12 / 31 / 2019
Note that at the time of writing this review, I have not yet seen Little Women, 1917, or Pain and Glory and will update the list accordingly once I have.
Ready or Not (directed by Matt Bettinelli Olpin, Tyler Gillett)
Waves (directed by Trey Edward Shults)
Honey Boy (directed by Alma Har’el)
Toy Story 4 (directed by Josh Cooley)
Uncut Gems (directed by Josh and Benny Safdie)
10. Us (directed by Jordan Peele)
Following up his 2017 debut Get Out, Jordan Peele yet again delivered with the funny, thrilling, but most of all, layered Us. It functions both as an effective horror-thriller and a film with something to say, and it leaves a lot of room for discussion.
9. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (directed by Chad Stahelski)
The third entry in the massively popular John Wick franchise, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is the strongest entry in the series so far and an incredibly fast-moving, well-directed action film. The action presented is somehow not only thrilling and white-knuckled, but also so well-choreographed (and supported by a committed performance from Keanu) that it feels almost balletic. Chad Stahelski continues to put out some of the finest action filmmaking not just of the decade, but maybe ever.
8. The Irishman (directed by Martin Scorsese)
Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman garnered attention for its colossal runtime and extensive use of de-aging technology, but perhaps what’s most impressive about The Irishman is how it handles that runtime. The film draws the viewer in with ever-impressive performances from legends like DeNiro, Pacino, and Pesci, as well as its sprawling storyline, building to a conclusion so affecting you forget it’s been 2019 minutes.
7. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (directed by Céline Sciamma)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire tells the story of an 18th century painter assigned to paint a portrait of a woman about to get married, and their ensuing romance in a film so breathtakingly gorgeous and thematically rich that you could get lost in it. It features two of the best performances of the year coming from Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel, certainly some of the best cinematography of the year, and an ending that will leave you speechless.
6. Avengers: Endgame (directed by Anthony and Joe Russo)
Avengers: Endgame is a staggering film. It manages to tie up 11 years worth of storytelling, pay off character arcs that have been building up in that time, and feature the MCU’s best third act battle. And despite these expectations, it still is able to feel personal, and like it has its own story to tell.
5. Jojo Rabbit (directed by Taika Waititi)
Jojo Rabbit took an outrageous premise and managed to make it a very emotional, and definitely hilarious Taika Waititi comedy. The film has some great comedic and dramatic performances from Roman Griffin Davis and Scarlett Johansson, among others, and did a great job using Taika’s brand of humor as a backdrop to the heartfelt story it tells.
4. Booksmart (directed by Olivia Wilde)
Olivia Wilde tells one of the most memorable coming-of-age stories of recent years with Booksmart. It’s fresh, funny, heartfelt, and features a number of really likeable characters in one of the most fun flicks of the year.
3. Marriage Story (directed by Noah Baumbach)
Marriage Story was not just emotionally flooring, with a very personal screenplay from Baumbach, but also a showcase for two of the strongest performances of 2019. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are incredible as a married couple going through the process of a divorce, and the film’s subtle, but effective cinematography as well as its also subtle score do a great job complementing these performances and screenplay.
2. Knives Out (directed by Rian Johnson)
In Knives Out, Rian Johnson takes the concept of a whodunit murder mystery, but more generally, the concept of a piece of crowd pleasing, blockbuster entertainment, and tells it his own way. He makes what could’ve been a more generic genre film, like Murder on the Orient Express, a wholly original, unique mix of genres, overflowing with personality and wit. Every frame in Knives Out is intricately packed with a level of detail and care that both serve the story and its heightened cast of characters. The film remains engaging all the way through, delivering twist after twist that doesn’t let you go until a few minutes before its brilliant ending, not to mention its character-driven comedy and ridiculously fun performances.
1. Parasite (directed by Bong Joon-ho)
Within the first few minutes of Parasite, I knew I was watching something very special. The film blends genres together in a way I don’t think I’ve seen done before, making for somehow both the funniest and most tense watch of the year. Similarly to Knives Out, director Bong Joon-ho gives so much thought to the little details in the film, from the framing of certain characters, to a specific line of dialogue that will pay off later. These combine to make for an endlessly rewatchable, entertaining, and meaningful film. There are so many ways to describe Parasite – a comedy, a drama, a thriller, even a satire – but at its core, Parasite is a movie about class, one that tells one of the most compelling stories in quite a while, but also tells it in an entirely new way.