I watched a LOT of movies in 2019. Some were good (like Rocketman), some were not (like Dark Phoenix), some will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life (like Cats), and a few became instant classics. Here are my top 10 movies of 2019 and the entire list of new movies I saw this year.
1. Avengers: Endgame
The culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it, Endgame brought satisfying conclusions to (nearly) all the man heroes we’ve grown to love over the past decade. Throughout the three-hour runtime, you’re just reminded of why you love these characters and these movies. It’s astonishing that the filmmakers pulled this off as well as they did. It allows you to sit in the sadness and horror that our heroes experienced at the end of Infinity War until it moves into a breakneck and fan-service second act, all leading to an enormous final battle with some of the greatest moments in any Marvel movie ever. I love this movie for the journey our heroes go on, the satisfying conclusion to 22 movies and the joy it shows in how it loves these characters. In a year when multiple beloved franchises came to an end, Endgame managed to deliver. Is this technically the best movie of 2019? Definitely not, but the personal connection I have to these characters and the stories that Marvel has told over the past 12 years keeps this at the top of my list.
Holy cow, this movie. Parasite tells the story of two South Korean families who seem similar but have striking differences and how their lives impact each other. It’s a parable about social structures, caste systems and societal responsibility of taking care of those less fortunate. Parasite begins seemingly innocent enough until the underlying tensions between the two families boils to the top. Halfway through, it makes a truly wild turn that throws everything you’ve learned before on its head. The more you learn and the further you go down the more you can see the cracks beginning to break. And it has the single most terrifying shot of any movie I’ve seen this year. Even though it’s not in English, reading the subtitles doesn’t take away from the acting and the story. The last 30 minutes of this movie has wild twist after wild twist. It’s as shocking as it is strangely cathartic and by far one of the most thought-provoking movies I’ve ever seen.
3. Little Women
I’m obsessed with this movie – arguably the feel-good movie of 2019. There’s something just so naturally comfortable about this adaptation of Little Women. The cast is phenomenally talented and everyone seems perfectly designed for their role. Every character feels like a real person. Emma Watson, Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep are all delightful, but Saiorse Ronan and Florence Pugh as Jo and Amy March steal the show. The chemistry the four sisters have just makes you smile throughout the entire movie, and you can tell that Greta Gerwig made the set so much fun and comfortable to be on. Laura Dern’s one-two punch of Little Women and Marriage Story this year has solidified her as one of my favorite actresses. I love the way the movie cuts back and forth through time and how easy it is to understand the relationships between these characters. For a movie set during and after the Civil War, it’s surprisingly relevant and current, but not in a way that’s in your face. I love this movie.
4. Knives Out
Who doesn’t love a good whodunnit? Knives Out is a perfect murder mystery movie that knows it’s a murder mystery. Halfway through watching this I was so confused because everything seemed solved and wrapped up. But that’s what kept me engaged the entire time because I had no idea where it was going to go from there. I was just enjoying the ride. Knives Out has one of the most star-studded casts of the year and it’s obvious they had the best time making it. Ana de Armas, Chris Evans and Daniel Craig carry the main weight of the movie, but everyone, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford and Lakeith Stanfield, feel unique and interesting. The production design on this movie is crazy good too. Every room in the main house is unique and interesting. Also hidden in the mystery is a commentary on the social order, the haves and the have-nots, and what it means to be a good person regardless of your social standing.
This movie follows in the footsteps of raunchy bro comedies of the early 2000s like Superbad, but with two females at the lead it feels fresh and new. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever have incredible chemistry and feel like real friends. On top of that, the supporting characters played by Billie Lourd and Skyler Gisondo are two of the funniest characters I’ve ever seen in any movie. The movie follows some traditional high school tropes, but the performances and the jokes take the movie to a whole new level. It also features a lesbian love story that’s not presented as something special, but treated just like any other teen romance, and includes one of the most bizarre animated sequences of the year. Masked in the incredible humor are themes of growing up and moving on, learning to love yourself, and the dangers of stereotyping and judging others without getting to know them.
