From big blockbusters to controversial films to heartbreak and messages of hope, 2019 produced a wide variety of great and satisfying films. But with so many good options to choose from, what stood tall above the rest? Read on for FandomWire’s top 10 films of the year.
Methodology: Reviewers submitted their own Top 10 lists. Movies were awarded points based on their rankings. A #1 ranking was 10 points, #2 was 9, and so on. Movies with the 10 highest point totals made up the list.
What Joker manages to accomplish is beyond the scope of what anyone had imagined. Everyone doubted the end product would be as grand as it turned out, but we were all glad to be wrong. Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck/Joker was nothing short of perfect, giving the best performance of his acting career yet. His expressions of pain, and his ability to depict Arthur’s illness so well onto the big screen was alluring, haunting, and beautiful.
Of course, for Phoenix to give a great performance, he needed an equally remarkable story. For that we have Todd Phillips to thank as his distinct breaking down of who Arthur Fleck is, combined with what causes him to break is exactly what this movie needed. Joker isn’t your typical superhero movie. In fact, it can barely be categorized as a comic-book adaptation. However, this is easily why this movie is so good. In an era filled with MCU/DCEU films, the superhero genre needed something fresh. — Ali Harris
Read FandomWire’s review of Joker here.
2. Marriage Story
Adam Driver’s performance in this titular tale all about divorce near-rivals that of Phoenix’s in Joker and that is saying something given the stellar commitment to the role from Joaquin. What is truly stand-out about this emotional journey that delves into the ugliness of a failing marriage is its dialogue and long-form scenes. Marriage Story feels like a play brought to life, with an emphasis on avoiding rapid cuts and tension-breakers, leaving awkward filler moments that breathe relatability into scenes. Well and truly, Marriage Story is a near-masterpiece, and a work of art that towers over many of the films’ attempts at drama and emotion in 2019. It’s well and truly only paralleled by The Farewell. — James Troughton
3. Avengers: Endgame
The culmination to every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to-date was darker and longer than its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War, but it enthusiastically stuck the landing, nonetheless. Serving as a fitting end for some characters and an interesting jumping-off point for others, Endgame proves that the MCU still has life in it yet. I loved it 3000. — Mike DeAngelo
Read FandomWire’s review of Avengers: Endgame here.
4. Knives Out
An ensemble of actors that are exquisite in every way possible. It can’t be expressed enough how good this movie was. Breaking the boundaries of just another murder mystery, it focused on the development of each character and the relationships they have. Rian Johnson received an alarming amount of backlash for his misdoings with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. However, his reputation was immediately recovered with the release of one of the best movies of 2019.
The entire cast was perfect, and overacted with some scenes, but never to to an extent that felt silly. Daniel Craig’s western-ish style of speaking was an addition that immediately brought attention to his character. Chris Evans as Ransom was a breath of fresh air from his role as Captain America in the MCU. However, while it can’t be understated how good the cast was, Ana de Armas was the true standout. Her portrayal of the necessary innocence within her character was lovely to see.
The twists, reveals, and overall story made this a necessary watch for anyone who’s a fan of cinematic experience. — Ali Harris
Read FandomWire’s review of Knives Out here.
Shot by master cinematographer, Roger Deakins, to look like one continuous take, à la Birdman & Silent House, Sam Mendes’ 1917 takes war movies to a new level of immersion, creating one of the more unique and dramatically effective cinematic experiences in some time. Featuring outstanding performances from Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, 1917 creates the new standard for war films to strive for – propulsive, heartbreaking, and wondrous. — Mike DeAngelo
6. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the latest film from Quentin Tarantino and his 9th film to date. The film centers around Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate 1960s Hollywood towards the end of their careers, while also living next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). This film takes Tarantino’s philosophically violent style and uses it as a love letter to film and Hollywood. This movie shows the glamourous view of Hollywood, while also showing the inner workings of making movies.
It never destroys the foundation that movies are wonderful, almost never says anything bad about movies even. But it shows how dealings are done and how people eventually either move on or move out. All the characters in this film are actually caricatures of the actors. It tends to have performances that tend to be a little over the top for all the actors, but that might have been the point. Hollywood is supposed to be big and loud, just like many of the characters on screen. — Josh Collins
Booksmart was the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde, she took an old school idea and completely made it her own. The movie is about two graduating high school seniors who realize they missed out on all the fun of high school and they try to put as much fun into one night as possible. The film is hilarious and very serious at the same time; it never shies away from being raw to help drive the story forward but to also make the audience feel for every single character in the film. Which also shows how every single character in this film is completely unique and different. The film gives everyone a chance to shine which just shows Olivia Wilde’s directing ability.
