Most years, I spend many, many hours in movie theaters, sitting in a sometimes comfy chair in a dark room watching the latest films on a big screen. This year, at least since March, I spent many, many hours in my house, sitting on a very comfy couch – usually with dogs sleeping near or on me – watching the latest films on my TV or laptop.
The arrival of COVID-19 sent the movie business into a tizzy, and theaters were shut down all over the country. Many major movies shifted into 2021, while others decided to premiere on streaming services and video-on-demand platforms. And it meant a shift in workflow for critics like myself: I don’t think I’ve seen as many films ever as I watched this year, and thank goodness for decent Wi-Fi.
We’ve been doing “what to stream” weekly guides for a while now, highlighting high-profile films, hidden gems and everything in between. But you might have missed some stuff!
Streaming breakthrough:HBO Max hits Roku devices Thursday ahead of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ debut
What to stream this weekend:Netflix’s ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,’ disaster movie ‘Greenland’
Assuming folks have made their way through the 100 films we suggested everyone watch at the beginning of quarantine (come on, you’ve had eight months!), here are 100 more movies – all of which debuted on streaming and VOD in 2020 – for every cinematic yearning that you can catch up on during the holidays.
When you need some yuletide cheer
1. “The Christmas Chronicles 2” (Netflix): Kurt Russell (again) proves he’s the best Santa around. This time with a saxophone.
2. “Christmas on the Square” (Netflix): Dolly Parton sings like an angel and plays one, too!
3. “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (Netflix): The rare holiday flick that boosts Black voices and puts an emphasis on female ingenuity.
4. “Dear Santa” (VOD): Good luck not tearing up watching this documentary after hearing kids’ letters to the Man with the Bag.
5. “Happiest Season” (Hulu): The lesbian Christmas rom-com that proves Kristen Stewart‘s funny and Aubrey Plaza rules.
When you need a musical treat
6. “Fisherman’s Friends” (VOD): It’s sea shanties a plenty when British fishermen snag a record deal.
7. “Hamilton” (Disney+): Don’t throw away your shot to watch Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s brilliant show. Lives up the hype and more.
8. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix): Just give the late Chadwick Boseman a best actor Oscar, please and thank you.
9. “The Prom” (Netflix): When you’re done having “Hamilton” on repeat, this joyous, inclusive comedy will be your new fave.
10. “Valley Girl” (VOD): The musical remake of the 1983 flick – with an old-school soundtrack – is totally tubular, man.
When you need to entertain your kids
11. “Over the Moon” (Netflix): Phillipa Soo’s lunar goddess is one seriously cool diva in a super-fun Asian-influenced animated extravaganza.
12. “Scoob!” (VOD, HBO Max): Scooby-Doo and Shaggy get an origin story. Yay! They also meet mean Simon Cowell (who plays himself). Boo!
13. “Trolls World Tour” (VOD): Honestly, it’s worth it to see Kelly Clarkson as a twang-tastic country Troll.
14. “The Willoughbys” (Netflix): A group of adventurous siblings try to get rid of their negligent parents (and you don’t blame them, really).
15. “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV+): You’ll – ahem – wolf down this enchanting Celtic fantasy about family and friendship.
When you’re looking for an inclusive LGBTQ narrative
16. “The Boys in the Band” (Netflix): Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto stand out in the 1960s-set story about the friendships and tensions between gay New Yorkers.
17. “Dating Amber” (VOD): The charming rom-com of sorts centers on a gay teen boy and a lesbian classmate who pretend they’re a straight couple to fit in.
18. “Disclosure” (Netflix): A fascinating – and must-watch – documentary about how trans people are treated in America and how they’re taught to feel about themselves.
19. “The Half of It” (Netflix): A spin on “Cyrano de Bergerac” finds a closeted girl hired to write love notes by a football player – though they’re aimed at her own crush.
20. “To the Stars” (VOD): The coming-of-age teen drama explores the brutal intolerance of conservative 1960s Oklahoma.
