This article is part of our 2020 return. Follow us and discover the best and most interesting films, shows, performances and more from this very strange year. In this post, we’re escaping the real world for a trip to the best sci-fi and fantasy films of 2020.
Every year our showcase of the best science fiction and fantasy films is a mix of blockbusters and smaller works, as the speculative fiction genres are most enjoyable when they have the biggest spectacular effects or small economic indies with smarter ideas and a focus on the performances are. There was a shorter supply of the former in 2020 as so many tent poles were postponed to 2021 because theaters were closed and / or largely abandoned during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s list sheds light on more of the smaller works anyway, but they really shone, regardless.
The best part about the smaller sci-fi and fantasy films this year is that it’s not just Netflix doing it. Despite what the streaming giant tried to keep audiences at home entertaining, they have few titles on our list while Hulu, Amazon Prime, and most importantly VOD distribution brought us the best of the best works in these genres. This year I excluded animated films because they would have filled too much of the top ten, and I tried not to have too much overlap with our horror list, but that’s difficult when there are a lot of smaller science fiction / fantasy films tend to plunge into horror.
20. The midnight sky
George ClooneyMidnight, the adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s Good Morning, has one of the most intriguing science fiction spaces of the year: Earth has finally reached its breaking point with a catastrophic event that kills most of the world’s population concurrently with the world’s death first manned mission to explore a habitable moon of Jupiter returns home. And communication between them is lost. Until the disappointingly spectacular ending The midnight sky is full of exciting moments and the best space eye candy of the year, even if most of the visual concepts are well known. We needed a great science fiction spectacle this year, even if it’s more breathtaking in its imagery than in its imagination. Available on Netflix.
I am intrigued by the existence of this film, which a year ago had not even been thought of. Written, produced and published during the COVID-19 pandemic, Songbird takes the current situation of humanity and exaggerates it to show what could be worse in a few years. That’s what sci-fi is for, isn’t it? While it is undeniably exploitative, since its speculation is about something that is currently killing a lot of people (that’s actually two things: the virus and the government’s response to the virus), it could have been worse, and I found the storytelling on B- Movie-level entertaining enough and, under the circumstances, impressively executed.
I know I’m in the minority because I accept, let alone like, Songbird. But I really haven’t stopped thinking about this film, if less for its content than for what it was in the context of when and how it was made. However, it would be less interesting if the plot didn’t reflect that context as well. And if Peter Stormare wasn’t as reliable and over the top in his last villain role. Watch out Sofia Carson In something that isn’t a Descendants movie, it’s also a plus to outshine the rest of the interwoven ensemble by performing better than is likely to be required. Available on request.
18. Sonic the Hedgehog
One of the best surprises this year was how much fun it was Sonic the Hedgehog Film is. This video game adaptation was released while we were still enjoying mindless fluff in the cinema (after a 2019 delay to gratefully upgrade the special effects). She did the trick with her basic act from another dimension and her amusing voice of performance Ben Schwartz in the title role. Then it went beyond that Jim Carrey‘s deliciously insidious portrayal of Dr. Robotnik. For the first time in a while, when the fan service successor arrived at the end of a would-be franchise starter, we all cheered. Available on request.
Well-rendered aesthetics and an incredibly annoying children’s performance (by Senan Jennings) raise Garret Shanley and Lorcan Finnegan‘s Vivarium from just a one-note allegory. Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots Play as a couple trapped in a surreal suburban hell after deciding to buy a house together. There is a dark honesty in the portrayal of parenting that comes unexpectedly to the protagonists, which I found weird, and I never got tired of the magrittesque look of the labyrinthine world. Available on Amazon Prime Video.
16. Love and monsters
I’m having trouble plotting Love and monsters (from the scriptwriter Brian Duffieldwhich will reappear later), including its made up makeup, inconsistent narrative structure, and act of shifting the third act out of nowhere, but that’s okay because Dylan O’brien -> actor is still a successful screen personality and especially the monsters are fantastic when we see them. Love and Monsters begins as what appears to be a Zombieland clone but has more heart than cynicism and ends more as a memorable homage to creature traits as diverse as Mysterious Island and Tremors. And yet, strangely enough, the best sequence in the movie involves a randomly inserted robot. Available on request.