After a somewhat lackluster 2018, this past year was a great year for movies. We got the ending of an era in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the reunion of gangster legends and great strides for new and diverse talent in front of and behind the camera. I had a hard time cutting my list down to 10, and there are plenty of films, like “Ad Astra,” “Richard Jewel” and “Triple Frontier,” that I also very much enjoyed. So let’s dig into my list, starting with a film that just missed the cut.
*If you want to read my list of the Top 25 films from the past decade, you can check that out here*
Honorable Mention: Knives Out
A very fun film with entertaining performances and quick pace, this could have been in the middle of my Top 10 if it stuck its landing a tad better (it shows its hand too soon in my opinion). Still, it’s nice to see Rian Johnson return to smaller mystery films, and Chris Evans’ post-MCU career began with some fantastic sweaters.
10. Jojo Rabbit
A fun film with a fantastic debut performance from an adorable Roman Griffin Davis, this may be simple but I laughed way too much (God bless Sam Rockwell) to care. Excited to see more from Taika Waititi.
9. Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy’s first film since 2016 (and only third of the decade) sees him return to his R-rated roots as Rudy Ray Moore, a 1970s comedian who invents a vulgar stage character and then sets out to make a film about him. With a great energy, detailed production design and elaborate costumes, this was just one of Netflix’s many great 2019 films, and was a welcome return for Murphy.
8. Little Women
With a breezy and light feel and wonderful performances across the board (namely from 2019’s best supporting actress turn from Florence Pugh), this film is compulsively watchable and continues to show that Greta Gerwig is a writer-director to be reckoned with.
7. The Irishman
The “Avengers: Endgame” of the gangster genre, this Martin Scorsese epic is as large in runtime as it is in scope. There is plenty to talk about, from the 3.5 hour runtime to the de-aging of stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, and the work from Pacino and De Niro are the best they’ve had in years, while Pesci’s may be a career best. Sure it is meticulous with its pacing but the payoff is great, and will surely be remembered for years to come.
6. Ford v Ferrari
Intense racing sequences, great-as-usual performances from the likes of Christian Bale and Matt Damon and a sharp script make this one of those old-fashion films that Hollywood doesn’t make anymore (and they also don’t give many adult dramas $97 million budgets).
I’m a bit biased here because Spider-Man is my second favorite superhero and Mysterio is one of my favorite comic book villains (who I never thought I would see properly done on-screen). But I think “Far From Home” is one of the most fun MCU films in recent memory (even if it lacks the emotional weight of an “Infinity War”) and how can you hate on Tom Holland’s charm?
4. The Farewell
A charming cast anchored by Akwafina and Zhao Shuzhen make this a light and bittersweet yet emotionally resonating family dramedy with themes that everyone can relate to, regardless of their upbringing or culture.
Hilarious. That’s really all I have to say about it. I’ve seen this film three times and it remains just as funny and charming as the first time around, which is always the sign of a great comedy. A truly great directorial debut by Olivia Wilde, the breakout performances and chemistry from the deadpan Kaitlyn Dever and bubbly Beanie Feldstein make you excited for what all three women will do moving forward.
This jumped from the five slot to two upon a recent rewatch. This film is bonkers, unnerving and so beautiful that it is unsettling. Centered around an anxious Florence Pugh (who as with “Little Women” kills it), this ride features several shots that were burned into my mind months after I first saw it, and has been the film I have tried to champion and recommend to people the most this year.
And the best film of 2019 was…
Career-best performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, partnered with fun supporting turns from Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Merritt Wever and Alan Alda, this film has everything. Drama, laughs, relatable themes… I’ve seen this three times to-date and it’s just so watchable while also hitting home emotionally. Between this, “Irishman” and “Dolemite” Netflix had a truly great 2019.
And that’s the list! I hope you enjoyed your 2019, both inside the movie theater and out, and here’s to another decade of great films!