When you need sci-fi spectacle
21. “Archive” (VOD): A scientist in the near future develops an artificial intelligence as a way to bring back his dead wife.
22. “Bacurau” (VOD): The weird and Western-tinged plot hinges on a Brazilian village that disappears from maps whose residents don’t take kindly to mercenary strangers.
23. “Love and Monsters” (VOD): Dylan O’Brien befriends a dog in the monster apocalypse and tries to avoid getting crushed by gigantic critters.
24. “Palm Springs” (Hulu): Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg go to a wedding, get caught in a time loop and have existential crises in an innovative rom-com.
25. “The Vast of Night” (Amazon Prime): Spielbergian delight abounds when youngsters investigate weirdness in their 1950s New Mexico town.
When you need something truly quirky
26. “Black Bear” (VOD): Aubrey Plaza rules (again!) as a filmmaker who pits a bickering couple against her for inspiration.
27. “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Netflix): Don’t worry if your brain breaks trying to figure out Charlie Kaufman’s this oddball tale with young love, awkward family dinners and “Oklahoma!”
28. “Tesla” (VOD): The only movie you’ll ever need where Nicola Tesla (Ethan Hawke) gets in an ice-cream fight and sings Tears for Fears at karaoke.
29. “The True Adventures of Wolfboy”: Ultra-hairy kid teams with trans mermaid and pirate queen for a fairy tale about embracing who you are and not what you look like.
30. “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” (VOD): A clever horror comedy that uses a werewolf story as a metaphor for battling addiction.
When you need youthful enthusiasm
31. “Enola Holmes” (Netflix): “Stranger Things” mainstay Millie Bobby Brown gets her own franchise as Sherlock’s sleuthing sister.
32. “The Kissing Booth 2” (Netflix): The “Avengers: Endgame” of young-adult rom-coms, with as many characters plus more dance video-game throwdowns.
33. “Selah and the Spades” (Amazon Prime): Things get Shakespearean at a private Pennsylvania prep school with warring cliques.
34. “Spontaneous” (VOD): A charming high school love story where the kids meet-cute after their classmates inexplicably explode.
35. “Work It” (Netflix): Familiar tropes get a raucous refresh when an underdog brainiac teams up with misfit dancers to pop-and-lock like a champ.
When you need a good cry
36. “Blackbird” (VOD): Break out the hankies when a family matriarch (Susan Sarandon) with ALS gathers loved ones a final time before ending her life.
37. “Clouds” (Disney+): Prepare to be wrecked watching the true-life tale of a teenage boy with terminal cancer whose uplifting song becomes a viral sensation.
38. “Howard” (Disney+): The touching doc chronicles the life of Oscar-winning lyricist Howard Ashman, who worked on “Beauty and the Beast” songs up until his final days.
39. “Miss Juneteenth” (VOD): The moving coming-of-age film centers on a Black woman who enters her independent teen daughter in the same Texas beauty pageant she once won.
40. “Tigertail” (Netflix): An aging Taiwanese man looks back on the hard decisions of his life while finally reconnecting with his estranged grown daughter.
When you need a dose of social justice
41. “All Day and a Night” (Netflix): A young aspiring rapper (Ashton Sanders) ends up in the same prison as his dad (Jeffrey Wright), who wished for a different life for his son.
42. “Mangrove” (Amazon Prime): Letitia Wright leads Steve McQueen’s historical drama centering on police brutality and the London riots that lead to a famous 1971 trial.
43. “Red White and Blue” (Amazon Prime): John Boyega headlines McQueen’s ’80s-set film about a young Englishman who joins the London police to root out racism.
44. “Time” (Amazon Prime): Home-video footage and a thoughtful doc follow a Louisiana woman’s fight to free her husband from a 60-year prison sentence.
45. “The 24th” (VOD): Racial discrimination of an all-Black Army regiment by white locals and cops leads the violent Houston riot of 1917.
