The Best Sci-Fi And Horror Movies And Shows Of 2020

2020 delivered a lot of great scary and brain-warping films and TV this year, and this is the very best in the year’s ho

It might seem strange that in a year as terrible as 2020, some movie and TV fans wanted to take refuge in dark and disturbing cinema. But what horror fans have long loved about the genre is the way that it can both provide an escape from the real world as well as holding a mirror up to society, and this year’s scary offerings did both.

While there were a few studio horror movies that got pushed into 2021, such as Candyman, Halloween Kills, and the latest Conjuring and Purge releases, there were still plenty of scary films and TV shows that fright fans got stuck into while isolating at home. From scary indie movies and foreign language shockers to Netflix’s follow-up the Haunting of Hill House, this year really demonstrated the wide variety of stories and styles happening in horror right now.

Sci-fi fans had lots to enjoy in 2020 as well. Netflix and HBO threw plenty of money at high profile shows like The Umbrella Academy and Lovecraft Country, and the German time travel series Dark again delivered one of the most brilliantly intricate slices of intelligent sci-fi around. As with horror, there were some big sci-fi movies that we’d love to have seen at the theater this year, such as Dune, but there were few complaints about what we did get. So here are GameSpot’s picks for the best horror and sci-fi movies and shows of 2020.

Host

Despite the disruption to the entertainment industry in 2020, the fact remains that one of the year’s best horror movies would not have existed had everything panned out differently. Shudder’s found footage chiller Host was not only filmed in lockdown, it mirrored the exact experience so many of us were having–a group of friends getting together on Zoom while isolating at home. Of course, this being a horror film, they are gathering for a séance which goes wrong, allowing director Rob Savage to throw in every scary trick he can think of. Host has an immediacy that would be impossible to replicate at any other time, especially if you are watching the movie on the same screen that you use for real-life Zoom calls. The naturalistic performances are excellent throughout and the 55-minute running time ensures that the movie is intense and focused. Host quickly became one the summer’s most discussed releases, and led to Blumhouse signing Savage for his next film, which is already in production. – Dan Auty

The Wolf Of Snow Hollow

The second film from rising indie filmmaker Jim Cummings is a left turn from his acclaimed drama Thunder Road. It blends a gripping procedural crime thriller with darkly funny horror movie, as a small, snowbound Utah town is terrorized by a mysterious beast that only emerges during the full moon to gorily slaughter anyone unlucky enough to cross its path. As well as writing and directing the film, Cummings stars as the alcoholic cop who leads the investigation, while the late Robert Forster gives a moving final performance as his dad, the town’s retiring sheriff who is finding it hard to give up the badge. The movie has a strange, offbeat sense of humor reminiscent of the Coen brothers, but it doesn’t skimp on the gory scares either. – Dan Auty

Impetigore

Shudder landed the exclusive rights to the Indonesian horror film this past year, and while it may have been overshadowed by Host–the most talked about horror movie of 2020–do not sleep on this movie. Directed and written by Joko Anwar, the story follows Maya–along with her friend Dini–as she discovers she may be entitled to an inheritance from her family, only to learn of a curse at her ancestral village, which has to do with her. Impetigore isn’t filled with jump-scares, but there are surprises and scares as the film slowly builds toward a third act filled with shocking moments that will leave their mark on you. – Mat Elfring

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man opens with an escape attempt. Cecilia Kass drugs her abusive boyfriend–tech genius Adrian Griffin–sneaks out of his house, and flags down her sister’s car. The sequence is filled with the potential for violence, rather than actual violence. That dread persists throughout the entire movie, as Cecilia realizes she’s being watched by Adrian–usually in close quarters, sometimes mere feet away from where she’s sitting. One of the movie’s biggest accomplishments is getting its audience to peer into blank space along with Cecilia, as if doing so will make Adrian materialize. He never does, and he never admits to what he’s doing either. He’s gaslighting Cecilia. But he’s also gaslighting us. – Kevin Wong

The Lodge

This movie, about a woman and her fiance’s two children snowbound during a blizzard, is uncomfortable to watch. This is not fun horror–the type where you laugh at the creative kills, or find dark humor in supernatural pretense. It’s raw unpleasantness; these characters are in peril, and for most of the time, we don’t even know who or what to blame; the movie does a great job of keeping its twist just out of reach. And when you finally realize what’s happening, it’s already too late. The feeling of helplessness, for both the viewer and the characters, is palpable. – Kevin Wong

