At the end of March, a friend reminded me that Pete Buttigieg was still running for president when the month began. I couldn’t believe it. What a long month March felt like ― but we all knew the pandemic would wrap up in just a couple of weeks and life would soon return to something near normal.
Now, in November ― after months and months of a never-ending pandemic and a brutal election season that’s still unresolved ― pretty much the whole first 10 months of the year seem like a distant era.
How does this relate to Netflix and streaming? It means that any movies that debuted before today feel ancient rather than recent.
The below list is meant as a distraction. It’s a testament to the warped and flexible nature of time. I decided to only include movies from the first half of 2020. But personally, I’m feeling like even a film such as September’s “Enola Holmes” came out a decade ago.
I only included movies that we might forget about with the passage of time regardless of the year. This means the list doesn’t include great movies, like the serious “Da 5 Bloods” and the comedic “Eurovision Song Contest.” I enjoyed both thoroughly in their own ways and won’t forget about them anytime soon (The Rachel McAdams “Eurovision” song still gets stuck in my head).
In a somewhat paradoxical caveat, I only put movies in here that earned enough attention to subsequently be forgotten. All of these earned hype at one point, either through anticipation, cast or early reviews.
Read on for the full list of movies. And if you want to stay informed of everything joining Netflix every week, subscribe to the Streamline newsletter.
Premise: In this comedy, a young kid tries to make life miserable for his mom’s boyfriend, a cop in Detroit. The kid’s name is Kareem and the cop’s last name is Coffee. That’s a double reference/“joke” to the cliche of cops loving coffee and a play on the fact that the cop is white and the kid is Black. Kareem and Coffee have to team up after Kareem puts both their lives in danger, and they bond in the process.
With the reckoning over pro-cop television shows and movies throughout 2020, this movie, more than any other, feels like it came from a different era.
“Coffee & Kareem” earned a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Debut date: April 3, 2020
Notable cast: Ed Helms, Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Little Gardenhigh
Runtime: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Premise: In this romantic comedy, a “Groundhog Day” situation plays out (or should it now be “Palm Springs” situation?) at a wedding in a beautiful locale. A man and a woman attending the wedding fall in and out of love, depending on seating arrangements. Although a sweet movie, the premise has a dark undercurrent of love hanging on by a thread of past causes and effects.
Setting: Frascati, Italy
Debut date: April 10, 2020
Notable cast: Sam Claflin, Joel Fry, Olivia Munn and Eleanor Tomlinson
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Premise: In this action thriller, a team of mercenaries attempts to rescue the kidnapped son of an incarcerated Indian drug lord. They must travel to Bangladesh to pull off the risky mission. A double-cross ends up making the task even more dangerous. Getting out alive, let alone getting paid, becomes increasingly unlikely for the team.
The Russo brothers produced, while Joe Russo wrote the screenplay.
Debut date: April 24, 2020
Notable cast: David Harbour, Chris Hemsworth, Randeep Hooda and Rudhraksh Jaiswal
Runtime: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Premise: In this animated comedy, young siblings lean on each other for entertainment and protection as their wealthy parents pay little attention to them. The children trick their parents into leaving, but then learn that protective services will remove them from their beloved house if they don’t have a guardian. The kids go on a global, whimsical quest to set things right.
The movie is based on a book by Lois Lowry.
Setting: A quirky house in a metropolis
Debut date: April 22, 2020
Notable voice cast: Alessia Cara, Terry Crews, Ricky Gervais, Jane Krakowski, Will Forte, Maya Rudolph and Martin Short
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Premise: In this vacation comedy, an aging, single man with a particularly dull sensibility meets two women, both named Melissa, and saves their phone numbers. He thinks he has a connection with one of the women, but finds the other annoying. When the man gets a plus-one invitation for a Hawaiian corporate retreat, he decides to be bold and invite the Melissa he liked, but he asks “the wrong Missy” instead. The man thinks this is a travesty at first, but as “the wrong Missy’ pushes him out of his comfort zone, the burgeoning couple begin to have fun together.
Adam Sandler co-produced the movie under Happy Madison productions.
“The Wrong Missy” earned a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Debut date: May 13, 2020
Notable cast: Lauren Lapkus, Roman Reigns and David Spade
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Premise: In this romantic comedy directed by Michael Showalter, a couple is on the rocks, but an inevitable-seeming breakup keeps getting postponed. In an unexpected life shake-up, the couple gets framed for a bizarre murder. They decide to go on the run from the police together and start to reconsider the merits of the relationship.
