Doesn’t Parasite winning the Best Picture Oscar feel like it happened a million years ago? As a matter of fact, it happened on the morning of 10 February, Singapore time, just a few weeks before the world went into lockdown. For any movie released after that point, chances are you caught it on one (quite small, non-cinematic) screen at home. That doesn’t make the emotions provoked or landscapes traversed by these films any less legitimate, though, no matter what Christopher Nolan might think.
But if the medium is the message, then Netflix has been the undisputed messenger of 2020. It’s brought us stories of spunk, sex, and savoir faire, and lessons of hope and bravery to carry us through the worst months of the pandemic and into the brighter future of 2021. Having dropped nearly 200 original movies to audiences around the globe, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the platform has afforded you at least one or two reasons to stay safely at home for at least ninety minutes this year.
Whether you’re a casual viewer or a cinema snob, we’ve done the hard work for you and rounded up just a few of the best and brightest on Netflix’s slate—the ones you don’t want to have missed. You’ve still got a few days of the year left to snuggle up on the couch and be regaled by the magic of this year’s movies. Then: on to 2021, and hundreds of new cinematic stories!
1 / 10
The Social Dilemma
The festive family gathering period may almost be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still confront your conspiracy-mongering uncle or aunt with the hard facts about what exactly social media is doing to our brains. Dispelling myths and sounding alarm bells in turn, this documentary-drama is a clear-eyed exploration of how social media addiction is carefully cultivated by companies. Privacy breaches? Not a result of faulty wiring, but a deliberate feature of certain platforms. This one’s for influencers and technophobes alike; just be prepared to feel the itch to deactivate all your social media accounts after finishing it.
Watch The Social Dilemma now
2 / 10
Did you know this was the most-watched action title on Netflix in Singapore this year? There’s a two-word reason for that: Avengers alum. Not only does the film star Thor—that is, Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth—but it’s produced by Marvel veterans, the Russo Brothers. With some truly spectacular stunt work backing up a thrilling screenplay, Extraction finds Hemsworth truly in his element. The man oozes charisma as a mercenary with a heart of gold, racing against the clock to save a drug lord’s kidnapped son. Expect explosions galore—and a sequel that’s expected to begin production early next year.
Watch Extraction now
3 / 10
The Half of It
The Half of It dropped exactly at the right time, smack-dab in the middle of the circuit breaker period, when we needed it most. Leah Lewis plays Ellie Chu, a gifted introvert who’s hopelessly in love with the school’s golden girl, Aster Flores. Too shy to voice her feelings directly to her crush, she instead coaches a goodhearted jock—who’s also sweet on Aster—through the art of high school romance. A revelation of LGBTQ+ cinema and a tender coming-of-age story that packs a wallop, The Half of It is by far and away one of the best movies to come out of 2020. Ellie finds out she has a voice, discovering who she really is in the process—and the viewer will practically leap out of their seat to cheer her on as she does it.
Watch The Half of It now
4 / 10
Da 5 Bloods
A journey into madness and a genuinely haunting reminder of the theatres of war. Four brothers-in-arms search for what they lost in Vietnam, pursuing a fortune in gold even as the ghost of their past pursues them. An anguished howl of a movie, director Spike Lee employed some genuinely innovative tactics in making Da 5 Bloods, blazing a new trail through the well-trod jungles of the war film. Fascinatingly, Lee doesn’t use younger actors to portray the four veterans in flashback sequences—rather, the middle-aged men are double-cast as themselves in both the modern day and back in the Vietnam War. This makes for genuine comedy, making Da 5 Bloods nearly a dark farce in places, alleviating an otherwise unrelenting intense blast of emotional agony about how history is disturbed.
Watch Da 5 Bloods now
5 / 10
This one will have you sleeping with the lights on. Especially if you loved Train to Busan (and its wretchedly disappointing 2020 sequel, Peninsula), #Alive is your next great watch. Sliding quietly into home plate over the summer, the film adds another worthy notch to South Korea’s already formidable horror belt. It chronicles a laid-back gamer’s desperate attempts to stay alive as the wolves (read: zombies) bay at his door. Many reviewers have drawn timely parallels between the movie’s horrors and the true-to-life struggles faced by those in isolation this year. Will you see yourself reflected in #Alive? There’s only one way to find out.
Watch #Alive now
6 / 10
The Old Guard
What’s not to love about an axe-wielding, ass-kicking Charlize Theron and her squad of immortal warriors? The Old Guard has some of the best action sequences available to streaming audiences this year, and a central tribe of surprisingly compelling characters who are its beating heart. Based on a comic book of the same name, The Old Guard is fun and fast-paced, part superhero flick, part mercenary revenge-fest. But it’s all guts and glory, and a slick way to end your viewing pleasures of 2020.
Watch The Old Guard now
7 / 10
Between a BBC series, Guy Ritchie’s two middling flicks, more than a hundred episodes of Elementary, and a Will Ferrell parody that just might double as the worst movie of all time, many viewers might be rightly sick to the back teeth of Baker Street. That’s why it’s so much fun to watch someone run rings around the gentleman detective, especially when it’s Millie Bobby Brown. She stars as Holmes’ precocious little sister, Enola, in this whip-smart adaptation of Nancy Springer’s teen novels. With a charming message about equality and individuality, this one’s for everyone’s inner child—and inner sleuth.
Watch Enola Holmes now
8 / 10
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who will love Charlie Kaufman’s mind-bender, and those who hate it. Even if you’re one of those who can’t quite wrap their head around why half of the population relishes the ambiguities of Kaufman’s tricky filmography, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is well worth your time. Full of subtle twists and turns, at its core the movie is a probe into acute loneliness and what humans will do to avoid it. If it weren’t for the high production value and A-lister talent, it might be considered mumblecore. That said, powerful performances from the likes of Jesse Plemons and Toni Colette keep it from dipping too far into the realm of the navel-gazers. With the electric current of uncertainty and vague fear that plagues its unnamed female protagonist throughout the movie, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is just the film for our times.
Watch I’m Thinking of Ending Things now
9 / 10
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom drama is a historical record with an attitude. Yes, it’s a little cheesy and has a little too much faith in the ultimate success of the American experiment, but it’s razor-sharp in its wit and hits more than one bulls-eye in its portrayal of the fallout of a violent clash between police and protestors. This one is essential viewing, especially after the worldwide protests in the wake of the summer’s murder of George Floyd at the hands of the American police. What else could compel you to tune in? Yahya Abdul-Mateen II absolutely knocks it out of the park with his portrayal of Black Panthers leader Bobby Seale. Jeremy Strong is such a method actor that he reportedly begged Sorkin to actually tear-gas him in the protest scene. Michael Keaton shows up without warning at the 70-minute mark. It’s just, as Sacha Baron-Cohen’s Abbie Hoffman would say, friggin’ great.
Watch The Trial of the Chicago 7 now
10 / 10
BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky
If you’ve ever wondered exactly what the secret recipe of Korean girl group BLACKPINK might be, what explains the group’s meteoric success and wildly devoted fan following, this documentary offers the most cogent and compelling explanation yet. Detailing each member’s struggles and triumphs in turn, director Caroline Suh’s incendiary film pulls back the curtain on not only BLACKPINK, but also the K-pop industry as a whole. Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa emerge as individuals in their own right, which makes the doc a perfect introduction for anyone who’s ever wanted to stan the group, but doesn’t quite know where to begin.
Watch BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky now