Every new movie I saw in 2019, ranked
Is this post extremely late? Yes. Am I publishing just to get these on the record? Also yes. Late publication has its pluses, though - one 2019 movie in my top 10 was an April 2020 addition.
This year I’ve included ratings according to my personal rating system!
Half star (can’t type this symbol) = Hate. Movie crimes only
★ = Did not like
★★ = Fine, whatever
★★★ = Good!
★★★★ = Really good, would recommend wholeheartedly
★★★★★ = I love this movie
Last year’s five-★ movies were Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Annihilation, Hereditary and Black Panther.
The worst of the worst
54: Dark Phoenix | Half star
Dark Phoenix is a creatively bankrupt, despicable, irredeemable trash heap. I cannot emphasize enough how soulless and shitty this thing is.
Sophie Turner might have been able to do Game of Thrones, but she is not a movie star. One of the worst performances of the year.
I cannot wait for Marvel to do the X-Men right and put this godforsaken take on the franchise into the ground.
53: What Men Want | ★
Look, no disrespect to Taraji P. Henson, who does interesting projects. Inverting the original concept of What Women Want does not make sense, and neither does this movie.
52: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World | ★
51: Terminator: Dark Fate | ★
There’s a bit on the excellent movie podcast Blank Check with Griffin and David where Griffin Newman compares the Terminator rights to a mummy’s curse. They pass from studio to studio, convincing them that even though every single Terminator after T2 was bad, this one will be good.
I’ll just say this: the curse is unbroken.
50: Dumbo | ★
Outside of Ed Wood, none of Tim Burton’s movies speak to me. This one didn’t either.
49: Godzilla: King of Monsters | ★
Big, dumb, boring, despite the cool trailer. No stakes, no relatable characters, no cool Godzilla stuff.
48: The Lion King | ★
The original cartoon was already good. Remaking it with realistic CGI only detracted.
I love Donald Glover, but he sounds like he recorded his lines in bed, right before falling asleep.
47: It: Chapter Two | ★
Another bad movie with a great trailer. Maybe that’s how these movies are so successful even when they flub basic scares.
46: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker | ★
A truly horrible film. Incoherent, messy, unsatisfying. Abandons everything good in The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens. I think as time passes this will be correctly evaluated as the worst Star Wars film since the prequels.
Also, when you consider Kelly Marie Tran is barely in the movie after being targeted with a racist backlash… sure looks like Disney caved to the worst people on the internet.
45: Jojo Rabbit | ★
Taika Waititi cashed in a big blank check after Thor: Ragnarok to make a movie that is mostly about… nothing. There’s no deeper message here and no good jokes.
“Hey, this was just okay”
44: Replicas | ★★
A fine, if forgettable Keanu programmer. Bizarre ending.
43: Brightburn | ★★
Bad execution of an interesting premise - what if young Superman but evil? The violence is thematically nonsense and unearned.
42: Destroyer | ★★
I like director Karyn Kusama, but this is one of her least interesting works. Go watch her good horror movie The Invitation on Netflix instead.
41: Crawl | ★★
Alright little horror flick about a woman and her father braving a hurricane and homicidal alligators. Really sells the storm.
40: Charlie’s Angels | ★★
Charlie’s Angels was not made for me, and that’s fine! Speaking just for myself, though, I thought the action scenes were amateurish and the plot needlessly complicated.
The bright spot is Kristin Stewart, who projects 10,000-megawatt charm. If she ever decides to stop doing indie movies and be a movie star again, she will be a force to be reckoned with.
39: The Hole in the Ground
A small horror movie from Ireland. Toys with some interesting ideas but doesn’t connect with any of them.
38: Joker | ★★
Joker has an effective take on its titular character - it makes him pathetic. We’ve never seen the Joker as a loser before, and it kind of works. Too bad the rest of the movie is incoherent.
37: Hobbes & Shaw | ★★
As far as action movies go, this is alright. Not sure I’d ever watch it again.
36: Burning | ★★
Interesting Korean thriller focusing on class and gender. A bit slow for me.
35: Midsommar | ★★
As the world’s number-one Hereditary fan, I was disappointed by Ari Aster’s new project. Midsommar’s emotional journey doesn’t quite get there, and there are precious few scares.
34: Serenity | ★★★
Matthew McConaughey stars in this insane fever dream movie that is, I shit you not, sci-fi. I’ve had a lot of fun describing the plot to people because it does not sound real. An instant classic of so-crazy-it’s-good.
33: Alita: Battle Angel | ★★
You can catch glimpses of what the filmmakers were going for, and it’s an interesting vision. Christoph Waltz has an anime-sized scythe.
32: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark | ★★
Never saw the original, but this was a fun little horror romp. Not doing anything groundbreaking, but executes well enough.