When you need some action
46. “Extraction” (Netflix): Chris Hemsworth trades Thor’s hammer for a mercenary’s machine gun but is still damn good at saving the day.
47. “Greenland” (VOD): Don’t count out Gerard Butler when a comet’s about to wipe out humanity!
48. “The Old Guard” (Netflix): Charlize Theron wears the mantle (and the really cool axe) of an immortal warrior well.
49. “The Outpost” (VOD): Scott Eastwood and Orlando Bloom play soldiers in a tense wartime thriller based on real-life American heroes in Afghanistan.
50. “7500” (Amazon Prime): White-knuckle thrills are in store when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s an airline pilot having to fend off a crew of hijackers mid-flight.
When you need a genre-smashing thriller
51. “Antebellum” (VOD): Janelle Monae has dual roles as an enslaved woman and a sociologist in a movie exploring the continuing echoes of America’s original sin.
52. “Archenemy” (VOD): Those yearning for a superhero fix could do worse than watching Joe Manganiello as a de-powered warrior from another dimension.
53. “Becky” (VOD): Kevin James plays a neo-Nazi skinhead who runs afoul of, yep, a clever teen girl.
54. “Run” (Hulu): Hitchcockian intrigue is in store with Kiera Allen as a wheelchair-bound teen who wonders if her overprotective mom (Sarah Paulson) is on the level.
55. “The Wretched” (VOD): There’s a fun ’80s horror vibe at play when a teen boy visiting his divorced dad finds out there’s an evil forest witch living next door.
When you need a laugh
56. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” (VOD): And Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves steal our hearts yet again.
57. “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Prime): Maria Bakalova takes on Rudy Guiliani, steals the sequel from Sacha Baron Cohen.
58. “The Forty Year Old Version” (Netflix): All hail Radha Blank, who might just be the funniest woman most people don’t know about yet.
59. “John Bronco” (Hulu): National treasure Walton Goggins channels Burt Reynolds to be the faux pitchman for the Ford Bronco.
60. “The King of Staten Island” (VOD): Pete Davidson proves he’s a legit star and not just the class clown of “Saturday Night Live.”
When you need a top-notch character-study doc
61. “Dick Johnson Is Dead” (Netflix): Filmmaker Kirsten Johnson crafts an absolutely charming, heartfelt and darkly funny doc about life and death starring her beloved dad.
62. “I Am Greta” (Hulu): The enlightening origin story of Greta Thunberg, the world’s most famous teenage climate activist.
63. “John Lewis: Good Trouble” (VOD): The late congressman and civil-rights icon receives the cinematic tribute he deserves.
64. “The Painter and the Thief” (VOD): A stranger-than-fiction tale is in store when a Czech artist develops a close bond with the man who stole her paintings.
65. “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” (VOD): The “Scream” actor trains to become a real pro wrestler in a super doc that bodyslams expectations.
When you need a solid freakout
66. “The Beach House” (Shudder): Don’t get near the water when an otherworldly menace emerges from the deep.
67. “Black Box” (Amazon Prime): An amnesiac father seeks out a scientist who can help him get his memories back but unlocks something else knocking around in his noggin.
68. “The Cleansing Hour” (Shudder): The web show of a faux exorcist turns chaotic when – oh no! – a special guest actually is possessed by a demon.
69. “His House” (Netflix): Sudanese refugees seek asylum in England and a dark force haunts their new place in a timely, scary flick that sticks to your soul.
70. “Spell” (VOD): Omari Hardwick plays a family man whose plane crashes in Appalachia and he’s taken in by a hoodoo woman with nefarious plans for his body.
When you need a thought-provoking documentary
71. “Athlete A” (Netflix): Investigative journalists dig into the many abuses of USA Gymnastics, including those victimized by Dr. Larry Nassar.
72. “Boys State” (Apple TV+): A thousand teenage Texas boys create a mock state government and uncannily reflect our own political problems.
