2019 has been one of the best years for film in a long time. My top 7 films could have been number one on any other given year. There were so many high quality and amazing films to come out of 2019. A few things to keep in mind, this is just my opinion. You may disagree with me and that’s okay, that’s what makes film so great. What speaks to me may not speak to you and visa versa. Also I have not seen every movie that came out in 2019. I only saw about 84 this year (which is still a lot). A few films I was hoping to see before the end of the year that I had a feeling would have cracked my top list but that I just never got a chance to see are Uncut Gems, 1917, and A Hidden Life. I am dying to see these films but they are not playing anywhere near where I live. With all that being said, here is my list for the top 15 films of 2019
Honourable Mentions: Waves, Knives Out, The Farewell, Dragged Across Concrete, Leaving Neverland, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, Rocketman, Blinded by the Light, and Dark Waters
15. The Two Popes
I’ve been to The Vatican, I’ve walked in The Sistine Chapel and have seen the incredible history of the place, but I have never cared about Catholic politics. The Two Popes had me glued to my TV about a subject I had little to no interest in before seeing this. I had no idea how much controversy surrounded the church. This was a fascinating topic explored in an almost documentarian way. The film is shot from a distance like we were watching real footage, in fact, the real footage featured in the film blends seamlessly with the movie. The Two Popes heavily explores faith and the surprising differences and interpretation of the word people have. We learn so much about who Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio/ Pope Francis is. Why he believes in what he believes and why he is such a radical figure for the catholic church. Jonathon Pryce and Anthony Hopkins are completely lost in the roles of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict. I surprisingly loved the bond and relationship developed between the two, even though they have vast differences and ideas, they found an endearing friendship.
Joker is a movie that won’t be for everyone. It’s violent and graphic which will easily turn people off from this movie. It’s grim and dark and won’t leave you feeling happy, but it will leave you thinking. I found this movie to be a methodical character study, a deep dive into the mind of mental illness and a man thrown away by society. Joker is smart and so much deeper than your average comic book film. Joaquin Phoenix delivers an Oscar-caliber performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker. The film balances the audience’s sympathy for the character and feeling of horror for the actions he takes with precision. Joker will be talked about for years to come.
13. Avengers: Endgame
When the first Iron Man came out, I was 9. My grandma took me to go see the movie in theatres and I fell in love. Ever since then I became a huge fan of comics and superheroes and superhero movies. The MCU has been so special to me. They were events, ones where I’d go with my friends every opening night and sit in anticipation to see what new characters I would be introduced with. ENDGAME was epic in every sense of the word. I felt the stakes and the consequences that were perfectly executed in Infinity War. The end battle maybe my favourite moment I have ever had in a theatre ever. ENDGAME gives something that most Marvel movies never do, a sense of finality. There’s no direct setup for future films, no end credits. Just an end to this chapter in the MCU. I could not be happier with this movie and how it turned out. I feel completely satisfied with this ending, and if they weren’t going to make any more movies, I’d be more than happy with the ending we got. But I’m so glad we are getting more. I can not wait to see what Marvel has in store for us in the next phases.
12. Brittany Runs a Marathon
This is the most personal pick on this list of mine. Film making wise, this film is pretty average, nothing is too special in its direction or in the way that it was filmed. But what makes this film so special to me was how motivating and encourage its main theme is. The movie is explained in the title, Brittany runs a marathon. Brittany is someone struggling to get through life, has a hard time getting to work on time, can’t hold a relationship, and is consistently going out every night drinking herself away. I have never cared for Jillian Bell. I have never found particularly funny, I wasn’t a big fan of the roles she typically plays but did she ever blow me away in this role. The script combined with Bell’s performance created one of the if not the most relatable character put to screen this year for me. I felt her struggle and how hard it was for her. I understood her desire to finally take some responsibility for herself and I was thrilled and moved by her final act of pursuing a better self. I loved this movie and was a message I needed to hear. You know when a movie affects you when you stop off at the store on your way home from the theatre to buy running shoes.
