By: Henry J. Fromage and Movieboozer Staff & Contributors
2018 in Film had its ups and downs like all facets of public and private life this year, but when it all shakes out it’s clear this was one hell of a year for the medium. See what moved our writers:
10. Missing Link
9. Ford v Ferrari
8. JoJo Rabbit
7. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
6. The Irishman
4. Little Women
3. Marriage Story
10. The Peanut Butter Falcon: Heartwarming road trip movie that made me actually like Shia LaBeouf.
9. Ready or Not: A smart, biting satire, a breath of fresh air for the horror genre, and a kickass lead to root for. Also contains the most unexpected (and hilarious) film moment of the year.
8. Happy Death Day 2U: The first was a great surprise and what they managed to do with the sequel is an even bigger one.
7. Long Shot: A recent rewatch confirmed this is my favorite comedy of 2019. In addition, it wins Best Title.
6. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World: This one wrecked me. A gorgeous final installment of a near perfect trilogy.
5. Knives Out: So much fun and I have no issues with the comparisons to the great Clue. “I read a tweet” is my favorite movie quote of 2019.
4. The Farewell: I almost skipped this one because I have a hard time with films about terminal illness, but this is anything but morbid. Funny, poignant, and moving. Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen deserved Oscar nominations dammit.
3. The Art of Self-Defense: Toxic masculinity was sure a major theme in 2019 and this film handles the theme more effectively and is far more entertaining than Joker. This one stuck with me for many days after.
2. Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino surprised the hell out of me. Who would have thought that a film with the Manson murders looming in the distance would end up being his most heartwarming and optimistic work? The world he constructed is one I want to return to and live in over and over, dirty feet and all. Hands down, my favorite QT film.
1. Parasite: I went in cold and came out with my mind blown. I legit cried as a release after viewing this. Wow, just wow.
10. American Factory
10. John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum: I fucking love John Wick. I’ve been a champion of Keanu Reeves’ angel of vengeance since the original obscure trailer, and each new installment of the franchise has upped the stakes, built out from the elaborate fictional universe, and increased the complexity of the wild practical action sequences. The franchise has arguably championed a new era of action choreography in American cinema, offering up increasingly unbelievable feats of in-camera stunt work with breathtaking feats of violence. Just in its first half hour, the movie offers up two of the most incredible action sequences so far in the franchise, but that action would have no meaning if not for the thoughtful and creative universe of assassins the franchise has envisioned. By the end of the movie, the mythology of this world is both more clearly defined and more complex than we could have ever expected from the original story of a retired assassin avenging his puppy, and that’s awesome.
9. Us: Us is a ton of fun. In the eleventh hour, this took the edge over Midsommar for its memorably weird vision, exciting performances, and propulsive pacing balancing comedy and horror. Get Out was a surprisingly tight cultural commentary wrapped up in a strong thriller; Us relaxes a bit and lets itself get a little crazier with its plot, and watching it unfold is wildly enjoyable. Even if you guess one of the main twists ahead of time, watching it build up and pay off doesn’t lose its impact.
8. Uncut Gems: Uncut Gems is a two-hour panic attack. Just like its protagonist Howard (Adam Sandler, woefully denied a much-deserved Oscar nomination), constantly rushing to the next thing he needs to do, the film in a fixed, breakneck speed. Even in the quieter moments, there’s still a sense of anxious momentum for what comes next. Instead of a literal ticking clock, Uncut Gems stacks events and stakes in a way where there’s always something at the back of your mind, something to be stressed about in the next scene, as Howard constantly reacts to the walls closing in on him. It’s explosive, impactful filmmaking from the Safdie brothers and a worthy, trippy follow-up to Good Time.
