2019 was a fantastic year for the movie industry! As a farewell to the 2010s, which has been a decade full of some of the greatest movies of all time, 2019 managed to have a lot of highs. Starting off with what some would say wasn’t the most exciting couple of months for movies, turned into one of the best years for films I’ve ever seen!
I’m Andy, and today I’m counting down my favourite movies of 2019. From surprise hits to long-awaited finales of a series, these are the best of the best! Well, in my opinion, of course.
DISCLAIMER: There are still a few movies that I haven’t got the chance to see yet due to some not yet released in Australia, even if some of them have been out for a few weeks in other countries. You gotta love that Australia tends to get most movies a few weeks, or even months after they initially release.
Here are some of the more notable ones that I haven’t seen as of yet:
Little Women, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Hustlers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, The Farewell, The Report, Pain and Glory, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and The Souvenir.
As always, I have some honourable mentions to hand out. Now, these are all fantastic films, so I encourage you to seek them out and watch. Anyway, here are my honourable mentions (aka, 20-11):
20. Dragged Across Concrete: A slow-paced and well-acted crime thriller with sudden and brutal acts of violence, this Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn led film may test your patience, but it’s worth it in the end.
19. Avengers Endgame: A finale over ten years in the making, the three-hour-long farewell to MCU characters we’ve grown to love since 2008 is one of best epics of the decade!
18. Rocketman: This musical-fantasy about Elton John is one of the most unique and original biopics I’ve ever seen! Once Taron Egerton comes onto the screen and sings Saturday Night’s Alright, it’s hard to look away.
17. Ready or Not: I never thought I would end up falling in love with a horror-comedy this year, but I couldn’t help it after watching this extremely fun movie about a deadly game of hide and seek. Seriously, go and watch this as soon as possible, just for the incredible concept alone.
16. Under the Silver Lake: I love A24, but damn they did this Lynch-inspired neo-noir mystery thriller dirty. With Andrew Garfield bringing his best performance yet and a smart script which digs into modern Hollywood issues, this is the definition of a cult classic!
15. The Nightingale: Jennifer Kent’s much-anticipated follow-up to ‘The Babadook’ is one of the most brutal and distressing movies I’ve ever seen! If you can’t handle sexual violence, then you may want to skip this, as trust me when I say it’s brutal.
14. El Camino (A Breaking Bad Movie): For years I’ve been satisfied with the ending of ‘Breaking Bad’ and was very iffy on the idea of a movie set after the finale. Now that I’ve seen it, I never realised that this is the movie that I needed in my life. Simply a beautiful and touching sendoff to one of the greatest characters in TV history.
13. Uncut Gems: The Safdie Brothers are two of my favourite filmmakers at the moment, and this intense crime thriller with Adam Sandler in the lead proves why more people need to watch their work. Also, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Adam Sandler deserves award recognition for his performance here, like damn he is terrific!
12. Midsommar: Ari Aster’s follow-up to 2018’s ‘Hereditary’ (one of my favourite horror movies in recent memory) is an incredibly vibrant and tense film that really got under my skin.
11. Knives Out: The most recent film I’ve seen, Rian Johnson’s “whodunnit” with a twist is one of the most enjoyable movies of the year. With an incredible cast and clever twist on the genre, this is a film I could see everyone enjoying.
Now, let’s get down to the Top 10!
10. The Lighthouse
Kicking off the list is Robert Eggers’ much-anticipated follow-up feature to his 2015 debut ‘The VVitch’. Filmed on 35mm black and white and in an aspect ratio of 1.19:1, this looks and feels like something made in the early 1900s.
Firstly, this is one most atmospheric horror movies I’ve ever seen! Robert Eggers transports the viewer into this dark mystical world with a fly on the wall look at these two lighthouse keepers trying to maintain their sanity. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe give the best performances of their careers as these men who try their best to not go insane. Willem Dafoe’s character, in particular, comes across as a very whacky and talkative old man, and it leads to some of the funniest moments in this really disturbing movie. But what truly makes ‘The Lighthouse’ stand out for me, is its ability to keep you entertained for its runtime, even though it only follows two men. It’s an incredible movie and one that will stick with me for a very long time.
Another year, another coming-of-age movie that has stuck with me ever since I saw it a couple of months ago. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a smart, hilarious, and often touching modern-day teen comedy/drama.
Set around the eve of graduation, academic overachievers Amy and Molly decide to make up for four years of missing out in one wild night of partying. Now, it may sound like a “female version of Superbad,” but it’s not. Olivia Wilde gives us a unique take on the genre with a film that lets the audience understand what it’s like to be a modern-day teen. In a world full of social media and people being accepted for who they really are, this is one of the most realistic and heartfelt peeks into modern teen life. The two leads, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are fantastic, but Billie Lourd is the real star of the show. Lourd steals every scene she’s in, and I’m very excited to see her in more stuff down the line.
If you have to see one coming-of-age movie from 2019, then you definitely have to check out Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut. Billie Lourd’s performance is worth it alone.
