As a year ends, I normally share my favorite movies of that given year on this here website. It’s a fun yet grueling and tedious exercise. With the Academy Awards airing earlier in 2020, I figured I’d take the extra time to watch the movies I failed to see during 2019 before publishing this list.
In 2018, I ranked all the movies I saw. In 2016 and 2017, I only listed a top five. I will give 13 favorites because it’s my preferred number and frankly I had a tough time narrowing it to 10. It’s my list, and I’ll do with it as I please.
About six years ago I began to get deeper into movies—watching what the critics believed to be the best movies, while expanding my movie palette with features across several genres. I can say with certainty 2019 was the best year of movies since I began listing my favorite movies of the year.
These movies will be the ones I remember most vibrantly from 2019.
13. Honey Boy
Directed by Alma Har’el
It won’t seem like it during the Oscars, but Shia Labeouf made his mark on 2019 (more on him later). Every now and then the second you finish watching a trailer you know you’ll just love the movie. Honey Boy did that. Growing up on Even Stevens and Holes, Shia Labeouf meant a great deal to people born in the 1990s. I remember hearing murmurs of his father’s aloofness. Even though Shia and his father have a strong relationship, it’s complicated, which is clear in Honey Boy. This movie dives deep into that relationship, which came into light as Shia took part in court-mandated rehab following a very public drunk driving incident. He wrote this very screenplay there, and boy does it hit home.
It’s streaming on Amazon Prime now.
“You know a seed has to totally destroy itself to become a flower. And doing that is a violent act, honey boy.”
Directed by Trey Edward Shults
How does a family handle an unthinkable tragedy? Set in Florida, Waves tells the story of a suburban family. Sterling K. Brown plays the strict, no nonsense father of Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Emily (Taylor Russell). Trey Edward Shults most recently directed It Comes At Night, and he brings a similar style to Waves, even if the story has a much different feel to it. It feels like two movies in one with Emily developing a relationship with Luke (Lucas Hedges) and Tyler fighting with his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie). It’s a movie about forgiveness and what family means during trying and difficult circumstances. The movie soundtrack is dynamic with songs from Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper and Radiohead from their respective 2016 studio albums
Favorite song moment:
True Love Waits by Radiohead
11. Jojo Rabbit
Directed by Taika Waititi
I only saw Jojo Rabbit this weekend. It had been on my list of movies to watch for a while, and it didn’t disappoint. Set as WWII is ending, Jojo (Roman Griffen Davis), a child blinded by German nationalism, discovers a Jewish woman named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his sister’s room. It’s a funny satire yet an emotionally draining viewing experience.
The movie ends with a hopeful poem from Rainer Maria Rilke:
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.”
10. The Lighthouse
Directed by Robert Eggers
It’s Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe stuck together in a lighthouse off the coast of New England. The black-and-white film created a surreal and somber feel. It’s a remarkable achievement by Robert Eggers, and there are only a handful of actors who could make this movie work. Two of them are Pattinson and Dafoe.
Why’d y’spill yer beans?
9. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Directed by Joe Talbot
It’s a love letter to the former San Francisco. Before the birth of big tech and new money. Before locals started being priced out of their homes. It’s a beautiful, outwardly personable film that reminded me so much of Columbus (2017). It’s more than just the relationship Jimmie Fails has with his childhood home. It’s his friendship with Montgomery Allen (Jonathan Majors) and what San Francisco, a city that underwent drastic, unrecognizable change, means to him. Give this movie a watch if you’re looking for something sentimental, real and heartwarming.
It’s streaming on Amazon Prime now.
“People aren’t one thing.”
8. Uncut Gems
Directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie
Aside from re-living the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals between the 76ers and Celtics, I couldn’t ask more from Uncut Gems. I got a kick out of reading some of the audience reviews of this movie, to be honest. People saw Adam Sandler and assumed it would be one thing. You’re allowed to dislike this movie. You’re allowed to dislike any movie. But the Safdie Brothers have a distinct flair. This is how they make movies, and some of the biggest gripes the audience reviews had with the movie dealt with the sound and the style of the Safdies’ storytelling. Regardless, Uncut Gems had me at the edge of my seat to the end. A nearly perfect film.
7. Little Women
Directed by Greta Gerwig
In her second directed film, Greta Gerwig unearths her version of the timeless classic. The bond between the March sisters (Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen and Saoirse Ronan) is exceptionally portrayed.
Beth (Eliza Scanlen) urges Jo (Saoirse Ronan) to write something for her at the beach.
6. Marriage Story
Directed by Noah Baumbach
This is the only movie on the list I’ve watched more than once. Being on Netflix has something to do with it, but the screenplay and overall story stood out as something I longed to revisit. Noah Baumbach’s semi-biographic account of his own divorce is hard to watch at times, because of how real it feels and the character’s sharpness and often bitterness. Scarlett Johansson (Nicole Barber) and Adam Driver (Charlie Barber) experience the typical predicament of divorce.
It’s streaming on Netflix.
The Apartment argument between Charlie and Nicole almost felt too raw.
Directed by Sam Mendes
It’s an epic in the sincerest sense. Tasked with an impossible mission, Lance Corporal William Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Thomas Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) must deliver a message to call off a scheduled attack. It’s a tense, fast-moving experience that will keep you invested the entire time.
How they shot Will running near the end. It’s gorgeous cinematography
4. The Peanut Butter Falcon
Directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz
There isn’t much to say about this movie without giving away too much. If you’re looking for the most heartwarming movie of 2019, give this a go.
3. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Anything with Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt)
2. The Farewell
Directed by Lulu Wang
Based on Lulu Wang’s experience with her beloved grandmother, The Farewell is a beautiful film about family and handling loss. You’ll think about your loved ones whenever you’re not laughing. You’ll certainly think about your grandmothers—the heart of a family. The relationship between Billi (Awkwafina) and her Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao) is pure and special.
It will be available to stream on Amazon Prime February 12.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
I don’t want to ruin this for you. I urge anyone to see this movie.
Here’s to it winning Best Picture.