The 10 Best Movies of 2019

Counting down the best of the best films

As we relish in the last moments of 2019, it’s natural to go through a period of reflection and, in other cases, regret. While some of us are listing out our New Year’s resolutions or coming to terms with our current year’s victories and flops – others, like me, ask the burning questions. What was my favorite movie of the year?

In the cinematic world, 2019 was full of Marvel action movies, remakes, slapstick comedies, arthouse projects and a barrage of horror flicks. It’s easy for many films to get overshadowed by big budgets, repetitive advertising and social media buzz.

There were over ten thousand domestic and foreign films released in 2019 – hard to believe, I know. With so many releases, it hard to compile a list; however, I’ve always been up for a challenge.

Below are my picks for the best movies of 2019.

Disclaimer: It’s all subjective. Don’t be disappointed if “It: Chapter 2” or “Captain Marvel” didn’t make the list, not every movie is for everyone.

Anyways, Happy New Year and may 2020 bring you peace, joy and fantastic cinema.

10. Joker

Release Date: Oct. 4

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz

Director: Todd Phillips

IMDb’s synopsis: “In Gotham City, mentally troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: the Joker.”

Why it made the list: Sending in the clowns created a lot of buzz and left a trail of controversy. Todd Phillips reimagined the world of DC Comics by delivering a realistic origin story, and it made this film a box office success. The film addresses mental illness within the world of Gotham City and leads up to the eventual rise of the infamous Joker. Phillips makes a visually stunning film that provokes an emotional response from the viewer. This is why audiences either loved it or hated it. To add, the film’s star, Joaquin Phoenix, absolutely owns this movie by physically transforming and captivating the screen with every moment of gesture and dialogue.

Best Line: “The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”

9. Jojo Rabbit

Release Date: Nov. 8

Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson

Director: Taika Waititi

IMDb’s synopsis: “A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.”

Why it made the list: “Jojo Rabbit” is charming, heartfelt and a wildly funny satire. Writer and director Taika Waititi, who plays an imaginary Hitler in the movie, does a fantastic job with this film. Through a child’ s-eye-view, Waititi creates a witty coming-of-age film during the hate-filled regime of Nazi Germany during WWII. The film is set in an era that is one of the darkest periods in world history; however, Waititi doesn’t wish to deny this or shy away from it. He takes a heavy subject, weaves in humanistic moments that are riddled with satirical punchlines and racial epithets and delivers a movie with genuine heart and soul.

Best Line: “Heil me, man!”

8. Midsommar

Release Date: July 3

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Vilhelm Blomgren

Director: Ari Aster

IMDb’s synopsis: “A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.”

Why it made the list: It’s dark, unsettling and bizarre from beginning to end. This folkloric psychedelic thriller of Scandanavian debauchery makes for a scary, not-so-good time. But as a viewer, you can’t look away, no matter how anxiety-driven it is to watch. Ari Aster sets out to mind-f*ck his audience, and he does it perfectly in “Midsommar.” It’s creepy beyond belief, and the sounds and visuals of this movie will leave your mind reeling for days after watching.

Best Line: “Trust me. Alright?”

7. Honey Boy

Release Date: Nov. 27

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe

Director: Alma Har’el

IMDb’s synopsis: “A young actor’s stormy childhood and early adult years as he struggles to reconcile with his father and deal with his mental health.”

Why it made the list: A semi-autobiographical take on the early childhood memories of Shia LeBeouf, written by the actor himself. It’s an introspective look at the trauma and pain the film star suffered at the hand of his overbearing, abusive father. The same trauma and pain led the actor to be a self-indulgent and destructive egomaniac until he was forced to enter a rehab facility and change his life forever. LeBeouf plays a version of his real-life dad and channels the insufferable and aggressive nature of his flawed father figure. The acting performances by both LeBeouf and Hedges are worthy of award accolades. It’s a sad and raw film that allows for LeBeouf to exercise the emotional release that he has long needed.

Best Line: “The only thing my father gave me that was of any value was pain, and you want to take it away?”

6. The Irishman

Release Date: Nov. 27

Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci

Director: Martin Scorsese

IMDb’s synopsis: “A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.”

Why it made the list: The three hour and 30-minute movie may sway viewers away from watching this film classic out of lack of patience. But at the end of the day, that is what this film is: a Scorsese classic. Scorsese is a master at storytelling through his use of characterization, music and stylization. “The Irishman” is a film about politics and organized crime, told through the historical account of Frank Sheeran, a mafia hitman turned union leader, who claims to be responsible for the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. It’s a story about loyalty, betrayal, regrets and an attempt towards amends.

The movie also touches on the idea that time stops for no one – we live, and we die – and eventually, even the “tough guys” either get knocked off or slowly deteriorate in their frail bodies. The actors in the film embody the characters they portray and immerse themselves within the period of time and lifestyle that Scorsese aims to capture. When you put the acting powerhouses of De Niro, Pacino, Pesci and the rest of the “wise-guys,” in one film, it is bound to become the movie event of the year.

