #1.

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1 / 50
AGBO

#50. Relic

- Director: Natalie Erika James
- Metascore: 76
- IMDb user rating: 5.9
- Runtime: 89 min.

When elderly family matriarch Edna (Robyn Nevin) goes missing, Edna’s daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) return to the family’s remote home to find her. As Edna’s behavior gets increasingly erratic, Kay starts to suspect that a malevolent presence is consuming her mother. “Relic” was praised for its allegorical exploration of dementia.

2 / 50
Los Angeles Media Fund (LAMF)

#49. Shirley

- Director: Josephine Decker
- Metascore: 76
- IMDb user rating: 6.1
- Runtime: 107 min.

Elisabeth Moss stars in this biographical drama as a fictionalized version of iconic horror writer Shirley Jackson. When Shirley and her husband (Michael Stuhlbarg) take in a young couple, she gains inspiration for her new novel and a complicated muse in the form of her female houseguest, Rose (Odessa Young). “Shirley” is based on Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel of the same name.

3 / 50
Gabriel Polsky Productions

#48. Red Penguins

- Director: Gabe Polsky
- Metascore: 76
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Runtime: 80 min.

This documentary tells the strange but true story of Americans who try to make a fortune after the Soviet Union’s collapse by investing in Moscow’s hockey team. The newcomers resort to outlandish publicity stunts to try and encourage game attendance, from hiring strippers to perform on the ice to bringing actual bears to the arena.

4 / 50
Arte France Cinéma

#47. The Wild Goose Lake

- Director: Yinan Diao
- Metascore: 76
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Runtime: 113 min.

In this neo-noir, a Chinese mob leader Zhou (Hu Ge) goes on the lam after accidentally killing a cop. While hiding from authorities in China’s Wuhan province, Zhou falls in love with a mysterious woman (Gwei Lun-mei) with ulterior motives of her own. In 2019, “The Wild Goose Lake” was selected to compete for Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or.

5 / 50
Dentsu

#46. We Are Little Zombies

- Director: Makoto Nagahisa
- Metascore: 76
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Runtime: 120 min.

After becoming orphaned, four young Japanese teenagers decide to form a scrappy rock band of their own called “Little Zombies.” Makoto Nagahisa’s hyper-stylized film has massive swings in genre and tone, going from a dark comedy to a surreal musical to biting celebrity satire in minutes.

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6 / 50
Muck Media

#45. Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado

- Directors: Cristina Costantini, Kareem Tabsch
- Metascore: 76
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 96 min.

“Mucho Mucho Amor” tracks the life and career of Walter Mercado, a famous, gender-nonconforming astrologer who became a massive celebrity on Latin American television. The documentary features interviews with Mercado, Mercado’s assistant Willy Acosta, Mercado’s family, and other public figures within the Latino entertainment world.

7 / 50
Film 4

#44. The Personal History of David Copperfield

- Director: Armando Iannucci
- Metascore: 77
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Runtime: 119 min.

Oscar nominee Dev Patel stars in this reimagining of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, “David Copperfield.” This newly comedic take on the story revisits the Dickensonian hero from his life as an impoverished orphan to his blossoming career as a Victorian English writer.

8 / 50
Likely Story

#43. I'm Thinking of Ending Things

- Director: Charlie Kaufman
- Metascore: 77
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Runtime: 134 min.

Charlie Kaufman’s latest psychological drama opens as a young woman travels to meet her boyfriend Jake’s (Jesse Plemons) parents at their remote farmhouse, despite wanting to soon break up with him. What starts as an uncomfortable dinner morphs into a surrealist exploration of Jake’s troubled psyche and how the people and art that shape us linger. The Netflix film is based on Iain Reid’s 2016 novel of the same name.

9 / 50
Screen Australia

#42. Babyteeth

- Director: Shannon Murphy
- Metascore: 77
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Runtime: 118 min.

Terminally ill Australian teenager Milla (Eliza Scanlen) embarks on a passionate love affair with local drug dealer Moses (Toby Wallace), much to her parents’ disapproval. “Babyteeth” was adapted from Rita Kalnejais’ 2012 play, and Little White Lies critic Hannah Woodhead praised the film as “an effervescent coming-of-age story that manages to be honest, impish, and completely devastating in a single breath.”

10 / 50
Sandbox Films (II)

#41. Human Nature

- Director: Adam Bolt
- Metascore: 77
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 95 min.

