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  • Sam Malone

The Best Films of 2019

This year was an amazing year for film and a fitting end to a great decade of film. Now that my best of the decade list is conquered, I have looked back at 2019 and narrowed it down to 10 great films, favorites of mine I will never forget and always revisit when given the chance. There are still many films released this year I have yet to see and could possibly crack my list when I eventually see them but I am certain right now my list is rock hard, nearly immune to any fissures the future enjoyment of a 2019 release could threaten. The only one I can think of coming January 10th is Sam Mendes’ 1917 (Limited release December 25th), a film I’ve been anticipating for a long time now and could quite possibly bump one of these movies.


But, by the time I’ve seen it my eagerness to look back and compile a 2019 list will have waned and while I will still catch up on 2019 releases, my thoughts will have turned to the new year and the new decade. That is why I make the list now, pondering the past year while it is still acceptable in my mind, and remembering another wonderful year in cinema. With 2020 comes more life and more movies, so we shall carry on. Don’t let the frequent concerns get to you, cinema is alive and well and while it may be changing, I have no doubt in my mind that it will never end. The greatest art in the world cannot end. Here are my top 10 best films of 2019 and Happy New Year.


First, a quick few that resonated just as deeply and could have made the list:

Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)

I Am Easy to Find (Mike Mills)

Monos (Alejandro Landes)

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Joe Talbot)

Paddleton (Alexandre Lehmann, on Netflix)

Booksmart (Olivia Wilde)

Honey Boy (Alma Har’el)

Midsommar (Ari Aster)

Ford v Ferrari (James Mangold)

Waves (Trey Edward Shults)


10. Knives Out (Rian Johnson)

Knives Out really opened my eyes before it was even released. I was excited about Rian Johnson’s new film, knowing the genius behind such modern classics as Brick, Looper, and the best, most meaningful Star Wars movie (The Last Jedi). But I was surprised to see the skepticism by people outside of cinephilia. The so called “regular audiences” who aren’t sociopaths about movies and don’t have blogs and just watch movies casually because, you know, they’re just movies. I wasn’t sure if the trailer was bad or if people are now in shock when an original, mid-budget film is excessively marketed not just for awards but as an entertaining, star-studded ensemble film (Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig, yes) for those “regular audiences” because there were many I talked to that weren’t so sure about it from the trailer. What is this movie that doesn’t have a superhero or a lightsaber? Luckily, audiences still showed up (maybe even the ones who hate Rian Johnson for “ruining” Star Wars) and as of a few days ago, Knives Out has grossed $100 million domestically and $200 million worldwide. JJ Abrams took Star Wars back to the safe route with Rise of Skywalker, retconning Rian Johnon’s bold choices in the Last Jedi while Johnson made another delightfully entertaining film and has accepted the toxic Star Wars fandom with grace and integrity. With that I not only include Johnson’s brilliant whodunnit not just for his talent as a screenwriter and director, but because he is a very good man and Knives Out proves both. So please keep making movies Mr. Johnson.


9. The Farewell (Lulu Wang)

Never left my top 10 since I saw it in August. A wonderful and touching film. Lulu Wang is a formidable talent and Awkwafina kills it.


8. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)

Out of all the essential viewings of 2019, Tarantino’s ode to 1969 Hollywood was the most essential.


7. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)

What a year for Scorsese and ultimately he closed it out doing what he does best: make great movies. And The Irishman could quite possibly be his best.


6. A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick)

Released this month and no one talked about it. That’s a real shame because it’s a beautiful film. Malick is back and so is our faith.


5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Celine Sciamma)

I caught this one at the Austin Film Festival and will be catching it again when it comes out on Valentine’s Day. Told with literary grace, a painterly aesthetic, and true love. An unfailing masterpiece.


4. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho)

The second essential viewing of 2019. We don’t deserve Bong Joon-ho.


3. Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie)

“This is how I win.” Movies have to end. That's a good thing because Uncut Gems will never let you breathe. Adam Sandler is beyond incredible in this. Thank you to the Safdie brothers for this masterpiece.


2. Little Women (Greta Gerwig)

Movies have to end. That is an absolute tragedy because Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is a story you never want to leave. I seriously don’t think I’ve ever wanted a movie to not end so bad in my life.


1. Ad Astra

Brad and his dad get along just a tad. It’s kind of sad but not even close to being bad. Ad Astra. It’s my favorite film of the year.


Goodbye 2019.

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