Our pick of the movies to stream now

(Image: Supplied)
(Image: Supplied)

In 2020, Showmax released its strongest line-up of movies ever, including three of the 10 biggest box office hits of 2020 (Sonic the Hedgehog, Dolittle & Invisible Man), three 2020 Oscars winners (1917, Bombshell & Rocketman), the 2020 Golden Globe Best Drama winner (1917), and the 2020 Outstanding TV Movie Emmy winner (Bad Education). This was good timing, since lockdown saw a significant shift from South Africans watching movies on Showmax over weekends to during the week.  Every night was movie night in 2020. Showmax rounds up 12 of their biggest films of 2020 below, from awards favourites to box office hits. 

Best drama movie: Bad Education

HBO’s Bad Education was named Outstanding TV Movie at the 2020 Emmys.

Based on a true story, Bad Education follows Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) and Pam Gluckin (Oscar winner Allison Janney), whose reign over a prestigious school district is threatened by the single largest public school embezzlement scheme in America’s history, which was uncovered by a student journalist.

Bad Education has a 94% critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics consensus is, “Anchored by an outstanding Hugh Jackman, Bad Education finds absurd laughs - and a worthy message - in the aftermath of a real-life scandal.”

Best war movie: 1917

Oscar winner Sam Mendes (Skyfall) brings his singular vision to his World War I epic, 1917, which won three 2020 Oscars and two 2020 Golden Globes, for Best Drama and Best Director. 

At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield and Blake are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers - Blake’s own brother among them. Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth co-star.  1917 has an 89% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which says, “Hard-hitting, immersive, and an impressive technical achievement, 1917 captures the trench warfare of World War I with raw, startling immediacy.”

Best horror movie (shared): The Invisible Man

Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) stars in The Invisible Man, which is at #6 on Empire’s list of the best films of 2020, #8 on BoxOfficeMojo’s roundup of the highest-grossing films of 2019 globally, and was a 2020 People Choice’s nominee for Favourite Movie.   

When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turns lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see. Inspired by HG Wells’s novel, The Invisible Man is adapted and directed by award-winning horror aficionado Leigh Whannell, who co-created the Saw franchise.  

The Invisible Man won Best Adapted Screenplay and Elisabeth Moss was named Best Actress at the Hollywood Critics Association’s 2020 Midseason Awards. The nail-biting horror also has a 91% critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Rolling Stone saying, “Alive with fresh thinking from Whanell and a dynamite Elisabeth Moss, this socially conscious horrorshow tips the old monster mash into way scarier sh*t about toxic masculinity that's as timely as #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs.”

Best horror movie (shared): Us 

Kenyan Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o earned a 2020 Screen Actors’ Guild Award Best Actress nomination as Adelaide Wilson, a woman returning to her beachside childhood home with her husband, Gabe (Black Panther’s Winston Duke), and their two children. But their idyllic summer getaway turns to chaos when their doppelgängers begin to terrorise them. 

Directed by Jordan Peele, Us has now won 70 awards and has a 93% critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, who listed it at #1 on their list of the best-reviewed horror movies of all times and #2 behind Black Panther on their list of The 100 Best Black Movies Of The 21st Century. As The Wall Street Journal says, “It's compulsory seeing for everyone who loves the horror genre, the movie medium and the notion of saying sage things about contemporary life without straying from entertainment's twisty path.”

Special mentions:

Best musical movie: Rocketman

Rocketman, the fantastical musical biopic of Sir Elton John, scooped the 2020 Oscar for Best Original Song for I’m Gonna Love Me Again, co-written by Elton and his long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin.   

Rock biopic meets musical fantasy in this fabulous rollercoaster of a movie about a little boy called Reginald Kenneth Dwight, who grew up to be one of the greatest musical icons of all time. It’s a celebration of the music, the dreams, and the larger-than-life persona that’s made Elton a legend. But it’s also the story of his struggle with addiction, and of his friendship with Bernie, which helped him through.

As Elton, Taron Egerton won the 2020 Golden Globe and was nominated for BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, People’s Choice and Teen Choice awards. Rocketman has an 89% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics consensus says, “It's going to be a long, long time before a rock biopic manages to capture the highs and lows of an artist's life like Rocketman.”

Special mention: 

  • Yesterday is about an alternate reality where only one man can remember The Beatles, nominated in 2020 for Best Foreign Film by the Awards of the Japanese Academy and the Goya Award for Best European Film

Best ripped-from-the-headlines movie: Bombshell 

Based on a true story, this blockbuster drama is led by Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman with Oscar nominee Margot Robbie, all three of whom, Rolling Stone says, “come out blazing in this tale of how the women of Fox News brought down a predatory CEO.”

In 2020 Bombshell won the Oscar and the BAFTA for Best Makeup, with Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Best Lead Actress (Theron) and Best Supporting Actress (Robbie). The supporting cast includes Oscar winner Allison Janney and Emmy winner Kate McKinnon, with Oscar nominee John Lithgow as Roger Ailes.

