25 Best Movies of 2019

by RasmusPuggaard | created - 11 months ago | updated - 2 weeks ago | Public

Ranked list of my 25 favorite movies from 2019, updated until the Oscars 2020

I also liked: American Factory, And Then We Danced, Arctic, Beanpole, Beats, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Bombshell, Booksmart, Captain Marvel, Corpus Christi, The Dead Center, The Death of Dick Long, Deerskin, El Camino, The Farewell, Fast Color, Ford v Ferrari, The Gangster the Cop the Devil, High Life, Honeyland, The House of Us, I Lost My Body, It 2, John Wick 3, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Judy, Klaus, Knives Out, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Leaving Neverland, Les Miserables, Long Day's Journey into Night, Luce, Monos, The Nightingale, Official Secrets, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Queen of Hearts, Richard Jewell, Shadow, Shazam!, The Souvenir, Tigers Are Not Afraid, Tremblements, Triple Frontier, The Two Popes, Vivarium, Young Ahmed

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1. Marriage Story (2019)

R | 137 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

93 Metascore

Noah Baumbach's incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.

Director: Noah Baumbach | Stars: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Julia Greer, Azhy Robertson

Votes: 178,540

Marriage Story left me emotionally broken up for a good while. We probably need a good film about divorce much more than we need another good film about new love, though - they're so persistent yet so underrepresented. They're also dirty and unpleasant, which is definitely on display here - especially when looking at the legal industry - making it all the more impressive how real, human, warm, and full of love it ends up being. It's an exercise in remembering to see the good in each other.

2. Uncut Gems (2019)

R | 135 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

90 Metascore

With his debts mounting and angry collectors closing in, a fast-talking New York City jeweler risks everything in hope of staying afloat and alive.

Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie | Stars: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, Mesfin Lamengo

Votes: 106,252

One of the most stressful films I've ever seen. My pulse was racing for a good half hour after finishing. The notion that Adam Sandler can be just as annoying as he always is but still be absurdly good takes some getting used to. But Uncut Gems leaves us a lot of room for getting used to it, which also means that the final hour hits so much harder. Because at this point his character's actions somehow start to make sense and even seem inevitable. Also, Daniel Lopatin's manic score is incredible - by the time L'amour toujours started playing during the credits I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

3. So Long, My Son (2019)

185 min | Drama

85 Metascore

Two married couples adjust to the vast social and economic changes taking place in China from the 1980s to the present.

Director: Xiaoshuai Wang | Stars: Liya Ai, Jiang Du, Zhao-Yan Guo-Zhang, Jingjing Li

Votes: 1,723

So Long, My Son can be a bit difficult to follow, but it rewards patience like nothing else this year. It's slow, and takes its time to methodically tie together multiple timelines. It's not quite beautiful in its scenery, but it's definitely beautiful in its representation of humanity, warts and all. This representation is radically empathetic and devoid of moralizing, leaving all the systemic critique the more scathing. As such, I guess it's the perfect celebration of the one-child policy anniversary - and I still have no idea why China ever allowed this to be released.

4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

R | 122 min | Drama, Romance

95 Metascore

On an isolated island in Brittany at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman.

Director: Céline Sciamma | Stars: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino

Votes: 17,783

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a masterclass in many things. It's technically amazing, with cinematography that really captures dark settings, and amazing sound design. It's also an absolute masterclass in acting for everyone involved. Its emotional build-up is so gradual that I was shocked by just how moved I was by the pay-off. It's minimal and in many ways quintessentially French with all that that entails, but don't let that scare you away.

5. Parasite (2019)

R | 132 min | Comedy, Drama, Thriller

96 Metascore

A poor family, the Kims, con their way into becoming the servants of a rich family, the Parks. But their easy life gets complicated when their deception is threatened with exposure.

Director: Bong Joon Ho | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi

Votes: 277,457

Parasite pulled the rug out from under me so many times I'm still dizzy several months later. It's difficult to get a solid grasp on what kind of movie it is that you're watching, but all of them were great, and the transitions were so seamless that it never really mattered. I've seen films with #eattherich type social commentary before, but they've never been this hard to shake.

6. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

PG-13 | 181 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

78 Metascore

After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to reverse Thanos' actions and restore balance to the universe.

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo | Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth

Votes: 672,153 | Gross: $858.37M

I'd never really expected an MCU film to rank so highly on one of these lists, but then again, I'd never really expected an MCU film to be this good. For the first thirty minutes you could've fooled me into thinking I was watching an episode of The Leftovers with superheroes, before it shifts gears into one of the best pulled-off time travel stories I've ever seen from a major studio, before shifting gears again and turning into an absolute action leviathan. The stakes are unfathomably high, and it ends with a sense of closure that should cause some emotion for anyone with even a passing sense of interest in the saga. Not so much fan-pleasing as it is fan-loving.

7. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

R | 161 min | Comedy, Drama

83 Metascore

A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch

Votes: 394,355 | Gross: $135.37M

As a comedy, Once Upon a Time is very funny. As a drama, it's very moving. As a snapshot of a certain place at a certain time, it's very interesting. It's also perhaps the best acting showcase of any Quentin Tarantino film. He's spent the past good 10 years honing a very particular idiosyncratic type of pace and editing in his films, and it's paying off more and more. He's spent those same good 10 years honing a very particular type of historic revisionism, and it's perhaps my favorite type of fairytale.

8. The Irishman (2019)

R | 209 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

94 Metascore

A mob hitman recalls his friend Jimmy Hoffa.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel

Votes: 248,715

The Irishman is the most traditional Martin Scorsese has been in quite a long time. Which is probably why this mammoth-scope classical mobster drama doesn't crumble under its own weight. It has the feeling of the gang getting together for one last time and just delivering on all fronts. It'll be one for the ages, I'm sure.

9. Sorry We Missed You (2019)

101 min | Drama

79 Metascore

Hoping that self-employment through gig economy can solve their financial woes, a hard-up UK delivery driver and his wife struggling to raise a family end up trapped in the vicious circle of this modern-day form of labour exploitation.

Director: Ken Loach | Stars: Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor

Votes: 5,916

Ken Loach has become a true master of telling terrifying stories about the state of England. Sorry We Missed You is all the more horrifying for its intimacy, which really captures the ground-level consequences of the conditions of the working class. It draws you in, makes you care deeply for this family, and devastates you a the time of the envitable collapse.

10. The Art of Self-Defense (2019)

R | 104 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

65 Metascore

After being attacked on the street, a young man enlists at a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious sensei, in an effort to learn how to defend himself from future threats.

Director: Riley Stearns | Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots, Steve Terada

Votes: 18,419 | Gross: $2.41M

The Art of Self-Defense is an amazing pitch-black satire about light matters such as violence, abuse, and toxic masculinity. It was hilarious from start to finish except for those moments when it REALLY wasn't, and that balance was managed exceptionally well. It's a narrative technique that's been done very well in TV this past decade but has rarely carried over to films as well as it does here.

11. An Elephant Sitting Still (2018)

230 min | Drama

86 Metascore

Four people in a Chinese city live through a complicated day as their lives intersect.

Director: Bo Hu | Stars: Yu Zhang, Yuchang Peng, Uvin Wang, Congxi Li

Votes: 3,541 | Gross: $0.03M

Many of the great 2019 films have been about people somehow finding hope and love despite their circumstances. In sharp contrast, An Elephant Sitting Still is more like a tar pit of increasing misery and hopelessness. But there's art to misery when portrayed right. It's a patient film, spending nearly 4 hours on a single day in the life of a group of people, but that allows it to be all the more incisive. It's the opposite of life-affirming, but at least it leaves open the possibility that the grass may be greener on the other side.

12. Toy Story 4 (2019)

G | 100 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy

84 Metascore

When a new toy called "Forky" joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.

Director: Josh Cooley | Stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale

Votes: 159,501 | Gross: $433.03M

The fourth installment in the Toy Story saga was good enough to justify its existence and then some. It looks fantastic, it's hilarious, and it's well-written. In opposition to the previous installments in the franchise, it refuses to present characters as fully bad or good, which is one of the reasons why it ends up being such an effective tearjerker. It can't top Toy Story 3, but very few films can.

