10. The Lighthouse
Two men, one lighthouse, and a fascinating look at how the isolation of such a situation can send these two poor souls on a slow descent into insanity. After introducing himself to horror audiences with The Witch, Robert Eggers’s sophomore feature enhances his growing reputation. Bolstered by some magnificent cinematography and wonderful direction, you really feel the isolation that these two men find themselves in.
In a film with so few actors, the performances from both Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are so magnetic that they will keep your eyes firmly transfixed on the screen. And not to spill the beans, but there’s an extra presence on this island that you’ll want to keep an eye on…
After bagging an Oscar for his debut film Get Out, Jordan Peele’s follow-up feature was the subject of much intrigue. Thankfully, he avoided that sophomore slump with another suspenseful, and riveting horror-drama that depicts a world in which doppelgangers start invading the planet, and one family, led by Lupita Nyong’o, must do all they can to survive.
Much like Midsommar, there’s a lot of extremely thought provoking imagery, and Lupita Nyong’o’s mesmerising double performance as both the woman at the centre of this nightmare, and her doppelganger is, much like with Florence Pugh, some extraordinary work that deserves to get some awards recognition. Along with Ari Aster and Robert Eggers, Jordan Peele now has two spectacular films under his belt, and is well on his way to becoming one of the best horror film-makers working today.
8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino films are well known for their stylistic violence. However, for his ninth (and seemingly penultimate) film, he decided to dial that back in favour of a much more personal film that takes a look at the Golden Age of 1960s Hollywood. In the midst of it all, there’s Rick Dalton, an actor who’s experiencing something of a career crisis, his stunt double Cliff Booth, and Sharon Tate, an actress whose career was cruelly, and tragically cut short.
As usual with QT, he takes a near three hour run time and arcs several story-lines into one sweeping narrative that is the perfect love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood. While Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate was severely underutilised, the performances of DiCaprio and Pitt are excellent. Tarantino films often like to take the history books and tinker with them ever so slightly, and this all pays off to an absolutely glorious finale that you expect to see when you come to watch a film by Quentin Tarantino.
7. Just Mercy
The whole point of a justice system is that it’s supposed to be fair and unbiased. Unfortunately, sometimes, institutional biases and prejudices can cause someone to spend years being punished for a crime they didn’t commit, and that plays at the centre of this absorbing, powerful legal drama that’s based on the true story of Bryan Stevenson, played by a magnificent Michael B Jordan.
Taking on the case of a man (Foxx) who’s accused of a crime he maintains he’s innocent of, Stevenson takes on his case and begins to find something is very suspicious with this case and the evidence. While it isn’t exactly ground-breaking in terms of legal dramas that have been put on the big screen before, the sheer emotional weight of the story of this man, played magnificently by Jamie Foxx is what makes this legal drama, a vital story that must be seen by everyone the world over.
6. Jojo Rabbit
On face value, the story of one young boy and his naive fanaticism in the terrible ideologies of Nazi Germany seems to be unlikely grounds for a comedy. Indeed in the wrong hands, this could have been a catastrophe. However, in the hands of the eccentric Taika Waititi, it proves to be uproariously entertaining. At the same time, the comedy never overshadows the moments of the film that require the audience to pause and reflect.
With an impeccable cast led by an extraordinary turn from first time actor Roman Griffin Davis. The icing on the cake is Waititi’s hilarious portrayal, as an incredibly moronic version of Hitler that will get those laughter muscles moving. At a time when sadly, Nazism is not the thing of the past that it should be, it’s a timely reminder of the sheer destructive power of blind hatred and prejudice can have on a society. Whilst also demonstrating how love is an extremely powerful implement that humanity can can overcome hate.
5. The Irishman
Martin Scorsese is simply put, one of the greatest director in cinematic history, and any time he works with Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci it’s usually a recipe for greatness. These three masters of their crafts have done it again as they have reunited for an enthralling three and a half hour epic into the life of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and how, after rising through the ranks in the mob, meets charismatic Union Leader Jimmy Hoffa, played by an electric Al Pacino.
Under the expert vision of Scorsese, and long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker, those three and a half hours fly by as Scorsese absorbs you into this compelling and fascinating story that spans over multiple decades. Stellar performances from every member of this cast, especially from De Niro, Pesci and Pacino. If this is Scorsese’s last venture into the world of mobster/crime films, then the Godfather of the genre has certainly bowed out in the finest way possible.