Lovecraft Country

HBO put its progressive stance into practice. It was not enough to put black actors in front of the camera; it also put black directors and writers behind the camera, to tell their own stories. Lovecraft Country is a supernatural horror series about fantastical monsters with many teeth and eyes. But it’s also about the actual horror of being black in America–about the burning of Black Wall Street, the lynching of Emmett Till, and the generational trauma that such events inflict on a people. Structurally, it’s a bit messy. The series sometimes changes its entire genre from episode to episode. But the highs are very high; Lovecraft Country feels like a greatest hits compilation of a longer series. And while it may lose its linear coherence by the end, its thematic coherence is tight. – Kevin Wong

Castlevania Season 3

Netflix’s Castlevania is absolutely a guilty pleasure; a grindhouse cartoon for adults who grew up playing Symphony of the Night, listening to metal, and watching shonen anime. But it’s also an exceptionally well-made guilty pleasure, with a fantastic cast, unique animated action, mature tone, decent writing, smart pacing, and generally gorgeous look, feel, and sound. In the end, you’ll want to pick up a controller and revisit your favorite game in the series, which, in the troubled landscape of video game adaptations, is maybe the biggest compliment one can pay. – Mike Rougeau

Rick and Morty Season 4

Rick and Morty Season 4 had a strange cadence, releasing half in 2019 and half this year. Uneven as the season was as a whole, the latter provided some of our favorite Rick and Morty episodes yet. The Story Train in “Never Ricking Morty” took meta to a new level, while “The Vat of Acid Episode” provided one of the funniest and most hard-earned pay-offs in the show’s history. Plus, we got the long-awaited return of Tammy and Phoenixperson in the finale. What more could you want? – Mike Rougeau

Palm Springs

Andy Samberg was once known for rapping about his private parts and mugging for the camera, but he’s slowly become one of the most entertaining and underrated actors in Hollywood. Nowhere is that more apparent than 2020’s Palm Springs, a movie we’re afraid to even describe lest we spoil the twist. Samberg takes an inherently silly concept and, with help from co-star Cristin Milioti, turns it into a smart, funny, and touching metaphysical love story. – Eric Frederiksen

Relic

After a debut at Sundance in January, Australian horror movie Relic quickly began drumming up buzz–and for good reason. This deeply tragic (and deeply terrifying) story dives deep into hereditary illness and dementia through the lens of three generations of women coping with upheaval in their lives. It’s haunting, mind-bending, and subverts expectations by layering plenty of genuinely supernatural scares in with all the metaphorical ones. Though we might recommend you skip this one if you’re really grossed out by things like mold and rot–it makes good and economical use of its limited budget, meaning there aren’t a lot of big gory moments, but there’s plenty of those two things to go around. – Mason Downey

Dark

Don’t feel bad if you missed the conclusion of Dark’s 3-season run this year; it dropped over the summer, when everyone was more concerned about small things like the global pandemic and the looming presidential election. Besides, the whole thing was in German and the dub sucked, meaning you basically need to watch it with subtitles, which turns some viewers off. But this pitch-black time travel drama managed to weave one of the most complex, but somehow still cohesive, sci-fi stories we’ve ever seen. – Mike Rougeau

Umbrella Academy Season 2

Umbrella Academy’s second season proved even better than the first as it continued to deviate from its source material in unexpected ways and allowed for new characters to enter the fray. This season saw even more time-traveling absurdity, absolutely bonkers musical cues (like a Sweedish cover of Adelle’s “Hello” for example), and wackadoo family drama that has kept us wanting to come back again and again for more. – Mason Downey

The Haunting of Bly Manor

Bly Manor had some big shoes to fill after 2018’s break-out hit, The Haunting Of Hill House, which set expectations for the newest entry in Netflix’s horror anthology series understandably high. But thankfully, Bly met the challenge head-on by weaving an intricate, emotional gothic romance story that not only honored the ambiance and energy of its precursor while setting itself apart with new characters, scares, and of course plenty of hidden ghosts. Bly Manor’s touching tragedy was the perfect binge for 2020’s dreary, party-free Halloween season and a classic in the making. – Mason Downey

The Vast of Night

While The Vast of Night premiered at festivals in 2019, it didn’t get a wide release on Prime Video until May of this year, making it woefully easy to miss–but thankfully, just as easy to find and watch right away. Set in 1950s New Mexico, The Vast of Night is a love letter to vintage sci-fi like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. Its barebones budget was poured entirely into making it as stylish and artfully minimalistic as possible while maintaining a perfect, eerie ambience suited to a sci-fi mystery. Teenage switchboard operator Fay accidentally uncovers a radio signal that could be alien in origin with the help of disillusioned disc jockey Everett, sending the two of them on a whirlwind quest to find the truth in their small town. – Mason Downey