The documentary “Human Nature” delves into the breakthrough gene editing process CRISPR, from the perspective of the scientists and genetic engineers who are working with the recent technology. It considers the possible applications and effects of CRISPR, from curing diseases to altering future children’s genetic makeup.

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11 / 50
Aparte Film

#40. Marona's Fantastic Tale

- Director: Anca Damian
- Metascore: 77
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 92 min.

In this French animated film, a stray dog named Marona is hit by a car, causing her life to flash before her eyes. She then looks back on all of the humans she has loved over the course of her life. Anca Damian’s movie utilizes a combination of computer-generated and hand-drawn animation.

12 / 50
Beech Hill Films

#39. A Secret Love

- Director: Chris Bolan
- Metascore: 77
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 81 min.

“A Secret Love” chronicles the nearly 70-year romance between former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player Terry Donahue and her partner, Pat Henschel. The two ran an interior decorating business together while keeping their their relationship a secret from clients, friends, and family for decades. In the film, Donahue and Henschel navigate the highs and lows of aging and coming out later in life. The documentary was directed by Chris Bolan, the women’s great-nephew.

13 / 50
Les Films Velvet

#38. An Easy Girl

- Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
- Metascore: 78
- IMDb user rating: 5.5
- Runtime: 92 min.

This French coming-of-age film follows 16-year-old Naima (Mina Farid), whose life becomes more complicated when she’s drawn into her older cousin Sofia’s (Zahia Dehar) free-wheeling lifestyle over the course of one summer. “An Easy Girl” screened at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival where Rebecca Zlotowski won the Directors’ Fortnight prize for best French-language movie.

14 / 50
Quotable Pictures

#37. Robin's Wish

- Director: Tylor Norwood
- Metascore: 78
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 77 min.

“Robin’s Wish” is a documentary exploring the final days of iconic comedian and actor Robin Williams. Apart from paying tribute to Williams’ immense charm and body of work, it also sheds light on Lewy body disease, which Williams was diagnosed with before his death.

15 / 50
Medieoperatørene

#36. The Painter and the Thief

- Director: Benjamin Ree
- Metascore: 78
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 102 min.

“The Painter and the Thief” tells the true story of the unlikely friendship that develops between Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova and Karl Bertil-Nordland, the man who stole two of her paintings. The movie premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling.

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16 / 50
Element Twenty Two

#35. My Darling Vivian

- Director: Matt Riddlehoover
- Metascore: 78
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Runtime: 90 min.

While June Carter is the better-known romantic figure in musician Johnny Cash’s life, the documentary “My Darling Vivian” plays tribute to Vivian Liberto, his first wife and the mother of his four daughters. Featuring home movies, love letters, and interviews with Vivian’s children, the film recounts how she was largely left alone to raise her kids, deal with intruding Cash fans, and grapple with her husband’s newfound struggles with substance abuse.

17 / 50
Exposure Labs

#34. The Social Dilemma

- Director: Jeff Orlowski
- Metascore: 78
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 94 min.

This stunning Netflix documentary explores the prevalence of social media, as well as the damage it has caused to its users through data mining, surveillance, and spreading conspiracy theories. “The Social Dilemma” features interviews with many giants of the social networking world, from the co-creator of Facebook’s “like” button Justin Rosenstein to former Pinterest president Tim Kendall. It also includes dramatizations that tell the story of a teenager (Skyler Gisondo) who becomes dangerously addicted to social media.

18 / 50
El Ministerio de Cultura Y Deportes de Guatamala

#33. La Llorona

- Director: Jayro Bustamante
- Metascore: 79
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Runtime: 97 min.

Drawing from the Hispanic American folktale of the same name, “La Llorona” details what happens when an aging Guatemalan general (Julio Diaz) is haunted by an Indigenous woman (María Mercedes Coroy) who was murdered along with her family during a genocide that he ordered 30 years earlier. In her review of the film for RogerEbert.com, Monica Castillo described it as “not just a creepy story, but a painful reflection of injustice.”

19 / 50
Static Prods.

#32. Fourteen

- Director: Dan Sallitt
- Metascore: 79
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Runtime: 94 min.

“Fourteen” examines the close friendship that slowly deteriorates between New York City friends Jo (Norma Kuhling) and Mara (Tallie Medel) over the course of a decade. Social worker Jo increasingly struggles with undiagnosed mental illness and the bad influences of irresponsible boyfriends, while Mara intermittently tries in vain to help her.