4. Knives Out
It would be fair to say that Rian Johnson’s last film The Last Jedi, caused something of a ferocious divide upon its release. And while some loved it, plenty loathed it and threw all sorts of vile abuse in the direction of some of its stars and the director, Rian Johnson. To come back from all that vitriol cannot have been easy, but he came back in stupendous style, by making one of the best, not to mention funniest, whodunnits to have graced the big screen in a very long time.
With one of the most star studded casts of the year, everyone on screen seems like they’re having so much fun with Johnson’s smart screenplay, and no one more so than Daniel Craig’s Southern impersonation of Hercule Poirot. Johnson took the whodunnit and gave it a very smart 21st century update, brilliantly layered with some very relevant social commentary, and one of, if not the best doughnut metaphors that you’ll maybe ever seen in a movie, ever.
3. Avengers: Endgame
There really isn’t any other word to describe what Marvel has achieved with their all encompassing Infinity Saga, other than absolutely remarkable. After three phases and 22 films, fans were taken on this immensely emotional journey, with a collection of brilliant characters, this is everything it had been building towards, and the payoff was everything fans could have possibly wanted. After the shattering events of Infinity War, Marvel had almost dug themselves into a hole with THAT ending. The Russo brothers had the phenomenal challenge of surpassing that with the sequel to Infinity War, and they damn well pulled it off. A feat that’s all the more remarkable given that two incredibly popular franchises that came to an end this year, neither of which stuck their respective landings.
An enthralling three hour epic that honestly could have gone on for much longer, that goes in some unexpected, but extremely satisfying directions. It gives these characters that we have been following for over a decade, very satisfying, and for some very heart-breaking closure. With Alan Silvestri’s soaring emotional score, especially for that iconic Portals scene, it delivers hands down, the best superhero showdown that has ever been put on the big screen. Furthermore, it has now claimed the title of the highest grossing film of all time, a record it could very well hold for a long time to come, and very much deservedly so.
Making a coming-of-age comedy that stand outs from a rather large crowd cannot be an easy challenge for any director. Yet, Olivia Wilde has done exactly that, with her directorial debut no less. This story of two academical brainboxes realise that they have missed out on all the partying and the usual teenage shenanigans, then deciding to cram as much partying and raucous behaviour into one night as they possibly can, and the results are absolutely hilarious.
The jokes are witty and side-splitting, and the performances from every member of this terrific cast are pitch perfect. However, it’s the performances of the leading ladies Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein that shine the brightest. They genuinely feel as though they have been friends for many years and that comes across in their performances as they have excellent chemistry. There’ll be people (myself included) who weren’t all about that party lifestyle when they were at school, and who favoured the more academic lifestyle. Special mention must also go to Billie Lourd for a scene stealing performance. This is a coming-of-age film that unequivocally has its own voice, and it’s absolutely hilarious. A truly spectacular directorial debut for Olivia Wilde, I cannot wait to see what she does next.
And so my favourite film of 2019 is
Being the history student I am, I gravitate to war films. But this is not the reason why Sam Mendes’s magnum opus is my pick for the Best Picture of 2019. It’s for the fact that it is an astounding cinematic achievement that just floored me in every way. Filmed to look as if it is one continuous tracking shot, the film is a stunning cinematic achievement that should clean house in the technical categories, and ensure that the legend that is Roger Deakins picks up another Oscar. But all that technical mastery would count for nothing, if the story being told in front of the camera was not compelling and emotionally investing, which it absolutely is.
The premise is simple but it’s extremely effective, and that’s down to the extraordinary performances of Dean-Charles Chapman, and especially George MacKay who demonstrate they are far more than just the uniforms they are wearing. From the first minute, I was thoroughly invested in their mission, and the extraordinary camerawork fully immerses you in the time and the place. You do feel like you are on the ground with these men, and it never let up throughout the tense two hour run time. One of the finest war films ever made, not only is 1917 my favourite film of 2019, after multiple viewings, it has now cemented itself as one of my favourite films of all time.
Well there you have it my picks for the best films of 2019. Thank you for reading, especially if you read all the way through! What were your favourite films of 2019. Let me know in the comments below or you can find me on the following platforms: Twitter, Facebook or Letterbox’d.