6. Marriage Story
This is one of the most heartbreaking and heartfelt movies of the year. Marriage Story is really about a divorce between a couple who still cares for each other, even though their lives are pulling them apart. The movie does a fantastic job of seeing the story from both points of view, and you end up rooting for and against both characters at different parts of the movie. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are phenomenal in this, and Laura Dern and Merritt Wever give two of the best supporting performances of the year. Your heart breaks as they get deeper into the divorce process and become more selfish and hurtful to each other. But the love never really fades away, and as so many families do, they learn to live in their new normal. I was captivated the entire time watching this, and while I may never watch it again (it’s emotionally exhausting) I’m so glad I did.
7. The Farewell
Have you ever loved someone so much that you didn’t tell them some big news in order to save them from the pain and anxiety it would bring them? The Farewell deals with this heavy question through the lens of a unique cultural dynamic. In this movie, Billi learns that her grandmother is dying, but the family has agreed not to tell her to protect her from the worry and stress of living with that knowledge. Instead, they stage a quick wedding for Billi’s cousin so the entire family can travel to China and spend a few final days with their grandmother. The Farewell really highlights the different perspectives of Western and Eastern cultures, especially the individualistic vs communal perspectives. Billi (raised in the US) wants to tell her grandmother the truth, but her family (who grew up in China) fights to keep it a secret. Awkwafina is fantastic in her first dramatic role and it’s impossible not to fall in love with Ni Ni (the grandmother).
8. Ready or Not
I am not a horror or scary movie guy. Traditional horror movies just stress me out – I’m usually anxious the whole time just waiting for the next jump scare or villain reveal. But Ready or Not is not a typical horror movie. It’s certainly a thriller that feels familiar to horror fans, but it flips certain horror tropes on their head. And it’s freaking hilarious. The night after her wedding to the son of a wealthy board game tycoon, Grace finds herself trapped in an insane family ritual version of hide and seek. The cast is fantastic, but Samara Weaving really carries the movie through her increasingly manic performance. Adam Brody has the second-best character and both he and Weaving acta as the audience surrogate in key moments to point out how ridiculous this all is. The ending comes completely out of nowhere, but I have never laughed so hard in a horror movie before that it surpassed all my anxiety and fears and made me love this movie.
9. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is one of the most underrated franchises of the past decade. While Pixar gets all the praise and awards, How to Train Your Dragon and its two sequels quietly created one of the most complete, emotional and engaging stories in all of animation. The trilogy completely hinges on the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless, which is at its most heartbreaking in the final installment. The Hidden World follows Hiccup and Toothless as they continue to grow, become leaders and be comfortable in their independence. The animation in this movie is just insane, especially the Hidden World sequences, and John Powell continues to build on one of the best scores of the decade. There’s been so much heart in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, and The Hidden World beautifully closes out one of the most complete portraits of adolescence, growing up and friendship of the past decade.
10. Jojo Rabbit
A movie about a Hitler Youth who sees Hitler as his personal imaginary friend sounds absolutely insane on paper. But Taika Waititi somehow makes Jojo Rabbit both hilarious, heartbreaking and thought-provoking. It’s incredible to watch this movie be carried by two children, who give two of the most engaging performances of the year. Taika’s Hitler caricature is great to laugh at, but he has enough dark moments for you to not forget the horrors the real man enacted. Scarlett Johansson is an understated hero in the movie, and you don’t realize how much of an impact she has until the movie’s tonal shift halfway through. Jojo Rabbit may be an uncomfortable movie to watch, but it allows you the catharsis of making fun of Nazis while also reminding you of the small acts we can all do that can change lives.
And here’s the ranking of the rest of the 2019 movies I saw this year:
- Apollo 11
- Ad Astra
- Toy Story 4
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
- Spider-Man: Far From Home
- Zombieland: Double Tap
- The Irishman
- Dolemite Is My Name
- Frozen II
- Downton Abbey
- The Lego Move 2: The Second Part
- Late Night
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
- Captain Marvel
- The King
- Wine Country
- Good Boys
- Brittany Runs a Marathon
- Always Be My Maybe
- Chasing Happiness
- Detective Pikachu
- Someone Great
- Richard Jewell
- Game of Thrones: The Last Watch
- It: Chapter Two
- Let It Snow
- The Red Sea Diving Resort
- Isn’t It Romantic
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix
- The Lion King
- Men In Black: International
- The Perfect Date
- The Last Summer