What a year 2019 has been for film. We have had huge event movies like Avengers Endgame, extremely polarizing movies like Joker, disappointing sequels like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and It: Chapter Two, and critically acclaimed films like The Irishman and Little Women. Here, however, are my personal favourites of the year.
Firstly, some honourable mentions: Apollo 11, Avengers: Endgame, Blinded by the Light, Doctor Sleep, Dolemite is My Name, The Favourite, Hustlers, Ready or Not, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, The Sisters Brothers, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Stan & Ollie
An earlier release from this year, this South Korean psychological thriller/ mystery film (directed by Lee Chang-dong and starring Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun and Jeon Jong-seo), was hypnotic, strange and utterly captivating. The film plays out like a mixture between David Lynch and Park Chan-wook in it’s mysterious characters and weird imagery. It’s a very slow-burn, but for those who have the patience for it, it will be an utterly rewarding watch.
14. Eighth Grade
This film, directed and penned by comedian/YouTuber turned director, Bo Burnham, felt so true, real and honest. Featuring an terrific central performance by Elsie Fisher, the film deals with serious themes, such as young teenage angst, mental health, consent and the impact of social media on the youth of today. Yet, it manages to do so in a witty, funny and accessible way. It’s just great.
13. If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins’s follow-up to 2016’s Moonlight (which was one of my favourite films of recent years), this may not of been as devastating or engrossing as the Best Picture winner was, but it was still wonderful. Jenkins has a real talent for infusing terrible and depressing situations with some real wonder and hope, and he does that beautifully here. Also, all the performances are great, particularly Regina King, who deserves the Oscar alone just for THAT mirror scene alone. I wait to see what Jenkins does next.
After the surprise success of the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody (which I also unashamedly loved), Dexter Fletcher follows that up with this new biopic about the life of Elton John. In the same way as Bohemian Rhapsody did, here Fletcher directs the musical sequences in such a passionate and entertaining way, creating probably the best musical of the year. Also, the lead, Taron Egerton continues on his streak of being one of the best actors around, creating a very nuanced portrayal of John (and by the look of it, will unfortunately be snubbed for a Best Actor nomination). It’s just so much fun.
11. The Peanut Butter Falcon
Playing like this decade’s answer to 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine, this film was just so sweet and lovely. It’s the film that will most probably sell you on Dakota Johnson as a screen presence, as she’s great in this, as is Shia LaBeouf, who seems well on this way to having a career revival. Also, Zack Gottsagen as the lead is a revelation. It’s one of the most recent examples of how to make a sweet and heartfelt film, but not having it reduced to sentimentality.
Being the first animated feature to come originally from Netflix, this lovely movie serves as an origin story to Santa Claus. With absolutely beautiful old-school hand-drawn animation, a heartfelt story and great vocal performances, this movie ranks up as one of the best animated films of the year. Also, as a Christmas film, this will no doubt be featured as one of the most recent examples of modern holiday classic.
9. Toy Story 4
Another animated film here, Toy Story 4 did the impossible by upping what was the perfect trilogy into what is now the perfect quadrilogy. Although, it is no doubt an extended epilogue to the series, it still manages to end every character’s arc in a completely wholesome way, and never feels like a cynical cash grab (which I’m sure it really was). Also, if you don’t cry at the ending “To Infinity… And Beyond” scene, you have definitely have no soul.
Jordan Peele’s follow-up to the 2017’s brilliant Get Out (one of my favourites of the decade), Us will no doubt not be for all tastes, but I loved it, and seems to be getting better the more times I watch it (I’ve seen it 3 times now). Like Get Out, the film combines some hilarious black humour and biting social commentary, but this time, mixed with a much scarier and nastier tone, which Peele always feels completely in control of. As much as I loved Doctor Sleep, this is definitely the best horror film of the year.
7. Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson and especially, Adam Driver give career-best performances in this heartbreaking Noah Baumbach film. The film combines comedy, drama, and oddly, some musical moments, and ends up creating a very true, and emotional depiction of marriage, divorce and family. If Joaquin Phoenix wins the Best Actor Oscar over Driver then, we riot because Driver deserves it much, much more.
6. One Cut of the Dead
Much like recent film, Parasite (which, if it had come out in the UK this year, would no doubt, be part of this list), the least you know about this film, the better. The first 40 minutes may take some patience to get through, but once that is over, the film becomes incredibly smart, clever, witty and heart-felt. The second act also completely justifies the opening act, and remains a great deconstruction for the zombie genre and of low-budget filmmaking. It has to be seen to believed, as it’s just wonderful.
5. The Farewell
This film, about a family (headed by a young woman, played by Awkwafina) who decide to not the matriarch that she’s actually dying of terminal cancer, is equals parts devastatingly emotional and equals parts very funny. The film also always finds a way to feel very real and relatable, even if you have never been through anything remotely like this. Also, the out-of-character serious performance by Awkwafina is fantastic, and should get an Oscar nomination. I loved it!
4. Little Women
Greta Gerwig follows up her great 2017 coming-of-age comedy-drama, Lady Bird (which I love love loved) by writing and directing the seventh adaptation of Louise May Alcott’s classic novel. Gathering a huge ensemble cast (including big names ranging from Laura Dern to Meryl Streep to Chris Cooper to Emma Watson to Bob Odenkirk), EVERYONE in this film is so good, but the standouts are Saoirse Ronan and this year’s breakout star, Florence Pugh. This film is also beautifully directed, and remains just so lovely, heartfelt and universal for everyone to watch.
3. The Irishman
This Martin Scorsese picture seems him back on regular ground after some more experimental films from him in recent years (like 2016’s Silence & 2011’s Hugo) and reunites him with a plethora of talent including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Although not as exciting as films like Goodfellas or The Departed, this film is melancholic, quiet, and deeply affecting. Dealing with themes of ageing, regret and leaving a legacy, this film will stick with you long after the credits start rolling.
Olivia Wilde completely revitalized the coming-of-age genre this year with the smart and hilarious Booksmart. Wilde is absolutely fantastic behind the camera, directing the film in a zippy and energetic way, and script is able to get the right mixture between funny moments and a genuine heartfelt story. Also, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are stars in the making. If anyone says that comedy in 2019 can’t be done (I’m looking at you, Todd Phillips), this is all the proof you need that comedies can still be rip-roaringly hilarious.
1. Knives Out
Yes, this film may not have the most depth or emotional resonance as some films this year, but it was this Rian Johnson-penned whodunnit was the one that kept me entertained and invested more than any other film. It’s incredibly smart, unpredictable and shocking whilst still remaining witty and funny, and having a genuine heart underneath the drama (mainly due to a very good Ana de Armas in the lead role). If you go to see, you will not be disappointed because it’s just so damn entertaining.