Real people inspired some great screen moments
Some of 2020's best television shows and movies were inspired by real people and stories
What a strange, tragic and pivotal year 2020 has been. It's somewhat fitting that in a time when truth was stranger than fiction, some of the best TV and film efforts were based on real-life events.
UNORTHODOX ( NETFLIX)
Deborah Feldman's 2012 memoir inspired this acclaimed miniseries — a requisite entry on best-of-2020 lists — about a young woman who abruptly leaves an arranged marriage and the strict Hasidic sect in which she grew up. Shira Haas earned an Emmy nomination for her turn as Esther (Esty) Shapiro, whose departure from Brooklyn leads to exhilarating self-discovery in Berlin.
MRS. AMERICA ( FX CANADA)
This miniseries takes a unique approach in depicting the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, which the U.S. almost passed in the 1970s: focusing on Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), the late right-wing activist who campaigned against the proposed amendment. As such, the series is more than a retelling of the women's rights movement, but it does honour its pioneers, including Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman) and — in a particularly standout portrayal that earned Uzo Aduba her third Emmy — Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress and run for president.
THE CROWN ( NETFLIX)
This royal-inspired drama excels at taking highly publicized events and imagining how the residents of Buckingham Palace dealt with them away from public glare. The show's fourth season tackles Margaret Thatcher's tenure as prime minister of the U.K., with Gillian Anderson as the Iron Lady.
The most prominent storyline, though, is the brief courtship and subsequent marriage of Prince
Charles (Josh O'connor) and Lady Diana (Emma Corrin). The series has generated a considerable amount of discourse over its approach to their relationship and Charles's affair with Camilla Parker Bowles (Emerald Fennell), who decades later would become his second wife. Netflix has declined to add a disclaimer labelling the series as fictional in response to appeals from the British government. Controversy aside, Corrin is a captivating Diana and the season is clearly resonating with viewers. It has consistently been in Netflix's (self-reported) Top 10 list since its Nov. 15 première.
SHIRLEY ( VOD)
Elisabeth Moss plays writer Shirley Jackson, best known as the author of The Haunting of Hill House, in Josephine
Decker's largely fictional drama. Adapted from Susan Scarf Merrell's like-named 2014 novel, the film imagines Jackson during a period of severe depression and social anxiety while trying to complete her 1951 gothic novel Hangsaman. When young newlywed couple, Rose (Odessa Young) and Fred Nemser (Logan Lerman) come to live with Jackson and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg), the two women develop an intense connection that subtly weaves its way into Jackson's work.
THE LAST DANCE ( NETFLIX)
This Emmy-winning documentary goes deep on Michael Jordan's final season with the Chicago Bulls. Despite its accolades and record viewership, some — including filmmaker Ken Burns — have criticized the 10-part series because it was produced in partnership with Jump 23, a production company owned by the basketball legend himself.
I'LL BE GONE IN THE DARK ( CRAVE)
Veteran documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus, along with a team of producers, directed this six-episode series recalling true-crime writer Michelle Mcnamara's quest to solve a decades-old cold case. The author's search for the violent criminal she dubbed the “Golden State Killer” was chronicled in a book by the same name, released two years after her death from an accidental overdose in 2016.
THE VOW ( CRAVE)
Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer's well-received docuseries goes inside NXIVM, a multi-level marketing company federal prosecutors later said was a cultlike organization that enabled founder Keith Raniere to prey on young women. Critics lauded the nine-episode project for its haunting insight into what drew NXIVM'S members — actresses and socialites among them — into a criminal enterprise.
TIGER KING ( NETFLIX)
Easily the most controversial documentary of 2020, Tiger King unpacks the decades-long feud between zoo owner Joe Exotic and animal rights activist Carole Baskin. The eight-episode series is full of characters (Baskin was a contestant on the most recent season of Dancing With the Stars) and offers an eye-opening look into the world of big cat ownership.