13. 1917 (2019)

R | 119 min | Drama, War

78 Metascore

April 6th, 1917. As a regiment assembles to wage war deep in enemy territory, two soldiers are assigned to race against time and deliver a message that will stop 1,600 men from walking straight into a deadly trap.

Director: Sam Mendes | Stars: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth

Votes: 196,702

1917 is ugly, gross, and very intense cinema. I can barely imagine the cinematography logistics involved in creating the one-take feeling that you get for most of the ride - it's certainly not one take, but the feeling is there. The plot can be a bit contrived because it has to be both real-time and constantly engaging, but it never feels like a spotty plot in service of a gimmick; instead, it feels like a gimmick in service of an important tale of both courage and heroism, and the grittiness of war.

14. In Fabric (2018)

R | 118 min | Comedy, Horror

81 Metascore

In Fabric is a haunting ghost story set against the backdrop of a busy winter sales period in a department store and follows the life of a cursed dress as it passes from person to person, with devastating consequences..

Director: Peter Strickland | Stars: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Julian Barratt, Steve Oram

Votes: 5,500

In Fabric is a delightfully odd film. It swerves between hilarious and terrifying, sometimes seamlessly, sometimes at the same time. I can't say I fully understand it, but who cares when the imagery and the music is this delicious, the acting is this excellent, and your expectations are being dodged this effectively. The first half admittedly cuts a bit deeper than the second, but both are so good that I won't complain.

15. Birds of Passage (2018)

Not Rated | 125 min | Crime, Drama

85 Metascore

During the marijuana bonanza, a violent decade that saw the origins of drug trafficking in Colombia, Rapayet and his indigenous family get involved in a war to control the business that ends up destroying their lives and their culture.

Directors: Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra | Stars: Carmiña Martínez, José Acosta, Natalia Reyes, Jhon Narváez

Votes: 7,894 | Gross: $0.51M

Birds of Passage ís an epic-proportions gangster drama that has something major to say but remains completely tied to its own local circumstances. At a local level it's basically Shakespearean-type tragedy; at a global level, it's scathing social critique. It look great, and every step of the way feels new and mysterious.

16. The Lighthouse (I) (2019)

R | 109 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

83 Metascore

Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity whilst living on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.

Director: Robert Eggers | Stars: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman, Logan Hawkes

Votes: 76,582 | Gross: $0.43M

The Lighthouse has an idea that could've fallen very flat if it wasn't for the persistent stylishness of Robert Eggers and the over-the-top brilliant acting from Pattinson and (particularly) Dafoe. As it is, it's a terrifying and amazingly alive piece of cinema that creeps under your skin fast and stays there. Visual and sound design are absolutely on point. At the end, I wasn't sure what I'd witnessed, and I was as confused as ever about where the origin of all this madness. Is Pattinson's character the mad one, or is Dafoe's? Is Eggers the mad one? Am I?

17. Little Women (2019)

PG | 135 min | Drama, Romance

91 Metascore

Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters - four young women each determined to live life on their own terms.

Director: Greta Gerwig | Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen

Votes: 64,427

Did the world need another Little Women adaptation? Well, this is the first one I've seen, so I honestly have no clue. But I do feel like the world needed this film. It's traditional yet anarchic in the details, it looks stunning, and it's an almost unbelievably effective tearjerker. And it showcases some incredibly talented young actors, as well as Greta Gerwig's incredible control of her medium.

18. Ash Is Purest White (2018)

Not Rated | 136 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

85 Metascore

A story of violent love within a time frame spanning from 2001 to 2017.

Director: Zhangke Jia | Stars: Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Yi'nan Diao, Jiali Ding

Votes: 5,854 | Gross: $0.42M

Structurally and thematically, Ash Is Purest White tends to mirror Jia Zhangke's previous film, Mountains May Depart. That was a also a very good film, but everything works just a tad better this time around. I particularly love how the acting, music, lights, and overall structure conspire to make depections of present-day China feel like they're sci-fi. The ending feels a bit undercooked, but it's an overall highly resonant film.

19. For Sama (2019)

TV-PG | 96 min | Documentary, War

89 Metascore

FOR SAMA is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war.