Setting: New Orleans
Debut date: May 22, 2020
Notable cast: Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae
Runtime: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Premise: In this horror satire, prisoners live in a tower where a feast is lowered on a table through a shaft each day. The grand dinner stops at each level of the prison, but doesn’t get replenished. This means people on lower levels increasingly fight for scraps, even though the meal began its journey as a wonderful thing. People at the bottom of the tower have little choice but to fight each other for sustenance ― a commentary on contemporary capitalism.
The film is in Spanish.
Setting: A tower prison
Debut date: March 20, 2020
Notable cast: Iván Massagué and Antonia San Juan
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Premise: In this psychological drama co-written by Alison Brie, a young woman experiences deteriorating mental health. Amid her deep loneliness, visits to a local stable bring her a modicum of joy. The woman begins dating someone new, but her mental health declines rapidly soon after the budding of this relationship.
Setting: Los Angeles
Debut date: Feb. 7, 2020
Notable cast: Alison Brie, John Reynolds, Debby Ryan and Molly Shannon
Runtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Premise: In this political thriller directed and co-written by Dee Rees, a Washington Post reporter gets caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal. Her dying father, who has a mysterious career, asks for a favor that ultimately puts her career and life in danger. The movie is based on a 1996 novel by Joan Didion of the same name.
I should note this has a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it may be for the best if you forgot about this one.
Setting: Washington, D.C., and Central America in the mid-1980s
Debut date: Feb. 21, 2020
Notable cast: Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Anne Hathaway and Rosie Perez
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Premise: In this thriller written and directed by Tyler Perry, a public defender tries to prove the innocence of an older woman accused of murdering her husband. The public defender can tell that something’s missing in the case and spends the movie trying to figure out the truth.
Although it fared better than “The Last Thing He Wanted,” this movie has a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Setting: Small-town Virginia
Debut date: Jan. 17, 2020
Notable cast: Crystal Fox, Tyler Perry and Phylicia Rashad
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Premise: In this German drama, a 9-year-old struggles to control her own aggressive, violent behavior. Her mother puts her in different care programs, which reject her after her outbursts. An anger management trainer tries his best, and the two end up bonding.
Setting: Various locations in Germany
Debut date: Feb. 21, 2020
Notable cast: Helena Zengel
Runtime: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Premise: In this teen romantic comedy, a high schooler has begun dating a crush after writing him a love letter and then fake-dating him to help him make his ex jealous (again, the characters are teens). But in a twist, another boy she wrote a love letter to ― someone she thought she’d never see again ― starts volunteering at the same place as she does. So, a love triangle ensues.
This movie is a sequel to the 2018 film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” and they’re based on a book series by Jenny Han.
Setting: Portland, Oregon
Debut date: Feb. 12, 2020
Notable cast: Noah Centineo, Lana Condor, John Corbett and Jordan Fisher
Runtime: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Premise: In this romantic drama, two teenagers mistrust the burgeoning love they feel for each other, given past trauma. One of them deals with thoughts of suicide and, therefore, both carry that emotional weight.
Setting: Small-town Indiana
Debut date: Feb. 28, 2020
Notable cast: Elle Fanning, Keegan-Michael Key, Alexandra Shipp, Justice Smith and Luke Wilson
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Premise: In this mystery drama, a mother fights to convince her community and local police force to continue looking for her missing daughter. Through searching for her daughter, the mother discovers a larger pattern of murders.
Setting: Long Island, New York
Debut date: March 13, 2020
Notable cast: Lola Kirke, Oona Laurence, Thomasin McKenzie, Amy Ryan and Dean Winters
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Premise: In this action comedy directed by Peter Berg, an ex-cop gets out of jail for a crime he insists he didn’t commit. Soon after his release, he teams up with an old mentor and a new mentee to try to thwart a conspiracy involving cop killings.
This movie was the most popular movie on Netflix for weeks, according to Netflix’s ranking system. So maybe you didn’t completely forget about it. But its debut still feels from another era.
Debut date: March 6, 2020
Notable cast: Alan Arkin, Winston Duke, Post Malone, Iliza Shlesinger and Mark Wahlberg
Runtime: 1 hour, 51 minutes