Let’s take a look back at the past year and the films we loved in it, these are our top picks for the 10 best Hollywood movies 2019. There were a lot of good movies in 2019. So we have to break it down by category.
Let’s start big, this year on the blockbuster front, we were most impressed by movies like John Wick Parabellum. Pushing its set pieces to their most bombastically heightened conclusions. In Ford versus Ferrari, it would have been just a better-than-average biopic if it weren’t for the rip-roaring driving scenes. And don’t tell anyone we said this, but we actually loved Alita: Battle Angel. And we’re sorry it bombed so bad we likely won’t get to see another one. However, there’s nothing quite so climactic as finishing off a decade with the capstone to the most expensive story ever told.
10 >Avengers Endgame
Best Hollywood Movies 2019. So for our first pick, we’ve gotta go with Avengers Endgame. There is something to be said about the importance of sticking a landing. And in the superhero comic book world, where cheating death is no big deal, Endgame stands out by making death and finality matter. There is a serious amount of runtime real estate dedicated to the breath of our hero’s experiences with grief. And the confrontation for what feels like the very first time of their own limits.
As the film follows their attempts to bring back half an entire universe snapped away, they create a sense of scale. National mourning, and cost that elevates End Game beyond all the previous Marvel offerings. If you grew up in the Marvel era, Endgame asked you to stay goodbye to characters you’ve known since you were a kid. And no matter how you feel about comic book movies and whether they are or are not capital C cinema, that matters. Best Hollywood Movies 2019.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have our indies. Telling stories that feel just as important, with stakes that are just a little bit less universal. This year, we fell most in love with the raw honesty of The Souvenir, the subtle vulnerability of Gloria Bell. The ballsy empathy of Honey Boy, and for our second pick, the endless warmth of The Farewell.
9 > The Farewell
A farewell is a home-cooked meal with grandma in cinematic form. Heartfelt, hilarious, based on an absolutely bonkers premise that also just so happens to be actually real. The love is palpable everywhere in Lulu Wang’s breakout picture, the story follows Awkwafina as Billie. As she and her family head to China for a wedding, it is really just a cover to see the family matriarch once more. After she is diagnosed with cancer that the family has decided not to tell her about it. A lesser story with a shoehorned in a generic romantic side plot and a lot more will they, won’t they spill the beans. But the farewell knows exactly where its heart is. Somewhere amidst the marvelous chemistry between its hero and her delightful grandmother, Nai Nai. Best Hollywood Movies 2019.
What about animation in 2019? Well this year brought a fourth Toy Story that we didn’t think we wanted but totally did. A lovely animated Klaus, rural colonialism, and a whimsical stop motion clothing in this magnificent cake. And our absolute favorite, the delightfully bizarre I Lost My Body.
8 > I Lost My Body
Best Hollywood Movies 2019. A boy loses his had in I Lost My Body is the story of how he puts himself back together. Except, instead of following the boy he follows his hand crawling its way back to him like a five-legged flesh crab, well sometimes. Other times it looks like a tiny little person. And somehow you end up feeling for the strange little bugger, him and his owner both, and for a surprising amount. Most films in one way or another engage with our experience of sight. Quite a few engage equally with our experience of sound. But it’s a rare film that renders a sense of touch quite so cinematically as done here. Evoking sense memory so powerfully specific that you can almost them as you watch. It’s a point of view from which we’ve never seen a story before, and it’s completely impactful in the telling.
2019 was yet another good year for exciting cinematic documentaries. The capitalist culture clash of American Factory, the meta cinema of Varda by Agnes. The magnificently time-traveling restoration of They Shall Not Grow Old, the powerful love amidst destruction of For Sama. The ever-better ninth installation of 63 Up. But the one that really blew us back into our seats, like five million pounds of rocket fuel, had to be Apollo 11.
7 > Apollo 11
Apollo 11 mines an enormous wealth of archival sources. Including some magnificent and previously undiscovered 7 mm footage to retell the story of the moon landing as if you were there. It uses no narration, no interviews, and no recreation. Even the synthesizers used in the fantastically tense score were period accurate. The story is told almost completely with recorded conversations between the astronauts and their mission controllers. With plenty of screen time set aside to just marvel at the colossal scale of it all. And in a year of visually impressive space movies, that weren’t quite our speed, some with truly massive CGI budgets. They still don’t come near to feeling as awesome and monumental as what it was actually like when we put a man on the moon. Best Hollywood Movies 2019.
Next up, what made us laugh this year? Well, certainly Taika Waititi impossibly irreverent Jojo Rabbit. If there’s a difficulty modifier for funny we think the Hitler comedy is probably the highest. But we also love the warm or friendly or Tarantino of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Knives Out is so well written it drives us nuts. And it was good to see Eddie Murphy and J Low back in full form in Dolomite Is My Name and Hustlers. However, it was a freshman filmmaker with some relatively unknown actors that capture our hearts. And our humor this year with our favorite 2019 comedy, and the fifth pick, Booksmart. >
6 > Booksmart
Basically a female Superbad complete with Nick McLovin Esque psychic actually, kind of a couple. Two girls that played it safe in high school learn that as they were busy studying. Their classmates were partying and still managed to get into the Ivy’s alongside them. So they set out to get themselves into some good old-fashioned trouble before graduation. The script is hysterical, and the two previously unknown leads make the dialog crackle. Teen romance is handled with far more complexity than your usual sex comedy without ever sacrificing humor for its honesty. It gets the emotions right and it is the hardest we laugh all year.
