We’ve arrived at the end of another year of epic movie making… and some that aren’t so great. Having watched around 80 movies this year, narrowing down the end results is no easy task. But I’ve finally got a list of my ten best and ten worst movies of 2019.
These opinions are exclusively my own, and yours are sure to vary. Feel free to share your own opinions in the comments section below, and let me know what your favorites and least favorites were. Most of these films were reviewed by me for the site as well.
NSFC: Not Screened for Critics. These are movies which were not screened for critics in the theaters, or for which no screener copy of the movie was provided during awards season. Unless otherwise specific, I either A) was invited to a screening of the movie in question, or B) was sent a screener copy for Oscar season.
THE TEN WORST MOVIES OF THE YEAR!
One of the inevitabilities in this world is war movies, and World War II movies remain the most popular of the lot. Roland Emmerich tries his hand at a movie telling the story of these epic battles and the politics leading up to them… and therein is the problem. This is the guy who gave us Independence Day, Stargate, and the 1998 Godzilla movie. Does he sound like the kind of guy to tell a decent World War II story? Despite a star-studded cast, it ultimately amounts to a CGI-laden explosion fest. It doesn’t help that the man who’s the main focus of the movie is the bad guy from Deadpool, with a cringe-worthy fake accent. It’s better than Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor… but not by much. There are better World War II movies out there.
9) Ad Astra
This Brad Pitt vehicle has some of the best-looking outer space scenes and effects I’ve ever seen in a movie… it’s just too bad the movie itself is a bore which drags. Packed with unnecessary side trips that go nowhere and a second half that feels more like a second-rate “Apocalypse Now in space.” It’s a mundane affair that never lives up to its potential.
8) A Dog’s Journey
The “talking dog” movie has been done to death in recent years. This one fails due to its failure to create any compelling characters, toilet humor, a quickly brushed aside cancer subplot, and plenty of material horribly inappropriate for the PG rating. And all misdeeds are very conveniently forgiven at the very end. It’s time to put this genre of movie to sleep, and movies like this are proof it’s outstayed its welcome.
How did Diane Keaton go from cinematic masterpieces like The Godfather and Annie Hall to watered-down trash like this? This movie takes no chances whatsoever, playing it safe every step of the way. It deals with life in a senior community, and it feels like said seniors are the only audience the movie was made for. A few moments hint at what would be something better and more daring, but that coupled with one subplot too many plus the whole overused cancer element make this one a complete dud.
6) Wonder Park
The moral of this family movie seems to be “do whatever you want, and your parents will never punish you.” This is the third movie in a row on this list which uses a cancer subplot, and the movie is ultimately far more depressing than the trailers will lead you to believe. If you want a good movie to enjoy with the little ones, there are far better options.
5) Overcomer (NSFC)
This movie pretty much sums up everything wrong with contemporary Christian films. Too many subplots, subpar acting, ignoring that every community has people not of the Christian faith, and several plot contrivances which are too easily and conveniently wrapped up. Honestly, I think with a little more effort, these studios/filmmakers/etc. could make some great movies, but as is, no one seems to want to take any risks or the time to have true character development.
This movie was recognized in the media at the time of its release for having the youngest executive producer in history on a major Hollywood production. But the movie can’t seem to decide if it’s for kids or adults, with a subplot featuring our heroine forced to team with misfit kids while attending a school, and more mature humor including references to booty calls. Did I mention there’s a sequence where the characters randomly sing and dance for no reason? Skip this one.
3) The Art of Racing in the Rain
Yet another talking dog movie, this one suffers from almost all the same problems as A Dog’s Journey, (toilet humor, cancer subplot, family drama, everything conveniently forgiven at the end), but it’s worse in every conceivable way and even more depressing. The movie is manipulative and heartbreaking for all the wrong reasons. Kevin Costner does a decent job as the voice of the dog, but even he can’t save this one.
Bigger budgets and big-name stars don’t make for a good contemporary Christian film. This one is based on an inspiring true story, and I’d love to see a documentary of it, since it completely fails as a narrative film. Chrissy Metz deserves a Razzie for playing an obnoxious, overbearing, unsympathetic and annoying bag of wind who doesn’t understand how to respect other human beings or what the purpose of doctors is. The screenplay feels like it was written by a fourth grader, there’s no subtlety whatsoever. It’s offensive to the medical community, seeming to imply praying will simply solve all your problems. I was ready to declare this the absolute worst film of 2019, but then an even worse one came along…
Worst Film of the Year: Uncut Gems
I have the distinction of saying I’ve never walked out of a movie. My record remains, but this is the closest I’ve ever come. Adam Sandler plays a character who’s an offensive Jewish stereotype with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He frivolously spends money on sports bets, pawning things which don’t belong to him. He has a wife and kids who he cheats on with a druggie woman. He’s in debt to the mafia. He literally never does the right thing or even makes an effort to become a better person. Movies like Raging Bull prove it’s interesting to make even a largely unsympathetic character interesting, but Uncut Gems drags on for over two hours, and never bothers making its focal point more interesting or sympathetic. It’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and by far the worst of 2019.