7. The Fare: Time-loop movies feel like a new fad, but few pull things off as effectively as The Fare, which takes the time loop trope and uses it to tell a surprising, enjoyable mystery-romance where pretty much every piece of information ends up having significance by the time the films arrives at a shocking reveal. None of this would have worked if Brinna Kelly’s wonderfully naturalistic dialogue and D.C. Hamilton’s crisp direction didn’t fully sell the story, but they do, and The Fare is a story that you just get enveloped in.
6. Knives Out: There’s nothing quite like a good whodunit, and Rian Johnson capitalizes on that very specific itch with Knives Out, which both satisfies expectations of the subgenre but also completely flips it on its head with a ferociously entertaining mystery. A perfectly assembled ensemble is sent hurtling into a gleefully subversive story that rearranges the typical structure of the whodunit where some questions are answered sooner than expected, opening the door for more surprising mysteries and changing the game for how this sort of story is told. It’s an absolute blast, and fantastic performances from Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, and an entire veteran ensemble are just icing on the cake.
5. Jojo Rabbit: A movie about an adolescent Nazi with a goofy Hitler as his imaginary friend is potentially a hard sell, but Taika Waititi really pulls it off by inserting a reason for the fanatical young Jojo to confront his beliefs and putting the focus of the film on the fight for the whimsical yet misguided youngster’s soul. Often funny, and often very sobering, Jojo Rabbit explores a broad emotional spectrum and ultimately challenges us to reconsider our learned prejudices and unconscious biases. What starts as a goofy comedy eventually dissolves into a disarmingly emotional and poignant picture. It catches you by surprise in the best way, amplifying the impact of its message.
4. The Lighthouse: The Lighthouse is one of those movies, which, as soon as I saw the trailer, I knew I would love. Robert Eggers’ sophomore film is bizarre, hilarious, and creepy, carving a singular voice for itself with period-appropriate dialogue and recreating the look and feel of early filmmaking right down to the aspect ratio and film stock and lenses. Even getting past the meticulous attention to technical detail, The Lighthouse has a surprising command of tone; balancing horror, tension, and comedy in perfect measure without letting any of them step on the toes of the others.
3. Parasite: What else can I say about this that hasn’t already been said? Of the Oscar nominees, Parasite is a worthy contender for Best Picture. It’s intricately constructed, very funny, deeply suspenseful, and a startling reminder of how class warfare hurts everyone. And of course, there is the absolutely WILD left turn the move takes at the outset of the third act that turns the entire movie on its head. We do not deserve how good South Korean cinema is.
2. Dragged Across Concrete: You know that cartoon trope where a character nibbles away their fingernails from side to side like their hands are a typewriter carriage? That was me during Dragged Across Concrete, S. Craig Zahler’s hat trick of masterful thriller filmmaking. It’s a slow-burn, arguably an epic, about two disgraced cops, a bank robbery, and all of the horror and fallout that ensues when these elements collide. The dialogue is verbose and stylish, the violence is painful, and tension takes its time, really letting the discomfort seep in. Constantly improving, Zahler hasn’t found his ceiling yet, and if he does, it won’t stop him for long.
1. Under the Silver Lake: David Robert Mitchell’s delayed and divisive follow-up to It Follows is like catnip to someone who likes to find hidden details or run with wild theories. Under the Silver Lake is the cinematic equivalent of a completely unhinged conspiracy theory zine or cereal box blurb as it follows a dazed-looking Andrew Garfield all over the town of L.A. investigating the disappearance of a woman he had a spark with. It’s a grand pastiche of classic film influences, bizarre glimpses of colorful nightlife and subculture, and an engaging mystery packed with conspiracy theories. It’s a wildly ambitious, hypnotic vision that fans will find something new in with every subsequent viewing.
10. The Farewell: A beautiful and charming film about family and what is best for loved ones. This film really made me miss my grandmother and shows us how it’s the matriarchy that’s the glue that holds families together.
9. Ford v Ferrari: A great true story about what can be done when people come together and put in hard work. It’s a brilliant racing film that will sneak up on you and leave you in tears.
