2019 was an amazing year for film. While the first half of the year may have been less than stellar, October through December was filled to the brim with outstanding films. Now that the year is over, lets look back on what (in my humble opinion) were the best films of 2019. Note that I didn’t see every film released last year, so if I didn’t see it, it obviously couldn’t be on the list.
Director Sam Mendes’ ambitious World War I film “1917” proves the effectiveness of films done in “one take.” While the world has mainly focused on World War II, “1917” is a harrowing reminder of how terrible the first World War was as well. A combination of stellar cinematography and impactful performances culminates in a film I won’t soon forget.
9. The Peanut Butter Falcon
One of the most wholesome films of the year, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” was a wonderful example of why representation is so important in cinema. Zack Gottsagen, Shia LeBeouf and Dakota Johnson all give emotional and hilarious performances that culminate in a film that anyone can enjoy.
Actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, “Booksmart” is undoubtedly the funniest comedy released in 2019. Almost every second of the film is incredibly funny thanks to the performances of Kaitlyn Denver and Beanie Feldstein. “Booksmart” firmly cements Olivia Wilde as a director to watch.
7. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
Director Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film is perhaps most similar to popular sitcom “Seinfeld.” It’s a movie about nothing. Under the guise of a film about the Manson family, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” gave watchers a look into a few months of the life of fictional actor Rick Dalton, played wonderfully by Leonardo DiCaprio, giving a sequence of hilarious and interesting events with no real plot to follow. While this might sound boring, the film turns out to be one of the most interesting of the year, with a climax that will be burned in my memory for the foreseeable future.
6. Little Women
Swinging in right at the end of the year, “Little Women” presented a timely and impactful retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s literary classic. With an ensemble cast of up-and-comers such as Saoirse Ronan and dependable favorites such as Meryl Streep, “Little Women” may turn into a film that is just as fondly remembered as the original book.
5. Knives Out
Speaking of ensemble casts, “Knives Out” has one of best ones in the history of cinema. Featuring the likes of Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Plummer, each actor gave a memorable performance no matter how small their role. Director Rian Johnson redeemed himself from 2017’s controversial “The Last Jedi” by making one of the best mystery films of the decade.
Animation has a soft spot in my heart. While many animated films are admittedly terrible, “Klaus” reminded me why I love the medium. With insanely great hand-drawn animation, the film cements itself not only as a new Christmas classic, but also as an example of the joy of traditional animation in an era full of CGI.
3. Marriage Story
Netflix’s “Marriage Story” is the only film in this list that made me cry — not with cheap pulls for emotion or surprise character deaths, but with genuine human emotion. A film more about divorce than marriage, “Marriage Story” delivered a strikingly realistic image of a relationship falling apart. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver gave the best performances of both of their careers, delivering a tear-jerker that will surely spark debates about who was “right” for years to come.
While the medium of film has been dominated by American filmmakers, “Parasite” shows that even causal audiences should keep an eye out for foreign cinema. Korean director Bong Joon-ho crafts a nail-biting criticism of wealth and capitalism that had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. While some may be scared off by the language barrier, I implore you to give “Parasite” a shot; you won’t be let down.
Before we get to the best film of 2019, I’ll list a few films that I enjoyed this year that barely didn’t make the top ten for one reason or another:
1. The Lighthouse
“The Lighthouse” was the most insane cinematic experience I had in 2019 and, perhaps, the entire decade. Director Robert Eggers presents a harrowing tale of two lighthouse keepers that slowly lose their minds, presented beautifully in black and white. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe gave the best performances of their careers, carrying the entire film completely by themselves. “The Lighthouse” completely nails every aspect of film making: cinematography, sound, editing, directing and acting, making it without a doubt the best film of 2019.