The 2010s have come to an end. Soon I will be posting several additional top ten lists on the best films of the previous decade. But, first, I have to close out last year in the right way with this top ten films of 2019-list. So, sit back, relax, and take a look at what films I think were the very best in a quite strong year for movies.
Based purely on the greatness of the cinematic output from great artists all over the world, 2019 was a strong year for films. Not only were there exceptional art house films, independent films, or films from great auteurs, there were also several very strong blockbusters that deserved recognition.
Of course, one of the big questions of 2019 was whether or not superhero films are cinema. Martin Scorsese gave his opinion and the internet ran amok. I still think people are making a mountain out of a molehill. Scorsese, frankly, just gave his opinion about the creative process behind those films and the impact that they have on him. Sure, he likened the experience of watching them to theme parks, but, honestly, I don’t think that’s disrespectful or wrong. Listen, folks, you can agree with Scorsese and still love these films, as my top ten list will indicate.
Now, granted, there were a couple of notable films that I did not get a chance to see prior to doing this list. The most significant film that I still have not seen, due to its very late release date in Denmark, is Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire. I am very interested in seeing that film, though, and, when I see it, I will update this article, if it is good enough to be on this list. With that out of the way, let’s get to it!
H.M. – Uncut Gems – Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie
From my review of Uncut Gems:
“Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems is a nail-biting stunner. It is a truly overwhelming and, at times, exhausting film that nevertheless completely hooks you. Adam Sandler is exceptional as an infuriating character whose waking nightmare is every bit as grueling as it is mesmerizing.”
#10 – Ad Astra – Directed by James Gray
From my review of Ad Astra:
“I am of the opinion that this contemplative film is much more than stargazing and monologues marked by monotony. James Gray’s Ad Astra is a masterful film about going to the edge of the universe to find solutions to our own issues with identity, belonging, and loneliness. This well-crafted science-fiction film reminds us that when we reach for the stars, we mustn’t forget about our humanity.”
#9 – Ford v Ferrari (Le Mans ’66) – Directed by James Mangold
From my review of Ford v Ferrari:
“At a time when Hollywood is basically only willing to spend money on proven or potential franchises, James Mangold’s big-budgeted studio-film Ford v Ferrari is a much-appreciated and delightful anomaly. James Mangold has crafted a funny, loving, and surprisingly moving film about fathers, sons, friends, colleagues, and mavericks. It is an almost irresistible film, and I have no problem admitting that I ate it all up. Ford v Ferrari is one of my favorite films of the year.”
#8 – Avengers: Endgame – Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
From my review of Avengers: Endgame:
“Avengers: Endgame is an incredible and overwhelming achievement. It is the most heart-wrenching and most satisfying comic book film I’ve ever seen. It might be Marvel Studios’ finest hour, so to speak.”
#7 – Knives Out – Directed by Rian Johnson
From my review of Knives Out:
“This is a suspenseful, surprising, sharp, and side-splitting film. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is filled to the brim with gloriously eye-catching production design and set decoration, witty, modern, and surprisingly political dialogue, and a star-studded cast having the time of their lives. It is a riveting and glorious crowdpleaser that is probably going to be regarded as one of the year’s most rewatchable films.”
#6 – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Directed by Quentin Tarantino
From my review of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood:
“Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is three different things all at once. This is, obviously, a love letter to late 1960s Hollywood — and, in length, to Tarantino’s childhood — but it is also both a wish-fulfillment alternate reality revenge fantasy for Hollywood of that era — a cinematic opportunity for payback and justice — as well as a genuinely moving and warm hangout movie about male bonding, male friendships, and legacy (in more ways than one). I loved every minute of this movie and I’m excited about getting to revisit it in the future.”
#5 – 1917 – Directed by Sam Mendes
From my review of 1917:
“1917 is a breathtaking technical achievement that is a remarkable showcase for its cinematographer and composer. On top of this, it is a loving and moving tribute to the comradery and heroism of the British soldiers of the First World War. In the grand scheme of things, it is one of the most admirable and impressive war films that I have ever seen. What is probably Sam Mendes’ most personal film also happens to be his first masterpiece.”
#4 – Marriage Story – Directed by Noah Baumbach
From my review of Marriage Story:
“Brought to life, in part, by Randy Newman’s gentle score and a couple of truly Oscar-worthy performances, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story realistically and sometimes devastatingly depicts a crumbling marriage and the legal disputes that may overshadow the remodeling of that relationship, within which you can still sense a love that persists in spite of changes. In its final scenes, it truly took my breath away. Though by no means unique, I think that Marriage Story is a masterpiece and one of the very best films of the year.”
#3 – Little Women – Directed by Greta Gerwig
From my review of Little Women:
“It cannot be overstated how impressed I am by Little Women. I understand completely why so many have sung its praises. I, frankly, think this solidifies Greta Gerwig’s position as not just an up-and-coming director but as someone who you have to keep your eye on. This is a remarkable film that moved me deeply. Gerwig controls the effect of her film so impressively, and her structural confidence is exceptional. Little Women is the work of a masterful filmmaker. As Jo would say, it is, indeed, a capital film.”
#2 – The Irishman – Directed by Martin Scorsese
From my review of The Irishman:
“This is not just a retread. This film feels personal. It is a surprisingly ruminative film that is arguably Scorsese’s most mature crime film. Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is a mournful knockout. It is a reflective masterpiece with a sobering and sometimes both remorseful and tension-filled final hour. Needless to say, this is one of the greatest films of the year.”
#1 – Parasite – Directed by Bong Joon-ho
From my review of Parasite:
“With Parasite, Bong now has his masterpiece. […] During the 2010s, I have started to become infatuated with South Korean cinema. Though some might say foreign films are an acquired taste, I would prefer to classify Bong’s latest film, Parasite, as an incredibly rich experience that I implore moviegoing audiences of all shapes and sizes to watch. Bong’s genre-bending Parasite is, like Lee Chang-dong’s Burning, a South Korean class-conscious masterpiece that I both admire and adore.”
And that’s that, really. Now it feels more appropriate to look ahead to future films that will, perhaps, one day earn a spot on my yearly Top Ten Films of the Year-list, only time will tell if my most anticipated films will be on next year’s list, but, right now, I’m excited to find out what’s going to be 2020’s big surprise hit.
But what was your favorite film of 2019? Feel free to sound off in the comments.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.