As flashbulbs light up the red carpet on Sunday night at the 92nd annual Academy Awards, Hollywood stars may briefly forget the turmoil their industry is facing.
U.S. movie ticket sales declined once again last year, theatrical exhibitor stocks are at 12-month lows, and the storied 20th Century Fox studio has been subsumed by Disney. While all those new streaming services need films and shows, their original-content slates often rely heavy on reality TV fare or lower-budget productions that take few creative risks.
What all these changes mean for audiences has yet to be seen. One thing is certain: It’s getting much more difficult to navigate endless options for on-demand viewing. A new study reports the average adult will spend nearly 3,000 hours of his life deciding what to watch. And it’s no easier on the studio side, where creators often spend nearly as much marketing a film as producing it.
Upcoming tentpole movies such as “Fast and Furious 9,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” and “Tenet” from director Christopher Nolan will blanket the nation with awareness campaigns. Meanwhile, big-budget releases “Mulan” and “Top Gun: Maverick” provide an interesting window into the escalating clash between Chinese and U.S. cultural values.
It will be easy to miss quality films that lack a massive budget, such as war drama “The Last Full Measure,” which opened two weeks ago. Moviegoers say they are fatigued with paint-by-number sequels and remakes, yet many such films still turn a profit and lead to more.
Diving deep into planned releases from movie studios and streaming services, these 20 films coming in 2020 may be worth seeking out for discerning viewers. In some cases, trailers have not yet released, and exact release dates have yet to be announced.
1. ‘Free Burma Rangers’ (Feb. 24) Fathom Events/LifeWay Films
For more than 20 years, volunteer humanitarian workers have traveled to dangerous conflict areas to help hundreds of thousands of people. This documentary tells their story with dramatic on-site footage.
2. ‘Spenser Confidential’ (March 6) Netflix
Things are not as they seem when former Detective Spenser (Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg) finishes a stint in prison — only to launch a vigilante investigation.
3. ‘I Still Believe’ (March 13) Kingdom Studios/Lionsgate
It turned heads when Seventeen Magazine recently featured a Christian-produced biopic as 2020’s most anticipated romance movie. K.J. Apa (“Riverdale”) stars as music artist Jeremy Camp, and Britt Robertson (“The Longest Ride“) as his college love interest.
4. ‘Resistance’ (March 27) IFC Films
During World War II, mime performer Marcel Marceau — played by Jesse Eisenberg of “The Social Network” — living in France, used his craft to save fellow Jews from concentration camps.
5. ‘Crip Camp’ (Spring 2020) Netflix
Winner of the Documentary Audience Award at Sundance, “Crip Camp” reveals the history of disability rights in the U.S. by chronicling an innovative summer camp in upstate New York.
6. ‘Psych 2: Lassie Comes Home’ (Summer 2020) USA Network/Peacock
— Peacock (@peacockTV) January 16, 2020
When beloved character actor Timothy Omundson suffered a stroke in April 2017, his “Psych” castmates rallied around him. Now their upcoming whodunit comedy film, centered on his character Carlton “Lassie” Lassiter, will premiere on NBC’s free streaming service.
7. ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ (May 8) Searchlight Pictures
In a modern twist on the Dickens classic, Dev Patel (“Lion,” “The Newsroom”) plays good-hearted David Copperfield, who encounters curious and comic personalities on his journey to adulthood.
8. ‘Greyhound’ (May 8) Sony/Playtone
Filming for Tom Hanks’ next movie "Greyhound" kicked off on board USS Kidd this month! The film stars Hanks as commander of USS Keeling, whose mission is to escort a military convoy during WWII. Click here to learn more: https://t.co/L7sCKCO3N9
Photo from: @sydneykern pic.twitter.com/Xrp7UsoAo2
— U.S. Naval History (@USNHistory) April 21, 2018
While Tom Hanks has starred in hundreds of films, this World War II combat drama marks only his third picture to write. In “Greyhound,” Hanks portrays the commander of an Allied fleet being hotly pursued by German U-boats.
