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We are now coming to the end of what has been a fascinating year in cinema. There were certainly some significant disappointments, particularly in the realm of highly anticipated sequels, but also a tremendous number of cinematic delights. It’s been a wild mix, and our staff collectively has experienced all of the various ups and downs. Over the last 12 months, at least one member of the CinemaBlend team saw 234 of the new releases that arrived in 2019 – and this is now the place where we celebrate what we as a group see as the cream of the crop.
For the past few years our team members have maintained a screening log for all of the new films that are released, registering an opinion post-screening with a rating between one and five. It’s based on the statistics from that log (namely the average score, weighing every opinion equally) that we have compiled this Top 10 list – counting only titles seen by at least four people on staff. Some really amazing features populate the #15 through #11 slots, including Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman (4.167/5), Craig Brewer’s Dolemite Is My Name (4.2/5), Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (4.206/5), Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz’s The Peanut Butter Falcon (4.214/5), and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (4.278/5), but these films are the ones we feel are the best of 2019.
#10. Marriage Story
Average Score: 4.28125/5
Scarlett Johansson is essentially the ruler of this list with three films landing in the rankings, and what’s seriously impressive is that she gives a different and compelling performance in each one. It’s hard to pick the best one, but her turn in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is really remarkable – as is the rest of it. Starring opposite Johansson, Adam Driver continues to prove himself a special talent, and their dynamic both together and apart in this story captivating and real. You’d think that a movie that entirely centers on divorce proceedings would be a drag and emotionally exhausting, but instead you’re more swept away in the character and drama, left hoping that the two leads can find peace amidst conflict. It’s a complicated and powerful work, and the response with audiences taking sides has been fascinating.
#9. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Average Score: 4.30952381/5
Back in late July we ran our mid-year version of this feature titled “The Top 10 Films Of 2019 So Far, According To CinemaBlend,” and while most of the films on that list wound up being beat out by fall releases, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood not only held out, but has seen its average score go up with an additional five votes counted. It’s really hard not to love this fantastic taste of the movie world in 1969, with some phenomenal performances bringing to life remarkable characters (Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth are instant icons), and the writer/director putting a revisionist spin on real events that allow for a spectacular and shocking finale. It’s one of the great gems in Tarantino’s brilliant filmography, which is saying something given the tremendous caliber of his work.
#8. Doctor Sleep
Average Score: 4.375/5
In a vacuum, the idea of any filmmaker making a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining seems patently insane. The 1980 movie is heralded as one of the greats of the horror genre, and someone would have to be out of their mind going into a follow-up knowing that they would have to create something comparable. But that’s what makes Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep such a miracle. Not only did the writer/director successfully weave a fantastic story about recovery through the tale of an adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), and introduce a spectacular monster with Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), but he even managed to create a pop culture peace between Kubrick’s work and author Stephen King – who has never been shy about his dislike of The Shining film. It’s a stunning and impressive, and one of our team’s favorites of the year.
#7. The Lighthouse
Average Score: 4.388888889/5
The equation that sums up the narrative of Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse is a simple one. Two lighthouse keepers (Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe), strangers at first, are sent to man an isolated lighthouse together, and due to a savage storm find themselves trapped with no communication to the outside world. It’s a perfect recipe for pure, uncut madness, and that’s precisely what the film delivers. As everything spirals out of control, the nature of reality becomes endlessly interpretable, and it’s hard not to watch it all with a feeling of delight that only bonkers cinema can deliver. It’s an experience that both delivers belly laughs and tension that pins you to the back of your chair, and best of all it stays with you long after the house lights have gone up and you’ve left the theater. It hasn’t entirely left our collective minds since it came out this fall, hence its placement on this list.
#6. Jojo Rabbit
Average Score: 4.4/5
This being end of the decade, cinephiles have spent recent months reflecting on the last 10 years of movies, and Taika Waititi is a name that sticks out in a massive way. He was still finding his voice as a writer/director in 2010 when he release his second feature, Boy, but now – following amazing movies What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Thor: Ragnarok – he is at the top of his game, and Jojo Rabbit proves it. Waititi demonstrates wonderful auteur flair with the feature, as his very particular comedic sensibilities shine, but what particularly stands out is genius tonal balancing act, as the film is successful at both producing belly laughs and sob-level tears. It’s a unique cinematic experience that only the Kiwi filmmaker could provide, and it has us practically panting in anticipation for what he is going to deliver in the 2020s.