73. “Dads” (Apple TV+): Bryce Dallas Howard directs a tribute to her own dad, director Ron Howard, as well as looks at a series of real-life devoted fathers with a modern sensibility.
74. “Spaceship Earth” (Hulu): OK, a movie about people stuck inside might not be your first choice, but this story of scientists in a biosphere is nuts and absolutely watchable.
75. “Totally Under Control” (VOD): If you can stand it, Alex Gibney’s look at the way America struggled with containing COVID is eye-opening.
When you need a historical point of view
76. “A Call to Spy” (VOD): Stana Katic leads a crew of Allied spies entrenched in France to disrupt Nazi operations and generally be straight-up heroes.
77. “Greyhound” (Apple TV+): It’s “dad movie” heaven when Tom Hanks plays a World War II Naval commander doing battle at sea with German U-boats.
78. “Mank” (Netflix): David Fincher’s love letter to 1930s Hollywood is a star-packed dive into “Citizen Kane” that’s also about art vs. politics.
79. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix): Aaron Sorkin packs his courtroom drama with an acting dream team from Baron Cohen to Eddie Redmayne – no weak link in sight.
80. “True History of the Kelly Gang” (VOD): The punk-rock 19th-century biopic casts George MacKay as colorful and infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.
When you need a rockin’ doc
81. “All I Can Say” (VOD): The last five years of Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon’s life are captured via videotape.
82. “Beastie Boys Story” (Apple TV+): The surviving members tell their tale that’s part Ted Talk, part “Mystery Science Theater.”
83. “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” (HBO Max): It’s Gibb family drama with a bunch of disco and brotherly love (well, some of the time).
84. “Miss Americana” (Netflix): Just try not to adore Taylor Swift after she admits an awards-show dress makes her look “like a Pop-Tart wrapper.”
85. “Zappa” (VOD): Alex Winter’s deep dive into the life and music of politically minded iconoclast Frank Zappa.
When you need a great performance
86. “Bull” (VOD): Rob Morgan’s superb as an old Black bullfighter who befriends a teen delinquent girl next door.
87. “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix): Spike Lee‘s Vietnam war film has a strong ensemble but Delroy Lindo is magnificent.
88. “Let Them All Talk” (HBO Max): There’s not much better than Meryl Streep holding court on the Queen Mary 2.
89. “The Life Ahead” (Netflix): Sophia Loren returns for the first time in a decade and, boy, have we missed her.
90. “Uncle Frank” (Amazon Prime): Paul Bettany has an amazing mustache and an even better role in an emotional ’70s-set coming-out dramedy.
If you need high-minded horror
91. “Blood Quantum” (Shudder): A zombie apocalypse wipes out humanity except a tribe of Canadian indigenous people.
92. “The Platform” (Netflix): A gory Spanish satire takes class warfare to another level with a prison that feeds the rich and leaves scraps for the poor.
93. “Relic” (VOD): A slow-burn haunted-house flick that doubles as an exploration of the effects of dementia.
94. “Scare Me” (Shudder): A couple of horror writers are snowbound in a cabin and their freaky tales begin to come alive.
95. “She Dies Tomorrow” (VOD): What if simply the thought of dying was as infectious as a deadly virus?
When you need a throwback thriller
96. “Bad Hair” (Hulu): The 1989-set horror satire unleashes a killer weave – no kidding, it totally murders people.
97. “The Devil All the Time” (Netflix): The 1950s Southern noir gives us a guy who drops spiders on his face and an unholy Robert Pattinson with the weirdest drawl ever.
98. “Rebecca” (Netflix): Set in the 1930s, the twisty romantic redo has Armie Hammer marrying Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas chewing scenery.
99. “Shirley” (VOD): Elizabeth Moss inhabits old-school horror author Shirley Jackson in a story as kooky as the writer’s real stories.
100. “Sputnik” (VOD): A Russian cosmonaut in the ’80s brings home a man-eating alien living inside him. Oops!