Movies achieve Certified Fresh status by maintaining a Tomatometer score of at least 75% after a minimum number of reviews, with that number depending on how the movie was released. For wide releases (of which there were significantly fewer this year, as you can imagine), the minimum number of reviews is 80. For streaming or limited release movies, that number is 40. And finally, it’s 20 reviews for movies premiering on television. Across all release types, each movie needs at least five of its reviews to be written by Top Critics. Once a movie goes Certified Fresh, the only way to lose it is by dropping below 70%.
So what were some notable movies approved by critics in the most unpredictable, disrupted year in film history? Early in 2020, we saw the likes of The Invisible Man, Emma., and Birds of Prey connect with critics. At one point, January’s Bad Boys for Life hitting Certified Fresh seemed like that was going to be the craziest story of the year.
As theaters shut down two weeks into Onward‘s release, audiences turned to streaming. Over the next eight months, Certified Fresh originals each gave platforms their moment to entertain. Greyhound and On the Rocks shored up on Apple TV+. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Blow the Man Down and The Vast of Night beamed onto Amazon Prime. Hamilton and Black Is King started the conversation on Disney+. David Byrne’s American Utopia danced onto HBO Max, while Palm Springs got weird on Hulu. Netflix covered all the bases with His House, Jingle Jangle, The Platform, Da 5 Bloods, and Enola Holmes. Even boutique streamer Shudder had the year’s viral hit with quarantine-shot Host.
The new normal continues to refine itself, as seen among 2020’s final Certified Fresh releases: Steve McQueen’s series of Small Axe films on Amazon, and prestige Pixar pic Soul going straight into homes. And because awards seasons must not be denied, buzz of Nomadland, One Night in Miami, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom continues into 2021.