2019 has been another surprising year for film, full of life and love labored across the silver screen. I always love coming back and revisiting the year, because it forces me to focus on the good and to highlight everything I loved about yet another year around the sun when it comes to cinematic experiences.
Yes, we got a handful of stinkers and forgettable flicks that I will not waste anymore of my time on, but we also got a lot of surprise hits and golden nuggets of cinema that are going to stay with us for a long time.
2019 also presented us with the continuing shift of how we consume media, more specifically with Netflix releasing Martin Scorsese‘s 3.5 hour crime epic The Irishman, a film which surprisingly didn’t grace my top ten list, but is still worth noting as an achievement for cinema consumption and special effects.
What I loved most about 2019 is how I managed to fall in love with big-budget studio blockbusters and little arthouse darlings equally. My top ten list has never been this diverse and well-rounded and I always take pride in that.
I have no problem having R-rated raunchy comedies stand next to serious biopics or a big budget comic book movie going toe-to-toe with an auteur trying to tell a unique, but small story.
My top ten lists consist of the movies that moved me in one way or another. I try not to focus on which film meant more to society or the landscape of movie-making and I try not to focus solely on the technical aspects as much as I do the aspects of one’s heart.
If a movie that most deem as trash moved you more than anything else, then why not take that pride in calling it your favorite? When I scrub through the releases of a year before compiling my list, I end up running into movies that I might have initially rated rather high, but struggled to enjoy on a revisit or to the opposite end, a film that I was uncertain on that I now manage to watch on repeat ever since it hit home video.
This makes my top ten list a list that is constantly growing and changing until the very last few weeks of the year. And into the new year, this list would no-doubt look much different if we went back an revisited mid-year through 2020.
Before I dive into my list, I must make a few honorable mentions for movies that I enjoyed to some degree or another, but just couldn’t keep on the final ten.
Movies like Happy Death Day 2U, a sequel that had no business being as good as it was. 2U blends together comedy and teenage horror with a new element — time travel. Christopher Landon has successfully made two great movies in a series that I really hope gets a third installment that promises to be even more wild.
Stephen Merchant‘s Fighting with My Family is another under-the-radar film worth mentioning that has probably been dismissed due to its ties with professional wrestling, but is actually a heart-warming story about never giving up and chasing those dreams, despite the shortcomings that will surely knock you out on your ass again and again. Florence Pugh gives a memorable performance that makes what could’ve been a throwaway film into something special.
Shaft and Stuber to this day still make me laugh more than I care to admit, despite both bombing from a critical and financial standpoint. And I’m not sure why, because both films are carried by their awesome leads (Samuel L. Jackson and Kumail Nanjiani/Dave Bautista).
Crawl just might be one of the most effective horror films of the year, coming out of nowhere, with very little marketing in the middle of the summer to some rave last-minute reviews. Alexandre Aja‘s killer alligator flick is airtight and full of suspense and more people need to be talking about it.
Hobbs & Shaw and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum both take the crown for how to do an action film totally right. One is focused on insane, over-the-top fun, while the other continues to deliver us inventive and stylized action that is unlike anything before it. While both films forget to reinvent the wheel, they both definitely didn’t forget how to make us jump in our seat and laugh at the sheer awesomeness on display.
Lastly, Joker and It: Chapter Two are two films that I consider heavy-hitters that are just too far from perfect to land on my list. I enjoyed both films very much, for various reasons that both of my reviews cover extensively. If I did a top twelve list, these two films would’ve made the cut, but this is a serious business and I just can’t be bending the rules like I use to.
Now that my long-winded rant about films that aren’t on my list is over, let’s dive into my top ten films of 2019. I’ve also attached previous top ten lists if you care to see how my tastes in film have progressed over the years.
- Jeremy’s Top Ten Films of 2018
- Jeremy’s Top Twelve Films of 2017 (hey, I’m not perfect)
- Jeremy’s Top Ten Films of 2016
10. Ford v Ferrari
James Mangold‘s Ford v Ferrari is an exhilarating look at the historic moment when the Ford Motor Company took on one of the most luxurious car manufactures at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.
Mangold’s direction is as steady as can be, harnessing two Oscar-worthy performances from Matt Damon and Christian Bale, while also telling us a captivating tale of the American dream and just what it means to those fighting for it every single day.
I’ve seen this film two times in theaters and was surprised to find how just as engaged I was the second round. It didn’t lose a single step, reaffirming me of my initial reactions in my review. Ford v Ferrari is that rare adult drama that has nothing to do with a comic book or franchise that just works because of its engaging characters and unique story, which is based on real events.
Ford v Ferrari is a great example of modern day Hollywood alive and kicking, a shining example of why going to the movies is still a relevant and exciting way to consume media. This is an original, adult-oriented drama that has something for everyone and I highly encourage that you get out and see it, because it’s worth the price of admission and then some.
