Top 10 Movies of 2019
Writer: Casey Lee
Did you see any of these movies in 2019?
If you think that 2019 has been a quiet and divisive year, there are still many movies for cause of celebration and why we love movies.
As for each year, with 2019 coming to an end, it's time to take stock of the movies that have shaken and defined the year. While not all the movies on this list have managed to reach our screens (streaming or otherwise), we think it would be beneficial to know that there are movies out there that have made the year, and hopefully we would be able to see them soon.
So before we dive headlong to another year of movies in 2020, let's not forget (and maybe even watch if you haven't already) these movies that shaped our 2019!
With how far superhero movies have come, thanks to Marvel and its MCU, it is only natural that one of the best movies of the year would come from its crowning achievement with a decade worth of origin stories, sequels, character development, technical advancement and fan-based hype behind it. All of that is already worth celebrating to an end to one of the most spectacular (and most lucrative of all time) cinematic franchise there is, but it doesn't take away that the massive team of writers and directors behind "Avengers: Endgame" still managed to make a fitting and enjoyable superhero romp that would extend the cinematic landscape for many more years to come. "Endgame" will be remembered not only as one of the best of the superhero movies, but of a decade.
After an outstanding feature debut, Jordan Peele once again makes another strong blend of horror with Black social commentary. While there are many more contenders of best horror in 2019 (some that we will mention in another list), "Us" benefits strongly from its brand name and is more accessible to the mainstream by amplifying its horror vibes than its social commentary. Much like "Get Out", "Us" was the one that set the tone and benchmark that horror needed to deliver (and again, the best ones that followed did) early in the year, and carried that prestige throughout 2019.
Toy Story 4
Animation has had a tremendous year, not just in Hollywood but also in Malaysia where the medium is finally taking its form. However, out of the many animation titles, the burden of carrying on a legacy can be harder to do than having an original vision to visually mesmerise. While "Frozen 2" could end the year as one of its more profitable sequel on the animation field, the one that had the toughest challenge to crack, both in its narrative and legacy is the 9 years it took to finally make "Toy Story 4". What could have be maligned as an ugly cash grab to ruin a trilogy that ended on a perfect note, the makers and storytellers behind this fourth and potentially final outing of Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy's toys manages to strike right into some heavy existential meaning of the toys, and giving ourselves the choice to be what we want to be, instead of letting what we are define us. While the ending of "Toy Story 3" left many of the adults now crying, "Toy Story 4" gave the toys a warm hug of an ending they deserved, taking nearly a decade to get there.
After a long career of making himself one of the most respected auteurs working in Korean cinema to his small pavings into the international mainstream on non-traditional platforms, the long-awaited train of Bong Joon-ho as one of the cinema's greats has arrived. Stunning the film circuits with South Korea's first Palm d'or win at the Cannes Film Festival, "Parasite" is not some high independent arts flick that was going to turn off the average audience. With Bong's multi-genre bending vision, "Parasite" puts cuts the arguments of class struggles with a sleekly knives' edge of visuals, spacious production design, devious character plotting, twisted story crafting, and an all too familiar resonance of how two different worlds see each other. Bong stated that "Parasite" was intended for a Korean audience, but its success to acclaim only shows that he has managed to become a world cinema artist.
Director Rian Johnson may not had the best reception towards a certain space-faring franchise, but take away having to deal with the wrath from the fanbase, and you will see that he has not lost his filmmaking touch at all. Presented as a delectable, but oh-so deceptively typical who-dunnit, "Knives Out" brought out the arsenal of Johnson's storytelling prowess without having the burden of expectation to carry on his shoulders. Although "Knives Out" seem to enjoy the benefit of having Johnson high enough on his profile to attract an ensemble cast that is slowly becoming a massive budget requirement to even attempt making a whodunnit, the edge here came from the unexpected wit and twist in the writing that will give many contenders for Best Original Screenplay a run for their money.
One of American cinema's living legends may have unfairly received his heaviest backlash from a generation of moviegoers that have not seen a movie before the 1980s, but Scorsese remains one of the few working bastions of the New Hollywood movement. Although the bad publicity may have been a backfired attempt of promoting his latest work for a distribution model that would be an antithesis to where it should be seen, but "The Irishman" has survived the brunt of the attacks in an ironic fashion. Putting together the greatest actors that defined and were defined for working with Scorsese, "The Irishman" could be said was a return to form for the director, if it had ever left him at all, showing that it is still possible to make an engaging film that Scorsese and his contemporaries made in today's roller-coaster outing. That watching men in suits, the building of unspoken trusts and relationship between characters, and the painful backstabs and betrayals can be as powerful a moment of cinema, as the next super punch by a comic book character.
Cinema in 2019 is once again being used to tell the stories of identities outside those that we have been normalised to accept for what they are as seen in the movies. With Black (and even Muslim) identities continuing to be shown through their struggles, and their means of survival, other minorities in the Hollywood landscape are also starting to claim their place in the cinematic space of representation. In 2018, Asian-Americans had "Crazy Rich Asians" as their mainstream success story. In 2019, it is "The Farewell" that would be the success story in the independent and drama-laden scene. With a surprising and breakout role for Awkwafina, Lulu Wang's semi-autobiographical telling of "The Farewell" crosses between two cultures that may seem to be heading on the same roads of prosperity but still starkly different in the traditions and values of getting there.
One genre that has been receiving refreshing takes in recent years has been the coming-of-age and teen comedy which has been producing little gems such as "Eighth Grade" and "The Edge of Seventeen". However, one that has managed to hit the ball out of the park is Olivia Wilde's wild directorial debut. While the premise seems tailor made to be a raunchy, fun and tripping comedy of errors and hijinx, "Booksmart" still manages to deliver those moments with innate cleverness in struggling, if not commenting, on the new trials and tribulations of an ever becoming complex and sometimes unfair adulthood. While it may not have the message (that doesn't shove itself down a jaded millennial's throat) that a younger generation wants to hear, but the way "Booksmart" deals with those issues is heartfelt, if not poignant. On top of that, with a musical selection and a mixed breed of animation thrown in, "Booksmart" looks to be a "Breakfast Club" that can be related by youngsters who would rather have their songs picked by Spotify, rather than blasted over a boom box.
For all intents and purposes, "Joker" has already defined 2019 by the record it has set, accomplishing what "Deadpool" (and its sequel) had set out to do. Still, that should be more of a footnote in director Todd Philip's winded origin story. By showing how a rotten city could rot even the most kindest or unassuming soul that starting a raging dumpster fire of anarchy, hatred, and pent-up frustration suffered by a lower class, there are some eerie parallels being seen here. All carried by a role that seem made for Joaquin Phoenix who hasn't been able to shine so much in the spotlight by working with independent and quiet auteurs. "Joker" may not stand the testament of time against the best rendition of the character, but it will certainly stand against comic book movies requiring a more and more matured audience.
Ford v. Ferrari
While the title seems to suggest that its meant for someone with a passing knowledge of the Le Mans endurance race and the intense rivalry between the two titular automakers, underneath the hood of this vehicular showdown hides a stronger story. Sharing similar vibes with last year's "First Man", it does not celebrate the technical achievements attained, but develops an intricate relationship between the men behind the machines. For that director James Mangold seems to take his lessons from "Logan" and blends it together with having Matt Damon and Christian Bale at his disposal in more ways than Tarantino did with Pitt and DiCaprio, combining them to give a powerhouse performance that work as tightly as man and machine.
Cinema Online, 25 December 2019