IMDb Picks: The Best Movies & Shows of 2020

by IMDb-Editors | last updated - 1 week ago

IMDb staff weigh in on their absolute favorite films and TV shows of the year.

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Pedro Pascal and Temuera Morrison in The Mandalorian (2019)

"The Mandalorian" | Available to Stream on Disney Plus

For two seasons now, my family has put aside our competing interests and gathered around the streaming device every Friday to watch "The Mandalorian." Creator John Favreau and executive producer Dave Filoni seem to have cracked the Star Wars code by creating a series that taps into the deep lore that superfans love, while keeping it accessible to casual fans. This is the return to Star Wars I've been waiting for since I was a kid. — James

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen's Gambit (2020)

"The Queen's Gambit" | Available to Stream on Netflix

Excellent pacing and storytelling. It was engaging throughout the whole series. The setting of the Cold War in America greatly complemented the story. Even though there were many chess games throughout the series, they managed to make each game interesting and unique. Excellent performance by Anya Taylor-Joy. 10/10 for me. — Shaan

Olivia Colman in The Crown (2016)

"The Crown" | Available to Stream on Netflix

2020 brought us another glorious season of "The Crown," though it sadly marks Olivia Colman's final outing as Queen Elizabeth II before the lovely Imelda Staunton takes on the role. Spanning the end of the '70s and the start of our favorite music and fashion decade, Season 4 also brought the introduction of Diana, Princess of Wales, played by newcomer Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher. The the shoulder pads, big hair, and punk rock/new wave soundtrack were an added bonus. — Vanessa

Laz Alonso, Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Tomer Capon, and Karen Fukuhara in The Boys: Over the Hill with the Swords of a Thousand Men (2020)

"The Boys" | Available to Stream on Prime Video

Season 2 sealed it: "The Boys" is one of our favorite superhero adaptations of all time. Offering a darker take on the way "heroes" might use their powers than you’ll see from Marvel or DC, the series provides a mix of over-the-top gore and heartwarming character beats. We’re not sure what’s next in Butcher’s crusade against The Seven in Season 3, but we can highly recommend bingeing the first two seasons until we find out. Just wait until the kids are asleep. — Marcus

Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul (2015)

"Better Call Saul" | Available to Stream on Netflix

If, like me, you've scoffed at the commentary about "Better Call Saul" eclipsing the legendary series that is "Breaking Bad" might be time to get on board. The story of Jimmy McGill before he was Saul Goodman holds much more hope than its predecessor. Plus, more screen time for Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) is always a good thing. Give this show a shot, and you're likely to binge it and be up-to-speed before Season 6 arrives in 2021. — Hannah

Jason Sudeikis in Ted Lasso (2020)

"Ted Lasso" | Available to Stream on Apple TV +

"Ted Lasso" was easily my favorite series of 2020, and one that I continue to recommend to anyone within earshot. If you’re looking for a heartfelt, feel-great comedy series that doubles down on the themes of kindness, hope, forgiveness, and personal growth, (and feels almost revolutionary for embracing all of these things), then give this series a try. — Vanessa

Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, and David Stern in The Last Dance (2020)

"The Last Dance" | Available to Stream on Netflix

This highly anticipated 10-part ESPN docu-series detailing the rise of Michael Jordan and the unstoppable ‘97/’98 Chicago Bulls features never-before-seen footage that's juicy, even to the passive sports enthusiast. When Netflix scooped it up, it was a slam dunk with fans aching to hear the squeak of sneakers on the court after March Madness was cancelled this year. I watched in awe of Michael's talent — his ferocity and unyielding drive to win are unmatched. — Hannah

Ben Schwartz and Thomas Middleditch in Middleditch & Schwartz (2020)

"Middleditch & Schwartz" | Available to Stream on Netflix

If you have ever loved improv, please do yourself a favor and watch these three long-form specials. They’re outstanding. I knew both of these actors from their work on "Silicon Valley" and "Parks and Recreation," respectively, but had no idea what talents they were. — Sarah

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr. in Hamilton (2020)