The Platform

The Spanish film El hoyo (which translates to The Hole) may have hit international theaters in late 2019, but it arrived as a Netflix exclusive in March under the new title The Platform. The futuristic horror/sci-fi film follows a man in a vertical prison where there is a giant meal served on a platform that goes from the top of the prison to the bottom, and prisoners have to eat what’s left from after people above get their fill. While the film isn’t a straight-up jump-scare horrorfest, the idea of eating other’s leftovers is revolting enough. And while the movie’s concept has a short shelf life–much like the food everyone is eating–director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia makes this an intense and interesting experience, keeping you glued to the TV until the credits roll. – Mat Elfring

Raised by Wolves

For an HBO show, Raised by Wolves didn’t reach the hype levels of your Games of Thrones or your Lovecraft Countries. Even in that company, though, Raised is exceedingly weird. It tells the story of a pair of androids (Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim) attempting to restart humanity on a distant planet, whose lives are thrown into chaos when an ark ship full of religious zealots arrives. With Ridley Scott’s name all over it, it’s full of big ideas and unsettling imagery, and we’re looking forward to Season 2. – Mike Rougeau

Tales from the Loop

If you’re a fan of horror and sci-fi art, there’s a good chance you’ve run into the work of Simon Stålenhag at some point. He may not be a household name but his art, typically featuring some deeply surreal (but eerily familiar) landscapes invaded by retro-futuristic technology or monsters, has an instantly recognizable aesthetic. And it’s that aesthetic that inspired Amazon Prime’s Tales from the Loop, a series set within Stålenhag’s worlds, populated by Stålenhag’s creatures, told in the style of something like The Twilight Zone. It’s episodic, haunting, and at times deeply moving–don’t sleep on this one. – Mason Downey

Devs

Writer/director Alex Garland is best known for his movies Ex Machina and Annihilation but this year saw him jumping from the big screen to the small with a limited series for FX on Hulu called Devs. Conceptually, it falls right into Garland’s ouvre–it’s the story of a bleeding edge Silicon Valley tech company called Amaya and its mysterious Devs division as they work to develop a system that has the potential to not only change the world, but change history as well.

Devs is a lavish, poetic, and surprisingly human entry into Garland’s filmography that features some powerhouse performances by actors like Sonoya Mizuno, Allison Pill, and Nick Offerman. It’s somewhere between hard sci-fi and dream-like philosophy and available to watch in its entirety on Hulu, right now. – Mason Downey

Possessor

As a filmmaker, Brandon Cronenberg is quickly carving out his own niche-within-a-niche, creating movies that totally seem like movies his father, the legendary David Cronenberg, might have made in his day. The younger Cronenberg’s latest, Possessor, is the freaky sci-fi horror story of an assassin (Mandy’s Andrea Riseborough) who possesses the bodies of unwitting accomplices and carries out grisly murders on behalf of shadowy clients. It’s arresting and horrifying in equal measure, but largely went under the radar this year. – Mike Rougeau

Color Out of Space

January 2020 feels like a million years ago, a time when we still had hope, because the rest of the year hadn’t happened yet. Also, Color Out of Space, which is maybe the best H.P. Lovecraft adaptation yet made, had just been released, and we were still riding the high from infamous cult director Richard Stanley returning from a nearly-two-decades-long filmmaking hiatus to make a cosmically weird sci-fi horror movie starring Nick Cage. – Mike Rougeau

Vampires Vs. The Bronx

Released in October as a Netflix original film, Vampires vs. the Bronx plays out almost like a modern-day Monster Squad or Attack the Block, as a group of teens fight back an infestation of vampires in their Bronx neighborhood. It’s fun, funny, creepy, and, best of all, original. We’ve seen dozens of vampire stories over the years, if not more. What makes Vampires vs. the Bronx stand out is that the vampires are used to make a commentary on the gentrification of urban neighborhoods. These aren’t simply vampires snatching people off the street. They’re buying up land throughout the Bronx to house nests of vampires, leaving those in the neighborhood to become slowly outnumbered–that is until our teenage heroes figure out what’s going on and work to save their home from the gentrifying undead. – Chris Hayner

marlowarlus