8. Jojo Rabbit
Taika Waititi has become one of my favourite filmmakers today ever since I first saw his 2014 mockumentary ‘What We Do In The Shadows’, which is now one of my favourite horror/comedies of all time. Then as he progressed further with ‘Hunt For The Wilderpeople’ and ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, everything he would touch would be instantly on my radar. When it came to this satirical war comedy set in Nazi Germany, where he plays an imaginary friend version of Hitler, I knew I had to see it!
‘Jojo Rabbit’ is a quirky, hilarious and touching look into Germany around the end of World War II. From young children being drafted into the war to the ridiculous nature of how they have to say ‘Heil Hitler’ to everyone they greet, Waititi has crafted one of the best satires of the decade. The cast is terrific, with talents such as Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Stephen Merchant, and even Rebel Wilson is what is easily my favourite performance from her, it’s hard not to enjoy this talented cast play characters who are at times ridiculously accurate. Then there’s Thomasin McKenzie and Roman Griffin Davis, who are amazing in their roles.
Even though the style of the film can feel very Wes Anderson at times, this is quickly becoming my favourite Taika Waititi film yet, and it’s one of the most darkly enjoyable films of the year. Plus, it also has one of my favourite endings of the year, which makes the fun ride worth it.
Moving on, we have what is the most controversial movie of 2019. In the lead up to this origin story adaptation of the iconic Batman villain, I had no idea what to expect. With Todd Phillips in the directing chair and Joaquin Phoenix as the titular character, I was hoping that this would be at least a good movie. What we got, however, was a masterful character study, and the best comic book movie since ‘The Dark Knight’.
It’s hard not to see that Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker is the best part of this movie. Phoenix literally transforms himself into this mentally disturbed character, which draws influence from the protagonists of Scorsese classics ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘The King of Comedy’, and it results in what is my favourite Joker performance yet. Considering how much I adore Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker, that means a lot. But what separates ‘Joker’ from other films associated with the iconic villain, is that you get a better understanding of the dark and grimy world of Gotham City. The dark and beautiful score from Hildur Guðnadóttir compliments the dirty feeling you get from the excellent cinematography, and it brings a version of Gotham City we haven’t seen before. You can understand why this disturbed man became the Joker, and it’s due to this terrible city.
‘Joker’ is a masterful look into one of the most iconic villains of all time, and the film along with Phoenix’s performance will go down as some of the best work in cinematic history.
6. The Irishman
Of course, I had to include Martin Scorsese’s latest crime epic. ‘The Irishman’ is a film I had been anticipating ever since I first heard that he was bringing acting legends Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci together for what I’m pretty sure is the first time (well, all three together that is). Even though it’s a three-and-a-half-hour film on Netflix, it’s one of the greatest crime movies of all time.
Scorsese crafted his most personal film yet in a career that spans over fifty years. Instead of focusing on the grand nature of life in the mafia, we get a look at these characters as they grow from being young and tough, to old and weary. We get a look at these characters as they begin to regret their life decisions, as they could have had better lives if they made different decisions in their younger days. Scorsese meditates on the theme of mortality, and it results in one of the most powerful and bittersweet final acts of all time.
I could spend hours talking about the fantastic cast, or the sombre score, but Scorsese is the star here, for crafting a gangster film in a similar vein to Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon a Time In America’. It’s entertaining, compelling, and heartbreaking, but it’s an accurate portrayal of what life in the mafia is really like. You either die with a couple of bullets in your head or at an old age, with no loved ones around you.
5. Doctor Sleep
We’re in the top five now, and at fifth, we have the much-anticipated sequel to my favourite horror movie of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’. With acclaimed horror filmmaker Mike Flanagan on board and Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrence, I was extremely excited. ‘Doctor Sleep’ isn’t just a worthy sequel to the horror classic, but it’s one of the best horror movies in recent memory.
As with other Mike Flanagan films, this doesn’t rely on jump scares like a majority of modern horror movies (if you say that jump scares are the scariest and best parts of a horror movie, please go away). Like ‘The Shining’ we get a slower, and more impending sense of horror as the film progresses. The antagonists of the film, the True Knot, is a terrifying cult. But thanks to a lot of screen time, and an incredible performance from Rebecca Ferguson as their leader Rose the Hat, these are some of the most fleshed-out villains of the decade. We may hate what they are doing to kids, and occasionally adults, but we understand their motives to a point where they become strangely likeable. Anyway, Flanagan also did the impossible and created a sequel that was true to its source material from Stephen King, and the film ‘The Shining’. It even made King reconsider his verdict on the horror classic, which he hated ever since it came out in 1980.
‘Doctor Sleep’ is a brilliant and unnerving horror sequel that needs to be seen by more people. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of horror which takes its time, I’m sure this will change your mind.