31: Spider-Man: Far From Home | ★★
I remain unconvinced Tom Holland is a good Spider-Man (stop throwing things!). Far From Home did, however, give us a great Crazy GyllenhaalTM performance.
30: Doctor Sleep (director’s cut) | ★★
In the original Shining, the twin girls in the hallway and withered crone in the bathtub were not literal characters as much as manifestations of the madness of the Overlook Hotel.
In Doctor Sleep, Flanagan turns them into… I don’t know, scary Pokemon? It sucks to see the crone do the bathtub scare again and realize, oh, she’s a specific spirit with a specific schtick. It shrinks the unknowable terror of the original into a collection of kooky monsters.
29: Shazam! | ★★
A fine movie. Liked the ending.
28: Ford v. Ferrari | ★★
God, does this movie make cars and racing look sexy. Good story about the struggle of the artist to create something beautiful within flawed, capitalistic systems.
The good ones
27: Fast Color | ★★★
No one saw this movie, which sucks, because Fast Color is a breath of fresh air. It follows three generations of black women with powers that may save their dying world. The depictions of their gifts are gorgeous.
26: Gemini Man | ★★★
I caught a screening of this in 120 FPS high framerate and it was fascinating. Ang Lee is doing work no one else in film will even try, and I love it.
25: Escape Room | ★★★
A shockingly good little PG-13 horror movie. Good performances, good script - this one will surprise you.
24: Detective Pikachu | ★★ and a half
23: Knock Down the House | ★★★
A touching portrait of people fighting their hardest to change the system. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows why she is one of the Democratic Party’s brightest rising stars. I would happily watch ten hours of her tearing into Joe Crowley’s terrible mail ads.
22: Cold Pursuit | ★★★
Liam Neeson left the public eye this year (maybe for good reason), but he left us a nice gift before he went. Cold Pursuit is a surprisingly funny satire of a typical revenge film. It’s got a weird energy I liked.
21: Hustlers | ★★★
Downright criminal the Oscars ignored this fun romp. Jennifer Lopez delivers a flashy yet skilled performance, backed up by a rock-solid script and good supporting turn from Constance Wu.
20: 1917 | ★★★
Seeing this in IMAX was overwhelming. It’s a chase movie with the imagination, skill and budget to realize an entire war as the backdrop.
One segment in particular has stuck with me. The main character is running through a bombed-out French city at night. The fires and occasional explosions cast lights across the ruins that make the whole thing look like an alien landscape. Striking, great stuff.
19: Ad Astra | ★★★
- Dad Astra
- Sad Astra
- That’s all I got
Brad Pitt has never looked more weathered than he does in Ad Astra, a beautiful movie about men who have to launch themselves to the furthest reaches of the solar system to explore their feelings.
18: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood | ★★★
Tarantino’s turned in another love letter to classic Hollywood and the films of his youth. OUTH is obsessed with fame (specifically movie stardom), and what people will do to get or keep it. It’s also an interesting examination of artists getting old and being baffled by the culture changing around them - something Quentin Tarantino might relate to.
17: Little Women | ★★★
Greta Gerwig is an extremely smart person. She has made a Little Women adaptation that is simultaneously totally faithful and a critical reevaluation of its source material. Intercutting Jo’s publisher telling her audiences want heroines to marry with Jo confessing her love to Professor Handsome McGenericGuy is ingenious.
16: Happy Death Day 2U | ★★★
I feel like I am the only person who remembers that 2019 gave us a sequel to Happy Death Day. The first is a wonderful and funny horror movie that should be mandatory viewing for the country. 2U amps up the action by taking things in a more emotionally grounded direction. Even if it apparently worked for no one else, I liked it.
15: Ready Or Not | ★★★
Ready Or Not is a horror movie about crazy in-laws hunting a newlywed in a lethal game of hide-and-seek. It’s as goofy as it is entertaining.
14: Portrait of a Lady on Fire | ★★★
A beautiful, aching, heartfelt love letter. Portrait is so good that even though you know their love can’t end any way other than disaster, you still want to experience every second of it.
13: The Lighthouse | ★★★
Director Robert Eggers returns after The Witch, an excellent period horror flick. The Lighthouse is less horror and more… seagulls. It is undeniably the movie Eggers intended to make.
12: The Irishman | ★★★
I don’t know why people thought Martin Scorsese’s send-off to the gangster movie was too long. It was the story of a life, told well. Three and a half hours and I was never bored.
Great effin’ movies
11: Always Be My Maybe | ★★★★
Putting Always Be My Maybe this high is not a conventional decision, but I have to stand up for this thing. While the plot’s a bit of a mess, Ali Wong and Randall Park give two charming performances in this charming-ass movie. Plus, it features an all-time great Keanu Reeves cameo.
10: Avengers: Endgame | ★★★
This is it. The culmination of a decade-plus of Marvel movies. The ending is pure payoff and I loved every second. There has never and may never be anything like this again.