8. 1917: Highly impressive filmmaking. Essentially a showcase of cinematography, editing, special effects, and directing. Filmed and edited to look like one long take, this film should be seen on the big screen.
7. Waves: A small and overlooked film from 2019. A family drama packed with some of the best acting in 2019, especially by Sterling K. Brown who gave one of the best performances of last year. Also, this film wrecked me, so bring tissues.
6. A Hidden Life: Terrence Malick is back! He’s not for everyone and I think this is definitely only for the Malick fans. However, this is an important true story and one that feels all too timely. It’s also the most beautiful looking film from 2019.
5. Little Women: Gerwig deserved to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. This adaptation feels fresh, and gives a perfect touch of feminism to a story from the 1800s. Also, I became a huge Florence Pugh fan this year and her performance as Amy is amazing. This is just an exquisite film.
4. The Irishman: I thought this was going to be another gangster film from Scorsese, but this turned out to be so much more. It’s about regrets and how at the end of our lives we’ll look back and think about everything we did and if we did the right thing. Also, a shout out to Thelma Schoonmaker the editor, who made a 209 minute film fly by.
3. Uncut Gems: I love the Safdie brothers and I’ll see anything they make. A great performance by Adam Sandler, if only he gave us more of these. I can’t remember the last time I had such a visceral reaction to a film in the theaters. My palms were sweaty.
2. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood: A film about a forgotten era in Hollywood, by a film lover, for film lovers. It’s fun; I loved just hanging out with the characters Taratino created, and Sharon Tate. It’s a love letter to film and I can’t get enough of it. I think this is one of Tarantino’s best.
1. Parasite: Wow is all I could say as I walked out of the theater. Bong Joon-Ho is a brilliant filmmaker and I will see anything he does no matter the subject. There isn’t a director better at melding genres than Bong. It’s equal parts horror, comedy, drama, and thriller. It’s a perfectly edited film and the production design is amazing.
10. The Farewell
7. The Lighthouse
6. Long Day’s Journey Into Night
5. Uncut Gems
4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
3. Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
1. Marriage Story
The Farewell Once Upon a Time In Hollywood Ready or not The Laundromat Dragged across Concrete Parasite Jojo Rabbit The Lighthouse 1917 Knives Out Uncut Gems Little Women Missing Link
10. Parasite – This wild movie boasts one of the most finely calculated set-up and delivery of concentrated weirdness that I’ve ever experienced.
9. Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi’s WWII satire chooses a unique focus; that of the children indoctrinated by living under Hitler’s dictatorship. At times warmly funny, at other times bitingly cynical. Brilliance defined.
8. The Irishman – Martin Scorsese resurrects several things with this film: the feel and scope of his 90s Crime epics Goodfellas and Casino, the career of Joe Pesci, the DiNiro/Pacino team up and the Jimmy Hoffa assassination legend. The results are masterful.
7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino’s most divisive movie in years seems to be receiving mixed reactions. I for one found the movie to be his most refreshing since Jackie Brown. Like that earlier film, he populates this film with characters that are interesting and multi-dimensional, and gives you time to get to know them. While the movie ends with the over the top violence you come to expect from Tarantino, it does so in a way that you probably won’t expect. He gives some truly wronged people a chance through this movie they never were given in real life, and that’s kind of a beautiful thing.
6. The Farewell – This family dramedy about a family who won’t let their elder grandmother know she has a mortal diagnosis is one of the most quietly potent movies I’ve seen all year. Awkwafina is splendid as the thoroughly Americanized Billi, who is trying to understand the world of her elders while also make her own way.
5. Uncut Gems – This bold and explosively powerful feature about a degenerate gambler is by far the most thrilling and tense movie on this list. The film grabs you by the neck early on as its protagonist busies himself with destroying what should be a fairly luxurious life through a series of increasingly poor decisions.
4. Little Women – Greta Gerwig’s spectacular direction and spot-on casting decisions paid dividends on an often retold story and made it feel fresh and vigorous again. Perhaps the single best ensemble cast of any film in 2019.
3. 1917 – Director Sam Mendes has crafted a film that is both visually gorgeous, but also has the feel of being seamlessly strung together as if a single take. All of that would be enough to call it a technical masterwork. But the movie also boasts two principal castmembers that carry nearly the entire film themselves. When other performers do appear on screen, they are no less brilliant. The horror of war and the trials of the common foot soldier haven’t been so well captured since Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One.… What is it with Sams?
2. Dragged Across Concrete – S. Craig Zahler’s lengthy epic crime film earns every minute of its runtime with sharp dialogue, perfectly rendered performances, and one of the strangest 180 degree plot twists in recent memory. Also, I submit a write-in candidate as best song of 2019 The O’Jays’ “Shotgun Safari”.
1. The Lighthouse – like the isolated island of the film, Director Robert Eggers has become a solitary figure in modern moviemaking. He’s created a niche with this and The VVitch for writing dark and disturbing horror film period pieces using period-accurate dialogue and surrealist leanings. Whatever destination Eggers’ next film takes its audience, I will be there opening night.
Mrs. Henry J. Fromage
First off, another year of marriage, another Best Of list from my wife. Still looking pretty good!
8. Zombieland: Doubletap
6. Avengers: Endgame
4. Knives Out
3. JoJo Rabbit
Henry J. Fromage
And now for mine:
10. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? just about wrecked me, and along comes this film led by the only actor that you could choose for the role, Tom Hanks, to finish the job. Our world needs more exemplars of the truly radical act of choosing empathy above all else.
9. Marriage Story: This story displays another kind of empathy, one that must have been brutally difficult for Noah Baumbach- empathy towards an ex-lover, and, maybe more difficult, empathy towards the the man he was when he lost her. It’s a miracle he found two actors in Adam Driver and Scarlett Johannson that manage to never strike a false note.
8. The Lighthouse: Hands down the funniest film of the year. Probably also the most terrifying, the most artfully shot, and the most thrillingly and disturbingly unique. Long reign Robert Eggers.
7. A Hidden Life: Terrance Malick finds his touch again in telling the story of another- a man who refuses to bend his knee to the spirit of an evil age. Watch this and find the hope and strength to do the same where it is needed. It’s not just the Nazis, either- the reasonable men can be the most dangerous.
6. 1917: Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins tell a thrillingly small story by going the other way- as bombastic and expansive as they can. A true technical marvel in the service of a truly personal tale.
5. Parasite: So, I might be spoiled by the unfettered brilliance of the last 20 years of Korean cinema, which is why maybe Bong Joon-ho’s delicious genre mismash didn’t blow my socks off as much as it did for some. It’s still nigh-perfect, and would be the most exciting Best Picture winner in years.
4. Little Women: Greta Gerwig emerged as a director fully formed, and this beautifully humanist, unapologetically feminist retelling of the lives of the March sisters is subtly marvelous, not the least for the utterly perfect casting.
3. The Nightingale: Jennifer Kent has a different kind of feminist tale to tell, one that refuses to shy away from the utter brutality of colonialist and patriarchal history, but one that ends in a note of gorgeous, unexpected hope.
2. Ash is the Purest White: For some reason, this has been the hardest movie to shake from my mind this year. In others, the young Bi Gan’s incredibly ambitious Long Day’s Journey Into Night may have captured my fancy, but viewing it so soon after Jia Zhangke and his wife/muse Zhao Tao’s latest masterpiece shone a light on the subtle and powerful storytelling tricks a true master employs.
1. The Last Black Man in San Francisco: While the last film stuck in my mind the most, no film this year captured my heart quite as much as Jimmie Fails and Joe Talbot’s ode to the changing face of their hometown, to the bittersweet half truths of history, and to the music of existence. Be sure to wear flowers in your hair.