Movie Final - My Favorite Movies of 2019
2019 marked the end of the decade that gave us plenty of wonderful cinematic treats. It ended a lot of long form stories, such as things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the Star Wars universe. It also gave us new films from Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, which are always worth noting. There were old friends back, and new friends introduced. 2019 will definitely be a year to remember in terms of cinematic achievement.
Quick Note: Due to my location and/or financial situation, I haven't been able to watch every movie released this year that I wanted to, so there will be gaps in this list. Some of these films were limited runs that don't play around here, and others I just simply couldn't afford to drive to or go see at the time.
Honorable Mention 1 - Jay And Silent Bob Reboot
Yes, I have a soft spot for Kevin Smith. The dude has helped me through some dark times, and his older movies give me a sense of comfort and joy. To see him revisit all of his old friends in Reboot was touching, funny, poignant, and perfect after the director and podcaster suffered a major heart attack in 2018. If you're in the bag for silly stoner comedies, you can do worse than Reboot. It has a ton of heart, and is actually a very strong commentary on the strength of family. If there was one film I would pick to be Smith's legacy, it wouldn't be Clerks, it would be Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.
You can read my full review of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot right here.
Honorable Mention 2 - Rim Of The World
Gone are the days of the mid-budget teen adventure movie. So when one comes along, it is worth looking into. Rim of the World delivers a Goonies meets Independence Day vibe with all of the laughs, heart, thrills, and scares to come with it. The kids are likeable, albeit a bit stereotypical. The stakes feel real, and the story feels satisfying. Netflix original films have been getting stronger and stronger, and Rim of the World is proof of that trend. It's a movie that you can feel the love that was put into making it. If you're looking for a fun adventure that isn't empty and still has some substance, look no further than Rim of the World.
You can read my full review of Rim of the World right here.
Honorable Mention 3 - Beach Bum
If you were to tell me that a movie that follows Matthew McConaughey smoking pot on the beach with his friends would be one of the best movies of the year, I would have thought you were smoking something too. But Beach Bum is a hilarious, heartfelt, yet bittersweet look at life, and the pros and cons of being a free spirit. It is unexpectedly deep, and moving in a lot of places. There are fun celebrity cameos, and while it seems superficial on the outside, it has a lot to say. This isn't one that was marketed to the mainstream, but you may be surprised at how much you enjoyed it. It is a Hulu original, so log in and start watching!
Honorable Mention 4 - Rocketman
Rocketman is great because it doesn't shy away from the negative aspects of the subject. This Elton John biopic is told in a unique way (that has some fantastical elements to it), but it is not sugar coated in the slightest. The film tackles drug addiction, living as a gay man in a society that doesn't accept him, and the struggles of the business of music. While it doesn't quite reach its full potential, it is still better than some of the factory processed crap that has been out there. One of the best music biopics ever is Straight Outta Compton. While this doesn't reach those levels, it certainly rises above the superficial propaganda of Bohemian Rhapsody. If you even have a passing interest in Elton John, or enjoy his music, there is something to love here.
Honorable Mention 5 - John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
John Wick changed the game on action movies. It stepped it up a notch, and set the bar for every "shoot em up" to come. While sequels are normally diminishing returns, the Wick franchise has such strong world building anchored by such a talented cast, that each entry has something new and exciting to offer. The action is unique, and the set pieces are immaculate. The film goes all over the world, and so each fight presents something fresh. The movie should absolutely win an award for sound mixing. It is the best sounding movie of the year. Watch this with the best calibrated surround sound system available to you. It will enhance the movie big time. While Keanu Reeves is the unquestionable star, the film lets Halle Berry shine too. The gun fight that she and her dogs are involved in is the best sequence in the movie. If they were to expand the world of John Wick even further, she should be first in line for a spinoff.
You can read my full review of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum right here.
10. The Irishman
Martin Scorsese is film making royalty. When he makes a movie, you pay attention. His take on the Jimmy Hoffa saga, using the same 3 actors and digitally de-aging technology, makes a pretty memorable film. It is a bit long in the tooth, and jumps around in time too much for its own good, but when it is strong, it is the best. Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino are spectacular in their roles, but it is Joe Pesci that really surprises. The man has been retired for many years now, and is known for manic, high energy, angry roles. He played a quiet, nuanced, "pulling the strings" type guy, and it was a treat to watch him do so. With this being a Netflix original, it is easy to watch it in chunks at your leisure, so the almost 4 hour run time shouldn't be as daunting as it normally would be.
9. Long Shot
While this could be boiled down to "a gender-swapped Pretty Woman remake", it is much more than that. Seth Rogen always challenges the genre he appears in, and because of that Long Shot shines bright. His chemistry with Charlize Theron helps quite a bit. The movie is funny, sweet, feminist, and wildly entertaining. You find yourself rooting for two people who would never be together in real life. But that's the point. The movie asks you why not? Long Shot is a great date night flick. But it is also a great feel good flick. It will bring a smile to your face, and has something for just about everyone.
8. Uncut Gems
In between juvenile, unwatchable factory processed paid vacations with his friends, Adam Sandler decides he wants to actually act every now and then. He was great in Punch Drunk Love. He was great in The Meyerowitz Stories. But his turn as a gambling addict in Uncut Gems might be his best work yet. It shows the dangers of gambling. Every time he places a bet, he is also betting on losing his family due to the chaos that comes after. Every single thing in this movie is avoidable. All of it. But it all happens because he's an addict that needs the rush and cannot stop. The way it is portrayed is masterful. Sandler knocks it out of the park. A few years ago the phrase "Academy Award Winner Adam Sandler" would have been unthinkable. It is a distinct possibility now. Uncut Gems is high energy, manic, depressing, and tense. It doesn't glamorize gambling, it portrays it in a real light. Sandler gives the performance of his career, and everybody should witness it.
7. Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood
When Quentin Tarantino makes a movie, it is not just another film to see, it is an event. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood takes a fictional look at 1960s Hollywood. It alters American history in a way that only Tarantino can pull off. The film is a bit quieter and a bit tamer than most of Tarantino's previous works. But it is just what the story calls for. The peak of the climax gives you everything you want from a Tarantino film. The performances are as good as you could imagine. Leonardo DiCaprio is as reliable as ever, but it's the normally wooden Brad Pitt that really shines. Just like in Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino gets the best out of the veteran actor. If you have fond memories of the 60s and old Hollywood, you'll adore this film.
You can read my full review of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood right here.
6. I Am Mother
Pure, self contained sci-fi that is not part of a franchise, or adapted from a book has gone by the wayside as of late. But one of Netflix's best decisions was to release I Am Mother, which is one of the best sci-fi movies of the year. The film pits a robot's story against a human's and leaves a girl raised in solitude to decide who to believe. Our instincts as humans are to side with humans over any other entity, and I Am Mother challenges that. The film plays with that aspect masterfully. It keeps you guessing, and makes you side with both parties at different times. The straightforward nature of the film really works, but the implied twist at the end brings it to a whole other level. This is a movie to keep in your back pocket to recommend to people. You will look good for it.
5. Avengers: Endgame
When a film tries to have its cake and eat it too, it usually ends up a disaster. But very few films have taken the time to earn the right to do that. Avengers: Endgame had 11 years and 21 other movies to rest its laurels on. This movie is a thank you to the fans who went on this journey of a shared universe. The comic book movie culmination brings several different stories together. There has never been bigger stakes in a superhero film. The cast all had time to shine. Some stories ended, others will use this as a catalyst to tell even better stories. The stakes, the emotion, the action, and the scope of it all was truly remarkable. Some movies (like The Irishman) you can feel every second of its elongated run time. But while Endgame is 3 hours long, it flies by. While the film has several epilogues after the main story ends, none of them feel superfluous. All of these character are beloved, so each one was appreciated. What transpired here is something I never thought possible, and it is a gift to superhero fans everywhere.
You can read my full review of Avengers: Endgame right here.
4. Dolemite Is My Name
When books are written about the resurgence of Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name will mark the beginning of it. Eddie Murphy is one of the funniest comedians to ever live. He hasn't done much in the way of great comedy lately, but that all changed with Dolemite Is My Name. Murphy played real life comedian Rudy Ray Moore, whose persona Dolemite became a cult favorite. It is something of a biopic, but tailored specifically to highlight the talents of Murphy. The film is absolutely hilarious, but also educational, and incredibly sweet. The lesson taught here about following your passions regardless of the roadblocks is something everybody needs to hear. Rudy Ray Moore willed his Dolemite movie into existence. Everyone said no at every turn, and he still made it happen. This film shows the struggles and the hardships he faced. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve. The incredible emotion and heart is anchored by a very talented, and motivated cast. This is one of Murphy's best roles, and the movie is an absolute delight. If you have a passion about anything, this film will encourage you to pursue it further.
You can read my full review of Dolemite Is My Name right here.
3. The Peanut Butter Falcon
Sometimes, there is a movie that comes out of nowhere. It is not an anticipated film. It is not being promoted every ten seconds on TV. These hidden gems are sometimes just rock that should stay hidden. Other times, they are precious diamonds that deserve to be uncovered. The Peanut Butter Falcon is the latter. It has more heart than any film released this year. It is about a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, and it challenges the definition of "family". It is raw, it is emotional, and it highlights friendship better than most films. The acting is sincere. It leave you wanting more. You will feel nothing but wonderful things after watching this. It is truly a "feel good" movie. The Peanut Butter Falcon preaches that no matter how bad life seems to be, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. There is always something to live for. There are always people who are out there that need you. It shows audiences that they are not defined by their mistakes, but by their opportunities. You may not have heard about this film before, but you will in the future, because I won't stop talking about it.
2. Knives Out
A good ol' fashion original whodunnit hasn't been seen in a long time. 2017's Murder on the Orient Express was entertaining enough, but anyone who had read the book or seen the 1974 film would know the outcome. Rian Johnson is a master filmmaker. He crafted a narrative that keeps you guessing. There are layers upon layers of complexity that won't let anyone guess correctly. You might be able to figure out a piece here and there, but the full story is only revealed when Johnson wants it to be. You only know what Johnson wants you to know when he wants you to know it. It is expertly shot, edited, written, and acted. The cast is one of the best casts in recent motion picture history. Daniel Craig, Ana De Armas, and Chris Evans particularly shine. Every frame is meticulously thought out. This movie is a lot of fun, and will be one added to the annual "rewatch" list.
You can read my full review of Knives Out right here.
As I was contemplating the order of this list, this movie kept coming back. It is truly something special. This coming of age comedy is inherently sweet even when it doesn't try to be. Some of the biggest laughs I've had from a movie this year are contained here. Booksmart is a witty, intelligent, hilarious, heartfelt, emotional, sweet, strong, whimsical yet raw look at friendship, and college transition. It explores the importance of kids balancing grades and social lives. It is a coming of age story, and a real look at friends who are on different paths. I was shocked how much I loved it. I was blown away at how great the cast is. The two leads are wonderful, but the real scene stealer is Billie Lourd. She brings a wacky out there heart to a movie bursting with it. Sometimes it feels like she is in a much different movie than everyone else, but it is just what the flick needed to be as strong as it is. Booksmart is why cinema is still so special.
2019 Films I have seen:
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