2019 has come and gone, and with it another great year for movies. Many films from a vast different number of creators and backgrounds have shined over all twelve months, and, for the first time, on many different platforms. Streaming services have stormed the film world and many of the best products from this year come from Netflix and Amazon.
These are my ten personal favorite films of 2019, which means that this list is extremely subjective. My opinions are only mine, and many others may disagree with my choices. It was difficult to narrow this down to only ten, and even though this list is numbered that doesn’t mean that each movie is better than the last. However, I recommend anyone reading check all the movies on this list out if they get the chance.
Another thing to keep in mind is this list will most likely change. There are still plenty of movies I have not seen from last year that have a good chance of making this list. But for now, here are my–
Taika Waititi hits yet another home run with his dark comedy that takes place in Nazi Germany. Following a young loyal follower of Hitler (Roman Griffin Davis) who finds a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his home, the film not only makes audiences laugh at things that shouldn’t be funny, but it provides a touching story about propaganda, the consequences of war and inclusion.
I Am Mother
I Am Mother is a criminally underrated Netflix gem that rivals some of the best low-budget sci-fi in recent history. It takes place in the distant future where all of humanity (with some exceptions) has been wiped out due to a destructive war; Mother (Ellen Page/Luke Hawker) is a robot who is responsible for a bunker full of potential human offspring, and she is raising a child (Clara Rugaard) to hopefully start humanity again. However, not everything is as it seems, and this is a poignant thriller with fantastic production and an ending to remember.
This film is the best Christmas movie in years; it creates an emotional story that will convince even the most cynical people of the magic of the holiday season. It follows a spoiled mailman (Jason Schwartzman) who gets exiled to Smeerensburg–a blisteringly cold northern town on an island where everyone fights and hates each other. The animation is mesmerizing, and the message is tearjerking.
Ready or Not
Horror comedies either really work or fall flat; Ready or Not works astonishingly well. The premise is insane: a newlywed (Samara Weaving) finds out that her husband’s family has a tradition where they hunt the bride down in a deadly game of hide and seek. From start to finish this film is suspenseful to an extreme degree while also being extremely hilarious and entertaining.
Seth Rogan proves again just how hilarious he can be with this romantic comedy about a freelance journalist (Rogan) who realizes his childhood babysitter/crush (Charlize Theron) is the new leading presidential candidate. This movie is more politically aware than it seems, and the social commentary mixes perfectly with the comedy, making Rogan’s best work in years.
Toy Story 4
The fourth movie in an animated film franchise has no right being this good. After Toy Story 3‘s finality, the success of this movie seemed murky, but fortunately Pixar has made yet another poignant and hilarious rumination on parenting and moving on. This film is just as great for kids as it is for adults–plus it contains the funniest scene in all of 2019.
Jordan Peele delivers just as much with his sophomore effort as he did with Get Out. Lupita Nyong’o gives one of 2019’s best performances by playing a double role and making it look easy, and the plot is both chilling and creative. Peele is one of the most inventive voices in horror today and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
The Peanut Butter Falcon
The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of the most underrated films of the year, with a return to form from Shia Lebeouf and a star-making turn from Zack Gottsagen. This film makes viewers feel warm and fuzzy inside because of its fantastic character development and great performances. Gottsagen plays a man who escapes from a home he was put in unfairly and who meets Labeouf’s character, causing them to embark on a Tom Sawyer-like adventure through the beautiful setting. Seek this one out if you haven’t heard of it.
If Apocalypse Now and 2001: A Space Odyssey had a kid, it would look something like Ad Astra. While those who are looking for scientific accuracy and logically coherence may be confused, the metaphorical and literary value of this film is remarkable. Brad Pitt is subtle as Roy McBride, an astronaut who must travel to Neptune in order to find his estranged father. This movie has messages about faith, the relationships we have with one another, and living life to the fullest. The lessons one can mine from this movie are infinite, and the production (especially the cinematography) is out of this world.
