Last year was a good year for film. Not only did we get a satisfying closing chapter to a more than decade long saga with Avengers Endgame but we got some excellent standalone films as well. While I haven’t agreed with some people’s favorites (don’t expect Joker or The Irishman on here) this year has brought me great cinematic joy.
As someone that dreams of making his own movies, 2019 has been one of the most inspirational years for me. There have been many films this year that have made me think about the kind of movies that I would like to make. Even some of the more mediocre films have inspired me. Also this year has even given me three new personal favorites. Every film on this list made a huge impact on me as both a viewer and a creative.
Before moving on with the list let me clarify some things. This is a personal list. Film is subjective and affects everybody differently. If there is a movie that affected you more than it did me, I’m happy for you. I want everybody to enjoy watching movies and maybe you would be willing to share your experiences with me on twitter @AaronMicV. Also as hard as I tried, I haven’t seen everything. Special shout out to Dark Waters, Just Mercy, Little Women, Little Woods, Marriage Story, and The Report. I wanted to watch all of you but sometimes life just gets in the way. Maybe some of you have seen something I haven’t. Tell me about it. Maybe you will push me to put it on at home. Also, maybe I’ll have something you haven’t seen and you can give it a try. I love talking about films, so let’s have a constructive dialogue! Lastly I decided not to include any Marvel or DC movies. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Avengers, Spider-Man, and Shazam. I just want to spend this time talking about some movies that maybe you didn’t see. We have all already talked about these movies and if you weren’t interested in them no list is going to push you into seeing them.
Us may have a point where it asks the viewer to suspend their disbelief a little too much, but that doesn’t change that it is one of the greatest thrills of the year. Some great characters, direction, and set pieces make this a slasher that can sit up there with the likes of Halloween and Scream. Jordan Peele may have not made us something substantial as “Get Out” but he has still made one fun film.
Booksmart isn’t anything new. You could very much call it a remix/remake of Superbad. For the most part you can predict everything that happens in the movie. That doesn’t change that this is one of the funniest movies in a long time. Olivia Wilde made her directorial debut with this movie and I can’t wait to see what she can do going forward.
- READY OR NOT
Ready or Not feels like a movie that was made with me in mind. A dark horror comedy that starts off pretty generic, but then uses that beginning platform to go off the rails. This movie reminded me of the kind of scripts that I’ve been working on in private for many years. It’s violent, it’s funny, and it’s beyond entertaining. From a technical standpoint, this probably shouldn’t be here. For me on a personal level, this should be even higher. This movie told me to keep doing what I’m doing. Keep writing your weirdly dark comedies because there is apparently an audience for it.
- DOCTOR SLEEP
I like Stephen King. I spend most of my time in high school reading his books. Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep came out my senior year, I read it, and liked it enough. I love Mike Flanagan. He has been one of my biggest inspirations in horror for the last couple years and when he was announced to be adapting Stephen King’s novel it quickly became my most anticipated movie of 2019. I think many people have written off this film as being an unnecessary sequel to The Shining. But this film is an excellent dark fantasy about a man trying to find his place in the world. The directing is great, the acting is amazing, and the editing is outstanding. This movie wasn’t a financial success, which is a shame. I reviewed this movie and tried to encourage as many people as possible to go see it. If you haven’t seen “Doctor Sleep I implore you to. Doctor Sleep is the best King adaptation of the year and you should all watch it.
- THE NIGHTINGALE
This film is definitely coming from an area of personal preference. When I was younger I grew fond of many Korean revenge thrillers. This falls into that tone with a very accurate historical Australian backdrop. That being said, this film isn’t for everybody. It deals with racism, rape, and child murder. Many will have a hard time watching this movie. What’s so weird about it is that if they had just edited a couple scenes the movie probably would’ve had a pretty wide appeal as a thriller. Maybe that’s why I like the movie so much. Despite the couple things it could’ve done, it fully commits to its ideas and history. It’s gutsy, wonderfully shot, with wonderful audio, and some great acting. Writer and director Jennifer Kent commits to something that is visceral and uncomfortable, but also feels important at the same time. It won’t work for everybody, but it worked for me.
5. THE LIGHTHOUSE
If you’re a fan of german expressionism then this movie is for you. If not… Well, I guess that’s one thing we don’t have in common. Despite how you feel about these more philosophical and psychological horror films, it is hard to argue that The Lighthouse isn’t only the best acted movie of 2019 but the best acted movie of the decade. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafeo may be the only real cast members of the film, but they bring everything that they possibly can to the screen. That accompanied by some creative filmmaking from Robert Eggers makes one of the most memorable movies of the year. Rather you like it or not, this film will stick with you. You’ll be constantly guessing what is or isn’t real in this disturbing world.
- THE FAREWELL
If you had any doubts about Awkwafania’s acting chops this movie will put them to rest. Lulu Wang’s semi autobiographical dramatic comedy is an excellent window into a culture that many people don’t know about. It’s a movie with so much heart that it’s impossible to pass up. Wang is a director to look out for and I’m excited to see what else Awkwafania does when it comes to her acting.
- KNIVES OUT
Why is this a new personal favorite movie? Fantastic writing? Yeah. Stand out characters and acting? Sure. Some distinct directing? That too. Knives Out is a movie that just wants to do a lot of things. It wants to pay tribute to some classic murder mystery fiction while thrilling us with all of its twist and turns, but the movie never loses sight of its main goal. It wants to entertain more than anything else. I feel comfortable saying that this movie can entertain like nothing else. Word is that director, Rain Johnson, and actor, Daniel Craig, both want to make sequels. Even for somebody that thinks the market is getting oversaturated with sequels I will definitely be in line if a sequel gets made to Knives Out.
- UNCUT GEMS
Yes, this is another new favorite for me. Adam Sandler has been overlooked for his greatest performance ever. Love or hate his typical comedy movies, given the right material Sandler can do some amazing things. There aren’t many movies like The Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems and I’m willing to bet there won’t be another one like until the Safdie’s make their next movie. A fantastically made anxiety induced thrill ride like nothing else.
I had a hard time getting anyone to see this movie with me. People’s common reason for not wanting to see this movie is because it has subtitles. These are also people that complain that there isn’t enough diversity in Hollywood. If you really want to support diversity in Hollywood there is nothing better that you can do than actually going to see foreign films. It is still American distributors putting them out in the U.S. and it’s the best way to let them know what you think. That point aside, this isn’t the reason why this is my number one movie of the year. There is no director like Bong Joon-Ho. He mixes genres and tones like no one else can. He can make you laugh, break your heart, and then make you laugh again all in one scene. Also, that scene won’t seem rigid at all. It will even flow more naturally than some movies that keep a more consistent tone. This tale of social class warfare might not only be my favorite story of 2019, but my favorite story of all time. Maybe not enough time has passed since I watched it back in November, but this is how I feel right now and I really have a hard time seeing that change. Please watch Parasite, it’s a masterpiece.