2019 was full of ups and downs in the film world. Letdown horror flicks with some superb executions, epic superhero conclusions with some not so stellar origin stories, and then a mixed bag of indies that either shined or fell through the cracks. The first quarter to half of the year did not impress me, but by the end, I can look back satisfied by the quality released.
I did slightly spoil this in my best-of list for the decade, but I am sure most of you may not have read that. Nonetheless, the rest of the entries may surprise.
Due to time constraints and retail being utter hell during the holiday season, some films will get skipped as I have not seen Richard Jewell, Little Women, or 1917. You bet I will try to knock those all out once the Academy Awards pop up.
Prepare to either cheer or bring out your pitchforks with my top movies of the year. I am sure someone will be happy or furious on my picks as this list is mostly going off of my enjoyment with a sprinkle of critical reasoning behind the brilliant techniques many of these films utilized to be worthy of making it on my subpar blog.
This nostalgia trip with one of my favorite childhood shows was a blast. The years since the final episode before its cancelation has aged well as Enter the Florpus feels like nothing has changed with all of its weirdness and darkness that Invader Zim was known for in the early 2000s.
Please, Nickelodeon, give me more.
It may not have had the same punch as Jordan Peele’s horror debut Get Out, but Us is easily one of the best horror films of the year. Cranking up the intensity and gore from his 2017 masterpiece, this still keeps the comedian’s style of social commentary, a focus on people of color, and a dash of humor to level out the terrifying experience. The message may not be as impactful, but it certainly delivers a heart-pounding viewing that goes into the weirder depth of the filmmaker’s demented mind.
Breaking Bad had a satisfying finale to Walter White’s arc along with plenty of other characters, but Jesse. Aaron Paul got a chance to seal off that narrative that was initially left in the darkness. I felt it could have been left alone as my stomach was full on this meth filled world, but I ate every second up of El Camino with its compelling presentation. I could not resist one final goodbye to Jesse Pinkman.
This wholesome look at a fan of Bruce Springsteen has more to offer than what it appears. The power of music can change someone’s life, even a whole family’s dynamic. Blinded by the Light has plenty to say that warmed my heart despite not being a fan of the legendary musician. It may not be an actual award, but this gets a mental trophy from me for being the most delightful movie of 2019.
It may not be my favorite Tarantino film as it did not have the consistent humor I find so attractive in his projects. Still, I can’t complain too much as I am happy for another release by the legendary director and writer.
What it lacks, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, has the memorable characters with phenomenal acting that is expected across his filmography. It is no Pulp Fiction or Django Unchained, but it is still Tarantino in all of his foot fetish filled glory.
#7: Ready or Not
A horror comedy with commentary on the rich and powerful, what’s not to love? Seriously, this is a wild ride of gore, intensity, and laugh out loud moments that filled my eyes with tears. Full of quirky characters to remember who make the slower spots not die out in between the hunting for the bride.
Everyone knocks it out of the park, but Samara Weaving rightfully takes the spotlight as a funny heroine who can be grippingly compelling in the most dramatic of moments then turn around to be the ass-kicker of this wealthy Satan-worshipping family that I did not realize I needed so much. Rarely one performance sells me on one’s talent, well, Weaving will be that exception as she was phenomenal every step of the way.
Now it is time for me to look through her IMDB page and watch more films she has starred in. Maybe The Babysitter or Guns Akimbo will be next on the list.
This is the moment where I realized she was in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and feel dumb as hell.
The MCU take on Spider-Man has swung past my wildest expectations, much of which is due to Tom Holland being the best Peter Parker/Spidey imaginable. Far From Home takes twists and turns that I did not expect (seriously, that after-credits scene took me so much by surprise that I think I lost a few years off my life).
The cherry on top of this sequel is that it goes from one of my favorite actors as the antagonist in Homecoming with Michael Keaton as the Vulture, and now Spider-Man’s second standalone tackles the beautiful Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio, that is what I am talking about boys.
I know it got divisive, but I thought Joker was incredible. The superhero genre has plenty to push it forward, and this did exactly what I hoped it could achieve. A crime drama that feels like comic bookey and more like a real-life look at a man’s descent into madness and violence.
Regardless of what anyone thinks of this controversial origin story, Joaquin Phoenix is one of the best Jokers depicted on the big screen. I still have to give Heath Ledger the win out of the live-action movies, and Mark Hamill will live on to be the greatest to ever portray the iconic villain.
The most epic and satisfying conclusion I have ever experienced came from the end of the Infinity Saga. The Avengers facing off with Thanos one more time defied expectations I had for it. Resolving Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow was an emotional rollercoaster that closed out their character arcs respectfully.
I have seen depressing movies before, but nothing has made me cry more than Endgame. That is right, go ahead and judge me that I cried harder over superheroes than I did when I watched Manchester by the Sea.
Now I am waiting for the next phase to see what the future holds for the MCU.
Ari Aster’s second feature continues his moody tone, religious and mental illness related themes, and brings down a hammer of emotional abuse to both his characters and audience. Midsommar is much more artsy and weird compared to Hereditary, making it the only movie here that I have a hard time recommending despite it making to number four on the list. If all of this sounds like your jam, then check it out, if not then avoid this folk horror film.
#3: Knives Out
This whodunit is an absolute blast from start to finish. Rian Johnson had many moviegoers question his abilities due to the divisive Last Jedi, but I knew he would deliver something brilliant.
Outside of having the best cast of the year, Knives Out is both delightful and thrilling with its murder mystery. Nothing feels overly serious or goofy, the tone feels perfect settled in between to make it as accessible as possible. Not many of the entries on this list I would rewatch over and over, but Johnson’s later film can get looked over dozens of times without getting bored.
Parasite is an unusual type of thriller, as it seems to have such low stakes that end up skyrocketing by the end. I went in, knowing nearly nothing and was blown away by this experience. If there were to be one film that could bridge the mainstream and artsy audiences, you are looking at it right here.
Interesting enough, 2019 had enough with rich people as this is the third film on my list that has commentary on socioeconomic statuses.
#1: Jojo Rabbit
Both hilarious and moving enough to rip out my heart, Taika Waititi has outdone himself as a director, writer, and actor. Unlike many WW2 movies, this is one of the most nuanced perspectives on a war without having to go into large scale battles. It keeps the setting intimate yet looks at the bigger picture of its subject manner. Jojo Rabbit may seem like a silly choice to put as my movie of the year, but it packs a punch in more ways than one while being as rewatchable as Knives Out or Endgame.
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Header images via 20th Century Fox/Disney, Marvel Studios/Disney, Sony Pictures Releasing