10. Avengers: Endgame
No movie impacted audiences more than Avengers: Endgame–the biggest and best blockbuster film of the year. It brings more than 20 movies and ten years together in one movie and makes it look easy. The Russo Brothers have helmed some of the best comic book movies in history in their short career and this is definitely near the top. Emotions range from hilarity to heartbreak, and every single viewer will finish this movie feeling excited about the future but sad that an era is coming to a close.
This Elton John biopic makes Bohemian Rhapsody look like a middle school play by delivering a magical and fantastical experience. Taron Egerton is flawless as Elton, and director Dexter Fletcher’s decision to make it a musical fantasy instead of playing it straight is a genius one. The character growth is amazing and viewers will appreciate Elton John much more after the movie concludes.
8. The Farewell
The Farewell is the type of original and inspired film that Hollywood needs far more of. More than two-thirds of this film is in Mandarin, and is a great showcase of a different culture to an American audience. It is a semi-autobiographical story by director/writer Lulu Wang that follows Billie, a struggling writer who must tell her grandmother that she doesn’t have cancer despite the fact that Billie is not used to the Chinese cultural norms that dictate this action. It is a fascinating look into cultural differences and the way people handle loss, and Wang is an obvious choice a Best Director nomination (or even win).
7. The Two Popes
Despite this movie being about the Catholic Church, its meaning ascends beyond pandering to a religious audience. Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins as Popes Francis and Benedict respectively are both incredible, and Anthony McCarten’s writing along with Fernando Meirelles’ direction is transcendent. Not an aspect of this movie disappoints, and it also has much to say about relevant issues like the church abuse scandals and both sides of the political spectrum’s unwillingness to compromise.
6. Knives Out
Knives Out is the most crowd-pleasing film of 2019. Every minute of this film is wildly entertaining, and it is never predictable or cliché. Rian Johnson’s murder mystery/whodunnit film is one for the ages because of its ingenious writing that subverts every expectation of the genre. The acting is top-notch, the editing is meticulous, and everyone who will watch this movie, no matter the demographic, will find themselves having a great time.
Probably the most innovative movie of the year, 1917 is a war film suited for a new Hollywood environment. Sam Mendes films the entire two hour film in what seems like one continuous shot, immersing the audience in this story of two soldiers with hundreds of lives on their backs. This is a white-knuckled, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride with the filmmaking talent and great acting of a personal indie film.
4. The Irishman
After all these years, Martin Scorsese’s still got it. The Irishman is everything fans wanted it to be and more, with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino delivering their best performances in years. Scorsese talks about mortality, death, and family while also creating a mob epic that rivals his older work such as Goodfellas and Casino. At three and a half hours, every second is worth it, and the movie leaves audiences wanting more.
3. Little Women
This retelling of the classic story by Louisa May Alcott may be a remake, but it is also one of the most original and passionate films of the year. Greta Gerwig is clearly passionate about the material for she not only understands the messages of the novel, but adds poignant lessons of her own that enhance the impact of the original story. Every single performance in the entire movie is Oscar-worthy, from Florence Pugh to Timothée Chalamet to even Chris Cooper. Everything comes together here to create a heartfelt and meaningful experience that, despite the familiar story, is unique to this film.
2. Marriage Story
Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson deliver two of the best performances of the year in this emotionally draining and powerful narrative about divorce. Noah Baumbach directs and writes it to utter perfection, making it as realistic and impactful as a movie can possibly be. The movie observes the way in which men and women handle situations within their relationship, and comments on how the system exploits these traits to make the separation even more destructive.
When people claim any piece of art is a “masterpiece,” they are referring to films like Parasite. This Korean film about class differences and inequality has universal significance while also being the most suspenseful and unpredictable film experience of the entire decade. It starts off as one of the funniest movies of the year, and then quickly turns into one of the most horrifying ones. By the end, you’ll have shed tears, laughed hard, and screamed in terror. The acting is perfection (especially from Kang-ho Song), Bong Joon Ho’s direction is masterful, and the writing is one-of-a-kind. Films like this come very rarely, and even when they do they aren’t typically as fantastic as this, which is why Parasite is my favorite movie of 2019.