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Best movies that have premiered during COVID-19

  • 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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  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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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  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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.

  • #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.”

  • #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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