20 / 50
HBO Films

#31. Bad Education

- Director: Cory Finley
- Metascore: 79
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Runtime: 108 min.

In “Bad Education,” the superintendent (Hugh Jackman) of a hyper-prestigious Long Island school district and his assistant (Allison Janney) attempt to cover up an embezzlement scheme that threatens to mar their district’s reputation. The HBO film went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie.

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21 / 50
Causeway Films

#30. Buoyancy

- Director: Rodd Rathjen
- Metascore: 79
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Runtime: 93 min.

“Buoyancy” centers on Chakra (Sarm Heng), a 14-year-old Cambodian boy who is captured and enslaved to the captain (Thanawut Kasro) of a Thai fishing ship. The film is based on real-life accounts of modern Southeast Asian slavery and human trafficking.

22 / 50
Ready Fictions

#29. Feels Good Man

- Director: Arthur Jones
- Metascore: 79
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 92 min.

“Feels Good Man” is about the origins of the Internet meme Pepe the Frog and creator Matt Furie's fight to reclaim his creation from members of the alt-right who co-opted it. Arthur Jones’ directorial debut premiered at 2020’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker.

23 / 50
Rustic Films

#28. She Dies Tomorrow

- Director: Amy Seimetz
- Metascore: 80
- IMDb user rating: 5.1
- Runtime: 86 min.

In “She Dies Tomorrow,” a young woman named Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) becomes convinced she will die the next day. This conviction begins spreading like a contagion throughout her town that same night. Director Amy Seimetz came up with the idea for the movie after thinking about how people tended to react to her stories of her own anxiety attacks.

24 / 50
Element Pictures

#27. The Nest

- Director: Sean Durkin
- Metascore: 80
- IMDb user rating: 6.0
- Runtime: 107 min.

“The Nest” is a thriller starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon as a couple whose lavish lifestyle begins to unravel after husband Rory (Law) uproots his American family to an isolated country manor in his native nation of England. The official Sundance Institute synopsis praises it for “blurring social critique and character drama,” as director Sean Durkin “reflects on the moral and spiritual emptiness of an unselfconsciously aspirational society.”

25 / 50
Danish Film Institute

#26. A White, White Day

- Director: Hlynur Palmason
- Metascore: 80
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Runtime: 109 min.

After his wife’s accidental death, off-duty Icelandic police chief Ingimundur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) becomes obsessed with the question of whether she was having an affair. He soon begins to dangerously trail a man he suspects was his wife’s lover in hopes of finding out the truth. “A White, White Day” was Iceland’s entry for best international feature film at 2020’s Academy Awards.

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26 / 50
Cabin Creek Films

#25. Desert One

- Director: Barbara Kopple
- Metascore: 80
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 107 min.

In “Desert One,” renowned documentarian Barbara Kopple explores a failed 1980 U.S. military operation to rescue 52 American hostages of the 1979 Iranian revolution. It features archival footage from the time period and interviews with major players involved, including President Jimmy Carter, soldiers involved in the Operation Eagle Claw rescue mission, hostages, and some Iranian captors.

27 / 50
Amirani Media

#24. Coup 53

- Director: Taghi Amirani
- Metascore: 80
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 120 min.

The documentary “Coup 53” documents the story of Operation Ajax, a coup that the CIA and MI6 staged in 1953 to overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh. Director Taghi Amirani recounts his own journey to finding evidence of the plot, and includes several clips of actor Ralph Fiennes reading a transcript of an interview in which MI6 agent Norman Darbyshire admitted to the coup.

28 / 50
Disclosure Films

#23. Disclosure

- Director: Sam Feder
- Metascore: 80
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Runtime: 108 min.

The Netflix film “Disclosure” gives viewers a history of Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people, as well as the cultural impact that those depictions had on the trans community. “Disclosure” features interviews with well-known trans creatives like Laverne Cox, Tiq Milan, and Lilly Wachowski.

29 / 50
Polygram Entertainment

#22. The Go-Go's

- Director: Alison Ellwood
- Metascore: 81
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 98 min.

“The Go-Go’s” chronicles the rise of its titular ‘80s girl band, the first major all-female group to write their own songs, play their own instruments, and hit number one on the charts. The band’s former members reminisce on their rise and fall in this Showtime documentary.

