25 of the most popular movies of 2020
2020 has been a unique year for Hollywood. Many movies have found a second life on streaming platforms as movie lovers watch from home. But not every film this year has wowed. Read on for the most popular movies of 2020, ranked by critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes.
Note: All scores were current on the date of publication and are subject to change.
Reviewers noted that “The New Mutants” felt uneven and unfinished.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 32%
Summary: In “The New Mutants,” five budding X-men. Wolfsbane (Maisie Williams), Magik (Anya Taylor-Joy), Mirage (Blu Hunt), Cannonball (Charlie Heaton), and Sunspot (Henry Zaga.) Live in a safe house where everything is not as it appears.
After years of languishing in production development, “The New Mutants” finally released to a chorus of disappointed film reviews.
“It’s not as awful as it should be,” Peter Gray wrote for This is Film. “Sadly, it’s not as good as it could be either.”
Despite its potential, “Holidate” didn’t follow through.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 46%
Summary: Sick of being berated by nosy relatives all holiday season, Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) decide to platonically pair up to make it through a year’s worth of festivities.
Critics commended the film’s self-aware approach as a new entry in the rom-com genre. But distracting jokes and errant plotlines held it back from its full potential.
‘Holidate’ falls in the bland no-man’s land between being sharp enough to appeal to adults.
Critics said “Scoob!” would please kids more than parents.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 48%
Summary: Scooby-Doo (voiced by Frank Welker) and the Mystery Gang come together to tackle their biggest challenge yet when they face a villain bent on worldwide destruction.
Critics said “Scoob!” was bright and colorful, but also hindered by overly ambitious story arcs that felt disconnected from the original series.
“Despite some clearly well-executed animation and some initial promise, this is decidedly lacking in anything that allows this to stand as little more than an exercise in exploiting intellectual property,” Andrew Gaudion wrote for Films Hounds.
With big laughs but a lazy plot, “Hubie Halloween” earned mixed reviews.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 51%
Summary: On Halloween night, community volunteer Hubie Dubois (Adam Sandler), the self-appointed Halloween Helper, finds himself in over his head as he tries to save Salem, Massachusetts, from an elusive kidnapper.
Dopey and diverting, “Hubie Halloween” was received as a mildly entertaining comedy that was sure to please die-hard Sandler fans.
Distracting CGI held “The Call of the Wild” back from being a fully enthralling drama.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 61%
Summary: Based on the book by Jack London, “The Call of the Wild” follows gold prospector John Thornton (Harrison Ford) and house dog, Buck, as they face harsh conditions in the Alaskan wild.
Messy CGI aside, “The Call of the Wild” earned a fair share of positive praise from critics for staying faithful to the source material in the ways that mattered.
At a time where cynicism reigns, it’s refreshing to call back to the simple thrills of venturing into the unknown.
Critics said it felt formulaic, but “Sonic the Hedgehog” was sure to please young fans.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%
Summary: Based on the Sega video-game franchise, “Sonic the Hedgehog” uses a mix of live-action and animation to bring Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) to the big screen as he faces off against Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
Though not many critics were rushing to call it original, “Sonic the Hedgehog” earned points for being fun for the whole family.
“Family audiences will enjoy it and forget it,” Grant Watson wrote for Fiction Machine. “Anyone with a specific interest in cinema already knows what they are likely to think.”
“Trolls World Tour” as a light, family-friendly adventure.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 70%
Summary: Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) return in “Trolls World Tour” to stop a set of rock-and-roll lovers from destroying the six factions of music.
A lightly told welcome distraction, “Trolls World Tour” is famous for its bright pops of color and catchy, kid-friendly songs.
‘Trolls World Tour’ is not a mind-blowing cinematic achievement. But it is exactly what kids, and parents, need right now.
Related; The Best Movies of 2020 (So Far)
“Tenet” garnered praise and confusion in equal measure.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 71%
Summary: In the mind-bending thriller “Tenet,” a young CIA agent is tasked with preventing a new World War. This is by manipulating the flow of time.
Narratively puzzling but a technical achievement nonetheless, “Tenet” earned its fair share of admirers.