#5. Avengers: Endgame
Average Score: 4.4375/5
The year of pop culture we all just collectively experienced featured some super controversial conclusions to major big screen sagas and epic television series, and it all just makes Joe and Anthony Russo’s Avengers: Endgame that much easier to appreciate and love. The filmmakers at Marvel Studios were faced with a stunningly daunting task in trying to craft a capstone blockbuster that would fully reflect on the 21 films that preceded it, and the artfulness with which it’s done is mind-boggling. In addition to being a rambunctious, fun blockbuster, it’s also a beautiful tribute to some brilliant character work and performances we’ve seen in the decade-plus since Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. It’s a special ending and a tearful goodbye in many respects, but at the same time also has us over-the-moon excited to see what the franchise’s future will hold.
#4. Uncut Gems
Average Score: 4.611111111/5
If you consider yourself a film fan, you should definitely start getting comfortable hearing the names Josh and Benny Safdie. The sibling filmmakers have been starting to attract real attention in recent years, with 2017’s Good Time landing them on a number of radars, but now in 2019 they have crafted their big breakout with Uncut Gems. This is a movie that is arguably only really safe to watch while attached to a blood pressure monitor, as once it has its hooks in it shakes you with unrelenting tension until you’re ready to go into cardiac arrest. Playing a detestable human being in protagonist Howard Ratner, Adam Sandler delivers what can be called the greatest performance of his career, making you want to tear your hair out as he stacks risky gamble on top of risky gamble. It’s one of the most thrilling cinematic experiences of the year, and one we can’t wait to have over and over again in repeat viewings.
Average Score: 4.7/5
Actor Kevin Harrison Jr. had an impressive breakout year in 2019, and while his awesome work in Luce won’t be specifically discussed here, his turn in Trey Edward Shults' Waves is equally impressive. This is a drama that repeatedly punches you in the heart, depicting some hardcore and serious family issues with Harrison Jr.’s Tyler at the center of it all, but it’s also constructed with incredible and impactful style – featuring constantly shifting aspect ratios, epic rotating shots, a killer soundtrack, and an awesome score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It’s aesthetically daring, but purposeful in each of its choices, and builds in unexpected and fascinating ways. It’s utterly compelling, and Sterling K. Brown delivers what is arguably the best supporting performance of the year. In short, film in 2019 didn’t get much better than this.
Average Score: 4.722222222/5
Roger Deakins is unquestionably one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, and his collaborations with director Sam Mendes have represented some of his greatest work to date. That said, 1917 still ranks as a phenomenal achievement. Filmmakers have struggled for decades finding the proper ways to portray the realities of war, are with its single-shot style this one truly throws you into the mud of No Man’s Land in its depiction of World War I. You’re holding your breath from the very first minute as you learn about the ticking clock scenario led by news that troops are marching into a trap disguised as a strategic retreat, and the brilliant choreography of the camera wrapped around the performances of George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman is enrapturing. It’s a whole new way to experience war on the big screen, and it’s a powerful representation.
Average Score: 4.75/5
About an hour into Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite you think you have a good grip on where things are headed. The lower class family played by Woo-sik Choi, So-dam Park, Kang-ho Song, and Hye-jin Jang have successfully infiltrated the world of the upper class Park family, and are celebrating their apparent victory… but then, in an instant, everything changes. It’s one of the most phenomenal big screen left turns of the year, and just part of what makes the film so incredible. The way in which the drama escalates is one thing, but the script is also endlessly clever, the dialogue witty, and the cinematography is gorgeous. It’s risky for any movie to build up expectations, and then become something completely different the way this movie does, but the way in which it’s done here is miraculous – and every step of the way it sharpens its satirical bite and class warfare commentary. It’s brilliant, and CinemaBlend’s Number One movie of the year.
How many of these films have you seen? Of those you haven’t, what are you excited to check out. Of those you have, which are your favorites? Hit the comments section below with all of your thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more of our Top 10 lists and End-Of-The-Year features!