9. ‘Soul’ (June 19) Disney/Pixar
The writer/director of “Monsters, Inc.,” “Up,” and “Inside Out” is known for turning wild premises into story gold. Now Pete Docter spins the tale of a musician who’s lost his passion for music and gets caught in another dimension.
10. ‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ (August 21) United Artists/Orion
— Bill & Ted 3 (@BillandTed3) December 17, 2019
Offbeat 1980s comedy “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” somehow warrants a threequel, as Keanu Reaves (“John Wick”) and Alex Winter reprise their roles. Count on nostalgia aplenty in this time-traveling comedy, with the characters’ daughters also playing a part.
11. ‘Come Away’ (Summer 2020) Endurance Media
Come Away is a film about Peter before he became Pan and Alice before her adventures in Wonderland, depicting them as siblings who find fantastical worlds when tragedy shatters their lives and the lives of their parents (David Oyelowo, Angelina Jolie). These pics are EVERYTHING. pic.twitter.com/njGzjTtwqx
— CSR Calloway (@ChanceCalloway) December 26, 2019
Visionary director Brenda Chapman (“The Prince of Egypt,” “Brave”) helms an imaginative mashup of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan,” revealing their origins in family tragedy.
12. ‘Safety’ (Summer 2020) Walt Disney Pictures
When his home life became unstable, Clemson University football star Ray McElrathbey secretly raised his younger brother on-campus. Reginald Hudlin (“Marshall”) directs this true story coming to Disney Plus.
13. ‘Over the Moon’ (Summer 2020) Netflix/Pearl Studio
— Glen Keane (@GlenKeanePrd) February 6, 2018
Pioneering Disney animator Glen Keane (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Tangled”) leads the team creating this new fantasy musical about a young girl who builds a rocket ship to the moon.
14. ‘Respect’ (Oct. 9) MGM/United Artists
Before her death at age 76 after battling cancer, the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin handpicked actress Jennifer Hudson (“The Voice,” “Dreamgirls”) to portray her on-screen. This film follows Franklin’s journey from a young girl in a church choir to superstardom.
15. ‘Death on the Nile’ (Oct. 9) 20th Century Studios
Director Kenneth Branagh seems determined to keep ensemble dramas alive, even while his take on detective Hercule Poirot investigates grisly misdeeds. The star-studded cast includes Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, and Letitia Wright.
16. ‘Never Again?’ (Oct. 13-14) Fathom Events/ReelWorks Studios
A recent Pew Research study showed the majority of Americans don’t know that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. Featuring interviews with Jewish survivors, Dennis Prager, and leading voices, “Never Again?” reveals why horrific events must not be forgotten.
17. ‘Ironbark’ (Fall 2020) Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions
Benedict Cumberbatch teases Sundance spy drama Ironbark: ‘It’s quiet heroics in a very loud world’ https://t.co/hD4iKReHHO
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) December 16, 2019
When the Cuban missile crisis loomed, a Welsh salesman helped ease tensions through his actions as an amateur spy. Cold War drama “Ironbark” features Benedict Cumberbatch (“Doctor Strange,” “Sherlock”) and Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”).
18. ‘The Duke’ (Fall 2020) Pathé
Only one work of art has ever been successfully stolen from The National Gallery in London. Comic heist movie “The Duke” recounts how a 60-year-old taxi driver (Jim Broadbent) and his wife (Helen Mirren) made off with a priceless painting.
19. ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ (Holiday 2020) Imagine Entertainment/Netflix
Director Ron Howard (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13”) adapts J.D. Vance’s complex and unflinching memoir of working-class families in Kentucky and Ohio, starring Glenn Close (“The Wife“), Amy Adams (“The Fighter“), and Gabriel Basso (“Super 8”).
20. ‘The Little Things’ (Holiday 2020) Warner Bros.
Known for telling compelling American stories, director John Lee Hancock (“The Highwaymen,” “Saving Mr. Banks”) offers his latest film that follows two cops tracking a serial killer. “The Little Things” stars Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto.