2019 graced audiences with an abundance of stellar cinematic efforts and proved to be one of the best years on film in recent memory. While I was able to see approximately 110 films released in 2019, there are, of course, always a few outliers. If your favorite movies of the year did not make the cut, remember that this is a subjective list. This list’s primary functions are to inform, entertain, and shed light on some of the year’s most qualified achievements and urge audiences to treat themselves to a deserved watch.
50) Triple Frontier
dir. J.C Chandor
Director J.C Chandor’s latest exploration of political ethics is neither as consistent or absorbing as his previous work – but it’s formidable cast, well-executed action sequences, and reflective moral agenda make “Triple Frontier” an above-average Netflix pick.
dir. Kasi Lemmons
Stars: (Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Janelle Monae)
It’s uninspired and formulaic approach may undermine the stories essentiality – but it’s fierce lead performance, and a tangible sense of justice allows “Harriet” a firm recommendation.
48) Spider-Man: Far from Home
dir. Jon Watts
Stars: (Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei)
Marvel’s phase 3 finale is decidedly less grounded than previous entries, but “Far From Home”s radiant buoyancy and visceral genre thrills more than account for its slight shortcomings.
47) The Two Popes
dir. Fernando Meirelles
Stars: (Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins)
Although it struggles to stay focused – “The Two Popes” is elevated by top-caliber performances. It’s sharp writing aptly survey’s grey space between the ideals of two opposing figures.
46) Richard Jewell
dir. Clint Eastwood
Stars: (Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm)
Eastwood’s minimalist approach successfully highlights the intricacies of this true story. “Richard Jewell” is effective, if a relatively bland account of modern injustice.
dir. Dexter Fletcher
Starring: (Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard)
A daring, and suitably flamboyant representation of an eccentric pop culture icon. “Rocketman” embraces genre cliches with whimsy and panache in a fantastical, if inevitably flawed, musical biopic.
44) Dolemite Is My Name
dir. Craig Brewer
Starring: (Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson)
“Dolemite” excels on the heart and the sheer comic bravado of a revitalized Eddie Murphy. It’s an ode to artistic independence that is sure to inspire those who dream big.
dir. Danny Boyle
Starring: (Himesh Patel, Lily James, Sophia Di Martino, Ellise Chappell)
This charming “hits-list” effortlessly captures the exuberant zeitgeist of Beatle’s phenomena. Though it’s tread is markedly predictable – “Yesterday”s warmth and wit are enough to enliven even the most ardent pessimist.
42) Ad Astra
dir. James Gray
Starring: (Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland)
An unconventional epic of sprawling scope and meditative intimacy; “Ad Astra” is a contemplative space opera that often meanders into the indulgent, but overcomes its conceit with remarkable visual flair and an absorbing sense of introspection.
41) Brittany Runs a Marathon
dir. Paul Downs Colaizzo
Starring: (Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Jennifer Dundas, Patch Darragh)
Universally resonant and energized by a committed and versatile central performance – “Brittany Runs a Marathon” is a dense character study that channels human insecurities while teaching us that perseverance is the key to self-discovery.
40) The King
dir. David Michod
Starring: (Timothee Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, Sean Harris)
A period piece that pertinently reflects our times in its evaluation of hubristic leadership, “The King” is a lavish look at the aimlessness and pride-oriented nature of war and federal conflict.
dir. Rupert Goold
Starring: (Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell)
Zellweger’s transformative work as the beloved icon lends to an effective evocation of sympathy for it’s subject while still emphasizing her virtues. “Judy” harks back to a treasured era and reminds us that certain things are not as glamorous beyond the rainbow.
38) Greener Grass
dir. Jocelyn DeBoer
Starring: (Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, Beck Bennett, Neil Casey
The real housewives of David Lynch’s fantasies – “Greener Grass” is a deadpan, psychedelic fever dream that is certainly for more refined tastes. Blending dry humor and social commentary, the film explores the suburban underbelly of female infused competition and a compulsive need for validation.
37) Queen & Slim
dir. Melina Matsoukas
Starring: (Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloe Sevigny)
Albeit pacing issues, “Queen & Slim” is an urgently provocative exploitation of modern tragedies, lionized by weighty themes and tangible chemistry between its two leads.
36) Jojo Rabbit
dir. Taika Waititi
Starring: (Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell)
This Hitler-regime parody’s confusing tonal rhythm and inhibited satirical edge are ultimately gratified by a prodigious display of humanism. “Jojo Rabbit” demonstrates the unprejudiced need for compassion while exploring the ultimate disillusionment of force-fed idealism.
35) Doctor Sleep
dir. Mike Flanagan
Starring: (Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Cliff Curtis, Kyliegh Curran)
In being a sequel to the horror classic “The Shining,” there are inevitable expectations that no film could ever possibly fulfill. However, “Doctor Sleep” is an affectionately handled and thoroughly entertaining adaptation that is likely to win over die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
dir. Lorene Scafaria
Starring: (Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Styles, Keke Palmer)
While inherently undermined by the “Scorsesian” formula, it attempts to emulate – “Hustlers” seduces viewers in its unapologetic yet humanistic portrayal of erotic dancers, and a career-defining performance from Jennifer Lopez.
dir. Jay Roach
Starring: (Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow)
An eye-opening indictment of media influence and unchecked power – “Bombshell” is informed by a trio of dynamic performances and ultimately triumphs in a vindication of the defused voices of authoritative abuse.
dir. Guy Nattiv
Starring: (Jamie Bell, Danielle Macdonald, Bill Camp, Vera Farmiga)
Jamie Bell thoroughly inhabits the skin of the tortured Arian anti-hero in this contemporary true-crime tale. “Skin is an exhibition to the ethical duality of man, and an attestation to the ever-prominent and insidious underbelly of racism in red-state America.
31) The Souvenir
dir. Joanna Hogg
Starring: (Honor Swington Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton, Tosin Cole)
The film’s reticently emanated minimalism will frustrate the impatient viewer – but “The Souvenir”s whispered truths and polished decor are effective functions for a subtle exploration of co-dependence and muted communication.
dir. Olivia Wilde
Starring: (Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis)
While it doesn’t exactly reinvent the genre, “Booksmart” is far more vocal and idiosyncratic than the average teen comedy. First time director Olivia Wilde lends consistent levity to the unique dynamic of the film’s accessible leads to cleverly emphasize self-empowerment and inclusivity.
29) Dragged Across Concrete
dir. S. Craig Zahler
Starring: (Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Don Johnson)
While neither as perverse or provocative as its title may suggest – “Dragged Across Concrete” is an unapologetically cynical and uncommonly patient deconstruction of the crime thriller genre – elevated by rich dialogue and strong character development.
28) Little Women
dir. Greta Gerwig
Starring: (Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern)
While it’s scattered vignettes pose an inorganic timeline of events – Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” remake is a lavish and warm period piece of rich human drama that enhances the source material through extended characterization. It’s a holiday family film that is sure to capture all audiences with wide-eyes and opens hearts.
27) Toy Story 4
dir. Josh Cooley
Starring: (Woody, Buzz, Mr. Potato Head, Bo Peep)
Disney Animation has successfully added another moving and cerebrally charged classic to its repertoire. Capitalizing on a proven formula, “Toy Story 4” is an intellectually precocious testament to the timeless ingenuity of Pixar.
26) Knives Out
dir. Rian Johnson
Starring: (Daniel Craig, Ana De Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis)
An anomalous and maze-like disassembling of the mystery genre galvanized by cheeky acuity and cut-throat dialogue. “Knives Out” is a tilt-a-whirl of unpredictability and precision – creating something truly original through the use of familiar ingredients.
dir. Jordan Peele
Starring: (Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker)
An eclectic fable from a visionary of modern horror, bestowing uncommon nuances upon the genre with elements of science fiction and class commentary – “Us” is both exceptionally original, fright-inducing, and thought-provoking.
24) The Mustang
dir. Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Starring: (Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruce Dern, Jason Mitchell, Gideon Adlon)
A beautifully intimate and soulful journey of spiritual rehabilitation, “The Mustang” is a superbly acted and gracefully delicate meditation on the parallel nature and intuitional bond between man and animal.
23) A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
dir. Marielle Heller
Starring: (Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper, Susan Kelechi Watson)
Embodying the buoyantly altruistic essence of its subject, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is a warmly coated exercise in cathartic expressionism. It augments the worn biopic structure with sprinkles of fairy dust and empathic sensitivity to render a film that reminds us of what it means to forgive and love unconditionally.
22) John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
dir. Chad Stahelski
Starring: (Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Halle Berry, Ian McShane)
While it lacks the narrative cohesion of the first two installments, “Parabellum” heightens the sensational choreography and extravagant action that help make it’s predecessors instant classics. It’s a sequel that further’s the franchises win streak while expanding on its gung-ho premise.
dir. Trey Edward Shults
Starring: (Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges)
Within its two-act structure, “Waves” employs a dichotomy in style and tone that is both boldly transgressive and frustratingly incongruent. The first half is a staggeringly immersive experience, while the second half is toned down exponentially. Ultimately, this is an immensely bold and unique experience that is bound to be divisive but ultimately rewarding.
20) The Farewell
dir. Lulu Wang
Starring: (Awkwafina, Shuzhen Zhao, X Mayo, Hong Lu)
Painting an intimate and sincere portrait of familial kinetics, cultural customs, and misguided stoicism, “The Farewell” is an acute dissection of the ambivalent marriage between blissful ignorance and burdened knowledge.
19) The Last Black Man in San Fransisco
dir. Joe Talbot
Starring: (Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold)
“People aren’t just one thing,” befittingly proclaimed by the film’s lead character, acts as a deeply profound reflection on this poetically nuanced and intimately life-affirming directorial debut. “Last Black Man in San Francisco” balances a euphoric visual palate with trenchant themes of racial compartmentalization to engender a moving and powerfully understated investigation of African-American identity.
18) Pain & Glory
dir. Pedro Almodovar
With mystique and sincerity, director Pedro Almodovar finds himself effortlessly balancing tonal inequities and self-awareness with precision and flair. “Pain and Glory” is a vibrant and moving ode to filmmaking and artistic individualism.
dir. Ari Aster
Genre auteur Ari Aster’s richly emblematic, audacious, and psychotropic horror epic is an experience like no other. “Midsommar”s juxtaposition of beauty and terror is a prime foil for a deeply unsettling exploration of the search for identity and belonging.
16) The Peanut Butter Falcon
For viewers who find themselves fatigued by the formula, this profoundly earnest adventure is bound to tickle your sense of uninhibited fancy. “Peanut Butter Falcon” is a modern fable that synchronizes delicate topics of the subnormal and disenfranchised with effortless optimism and compassion.
15) Honey Boy
dir. Alma Har’el
Starring: (Noah Jupe, Shia Labeouf, Lucas Hedges, Byron Bowers)
A fearlessly candid and uninhibited confessional piece pronounced with grace and cathartic candor. Director Alma Har’el utilizes a uniquely childlike aesthetic to reflect a child’s interpretation of his own trauma. “Honey Boy” explores themes of abuse and masculine inferiority with deftly balances humor and tragedy. LaBeouf’s submission is embedded with deeply poignant motifs musing on the search for identity within the context of one’s own upbringing.
14) The Art of Self-Defense
dir. Riley Stearns
A gleefully depraved, pitch-black martial arts comedy that pulls no punches in its caustic wit and biting social politics. “The Art of Self Defense” is a nightmarish parable and audaciously provocative exploration into the confines of toxic masculinity.
13) The Nightingale
dir. Jennifer Kent
An unflinching, and immensely unsettling depiction of man’s barbaric nature. “The Nightingale” designates itself as one of the most profoundly disturbing films in recent memory – one that’s shock value is inarguably warranted with a thoroughly absorbing narrative, stark themes, and remarkable production.
12) Under the Silver Lake
dir. David Robert Mitchell
Starring: (Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Patrick Fischler, Topher Grace)
An esoteric cocktail of old detective movies and surveillance-era angst permeated with ideas of subliminal messaging. “Under the Silver Lake’s” ambiguous caliber may prove muddled to those seeking total coherence – while it’s palpable sense of atmosphere and paranoia will captivate audiences with an affinity for investigation, analysis, and crock-pot theory.
11) Avengers: Endgame
dir. Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring: (Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth)
A generational epic. “Avengers: Endgame” is the emotionally resounding and marvelously architected culmination of the MCU’s best components. Providing breathtaking sequences of fan service and effectively finalizing each hero’s character arch, “Endgame” is a deeply personal, wildly ambitious, Superhero movie for the ages.
