There’s almost nothing movie fans love more than making lists, and honestly, maybe that’s one of the things I love so much about movies. I’ve always loved to rank things, whether it is movies, favorite baseball players, or memes. So with the decade coming to a close, it is the perfect time to do an annual retrospective on each year in the decade, finishing with 2019.
I’m doing 30 movies on this countdown because it’s the most recent year and there are some movies I’d like to talk about. But first, I’m going to mention some notable movies that were left off my top 30 (out of 94 total movies).
Overall, I think 2019 was a great year for movies. There were about 20 or 25 films that I would have loved to put in my top 10 in any other year, but just didn’t make the cut this year – and that’s because everything else was that great.
86. It Chapter 2
72. Captain Marvel
58. Dolemite Is My Name
55. Avengers: Endgame
44. Jojo Rabbit
36. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
33. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
31. Toy Story 4
30. Just Mercy – The Green Mile is known for having one of the emotionally moving scenes in film history, but I would argue that this movie surpasses it. This is an important movie about the value of life that is inherent to everyone, and it deserves to be seen by more people.
29. John Wick 3: Parabellum – This has the least plot and characterization out of any of the John Wick movies, but I think it’s definitely the most fun. The first hour has some of the most incredible action out of any movie this year, making it extremely watchable.
28. Zombieland 2: Double Tap – This is the kind of movie that I recognize isn’t actually great, but I just had so much fun watching it. It does at least have a meaningful message about home and family.
27. The Dead Don’t Die – This is Adam Driver’s least memorable movie from this year by the general public. Not a lot of people saw it and it got middling reviews. But I thought it was very good. Jim Jarmusch gets dry and meta in this movie that has an important message about climate change and the way everyone is complicit in it.
26. Luce -Kelvin Harrison Jr. is an up and coming star, between this and Waves. He does great work in this movie that deals with the question of how we are shaped as people. And the movie doesn’t give any easy answers. It’s one that sticks with you and makes you think.
25. The Irishman -While some might say this is way too low, I don’t think this movie actually gets great until the last hour or so. The first two hours are great, but they aren’t transcendent the way Goodfellas, Casino, or even The Departed are. But the last hour is so introspective and deep, and the create so many interesting thoughts that it takes this movie to a high level.
24. The Farewell -One of the most moving movies of the year. It makes you consider the way we’re shaped and the people who shape us. Awkwafina is great in this role, and Lulu Wang is a revelation. This is one I wouldn’t want to say much about, other than people should watch it.
23. Richard Jewell –Richard Jewell shows the corruption in the United States law enforcement system. When Richard Jewell is wrongly investigated, it takes such a toll on himself and his family. There is a lot of controversy surrounding this movie, but if you can get past it, there’s a lot to like.
22. Doctor Sleep – A worthy follow up to The Shining that I certainly didn’t see coming. This movie delves into the nature of humanity, and what we can do to help those around us. It loses its footing a bit at the end, but the rest is so good that the missteps don’t matter.
21. Booksmart – This movie lost a bit for me on a rewatch, but I still think it’s the best straight up comedy that came out this year. Billie Lourd absolutely steals the movie – she amplifies the scene every time she appears. Plus, the two leads have palpable chemistry to make a truly great movie.
20. Yesterday -Yes, it had such an amazing premise that it wasn’t interested in exploring, but I don’t think you can knock the movie for that. Just because you want to see something out of a movie, it doesn’t mean that’s automatically the better movie. Yesterday says a lot about honesty and integrity, but it’s really just a whole lot of fun.
19. Ford v Ferrari – James Mangold. Christian Bale. Matt Damon. What an immaculate grouping. This movie is just so watchable. It’s fun, beautifully shot, kinetic, and has a lot to say about the creative process. It may not deserve Best Picture consideration, but I’m glad people ave seen it and enjoy it.
18. The Two Popes – I love movies that deal with differing looks at Christianity. There is so much behind the intriguing conversations between the titular Popes. The ideas Pope Francis presents are exactly what I think about the modern Church, and I’m glad that Netflix gave this movie such a wide reach.
17. Honey Boy – I think people are still a little wary of Shia, but this is one of two movies that he is absolutely great in this year. I love the meta idea behind it that it can take a long, long time to work through your personal demons. Shia is still working through them by the end of the movie, as well as in real life.
16. The Art of Self-Defense – A breakdown of toxic masculinity, this quirky dark comedy is the perfect vehicle for Jesse Eisenberg. If you’re into a movie that has this unique of a point of view, this is one to watch.