Amy and Molly, played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein respectively, are always amazing when they are on screen. They make the whole film work, their buddy cop approach to taking on life is both extremely endearing but also just great as a comedy tool. It shows how two young women can do whatever they want with their lives, and it never needs to involve any other human beings, because their life is theirs and theirs alone to control. — Josh Collins
8. Jojo Rabbit
Who would have thought a movie featuring the Hitler Youth and Hitler himself (albeit imaginary) would end up being one of the funniest and heartwarming movies of the year? Taika Waititi, that’s who. The New Zealand director has one of the most unique and creative minds out there, so if anyone could make this film work, it’s him.
And it does more than just work. It’s funny, tense, dramatic, touching, and heart-wrenching all at once. As great as the script and direction are, credit has to go to the incredible ensemble cast. Waititi pulls out one of the best child performances of recent memory in lead actor Roman Griffin Davis in the role of Jojo. Scarlett Johansson gives some of her best work as Jojo’s mother. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well, with star turns from Sam Rockwell, Thomasin McKenzie, and Rebel Wilson, among others. — Matt Hambidge
Read FandomWire’s review of Jojo Rabbit here.
9. The Irishman
Scorsese storms into 2019 to wrap up the decade with an ensemble farewell film that feels almost like a send-off to many of these actors. The film isn’t the end, or at least not officially, and Martin is very likely to continue his streak and make more films, but there is a captivating air of finality to The Irishman, making it feel like a bookend to the saga of crime films such as Godfather, Scarface and Goodfellas. It does drag on a touch too long, and the de-aging can be a little jarring in places, but it’s clear that Irishman was made with passion and, whilst not his best work, it is a worthy entry into Scorsese’s catalogue. — James Troughton
Parasite is my personal choice not only for best movie of 2019, but best movie of the decade (at least). Director Bong Joon-ho’s tale of the impoverished Kim family is a genre-bending adventure of how far a family will go to obtain a better life – and what they’ll do to maintain it once they have it.
As soon as you think you have the movie figured out, it flips on its head and becomes something else entirely. And it repeats that process until the credits roll. I try not to use the term “masterpiece” lightly. But with director Bong’s latest effort, masterpiece is the only way to describe it. — Matt Hambidge
Read FandomWire’s review of Parasite here.
Leave it to James Gray to make a large-scale space adventure feel incredibly small and intimate. Anchored by one of Brad Pitt’s finest and most understated performances in years, Ad Astra is not only epic in scale and gorgeous to behold, it’s a poignant examination on what one should truly prioritize in life. It’s a film that’s just as much about reach inward as outward. — Mike DeAngelo
Many cite Marriage Story as being one of the most emotional films of the year, myself included, but The Farewell comes closest, with a captivating narrative surrounding a Chinese family dealing with cancer and secrecy, ultimately bringing morals, cultural differences and the idea of selflessness into question, with outstanding execution. What’s truly stellar about this film is that it isn’t Americanised, with it refusing to shy away from its Chinese setting – most of the film is subbed, and it’s a refreshing change of pace. If you haven’t given The Farewell a try yet and Marriage Story resonated with you, it’s a must. — James Troughton
Telling the story of four sisters growing up in 1860’s New England, Little Women is fairly light on story. But it’s an in-depth character study anchored by strong performances from some of Hollywood’s top young talent. Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, and Timothée Chalamet should be leading forces for years, hopefully decades, to come. — Matt Hambidge
Read FandomWire’s review of Little Women here.
Shazam! doesn’t break new ground or even try to reinvent the concept of superhero films, playing more in the form of classic superhero movies. Shazam! always understood how to use multiple tones and make it work. The tragic relationship between Billy Batson and his mother was heartbreaking, as opposed to that of his orphan family. Zachary Levi, like Asher Angel, were perfect choices for Billy Batson/Shazam. — Ali Harris
And there we have it, our top 10 of 2019. But what do you think? What did we get right? What films did we overlook? How does your top 10 differ from ours? Sound off in the comments to let us know your thoughts.