11. Ford v Ferrari
Ford v Ferrari should be a film you rush out to see even if you are not a car or racing fan. This is a true underdog story and a type of studio film that doesn’t exist anymore. The race scenes are intense and had my heart pounding in anticipation. The relationship between Carol Shelby and Ken Miles over their love and passion for cars and racing is infections. Christian Bale and Matt Damon put in two stellar and endearing performances and is a true ensemble piece. You will be frustrated with the corporate greed these two have to deal with, but you will cheer on the inside when they find clever ways to work around it. This movie will connect with people who dream of doing something they love and accomplishing the impossible.
10. Doctor Sleep
I never thought that a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining could ever work, let alone please Stephen King fans in the process, but here we are. In Mike Flanagan we trust. Seriously, have you looked at this guy’s career? It is just hit after hit and Doctor Sleep might be his best work yet. Flanagan did what was seemingly impossible and not only made a film that stayed true to Kubrick’s The Shining but also stayed true to King’s book. Infamously Stephen King did not like Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining as it veered away from his original book. Doctor Sleep on the other hand I think will please both parties, those who are massive fans of The Shining and those who love Stephen King’s work. Doctor Sleep is a mature and slow-burn horror flick that blew me away with its rich characters, imaginative imagery, stellar performances, and a haunting story. Rose the Hat is sure to become a horror icon in the near future. Doctor Sleep sent shivers down my spine.
9. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
As this film doesn’t have much of a plot, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood relies on it’s set pieces and singular scenes. Tarantino has perfectly captured Hollywood in 1969. All of the sets are real and look and feel exactly like the late ’60s. And of course, numerous stand-out scenes populate this film. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood perfectly captures 1969 and the golden age of Hollywood. The two lead actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are infectious with their high energy performances and tailor-made sharp dialogue. Yes, this is a long movie, but I could have easily spent more time in 1969 Hollywood with these characters. And all that said without even mentioning the incredible and explosive ending that is worth every second of restraint this movie has built to that final climax. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of Tarantino’s best, and a must-see.
8. Toy Story 4
Toy Story 4 clearly wasn’t just a quick cash grab, there was a story to tell here. Toy Story 3 was the end to Andy’s story, Toy Story 4 is about concluding Woody’s story. The story here was genuine and carried weight to it. It felt like all the other films and the journey we’ve seen Woody take for over 20 years now has built to this moment. The story team over at Pixar crafted a story that feels earned and like a proper progression in the overarching journey of Woody. Here we dive into themes of what does it mean to be a toy and to live a life in service of someone and what does it mean to fulfill that purpose in life. This is not just your run of the mill kids’ movies. Like most Pixar movies, they ask big questions and go deep with their themes. I once heard someone say “Pixar doesn’t make kids movies, they make kid-friendly movies” and I don’t think a statement could be truer.
7. Little Women
Greta Gerwig’s sophomore effort is an elegant story based on the novel of the same and follows 4 sisters, all with unique personalities and desires in life. Greta Gerwig is slowly becoming one of my favourite up and coming directors, with Lady Bird (my favourite film of 2017) and now Little Women, I will be waiting in with high anticipation for her next film. What I love about Little Women is how uniquely presented each one of the main characters is in the film. It shows so many different perspectives and how different each of these sisters is. All have unique personalities, with desires that all valid and important. Some of those personalities clash just like real sisters would. Little Women is a warm film with its candlelit lighting and the close corridors home they live in. I genuinely fought back tears in so many scenes and couldn’t contain them in others. Little Women gave a wonderful perspective of how important everyone’s life and the journey is. From the backdrop of the civil war to the sweeping scale of the coming changes in America, Little Women decides to focus on the lives of four sisters and what’s important to each of them. It reminded me of how important each person is and how important their life is, as small as it may seem.
6. The Irishman
Martin Scorsese is pushing 80 years old in a few years now and he is still making Rock n Roll. The amount of energy and creativity he puts in his films has not wavered his entire career. His stories are just as engaging and captivating as they were back in the ’70s. He clearly has not lost his touch, with very few missteps. This is a three and a half-hour film, but it never felt that long. The time went by so quick, that’s how entertaining this film is. This is practically a three and a half-hour film about characters talking and thinking and planning, and yet it is so entertaining. Thelma Schoonmaker’s (a long-time editor of Scorsese’s) editing is quick and consistently had me engaged with what was coming next in this complex story. Scorsese takes time to let his characters think and reflect. The film will hold on scenes of silence and let us stew in the reaction De Niro is giving, letting us think and develop with him. This should be a very slow-moving movie with all the scenes that take their time to explore what their characters are thinking and feeling, but it’s not. The Irishman is relentlessly fast-paced and thoroughly riveting from start to finish. The Irishman is everything you want from a mobster movie directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci.
