The 19 Best Movies Of 2019 So Far
As now we enter six months into 2019, it's been another banner year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With 'Avengers: Endgame' now closing the distance to 'Titanic' as the highest grossing-movie of all time, the behemoth blockbuster swallowed up popular culture for the entire month of April. Further beyond, indies like 'Booksmart' and 'The Hole In The Ground' made a serious impact and proved that it wasn't just Marvel moolah at the box office.
Here's our ranking of the 19 best movies of 2019 so far.
If you avoided 'Vice' because it was in the depths of Oscar season, go back again and give it another go. Not only does it feature the rightful winner of Best Actor in Christian Bale, there's also a fascinating examination of just how utterly f*cked America is in its current situation, and how it got there. Adam McKay's turn from comedy to political satire and biopics has been an intriguing one to follow, but given how good HBO's 'Succession' has been and how funny 'Vice' can be in parts, it's not that hard to chart.
As slick a horror as they come, 'The Hole In The Ground' is the finest example of the genre made in Ireland to date, and features a towering central performance from Séana Kerslake. Creepy kids are always fertile ground for horror thrills, but 'The Hole In The Ground' mines some interesting areas such as motherhood, abuse and buried trauma in a way that's so rarely done, and done well, in horror.
We’re aware not everyone feels the same way, but we’re sticking to our guns and arguing that ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ is great craic altogether and more to the point, it gives you exactly what you want from a Netflix movie. Rebel Wilson is the best she has ever been as a cynical singleton who lands in her worst nightmare – a PG13 romantic comedy. It’s fun, it’s sweet, it’s snappy, chockablock with movie references (that aren’t limited to rom coms) and genuinely entertaining.
16 'Cold Pursuit'
It's a real shame that 'Cold Pursuit' will forever be known as That Movie Where Liam Neeson Made Some Really Ill-Advised Comments. If you can separate from all of that, there's actually a sharply-made, wickedly-fun movie about vengeance and assiduously plays with Neeson's on-screen reputation as a merciless killer. Imagine if the Coen Brothers - in full 'Raising Arizona' mode - made one of Neeson's revenge movies, and you're on the right track.
Yes, it turns out, you can actually have a knowing, self-aware superhero movie without it having to be like 'Deadpool'. It does speak to the malleability of the genre that you can literally superimpose Penny Marshall's 'Big' on top of it, and it still works. Zachary Levi was an inspired choice as the fully-grown kid and while there might have been a somewhat forgettable villain (when isn't there in superhero movies, though), it all still clicked together. In a year so far of arguably safe superhero movies, it's good to see something at least try to present itself as different.
'Destroyer' was a movie that came and went from cinemas and barely received the notice it deserves. However, if you manage to seek it out, you'll find a dark and gripping cop-thriller that sees Kidman give the kind of performance that's normally reserved for Michael Mann movies. Playing an embittered detective in Los Angeles, Kidman grimaces her way through a relatively familiar story, but the exquisitely-paced action keeps it ticking over. Couple that with some strong supporting turns from Bradley Whitford and Sebastian Stan, and you've got a cracking cop thriller.
If you loved ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, you’re going to love ‘Rocketman’; and heck, even if you didn’t like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, you’ll love ‘Rocketman’ because it’s soooo much better. Having made a name in the ‘Kingsman’ movies, Taron Egerton shines like a shooting star as Elton John in the musical biopic. Its fantasy sequences are bold, imaginative and vibrant, and even though it gets quite cheesy, you can’t deny that feel-good factor is intoxicating.
12 'The Front Runner'
The golden rule of political biopics are to either cover the entire career, or the weeks / months that defined that career. Where 'Vice' tried to encompass all of Cheney's deeds, 'The Front Runner' zeroes down to the week that ended Democratic nominee Gary Hart's campaign. It's hard to paint a sympathetic picture of a philandering womaniser, but Hugh Jackman's performance and Jason Reitman's direction give it a certain degree of leeway to humanise it. Even if you're unfamiliar with the story, there's enough context and the cast sell it enough to make it all worthwhile.
11 'Captain Marvel'
For having the grace to suffer through the worst part of the internet's ire for simply daring to lead a Marvel movie, Brie Larson deserves some kind of award for her work on 'Captain Marvel'. Origin movies are now well-worn and familiar in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there's always the sense that it's simply a thankless task when the real splashes come from the join-up movies like 'Avengers: Endgame'. Yet, for all of this, 'Captain Marvel' manages to keep its head above water with a knowing nod to its origins with an intriguing twist and a sprinkle of humour to make it all fizz.
Almost halfway through 2019 and 'Burning' still lingers in the memory as one of the films of the year. Focusing on a young farmer, his childhood crush, and the mysterious stranger who sweeps her off her feet, the plot of Lee Chang-dong's psychological thriller reveals itself slowly, seeping through its beautifully-shot frames like smoke through a burning building, before blowing out the windows and doors with the full force of its shocking conclusion. Satisfying on both a plot and character level, 'Burning' is one hot ticket.
