Lets’s discuss the cream of the crop in 2019.
32. Gloria Bell (7/10)
I appreciated the fact that this was a story about an older woman going through life and struggling in a relationship. It showed that everyone is ultimately still trying to figure things out, and we’re all clueless. Julianne Moore is very good as always, and John Turturro playing a love interest was refreshing.
31. Furie (7/10)
You probably have never even heard of this movie, but it’s a Vietnamese action movie that can be found on Netflix. It’s similar to Taken with a female lead. There are some great emotional moments toward the end of the film too.
30. Longshot (7/10)
This is a movie where you could very easily pick it apart to the point where nothing makes sense, from the fact Charlize Theron’s character is dating someone she babysat to the politics not really making sense. This feels like a more mature Knocked Up in a way. Both people are less annoying and are least trying to be better. I got some genuine laughs from this movie, and it only doesn’t get a higher grader because it almost feels of a different time.
29. Rocketman (7/10)
I got a lot of shit for not liking Bohemian Rhapsody, but I’m here to tell you Rocketman is a million times better despite falling into some of the traps as all musical biopics do. Taron Edgerton actually sings. The film does far less straight washing and at least purports to be truthful. There are also some nice fantastical visual elements. I genuinely enjoyed this theatrical experience and would have zero problem watching this again.
28. Judy (7/10)
Men are awful, and the way Judy Garland is treated proves why the Hollywood system of the 1930s and 40s should be viewed with a very skeptical eye at all times. Renee Zellweger was the right choice to play Garland and carries the movie even when the plot isn’t the best. This is not a standard biopic as it focuses on a specific time period. The flashbacks felt appropriately heartbreaking.
27. The Peanut Butter Falcon (7/10)
Shia LeBouf really did have an interesting 2019. I don’t think he was involved in two of the best movies of all-time, but he was great here. Dakota Johnson also got to play a real character. This was a very pleasant experience and a charming little Sundance style story.
26. Dolemite is My Name (7/10)
Eddie Murphy is back! This showed he could be funny and still act. This is in many ways a spiritual sequel to Ed Wood and captures a lot of the same feelings. Great supporting performance by Wesley Snipes too as he was on a heater in his limited amount of screen time. This was overall very charming and a great reintroduction to Murphy as a performer.
25. 1917 (7/10)
This movie soars when it’s a thriller and personal tale. Sam Mendes excels with sweeping camera movements and showing the randomness of war. When it comes to the actual plot, the movie is thin. I also believe trying to make an apolitical or non-judgmental war movie is impossible because even this movie treats German soldiers like “others” and doesn’t go beyond the idea of “War is hell.” Still, I’d recommend seeing this on the biggest possible screen possible for the technical aspects alone.
24. Happy Death Day 2U (8/10)
This is not a joke. I had this in the top 20 for quite sometime and only a recent run of Oscar bait knocked it out. I would strongly recommend going to HBO and watching both movies because they’re not only funny but emotional. The sequel in particular goes to some deep places and actually advances the concept beyond being a Groundhog Day rip-off. Jessica Rothe should be more of a star as she excels in the lead role. It’s a shame there won’t be a third movie, but this was truly one of my favorite sequels of the year.
23. Waves (8/10)
This is a movie with two distinct halves and covers the trauma of a family really well. I’m not sure I could ever emotionally invest in a rewatch, but this was a really interesting family drama. Some great visuals and use of close-ups. The work of Sterling K. Brown and Taylor Russell stood out particularly. It feels like this movie got lost in the shuffle because of the glut of award candidates, but I hope this gets seen by more people. I’m sure this movie had issues similar to another movie later on this list as far as being seen.
22. Ad Astra (8/10)
I cannot tell you if this movie totally worked, but this is one of my favorite Brad Pitt performances ever. He’s always a great number two or supporting player, but a lot of his work as a lead seems to falter. We always get one of these smart space movies in the fall, and there is some preposterous plot turns, but there are also some great individual scenes, including a look at what a commercialized moon might look like followed by an insane action sequence. I liked the experience of watching the movie and having certain images burned in my mind. I don’t think it quite added up.
21. Queen and Slim (8/10)
This movie also has some gorgeous visuals and performances but is missing a strong ending that really brings everything together. I’d argue a couple plot points were hard to decipher, but I appreciated the way a Bonnie of Clyde of color had to use a reverse underground railround to try and negotiate their way out of the country. This is a movie which also deserved a greater debate and conversation despite aspects of the film not always working.
20. Toy Story 4 (8/10)
I think this is a movie is a step or two down from the previous three, but this still should be regarded as an outstanding Pixar entry. They actually push the narrative forward and show what happens after the logical ending of number three. Can people who have done their job find happiness? I loved the way they brought in new characters and brought back some old favorites. I could make an argument that this is the best franchise film for film ever produced.
19. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (8/10)
Making a Mr. Rogers movie not about Mr. Rogers was a major risk and could have failed miserably. Centering the film as almost an episode of the show helped the cause. Casting Matthew Rhys as a sad sack journalist after having played a sad sack Russian spy was a brilliant choice. Tom Hanks is practically guaranteed an Oscar win for this film, and he certainly deserves it. He captures the essence of Mr. Rogers and was really the only person who could have played this role.
18. The Art of Self-Defense (8/10)
This is a great one man exhibition on the danger of toxic masculinity as played by Jesse Eisenberg. Probably one of the more underrated movies this year as this shows the damage certain communities can do to different people and what can result. I also appreciate that there’s pretty much a literal Chekov’s gun. This is a very dark comedy with some awkward moments laced in for fun.
17. The Report (8/10)
Adam Driver had a really great year, and this is another one person showcase essentially. The government is bad. Dianne Feinstein is really bad (even worse than I think this film portrays), and the United States refuses to be honest about torture and the kind of programs it runs. Movies like this will never be perfect, but I’m glad they didn’t try to turn this into a black comedy or have a lot of fourth wall breaking. It’s very procedural, similar in spirit to Spotlight or All The President’s Men.
16. Hustlers (8/10)
I am glad this movie has developed enough cache and been well regarded among credits that it will not merely go down as “Jennifer Lopez’s stripper movie.” Her character introduction might be one of the top movie moments of the year. Some might argue this is a Scorsese impersonation. Well, if it is, Lorene Scafaria did a far better job than Todd Phillips because she actually had something to say about society and what happens if people become desperate. I also appreciated some moments with Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez as they showed a true evolution of a female friendship.
15. Booksmart (8/10)
This is the most underrated movie of 2019 and deserved so much better. This should have been a huge box office success and something for younger audiences, especially young women, to embrace. This was marketed so poorly that it’s easy to see why this will be destined to be a movie that could have been. Olivia Wilde has not endeared herself with comments about her character in Richard Jewell, but she certainly deserves more directing work thanks to her sensitive and honest portrayal of a friendship. Billie Lourd also steals the show in ever scene she’s in. Check this out on Hulu because this deserves to be seen.
14. John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum (8/10)
The first 30 minutes of this sequel are just extraordinary, and the movie has a hard time trying to top itself afterward. This is a brilliant action franchise that continues to unpeel the onion and expand the world in helpful ways. I’m all-in for as many of these as they want to make if there are ideas on the table. I think number two is slightly better, but John Wick riding a horse on the streets and having the fight he does at the end were two genuinely thrilling theater moments.
13. Dark Waters (8/10)
Mark Ruffalo has been playing Hulk for most of this decade, and it was good to see him involved in what’s clearly a passion project. This has a powerful message about not trusting giant corporations or the government. Ruffalo’s character talks about the individual responsibility we all bare. Is it a bit heavy-handed at times? Yes. Will this movie make you angry? Most likely. It’s a shame Anne Hathaway is relegated to the wife role, but I’m glad she gets a couple of scenes where she does get to be more than a doting partner.
12. Jojo Rabbit (9/10)
This movie has taken some guff for its portrayal of Nazis. I think Taika Waititi is great as Adolf Hitler, both in being humorous but also turning deadly serious when needed. The children are casted quite and Scarlett Johanssen is do damn good as the mom. The tying of the shoes and how it pays off was one of the most heartbreaking moments in any movie this year. Waititi handles things sensitively and crafts a powerful look at what it means to have character and who deserves forgiveness.
Seriously though, we need to stop casting Sam Rockwell as asshole white dudes who are redeemed over the course of a film or television show.
11. Ford vs. Ferrari (9/10)
A dad movie in every sense of the word. At 2.5 hours, James Mangold cashes in his Logan chips and crafts a mostly successful mainstream project about creativity and pushing forward artistically and technologically. The way the driving is shot is extraordinary, and the sound design is spectacular. I don’t think a lot of new territory is being discovered here, but there are very good performances across the board, and I give the movie credit for making sure to critique Ford as opposed to merely treating them like an underdog in the big race.
10. Little Women (9/10)
I just saw this movie a few days ago, so I’m having a hard time with ranking this movie. There are parts of Greta Gerwig’s passion project which are shaggy. I’m not sure Timothee Chalamet was the right choice as the male lead. That being said, I loved the structure of going back and forth between two time periods. It really exhibited the characters and themes well. Saorise Ronan and Florence Pugh are incredible in their respective roles and make this into a great movie by themselves. I cannot imagine a better adaptation of this story. There’s a lot to enjoy about this story, and I think rewatches would push this even higher on the list. I absolutely wanted to include this in the top ten simply because the text is so rich.
