13 hidden movie gems of 2020 from Kajillionaire to Rocks

Jill Robi, Ian Sandwell, Gabriella Geisinger
·7-min read

From Digital Spy

2020 has been a weird year for movies to say the least, but even though pretty much all blockbusters have been delayed, there have still been some great movies released at the cinema and at home.

While we've already got our best movies of 2020 list for you to enjoy, we thought there was still room to delve deeper and have a look back at the year for some hidden gems you might have missed first time around.

It could be that they had the misfortune to have their cinema releases affected by the ongoing global situation or were released around the same time as a splashier movie, but now's the time to catch up on the very best that 2020 had to offer at the movies.

There's no particular order to the below as we think you should add every single one to your watchlist.

Make Up

Watch now: BBC iPlayer

Make Up follows teenager Ruth (Molly Windsor) as she travels to a seaside holiday park to stay with her boyfriend, before an unsettling discovery lures her into a spiral of obsession.

It is the perfect setting for Make Up which is both a creepy thriller and coming-of-age story. These two seemingly disparate genres are, as Claire Oakley presents them, not a fusion but rather two sides of the same coin.

The Assistant

Watch now: NOW TV

Skipping a cinema release earlier this year for a video-on-demand premiere, The Assistant centres on a young graduate (Julia Garner) working in a film production company as an assistant who comes to understand the shady behaviours and practices in use.

The movie delivers the kind of tension you'd expect from a thriller, where there's something dangerous lurking around the corner, but there is no Big Bad. Instead, it's the entire system built around protecting one man's ego and power.

Uncorked

Watch now: Netflix

Uncorked is a film about the road not taken for a twenty-something Black man in Memphis. Despite his father's wishes for him to carry on the family restaurant business of smoked ribs and soul food, Elijah (Mamoudou Athie), decides to enter the world of wine.

Despite some pacing issues, Uncorked presents an atypical study into Black families and character building, using a love of wine as a vehicle to resonate with audiences of all colours. (Jill Robi)

The Vast of Night

Watch now: Amazon Prime Video

Arguably a better homage to The Twilight Zone than the Jordan Peele-produced series, The Vast of Night is one of Amazon's best-ever original movies. It's a chilling and ingenious thriller that keeps you guessing long after the credits roll.

Set in the 1950s, The Vast of Night sees teenage DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and his friend Fay (Sierra McCormick) who works as a switchboard operator, encounter something enigmatic. One night, while listening to Everett's show, Fay hears a mysterious audio signal that could be a sign of extraterrestrial life.

Tigertail

Watch now: Netflix

Tigertail marks the directorial debut of Master of None and Forever co-creator Alan Yang that centres on Taiwanese factory worker Pin-Jui (Tzi Ma) who reflects on his life as he reconnects with his estranged daughter.

Released back in April on Netflix, Tigertail is a well-acted, beautiful and moving multi-generational tale, but perhaps ended up being too understated for its own good to make a mark in a month when the likes of Extraction arrived on the streaming giant. At least you can rectify that now.

The Willoughbys

Watch now: Netflix

Another Netflix original that was usurped in the wake of Extraction's splashy, record-breaking debut was quirky and dark family animation The Willoughbys, based on the book of the same name.

With a plot Tim Burton might consider too twisted (the children want to make themselves orphans by killing off their parents), The Willoughbys is packed with wit and invention for anybody who likes their animations to come with a delightfully twisted edge.

The Mortuary Collection

Watch now: Shudder

Horror anthologies can often vary wildly in quality when it comes to the various tales they tell, which makes Shudder's The Mortuary Collection a rarity as each of its twisted tales is as good as the last.

The wraparound tale focuses on a young drifter (Caitlin Custer) as she challenges an eccentric mortician (Clancy Brown) to tell her stories about those who have died in town, leading to an inventive, entertaining and surprising anthology that has a seriously dark sting in its tail.

Kajillionaire

Pre-order: Amazon Prime Video

In Miranda July's Kajillionaire, Evan Rachel Wood's quiet, seething discomfort is palpable through the screen as she stars as Old Dolio, the daughter of a pair of grifters, who embarks on a big con with their new teammate Melanie (Gina Rodriguez).

Things begin to go wrong for the entire clan and especially Old Dolio, leading to an exceptional movie which builds to a final act full of suspense, emotion and awe. And, yes, weirdness.

The Half of It

Watch now: Netflix

Essentially a teen dramedy retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, The Half of It follows shy straight-A student Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) who reluctantly agrees to help school jock Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) write love letters to Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), the girl they both secretly love.

Some points are made with the swing of a hammer, others with careful precision, but in the end – despite the pacing issues that crop up in the last quarter – The Half of It is a strong, slightly familiar and slightly David-Lynchian, love story.

Nocturne

Watch now: Amazon Prime Video

Nocturne was the pick of the first batch of Welcome to the Blumhouse offerings on Amazon Prime Video by some distance, telling the story of a music student who begins to outshine her twin sister after discovering a mysterious notebook.

Nocturne is an unsettling, stylish and thought-provoking thriller proves to be an impressive calling card for debut director Zu Quirke, bolstered by two great lead performances from Sydney Sweeney and Madison Iseman.

Little Joe

Watch now: Amazon Prime Video | iTunes

All plant breeder Alice (Emily Beecham) wants to do is create a new flower that makes its owner happy, and she succeeds with a plant she names "Little Joe" in honour of her son – but things soon go horribly wrong.

A plant-based twist on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Little Joe is a striking, unique and unashamedly weird horror that draws you into its bold world and refuses to let you go.

Dating Amber

Watch now: Amazon Prime Video

A hilarious and affecting coming-of-age comedy, Dating Amber sees best friends Eddie (Fionn O'Shea) and Amber (Lola Petticrew) pretend to be a couple to avoid questions about their sexuality.

Dating Amber might stick to the conventions of the genre, but by putting two queer best friends as the leads, instead of the supportive friend, it feels fresh and relevant, as well as being astutely observed.

Rocks

Watch now: Netflix

Rocks had its cinema release continuously affected this year before coming out in September, ahead of a Netflix release in early October, meaning that people could finally see why it was rightly being called one of the best British movies of 2020.

With a cast comprised almost entirely of newcomers, Rocks is a free-spirited and funny coming-of-age tale that follows the titular character (Bukky Bakray) who fears she'll be forced apart from her little brother, leading her on a quest to evade the authorities with the help of her friends.

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