30 / 50
CineDiaz

#21. A Thousand Cuts

- Director: Ramona S. Diaz
- Metascore: 81
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 110 min.

“A Thousand Cuts” spotlights how Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has used social media campaigns to spread misinformation. Meanwhile, Maria Ressa (who founded the online news site Rappler) risks her life to criticize these attacks on press freedom when she becomes one of Duterte’s main targets.

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31 / 50
40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks

#20. Da 5 Bloods

- Director: Spike Lee
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Runtime: 154 min.

Spike Lee’s Netflix film follows four aging African American veterans who return to Vietnam to find their fallen squad leader’s remains and the gold fortune that they hid during the war. It has been praised by critics for its exploration of how racism and the American military intersect in various ways, and for Delroy Lindo’s leading performance.

32 / 50
Department of Motion Pictures

#19. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

- Directors: Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 98 min.

“Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” provides a look at a Las Vegas dive bar’s final night before closing in late 2016 as its patrons and staff say goodbye. The film’s official synopsis describes it as “a carefully constructed yet oddly affecting record of an American sensibility at once straining to survive and ready for the end.”

33 / 50
Epiphany

#18. House of Hummingbird

- Director: Bora Kim
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Runtime: 138 min.

It’s 1994 in Seoul (the year that the city’s Seongsu Bridge collapsed), and 14-year-old Eunhee (Ji-hu Park) wanders her city on a journey of romance and self-discovery. The movie won the International Jury for the Best Film at 2019’s Berlin International Film Festival, and the Best International Narrative Feature Award at 2019’s Tribeca Film Festival. In 2020, The Guardian ranked “House of Hummingbird” at #18 in its list of modern South Korean film classics.

34 / 50
Arte France Cinéma

#17. Bacurau

- Directors: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 131 min.

Teresa (Bárbara Colen) returns to her home Brazilian village of Bacurau upon learnin gof her grandmother's death. There, the mourning villagers find themselves in a standoff with several wealthy American visitors who have arrived on an ominous hunting trip. “Bacurau” won the Jury Prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

35 / 50
Sixteen Films

#16. Sorry We Missed You

- Director: Ken Loach
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 101 min.

In “Sorry We Missed You,” a British working-class family participating in the gig economy gets trapped in a delivery-driving job that serves as a cycle of labor exploitation. Trevor Johnston of Sight & Sound wrote that the film was a “nuanced, troubling, and provocative state-of-the-nation address,” and one of Loach’s “most sinewy efforts.”

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36 / 50
Limelight

#15. Palm Springs

- Director: Max Barbakow
- Metascore: 83
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Runtime: 90 min.

“Palm Springs” follows Nyles (Andy Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti), two wedding guests who become trapped in a time loop. “‘Palm Springs’ is the perfect kind of art-comedy,” wrote Vince Mancini in his Uproxx review. “It comes on like a brilliantly silly little lark and eventually lands on you like a ton of bricks.”

37 / 50
CinemaWerks

#14. Driveways

- Director: Andrew Ahn
- Metascore: 83
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 83 min.

In “Driveways,” a lonely young boy named Cody (Lucas Jaye) develops a close bond with next-door retiree Del (Brian Dennehy) while his mother (Hong Chau) spends the summer cleaning out his late aunt’s home. The film went on to be nominated for best first screenplay and best female lead at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

38 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#13. Black Is King

- Directors: Emmanuel Adjei, Ibra Ake, Blitz Bazawule, Beyoncé
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 5.4
- Runtime: 85 min.

“Black is King” is a visual companion to Beyoncé’s 2019 album “The Lion King: The Gift,” which she curated for the live-action Disney remake. Like that film, it tells the story of a young prince (Folajomi Akinmurele) who is banished from his kingdom and must reclaim it as an adult (Nyaniso Dzedze). The film acts as a metaphor for reclamation of the African diaspora, and was filmed in three different continents.

39 / 50
GED Cinema

#12. The Vast of Night

- Director: Andrew Patterson
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Runtime: 91 min.

“The Vast of Night” opens in New Mexico in the 1950s as a young radio DJ (Jake Horowitz) and switchboard operator (Sierra McCormick) discover an extraterrestrial radio frequency. The film was inspired by real-life events, like the Foss Lake disappearances and the Kecksburg Incident.

40 / 50
Artemis Rising Productions

#11. On the Record

- Directors: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Runtime: 95 min.