Directors: Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts | Stars: Waad Al-Kateab, Hamza Al-Khateab, Sama Al-Khateab

Votes: 4,427 | Gross: $0.03M

I've seen a few documentaries about the Syrian situation at this point, and they've all been harrowing and stomach-churning, but For Sama was perhaps the hardest to get through. It may also be the best. It provides an ultra-personal account of the war experience, but manages to connect a patchwork of recordings with a journalist's eye. In the end, this makes for a relatable experience, and there are few ideas more conceptually terrifying than a relatable representation of the Syrian crisis.

20. The Wild Pear Tree (2018)

188 min | Drama

86 Metascore

An unpublished writer returns to his hometown after graduating, where he seeks sponsors to publish his book while dealing with his father's deteriorating indulgence into gambling.

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan | Stars: Dogu Demirkol, Murat Cemcir, Bennu Yildirimlar, Hazar Ergüçlü

Votes: 15,339 | Gross: $0.03M

It was hard to stop my head from spinning after seeing The Wild Pear Tree. It's a challenge to spend so much time with a protagonist who can seem so cold, lacking in empathy, and sometimes downright unpleasant. But even though it is a very personal story, it also seems to scope over a town, a way of life, a whole country and perhaps a whole religion. Every shot and every word said seems to convey something about all of these levels. All that being said, I'm not sure a running time of 3+ hours is fully justified here.

21. Pain and Glory (2019)

R | 113 min | Drama

87 Metascore

A film director reflects on the choices he's made as past and present come crashing down around him.

Director: Pedro Almodóvar | Stars: Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas

Votes: 34,299

Pain and Glory has an odd flow to it, particularly because the emotional climax comes around the middle. But that climax is a truly strong one, and the remainder of the film manages to tie everything together very nicely. It's an intensely personal film, with many actors bringing A game beyond what I thought they were capable of.

22. The Cave (I) (2019)

PG-13 | 107 min | Documentary, War

83 Metascore

Amidst air strikes and bombings, a group of female doctors in Ghouta, Syria struggle with systemic sexism while trying to care for the injured using limited resources.

Director: Feras Fayyad | Stars: Amani Ballour, Salim Namour

Votes: 1,434

At some point in The Cave, a doctor says something like "4 years of bomb strikes, and we're still throwing a birthday party for our boss", and I like to think that that's the main takeaway from the film. It's a documentary about Syria that deals with people who are living their lives and trying to find joy even under the most harrowing circumstances. It captures an awe-inspiring breadth, while being one of the most horrifying and claustrophobic film experiences I've ever had. I'll go ahead and assume there's something seriously wrong with you if this film doesn't leave an impression.

23. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

PG | 107 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

65 Metascore

It's been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: Lego Duplo invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild.

Director: Mike Mitchell | Stars: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish

Votes: 45,897 | Gross: $105.81M

The Lego Movie 2 is getting needlessly underrated. Sure, it's similar to the first one, but that's just to say that it has an extremely creative and fun visual profile, great action scenes, and humor good enough to make you forget the occasional stumbles in coherence. It's even legitimately emotional. It's a very unlikely contender for being a great film, but it is one nonetheless.

24. Midsommar (2019)

R | 148 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

72 Metascore

A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown's fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.

Director: Ari Aster | Stars: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Vilhelm Blomgren, William Jackson Harper

Votes: 120,018 | Gross: $27.33M

If you've seen Hereditary, it should be clear that director Ari Aster isn't interested in showing you a good time. There's so much artistic value to be found here though, particularly in the brilliant score and cinematography. There's zero interest in horror conventions. This is living, breathing cinema, that doesn't provide you with any clues about where it'll go next. If it's ultimately a bit hollow, that isn't something you'll notice during the ride. Oh, and the opening sequence is one of the most intense I've seen in any genre.

25. The Report (I) (2019)

R | 119 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

66 Metascore

Idealistic Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones, tasked by his boss to lead an investigation into the CIA's post 9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program, uncovers shocking secrets.

Director: Scott Z. Burns | Stars: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Ted Levine

Votes: 19,885

The Report is a fantastic political thriller. It's non-expositional and not particularly viewer-friendly, and it's stubbornly non-partisan. But it's one of the strongest procedurals I've seen, and it even ends up being legitimately moving.

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