9. Long Shot
Long Shot is director Jonathan Levine‘s best film since 50/50 without a doubt. It somehow manages to perfectly balance comedy and sincere emotion in a way that feels authentic and true. Some might be turned off by the film’s political ties, but I honestly found it refreshing in how it approached the topic with perspective and care.
Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron might just have the best chemistry of the year for a couple in a movie that I would’ve never thought I’d be describing as romantic, yet hilarious. I feel bad that this film sort of came and went without much fanfare, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that it’s very good and not quite what the trailers painted it out to be.
Long Shot might have been a poor title for the film, but I guess it ended up ringing true as it really didn’t have a chance to win over audiences in its random early May release. But let me tell you that I fell in love with it in theaters and have since watched it another two or three times and each viewing brings me even more appreciation for Levine’s ability as a director that is unafraid to tackle complex topics in a way that is accessible to just about anyone. His eye for raw and real emotion that bounces off of comedy is unmatched and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
8. Doctor Sleep
Mike Flanagan‘s Doctor Sleep is the sequel to The Shining that I never thought we needed. Nor did I realize that Stephen King himself wrote the book that the film is based on.
Doctor Sleep isn’t just a great horror movie, full of terrorizing imagery and a powerful atmosphere that doesn’t stop spooking you. It’s also one of the best films to depict alcoholism and addiction. Ewan McGregor gives a layered and broken performance that elevates the material to new heights, while Rebecca Ferguson becomes instantly meme-worthy as Rose the Hat aka one of the most exciting, yet terrifying characters to grace the screen in 2019.
I’m still in awe at the fact that Warner Bros. gave a known (and great) horror director what appears to be an endless budget to make such a large and epic horror movie. Doctor Sleep is nearly three hours long, yet it wastes not a single second of screen time or a single dollar of its budget on something that isn’t going to enhance the experience for the viewer.
Fans of The Shining (film or book) are going to appreciate the craft and care that went into making Doctor Sleep a reality and one of 2019’s truly great films.
7. Ready or Not
Ready or Not is without a doubt the most fun that I’ve had the theater in the entire year of 2019. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have created a future cult-classic, while actress Samara Weaving becomes a bonafide on-screen bad ass that knocks this film out of the theater and into the parking lot.
I can’t stress enough how damn entertaining Ready or Not is, feeling like a hybrid blend of The Cabin in the Woods and You’re Next in all of the right ways, while also birthing such a bad ass out of Samara Weaving.
Ready or Not is gory, always exciting and the perfect kind of movie for frequent revisits when catching up with old friends that have been out of the movie loop. Show them this film and be prepared to be praised as the bringer of quality and the reinforcer of fun!
Olivia Wilde‘s Booksmart is Superbad for a new generation, perfectly capturing what it truly feels like to live in high school in this day and age, full of R-rated raunch and a coming-of-age story that feels authentic and relevant.
I must admit that the initial trailers for Booksmart kind of turned me off, looking more like a carbon copy of Superbad that didn’t have much to say, but after seeing the film I immediately ate my own words, discovering a film that’s funny and warm and one that feels lived in and true.
Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein‘s on-screen chemistry makes the film special, representing a pair of best friends that are beyond close and also extremely not ready for the “adult life” as they live out their last few days as high schoolers.
Watching Booksmart brought joy and laughter as the two get in and out of all sorts of trouble and situations that not only tested their friendship, but who they were as individuals.
Wilde’s direction feels fresh and exciting and unafraid to dive into the lives of high schoolers of the modern age and for that I applaud her.
Booksmart is all sorts of funny and something that really does need to be viewed before making quick comparisons to other coming-of-age flicks. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does capture a familiar story from a different perspective, which I thought felt refreshing and modern.
Jordan Peele‘s Us is a piece of horror filmmaking done by a master of his craft. It’s psychological, topical and full of deep contention that challenges its audience while also scaring the living daylights out of them.
The real horror lies within the subtext that Peele masterfully cuts in and out of as his film reaches new heights for the horror world and the world of cinema at large.
Peele came out of the gate with Get Out, a film that I honestly didn’t care too much for, because of its marketing and end result not aligning too closely at all. I get that it’s a reflective piece of modern filmmaking, but I also didn’t care for what it was trying to say or do through the horror lens.
Meanwhile, Us is a damn masterpiece, closing up all of those shortcomings that were presented in Get Out and firmly establishing Peele as a storyteller with so much to say.
I love Peele’s attention to detail and ability to convey so many emotions through his visual architecture. Us is a film that can be viewed and studied frame-by-frame and I surely bet almost everything within the shot has a meaningful purpose that will pay off at a later moment throughout the film.
