2020 Year in Review

Illustration by Eleni Kalorkoti.
Illustration by Eleni Kalorkoti.

축하해요 to Lee Isaac Chung and the Minari cast and crew on reaching the highest-rated spot in our 2020 Year in Review. Congratulations also to Tenet director Christopher Nolan on finishing the year as our most watched director, and with the most popular film.

The Letterboxd Year in Review is presented by NEON.

As voted by you, Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland and Pete Docter’s Soul are the three highest-rated films of 2020, while Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is the year’s most popular film. Dive in, or read on below for some behind-the-scenes insights.

The 2020 Letterboxd Year in Review

Pro tip: on devices with keyboards, we recommend navigating via the up/down arrow keys for the most satisfying experience.

Things began well enough—tasty premieres out of Sundance, the #BONGHIVE sweep at the Oscars, and then… well, if we didn’t already realize by late February that 2020 was going to be a year like no other, the moment that reality bit for the film industry was surely when the SXSW festival, traditionally in March, was cancelled.

In late March, we watched as our membership numbers increased and Contagion rewatches rose. As large parts of the globe continued to lock down in April, we experienced the highest-ever number of logged views on our platform. We watched Paddington 2 together. We sought comfort in films with white posters and saw an explosion in Studio Ghibli activity.

And then it was blockbuster season and… no blockbusters. Dates shifted, festivals went virtual, arthouse cinemas offered online viewings, Bacurau was the highest-rated film at the year’s halfway point, films were bought and sold, streamers and cable channels stepped into the fray, Tom Cruise went off. And through it all, you watched movies. More of them than ever, more widely than before.

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on your 2020 viewing habits are apparent: overall activity on the platform is up more than 90 percent year-on-year, and compared with past years—where the split of films watched from the year in question versus any other year has traditionally been above 20 percent—films released in 2020 represented just 11.8 percent of those logged last year.

But what we noticed most was this: a significant leap in activity around international and independent films, alongside comfort rewatches and first-time watches of classics. As our worlds contracted, you took the time to expand your cinematic horizons. The Year in Review holds the evidence, with many global and independent voices making the cut in various categories.

For the first time in Letterboxd Year in Review history, the three top films are written and directed (or co-directed) by artists of color. In 2020, a record sixteen women directors appear in Letterboxd’s 50 highest-rated films overall (up six from last year). This year, we also highlight the work of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) directors: a pleasing 22 films from the top 50 (including four from Steve McQueen) are from directors of color. What’s encouraging is that this feels like a permanent shift in viewing habits. We couldn’t be prouder.

The vaccine is hope, but we’re a long way from normal. If there’s one thing that the top three films have in common—apart from their singular, spectacular artistry—it’s a reminder that community is everything, and we can’t do this without each other.

For our part, we remain committed to supporting the industry in their remarkable efforts to bring films to you however they can. Our new HQ tier is one such tool, enabling festivals, cinemas, distributors and other film-centric organizations to participate directly with the Letterboxd community; another is our new watchlist notification feature for Pro and Patron members, which lets you know when a film lands on a service you subscribe to.

And we, like you, are amped to get back into cinemas when it’s safe. Until then, let’s keep embracing movies, wherever we can see them. Because in them, we can see each other. 🥰

Some important thank yous: to NEON for partnering with us, to Eleni Kalorkoti for 2020’s illustration, to MUBI for supporting our “wrapped” emails (coming your way in the next day or so), to Jack Moulton for data deep-dives and list-making, to Aaron Yap for breakfast and dancing, to all the filmmakers for your essential storytelling work, and to all of you: thanks for hanging in there, and making our community the best bunch of film lovers on the internet. In the immortal words of Poppy from Trolls World Tour, “You have to be able to listen to other voices, even when they don’t agree with you. They make us stronger, more creative, more inspired.”


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