Top 10 Favourite Films of 2019
2019 has been one of the more impressive years for film, especially for this decade. Where 2018 was a fairly mediocre year with only a few Awards contenders being the big highlights of that time, this year saw a wide range of work come from a variety of excellent filmmakers that put their blood, sweat and tears into some brand new Indie films destined to become classics, along with some huge studio fares providing new and exciting stuff to look out for.
Now that the year has come to a close, I felt it would be a good time to detail my Top 10 Favourite Films of 2019. As per usual for these lists, it’s important to recognise that first of all, I have not seen every film this year with some huge awards contenders not releasing until January in the UK that I can detail for this list, though I will change the list if any such films make my list.
Also secondly, everything said here is my opinion, and my opinion alone. If there are films that you loved that didn’t make it to my list, all the more power to you. We should all be free to express our opinions and voices upon the world for those to listen to. Now let’s get to the list:-
FILMS THAT I HAVEN’T SEEN YET BUT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST LATER ON
Pain and Glory
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
A Hidden life
Toy Story 4
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Ford v Ferrari
Despite being a great year for film overall, in terms of Animation, it has been a bit of an unfortunate dud, with most films either being okay, mediocre or absolutely disgraceful, with only a few exceptions being great films. But thankfully one of those came from Netflix this year, from Despicable Me creator, Sergio Pablos, who decided to bring 2D animation back into the spotlight and produce a Christmas film detailing the origins of the Santa Claus myth.
That film is Klaus.
An utterly gorgeous animated film from the outset with its detailed 2D visuals and utterly incredible use of lighting and minor CGI, all of this would have still been nothing without having a heartfelt story to accompany it, proving how one act of true kindness and spark another. It keeps the spirit of the holiday high while still in many ways transcending its Christmas roots to show how someone's bitterness can change with a bit of care and kindness. Despite some cliches that come with a lot of these Animated movies, Klaus is a charming effort, which not only proves that there is still life for 2D animation in the mainstream, but also shows how there is practically infinite possibilities to tell unique Christmas stories for years on end.
Rocketman came out back in May this year and served as a biopic for the life of accomplish British music artist, Elton John. While it is debatable as to whether or not the film got the true amount of attention it deserved given that it came out way too close to Bohemian Rhapsody which shared many comparisons, it shouldn’t take away from just how utterly joyous Rocketman is on its own as a damn good film.
Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody which felt like it was piggy backing off of its iconic music to keep its audience engaged, Rocketman feels like the exact opposite, using its source material to let the eccentricities of Elton John leap off the screen, feeling more like a genuine modern fairy tale masquerading as a true story to tell a message about being with those you truly love that feels both universal but also unique to Elton John in the way that it’s told. It’s a remarkable film which gladly took risks for the right reasons. Having this much creative liberty of telling a unique man’s story to stardom along with his drug and alcohol addictions could have been disastrous to balance tonally, but because a clear amount of care was taken to make it work, it’ll be seen as a biopic for the ages.
#8: LITTLE WOMEN
Greta Gerwig is a remarkable talent who demonstrated with Lady Bird, her solo directorial debut, that she had a lot to offer as a filmmaker outside of her acting roots with Noah Baumbach. With Little Women, despite being the 8th adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s book, her earnest take on the Coming of Age tale of four sisters truly proves how some stories are indeed very timeless.
Much of the cast work extremely well together including Saoirse Ronan being one of the big highlights as always and with her role being pivotal since the story is at its core the hard struggles of growing up, the film is able to find its footing through simply trying to capture those lovely joys of life. Greta Gerwig, you have done it again!
#7: A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Tom Hanks is Fred Rogers. That alone is the most perfect casting choice on the planet.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a genuinely lovely effort that feels like the sort of film that needed to be made simply because of how conflicting these times can be. It alone based on Hank’s performance perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Fred Rogers as a children’s entertainer and how his messages can transcend boundaries to make his stories seem universal to anyone with the heart of an innocent child.
But because the film also cleverly doesn’t tell the story from Rogers’ perspective and rather focuses on Lloyd Vogel, the cynical journalist who learns to finally forgive his father and become a better person through Rogers’ advice, the film is able to feel fresh and have a strong form of conflict that would never come from a man as innocent as well mannered as Rogers. It’s a masterclass in great acting and also shows how one man’s advice can truly make the world a better place.
In an era where comic book films are all the rage and most of them focus on characters with a darker, brooding sense of tone and flair, it feels so remarkably refreshing to see a film like Shazam come along: a superhero film that perfectly represents that sense of classic joyous wish fulfilment in vain of the classic Superman movies.
So much of Shazam has such a sense of good fun and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour because of the absurdity of its premise, but because the film is also able to show a more heartfelt side with Billy Batson having to come to terms with his new family which he needs to accept, there is no better comic book film to watch with the family. There is basically something for everyone.
#5: JOJO RABBIT
Satires are a difficult thing to master. Not only do you have to try to work as a great comedy on your own, but you also have to make light of subject matters that might not gel well when someone is introduced to the concept. But the thing that really makes Taika Waititi such a gem of a filmmaker is how not only did he accomplish somehow making a satire about Nazi Germany work, but also found a way to use it as such a great backdrop to show a softer side to one of the most tragic times in modern history.