“On the Record” details the multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against hip-hop giant Russell Simmons. Much of it centers on Drew Dixon, an executive at Def Jam Records who says that Simmons raped her. Not long before “On the Record” was released, executive producer Oprah Winfrey notably withdrew her appearance from the film claiming “creative differences.”

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41 / 50
Concordia Studio

#10. Boys State

- Directors: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 109 min.

In this film, 1,000 Texas teenage boys attend Boys State, a week-long self-governing exercise run by the American Legion since 1935. While there, they learn about American democracy by building their own representative mock government. The documentary won the U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

42 / 50
BBC Scotland

#9. Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin

- Director: Werner Herzog
- Metascore: 85
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Runtime: 85 min.

This documentary recounts the life of British travel writer Bruce Chatwin, who, while dying of AIDS, gave his rucksack to longtime friend and “Nomad” director Werner Herzog. In the film, Herzog sets out on a nomadic trip in honor of his friend. “Nomad” is divided into eight travel chapters, and features interviews with Chatwin’s friends and wife, Elizabeth.

43 / 50
Actual Films

#8. Athlete A

- Directors: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
- Metascore: 85
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 103 min.

“Athlete A” follows Indianapolis Star reporters as they break the story of respected doctor Larry Nassar’s history of assault and abuse against young female gymnasts. Although it was scheduled to premiere at 2020’s Tribeca Film Festival, the festival’s in-person cancellation meant that it premiered on Netflix in June instead.

44 / 50
Diluvio

#7. The Wolf House

- Directors: Joaquín Cociña, Cristóbal León
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 75 min.

In this animated film, a young woman named Maria (Amalia Kassai) hides in a southern Chilean house after escaping from German religious zealots. Things become strange when the pigs who live there slowly turn into humans, and her sanctuary shifts into a nightmare. “The Wolf House” is based on the real-life case of Colonia Dignidad.

45 / 50
Higher Ground Productions

#6. Crip Camp

- Directors: James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Runtime: 106 min.

“Crip Camp” begins in 1971 at Camp Jened, a summer camp in upstate New York dedicated to giving teenagers with disabilities a fun, light-hearted camp experience. It later documents how many of these teenagers became activists who fought for better legal accessibility for disabled people. The movie won the Audience Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and was executive produced by Barack and Michelle Obama through their company, Higher Ground Productions.

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46 / 50
BBC Storyville

#5. Welcome to Chechnya

- Director: David France
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 107 min.

“Welcome to Chechnya” uncovers the anti-gay purges that took place in the Russian republic of Chechnya in the late 2010s. It features interviews with refugees who were detained and tortured (others were executed) as part of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s homophobic national campaign.

47 / 50
Cedar Creek Productions

#4. Rewind

- Director: Sasha Joseph Neulinger
- Metascore: 87
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 86 min.

In “Rewind,” filmmaker Sasha Joseph Neulinger revisits his father’s home videos to reckon with the childhood sexual abuse that he suffered. By including this footage, his documentary paints a portrait of the often-cyclical nature of familial abuse.

48 / 50
A24

#3. First Cow

- Director: Kelly Reichardt
- Metascore: 89
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Runtime: 122 min.

Loosely based on Jonathan Raymond’s 2004 novel “Half Life,” “First Cow” centers on Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu (Orion Lee), two settlers and unlikely friends living in the Northwestern frontier in the 1820s. However, their plans to make money by baking goods with stolen milk from a landowner’s new dairy cow eventually place their futures in jeopardy.

49 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#2. Hamilton

- Director: Thomas Kail
- Metascore: 90
- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Runtime: 160 min.

This professional recording of the hit Broadway show of the same name is composed of footage from three different performances by the original cast members in 2016. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical retells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, from his early involvement in the revolution to his death.

50 / 50
BBC Films

#1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

- Director: Eliza Hittman
- Metascore: 91
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 101 min.

With no way to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy without parental consent in her home state of Pennsylvania, teenager Autumn and her cousin Skylar go on a tumultuous journey to receive an abortion in New York City. Eliza Hittman told Time Magazine that she was inspired to make a film about the barriers to reproductive health care access after learning about Savita Halappanavar, a woman in Ireland who died in 2012 after she was denied a life-saving abortion. The movie won the Silver Bear Grand Jury prize at 2020’s Berlin International Film Festival.

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