Let me be right up front, I absolutely loved more than 10 films from 2019. The lament is that we only have so much room to feature a few films in the newspaper. I could honestly write a list of 50 or more films that I felt were exceptional in on way or another. Films that moved me or made me contemplate the world around me from a different, interesting viewpoint. The 10 on this list are simply the ones that stuck with me the most for various reasons.
10. “Little Women” – Greta Gerwig’s adaption of Alcott’s novel is splendidly beautiful. Gerwig’s decision to cut up the narrative with flashbacks creates an entirely new point of view. While it’s a story that’s been adapted many times, Gerwig’s version feels fresh and vibrant in the most surprising ways. Saoirse Ronan as Jo is one of the best performances of the year.
9. “The Irishman” – Martin Scorsese’s newest film made for Netflix is a culmination of everything he excels at as a director and storyteller. Sure, it’s three and a half hours, but it never feels like it. The way he pieces together the life of Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) a hitman for the mafia, who has a close relationship with enigmatic Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). A movie filled with silver screen legends, plus the storytelling power of Scorsese makes for one of the most satisfying film experiences of last year.
8. “Under the Silver Lake” – This obscure film, directed by David Robert Mitchell, flew under the radar mostly because the studio never really gave it a proper release. Not entirely sure what happened with distribution, but it’s on a few streaming services and it’s worth watching. A story of paranoia, toxic fandom, and madness. It’s a wild, trippy ride through sun-drenched LA. Probably the most unique and original film I saw in 2019. An underrated gem.
7. “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” – This franchise just keeps getting better and better. The filmmaking craft and sheer audacity packed into this John Wick (Keanu Reeves) adventure is awe-inspiring. Using knives, guns, books, and even horses to dispatch his enemies Wick has quickly becoming the most recognizable action character in modern action cinema. It’s pure entertainment, but expertly crafted.
6. “Apollo 11” – Absolutely the best documentary of 2019. Me, a space nerd, was awestruck by the found footage that was cleaned up and pieced together to create a tense thrill ride as we all get to live the original Apollo 11 mission.
Accompanied by a thumping synth score that was my favorite of the year, “Apollo 11” makes you feel like you’re right back in 1969 watching with trepidation as Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins attempt to do something no humans have ever done before.
5. “Parasite” – Bong Joon Ho’s critique on class, wealth, and poverty is fascinating, funny, and terrifying. There are so many twists and turns here that I hesitate to reveal too much. Many people may not have seen this yet and it’s best to go in knowing absolutely nothing about it. One of the best screenplays of the year coupled with some of the best cinematography equals a rich, vibrant, thought-provoking film that will surely stick with you forever.
4. “1917” – Some may call it a gimmick and perhaps it is, but it’s an effective gimmick. Director Sam Mendes has crafted an edge-of-your-seat war film that appears to be one continuous shot from beginning to end. The action never ends. The camera never stops following two British soldiers from World War I as they attempt to cross enemy lines to warn another battalion of an ambush. It’s an exciting and breathtaking race against time. The way the film is constructed makes it ever more thrilling.
3. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” – Director Quentin Tarantino takes it upon himself to rewrite history once again with hilarious, poignant results. This time he’s taking on the Manson murders in a sort of convoluted, but entertaining way. Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton is probably his finest performance of his career. Perfectly written, wryly funny, and skillfully constructed this is one of the films of 2019 that provided pure enjoyment from beginning to end.
2. “Knives Out” – Rian Johnson’s whodunit is a hilarious romp. A grown-up version of “Clue” with some of the cleverest twists that any mystery movie has attempted. At first you think you know who the killer is. And that’s partly true, but the real pleasure comes from watching the events play out and seeing this enormously talented cast interact with each other. Plus, Daniel Craig with a strong southern drawl is reason enough to see it.
1. “Ad Astra” – I am, and forever will be, enamored with space movies. James Gray’s film about astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) searching for his dad in the vastness of space is magnificent. It’s touching, frightening, and exquisite. There is a scene in this movie where rovers full of people are chasing each other on the moon and it is, by far, the most thrilling thing I’ve seen in quite some time. Gray captures the unrelenting loneliness of space, while also showcasing its inherent deadly beauty. It might not be a film for everyone, but it was made just for me.