10) Ford V Ferrari
dir. James Mangold
Starring: (Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas)
A high octane spectacle of exhilarating thrills, spirit, and expertly executed racing sequences. “Ford v Ferrari” is an extraordinary vehicle that transcends its cliched sports drama path through exceptional engineering. It’s a film of purist thrills while also acknowledging that detail-oriented precision is what pushes a movie beyond the threshold of mindless popcorn entertainment.
9) Marriage Story
dir. Noah Baumbach
Starring: (Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda)
There are two sides to every story in writer/director Noah Baumbach’s tenderly intimate and affectionately ambivalent portrait of marital discourse. “Marriage Story” unites an unfiltered realism with commanding performances that lead the way within the shoes of characters illuminated with compassion and unadulterated humanism.
dir. Julius Onah
Starring: (Kelvin Harrison Jr, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth)
Challenging viewer expectations with unnerving social insight; “Luce” is a taut psychological thriller that imbues its characters with visceral unpredictability in a tightly woven narrative that compels and threatens to unravel at every turn.
7) Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
dir. Quentin Tarantino
Starring: (Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie)
Tarantino’s latest exhibition of unequivocal zest and historical perversion provides the uncommon maturity and insight of a filmmaker in his purest, most self-discerning form. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” traverses patient and temperately in an intricately lived-in canvas, and thoughtfully dissects the artist’s entire body of work with punch-drunk pizzazz.
6) The Lighthouse
dir. Robert Eggers
Starring: (Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe)
An esoteric and immersive incarnate of atmosphere and claustrophobia. “The Lighthouse” shines upon two dynamic performances, and an expert integration of visual storytelling- presenting the fractured male psyche at its most uninhibited.
5) The Irishman
dir. Martin Scorsese
Starring: (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin)
A leisurely and insightful dissection of man’s grim nature. Culminated by grand technical and thematic achievement, “The Irishman” is a contrite deglamorization of mob movie mantras and anti-heroes, representing a wholly realized vision from one of cinema’s most accomplished auteurs.
4) Uncut Gems
dir. Josh and Benny Safdie
Starring: (Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, Lakeith Stanfield)
Akin to mainlining adrenaline and suffering the immediate comedown – this is a rabid, edge-of-your-seat crime thriller and neurotic’s nightmare. Incessantly and deliberately disrupting its viewers’ sense of comfort and control, “Uncut Gems” engulfs us in its lead character’s internal downfall. The combination of brilliantly cast Adam Sandler and vintage-form directing solidify the Safdie Bros. as two of today’s most exciting directors.
dir. Todd Phillips
A social indictment that finds arguably this generation’s finest actor (Joaquin Phoenix) in peak form. “Joker” is an intrepid character study that dares to elicit the type of contemplative conjecture provoked only by the most daring cinematic efforts of the past decade.
dir. Bong Joon Ho
Starring: (Kang-ho Song, Sun-Kyun Lee, Yeo-Jeong Jo, Woo-Sik Choi)
“Parasite” is brilliant on all accounts – excelling as an infectious heist thriller, dark comedy, and social parable. It’s the type of film so inventively conceived that we only see something like it every decade or so. Each scene bleeds with a rarely executed pirouette of sharp wit, malevolence, and edge-of-your-seat uncertainty. “Parasite” is a blistering and profound discernment of class and the human condition.
dir. Sam Mendes
Starring: (George Mackay, Dean Charles-Chapmen, Colin Firth, Mark Strong)
Director Sam Mendes’ war epic marks a pioneering achievement in the ever-evolving landscape of cinema. “1917” is a film that presents all prerequisites for exceptional filmmaking to a tune of complete harmony. As far as artistic and technical design, this is some of the most impressive work ever put on film. However, it is what this design elicits that is far more bewildering. It’s single; continuous shot immerses the audience in the unflinching anxiety and uncertainty of warfare – as its characters and motifs submerge us into the mind and spirit of a soldier. “1917” is a masterpiece of unprecedented scope and skill. It’s one of the absolute best films of the past decade – one that reminds us why we go to the movies in the first place.