Once or twice in every decade, a year will come along where numerous great films come out that will go down as all time classics. 1994 had Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption and Clerks. 2007 had There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men and Zodiac. 2019 has proven to be another one of those years where we’ve gotten numerous cinematic gems that’s already destined to go down as all time classics. Many of these films lived up to the promised hype prior to release as well as we’ve received many unexpected gems. So let’s take a dive into ten amazing films from 2019!
10. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese (Martin Scorsese)
Another amazing Bob Dylan documentary. Much like The Beatles, it seems like we’ve had an endless amount of unique documentaries about Bobby. In fact, this isn’t even Martin Scorsese’s first Bob Dylan documentary. It’s hard not to explore the many different shades of an artist with such a diverse and rapidly evolving career. However, this is a truly special and memorable one because it explores a Dylan chapter that was hardly documented prior to this release; his 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour. It’s a unique film in the sense that it blurs reality and fiction. Half of the footage is authentic outtakes from the 1978 film Renaldo and Clara, which was filmed alongside the Rolling Thunder Revue tour, and the other half is fictional. The film doesn’t even make clear the footage that is reality and fiction. I believe this is effective to match the surrealistic nature of this tour. The tour essentially stood for artists coming together to create purpose and a sense of belonging during a period in the mid 1970s when people were frantically searching for identity. It’s a fascinating documentary for anybody with an interest in Bob Dylan, artistic movements of the 1970’s and unique documentary storytelling.
9. Knives Out (Rian Johnson)
At last, Rian Johnson has made a film that perfectly fits his unique directorial style. A highly entertaining who-done-it story with endless amounts of twists and turns. I feel his style lends itself strongly to grounded storytelling (it feels more like Breaking Bad’s Ozymandias rather than his strictly sci-fi work such as Looper or The Last Jedi). This is the kind of film I imagine will be the template for the remainder of his career. While it’s an immersive mystery story, it’s the eccentric characters and their dynamics that really makes this one special. It’s basically a Clue for our generation. An essential film for anybody who enjoys a good detective story. A great film to kick back and have a good time with.
8. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)
A fantastic piece of humanism within a marriage that is falling apart. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson authentically play three dimensional characters as their lives gradually fall apart. I love the way it’s paced as a comforting film with likable characters, yet an intensity stews as our main characters become increasingly heated towards each other. I truly love how the film is titled ‘Marriage Story‘ instead of ‘Divorce Story‘, despite being all about the divorce. A friendly reminder that the divorce on screen doesn’t take away from the special little moments and memories these two once shared. As my first Noah Baumbach film, this really makes me want to check out the rest of his filmography.
7. Joker (Todd Phillips)
This essentially takes the formula of a gritty Martin Scorsese character study and blends it with the origin story of an iconic DC Universe villain. The result is absolutely glorious. This is one of the most entertaining, intense and iconic films to come out this past decade. The world portrayed in this film is dark, gritty and harsh. It showcases Gotham as a gritty urban hellhole akin to Taxi Driver. It puts you right into the mindset of a mentally unstable man as he increasingly loses touch with reality. You are repulsed by this Joker character but you are also fascinated by how a harsh society and untreated mental instability leads him to such horrific actions. Joaquin Phoenix goes above and beyond on a performance that is completely different from Heath Ledger’s Joker, yet every bit as memorable and well performed.
6. A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick)
Terrence Malick returns with his most grounded film since The New World (2005). He takes the themes and ideas he had explored throughout his 2010’s run (The Tree Of Life, To The Wonder, Knight Of Cups and Song To Song) and brings the airiness of those films to a fluid narrative story. The film is still airy but is linear in storytelling. It is a fantastic humanistic story on a man condemning the actions of the Nazi’s. However, his motives are not portrayed as politically driven but rather he’s driven by love for his wife, children and life itself. It purely a love story and how war tears that apart as our main character refuses to conform to evil.
5. Parasite (Bong Joon Ho)
It’s once in a blue moon that a film comes along with such original storytelling and such an unpredictable nature. It’s endlessly gripping and you never know where it’ll go next. It fuses many different ideas and multiple genres to tell a one of a kind story that’s easily accessible, thematically complex and timelessly relevant. A film that I find hard to imagine anybody not at least liking.
4. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)
I could go on all day about how great this film is. Martin Scorsese returns with what I believe to be his greatest work since GoodFellas (1990), and that’s no disservice to all of the other amazing films he’s made in between. This showcases him returning to the GoodFellas style but with an added sense of morality. We not only witness, but deeply feel these mobsters face the harsh aftermath of their violent lifestyle. It also feels like a swan song from Martin Scorsese and to New Hollywood gangster films (primary examples of this being The Godfather films, Scarface, GoodFellas, etc.). It’s a film that’s larger than life, deep and endlessly entertaining within its entire run time. Sure it didn’t need to be 210 minutes long but I can’t think of a scene I’d want to be cut out. It’s gripping from start to finish.
3. The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers)
Perhaps the ultimate “what did I just watch!?” of the decade. And also perhaps the best one I’ve seen. It’s an absolute technical marvel with its uniquely gorgeous minimal set design and unsettling atmosphere. Robert Pattison and William DaFoe are absolutely stunning here. They both absolutely slaughter their performances by playing off each other within conflicting personalities in an isolating setting. The final act is some of the most terrifying, yet intriguing I’ve seen in a horror film. Imagine The Shining set at sea. A cult classic that feels timeless.
2. Uncut Gems (Safdie Brothers)
A groundbreaking character study. This is pure momentum from start to finish. It simultaneously makes you feel repulsed and fascinated by Adam Sandler’s unlikable personality. In fact, it’s Sandler who elevates this to such a great film. It’s powerful watching an actor who’s usually a lovable goofball play such a sleazy and despicable character. It has the feel of a gritty 70s crime film but updated to a 2010s vibe. I really hope this is a blueprint for many more films to come in the 2020’s. The energy feels like a season of Breaking Bad condensed into a two hour film. Sandler gives the best lead performance of the year, and it feels so good to be able to type that.
1. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
A masterful immersion into the spirit of 1969 which leaves us pondering if the dreamy innocence of the 1960s never ended. I’m a sucker for film history, late 60’s aesthetics and Quentin Tarantino films, so naturally I adore every moment of this film. This is Tarantino at his most nostalgic, warm and laid back (well…except for one scene). There are an endless amount of detail and texture put into this to bring 1969 to life and it’s a world I could truly never get tired of immersing myself into. The bond between DiCaprio and Pitt is simply incredible, often like watching two buddies just hanging out. Their chemistry brings such a charm and warmth to the story. It’s basically a love letter to cinema and this unique chapter of film history as the New Hollywood movement was fully kicking in and American films were becoming less innocent and more experimental and European based. Ultimately, I love and adore each and every frame of this film. It’s a world I could never tire of revisiting.
Do you agree with this list? What were your favorite films to come out in 2019? Feel free to leave a comment below!