15. Ready or Not – This is my biggest surprise of the year. I went into it knowing almost nothing, but came out loving it. It deals with the difference between the rich and poor over an absurd backdrop of a violent thriller.
14. The Lighthouse – I was not expecting to love this movie as much as I do when I went in. It seemed like the kind of movie I could appreciate, but not like, but I was wrong. It explores the futility of motivations, and encourages the viewer to find some sort of drive or passion in life. This is not to mention how excellent Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe both are in this wild ride of a movie.
13. Marriage Story – Even though this is such a heartbreaking story, there is something about its personal nature that I’m just drawn to. It’s tender and approachable all while being devastating. Adam Driver gives his best performance to date – so broken and under the surface. It’s a beautiful film about love in many different forms.
12. 1917 – This movie is more than just a technical masterpiece, which is absolutely is. It’s also a story about brothers at its core. There is a sequence in this movie that is the most thrilling thing I saw in a theater all year – it’s the reason I love watching movies.
11. The Peanut Butter Falcon – The other Shia movie that hasn’t gotten enough love. He plays a great guy with a rough exterior who does the right thing for someone in need. This is probably the feel good movie of the year, and that is said with no condescension.
10. Uncut Gems – Much like The Lighthouse, I wasn’t expecting to love this movie as much as I did. Everyone seems to be leaving out Meyerowitz Stories from two years prior when talking about Adam Sandler’s performance in this movie, but he is fantastic in this movie. It’s a movie about the importance of the way you treat other people. Oh, and it has lots of basketball.
9. Ad Astra – There are two different ways to read this movie – about a son searching for his father and about man searching for God. I find them to be equally compelling. Personally, I think this is Brad Pitt’s best performance of the year. He elevates this movie to such high personal levels that will go down in the annals of great space movies.
8. Midsommar – There is something about this movie that is so watchable for me, even though it shouldn’t be. I appreciate everything being done from the acting, to the set design, to the direction. Florence Pugh became a true revelation with this film and Ari Aster cemented himself as one of the best up and coming directors out there.
7. Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood – This is so different from the rest of Tarantino’s movies in so many ways. It’s slow and lived in, and it’s a fully realized world. I just want to hang out in Tarantino’s representation of 1960s Hollywood. Plus, Leonardo “LDC” DiCaprio gives one of the best performances of the entire year, and his whole career.
6. Little Women – I love this movie so much. Every single part of it is put together with such love and care, and it’s obvious that everyone involved was passionate about making it. It has four fully fleshed out “little women” and I can personally see a little bit of myself in each one of them. Greta Gerwig is a master, and I can’t wait for the rest of her directing career.
5. US – Jordan Peele really is something, isn’t he? I love movies that have some sort of reveal at the end that cause you to recontextualize everything you have just seen. That’s what this movie does. On top of that, it talks deeply about the systemic difference between the haves and the have nots. It’s a beautiful dichotomy.
4. Hotel Mumbai – If there was one movie from 2019 that I could choose to show more people, it would be this. I didn’t hear nearly enough people talk about this movie throughout the year, and it’s honestly a travesty. When we decide to send thoughts and prayers to people who have gone through a tragedy, we don’t think of exactly what that tragedy entails. I think this movie comes as close as art possibly can to creating that much-needed empathy.
3. Knives Out – Yep, it’s as great as everyone says. The trailers made it look great, the critics said it was great, and it legitimately was great. Rian Johnson, other than Christopher Noaln, is probably my favorite working filmmaker. He is such a master at layering story and message that you can’t help but appreciate it. This movie also has an excellent cast from top to bottom to create one of the best moviegoing experiences of the year.
2. Parasite – This movie is truly something special. It shows that American audiences really can be receptive to an international film, and that Roma wasn’t a fluke. This movie has one of the best screenplays of the year, and Bong Joon Ho is just a complete master. It’s so just good.
1. Waves – This is the most emotionally crushing movie of the year for me, and that is a good thing. Unlike any movie I’ve ever seen, it creates such deep empathy for each and every one of its characters. It’s a moving, true-to-life emotional ride. This movie has stuck with me more than any other film in 2019. When it finished and the credits began to roll, I just sat in disbelieve at Trey Edward Shults’ ability to move me in a way I hadn’t been moved at the movies in a long time. And isn’t that why we go to the theater?
All images retrieved from IMDb