Of course, on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, we have got the tense and the scary. There was a lot to like about the young Ian self-confrontation of Us. Dread in the sunlight of Midsommar, and sea shanty insanity of The Lighthouse. But they just didn’t quite impress us like getting Out, Hereditary, or The Witch. Thrillers though were a different story. Joker was gorgeous, with yet another performance that proves Joaquin Pheonix is an acting talent unlike anyone else. Uncut Gems was maybe too good of a thriller, seriously. One of two reasons we’re not picking it is because it gnawed at our stomach lining from start to finish like a two-hour panic attack. The other reason, of course, is that Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite came out this year. And just so happens to be the best thriller in a very long time. Best Hollywood Movies 2019
5 > Parasite
The parasite is truly unlike any movie we have ever seen before or since. Part comedy, part thriller, part social drama, mixing and transitioning between its tones effortlessly and often. Bong Joon-ho is in full control of his craft and soaring, and then there’s the story. An hour in you’re trying to guess where the hell this could possibly be going, but you can’t, it’s impossible. It always seems like there are 100 different, satisfying ways he could take it at every turn.
But he always seems to pick none of the above and do something even more interesting than you could have imagined. In a world where people say silly things like there’s really on seven stories. And experienced viewers pride themselves on the savvy to see every twist and turn coming miles in advance. Parasite manages to make us feel like kids at the movie theater again. Truly in awe and wonder at what the silver screen has in store. Best Hollywood Movies 2019.
It wasn’t just Parasite though, 2019 saw some of its most interesting movies come from overseas and outside of Hollywood. From China, Ash Is Purest White and especially Long Day’s Journey into Night were god damn experiences. While Bacurau and Monos hit hard from South America. However, this year we had two favorite foreign films, and we loved them both so dearly we couldn’t choose between them. So they’re getting our numbers three and four slot. They are Pedro Almodovar Pain and Glory and Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
4 > Pain & Glory
In Pain and Glory, we see Almodovar’s reach for new personal and autobiographical heights. While his life-long collaborator, Antonio Banderas, delivers a performance subtle and honest so far beyond what we had previously thought incapable. It is the story of an aging director in Madrid struggling with health and art turning to heroin in his 50s. Mending fences and then breaking them again and remembering his past. The film is at its best when Banderas shares the screen with his aging mother or with his former lover. And although neither episodes are very long, that’s sort of seems like the point, you love them so much and really wish they wouldn’t go. And then there’s the final shot, it’s neither tragic, heroic, melodramatic, nor flashy, but there’s a power in its simplicity. It just broke us into tears.
3 > Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Best Hollywood Movies 2019. There’s less mystery surrounding the tears that flooded the theater after Lady on Fire’s ending, but they felt very much the same. Shama’s quiet, gentle masterpiece follows three women alone in an estate on an isolated island over the course of a week. Heloise is to wed against her wishes, Mary Ann is to paint her portrait also against Heloise’s wishes. And Sophie, the maid, falls pregnant but doesn’t want it. The rest is simple, they pass the time, paint a portrait, fall in love, slowly and then very fast. Much of the movie is filled with silent looking, regarding, observing, painting. But God, this drama fills each look and brush stroke with such meaning. You never miss the dialogue because each quiet moment is so very full. And by the end, the only thing you miss is exactly what you are supposed to.
Finally closing out our list and our year we have our prestige dramas, call them our best picture picks. This year 1917 was an absolute roller coaster ride of a story and the best possible deacons clap back at Chivo for Birdman. Waves were beautiful and emotional and sensitive in all the ways that we love. Little Women was an absolute delight in proof positive that Greta Gerwig is just too good for this world. And, A HIdden LIfe is a malarky a Malick as he ever did Malick, but god damn that means there’s a lot of beauty amidst his mess. However this year we think nobody has gone as big as Netflix and at a serious expense. They tackled love, loss, regret, faith, and mortality itself in two of the best movies of the year. Baumbach’s The Marriage Story and Scorsese’s The Irishman.
2 > Marriage Story
Marriage Story sees Baumbach channeling Bergman and his own marriage to Jennifer Jason Leigh. Into a personal, sometimes funny, often devastating portrait of the parade of 1000 little heartbreaks that come with divorce. The acting is just as good as everyone singing its praises says it is and the empathy for all involved is practically endless. The whole thing is so clearly somebody’s fault but nobody really seems to deserve the blame. They’re all doing their best and they hurt each other deeply in the process. But beneath all this pain and the resentment it turns in to over and over, Baumbach finds irrepressible compassion in his characters. Because of his hope, that it may well be there in us as well. Best Hollywood Movies 2019.
1 > The Irishman
It may not be a movie for everyone, but my god was it the movie for us. We came in expecting another Goodfellas, another Casino, another gangster story with rapid-fire montage. And a bunch of Rolling Stones cues and every talented Italian American actor there ever was. And you get that for a little while until you look down and realize it’s become something else entirely right beneath your feet. Because it’s been 30 minutes since the last music cue, and suddenly you just feel so hollow and sad, as if the best parts of your life are behind you. But you still have so far to go and no way to turn back time and undo your mistakes no matter how hard you try.
It brings together the two most prominent trends of Scorsese’s career, the criminal epic, and the religious contemplation. And seams them together in beautiful alchemy that feels like his entire filmography has been building towards this very moment. It’s Marty in conversation with himself, re-evaluating all the fun he had with his loveable scoundrels. Shouldering the full weight of the remorse a life of crime really begets. It aches with the heaviness of existence which is why it’s one of our absolute favorites of the year. Best Hollywood Movies 2019.