Hamilton | Available to Stream on Disney Plus

You could argue that watching Hamilton on the small screen is not exactly being in the room where it happened, but don’t throw away your shot to see Lin-Manuel, Leslie, Daveed, Renée, and the rest of the spectacular founding cast in the original Broadway production. The show provides a taste of the theater that we desperately missed in 2020. Raise a glass! — Marcus

Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace in My Brilliant Friend (2018)

"My Brilliant Friend" | Available to Stream on HBO Max

I get a bit breathless when recommending this show, the adaptation of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels that tracks the triumphs, disappointments, and mysteries of two women who grew up together on the outskirts of Naples. Thoughts of Season 2 consumed my waking and sleeping hours this year, with "The Ghosts" ranking as the finest hour of TV I’ve seen in some time. — Arno

Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Annie Murphy, and Dan Levy in Schitt's Creek (2015)

"Schitt's Creek" | Available to Stream on Netflix and IMDb TV

The best TV advice I took this year was to watch the final two episodes of "Schitt's Creek" back to back, if only to save on tissues. — Arno

Cas Anvar, Wes Chatham, Steven Strait, and Dominique Tipper in The Expanse (2015)

"The Expanse" | Available to Stream on Prime Video

Five seasons in and "The Expanse" continues to thrill us with its "Game of Thrones" levels of political intrigue, tense interplanetary standoffs, and real-world science based sci-fi. If you like your sci-fi gritty and rough around the edges, it’s time to invest in the 57+ episode binge. — Vanessa

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Normal People: Episode #1.12 (2020)

"Normal People" | Available to Stream on Hulu

This show aired here in the UK on BBC Three early in lockdown and we watched it together as a family – our “kids” are a few years older than the characters so do not worry! The story is compelling and both Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal are excellent in the leading roles. It was a real honour for IMDb to be able to recognise Daisy via a STARmeter award based upon how her performance in the show resonated with IMDb’s customers. — Col

Sometimes a show comes along that lingers with you long after, and “Normal People” held that connection with me this year. With brilliantly nuanced performances from Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones as the leads, I felt ALL the emotions alongside Connell and Marianne – two extremely flawed, beautiful, relatable (and sometimes downright infuriating!) characters that I became deeply invested in. As soon as I finished the series, I picked up the novel to revisit my journey with them and uncovered a rare instance where the book and its on-screen adaptation are equally good. — Alicia

Padma Lakshmi in Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi (2020)

"Taste the Nation With Padma Lakshmi" | Available to Stream on Hulu

This year, no other TV series felt more vital to me than "Taste the Nation, as "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi stepped away from the world of reality competitions to travel the US and connect with local communities, restauranteurs, and farmers who illustrate how the immigrant experience shapes and defines what it is to be truly American. — Arno

Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Manny Jacinto, and Jameela Jamil in The Good Place (2016)

"The Good Place" | Available to Stream on Netflix

"The Good Place" is a testament to human growth and goodness, and it's one of the funniest and most surprising series we've ever seen. While it ended in 2020, we'll be revisiting the show for many years to come. If you don't know what it's about, it's best to go in cold and discover the magic of the show for yourself. Trust us, everything is fine. — Marcus

Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You (2020)

"I May Destroy You" | Available to Stream on HBO Max

The topic of sexual assualt is a tough sell as entertainment, but "I May Destroy You" captivated me in a way that other great 2020 shows somehow couldn't even come close. It's a jolt of creative energy, and I never anticipated which direction the story would go from week to week. Creator/star Michaela Coel's voice is confrontational, funny, and insightful, but this never once feels like the kind of show "you really should watch" because it's on President Barack Obama's favorites list. — James

Soul (2020)

Soul | Available to Stream on Disney Plus Dec. 25

The very best Pixar films hold the mirror up to moviegoers and help them realize that what they're looking for in life has been right in front of them all along. And in that regard, this sweet and smart jazz riff of a movie, creatively coaxed by Pete Docter (Up and Inside Out) and Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami), is vintage stuff. Soul reminds us all that, in the effort to become who we are meant to be, the joy and the inspiration are in the struggle! Everyone, but especially artists, will appreciate Joe Gardner's (Jamie Foxx) journey, and Tina Fey fans will love her intelligent, precocious, and lovably bratty sidekick character named 22. — Bret

