Midway through the year is the perfect time to take stock of what an embarrassment of riches our film culture has become. The movie year, after all, tends to be back-loaded, with most of the films that become awards contenders premiering at fall festivals and opening during the last three months of the year. But 2020 is destined to go down as a time when many of our assumptions about movies — when they open, where we watch them, what we want from them — are put on hold, and maybe even called into question. Suddenly, everything is up for grabs.
Which means that now, more than ever, is the time to remind ourselves that “movies” and “the fall/winter awards season” are not interchangeable concepts. The flow of cinema doesn’t come in fits and starts; it’s there, every day, to nurture movie lovers and carry them along. And looking back at 2020 so far, we’re frankly dazzled at all the movies we saw that we loved. If the pandemic had never happened, of course, we’d have a number of other major studio films to choose from, since with rare exceptions (like “Trolls World Tour”) those more or less ceased coming out in the middle of March. Yet make no mistake: We consider every movie on this list to be major. A few are small in scale, but they’re all breathtaking experiences. And since for a while, at least, all of us are watching everything at home, playing catch-up with the year’s best movies so far fits more perfectly than ever into that rhythm.