9 'Toy Story 4'
There are precious, precious few movies - much less animated movies - that would have a reason for their existence by the fourth movie. It just wouldn't happen. Except for 'Toy Story 4'. Maybe it's the inclusion of Keanu Reeves' Canadian kamikaze motorcyclist or maybe it's Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key reuniting once again. Whatever the reason may be, 'Toy Story 4' plays more like an encore than anything else. We know these characters, we know that this is the end of our time with them, and it's OK to play one more tune for the audience.
Like a magician pulling a hat out of a rabbit, 'Foxtrot' is not only surprising but unnervingly original. It finds the Golden Mean in its subject matter and mines it harder than Walter Huston (or Tom Waits for an up-to-date reference). It's a brutal depiction of grief whilst also being incredibly funny, a damning critique of the Israel Defense Force whilst being sympathetic to the human cost of a nation that sees itself under siege.
7 'The Favourite'
How do you make a movie about English royalty and make it decidedly anti-royalty? By laying it all out, warts and all. That's really what 'The Favourite' does so well; it lets the natural light in on the inner works on court politics and never once lets it off the hook. The silly wigs, the ridiculous make-up they wear, the back-stabbing, it's all so ridiculous and not even because we have the lens of history - it was ridiculous then. Olivia Colman rightfully won Best Actress for her role as Queen Anne, but credit must be given to both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone for providing the space for that performance to come out.
6 'High Life'
Who could have honestly predicted that one of the most intelligent, disturbing and memorable sci-fi movies of the decade would star Robert Pattinson? Trying to pull apart 'High Life' and fit it into an arbitrary ranking of the movies of the year is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. At its most simplest telling, 'High Life' borrows from '70s dystopian sci-fi and concerns a group of convicts floating through space who are part of a sinister experiment.
If you zoom out from this even the slightest amount, there is a fascinating exploration of science, morality, sexuality, gender norms, the existence and meaning of life. And that's only the beginning. Robert Pattinson continues his spree of deeply intelligent movies with a nuanced, intriguing performance while Juliette Binoche offers up an insight into the mind of a twisted genius, whilst André 3000 - yes, the guy from Outkast - is also in there as well. Yeah, it's nuts.
The world-beating spectacle that is 'Avengers: Endgame' was always going to have to feature on this list. As both an example of the prowess of Marvel / Disney and the ability to wrap up a decade of movies, 'Avengers: Endgame' gives the send-off to the current iteration in a way that honours it without disappointing. Look at 'Game of Thrones', another pop culture behemoth, that ended this summer as an example of how not to do it. While 'Avengers: Endgame' might have had three hours to get all the beats and notes in, it did with a level of grace and flair that meant it never particularly felt like three hours the first time going in.
The ticker-tape list of cast members aside, the real strength of 'Avengers: Endgame' was in recognising that the end of a story provides just as much opportunity as the beginning. So much of the complaints against the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been that the endings never come with a bodycount, and certainly never come with a finality. In both instances, 'Avengers: Endgame' met this complaint head on.
Jordan Peele's follow-up to 'Get Out' works on a different tempo and melody, but with the same level of ingenuity that you'd expect. Much more openly political than 'Get Out' and less concerned with providing all the answers, 'Us' offers an examination of trauma, race, the horror of America itself, the best use of '90s hip-hop in years. Lupita Nyong'o is clearly looking at a Best Actress nomination come awards season, but it's Peele's razor-sharp script that's the real highlight of 'Us'. Also, that red jumpsuit / scissors thing is the easiest Hallowe'en costume out there.
3 'Eighth Grade'
If you'd said that one of the best movies of 2019 - nay, the past five years - was going to be directed by a former YouTuber and follow a pre-teen's social media presence, there's a good chance you'd be laughed at. For one, none of these on their own are enough to expect the kind of humanity, warmth and joy that 'Eighth Grade' brings to the screen. Both Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher have announced themselves as genuine talents here, but it's the way in which 'Eighth Grade' unfolds its story that makes it so enthralling.
There has been precious few action franchises that have been as consistent as 'John Wick' has been. Three movies in, none of the efforts have either scrimped or oversold itself. Director Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves are mining an ore vein with diligence and care, and the payoff has always been enjoyable. You have to wonder where it's going to go from here, primarily because there's always a question as to how they can top themselves. Still, 'John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum' offers up incredible action and an awareness of its own ridiculousness that delivers so fully on the promise.
There have been several lacklustre and even dreadful comedies this year (‘Little’, ‘Wine Country’) but ‘Booksmart’ is awesome and delivers just what you want from the genre – laugh-out-loud hilarity. It follows two BFFS and high school students (watch out for Beanie Feldstein, sister of Jonah Hill who Saoirse Ronan fans should recognise from ‘Lady Bird’) who decide to tear up the town having stuck to their books and never gone out before, on the eve of graduation. An instant classic.
Words by Deirdre Molumby, Stacy Grouden, James W. Anderson and Brian Lloyd.
Check out the 19 Best TV Shows of 2019 So Far