For most critics, “Mulan” was an intriguing take on a Disney classic.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%
Summary: In a modern update of the 1998 Disney animated film, “Mulan” follows Hua Mulan (Liu Yifei.) As she disguises herself as a man to join the front lines of a war against the Rouran warriors. These are led by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee).
With action-packed choreography and female-driven storytelling. “Mulan” was passes as a fitting companion piece for the original film. Even if it didn’t share the same Disney magic.
Although it’s missing the charm and the magic of Disney’s animated classic, its message of acceptance and empowerment is more vital than ever.
Critics said “Bad Boys for Life” added emotional layers to a familiar story.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%
Summary: In the latest entry of the “Bad Boys” franchise, detective Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) partner up once more to take on an old enemy in the fast-paced streets of Miami, Florida.
By and large, critics agreed that “Bad Boys for Life” was a fun action film filled with thrilling sequences and unexpected emotional depth.
Bad Boys for Life’ adds emotional gravitas that wasn’t seen in the previous ‘Bad Boys’ films.
“Birds of Prey” kept critics on the edge of their seats.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%
Summary: In the follow-up to “Suicide Squad” (2016), a freshly single Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) helms a vigilante crew of unexpected allies after crime boss Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) puts a price on her head.
Fueled by humor and frenetic energy, “Birds of Prey” was a strong addition to the DC Universe.
MontiLee Stormer called the superhero comedy “darkly comic and colorful” as well as “engaging without being too over-the-top.”
Critics called “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” a haunting drama.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
Summary: A young woman (Jessie Buckley) agrees to meet her boyfriend’s (Jesse Plemons) parents, but their daylong road trip soon spirals into a disturbing and transformative experience that neither of them could have anticipated.
Not for the faint of heart, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” was praised as a dark, disorienting, and inventive entry from filmmaker Charlie Kaufman.
The stars of “Bill and Ted Face the Music” were welcomed back like old friends.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%
Summary: When Bill Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted Logan (Keanu Reeves) are challenged with the seemingly impossible task of composing a song that will save the fate of human-kind, they decide to travel through time to steal it from their future selves.
It may have leaned a little too much into its wacky nature at times, but “Bill and Ted Face the Music” served as a welcome return for fans of Reeves and Winters.
“Somehow it works,” Danny Leigh wrote for the Financial Times. “Remarkably, you may party on.”
“Just Mercy,” elevated by powerful performances and strong messages.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%
Summary: Based on the true story Bryan Stevenson recorded in his book by the same name, “Just Mercy” follows Harvard graduate Bryan (Michael B. Jordan) as he takes on his first big case and defends Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man who faces murder charges and fights to prove his innocence.
Critics agreed that “Just Mercy” was shot through with enough idealism and powerhouse acting. Enough to make up for any narrative missteps.
Critics showered Ben Affleck in praise for his turn in “The Way Back.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%
Summary: Stuck reliving his glory days, former-basketball-star-turned-coach Jack Cunningham (Affleck) tries to restore his reputation as he tries to recover from an alcohol addiction.
Affleck blew critics away with his vulnerable and magnetic central performance in “The Way Back.”
“Affleck gives his first truly transformative, vanity-free performance as an alcoholic high-school basketball coach in this otherwise familiar underdog sports yarn,” Kevin Maher wrote for the Times.
“Emma.” moved swiftly along with sweeping visuals and charming wit.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%
Summary: Based on the novel by Jane Austen, the movie follows Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she comes of age in Regency-era England and meddles in the romantic lives of her family and friends.
Although it had a slow build-up, the film was quickly praised by critics for its gorgeous visuals and infectious wit.
“It takes a while for ‘Emma.’ to find its groove but once it gets there it’s a delight,” Adam Graham reviewed for the Detroit News. “The source material is too good to disappoint.”
Imperfect, but charming, “Onward” moved most critics to tears.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
Summary: In Pixar’s “Onward,” bickering brothers Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt) embark on a journey to unearth lost magic and bring their father back for a day.
Although the trademark Pixar magic started to fade for some, critics largely received “Onward” as a dazzling animated movie with a wellspring of emotion.
