It’s been a good year for film because it’s always been a good year for film. I already posted my favourite films of the year but every year there are those films that while they aren’t quite my favourite are definitely great and worth highlighting.
This year I have selected ten more that you should totally seek out and see, presented in alphabetical order.
(written by James Gray & Ethan Gross, directed by James Gray)
Brad Pitt being a great actor is something that I think we sometimes forget, but then this year he had not one but two great performances. In Ad Astra he plays a son searching for his long-lost father across the solar system and as the literal distance between them narrows so does the emotional distance. Pitt’s performance is subtle, nuanced, and powerful, and one of the year’s best.
Plus, there’s a space pirate moon buggy chase and the most hilariously depressing and plausible vision of private space travel you can imagine, so it has those going for it.
(written by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman, directed by Olivia Wilde)
Teen coming-of-age films with raunchy sex jokes are typically reserved for boys, but Booksmart posits that perhaps they should all be about girls? Or at least maybe every movie should be set during senior year of high school, anyway.
Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever play a pair of overachieving high school students who take the last night of school to finally break all the rules and live a little. What follows is hilarious, honest, and relatable, and features what should be the performances that make this pair of actors into stars.
Ford v Ferrari
(written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller, directed by James Mangold)
Ford v Ferrari is all at once many things. First, it’s an awesome car movie with some of the best race cinematography I can remember seeing. Next, it’s a compelling story with two strong lead performances from Christian Bale and Matt Damon. It’s also a story of what it’s like to be a working creative within the confines of an American corporation that prizes safe, reliable, and sellable over the risk it takes to achieve real greatness.
It’s a hell of a movie, and worth seeing for any one of these reasons.
Happy Death Day 2U
(written & directed by Christopher Landon)
Happy Death Day was a fantastic horror film that was both a great version of the film it was trying to be and a delightful subversion of so many tropes. So how do you make a sequel to that? Lesser filmmakers would just make the same movie again. These filmmakers took the same time looping conceit and turned it into a science fiction adventure movie (with a few hints of horror thrown still thrown in).
This movie is tons of fun, with the obligatory montage of deaths being a particular standout, and further proves that star Jessica Rothe should probably be cast in most things from now on.
(written & directed by Lorene Scafaria)
When I say that Jennifer Lopez is giving the performance of her career here, that should be enough to get you to watch it. It’s not an exaggeration to say that she is absolutely electric in every scene she appears in this film. That’s only half the story here though, with a great lead performance by Constance Wu, a fun supporting cast, and a fun heist story where, sure, the heroes are the bad guys but the men they’re robbing are maybe also not the good guys, exactly, which is everything you want in this kind of story.
(written by Steven Zaillian, directed by Martin Scorsese)
There will be those that find the CGI de-ageing effects in this movie offputting, and honestly, that’s completely understandable. It’s also easy to get past when the story is this well-executed.
This is maybe the best version of Scorsese’s “heroes who are unreliable narrators trying to tell you they’re awesome when they’re actually deplorable” series of films, with powerhouse performances from Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and especially Joe Pesci (who came out of retirement to take his role).
A sprawling story with a devastating final half-hour, and it’s available to everyone with a Netflix account, to boot.
(written by Robert Eggers & Max Eggers, directed by Robert Eggers)
I can’t promise you that you will like The Lighthouse but it’s a hell of an experience to watch. An old and salty sea dog and a young man working for a single season are tasked to mind a lighthouse and they slowly go mad while doing so. Or maybe they were mad already. Either way, there is definitely something malevolent in the water. Or maybe it’s just really rainy.
You won’t be sure, even in the end, and that’s the point. This movie is more concerned with communicating a feeling to you than a story and uses every trick in the book to do it. It’s a great sophomore feature from director Robert Eggers, someone you will want to keep your eye on in the future.
(written & directed by Greta Gerwig)
Louisa May Alcott’s book Little Women is a classic for a reason. It has been adapted before but Greta Gerwig brings something extra to the table here. Remixing the timeline so that it jumps back and forth to highlight rhyming events within the narrative for greater emotional payoff, this is the best adaption of this story to date.
Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen, are all perfectly cast as the March Sisters, with Timothee Chalamet turning in one of his best performances to date as Laurie and Laura Dern continuing to crush 2019 as the matriarch of the March family.
Plus, Greta Gerwig has a knack for directing moments of joy that I adore. Just check out this scene in which Jo and Laurie dance together:
This film is one of the best of the year and in hindsight should probably have made my best-of list rather than this second-best list. Also, it’s a travesty that Gerwig is not nominated for a Golden Globe for directing this, but there’s always the Oscars.
Pain & Glory
(written & directed by Pedro Almodóvar)
Let’s not mince words: Dolor y Gloria (Spanish title) is entirely worth seeing for Antonio Banderas’s performance in the lead role. There’s something poetic here as Banderas, who got his break from and has acted with director Pedro Almodóvar numerous times, is playing a fictionalized version of Almodóvar himself.
The film is beautifully reflective, allowing the character and the director to explore the ups and downs of a life lived. There are drugs and there is sex and there is one of the best final shots of the entire year.
Pain & Glory is nominated for two Golden Globes and sixteen Goyas (the Spanish Academy Awards, basically), and deserves every nomination it has.
(written by Henry Gayden, directed by David F. Sandberg)
And here, in the end, 2019 was the year that DC movies learned to be fun. Shazam! is the kind of film that will one day be held up as a classic of the genre. It has strong performances from its entire cast, a great story about family and what that means, and a big third-act battle that is so thematically on-point that it’s hard to not stand up and cheer.
It’s action-packed and exciting as well as funny and heartfelt. Oh, and the monsters are actually pretty scary. So that’s fun.
That’s it for another year, folks. You now have two lists from me for a total of 22 great films to check out from 2019. What are your favourites from 2019? Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter.