Toward the end of 2019, only when looking back did I realize how truly strong of a year this was for movies. As I progress in life as a movie goer, finding the good movies becomes easier. I always equate it to picking raspberries when I was a kid: the better ones are not always out in front. As has been the case of the past few years, I have decided to do a top 20 instead of a top 10. Even with 20, movies shown above such as The Two Popes, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Pain and Glory, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker did not make the cut.
So without further ado…
It is not hard at all to see why hardcore right wingers would want to steer clear of Bombshell, which is based off of the accusations of sexual misconduct of the late Roger Ailes. Regardless of where you stand politically, no one can deny the fierce acting of Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, and (especially) Charlize Theron. Her transformation into Megyn Kelly is insane.
Dark and twisted is only scratching the service of Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, a film that is likely to make any normal movie goer feel uneasy. He is a director we will see more of in the future, working here with veteran Willem Dafoe and talented Robert Pattison, who is easily distancing himself from the Twilight franchise.
Not knowing anything about car racing is not at all a handicap here. Anyone can be enthralled by Ford v. Ferrari, with the stellar acting of Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the gripping story, or the bone chilling racing scenes.
Dedicated to his World War one veteran grandfather, Sam Mendes’ 1917 takes a simple story of two soldiers delivering a message. Edited to seem as though it was in one take (I can only remember counting a couple times I would guess they cut), the film is both heart pounding as well as breaking.
After the third film (which is better), it seemed like we had the perfect ending to Woody, Buzz, and the gang. With Toy Story 4, we get one last solid outing that ends with me having tears in my eyes.
It is weird to think of having a sentence with Adam Sandler and Oscar Worthy in it, but that is the case when describing Uncut Gems. As a sports gambling addict, he is nothing short of transcendent.
Selling the idea of Jojo Rabbit must have been difficult, but thankfully Taika Waititi came through with one of the best satires of recent years. It also resulted in a great star making role for young Roman Griffin Davis.
The decade has had its share of sci fi flicks not related to a certain franchise, and Ad Astra is indeed one of the great ones of the bunch. Helmed (so to speak) by Brad Pitt, the film takes the idea of space exploration and ends in a place we have not seen before.
Many of the films on my list are full of ensemble actors stepping up their A game, such as Marriage Story. Laura Dern may soon win her first Oscar for the film, and you won’t look at Scarlett Johanson as Black Widow or Adam Driver as Kylo Ren afterwards. Only as sublime actors.
Even with this being the umpteenth adaptation, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women still shines. Especially for those of us who walked in with virtually no knowledge of the material at all. It is pure delightful.
Regardless of what it may say politically, Todd Phillips’ Joker still shines as a nice tribute to films such as Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. It is also clearly a masterpiece of acting by Joaquin Phoenix.
Of all the films I have seen this year, the one I may have requested people see the most would be Rian Johnson’s Knives Out. Another film with a stellar cast (most notably Ana De Armas and Daniel Craig), this delicious whodunit leaves you with as many chills as it does smiles.
Part of the journey is the end. And what an end we were given with Avengers: Endgame. Now the highest grossing film worldwide, it gave us endings and beginnings to characters we have all grown to care for over the decade. That, plus Cap wielding Mjolnir was just lit.
From 2019’s loudest movie to one of it’s quietest, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell is a testament to family in times of trouble, lead by a revolutionary turn by Awkwafina. The film is all the most incredible when you realize it is based on true events.
Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out did take me some time to discover it’s brilliance. It did not take me anytime with his second film, Us. The film is full of things worth discovering on rewatching, the performance by Lupita N’Yongo is hair raising in it’s authenticity, and the twist at the end is one of the best in years.
Movies about movies are always a good bet on success, but when you add in Tarantino, you get Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. Every actor shines, regardless of screen time. The soundtrack is (as all QT film soundtracks are) epically great, and the film is yet another piece of cinema magic in the director’s short but stellar library.
I would not blame anyone who has not heard of this film. It may not be the most logical of titles, but The Peanut Butter Falcon more than makes up for it with its simple, engaging story of two men (one with down syndrome) who find each other and form a bond you hope is never broken. You want to go to this birthday party.
Netflix clearly had its best year ever with original movies in 2019. The documentary American Factory. The brilliantly bizaar animated French film I Lost my Body. We also had Dolemite is my Name, The Two Popes, and the aforementioned Marriage Story. In the end, their biggest hitter by far was the long awaited Scorsese film The Irishman. De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and the whole cast all are pitch perfect, in a 3 ½ hour film that does not drag for one iota of a second.
By now, mostly everyone has heard the buzz about Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite. Believe the hype, because this is a film that is so engaging that you forget you are watching a movie not in English. Funny, thrilling, heartbreaking, and mind boggling, this film is all you could want and then some.
I confess: I basically chickened out after seeing the movie Waves, because I did not want to ruin a single bit of this film. The story of an African American family in Miami, the film focuses mainly on the two teenagers, as the family encounters life events no family could foretell. What those are I will not reveal, only to say that the film gave me an emotional kick to the gut I have not felt in a very long time. With acting so real that it is unnoticeable (the fishing scene between father and daughter is the best acted scene of 2019) and direction that (though iffy at first glance) only adds to the drama, Waves is a film whose effects you feel months after seeing it.