Mandatory Best of 2019: Ranking the 10 Greatest Movies of the Year
Movie magic flexed its muscle in 2019, bringing us some of the most entertaining and memorable big-screen experiences of the decade. Superheroes once again conquered the box office, with Disney taking home more than $10 billion in earnings. But surprisingly, in a season full of high-flying, spandex-clad heroes, some of the best movies of the year were small budget flicks about relationships and class dynamics. So as the curtain closes on a most satisfying year in cinema, here are our picks for the 10 greatest movies of 2019.
Cover Photo: Universal Pictures
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10. 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood'
Mr. Rogers is the anti-Joker. He's not controversial. Nor hair-raising. He's your friendly, neighborhood hero in a cardigan. And while Joker may have garnered a lot more buzz, it's only because the movie was designed that way. Where Joker seems to do bad for no other reason than to show how bad it can be, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood does good for goodness sake. It's a simple, well-crafted movie to remind us of the icons we used to adore, of our better selves, and the kindness that makes the world go round if we let it.
Jordan Peele keeps the winning streak alive with his slightly more horror-inflected follow-up to Get Out. With a bigger budget and more room to breathe, Us expands on the themes of his previous film with greater ambition, vision, and detail. A film as revolutionist material is one thing, but when it's also stunningly rendered and wildly entertaining, it rises to a new level of filmmaking. Let's hope that good things come in threes.
8. 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco'
For those wanting to dive headfirst into the strange and magical waters of the City by the Bay, look no further than The Last Black Man in San Francisco. In this debut film from childhood friends Joe Talbot and Rob Richert, the sense of place is so immediate and the colorful culture of their hometown so effortlessly detailed, you get lost in the handwoven world they've stitched together from a million memories. San Francisco is ground zero for the modern day sacking of a city, and this film captures the painful pill the losers must swallow in the face of cultural erasure. But more than that, it's about how friendship endures even when dreams are trampled.
Class warfare never looked so hilariously insidious. This entertaining glimpse at the lives of the haves and have-nots living under the same roof, moves deftly from shockingly funny to sweetly sad without ever breaking stride. Chameleon director Bong Jun Ho has finally made a flawless film, one that is uniquely and expertly crafted.
6. 'The Peanut Butter Falcon'
We're happy (and surprised) to say that Shia LaBeouf is finally having a banner year. And while his confessional film Honey Boy takes a trip into bleak pastures, The Peanut Butter Falcon, starring newcomer Zack Gottsagen as a 22-year-old with a dream (who happens to have Down syndrome), is the bright, redemptive story that puts institutionalized restraint on notice. The film is plotted without any surprises, but rather than being a hindrance, this stability opens the film up to a relaxed self-assurance. It's a feel-good movie that's a smooth, easy, ride down the southeastern shores of America, wending its way into the place in your heart where childlike wonder still exists.
5. 'Ad Astra'
Sometimes it feels like we're losing ourselves to the void, growing disconnected from each other as we slip into the cold ether of nothingness. Ad Astra patiently captures this universally modern conundrum, packaged within the awesome adventures of outer space. Top that off with another superb performance by Brad Pitt and you have yourself the sleeper classic of the year.
4. 'Avengers: Endgame'
Juggling all the jigsaw pieces that make up the MCU is not as easy as Avengers: Endgame makes it look. The grand finale of the Infinity Saga that's been building for years delivers on many levels: as a blockbuster hit, a multi-character arc, and an emotional twist of the knife. It's a brilliant conclusion to the first 10 years of Marvel madness.
3. 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'
If there was any uncertainty left about whether Quentin Tarantino is thoroughly over his mid-career slump, this movie puts that question to bed. Using his knack for rewriting history, his tempered audacity as a filmmaker, and a cast that squeezes together some giant movie stars with pleasantly fresh faces, Tarantino adds another feather in his cap with this ode to the last golden days of Hollywood. Oh, and there's a happy twist on good old Charlie Manson. What's not to love?
2. 'Knives Out'
There's something about a mansion-sized murder mystery that makes us perk up slightly while scrolling through this year's endless movie releases in a slack-jawed daze. Following in the estimable footsteps of films like Clue and Gosford Park, Knives Out borrows greedily from these classic mystery tropes, while managing to transcend them in new and surprising ways. It's the perfect film to curl up by the fire in your silk bathrobe with a giant bag of popcorn and a 2-liter box of wine.
1. 'The Lighthouse'
Robert Pattinson has been running from one offbeat role to the next, and with The Lighthouse, he’s finally hit land's end. Shot in anamorphic 4:3, the movie plays like a demonically shifting daguerreotype. It's a stark portrait of two men battling for control of a desolate, phallic, seaman’s lantern, complete with monster performances and wide-eyed perversion. It's fresh, frightening, and pure insanity.