5. Jojo Rabbit
I had no idea Taika Waititi had this in him. I’ve been very excited for this film for a very long time now and have been a big fan of Waititi’s work ever since I saw What We Do in the Shadows for the first time. I had expected his trademark humour and goofy characters which were all present in JoJo Rabbit, but I never expected this movie to penetrate my heart like this. I was in tears in several moments throughout the film. My heart broke for Jojo, I completely fell in love with this character and the journey he, unfortunately, has to go through to learn the effects hate has over people. This is an emotionally rich film, you will laugh and cry and your spirits will be lifted by the end. Jojo Rabbit’s message is pure and timely, hate is never the answer, plain and simple. There should never be any grey areas around it. This is a universal message that should be heard by everyone. Jojo Rabbit so beautifully depicts this theme with simple visual imagery such as tying a shoelace or through a complex script that elegantly foreshadows key moments that later reveal themselves in gut-punching ways. You will be hard-pressed to find a film as emotionally rich in 2019 as Jojo Rabbit.
4. The Peanut Butter Falcon
The Peanut Butter Falcon reminded why I love going to the movies. I felt so good coming home after the film. I was reminded of the joys and the feelings movies can make us feel and why I love them so much. Shia LaBeouf gives his best performances to date (I haven’t seen Honey Boy yet). The movie is essentially a road trip movie with no cars, all the characters walk or build a boat and sail, all to get a special needs young man to live out his dream as a pro-wrestler. This is an endearing film, one that is so easy to fall in love with. This is the feel-good movie of the year that made my heart sore. I loved every minute of The Peanut Butter Falcon. I laughed and rejoiced and fell in love with Zach and his dream of becoming a pro wrestler. The Peanut Butter Falcon is absolutely a film everyone needs to see.
Parasite is a Korean film about a family down on their luck who take interest in a wealthy family that they soon learn they can con into working for them. But there is so much more to it. Parasite makes a wild tonal shift that propels this film into something special and had me on the edge of my seat. Parasite is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in the past few years. It is an incredibly creative story of class and diversity told in an engaging narrative that hooked me from start to finish. If foreign films aren’t your thing or you don’t like subtitles, I highly recommend you stretch yourself and try something new. Parasite is the perfect film for you to go out and try something new, something you wouldn’t normally watch. Don’t miss one of the year’s best films because of it.
2. The Lighthouse
The Lighthouse is hilarious, but it genuinely had me scared and tense the entire film. The sound design and score are haunting. From the loud horns of the lighthouse to the chilling score, The Lighthouse has a way to suck you right into the film. The aspect ratio, the camera’s and lenses used, and the incredible set and costume design all are done so well, this feels like a film from the early 1900s. The Lighthouse is expertly directed and is not pretentious at all, populated by stunning performances, and an ambiguous ending that will conjure debate among film fans for years to come. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are mesmerizing. If you are still nervous about Pattinson playing Batman, this movie should set your nerves at ease. This mythological, fantasy, horror-comedy is one of the best movies this year. You need to see it.
1. Marriage Story
Marriage Story is one of the most mature, honest films I have ever seen. I felt like I was able to step into the lives of two strangers during one of the worse periods of their lives and walked out of it feeling like I’ve known these two my whole life. I’ve never seen a Noah Baumbach film before and I need to fix that. His brutally real and raw script based on his own real-life divorce, paired with the ironic humour that life just loves to sprinkle in during our worst moments Baumbach so expertly knows how to find, made for one of the most enjoyable and heart-filled movies I have seen in years. You will find parts of yourself in this film whether you’ve gone through a divorce yourself or have never been married, there is something for you to grasp onto in Marriage Story. The two performances by Scarlett Johansson and in particular Adam Driver completely blew me away. No one was ever painted in a bad light, both characters are handled with a maturity to look at them as humans and not just characters on a page. Marriage Story depicts the hardships of divorce while remaining endearing and downright funny at some points. Simply put, Marriage Story is one of the best films in years!