With a nearly four hour movie, it is easy to check the clock and ask – “is it over yet?” However, I couldn’t help but remind myself that these are some of the last times we will see this kind of acting and filmmaking caliber all on the same screen. It’s an event, it’s a moment captured in time. Bask in the splendor of it all.

Best Line: “Three people can keep a secret only when two of them are dead.”

5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Release Date: July 26

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie

Director: Quentin Tarantino

IMDb’s synopsis: “A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.”

Why it made the list: Reason #1 – it’s Quentin Tarantino, reason # 2, did I mention Quentin Tarantino? But in all seriousness, Tarantino is one of the best directors of our time. His meticulous attention to detail is seen in each and every frame of the film. Through this movie, Tarantino writes a cinematic letter to 1960s Hollywood through a mix of fantasy and real-life history. Tarantino has always been known for creating his own universe of characters and bizarre circumstances, and in “OUATIH,” he does just that and does it magnificently. The movie has all of Tarantino’s infamous trademarks and nuances that clearly distinguish the director from any other on this list. To add, it’s an in-depth character study into the lives of the figures of this film, and the acting performance by DiCaprio and Pitt outshine in this ensemble cast.

Best Line: “In this town, it can all change like that.”

4. The Lighthouse

Release Date: Nov. 1

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, Valeriia Karaman

Director: Robert Eggers

IMDb’s synopsis: “Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.”

Why it made the list: “The Lighthouse” is already being pegged as a cult classic. It’s an arthouse film that is definitely out there, to say the least. The film is shot in black and white film in a 1:19:1 aspect ratio that makes for a visually pleasing film. The cinematography and score deliver a dark and ominous feeling that nags the viewer relentlessly. The film is more a thriller than it is a horror film and by the end, you will be left questioning your own sanity. I consider it a two-man play that’s made for the screen. Dafoe and Pattinson play the sh*t out of their roles as they slowly lose their sh*t scene by scene, imbibing quarts of kerosene as if it was water. They’re gross, they’re freaky and they’re mad as all hell.

Best Line: “Why did you spill your beans, Tommy? Why did you spill your beans?”

3. The Farewell

Release Date: Aug. 9

Cast: Shuzhen Zhao, Awkwafina, X Mayo

Director: Lulu Wang

IMDb’s synopsis: “A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.”

Why it made the list: As advertised, this film is “based on an actual lie,” of director Lulu Wang’s own personal experience. The film has been praised as being a near-perfect movie that explores death and the cultural differences between eastern and western philosophies within the confines of a family dynamic. This movie is truly exceptional. It’s heartfelt and funny, down-to-earth and sincere. The relationship between Awkwafina’s character and her Nai Nai, or “grandma,” played by Shuzhen Zhao, is authentic and relatable. Their chemistry transcends on film as we get to see their intimate family moments that make the viewer smile, then cry, at its warmest moments. It’s a tear-jerker, to say the least, but Wang doesn’t just make a movie about death; it’s a movie about growing up and growing into one’s family.

Best Line: “You think one’s life belongs to oneself, but that’s the difference between the East and the West. In the East, a person’s life is part of a whole … It’s our duty to carry this emotional burden for her.”

2. Marriage Story

Release Date: Dec. 6

Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern

Director: Noah Baumbach

IMDb’s synopsis: “Noah Baumbach’s incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.”

Why it made the list: It’s a love story about divorce. A heartbreakingly beautiful film that screams authenticity and tells of a realistic account of what it’s like to fall in and out of love. Something is charming and all too real about the feel of this movie. From the way it’s filmed to the way the actors deliver their lines, to the perfectly synched score that accompanies it. The dialogue in this movie is so well thought out and comes off credible and convincing. You feel for the characters – siding with one, then siding with the other – just like in a real divorce. You experience the rollercoaster of emotions with them and can’t help but feel their sadness and rage. Johansson and Driver give brilliant performances that will mark as the highlight of their careers. Put all of it together, and it’s undeniably one of the best films of the year.

Best Line: “You liked this life until you decided you hated it.”

1. Parasite

Release Date: Dec. 6

Cast: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo

Director: Bong Joon Ho

IMDb’s synopsis: “All unemployed, Ki-taek and his family take peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks, as they ingratiate themselves into their lives and get entangled in an unexpected incident.”

Why it made the list: Where do I start with this one? The storyline is amazing. The cinematography, simply amazing. The subtle symbolism, damn amazing. It’s a great film that keeps the viewer captivated from beginning to end. It’s a foreign film, so of course, that meant I had to force myself to read. A travesty, I know.

But it’s worth it.

There’s not a moment of boredom watching this movie; in actuality, it’s the type of film that you don’t want to end. You go in thinking it will be one way, and by the end of it, you’ll leave the movie utterly awestruck by its twists and turns.

If you haven’t seen it, don’t look up reviews, plotlines or spoilers. Go into it without knowing anything. I wouldn’t even watch the trailer. Ignorance is bliss in this case.

Best Line: “You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan at all.”