Robbie Amell and Andy Allo in Upload (2020)

"Upload" | Available to Stream on Prime Video

Way, way better than it needed to be for its premise. Fun, clever, twisty, and moving, with charming lead performances. — Sarah

Shira Haas in Unorthodox: Part 1 (2020)

"Unorthodox" | Available to Stream on Netflix

Shira Haas received a much-deserved nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series for her role in "Unorthodox" at the 2020 Emmys. The young, Israeli actress’ portrayal of Esty illustrates a unique journey of self-discovery, and Haas makes us feel the tension and fear experienced in Esty's choice between her religious community and a new, secular life. — Hannah

Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle in PEN15 (2019)

"PEN15" | Available to Stream on Hulu

I’ve watched so much trash TV this year ("Selling Sunset," I’m looking at you), but of the truly good TV I watched "PEN15" was the best hidden gem. Highly recommend if you haven’t seen it yet, it got a 9 for me only because I docked a point for second-hand awkwardness. — Courtney

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in Never Have I Ever (2020)

"Never Have I Ever" | Available to Stream on Netflix

Watching Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) navigate the perils of high school struck a chord with me, and fans worldwide. Set in the Bay Area, "Never Have I Ever" hits refresh on the coming-of-age high school drama, honing in on Devi's Indian and American culture, the importance of mental health, and how explosive love can feel as a teenager. — Sneha

Cate Blanchett in Mrs. America (2020)

"Mrs. America" | Available to Stream on Hulu

It was a reminder to the privileges I enjoy as a woman today and what it has taken for us to get to this point and how much more is yet to be achieved! It’s a very telling tale of how the world can pitch women against women to ‘allow’ them to succeed. Again, a very relevant story for the current times narrated in an extremely engaging way. — Neha

Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke in Sound of Metal (2019)

Sound of Metal | Available to Stream on Prime Video

I went in to this expecting to see Ruben’s arduous climb back toward a life performing music on the road, but much like the character, had to slowly accept that he’d never really get back to “normal” after suffering sudden hearing loss. Riz Ahmed gives a stunning performance that made me feel Ruben’s inner turmoil and, eventually, wonder and hope as he is welcomed into a deaf community. — Hannah

Mark Rylance, Ben Shenkman, Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

The Trial of the Chicago 7 | Available to Stream on Netflix

This one made me chuckle and shed a tear at the same time. The relevance of this film to current politics, the fact that the story leaves you shocked despite there being nothing unknown per se is a sign of great writing and direction. — Neha

Ben Mendelsohn and Cynthia Erivo in The Outsider (2020)

"The Outsider" | Available to Stream on HBO

It was impossible to claw myself off the edge of my seat while watching HBO's twisty adaptation of Stephen King's crime thriller. I’m interested in pretty much anything that Ben Mendelsohn and Jason Bateman touch, and with the magnificent Cynthia Erivo playing Holly Gibney, this dark tale had a solid cast that brought depth to the mysterious, supernatural story. — Hannah

Crip Camp (2020)

Crip Camp | Available to Stream on Netflix

Having a sibling with Down’s Syndrome, this one especially resonated with me, as did the decade it is set in, and the fact that it was produced by the Obamas and premiered at Sundance 2020 – the first film I saw this year was also the best. — Emily

Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim in Raised by Wolves (2020)

"Raised by Wolves" | Available to Stream on HBO Max

Aaron Guzikowski and Ridley Scott's far-future sci-fi series poses the question of what it means to be human in bold and surprising ways. This one takes some very out-there and unexpected turns and I admire the story’s willingness to get incredibly weird. I can’t imagine where it is going to go next. — Vanessa

Nick Offerman in Devs (2020)

"Devs" | Available to Stream on Hulu

This succinct and unsettling 8-episode sci-fi mini-series will hook you from the first episode, fill you with existential dread, and then have you pondering the meaning of life long after it’s finished. I really hope that Writer/Director Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later...) has more longform stories to tell in the future, I like sci-fi that makes my head hurt. — Vanessa

