What another year for movies! As we close out this year (and decade!), I wanted to take a look back and rank the films that captivated my mind, heart, and emotions. Like every year, this year’s list wasn’t how I thought it would turn out at the start of 2019. But that’s the wonderful surprises of the business.
Without any further ado, here we go!
I will admit this movie caught me off-guard during the holiday season. Netflix’s first animated feature film, this alternative origin story of Santa Claus with a 19th century setting tells the story of a postman (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) stationed to an island town in the North who befriends a reclusive toymaker, Klaus (voiced by J.K. Simmons). Klaus should be able to revive the 2D animation business. Beautifully drawn to accompany the movie’s humorous, heartwarming narrative that made this an enjoyable watch for the whole family. I think we have a new holiday classic on our hands!
9) Ford v Ferrari
Possibly the ultimate Father-Son movie of this year, Ford v Ferrari is the story of American engineers and designers at Ford to build the Ford GT40, a new racing car with the potential to dethrone the perennially dominant Ferrari racing time at the 24-hour of Le Mans race in France. Matt Damon plays Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale, in a Golden Globe-nominated performance, as British race car driver, Ken Miles. The bro-mance between Damon and Bale power this film across the finish line into my top 10. Even if you aren’t into racing films, the car sequences are amazing and, let’s be honest, you’re really here for Bale and Damon.
8) The Farewell
While this story is based on a lie, the truth is this film is a poignant, heartwarming visual at universal themes in a Chinese-American family. Aspiring Chinese-American writer Billi (Awkwafina) learns that her grandmother only has a short time to live so her family decides not to tell her and plan a final family gathering before she passes away. The complicated family dynamics in the film was amazing to watch, seeing that families from different cultures deal with the same issues, even if it’s different from how an American family might. Awkwafina turned in an amazing performance in this drama, showing how flexible she is as an actress. Hopefully, she’ll get more roles like this.
7) Doctor Sleep
Trying to replicate an amazing horror movie such as The Shining is not an easy feat. Director Mike Flanagan was the right man to select after his success with his supernatural horror series on Netflix, The Haunting of Hill House. Set several decades after the events of The Shining, an adult Danny “Dan” Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is still suffering from childhood trauma while suppressing his “shining”. But he’s called to action when a young 12-year old, who possess similar abilities, is in danger from a cult. In her feature film debut, Kyliegh Curran was amazing and had amazing chemistry with McGregor. While I could be critical of the lengthy runtime, it’s still a chilling Stephen King adaptation to watch.
6) Always Be My Maybe
If you read my review for this Netflix original, you know how much I love this movie so it had to end up in my Top 10. Randall Park and Ali Wong play best friends Marcus and Sasha, who reconnect after years apart finally attempt a potential new relationship, but face personal challenges that threaten this happily ever after. Park and Wong are charming as the leads while they go through the regular rom-com beats and layer it with smart social commentary to deliver a sweet viewing. Randall Park also raps! Keanu Reeves! If you have any time, treat yourself and your significant other to a Netflix night in.
5) Knives Out
After being unnecessarily critically judged by the Star Wars fan base, Rian Johnson came back later this year with his modern take on the whodunit mystery. Knives Out follows a family gathering after the family patriarch’s death brings a master detective to their front door, determined to find the murderer. Johnson’s direction and screenplay are genius and accompanied with amazing performances. Everyone did a great job, even if they didn’t get a lot of screen time. Craig and Ana de Armas (both set to star in the new Bond film, No Time To Die) were great characters to watch as the mystery unraveled. This movie proved that old murder-mystery tropes can be updated to modern time excellently to make an enjoyable time.
4) Avengers: Endgame
Did you really think that I wasn’t going to have a superhero film in this list? No surprise that it is the highest grossing movie of all time. The twenty-second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe finds the surviving members of the Avengers and their allies pulling out a last-chance attempt to reverse the damage done by Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Infinity War. Seeing The Decimation through Hawkeye’s point of view, time travel, call backs, and an epic cinematic battle that had fans cheering and in tears near the end. This movie had it all and delivered in a thrilling superhero film that shows the genre is going to continue to thrive. #LoveYou3000
3) Marriage Story
Another Netflix original film, this movie stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a young married couple going through a coast-to-coast divorce. While the plot seems simple, this comedy-drama is anything but that. Driver and Johansson tapped into a deep emotional reservoir of acting, not having their characters pull punches in this story of a relationship falling apart while trying to keep things together for their son. Its relatability and screenplay, accompanied with the performances rocket this emotional film as one of an unexpected best for me.
2) The Peanut Butter Falcon
I had heard about this film, but since it had a limited release, I waiting until Redbox had the movie and I’m glad that I finally watched this heartwarming piece of cinema. A young man with Down Syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) escapes from an assisted living facility and befriends a wayward fisherman (Shia LaBeouf). As the men form a rapid bond, a social worker (Dakota Johnson) attempts to track them down. This independent film became a sleeper hit for me as I watched Gottsagen and LaBeouf interact and really feel for their friendship, leaning on their amazing chemistry. A feelgood adventure that’s a modern take on the Huckleberry Finn story, The Peanut Butter Falcon is worth investing the time.
1) Jojo Rabbit
I’ve always been a fan of Taika Waititi but this film climbed its way into my heart to remind me why I love this form of art. Roman Griffin Davis plays the title character, “Jojo”, a Hitler Youth member who finds out his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. This act forces him to question his beliefs, while dealing with the interference of his imaginary friend, a fanciful version of Adolf Hitler (Waititi). A story about love, acceptance, ideals, and coming-of-age with some sprinkling of comedy, this movie is something we needed in today’s society of underlying tension and hatred. While it won’t be to everyone’s taste, this anti-hate satire doesn’t pull punches and reminds the audience that joining a club isn’t always cool and to love everyone around you.
Thanks for reading, everyone!
Are there any movies I might have missed from this past year? Any honorable mentions?
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Happy New Year!