Some serious credit should be given to anybody on this film who worked on the Production Design and Cinematography, especially given how they were able to perfectly recreate the look of WW2 in Germany with such unique authenticity but also use it to help Waititi tell a story of a German kid’s personal journey when a Jewish girl makes him begin to realise the Nazi’s evil intent. Being such a remarkable balance of comedy and heartfelt drama, Jojo Rabbit is the definition of a surprise, being the film that shouldn’t work, but ultimately does.
Well this film features one of the most grotesque yet utterly beautiful endings ever put on film.
Midsommar is the sophomore effort from Ari Aster who in 2018, made an excellent horror film called Hereditary. With his newest terror, he managed to accomplish the ballsy task of making a genuinely scary Horror film set primarily in the daylight during the summer solstice.
Midsommar’s story about a young girl finally coming to terms about her terrible boyfriend during a Swedish pagan cult, takes its time in terms of editing and pace, using the suspense of long drawn out sequences to truly display the cult’s truly horrifying rituals in a way that is able to get the film’s theme across excellently but also show how Horror films don’t need to be jumpy to get scares, but rather from giving the audience a constant sense of unease through grotesque imagery, creepy undertones, along with a script that may make some couples question their own relationships.
Probably not the right film to watch on the first date, that’s for sure.
#3: THE IRISHMAN
Martin Scorsese’s latest film, The Irishman, brings back many things that made his filmography so appealing by returning himself to the Crime genre, reuniting with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci and working with Al Pacino for the first time.
The film feels like his big reflective piece as it follows Frank Sheeran, a truck driver who joined the mafia, and how his world literally crumbles apart as he takes this new job. It’s a film ultimately about a lot of things: betrayal, love, loss, and what makes life worth living if what we do makes us neglectful to those we truly care for.
It's in Scorsese’s older age that we are not finally seeing him at his most vulnerable and The Irishman is a great example of how far he has come with his filmmaking talents, whilst also showcasing his more melancholic side for great thematic purpose.
Yeah, I’m not bluffing. Despite all the controversies surrounding its themes of domestic violence, along with all of the hugely mixed reactions from both film fans and DC advocates, Joker is my #2 film of 2019.
Joker is one of the sharpest examples in recent memory of what can truly happen if a character study of one of pop culture’s most iconic characters is taken seriously with a huge sense of artistic gravitas. It’s debatable about whether or not a film of this caliber could work or not without Joaquin Phoenix who EASILY brings one of 2019’s best performances, but that is why Joker is able to be elevated above any other comic book film this year. Phoenix brings such a huge vulnerability to Arthur Fleck to the point where it becomes so much more apparent how he becomes Gotham’s king of crime. The film’s commentary on our modern “society” (I know) and how one’s naive view on life could easily be influenced to take a truly dark turns helps to elevate this above most of what 2019 has to offer.
Todd Phillips and his team clearly have such a huge passion for the material that through their clever and quick wits, they have found a way for a comic book film to finally be truly respected by even some of the most revered of filmmakers who would disregard any such content otherwise. If anything, its controversies and mixed responses are only helping to keep it in the film discussion online. A massive recommendation from me.
#1: MARRIAGE STORY
Noah Baumbach is not one to mince words about some of the darkest creeks that some of us in this world can truly step into. His films tackle our points of views in life and what it truly means to be a human in our modern culture.
With that said, Marriage Story, being my favourite film this year, is one of the only films I think I have ever seen that has felt me feeling so completely empty but also weirdly uplifted, which is a strange burden given the depressing material. This drama following Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as they undergo a stressful divorce process takes Baumbach’s excellent talents and displays how themes such as love are far more transcendent that simply seeing a romantic relationship crumble apart. There will always be this itching feeling that the couple in this film will always feel some love for each other even if committing to a love life with each other doesn’t work out, especially when having to work with lawyers going out of their way to through their sanity off the scales.
It’s an utterly remarkable masterclass in both acting and writing, with Adam Driver giving the best performance of the whole year, displaying such a massive sense of vanity but also hollow vulnerability. And because Baumbach’s screenplay is so tightly woven together, the film cleverly doesn’t let you pick a side on who is the real person behind why Driver and Johansson’s marriage fell apart. They are both guilty of different things and it shows how sometimes there is no compatibility for people who have such an inept attraction to their significant other.
Marriage Story is ultimately a film that captures what it truly feels to be human, warts and all. It’s hollow, extremely sad, at times kind of hysterical in the way it captures the beautiful moments of life, and it wraps it all together in a bittersweet conclusion that shows there is more to life than a close marriage closing its curtains. Baumbach has truly outdone himself with this one and if anything, this film deserves significant Oscar wins for Driver and Baumbach for Acting and Screenwriting respectively in all awards shows. It’s a beautiful film from top to bottom and easily my favourite of 2019.
Thanks all for reading, and here’s hoping 2020 gets off to a grand start.