Occasionally there are years where the films that come out aren’t the most memorable. In 2019, however, we saw an array of films that not only broke down our expectations, but truly challenged us by making us completely enveloped by this art form. Throughout the mix of great films, we’ve witnessed amazing performances, outstanding directing, and everything in-between. This list was a tough one to put together, because of the overwhelming greatness that was achieved. But as tough as it was, I believe I managed to put together a great one. Here are my Top 10 Films of 2019.
- Ready or Not
- Spiderman: Far From Home
- Toy Story 4
- Avengers: Endgame
- The Lighthouse
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire
When the Oscars declared that no woman was deserving of a Best Director nomination, well, I simply direct those naysayers to Lulu Wang’s, The Farewell. This deeply personal film tells the story of Billie, a Chinese-American woman who learns that her grandmother is terminally ill. As per the Chinese culture, instead of warning the grandmother that she doesn’t have much longer, the family travels to China in order to spend one last time with the her. Awkwafina gives an outstanding performance as Billie, showing off her dramatic talents apart from just her comedy. The Farewell blends the art with comedy, so well, it never feels disjointed. Wang takes her personal story and makes the audience laugh at the unusual family squabbles, which I’m sure so many of have dealt with. The Farewell will make you cry and make you laugh. It’s a well-rounded film, directed by a fantastic director who gives us only a taste of what she’s capable of.
Where do I start with Waves? All I can say is, “wow.” This film thrusts you right into these characters’ lives as if jumping head first into a dream. That’s what this film is: a dream. Unpredictable, gut-wrenching, shocking…What other emotions can possible be thrown in. Kelvin Harrison Jr. plays Tyler, a young man who struggles to live up to his masculine and domineering father’s demands, which eventually send him into a downward spiral. This will not be Harrison’s last time on this list. But as great as he is throughout Waves, Tyler is not the central character of the film. Taylor Russell, who plays Tyler’s sister, Emily, carries the film through its emotions, and leads us to its overall message. Waves will put you in a dreamlike state as you follow these characters through the chaos of their emotions.
While still an indie film, Marriage Story is probably the one with the most notoriety in comparison to our previous mentions. You can thank the star-studded cast for that. Marriage Story tells the traumatic fallout of Charlie and Nicole’s marriage, especially when it comes to custody of their young son. There are great performances from Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, and especially, Laura Dern. Dern has been able to jumpstart her career within the past few years, and now look at her, she’s on her way to that Oscar. Johansson and Driver work so well together, delivering such poignant scenes, which leads up to an all-out confrontation that will break even the hardest of hearts. Director Noah Baumbach, who’s dealt with divorce himself, both in his films and personal life, is able to create the realistic and turbulent feelings that come with such a devastating situation.
Coming to this list at number seven is the modern day whodunnit, from director Rian Johnson, Knives Out. This film tells the gripping mystery of the Thrombeys, after the head patriarch of the family is found dead in his room. What comes is a finger pointing dramedy, measuring social status, and racial tensions in our current political climate. Knives Out has the typical elements that you find in this genre, but there’s so much more to it than the Henri Poirot vibe that will fill your senses. It’s being rumored that a sequel to Knives Out is in development with Daniel Craig to reprise his role as Benoit Blanc. And though I look forward to what story may be in the works, Knives Out is the movie it is because of Ana de Armas’ performance as Marta Cabrera. Her work within the film puts her on par as a breakout star for 2019. In addition to Craig and Armas’ work, the supporting cast is unforgettable. The wit and deceit from all the characters (portrayed by some of the finest actors, who if I were to mention all their names, would take up the rest of this article) is what you come and stay for. Knives Out is a compelling film that will have you questioning everything you see.
I debated where to put Jojo Rabbit on this list, because this film is just too great! Writer and director, Taika Waititi, puts together an unbelievable ensemble that really brings this political satire to life, or should I say “anti-hate satire?” The story follows Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a young boy who wants to fight for the Nazi cause until he finds Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), a Jewish girl, hiding in his home. Oh, did I mention that Jojo’s imaginary friend is none other than Adolf Hitler? It takes some guts on Waititi’s part to create a comedic retelling of the events surrounding Germany in World War 2. But to also portray the evil dictator himself, well that’s just pushing the envelope. There are those people who say that if you find WW2 interesting, or know anything at all about that historical time period, then you can’t enjoy Jojo Rabbit. I say to those people, relax. Jojo Rabbit tells a story, that while a political satire, is able to exhibit those people who find the goodness in others. This film is absolutely hilarious, but also has moments that will break your heart. So bring tissues, because you’re either going to cry from laughing or sadness.
