I've said it before: Drama, when done well, can elevate any movie genre. On this list, we have some romance, sci-fi, horror, and action—but each promises to have a stellar dramatic narrative. We already know 2020 will give us some great films, and these are no exception. Thankfully, this is probably only the start of good dramas to come, and this list is going to get a lot longer as more movies come out. We'll keep this article updated as we get more 2020 dramatic gems.
Release date: February 14, 2020
Starring: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chelsea Peretti, Courtney B. Vance, Lil Rel Howery
A dual love story for a woman and her daughter that spans decades, this romantic drama covers familiar territory (a lost family connection, a profound fear of intimacy). But it also has the double star power of Stanfield and Rae—talented, vulnerable, and gorgeous—plus a powerful mother-daughter story. This looks like a slow burn story of love and loss, in the best way. And great news: The reviews have been roundly positive, so the critics love it too.
The Invisible Man
Release date: February 28, 2020
Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid
This one could definitely fall into "horror," too, so be wary if it's not your genre. Normally I wouldn't ever go see a horror movie in the theater (you'd be able to hear my screams from the parking lot), but I'm making an exception for this one: Elisabeth Moss is absolutely riveting as a domestic abuse survivor who is absolutely convinced her husband faked his death and is driving her crazy. Or, she could just be going crazy. Critics have said that this is just so, so scary, in the best kind of way, but also a really impressive metaphor at how insidious abuse can be. Moss has Handmaid's Tale to lend us some extra context to her performance—she is just so good at this character type that I was all in by the time the trailer had ended.
Promising Young Woman
Release date: April 17, 2020
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge
(trigger warning: rape) Be prepared for this one, a tough but important watch. Trauma survivor Cassandra (Mulligan) is hell-bent on vengeance against men who take advantage of drunk women sexually. It'll very likely be a smart, savage commentary on rape culture and the ubiquity of sexual assault, while also being a devastating look at how trauma can affect a person for (potentially) years and decades into the future.
The Woman in the Window
Release date: May 15, 2020
Starring: Amy Adams, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, Brian Tyree Henry
I'm a sucker for a Hitchcockian film, and this has Rear Window written all over it. Agoraphobe Anna (Adams who, like Moss in Invisible Man, plays damaged and resilient to perfection) befriends her married neighbor (Moore), only to watch her be murdered. Only, maybe she didn't because she's hallucinating...or maybe something terrible is at play. This is for sure not the first time this story has been told, but I'm hopeful with the number of stars attached that the way it's being told will make it a terrifying, but cathartic ride.
The Many Saints of Newark
Release date: September 25, 2020
Starring: Michael Gandolfini, Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Ray Liotta, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen
This Sopranos prequel will take a look at the gangster's youth—Tony as an up-and-comer, an early version of the therapy-seeking gangster. Having Michael Gandolfini play the role that made his late father famous feels like a fitting tribute. Show creator David Chase is producing and also writing the screenplay, with Alan Taylor back as director, so it feels like this is in good hands. I'm hopeful that this may have Easter eggs for die-hard fans and enough good drama for the uninitiated (this will give me a good excuse to finish the series. I know, I know, I'm behind the times.).
Release date: October 2, 2020
Starring: Tom Hanks, Samira Wiley, Caleb Landry Jones, Skeet Ulrich
Directed by Michael Sapochnik, who envisioned some of the most major Game of Throne moments ever, this post-apocalyptic tragedy sounds compelling. The last man on Earth is trying to make a robot that'll keep his dog happy after he dies. First Mr. Rogers, and now this? I'm already crying. Also, I've been hoping for Samira Wiley to get more movies (she is just THAT good on Orange Is the New Black and Handmaid's Tale). Hopefully, this is the one that'll make her a movie star.
Death on the Nile
Release date: October 9, 2020
Starring: Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Kenneth Branagh, Rose Leslie, Annette Bening, Emma Mackey
I'm a die-hard Agatha Christie fan, and I might have been the only one who cheered for the Murder on the Orient Express remake. This, I'd argue, has the better story: Linnet (Gadot) steals the boyfriend (Hammer) of her former BFF Louise (Mackey). Spoiler alert: Linnet ends up dead, but her jilted ex-friend couldn't possibly have done it. Unlike Orient Express, a classic love triangle ages effectively, and the massive star power here will make it worth your time.
Release date: December 18, 2020
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista
One part sci-fi, one part adventure, Dune could be 2020's most epic drama in the right hands (although some have said that it's too sprawling to ever be contained on film). Denis Villeneuve is the man to take on the challenge, and he'll have some of this generation's most bankable stars—Chalamet, Zendaya, Isaac—to help him get there. This is a perfect example of a movie that deserves better special effects than the ones it got in the original. And hopefully some more coherent storytelling (the first film was...hoo boy, although it's since developed a cult following. You might want to skip it and go straight to this version.).
Release date: TBD, 2020
Starring: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Himesh Patel
Even when he's confounding (Interstellar) or experimental (Dunkirk, basically every movie he's ever done), Christopher Nolan is always interesting. Not much is yet known about Tenet, other than the fact that it's got some cool up-and-comers like Washington and Pattinson, combined with acting pros like Caine and Branagh. Based on the initial trailer, it's typical brain-bending, time-warping madness. Washington is a reanimated(?) spy(?) who attempts to stop a man-made apocalypse.
The Souvenir, Part II
Release date: TBD, 2020
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Joe Alwyn, Amber Anderson
The first movie (2019) was artsy and gorgeous—Honor Swinton Byrne plays alongside her mom, Tilda Swinton, as a young women in film school who falls into her first bad romance. Tom Burke (who also plays the titular Strike in the BBC series based on the Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling series) is complex, sexy, and trouble with a capital T. This is semi-autobiographical by acclaimed director Joanna Hogg, and she's back for the second part of the story. It's not clear if Byrne or Burke are back, but it will be starring Taylor Swift's boyfriend Joe Alwyn. Either way, it's likely to be just as devastating and beautiful as the first.
Release date: TBD, 2020
Starring: Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, James Dreyfus
This one sounds about as sad as BIOS, to be honest—Firth and Tucci star as partners of 20 years. Tucci's character has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia. They're traveling across Europe in their RV, visiting the people and places that matter to them. To quote the current synopsis, "Their time together is the most important thing they have." I love both these actors. To watch both of them quietly love each other as they grieve this upcoming loss, while both of them are still present, feels like an honor.
Release date: TBD, 2020
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci
Roald Dahl was my childhood, and The Witches was my Exorcist. Seriously, it is terrifying—Dahl really know how to ramp up a scary story by putting his characters in the worst peril imaginable. This is another movie that absolutely benefits from CGI (the effects were clunky, even for back then). Anne Hathaway as the movie's Big Bad very likely knows she has some huge shoes to fill, thanks to the iconic and inimitable Anjelica Huston. Can a girl get a cameo for old-time's sake?
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