9: Glass | ★★★★
Most people hated M. Night Shymalan’s Glass when it came out in January. Most people are wrong.
Glass is a hyper-ambitious movie, attempting to (and mostly succeeding at) melding genres and offering a meta-commentary on superhero movies. It understands why we like comic books, and it has a few things to say about that.
8: Booksmart | ★★★★
Look, Booksmart rules. That’s all there is to this. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is smart and funny as hell. Two nerdy teenage girls realize they’ve missed the fun of their high school years and embark on One Crazy Night.
The writing is stellar, the jokes all land and the performances are hilarious.
What makes Booksmart special, though, is its humanistic worldview. No one in this movie is a bad guy or a two-dimensional caricature. Everybody is somebody, and it makes the movie so much better.
7: John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum | ★★★★
John Wick takes on a group of assassins in a hallway full of knives and the results left my jaw on the floor.
Bad action movies use quick cuts and jumping around to hide fake or bad stunts. John Wick 3 luxuriates in long, unbroken shots of Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry. It doesn’t want to hide a moment of its best-in-Hollywood fight choreography.
6: High Life | ★★★
French arthouse director Claire Denis has given us the dingiest sci-fi film since Alien. High Life loves dust, decay, grime and death. It revels in how things fall apart, and how just a few times they maybe sort of come back together.
It also has André 3000 giving a great naturalistic performance. Put this man in more movies!
5: Knives Out | ★★★
The best trick director Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi) pulls in Knives Out is inverting murder-mystery tropes. These kinds of movies—Clue, And Then There Were None—usually focus on ensemble cast of variously villainous white characters, any of which could have done it, yadda yadda.
Knives Out shines because it places Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), the Latina nurse, at the center. You wouldn’t know it from the trailers, but this is her heroic journey.
It’s a full-course acting role for Armas, who delivers everything asked of her. In a movie about horrible people, she provides vital emotional grounding.
Amazing, must-see films
4: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood | ★★★★★
I refrained from watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood for a while because a Mr. Rogers biopic sounded maudlin and trite. Little did I realize director Marielle Heller uses Neighborhood as a vehicle for an aggressive, raw and emotional story about trauma and toxic masculinity.
Heller hammers home a point stunning in its simplicity: If you don’t process your feelings, they will eat you alive.
3: The Farewell | ★★★★★
The Farewell is a stupendous film.
Awkwafina stars as Billi, a Chinese-American woman who goes to China to see her Nai Nai (grandmother). The family has not told Nai Nai she (Nai Nai) has terminal cancer. The wedding they’re allegedly gathering for is actually everyone’s last chance to say goodbye.
Like many great movies, The Farewell at once specific and universal. Director Lulu Wang mines her own past to deliver a beautifully human story about the lies we tell each other to be happy.
That sounds serious, but The Farewell is funny! It bursts with lightness, bouncing you from joke to joke. And then it’s too late.
The Farewell a wonderful movie, and I am thankful to have seen it.
2: Parasite | ★★★★★
Months later, I cannot believe Parasite won Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay. Parasite is the kind the Oscars always skip over.
It’s a South Korean thriller that shouldn’t be explained, only experienced. Go in blind and enjoy this wild ride. Enjoy the scene with the housekeeper - you’ll know the one. That’s one of the most unnerving, memorable moments I’ve ever seen in a thriller.
It is simply the best movie that came out in 2019. Not my favorite, but the best.
1: Us | ★★★★★
The film critic David Rees once said, “All great movies are either puzzles or dreams.”
Us is the latter, a creation of pure nightmare logic. Nothing makes literal sense and everything makes perfect sense.
While I did not love Us at first, Jordan Peele’s masterpiece offers endless depths on rewatch. Do the Tethered represent America’s underclass? Is Peele saying true equality is possible only by violent uprising? Is Adelaide the only competent upper-worlder because she understands everything she has could be taken away in a moment? Is Peele saying this country has forgotten the violence used to gain its wealth? Is he saying wealth inherently requires violence?
Us cannot be solved, but god, I love trying.
Everyone in the film, especially Winston Duke, turns in a great performance. Madison Curry’s scary face is one of the most disconcerting things I’ve ever seen.
The highlight, of course, is Lupita Nyong’o. Her dual performances as Adelaide and Red are both phenomenal. She embodies Adelaide’s fears in a naturalistic turn as a “normal” person… and also gives a big, terrifying performance as Red.
Everything in Us is intentional. It’s not an accident that the family’s white friends are slightly richer than them, or the Native American theme of the hall of mirrors is covered up in present day, or that Adelaide literally has trouble speaking sometimes.
Us confirms Jordan Peele as a master of the art form. It is a satisfying, ambitious work from a director who’s only growing more confident and competent.
If you see Us, see it twice. If you’ve already seen it, watch it again.
We are so damn lucky to be alive while Jordan Peele makes movies.