9. The Irishman (9/10)
Some people talk about Martin Scorsese doing these kind of mobster movies, and while he ‘s certainly done a number of them, he’s also done Silence and The Kings of Comedy. He has a diverse portfolio but for a project like this, he needed Robert DiNiro and Joe Pesci. In a movie that luxuriates in time despite being about the realities, it was honestly just great to see these two actors in a project that matters. DiNiro has done so much garbage lately that it’s easy to forget how important an actor he is. The de-aging technology is a bit on the weird side as I don’t think it totally works, especially in one infamous action scene. Still, the last half hour is an extraordinary meditation on aging and the ramifications for one’s behavior. This is the second best Netflix movie ever made, only to be topped by…
8. Marriage Story (9/10)
Holy shit, did this movie knock me on my ass. This is a great acting exercise as Scarlett Johanssen and Driver each get multiple showcases individually before one of the best scenes of the year. It’s raw and realistic. I wanted to crawl out of my own skin during their blow-up moment, but I also marveled at the way Noah Baumbach brought in humor to a film which could have easily been sour and dour. There are also some great supporting turns from Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and even Ray Liotta. I especially loved that a movie about divorce starts with a few minutes of each character talking about what they love about each other. The movie respects the leads but hates the divorce process. What this movie proves is divorce lawyers are really just a giant work.
7. Knives Out (9/10)
I walked in expecting a fun Agatha Christie style romp. What I got instead was a movie that articulated the importance of actually being a great person and that being liberal or conservative does not reflect this. I loved that the movie hid who the lead of the film actually was and turned Chris Evans into the type of whiny fanboy Rian Johnson has encountered a great deal since he directed The Last Jedi. Great casting top to bottom and an all-time good/bad accent courtesy of Daniel Craig. I hope we get more adventures of Benoit Blanc in the future.
6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (9/10)
I respect those who do not like Quentin Tarentino on principle, especially in his treatment of Bruce Lee and Sharon Tate. I have interpretations (which might just not be mental gymnastics ultimately) which allow me to appreciate this movie. This is slow-paced but allows one to hang out and appreciate the scenery. Tarentino slows things down and luxuriates in the classic radio, television, and cinema of the time. I loved DiCaprio and Pitt’s bromance and felt their relationship was built up well. I liked the subtle way Pitt’s acid trip was shown. Instead of going very trippy, it’s done with simple actions and music. I’ve actually liked this movie far more on second and third watches. The dialogue really has started to stand out.
5. Us (9/10)
Should say a lot about the state of horror movies in 2019 that this isn’t even my top ranked one and here we are in the top five. Lupita Nyong’o deserves another Oscar nomination for her turn in the duel roles. Jordan Peeles goes into the roaring 20s as the most interesting filmmaker (Greta Gerwig is not that far behind based on her work either) as he crafts a great story about what it means to be an American and who we are rooting for in these narratives. There are also some excellent moments of humor laced throughout, and Peele is someone who I am almost guaranteed to run out to the theater every time.
4. Avengers: Endgame (10/10)
There have been a lot of big budget blockbusters I simply haven’t liked or been disappointed by. I’ve watched this movie multiple times and gotten emotional at different points every single time. This is the greatest payoff to the biggest franchise of movies ever. I have no complaints with the three hour run time as different characters got room to bleed. Paul Rudd literally gotten minutes to hang out and hug his daughter. There were a lot of endings this year, and while Watchmen did a great job sticking the landing, I think this was the gold standard for somehow paying off every storyline, making previous films better, and even teasing future projects.
This is one of my favorite horror movies of all-time. As much as I wanted to like Hereditary, I walked away cold save for Toni Collette’s amazing performance and some visuals which shook me to my core. I don’t think the story was perfect, but there are multiple scenes I’d never before seen on film before. Florence Pugh controls the screen whenever she acts, and I love the way all of her male cohorts are shown to be terrible people. I almost can’t believe the ending felt as cathartic as it did. I really want to rewatch this at some point, but there are couple scenes which are a tough hang.
2. Parasite (10/10)
I originally had this at number three, but I made a last minute switch. This means my top two movies are mostly not even spoken in English, a first for me. I couldn’t help but think of some of the farces of the 1940s and 1950s as I watched this. It felt like there was a message of eating the rich and discussions about elevating class, but there is also a great deal of tension and even humor. I walked away tremendously impressed by all of the performers and hope Bong Joon Ho gets to make whatever movies he wants in perpetuity.
1. The Farewell (10/10)
I thought this was a very good movie before the ending but after learning some crucial information about one of the characters, I had to put this as number one. Lulu Wang deserves all the credit in the world for crafting a story that made me feel sympathetic to people who basically lied to a family member about a life ending disease. She makes everyone feel human and lets them all have a voice. I was so impressed by the writing and storytelling choices. I loved the way China was represented. I know Awkwafina has her problematic elements , but I think she gives one of the best performances of the year in a language that I do not believe is her own. I truly hope this gets a lot of award buzz and that people will see this movie based on that. This stayed in the top spot almost immediately after I saw it, and while there have been some excellent movies since, I still think this stands out.