2019 was a surprisingly very good (and busy!) year for pop culture and film. Everything was so breakneck and speedily delivered that it was impossible to keep up. I wish I could have watched all the films I had planned for this list, That said, I did manage to see so much that I had a tough time compiling a definitive top ten. 2019 had so many surprises for movie fans of all kinds and these are ten films from 2019 that made the cut of the top ten for me.
What were some of your favorites? Let us know.
10. Little Monsters
Directed by Abe Forsythe
Abe Forsythe’s horror comedy is one of the most touching, funniest, and creepiest zombie movies of the last few years. What could have been just another humdrum attempt to tap a dry well turns in to a very emotional tale of a man learning to grow up, who takes inspiration from a woman who will do anything to protect her children. And it so happens to be occurring in the middle of a zombie invasion that’s slowly consuming the English countryside. Star Lupita Nyong’o leads what is a wonderful mix of coming of age drama, zombie horror, and demented comedy. It also helps add a new dimension to Taylor Swift music, if you can believe it.
9. John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Directed by Chad Stahelski
“Parabellum” is a balls to the wall parade of vengeance, action, and survival as we meet our anti-hero John Wick in his third quest to outwit and outgun a massive elite organization of assassins. “Parabellum” hits the ground running from the sequel as pariah Wick must do everything to avoid endless swarms of assassins that will do anything to execute him and collect their bounties. Wick has fucked up, and now we see how far he is willing to go to live another day, while also taking a second look at this secret organization in the process. Reeves is as great as ever alongside Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos and Laurence Fishburne, and I can’t wait to see where this universe takes us soon.
8. Spider-Man: Far from Home
Directed by Jon Watts
Sony Pictures Releasing
“Far from Home” is easily the most Spider-Man flavored “Spider-Man” movie we’ve ever gotten. Shockingly more so than “Homecoming.” With the events of “Endgame” looming over him, Peter Parker now has to find a way to be his own man, and he does so while confronting a powerful villain with a mastery for deception and manipulation. Jake Gyllenhaal is pitch perfect casting as Mysterio, while Tom Holland and Zendaya are as great as ever. Watts improves on everything from the first film, including the romance between Peter and MJ, the epic action, as well as delivering a wonderful final bang for Spider-Man fans.
Directed by Ari Aster
After the gut punch of “Hereditary,” Ari Aster avoids sophomore slump with what will be appreciated as one of the greatest folk horror movies ever made. Aster doesn’t just break idea of sophomore slump, but he also manages to build a nightmarish, bizarre horror film that’s brightly lit, set during the day, and beaming with color. “Midsommar” is a genuine folk horror tale, but it’s also a movie about breaking up, learning to move on, and also confronting grief in all of its ugliness. It’ll probably take four more viewings to consume “Midsommar” in all of its nuance, but I can safely say it’s one of the greatest of its ilk and masterfully made.
6. It: Chapter Two
Directed by Andrés Muschietti
New Line Cinema
One of my most anticipated sequels of the last ten years is a fantastic follow up that improves upon what is often considered the weakest chapter of “Stephen King’s It.” Andrés Muschietti’s is a wizard at casting the perfect cast to depict the Losers Club that we fell for in “Chapter One,” and brings us back in to the fold to re-visit folks whose lives have been decided by their past. It’s a past that they’ve chosen to forget, and once they re-visit it, it threatens to destroy everything that they’ve worked for. “Chapter Two” is a thrill, with a more thoughtful approach to the inherent terror, along with a more vindictive Pennywise, who forces the Loser’s Club to topple their past before it destroys another generation. It’s sad, creepy, and fun; just what I hoped.
