My Most Anticipated 2020 Movies

Scanning the horizon for next year’s crop of movies yields the usual mix of excitement and despair. Some things haven’t changed much; franchise sequels continue to suck most of the air out of the room, reducing the act of anticipation merely to remembering ubiquitous things. On the other hand, the exodus of interesting art away from multiplexes and onto streaming services continues. After its acclaimed fall season, with the likes of The IrishmanMarriage StoryAtlantics and The Two Popes, Netflix will continue to lead in this area, distributing three of the ten movies I list below. A fourth movie will presumably be heading to Apple TV+. The good news/bad news dichotomy is especially acute here. Instant access is always nice, and as a continuing subscriber to Netflix I know I won’t miss out on the movies in question. But as the streaming wars continue, the balkanization of mainstream cinema becomes concerning. Or at least annoying. Spending ten or fifteen dollars for one month’s access to something new and noteworthy is, obviously, not worse than driving to a theater and buying a ticket. It just makes the search for those movies more complicated. And when the internet companies finish staking their claims for legitimacy, by winning awards and such, how long before the new boss becomes the same as the old boss (assuming Disney doesn’t swallow them all up even before that happens)? The coming decade could very well decide what ultimately happens to movies, both technologically and culturally.

Anyway, restricting our focus to the next twelve months rather than the next 120, the outlook is actually pretty good. The year 2020 should unveil a number of good films. First, I should note that I’ll probably be able to catch up with the three movies from last year’s list which I haven’t seen yet. The Last Thing He Wanted will premiere at Sundance before also heading to Netflix. First Cow goes into general release in March. Memoria will likely play at Cannes before being distributed by Neon, the company that put Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite in front of my face five months after its Palme d’Or win. So, as usual, it would have been more accurate to put those movies on this list, and I can’t be sure that everything I name below will reach me before 2021. But this time, the movies do seem to be mostly sure bets. I declined to include the next films by Paul Thomas Anderson, Jonathan Glazer, Guillermo del Toro and George Miller precisely because their E.T.A.s are much less sure. Lastly, I must confess that only one movie directed by a woman made the top ten. There were a few others on the shortlist, besides the Dee Rees and Kelly Reichardt films mentioned above. They are: Emma (Autumn de Wilde), The Photograph (Stella Meghie), and The Turning (Floria Sigismondi).

  • Blonde
  • Release: Not set
  • With Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson, Scoot McNairy
  • Director: Andrew Dominik

2020 Movies 1After many years of delay (and the replacement of Jessica Chastain in the title role by Knives Out breakout de Armas), Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel is finally coming together, to be released by Netflix on an unspecified date. Any new spin on the Marilyn legend would be equal parts enticing and foreboding, and an openly fictionalized take is even more so.

  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things
  • Release: Not set
  • With Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, David Thewlis, Abby Quinn
  • Director: Charlie Kaufman

I like to think the two stars shared a daily laugh on set about having the same first name. Beyond that, I haven’t really been on Kaufman’s wavelength for a while now, but this adaptation of the Iain Reid novel sounds dark and strange enough to change that. It will also debut on Netflix at some point.

  • Last Night in Soho
  • Release: September 25
  • With Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp
  • Director: Edgar Wright

A psychological horror film that in some way involves time travel sounds intriguing, and it’s in good hands, being directed by the guy who made the Don’t trailer in Grindhouse. This one will get the traditional theatrical release via Focus Features.

  • Mank
  • Release: Not set
  • With Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Charles Dance
  • Director: David Fincher

This list is a bit biopic-heavy, which could set me up for disappointment, but I trust the three filmmakers in question. Like Blonde, this is another long-delayed passion project headed for Netflix, with a script by Fincher’s late father Jack. It’ll be in black-and-white, and it’s being shot at the same Southern California ranch where Herman Mankiewicz worked on the Citizen Kane script. Pretty cool.

  • On the Rocks
  • Release: Not set
  • With Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, Jenny Slate
  • Director: Sofia Coppola

Coppola and Murray’s first collaboration since Lost in Translation is being financed by Apple and A24. The former has already launched its streaming site, but it’s hard to say at this point whether On the Rocks will also have a theatrical run, or how extensive that might be. I’ll find a way to see it in any case.

  • Tenet
  • Release: July 17
  • With John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine
  • Director: Christopher Nolan

2020 Movies 2Nolan is probably the filmmaker you can most count on to appear on these lists since I started making them eight years ago. The movies tend to meet my expectations, too, so there you go. With Tenet, he looks to be back in Inception mode, slowly revealing details about what promises to be a mind-bending sci-fi tale. As I did ten years ago, I don’t need to know much at all at this point to be on board.

  • Tesla
  • Release: Not set
  • With Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Eve Hewson, Jim Gaffigan, Hannah Gross
  • Director: Michael Almereyda

Here’s the third and final biopic I’m very excited about, mostly because Hawke has been cast as the famously handsome inventor, and because Almereyda made one of my favorite biopics of the current decade, Experimenter. (I haven’t quite finished that list. Stay tuned.) This film will premiere at Sundance next month.

  • West Side Story
  • Release: December 18
  • With Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Rita Moreno
  • Director: Steven Spielberg

2020 Movies 3The new tradition of the token Big Hollywood Musical arriving around Christmastime will continue next year. In my opinion, Spielberg is easily the best modern filmmaker to try his hand at the old song-and-dance routine so far, giving me a reason to be optimistic. Moreno taking part is also wonderful.

  • The Whistlers
  • Release: February 28
  • With Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Agustí Villaronga, Cristóbal Pinto, Sergiu Costache
  • Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

Rounding out my list are two movies that have already played at international film festivals. This crime thriller from the droll Romanian director Porumboiu incorporates the whistled language known as El Silbo, so that sounds like a lot of fun right there.

  • Zombi Child
  • Release: January 24
  • With Louise Labeque, Wislanda Louimat, Mackenson Bijou, Katiana Milfort
  • Director: Bertrand Bonello

And last of all, this film was part of the mini-boom of movies about the undead, ghosts and/or mind control at this year’s Cannes. Taking the concept of zombies back to its Haitian roots is always intriguing.

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