As usual, anyone who says there wasn’t any good movies this year obviously didn’t see enough of them. 2019 was a sprawling year that gave us the conclusions to the Infinity Saga in “Avengers: Endgame” and ended the Skywalker legacy with “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” But more importantly it paved the way for fresh new voices: actress Olivia Wilde delivered one of the funniest comedies of all time with her female led “Booksmart,” audiences finally figured out who Bong Joon-Ho was with the most successful Korean film of all time “Parasite.”
Jordan Peele proved his inaugural feature, “Get Out,” was no fluke with his follow-up “Us” which, combined with Ari Asters trippy “Midsommar” you could say we’re living amongst some of the best genre storytellers of the century. Oh, did I mention that Adam Sandler could win an Oscar for his bananas turn in the Safdie Brothers insane “Uncut Gems?” In the same year where he made the awful “Murder Mystery” for Netflix. Wacky stuff.
Streaming services had a banner year, especially Netflix as they delivered one huge hit after another (and managed to squeak three movies into my top 10 this year). Over the 2019 movie-going year, I saw 173 films (in counting!) topping my viewership from last year and with that I’ve compiled the top 20 movies (with some honorable mentions). I’ve also tagged the worst of the year too, which you can find at the bottom.
Without further ado..
20. Little Woods
Director Nia DaCosta captured a rare and insightful look at the life of America’s struggling working class with the modern day Western “Little Woods.” DaCosta, in her directorial debut, manages to balance elements of economic depression in a manner that feels eerily reflective of the current state of our country. A small gem of a film that quietly flew under the radar this year.
A far superior and all around more complete film than last years’ “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Elton John biopic “Rocketman” showcases Taron Edgerton as the legend himself. Taking on the mannerisms and physicality of Sir Elton John, Edgerton carries a doozy of a film on his shoulders. A musical fantasy that literally floats on air and in the process offers a stunning new context to beloved songs we’ve known for decades.
18. Just Mercy (Out Jan 10th in local markets)
The riveting legal drama “Just Mercy” seems to be getting left out of the awards race this year, but I’m here to tell you Micheal B Jordan and Jamie Foxx are astounding in the film based on Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut proved that youth was alive in well in her outrageous comedy.
In Joel Portrykus’s Y2K parable “Relaxer” - actor Joshua Burge literally stays planted on a couch the entire time trying to beat the highest record in Pac-Man before the turn of the millennium. You won’t find a more dedicated performance from this year than what Burge does with minimal surroundings. The camera stays glued on him for nearly 90 minutes and makes for one of the most unforgettable movie going experiences of the year.
15. Hotel Mumbai
Brutal and at times hard to watch, “Hotel Mumbai” details the horrific true story about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India on November 26th 2006. Handled with grace and dignity, “Mumbai” is a gripping and a must-see thriller.
Horror maestro Jordan Peele asked us to look at ourselves and see who we really are in “US” and the results are absolutely terrifying.
13. Once Upon A Time In...Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. What else needs to be said?
12. The Nightingale
A startling period piece, Jennifer Kent’s latest “The Nightingale” follows a young Irish immigrant named Clare on the path for revenge after her family is murdered and she’s left for dead. Newcomer Aisling Franciosi carries the weight of the film and takes the viewer on a savage journey.
11. 1917 (out Jan 10th in local markets)
Pieced together to look like one continuous shot, Sam Mendes’ war epic “1917” is more than just a gimmick. It follows two soldiers going behind enemy lines in real time to deliver an important message that could save hundreds of lives. Shot by the legendary Oscar winner Roger Deakins, “1917” holds you from the first shot all the way till the harrowing climax that rivals “Saving Private Ryan.”
10. The Lighthouse
Robert Eggers enlisted heavyweights Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe to go bonkers in his black and white period thriller “The Lighthouse” and all I can say is, I don’t think I can ever look at mermaids or eat beans the same way again.
9. Uncut Gems
The Safdie Brothers assault your mind, body, and spirit with “Uncut Gems” which sees Adam Sandler in a commanding lead role. The Sandman has never been better and proves the comedian can act when he wants too. As opposed to the sloppy Netflix alternative, Sandler has the chops and dramatic tension needed to carry this film.
8. Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy has roared back to the screen in a big way playing the larger than life comedian Rudy Ray Moore in Netflix’s “Dolemite Is My Name.” Seriously, Murphy hasn’t been this good in at least twenty years.
7. The Irishman
Martin Scorsese managed to pull together the dream team: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci for what is arguably the last time these legends will work together on camera again. Yeah, it’s nearly four hour runtime is a bit daunting, but every second is warranted. This is the stuff all great gangster epics are made of.
6. Avengers: Endgame
The Russo Brothers seemingly did the impossible: ended a 21 movie narrative in stunning fashion. I’ll never forget where I was the time I witnessed cinematic history unfold on screen. Whether it was Captain America wielding Thor’s hammer or Robert Downey Jr’s Iron-Man - it’s criminal he isn’t gaining any awards attention - sacrificing himself, “Endgame” kept the emotions flowing. There’s too many moments to count on one hand, but “Endgame” was the film all Marvel fans deserved.
Between “Little Women,” “Fighting with my Family,” and the upcoming “Black Widow,” Florence Pugh is making a name for herself and she showed off her talents in Ari Asters’ insane “Midsommar.” A film about several friends who travel to Sweden only to find themselves involved in some questionable and jaw-dropping rituals. “Midsommar” is filled with cringe-worthy imagery and psychedelic acid trips, but it’s one of the most unique and noteworthy horror films of the decade.
4. Marriage Story
Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansson headline Noah Baumbach’s humane and heartbreaking “Marriage Story.” A film that details the trials and tribulations of divorce and the effects it can have on a relationship. “Marriage Story” falls in line with a plethora of great films about the messiness of marriage as sometimes love is ugly, brutal, and tumultuous. But in this wonderfully emphatic film, it shows you can still learn compassion through the bad times.
It’s an abomination that folks have forgotten about “Luce” from earlier this year because newcomer Kelvin Harrison Jr (who also ruled in “Waves”) delivers one of the best performances of the year in the titular role. An unnerving drama that plays like a potboiler thriller, “Luce” tackles inherent themes of race, gender, and class while asking bold questions about perceptions of society and dares the viewer to think about them. “Luce” features terrific supporting performances from Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth and Naomi Watts. The less you know going in the better.
2. Jojo Rabbit
A satire in the vein of Monty Python, but also brimming with a sweet whimsical side too, Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” follows the young Johannes (Roman Griffin Davis in a brilliant performance) as he navigates being a child during the regime of Nazi-occupied Germany. All the little fascist wants is to please the Fuhrer, and in his head makes up his own imaginary friend: Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi who is hilarious). The film, though I can see how one might find this offensive, isn’t afraid to take big swings at how dumb and nit-witted the Germans blindly followed Hitler, but it’s also serious and sincere when it needs to be.
No film this year left a mark on me the way Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece “Parasite” did. Unlike the filmmaker’s previous work, “Parasite” knocks on the door of every genre in the book: dark comedy, horror, drama, social commentary, and yes, even slasher. The film leaves you with this complete feeling and is an experience that’s impossible to predict. Only until the credits start to roll and you’re left sitting in the dark with your jaw on the floor do you realize what’s just happened. Movies like this don’t come along often, only about once or twice in a decade and “Parasite” will be discussed for generations and generations to come.
How To Train Your Dragon: Hidden World
John Wick: Chapter Three
Blinded By The Light
Always Be My Maybe
The Best Movies of 2019 (Top 20)
Dolemite Is My Name
Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood
The Worst Films of 2019
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Rambo: Last Blood