Directed by Olivia Wilde
Teen comedies were in a humongous rut in the early aughts, focusing so much on the same tropes we’ve seen since the eighties. While there are still those kinds of movies out there, folks like Olivia Wilde have rebuilt the concept for the better. “Booksmart” is a dynamic drama comedy built for a lasting legacy alongside John Hughes that lovingly portrays the modern generation faced with their own turbulence and obstacles that indicate how they face adulthood. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are superb as unlikely protagonists forced with savoring a chapter of their life before it ends, and trying to grab opportunities that they took for granted all through high school. Funny, intelligent, engaging, and downright charming, “Booksmart” promises to be a classic.
4. Knives Out
Directed by Rian Johnson
Rian Johnson creates what is an unabashed and much welcomed tribute to the classic Agatha Christie ensemble murder mysteries, assembling an enormous cast to bring to life what is a clever, funny, sharp, and often weird murder mystery. With great pacing and a keen tongue in cheek, Johnson introduces us to the fascinating sleuth Benoit Blanc, who is hired under mysterious circumstances when a wealthy mystery writer turns up dead in his room. Johnson never wastes a single resource, allowing his heavyweight cast to shine, including Ana De Armas, Chris Evans, and Daniel Craig, respectively. He may have just found a new movie series to attach to post-Bond. I eagerly await the sequel. And more donuts monologues.
3. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Sony Pictures Releasing
Tarantino has the tendency to just grab you from the moment his films start and he doesn’t let go until he’s gotten the point across. Much of his latter day films have been about bold restaging of historical events that are mixed with messages about classic film and the sophistication of what many once considered schlock. “Once Upon a Time…” is an engaging, funny, weird, and brilliantly acted exploration of all of Tarantino’s favorite and least favorite elements of Hollywood. He’s daring enough to poke fun at Bruce Lee, meditate on the loss of entertainment value in film after the sixties, and pays tribute to Sharon Tate in the process. As an added bonus, he defecates all over Charles Manson and his cult’s legacy, depicting them as stoned goons without a single brain cell to share between them. Thank you, Quentin.
2. Avengers: Endgame
Directed by Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
The Russo Brothers’ “Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” are films that I only could fantasize about twenty five years ago, and before my eyes I finally get to see it all unfold on the big screen. What’s more is that after years of build up, Marvel Studios gives fans a great action film that delivers from top to bottom on everything we hoped for. Everything about “Endgame” is a true to heart Marvel epic that pays homage to the past and future of the MCU (even poking fun at Cap Am’s big Hydra turn in the comics), and opens the doors for new exciting heroes from the Marvel stable. The roots of the MCU get their time, the future of the MCU have yet to see where their journeys end, and it’s a richly packed action film through and through. “Endgame” is just a riveting, emotional experience and accomplishment fit for Mighty Marvel fans old and young.
1. Doctor Sleep
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Written by Mike Flanagan
Starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly
Warner Bros. Pictures
Stephen King wrote “Doctor Sleep” primarily as a means of defying the often accepted as definitive “The Shining” from Stanley Kubrick, where he’s able to completely redefine his original novel and expand upon it. Flanagan creates a wonderful hybrid that explores the ideas of grief, remorse, guilt, and the prospect of our parents’ flaws and demons being passed down to us. While Danny still lingers over the corpse of his confrontation in the Stanley Hotel, he also grapples with the idea that Jack’s alcoholism might also creep up on him and be his own individual downfall.
Danny inevitably has to come to terms with his demons and use his pain and scars as a means of saving someone whose future is bright and significant to society. Said future is about to be snuffed out by a cult of decrepit vampiric beings that feed off of the shining from children with promise. “Doctor Sleep” is a wonderful horror drama brilliantly paced, terrifying in its own unique way, and features top notch performances from folks like Ewan McGregor, Kyliegh Curran, Emily Alyn Lind, and Rebecca Ferguson. Ferguson as Rose the Hat is easily one of the best horror movie villains in years.
Mike Flanagan has a hard job of bringing that book to film but manages to create a pretty mesmerizing compromise that acknowledges the book’s original premise, while also paying tribute to the undeniable genius of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”