I’m sure you’re all tired of me relentlessly advocating for Luce to have garnered more attention this past year. But I don’t care, I’m going to get on my soapbox for what I can only assume will be the last time. Luce criminally falls under the radar, and that’s just a shame. The film focuses on a young man, who’s made good on the “American Dream” outlook on life. And in the process, befriends various members of authority who gladly cheer for him on the sidelines. All except for his history teacher, Mrs. Wilson, who begins to think Luce may have a sinister side to him. The film needed to have received better recognition, considering this ensemble delivers some of their best work. Octavia Spencer, who has exhibited some great acting in her previous roles, gives a performance of a lifetime. Spencer has various monologues that are the driving force behind the film, and her scenes with the talented Kelvin Harrison Jr. make the film a pivotal moment in our ongoing cinematic experience. The themes at the heart of the film will have you start a conversation with others, and make this a film that will stay with you long after watch it.
Another remake of a classic…or is it? Little Women follows the March sisters during various memorable moments in their lives, told from Jo March’s point of view. For me, as I’m sure so many others can relate, Little Women is an incredibly personal story. Writer and director Greta Gerwig, who made a name for herself with 2017s, Lady Bird, comes back with another brilliant film, with Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet along for another ride. In addition, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, and Meryl Streep, round out this talented cast. Little Women is everything that you want in a movie. The story is well written, with Gerwig putting in some of her own tweaks to the story. It’s hard to fully appreciate a remake, especially a remake that has been done so many times. But what is so important about Little Women, is its ability to give hope and inspiration to young girls of every generation. Therefore, this story is one that needs to be remade for women to feel like they’re not just meant for the typical female roles in life. But to branch out, and go after what you really love. Though I am partial to Winona Ryder’s version, this newest retelling of Little Women is one that you can equally love.
Booksmart found itself on my Most Surprising Films of 2019, because I’m sure a lot of you found yourself looking at this film thinking that it was just another teenage movie. And with the plethora of films that are all marked “teen,” they’re usually not good. But Booksmart is not your average “teen movie.” In fact, I think a lot of young people weren’t able to see this in the theaters. This rated-R film follows two young women, Amy and Molly, who have spent their high school careers with their heads in the books. Now, after realizing all the other partying students got into exceptional colleges, Amy and Molly want to go out with a bang, and boy do they. What so many similar films fail to embrace is the type of youngster in high school, and the less idealistic parts of being that age. Booksmart has some truly talented actors, led by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, who make their friendship look genuine. But of course, how can I mention Booksmart without Billie Lourd’s performance of Gigi. Lourd is absolutely hilarious from the very first moment she comes on screen. Booksmart is all held together by first-time director, Olivia Wilde. Wilde fully embraces the role of director by creating such an imaginative film, with crazy antics, and absurd moments that will relate with numerous high school experiences.
It rarely happens that a war film falls through the cracks during awards season. And in that case, we all knew that 1917 would grab our attention. But to be this good, that’s something else entirely. The story follows two young soldiers frantically trying to deliver a message in order to stop a battle that could lead to the death of hundreds of British soldiers. 1917 is not a film that you simply watch, but one that you experience. The film’s atmosphere envelopes you to the fullest extent, which is so beautifully crafted by director Sam Mendes. If creating a film of this caliber wasn’t hard enough, Mendes goes the extra mile, and films it as if were shot in one take. Some people have said that if 1917 didn’t have that one-take look, it wouldn’t have that long lasting impression, but I beg to differ. Every piece of this film (cinematography, acting, score, etc.) will take your breath away. 1917 is pretty much perfect!
Last year, could you have imagined that during the 2020 award season we would be talking about a foreign language film being our favorite of the year? I know I didn’t. Bong Joon Ho had a wonderful quip after winning best director at the Golden Globes, which I can only paraphrase, but I believe it went something like, “learn to read, people.” Of course he wasn’t that blatant, but it’s too often that foreign language films are often overlooked, because no one wants to sit and read the dialogue. But if you refuse to see a movie as great as this one, because of the language barrier, I say that you’re missing out on a brilliant piece of cinema. Parasite examines the void in both social status and class that seems to invade every country in one form or another. To be honest, it’s as if Alfred Hitchcock directed a film about our current political climate. Parasite will send chills up your spine as it slowly builds to create one of the best thrillers I have ever laid my eyes upon. With all its perfection, Parasite also made its way to my Most Surprising of 2019. But as you sit down to watch this film, who’s the real parasite? Well, that’s for you to decide.