Adam’s Favorite Films of 2019
The 2010s have been an excellent decade for film, and 2019 was one of the best years that we’ve had – a great capper to the decade. I saw over 150 films this year, but I tried to narrow down which films spoke to me the most; which films stuck with me long after I left the theater. Or even turned off Netflix.
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
- Honey Boy
- The Farewell
- Ford v Ferrari
- Dolemite is My Name
- Dark Waters
- Ad Astra
- Doctor Sleep
- Pain & Glory
- The Peanut Butter Falcon
- John Wick Chapter 3
15. Us (Jordan Peele)
Jordan Peele jumped onto the horror scene with Get Out in 2017. After the massive success of that film, both critically and financially, I was absolutely stoked to see what his second feature would be. Us is a completely bold and innovative film that solidifies Peele within the conversation of the most interesting directors working today. It has only grown on me more and more with each repeat viewing, and Lupita Nyong’o’s performance is one for the ages.
14. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma)
Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire is an exquisite piece of art. I was glued to the screen from start to finish, and I don’t even know where to start when it comes to praising it. The raw performances, the gorgeous cinematography, the compelling love story, and the attention to detail is all so precise and masterfully constructed that it makes this one of the finest films of 2019 and one that won’t leave my mind for a long while. Catch it on the big screen if you can.
13. Avengers: Endgame (Joe Russo and Anthony Russo)
Where do I even begin? What Kevin Feige and co. have accomplished over at Marvel Studios is an unprecedented feat that I don’t know if we’ll ever see in the history of cinema again. I’m not even necessarily talking about the quality of their films (even though I love most of them) but simply how deeply this franchise has engraved itself into the roots of pop culture and cinema throughout the last decade. Avengers: Endgame is a glorious spectacle to the likes of which I’ve never seen before and a genuinely incredible culmination of a decades’ worth of storytelling. It’s somehow the biggest superhero film of all-time with massive set pieces and dazzling action and visual effects but is simultaneously one of the most human at its core. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and co. are all doing genuinely fantastic work here and make this feel like an emotionally resonant and satisfying end to this chapter of the universe. It just nails it on every level – the heart, the spectacle, the humor… it’s all there.
12. Little Women (Greta Gerwig)
Little Women has been adapted so many times, in so many different decades, by so many different people, that you’d be forgiven if you believed there’s not much else to do with the source material. Greta Gerwig proves everyone wrong by giving one of the strongest, if not the absolute strongest, adaptation yet. It doubles down on the humor, coming-of-age elements, and even enhances the feminity at the core of the story, which makes for something that feels a little more personal than any other adaptation done thus far. It feels like it’s telling the story everyone knows but seamlessly modernizing it at the same time. All of the performances are great, the cinematography is beautiful, and it just wraps you up in its emotion and characters for two lovely hours.
11. 1917 (Sam Mendes)
World War I is criminally underserved when it comes to the stories we tell through the medium of film. It’s always, mostly, World War II stories that are told. But Sam Mendes’ 1917 is a riveting, exhilarating, and anxiety-inducing journey through the trenches and battlefields as we follow two young men, just trying to save as many lives as they can by delivering a simple message from their superiors. The film is designed to look and feel like it’s entirely one take, and it is truly remarkable how they accomplish it. Roger Deakins deserves the cinematography Oscar again, and if Sam Mendes doesn’t get a Best Director nomination for his stunning work here, I’ll riot.
10. Midsommar (Ari Aster)
I’m aware Midsommar wasn’t a huge hit with audiences, but whatever, I loved it anyway. I’m a huge horror geek, and what I tend to find the most effective is stuff like this. No, I didn’t jump while watching Midsommar – but I was chilled on a deeper level. I found the emotional beats to be downright terrifying due to how clearly unstable each and every character is. Them being thrown into a cult-like religion with no cell phones and no contact to the outside world at hand is a brilliant way to leave these characters alone with each other and their thoughts to see how fragile their relationships and mental health truly are. I was just endlessly compelled and in awe by the mastery of Ari Aster’s direction from start to finish, and Florence Pugh gives one of the absolute best performances of the year here.
9. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
Tarantino is almost guaranteed to have a spot on my list anytime he cranks out a new film. When I first saw Once Upon a Time in theaters, I loved it and genuinely had a great time with it – but I wasn’t so certain it’d remain one of my favorite films of the year. Four viewings later, and I can’t stop thinking about how incredible this film is. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are doing nearly career-best work here and their chemistry with one another is what holds this film together throughout the insanity and admirably sporadic plot narrative. Tarantino’s direction is as exquisite and detailed as ever, and while there is certainly room to criticize his self-indulgence, I personally love his attention to detail and overwhelming admiration and love for this era of filmmaking. It feels like a genuine love letter to the beauty of cinema from one of cinema’s best directors.
8. Booksmart (Olivia Wilde)
This has remained in my top ten of the year ever since I saw it back in April. I’m a huge sucker for both comedies and coming-of-age films, so when you do both genres in one film and have it made by such an incredible cast and crew, it’s inevitable this will be one that I adore. Every performance and character is so perfectly utilized, the cinematography is surprisingly outstanding, and the fact that this is somehow Olivia Wilde’s first feature film surprises the hell out of me. This has the expertise of any seasoned director, as well as a unique perspective from a younger lens. I think this will be hailed as a coming-of-age classic sooner rather than later due to the minute-to-minute laughs and the lovable chemistry between Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever.
7. Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi)
Taika has never been one to shy away from tricky subject matter and what some might find to be dark humor. And even for Taika’s standards, everyone still raised an eyebrow when it was announced that his next movie would focus on a young nazi boy and his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler. By all accounts, Jojo Rabbit is a film that shouldn’t work. From actually writing an appropriate and fully realized screenplay of this concept to actually making it translate well on screen, to even making every joke and emotional beat land – I have no idea how you even begin to pull that off. But Taika and his entire cast and crew do a tremendous job. Jojo Rabbit is an ode to the power of love, and how it will always conquer hate. There aren’t any messages in this film that you haven’t heard before, but it is told with such care and such expertise that I was simply wrapped up in it and incredibly affected by it. I adored everything about this film.
6. Knives Out (Rian Johnson)
Rian Johnson has always been one of my favorite filmmakers. From Looper to Brick to, of course, Star Wars: The Last Jedi – he has always been such an interesting filmmaker who brings something bold and different to each project he tackles. I was personally a huge fan of The Last Jedi, but it’s undeniable that he had something to prove with his follow-up project. And he simply made one of the most absolutely entertaining films I’ve seen in so long. Knives Out is an incredibly entertaining and gripping love letter to murder mysteries/whodunnits. Every single member of this large ensemble nails their roles to perfection, making for one of the best ensembles for a film that I’ve seen in a very long time. The screenplay is so tightly constructed and endlessly witty, his direction is stunning, and it simply never stops twisting and turning until the final frame.
5. The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers)
I know general audiences somewhat despised this film, but it has simply not left my mind ever since I saw it. I’ve seen it three times now and I still find new things to admire about it each time I go back. Eggers’ direction is hauntingly beautiful and so precisely detailed that I can’t even fathom how he hasn’t been directing longer than he has. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are turning in career-best performances here, and they work incredibly off one another. This is just a viciously entertaining downwards spiral into insanity and one of the most genuinely original and compelling films I’ve seen in quite some time.
4. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)
Scorsese is simply among the ranks of the most influential directors of all time. Anytime he makes a film, I’m there for the first showing. The Irishman has had a tricky production and was seemingly doomed to endless push-backs due to its complex de-aging technology. But, as always, Marty persevered and came out with one of the finest films of the year. While Scorsese is no stranger to making mob films, this feels incredibly different and grimmer than anything he’s ever done before – a genuinely interesting and thought-provoking subversion from the genre. Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci all give phenomenal, masterful performances here and work wonderfully off one another. Clocking in at 210 minutes, The Irishman never drags or feels like it has an ounce of dead-air. It is gripping from the first to final frame and is absolutely one of the finest films of the year.
3. Uncut Gems (Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie)
I’ve spoken a lot about interesting, upcoming directors with defied visual and directorial styles – but the Safdie brothers are simply on another level. These guys are only in their mid-30s and have produced two of the best films of the decade. And judging off of how brilliant Uncut Gems is, it seems like their craft is only getting better and more innovative. Adam Sandler is truly, absolutely brilliant in this film as a sleazy, gambling-addicted pawnshop owner who simply is in a lot of trouble and owes so many people money. The entire film, Sandler’s performance included, feels like an anxiety-inducing highwire act that could fall apart at any moment. It is gripping and just absolutely sensational from start to finish. Genuinely a masterpiece and a film that I can’t stop thinking about.
2. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)
Marriage Story simply broke my heart several times over in the course of its running time. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson both give the best performances of their careers, and Noah Baumbach shines behind the camera with such a naturalistic and humane view on what divorce and all of its complexities do to not only two people, but the people around them. It’s hilarious at times, heartbreaking at others, but is just a deeply human, moving experience that feels unlike anything I’ve seen in quite some time. It is obviously masterfully crafted, but Baumbach makes it seem so seamless in execution and presentation. I adored this film and haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
1. Parasite (Bong Joon-Ho)
Cinema is meant to provoke you in so many different ways. Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually – it is meant to give you an insight into worlds you wouldn’t normally see and experience lives you’ll never live. If you’re like me, you watch films as often as you do for the experience – with the hope that the power of storytelling will prevail and you’ll walk out entertained, and maybe even impacted to some degree. I had a hard time narrowing down what my favorite film of the year was, but I ultimately came to the conclusion that it had to be Parasite. No other film that I’ve seen this year has made me feel the way this one did. I was engrossed from the first frame of Parasite and had my jaw dropped for a good majority of it. It has been such a long time since a film has genuinely shocked me the way this one has, and I can truly say it is a true original. Bong Joon-Ho delivers an innovative, horrific, hilarious, stylish, and downright thought-provoking thriller and satire. It is so many things at once and ultimately unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ll never forget how I felt the first time I watched it, and it only gets better with each viewing. A genuine masterpiece.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my list. I hope your 2020 is wonderful and full of great films.