You know a movie must be fantastic when it came out at the very beginning of the year and still manages to hold one of the top spots. ‘Climax’ from Gaspar Noé is the movie I’ve rewatched the most this year, and considering it gets incredibly disturbing and dark in the second half, I still wonder why I find rewatchability in it. But there are a few reasons for that, and one is that this is one of the hypnotic and original films I’ve ever seen.
Gaspar Noé is known for his energetic, and downright disturbing (at times) style of filmmaking, and it perfectly suits this film. From the first fifty minutes, which revolves around the cast performing dance after dance, to different groups of characters talking about each other, it’s a mesmerising first half. Then as soon as the opening titles roll, it turns into an acid trip gone wrong. With a handful of incredibly long takes and sometimes sickening cinematography, the entire second half is downright disturbing, yet beautiful to watch. Noé transports the viewer into the lens of the camera, and what we get is a scarily accurate interpretation of a bad trip.
‘Climax’ is a hypnotic and sometimes sickening film to watch, but at the same time, it’s one of the most memorable and kinetic cinematic experiences of the decade.
3. Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
Every time Tarantino releases a movie, you know it’s going to be one of the most talked-about films of the year. With his ninth feature ‘Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood’, he has crafted a love letter to Hollywood, and it’s a callback to classic cinema that we needed in a world full of remakes, sequels and superhero movies.
At almost three-hours, ‘Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood’ is a movie that doesn’t have a driving plot like Tarantino’s other works. Yes, it is all building up to the most exciting climax of the year, but for the first two hours, we are hanging out with these characters in 1969 Los Angeles, which has been brought to life wonderfully through some of the best production and costume design of the year. The incredibly talented cast, especially Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt (who deserves as many best supporting actor awards as possible), make hanging out with these characters an absolute blast. As with other Tarantino movies, the soundtrack perfectly suits the tone and era of the film, with some of the songs even having a radio static added onto them, to make it feel like you are really in 1969.
It may not have the most riveting story, but it doesn’t matter here. We are allowed to live in this period with these fun, fleshed-out characters in what was the most enjoyable cinematic experience I had all year. I also encourage multiple viewings, as it somehow gets even better after you know what to expect.
2. Marriage Story
I never expected to include more than one Netflix movie in my Top 10 list this year (I almost added a third), but this original look inside what a divorce is really like, happened to be the biggest surprise for me. I didn’t know anything about it, other than Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson were the leads, and that there was a huge argument between them at one point in the film. After seeing it, however, it quickly became one of my favourite movies of all time.
Noah Baumbach has crafted a realistic tale of divorce, and it’s both funny and heartbreaking to watch as it unfolds. Watching these two characters, who obviously still love each in their own ways, go through a divorce which only gets worse and worse as lawyers get involved, as well as the custody of their child, is one of most breathtaking pieces of cinema in recent memory. In my review, I mentioned that Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson give their best performances yet, but I never mentioned Laura Dern for some reason, who gave an incredible and scene-stealing performance. Dern loses herself within the role of one of the lawyers, and with a monologue about the role of modern women, it’s a performance that deserves award praise. What also makes this movie one of my favourites is how it deals with divorce. We’ve had plenty of similar films that are always biased towards one side, and showing one side as the obvious one to hate. But here, we get equal screen-time with each side, and we can understand where each of them is coming from. You may end up siding with either side, but you can’t help but feel for each of them.
‘Marriage Story’ is a beautiful and heartbreaking look into the reality of divorce, and with some of the best performances of the year, it needs to be seen by everyone.
At the top spot of my Top 10 for 2019 is a film that I feel like some of you might have seen coming, if you seen my review for it back in November. That is, of course, the South Korean film ‘Parasite’ from legendary filmmaker Bong Joon-ho. If you know me, I love everything about this movie. It’s one of the craziest films of the decade, and you wouldn’t be able to tell that just from the first act of the film.
Bong Joon-ho has crafted a brilliant tale of class welfare like nothing else out there. Throughout the film, we get to see how the rich are different from the poor. Our protagonists, the Kim family, are the poor. They live under the street, and early on, we see what kind of people they are by keeping their window open to get free fumigation from the street. Then there’s the Park family, who live above the town in what is their own little world. Their yard feels like they live in the country, with what looks like a forest keeping them separated from the rest. We even see how rain affects both families, with it being calm and peaceful for the Park family, yet it literally floods the house of the Kim family. Then there’s also the witty dialogue and brilliant direction which takes the concept which has been tried before and transforms it into something else.
‘Parasite’ is one of the most original and smartest films of the 21st century. Bong Joon-ho transforms the idea of class welfare into a highly entertaining thriller, and it’s one of the craziest movie experiences I’ve ever had. ‘Parasite’ isn’t just the best movie of 2019, but it’s one of the best films of the decade.
So, there are my Top 10 Movies of 2019. I hope you enjoyed reading it, and hopefully, you now have a few movies to watch in the near future. As always, if there’s a movie that you didn’t see on there that you feel like I should have talked about, we can talk about it in the comments. Anyway, this Andy, with my last article of the 2010s. See you next decade!