Cali Dequan, Torie Henry, and Dashaun Wesley in Legendary (2020)

"Legendary" | Available to Stream on HBO Max

HBO Max is doing the goddess' work when it comes to championing Black creative voices, and their show "Legendary" takes it one dance step further by showcasing the talent and competitive spirit of the LGBTQ+ community who reintroduced ball culture to the mainstream with this unmissable reality competition show that literally leaves it all on the floor. — Arno

Tashi Malik, Nungshi Malik, Brandon Fisher, Corey Rich, and Bear Grylls in World's Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji (2020)

"World's Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji" | Available to Stream on Prime Video

This show mashes up Mark Burnett’s biggest other successes ("Survivor," "The Amazing Race") into a stunningly-filmed 500+ mile team competition adventure race across Fiji. It made me want to go on at least a hike. — Sarah

John David Washington and Elizabeth Debicki in Tenet (2020)

Tenet | Available to Rent or Buy on Prime Video

Tenet may not have seen the resounding return of audiences to cinemas that Christopher Nolan hoped for, but it was a celebration of what a blockbuster budget and innovative creative team can accomplish. Many of us are just now experiencing Tenet for the first time after its streaming release and having our minds blown with its looping storyline. We’d all love to see it in IMAX some day, but the film has more than earned its spot on our “Best of” even streaming at home.— Marcus

Martin Henderson and Alexandra Breckenridge in Virgin River (2019)

"Virgin River" | Available to Stream on Netflix

Oh, "Virgin River," what kind of show are you — "Grey’s Anatomy" set in a NoCal pot town? "Everwood" for a new generation of nomad romantics? Or are you a bowl of potpourri scented like gray pine trees and budding marijuana plants? Where this show leads, I will follow, anywhere that it tells me to. — Arno

Danish Husain and Neeraj Kabi in Taj Mahal 1989 (2020)

"Taj Mahal 1989" | Available to Stream on Netflix

The Hindi cinema nostalgia in this series is palpable and appreciated, from the Urdu poetry spoken by Sheeba Chaddha to the misunderstandings between Neeraj Kabi and Geetanjali Kulkarni. An ode to love, "Taj Mahal 1989" did a fantastic job of showcasing the complex lives of four different couples, navigating through different stages and types of love. A series that enriched my soul, I look forward to re-watching episodes before the year ends. — Sneha

Palm Springs (2020)

Palm Springs | Available to Stream on Hulu

The opening scene — featuring Andy Samberg weaving his way across the dance floor at a wedding, as Cristin Milioti looks on in amazement — is something that I could watch over and over again with pure joy. These two make a wonderful leading pair in an unexpected comedy that we all needed this summer, and I sort of loved J.K. Simmons in a semi-villainous role. — Hannah

Chris Pratt and Tom Holland in Onward (2020)

Onward | Available to Stream on Disney Plus

Apparently Pixar has spoiled everyone with the high bar they set for every film they release. So much so that when a movie comes out and it's only beautifully rendered and emotionally moving and heartfelt, it's not hailed as anything more than a "good Pixar film." Onward may not reach the same peaks that we've come to expect from the animation studio, but it should feel at home on this list where it belongs. — James

Taylor Swift in Miss Americana (2020)

Miss Americana | Available to Stream on Netflix

The scene I can’t shake: Watching Taylor Swift find her political activist voice by standing up to a boardroom full of white, male music executives and her father, deciding she could no longer sit on the political sidelines as they were all saying she must as a female singer with roots in country music. — Emily

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984 | Available to Stream on HBO Max Dec. 25

Step aside, Santa. This year Wonder Woman 1984 is bringing the greatest gift of all: Chris Pine in parachute pants. In her follow-up to 2017’s Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins has delivered a truly delightful and moving film that never forgets to have fun — which is something we could all use more of in 2020. Gal Gadot just is Wonder Woman, while Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, and Pedro Pascal turn in performances I’ll be thinking about for weeks. It’s a 9/10 for me, but only because it could’ve used more parachute pants. — Lizzie

