The Top 25 Movies of 2019

This is my Top 25 Movies of 2019 list (along with a second opinion from Liz and Eric Sweeney). Please keep in mind that this list is highly subjective and may have a few dumb movies on it. Even then, there are still a handful of movies that I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet (especially: Little Women, Ford vs Ferrari, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Honey Boy, 1917, Won’t You Be My Neighbor). Also, this year’s favorite movies are in video countdown form if that’s your preferred manner of taking in best of lists.

1. Parasite

I love Bong Joon-ho. There are few working directors whose films I look forward to more than Bong’s weird, offbeat outings. Parasite, a culmination of talents he’s honed over two decades of work, is his best film to date. A sharp, biting class critique, that is equal parts funny, surprising, and jarringly violent at times. It’s also his most accessible film to date, brought about by timely subject material and a first act that is far more welcoming than its bleak back half. I could rant for hours about how great this movie is, but I’ll keep it simple. Parasite is an easy #1 for me this year. It lives up to the hype and then some. This is a genre master at his peak. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “All unemployed, Ki-taek’s family takes peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks for their livelihood until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.”

Best Scene: Peach Fight

Hot Take: Parasite will win Best Picture at the Oscars and is one of the best movies of the decade

Watch This If You Like: Us, Shoplifters, The Host, The Handmaiden

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

2. Jojo Rabbit

JoJo Rabbit is bound to be divisive. It’s a Hitler satire, which means it won’t please those who see no value in bufooning history’s monsters. Even so, I’m surprised at just how split critics are on Taika Waititi’s sixth directorial effort (its 58 metacritic score especially). It may not have world shattering insight into the atrocities of the Third Reich, but there are useful lessons of tolerance here. There’s nothing in its 108 minute runtime that feels particularly irresponsible or distasteful. And I don’t think it’s safe (can a Hitler satire even be safe?) or inconsequential as some have argued. Are there missteps? Sure, but you can’t really operate in half measures with a film like this. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s heartbreaking. It’s why we go to the movies. Don’t listen to the naysayers, Taika is still on a roll. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.”

Best Scene: Beatlemania

Hot Take: This movie is actively being marginalized because it makes Disney uncomfortable

Watch This If You Like: The Great Dictator, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Moone Boy, Life is Beautiful, Wes Anderson vibes

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%

3. Avengers: Endgame

Endgame doesn’t supplant Infinity War as Marvel’s all-time best, but it does provide a satisfying conclusion to the company’s third phase, acquitting the two main staples of the franchise with relative care and consideration. In doing so, it addresses the lingering criticisms against Tony Stark and Steve Rogers (criticisms they fielded against each other), in that Tony is selfish and Steve is bottled beefcake. Sure, the movie sags a bit in the middle while it searches for an overarching tone, but to stick the landing after ten years of cinematic build up, now that’s something special. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to reverse Thanos’ actions and restore balance to the universe.”

Best Scene: Avengers Assemble

Hot Take: Black Widow deserved better

Watch This If You Like: Infinity War, Time Travel Heist Comedies

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

4. Marriage Story

I tend to hate Noah Baumbach movies. I often refer to him as Wes Anderson without the whimsy, but for whatever reason, Marriage Story works for me. It’s surprisingly humane considering the subject matter, has likable characters (something I think is lacking in his prior movies for any role not played by Greta Gerwig), and results in a bit of an acting clinic, with Driver and Johansson acting their asses off at every turn. Nice to see one time Aberdeen staple Lucas Neff pop up in the film too. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “Noah Baumbach’s incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.”

Best Scene: I don’t know how to start

Hot Take: Baumbach’s all-time best

Watch This If You Like: Heartbreak

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

5. Last Black Man in San Fransisco

This year’s best art house indie is a haunting meditation on gentrification, masculinity, and shared grief. The first ten minutes of this movie are just so transcendent. They hum with life and vibrancy in a way that most studio films could only hope to achieve with their bloated budgets and overstuffed plots. The film as a whole is a beautifully constructed surrealistic work, born of a successful kickstarter campaign and two friends’ (director Joe Talbot and star Jimmie Fails) semi-autobiographical experience growing up in an evolving and suddenly unfamiliar San Francisco. This one is special. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “A young man searches for home in the changing city that seems to have left him behind.”

Best Scene: This is our home

Hot Take: Best Cinematography of the year

Watch This If You Like: Terrance Malik, Bay Area stories, Art house lookers, Blindspotting

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

6. The Lighthouse

Part Promethean fable, part Melville farce, part chiaroscuro Lovecraftian horror, all mixed together with director Robert Eggers’ potent blend of moody fever dreams. Right out of the gate, this is not for everyone. This is a weird movie. Like very weird. But it’s also not the pretentious nonsense that some would fear from a 4:3 ratio’d black and white movie. It’s easily one of Willem Dafoe’s best roles as surly senior lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake, and it also quietly affirms the notion that Robert Pattison is a better actor than people give him credit for (see: Good Time). And like any provocative work of art, it also produces vastly different takes on what the movie is actually about. Again, it’s weird, but it’s my kind of weird. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “The hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.”

