2019 was a fantastic year for film, especially during the second half of the year. Here are the ten films I loved the most from 2019.
10. The Last Black Man of San Francisco
Joe Talbot’s directorial debut, The Last Black Man of San Francisco is one of the best shot films I have ever seen. The film tells the story of Jimmie Fails who dreams of reclaiming the house his grandfather had built many years before. Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors both give heartfelt performances. Talbot and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi did a fantastic job bringing San Francisco to life within their film while tackling subjects regarding racial prejudice, gang violence, and familial issues. I am excited to see what everyone involved with this film makes next.
9. Dolemite is My Name
Eddie Murphy has returned to cinema, and what a return it was. Dolemite is My Name, directed by Craig Brewer, is the brilliant story of how Rudy Ray Moore made a movie for an entire community in America and the absurdness that led to his success as the titular character. A hilarious energetic ride from start to finish, Dolemite is My Name had me dying of laughter nearly every minute of the movie’s 118 minute run time. Eddie Murphy’s performance is show stealing in a movie filled with great performances.
8. The Lighthouse
Robert Eggers is quite possibly the best modern horror director. The gloom and dullness of the camera and Jarin Blaschke’s cinematography contrasts perfectly with the performances and the tense musical score by Mark Korven. Robert Pattinson has come a long way since Twilight, but the real star of the show here is Willem Dafoe. It is an absolute crime that he did not get nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars this year. Eggers has a long career in horror waiting for him after this masterpiece, and I cannot wait to see it.
7. Ad Astra
James Gray’s grounded sci-fi film Ad Astra might be one of the most gorgeous sci-fi films I have ever seen. How is it that Brad Pitt can portray all kinds of emotion so subtly that he almost seems emotionless? Ad Astra’s core message discusses how you shouldn’t emotionally distance yourself from those around you, and the negative effects of that distance. Max Richter’s score, Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography, and the entire sound design team (the vacuum of space) combined with the brilliant performances all portray that feeling of emptiness perfectly. I am interested to see what Gray does with the sequel.
6. Marriage Story
Netflix has proven itself as a film production company with films like The Irishman, Klaus and Dolemite is My Name. However, their best film of 2019 was easily Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Marriage isn’t always perfect, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you hoped it would. One of the best acted movies of 2019, Marriage Story will make you laugh and cry before delivering one of the best endings to a film ever. Both Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are utterly fantastic with Randy Newman’s score only adding to the emotion.
5. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Tarantino’s re-imagining of 1960’s Hollywood captures time in a bottle. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are an incredible duo and steal every single scene they are in. Pitt especially shines, bringing most of the comedy to the film. Margot Robbie, however, is the heart of this movie. Her portrayal of Sharon Tate brought some levity compared to the more comedical parts of the movie, creating a perfect balance. I could watch the lives of these characters for hours. The third act is perfection and is just as great as Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained‘s third acts. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is easily one of Tarantino’s best films.
4. Avengers: Endgame
Avengers Endgame is a terrific conclusion to the “Infinity Saga.” Every Marvel movie that came before it was building to this final chapter. Joe and Anthony Russo accomplished a huge feat. The amount of references, conclusions, character moments, emotion and action within this film is why I love it as much as I do. Being a huge comic book fan I was tremendously excited for this and it exceeded all of my expectations. Endgame is not just the best blockbuster film of 2019, but one of the best blockbusters of the decade.
Sam Mendes’s 1917 captures the horrors of war perfectly, fully immersing you within the film as if you were there with the two leads as they travel across the front. Every explosion and bullet felt real thanks to the flawless sound design. Lee Smith’s editing, or lack there of, not only allows us to follow the characters, but also to understand the exhaustion they feel the further they get on their journey. It perfectly compliments Roger Deakins’s cinematography. It particularly shines in the action set pieces, which felt so tense I ran out of breath just watching them. Thomas Newman’s score only adds to the intensity of these scenes. Every actor is a star but George MacKay shines the brightest. All of the pieces of this movie combine to form my favorite war movie of all-time.
2. Knives Out
Coming off of the divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson presented a complex murder mystery. Making Marta, played by Ana de Armes, the audience point-of-view character allows us to see the members of the family as the outside world sees them instead of how they see themselves. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, especially Chris Evans and Daniel Craig. The direction itself complimented the writing perfectly. The claustrophobia of the mansion setting increases the tension of each scene until it reaches a breaking point. The scenes taking place outside of the mansion feel more relaxed and comfortable in comparison. Knives Out is a thrilling who-dun-it mystery that manages to balance comedy, drama and cheese.
Bong Joon-Ho’s masterpiece Parasite is the best class commentary I have ever seen. The film’s visuals perfectly compliment it as well, providing some amazing iconography. Every piece of this movie fits together perfectly. Each actor portrayed their role brilliantly, leaving little to be desired. However, the obvious stand-out is Song Kang-Ho. The score by Jung Jae-il is melancholic at first, but slowly grows in eminence by the end of the film. Parasite deserved its best picture win. I am highly anticipating Joon-ho’s next film. Hopefully it’s at least a fraction as good as Parasite.
Is there a film you absolutely love that did not make my list? Comment below!