Paul Bettany and Sophia Lillis in Uncle Frank (2020)

Uncle Frank | Available to Stream on Prime Video

Stellar performance from Paul Bettany in this engaging drama with some deep subjects and life messages throughout. — Robin

Lily Collins and Lucas Bravo in Emily in Paris (2020)

"Emily in Paris" | Available to Stream on Netflix

Memes poking fun at this series made the rounds online when it premiered, so I was completely caught off-guard by its heart and humor. Although we endure the expected American-in-Paris cringe factor, "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star perfectly crafted Emily's character as whip-smart and far more likable than Carrie Bradshaw. I loved the show's playful commentary on French culture, fabulous fashion, breathtaking locations, and charming cast. J'adore! — Hannah

Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man (2020)

The Invisible Man | Available to Stream on HBO Max

An extremely inventive thriller that leverages rapid (and sometimes unsettling) innovations in AI as a horror-inducing tool. As with "The Handmaid's Tale," Elisabeth Moss does an excellent job of selling the terror of her surreal circumstances. — Hannah

Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country (2020)

"Lovecraft Country" | Available to Stream on HBO

In this weird and chaotic year, "Lovecraft Country" offered a menagerie of all the things I love to watch: magic, romance, history, time travel, horror, and mythology. I was knocked out each week by the writing, music, and narrative monologues from historical figures. And the performances! I am ready to fight everyone if Jurnee Smollett does not get her much deserved every-kind-of-award nomination. If you haven’t watch this yet, you won’t regret adding it to your Watchlist. — Michelle

Fionn O'Shea and Lola Petticrew in Dating Amber (2020)

Dating Amber | Available to Rent on Prime Video

A joyous coming-of-age drama set in Ireland in the ‘80s (cue – great soundtrack) and very much in line of 'if you liked "Normal People"…' — Robin

Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis in Happiest Season (2020)

Happiest Season | Available to Stream on Hulu

A throwback to romantic holiday classics, with a lesbian couple in the leading roles. And, Dan Levy co-stars as the best friend (making this one instantly worth the price of admission all of this film’s other merits aside!). — Emily

David Thewlis, Toni Collette, and Jessie Buckley in I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

I'm Thinking of Ending Things | Available to Stream on Netflix

From Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich writer Charlie Kaufman, I'm Thinking of Ending Things will have you questioning reality with it's mind-bending screenplay. I was blown away by Jesse Plemons as Jake and Toni Collette and David Thewlis as his parents, whose chaotic lives kept pulling me into their sinister world. — Sneha

Charlize Theron, Matthias Schoenaerts, Luca Marinelli, Marwan Kenzari, and KiKi Layne in The Old Guard (2020)

The Old Guard | Available to Stream on Netflix

This surprise breakout from Netflix is high concept—a band of immortal mercenaries!—grounded in realistic emotion. I also loved the of-course-why-not diversity of the characters. Best of all, though, is that a cool action movie leaves you ruminating about nothing less than Life’s Real Purpose. — Harry

Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020)

"Star Trek: Lower Decks" | Available to Stream on CBS All Access

I'll admit I wasn't sold on "Star Trek: Lower Decks" when I heard the pitch. I was afraid that an animated "Star Trek" comedy wouldn't respect the decades of fandom, making fun of me and my fellow Trekkies instead of sharing a laugh. My fears were illogical. The show was a highlight in 2020, combining humor and genuinely fun sci-fi storytelling to create something with its own feel that was still definitively "Trek." My utmost respect beams out to creator and superfan Mike McMahan and his talented staff of writers. Onward to Season 2! — Marcus

Indian Matchmaking (2020)

"Indian Matchmaking" | Available to Stream on Netflix

So many moments in "Indian Matchmaking" made me pause and erupt with laughter. Starring matchmaker Seema Taparia and her clients looking for love, this series takes a more unfiltered look at modern day arranged marriage in the South Asian community. As I watched the series, I was surprised how many people were taken by its plot, on the internet and within my friend group. — Sneha