“‘Onward’ might not quite hit the zenith of the gargantuan Pixar mountain, but it’s just one more burst of gas away from that sky-high summit,” wrote Flickering Myth critic Tom Beasley.
“Unpregnant” was praised for balancing heart with comedy.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%
Summary: Based on the novel by Jenni Hendricks and Ted Caplan, the HBO Max film follows seemingly perfect teen Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) and her former best friend (Barbie Ferreira) as they embark on a road trip from Missouri to New Mexico so Veronica can get an abortion without parental consent.
“Unpregnant” took a serious subject and turned it into a heartfelt, comedic film about friendship.
“Nevertheless, the film’s solid grounding in friendship and comic teamwork carries the day,” wrote critic Roger Ebert. “‘Unpregnant’ becomes more affecting as it goes along thanks to the sincere, committed, and mostly unaffected lead performances by Richardson and Ferreira.”
Critics singled out Elisabeth Moss’ performance in “The Invisible Man.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%
Summary: In the horror-thriller “The Invisible Man,” Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) emerges from an abusive relationship but can’t shake the idea that her ex-boyfriend is watching her every step.
A cerebral and inventive thriller, “The Invisible Man” stayed with critics long after they left the theater, namely due to Moss’ lead performance.
“Moss brings full life to her characters,” film critic Victor Pineyro wrote. “What an amazing and capable actress.”
Critics enjoyed unlocking and unpacking the mysteries in “Enola Holmes.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%
Summary: After her mother goes missing, Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) gives her brothers Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Claflin) the slip as she takes matters into her own hands.
Carried by Brown’s indelible charm, “Enola Holmes” was warmly received as a smart and enthralling mystery thriller.
“So delightfully subversive that it deserves to become a Netflix series,” wrote film critic Susan Granger.
“Da 5 Bloods” was praised as one of the best dramas of 2020.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
Summary: In Spike Lee’s war drama “Da 5 Bloods” four veterans (Delroy Lindo, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Clarke Peters, and Norm Lewis) return to Vietnam to unearth buried treasure and honor their fallen squad leader (Chadwick Boseman).
In the hands of a capable director and a magnificent cast, “Da 5 Bloods” earned a spot on many critics’ lists as one of the best films of the year.
“‘Da 5 Bloods’ runs two hours and thirty-four minutes, but it’s not a second too long,” wrote Richard Brody in his review for the New Yorker. “On the contrary, it feels compressed, bustling, and frenzied with its intellectual and dramatic energy.”
Humor and creative storytelling helped “Palm Springs” stand out.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
Summary: While attending a wedding in Palm Springs, California, reluctant maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) finds herself inexplicably drawn to easygoing Nyles (Andy Samberg), who hides an unbelievable secret.
“Palm Springs” impressed critics with its humor and heart, while setting itself apart as a refreshing addition to the rom-com genre.
“An uplifting and optimistic piece of escapism that looks to the future after realizing we can’t dwell in the present forever … arguably the perfect film to watch in 2020,” wrote Starburst magazine critic Sol Harris.
Critics marveled at the passionate performances in “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%
Summary: In the period drama “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” French painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to create a portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) while living in a nobleman’s manor that invites intimacy behind closed doors.
Awash with beautiful cinematography and filtered through a powerful female lens, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” earned high marks from critics around the world.
“French director Céline Sciamma’s fourth feature film … ventures into period cinema in a new way, with expressive vigor and meticulous attention to scenographic details,” wrote Carlos Bonfil for La Jornada.
Positive praise poured in for “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%
Summary: Blindsided by an unexpected pregnancy, Pennsylvania teen Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) heads north with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) to plan a way forward.
Emotional without ever edging into melodrama, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” was praised as a must-see.
“‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ shows with such clarity that there is a world of women’s stories existing underneath the surface that desperately need to be told,” Curtsies and Hand Grenades critic Willow Maclay wrote.
The drama “Miss Juneteenth” captivated critics.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%
Summary: In the drama “Miss Juneteenth, ” single mother and former beauty queen Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie) raises her daughter (Alexis Chikaeze) to follow in her pageantry footsteps.
With painfully realized details and master-class performances, “Miss Juneteenth” earned overwhelming acclaim from critics.