Best Scene: “You don’t like my cooking?”

Hot Take: A secret backdoor ‘Annihilation’ Prequel?

Watch This If You Like: The Witch, The Shining, Herzog movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

7. Wild Rose

How Jessie Buckley is this talented and still relatively unknown in Hollywood (she was also great this year in ‘Chernobyl’ as Lyudmilla Ignatenko, the firefighter’s wife) is beyond me. If you wanted a counterpart to Lady Gaga’s dual threat performance in last year’s ‘A Star is Born’, this is it. Buckley won’t be nominated for anything, but it’d be criminal if she wasn’t a bigger deal in a few years (she’ll be in Fargo Season 4 in 2020). Also, the film’s banger of a closing song was written by Mary Steenburgen (yes, that Mary Steenburgen), who after a routine operation years ago awoke with a new sonically trained mind and has been trying to make it as a songwriter herself. That in itself could be a movie, but instead we’re treated to this toe-tapping tale about a Scottish woman’s dream to make it big in Nashville. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “A troubled young Glaswegian woman dreams of becoming a Nashville country star.”

Best Scene: Road to Glasgow

Hot Take: More raw and humane than ‘A Star is Born’

Watch This If You Like: A Star is Born, Subtitling Scottish Accents, Nashville

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

8. The Farewell

The Farewell resists the desire to manufacture unnecessary drama in favor of earning genuine sentiment and moments of real human connection. As a result, the film might not wow you due to its lack of big dramatic swings, but Wang’s thoughtful script will stay with you long after the credits have rolled. I think the best description of the film I’ve heard is that it’s, “Culturally specific, but universally resonant.” Awkwafina also turns in a wonderfully subdued performance, proving she’s a legit star beyond her scene stealing support roles of the last few years. This is a hug your family special, through and through. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “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.”

Best Scene: The Farewell

Hot Take: A quiet masterpiece

Watch This If You Like: Kore-eda movies, Yasujirô Ozu movies, Calling to check up on your parents

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%

9. Booksmart

I’ve never been a huge fan of Superbad, so it goes without saying that I thought this was a better movie than Superbad. I truly believe Beanie Feldstein has dethroned her real life sibling Jonah Hill for the coming of age high school movie throne. Aside from that, it’s also a really promising directorial debut from Olivia Wilde, contains a pitch perfect soundtrack, a scene stealing turn by Billie Lourd and should finally propel Kaitlyn Dever into proper breakout status (something that has been long overdue for her work on Justified, Short Term 12, etc). And this film’s ending? Perfection. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.”

Best Scene: “Want to get pancakes?”

Hot Take: Better than Superbad

Watch This If You Like: Superbad, Bridesmaids, Edge of Seventeen

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

10. Knives Out

Knives Out continues Rian Johnson’s genre subversion trend, producing a pseudo murder mystery where the mystery is mostly solved within the first thirty minutes, leading to an almost tongue and cheek deconstruction of whodunnits over the final two acts. It also happens to be loads of fun, boasts a perfect ensemble cast, and has a surprising amount of social commentary sprinkled throughout. I would definitely watch more entries in the detective Benoit Blanc series if that’s what Daniel Craig favored for his post Bond career. May all his future cases be solved with donut hole metaphors. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.”

Best Scene: Donut Hole within the Donut Hole

Hot Take: The Best Contemporary Murder Mystery?

Watch This If You Like: Clue, Murder on the Orient Express, Brick

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

11. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

I heard someone call Rise of the Skywalker “risk adverse”, which I think is fair. Every time they appear to make a gutsy decision, they roll it back seconds later, undercutting any punch the event might have once had. The story is undeniably a bit of a mess and the deeply troubling marginalization of Rose Tico’s character signals a sad concession to the toxic faction of Star Wars fandom. Despite all that, I still managed to enjoy the film. Abrams’ movies may only be as good as the scripts he’s working with, but he’s a skillful executioner of flash and verve, and that doesn’t change here. Driver and Ridley are standouts in the film, with Driver’s arc concluding in a particularly satisfying fashion. Star Wars will always be an important franchise to me, so it’s hard to not see the good in a deeply flawed film. (Trailer)

Synopsis (via imdb): “The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.”

Best Scene: “Hey, kid.”

Hot Take: Rose deserved better

Watch This If You Like: The Force Awakens, Hot messes

Rotten Tomatoes: 55%

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