Without a doubt, 2020 has been a strange year for movies. The upheaval caused by the ever-escalating COVID-19 pandemic has extended to the film industry, shutting down entire productions. In most states, movie theaters have been closed for months. The Oscars have been postponed, and many highly anticipated films have pushed back their release dates — some indefinitely.
But while all of that may accelerate an already existing shift in how we watch movies going forward, it hasn’t stopped creators from putting out remarkable work. In fact, 2020 may go down as a landmark year: Most of the titles on this list were directed by, and center around, women and people of color. This is perhaps not a total coincidence — many of the movies waiting for better days to open to large theatrical crowds are big budget studio films. And because of Hollywood’s ongoing systemic inequality, they are usually directed by white men.
With those movies on hold, streaming and digital releases have given some of these lower profile titles a wider audience than they might have found in a regular theater setting. But the attention is well-deserved. From action films like Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Old Guard and Cathy Yan’s Harley Quinn spinoff Birds of Prey; true crime dramas like Liz Garbus’ Lost Girls; noir fishing town scandals like Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy’s Blow The Man Down; beautiful coming of age stories like Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Miss Juneteenth or Alice Wu’s The Half of It; and painful war epics like Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, the talent crosses genres and platforms, proving that against all odds, movies are alive and well.
Ahead, we share the ones we just can’t stop thinking about.