Top 15 Favorite Films Of 2019
Thinking back to 2019, a bit of a mixed bag movie-wise, with some big highs and big lows, I now set out to remember some of my favorite films of that year.
Keep in mind, reading through this list, two things: 1/ I did not see every movie or even every movie you'd think was essential to see (1917, Uncut Gems etc.) and 2/ These are personal favorites, not the films I think were necessarily the "best" of the year.
Directed by Lulu Wang and based on her own family, The Farewell was a funny and moving film starring Awkwafina about a family keeping a grandmother's cancer diagnosis hidden from her so she can enjoy what time she has left. Excellent performances all around.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
While it's certainly not as good a film as The Farewell, or even Spider-Man Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home was Marvel's most fun blockbuster that year (sorry, Endgame) and, as a comic book movie fan, I enjoyed every minute of it. Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio is one of the MCU's most enjoyable villains and the action scenes are very entertaining.
Bong Joon-ho's now Oscar-winning dark comedy Parasite may not have blown me away like it did a lot of people but it was an enjoyably mean-spirited fable about a poorer family's gradual infiltration of a rich family's home and I was genuinely taken aback by a couple of twists in it.
Rian Johnson's Knives Out sold itself as your run-of-the-mill Poirot-style murder mystery only to reveal itself as being a lot more original than that. It was a clever take on a familiar genre with some fun performances, an impossible accent courtesy of Daniel Craig and I had a great time with it.
IN THE TALL GRASS
A sucker for Stephen King movie adaptations in general and a big fan of director Vincenzo Natali's work, I was bound to enjoy In The Tall Grass... and I did. The film made the most of its odd concept, had an eerie mood to say the least and it provided some good shock moments. Patrick Wilson does a great job with a Jack Torrance-style performance.
Like I said, I'm big on Stephen King movie adaptations and Doctor Sleep was much better than I expected. I could definitely see myself revisiting this one in the future. While I would have preferred a version of the film that didn't stick so closely to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, this new story was still different enough and haunting enough to work for me.
THE DEAD DON'T DIE
Jim Jarmusch's zombie comedy wasn't received by audiences and critics alike particularly well but it was every bit as quirky, deadpan and gory as I expected and hoped it would be. With its awesome cast which includes Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton (as a goth with a katana sword), and its very funny script, The Dead Don't Die was a delightful zombie movie homage.
The Lighthouse looked like a moody descent into madness kind of movie and it was exactly that but with a dark yet somewhat juvenile sense of humor also and some surreal imagery thrown in. I loved every minute of this bizarre little film and Willem Dafoe, once again, did not disappoint.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
Not Quentin Tarantino's best by any stretch, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood remains a fascinating depiction of what was and what could have been at a specific point in time in Hollywood. The explosive ending alone is worth it but Leonardo Di Caprio is brilliant throughout and the film has its share of tense and funny moments.
Noah Baumbach continued to impress with Marriage Story, the bittersweet and ultimately heartbreaking story of a marriage falling apart and the clashes that follow. The cast nails the reliably wordy script and the ending packs one heck of an emotional punch.
The Irishman may not have received much love at the Oscars and its CG was more distracting than anything else but Martin Scorsese's 3 hour epic boasted some terrific performances from its stellar main cast, along with expertly put together, suspenseful sequences and a great ending.
Again, mostly overlooked by the Oscars, Us was Jordan Peele's follow up to Get Out and it delivered just the right amount of unsettling weirdness as a biting social commentary finds itself, once again, beautifully wrapped in horror surrealism. Lupita Nyong'o is excellent not once but twice and the imagery throughout is unforgettable.
On paper, this "Nazi comedy" sounded like it was probably a bad idea but the film itself was a clever piece of satire with its heart very much in the right place. Poking fun at Hitler and his desperately childish and cruel political movement from start to finish, Jojo Rabbit wisely never forgets to hit you hard with the harshness of its setting when it matters.
Todd Phillips' Joker wasn't for everybody but I, for one, found its approach to the iconic Batman villain refreshing as its focus wasn't so much on explaining the character but questioning a world that would allow such a character to exist and thrive without ever excusing his misguided actions. Joaquin Phoenix gives his most purposely awkward performance yet and his Joker is perfectly out-of-sync yet relevant.
No other film in 2019 came close to having the impact on me that Midsommar did in terms of theatre experience. There's a feeling of impending doom to the film from the start, even during its "sunnier" moments, and it slowly but surely drags you into its initially friendly-enough setting only to throw truly disturbing ideas and images at you, never letting go. Watching Florence Pugh's character be brainwashed into the silliest nonsense cult is both amusingly ridiculous and frighteningly believable.
Do let me know what you thought of these movies, I may tackle some of my least favorites of 2019 at some point.