THE TEN BEST MOVIES OF THE YEAR!
10) Ford V. Ferrari (AKA Le Mans ’66)
You don’t have to be a car guy to enjoy this, which is one of the best movies of the year, detailing the Ford Motor Company’s collaboration with Carroll Shelby to create a racing car with which to defeat Ferrari at the legendary Le Mans auto race. The movie features Oscar-worthy performances from Christian Bale and Matt Damon, who bring the movie a human element you wouldn’t expect to find in such a story.
9) Knives Out
Murder mystery movies are a rarity these days, and this one from director Rian Johnson features an all-star ensemble cast with plenty of humor all around. James Bond actor Daniel Craig is the true standout of the bunch, as a Southern detective who infuses countless funny moments into an already over-the-top farce which never lets up. Here’s hoping he reprises this character in future films!
Films dealing with teenage drama, the dangers of toxic masculinity, drug and alcohol abuse, tragedy, loss, and acceptance of life-changing events are nothing new. But this film tackles the subject matter with expertise. It’s a hard-hitting movie with some fantastic performances. I want to avoid spoilers so I’ll say no more, but it’s one not to be missed.
7) Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Tarantino movies are more than just movies. They’re full-on events. Here we see his version of Hollywood in the late 60s, in which fact meets fiction seamlessly. It’s a fantastic trip back in time, with many interesting moments, behaving almost more as a character study than a conventional narrative film. It all comes down to a shocking conclusion in true Tarantino style, and fans of his style of filmmaking shouldn’t be disappointed with the end results.
6) Richard Jewell
Clint Eastwood isn’t going away anytime soon despite his age, and if he’s going to direct movies this good, I’m totally fine with that. This biopic sheds light on an American hero wrongfully vilified by the media and the very government he wanted to serve and help. The titular character is a good and decent man albeit flawed and imperfect, though it’s the supporting performance from Sam Rockwell which steals the show. Richard Jewell is Eastwood at his finest in the director’s chair.
5) Motherless Brooklyn
Edward Norton proves himself one of the biggest surprises of the year, starring and directing this detective drama with a twist – his detective’s got Tourette’s syndrome. If you liked Chinatown back in the 70s, you’ll love this story, which is one of the most ambitious noir-flavored productions in years. There’s a lot to love, from the period detail to a star-studded cast. Easily one of the biggest surprises of the year for me.
4) Apollo 11
Just when you thought you’d heard and seen everything there was to experience about our mission to the Moon half a century ago, this amazing documentary proves you wrong. The doc is made up on rare archival material, much of it unreleased to the public, shedding new light on the titular mission. It looks at the matters from totally different perspectives than your average doc, with no unnecessary new interviews or testimony, giving us the events “pure.” Even the original musical score was made on electronic instruments which existed at the time. This is everything a documentary on the subject should be.
Olivia Wilde released a smart and hilarious comedy for the ages here. I saw this movie in a theater with only about 10 people, but that didn’t stop said theater from being packed with laughter from start to finish. Edgy, daring, comedic, and everything in between, this one surprised me as few movies do. I can see myself revisiting this one for years to come.
2) The Two Popes
You don’t have to be a Catholic to love this drama starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Benedict and the man who’ll eventually replace him as Pope Francis. The movie deals with some very real issues both inside and outside of the Vatican, ranging from the serious to some moments which are surprisingly funny and lighthearted. It’s a diverse and entertaining film. For me, only one movie this year ranked higher…
The Best Movie of the Year: Joker
For years DC lagged behind Marvel in the filmmaking world, but if DC is going to release more movies this good, Marvel had better beware. A gritty character study with original and entertaining storytelling means, it’s got more in common with Scorsese movies (namely Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy) than it does conventional comic book movies. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is Oscar worthy, and you’ll be shocked by the hard-hitting drama as it unfolds, including some all-too-real issues for today’s world despite the movie’s late 70s/early 80s setting. It’s not just a great comic-based movie. It’s a great movie period.
What are your favorite and least favorite movies of the year? Please feel free to share your opinions below. Looking forward to 2020 in film, so let’s see what the studios send our way in the year to come!
DISCLAIMER: All film titles/images in this review are the property of their respective holders. For promotional use only. All rights reserved. This article is for entertainment purposes only and opinions are exclusively those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of other site staff or entities, or the studios/casts/crews themselves.