It’s that kind of attention to detail and expert craft that is almost always missing in the world of horror movie filmmaking and I welcome and applaud Peele for giving his films such care and effort.
Also, Lupita Nyong’o‘s performance should not go unnoticed, playing dueling roles with such complexity and reality in a way that’s full of so much heart and pain. Watching her command the screen is just another example on a long list of why you should be watching Us at this very moment.
I must admit that I myself am surprised with how high (or low?) on this list Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood is. It’s a film that I was so conflicted with after my first viewing, yet my second and third viewing really helped me grasp just what I think Tarantino was trying to say and do.
Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood is a love letter to the Golden Age and director Quentin Tarantino reflecting on his own career and relationship with cinema. It’s meaty, full of colorful characters and gorgeous set pieces that make for a wild trip down memory lane. It might not be Tarantino’s best, but it’s definitely his boldest and most ambitious.
The more I think about the characters within OUATIH, the more I fall in love with Tarantino’s biggest and weirdest film yet, despite not thinking it’s as great as the likes of Django Unchained or even Inglorious Basterds.
Still, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio‘s chemistry alone makes this one of the most impressive and memorable films of 2019. Two of Hollywood’s greatest performers giving two of the best performances of the entire year and doing it with a giant smile on their faces.
It’s kind of hard not to love this film.
It’s kind of hard to make a top ten films of 2019 and not at the very least mention Joe and Anthony Russo‘s Avengers: Endgame. You might not think that it’s a perfect film, but you can’t deny just what they have accomplished for big-budget long-form storytelling. This is the conclusion of over 20 interconnected films that has paid off in a massive way and undoubtedly changed the way we look at franchise filmmaking.
I know that I will surely get crap for ranking this film so high (especially above such prestige), but I really don’t care, because the feeling that I felt during the end battle of Endgame has yet to be matched.
Just look at The Rise of Skywalker and its wildly mixed responses from critics and fans alike, yet Endgame stands as the near-perfect way to cap off such an important franchise.
I won’t lie in saying that I still think Infinity War is the better Avengers film, but I can’t deny Endgame‘s ability to stick its landing and go out with an absolute bang, even if there are moments in the film that feel sluggish or not nearly as well-done as some of the films before it.
Endgame will always get bonus points from me for being a true ending to a landmark in cinematic history and its ability to pull at my heartstrings so many years after I have consumed so much Marvel product is impressive and a shining example of why Disney isn’t always bad or the end of the world. If a major entity can continue to produce quality like this then I welcome it to the arena with open arms.
This is how you end a saga.
2. Uncut Gems
Benny and Josh Safdie‘s Uncut Gems not only gives us the best performance from Adam Sandler in years, but also one of the single best films of 2019. It’s been nearly a month since I saw the film, yet I still can’t shake the feeling out of my head after having viewed it. It’s the definition of cinematic craziness, bursting with style and life that is unlike anything before it.
Adam Sandler‘s Howard is a borderline cartoon character failing to embrace the world around him in an attempt to “do his thing” for as long as humanly possible. It’s a heart attack-inducing suspense film that’s also a batshit insane comedy of wild proportions.
There really isn’t a proper way to describe Uncut Gems, so I am going to leave you with my initial pull quote description that I still think describes the film perfectly.
Uncut Gems is a turbulent masterpiece, directed with agility and bravado by The Safdie Brothers and acted with an Oscar-worthy performance by Adam Sandler. This 100-mile-a-minute look at the colorful life of a seedy jeweler is one of this year’s best films when it’s all said and done.
Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz‘s The Peanut Butter Falcon is in my opinion, the very best film of 2019. The Peanut Butter Falcon is cinema in its purist form. Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen lead a cinematic journey that’s full of heart and charm, reminding us just why it is that we go to the movies — to feel, to be moved and to believe in anything and everything.
The Peanut Butter Falcon has not a single bad bone in its cinematic body, representing the very best of of 2019 in terms of film and just how important a wholesome story, with great actors and actresses truly is. I could not find a single flaw in the film and continue to be reminded of its power whenever I think of it.
It’s hard to find a film full of so much kindness and good, not to mention a film that has those two traits and yet doesn’t manage to waste them while telling its story.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is the definition of a perfect film. It’s the very reason why we go to the movies — to escape into a story that’s larger-than-life, yet so relatable and intimate. It’s about good vs. evil, becoming the person that you were meant to be and about living your absolute best life, with those that matter the most.
And that concludes my thoughts on the year of 2019 in film. I spent a great deal of time working on this list and would love to know what you thought of it.
Do you agree with any of the films on my list or have I missed your favorite? What does your list look like? Let me know in the comments section down below and thank you again for continuing to read and support me here at The Daily Rotation.
I look forward to 2020 and what it brings for cinema. Without looking into it too much, I’d say Tenet is my most anticipated film. What’s yours?