Los Angeles Times calls it “a ferociously entertaining dramatization of how an unlikely group of women exposed and deposed media titan Roger Ailes... as harrowing as it is triumphant in its depiction of the way it all came to pass.” 

Best period movie: Harriet

Harriet tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and transformation into one of America's greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

This powerful film is led by rising star Cynthia Erivo (The Outsider) in the title role, for which she received 2020 Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. Harriet was also nominated for a 2020 Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song for Stand Up.

Comedy: Booksmart 

On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars realise they should have worked less and played more. Determined to catch up with their peers, the best friends try to cram four years of fun into one night.

Beanie Feldstein (Jenna in What We Do In The Shadows) earned a 2020 Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical as Molly. Golden Globe nominee Kaitlyn Dever (Unbelievable) co-stars as her best friend Amy.

The directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde, Booksmart has won over 20 awards, including Best Debut at the 2020 Online Film Critics Society Awards and Film Independent Spirit Awards. Booksmart has a 96% critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics consensus says, “Fast-paced, funny, and fresh, Booksmart does the seemingly impossible by adding a smart new spin to the coming-of-age comedy.”

Special mentions: 

  • Like a Boss, with Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek, the 25th biggest box office hit of 2020
  • Little, starring Issa Rae (Insecure) and Marsai Martin (Diane in Black-ish), who won 2020 Image Awards for Outstanding Breakthrough Performance and Outstanding Supporting Actress
  • Good Boys, a 2020 Young Entertainer Awards nominee for Best Young Ensemble Cast

Best crime movie: Hustlers 

Inspired by a true story and the viral New York Magazine article it sparked, Hustlers centres on a crew of former strippers who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients.

Golden Globe nominees Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians) and Julia Stiles lead an all-star cast that includes Keke Palmer, three-time Teen Choice winner Lili Reinhart (Riverdale), and Grammy winners Lizzo and Cardi B.

Lopez was nominated for a 2020 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the role, which had Rolling Stone gushing, “A Best Actress Oscar nomination for Jennifer Lopez? You better believe it. As a stripper who can work a pole better than rivals half her age, Lopez is that dazzling, that deep, that electrifying. This you don't want to miss.” Hustlers has an 87% critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Slate calling it “a pretty much perfect film… an immediate entrant into the pantheon of female friendship movies.... you can feel its heartbeat”.

Best action movie: John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum 

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run after killing a member of the international assassins' guild. With a $14 million price tag on his head, he is the target of hitmen and women everywhere...

The movie was a 2020 Critics’ Choice nominee for Best Action Movie and won the 2020 Best Stunt Work award from the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society Awards, and the World Stunt Awards. 

The all-star cast also includes Oscar winners Halle Berry and Anjelica Huston.  

Special mentions: 

Best Animation: How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 

Inseparable besties Hiccup and Toothless, the big screen’s most adorable dragon ever, are back for their final adventure. Hiccup and Astrid have created a utopia for dragons and vikings alike, but now a new danger threatens everything they love, just as Toothless finds a potential girlfriend… 

In 2020, The Hidden World was nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, as well as a Golden Globe, six Annies and a Critics' Choice Award. It has a 90% critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics’ consensus says: “The rare trilogy capper that really works, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World brings its saga to a visually dazzling and emotionally affecting conclusion.”

Jay Baruchel (This Is The End) reprises his Emmy-winning role as Hiccup, alongside Golden Globe winner America Ferrera (Superstore) as Astrid. 

Special mentions

  • The Secret Life of Pets 2, a 2020 Kids’ Choice nominee for Favourite Animated Movie
  • Abominable, nominated for four 2020 Annie Awards and a 2020 Critics' Choice Award for Best Animated Feature

Best family movie: Sonic The Hedgehog 

Based on the global blockbuster video game franchise from Sega, Sonic the Hedgehog tells the story of the world’s speediest hedgehog as he embraces his new home on Earth. In this live-action adventure comedy, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz from Parks and Recreation) and his new best friend Tom (James Marsden) team up to defend the planet from the evil genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and his plans for world domination.

Sonic the Hedgehog is currently the fourth biggest film of 2020 at the global box office, having grossed over $300m. In a four-star review, Common Sense Media recommends the movie for ages eight and up, calling it “a laugh-until-you-turn-blue fun film for the family to enjoy together.“

Special mentions 

  • Dolittle, the fifth biggest film of 2020 at the global box office, starring Robert Downey Jr, a 2020 People’s Choice nominee for Favourite Male Movie Star. Streaming from 7 January
  • Dora And The Lost City of Gold, winner of three Imagen Awards, including Best Film

And there’s more …  Check out everything on Showmax in December here, including the multi-award-winning The Song of Names; the Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning romcom, A Rainy Day in New York; the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction HBO documentary Baby God; and the Critics' Choice-nominated HBO documentary Showbiz Kids, featuring the likes of Henry Thomas (Elliott in E.T.), Mara Wilson (Matilda in Matilda), Evan Rachel Wood, Jada Pinkett Smith and Milla Jovovich.  

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