Looking back over the last 12 months, this has been a great year for movies. While the lows have been stunningly shocking, the heights have proved us just what this medium can do when it’s at its best. It’s the first year I will really look forward to the Oscar nominees because this year is going to give us some absolute classics and the most random batch of movies in that best picture spot. We’re now here to look back and talk about the 10 best films of the year… and by best I mean “The ones I like the most” because these lists are always subjective, there is no objective way to view and rate art but saying “Top 10 Films I Liked The Most” is not a good title for Google’s algorithm. Hell, I have enough that I liked this year that I could easily do a Top 20 without breaking a sweat (as the honourable mentions list will prove). So before we do this, ground rules time.
- I didn’t get to see every film. I tried, I saw well over 150 films this year so I’m confident I caught enough to have a pretty good list but I didn’t see every film. Some films popped up when I didn’t have the money, some came and went before I had a chance to get to them, some were in Sydney while half the country was on fire (I wanted to see Parasite so badly… I’m not going into the inferno to see it). Basically, If I didn’t review it, I didn’t see it. If there’s a film that you think I missed that should be here, list them in the comments and I’ll happily find over the next year, watch and probably say “Yeah, that should’ve been here”.
- Only films released in Australia in 2019 are going to be on this list. We’re talking mainstream releases, film festival releases are eligible if I happened to go to that film festival and it’s unlikely to get a mainstream theatrical release (because it’s my list and I get to decide how things qualify for it… even if those rules are silly and arbitrary). This means films like Bombshell, 1917, Honey Boy, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood or The Lighthouse (among others) will not be eligible because very stupid release systems that basically encourage piracy force an arbitrary lengthy waiting period before it’s released down here… this system made sense back in the days when they had to send reels overseas by boat but now it’s all digital, there’s no excuse for this other than a refusal to adapt to the times.
- Any video on demand movie is eligible for both lists. If they sent it out to be viewed by an audience, then they should be ready for critique. Budget and level of studio backing is not a factor, you can make a great film for $100K and you can make an awful film for a hundred million dollars (Ask Warner Brothers, they’re experts at the latter one)
- These are merely my opinions and you are absolutely entitled to disagree with me for any reason, go nuts, make your own list in the comments or question my order. That’s fine. What’s not fine is just saying “Your list sucks” with no reason behind it, critique is fine but blind attacks with no reason aren’t. If you leave a comment that’s a critique I will happily discuss it with you but if it’s an insult… well, guess who gets to pick what comments pop up? Yeah, in case you wondered why comments need approval, it’s because I’m not about to let someone leave harassing comments on this page while I sleep. Also because there’s a weird amount of bitcoin spam that tries to get through but mostly, I’m just not going to let dicks take over when I have some form of control
So, let’s do a few honourable mentions first.
Happy Death Day 2U: I would’ve put the original Happy Death Day on the 2017 list had I seen it in time so consider this the “I regret not putting this on a previous list” entry. This sequel, while not as good as the original, is still a lot of fun. Pushing the series more towards the sci-fi comedy than a straight up slasher, it really plays with the idea of just what the Groundhog Day premise could potentially lead to. Plus, they had Lizzo sing a cover version of Staying Alive so it’s amazing.
Us: Jordan Peele confirms that he is the guy who will change how horror movies work in the next decade. While not quite as effective as Get Out, Us was such a unique take on the evil twin story that it’s impossible not to love. It also has possibly the best performance by a lead actress this year with Lupita Nyong’o absolutely crushing it as both Adelaide and Red. If the Oscars didn’t have a known bias against genre films, she’d be the only person in contention for the lead actress Oscar
Greener Grass: This was my second favourite film at the Sydney Underground Film Festival. If you want a film that’s just a total mindfuck and makes no damn sense logically but is still wildly entertaining, find this one. Maybe smoke a joint before you do if you’re into that kind of thing, because I bet being high would make this one even more insane.
Shazam!: Hey, DC! See this film? See how fun and charming and genuinely fantastic it was? Do that again 12 times with different characters and you might actually have a functional cinematic universe that is noteworthy for something other than a hypothetical alternate cut of a subpar team up film… Shazam! was awesome and should’ve been the DC film to make a billion dollars instead of Aquaman. There, I said it.
Crawl: One of the best things that a film can do is deliver on its promises. Crawl promised me a tense experience and it delivered that, and then some. The simplicity of the story helps so much in creating a film that is intelligent and powerful, a good fun thrill ride that you can enjoy again and again.
Cats: Yeah it’s absolutely atrocious and you’ll see this pop up again tomorrow on my worst list, but the experience of seeing this atrocity is so insane that it’s the best worst film of the year and therefore deserves to be on both lists
AND NOW… THE PROPER LIST!
No one expected this film to be any good. No one. A live action adaptation of a spin off game from the Pokémon video game series? No way in hell was that ever going to be good. It couldn’t be, there was no way this should work and then Pikachu opens his mouth and Deadpool falls out and I end up being in genuine romantic love with this movie. The casting of Ryan Reynolds made this an instant comedy delight, but the love and affection the movie has for its source material makes it something special. From great banter between the main kid and Pikachu to a fun action plot, to jokes that range from innocent to dark as hell (the Mr Mime interrogation sequence gets so dark so fast and it’s so good). Everything about the film is so shockingly good that it’s almost impossible to believe they pulled it off, but they did. It’s the kind of film that can turn a jaded adult into a happy delighted kid just by how pure and sweet the entire thing is. Plus, in a year where we saw the horrors of the original Sonic design and Cats, seeing a great real world CGI representation of cartoon characters we loved as kids felt like such a treat.
9. Missing Link
How did this film only make back 26 million of a 100 million budget? How? How the hell does this film bomb? This charming little film was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen in ages. The story of the last bigfoot who wants help to join the Yetis. It’s a gloriously adorable buddy movie with some of the best claymation designs in recent memory and was made by Laika who, after making so many great movies, should be able to pull huge audiences by their name alone. It’s hilariously funny and so sweet that you’d have to be some kind of actual monster to not enjoy it. This is the kind of family film that we should be letting kids see more of. While the film might’ve been one of the biggest financial bombs of the year, I hope it gets rediscovered on DVD and enjoyed for years to come because every element of this movie is so sweet and loving that I just want to give the entire movie a great big hug.
The movie opens with a cello performer going back to movie school and ends with two women who are both missing limbs playing a cello together in front of the bodies of several dead rapists… and the journey between those two points is one of the most elaborate twisting plotlines in cinema this year. When I was talking about this film earlier in the year I stated that this film didn’t do plot twists, it did hairpin turns at 200 kilometres an hour without applying the brake and honestly? I feel like that was an understatement of just how intense these twists are. You will get whiplash watching this film shift into something completely different right before your eyes, but it does it so well and with such conviction that it doesn’t matter. It sticks every landing and delights in tricking you into thinking it’s not going to do another twist, before it does another twist and you thank it for lying to you. It’s one of the most unique horror experiences ever because it finds a way to do a little bit of everything and do them all just right.
A Tarantino film is very hard to ignore, the man makes great films with such casual ease that he’d need to do something really shocking to somehow top what’s come before. Turns out, for Tarantino, the most shocking thing to do would be to make a quiet controlled emotional drama about an actor and his best friend trying to make it in a town that’s seemingly left them behind. With show stopping performances all around, some genuinely great dialogue and an ending that’s absolutely brilliant, this is one of Tarantino’s best works. The film manages to play with being historical revisionism, letting Sharon Tate live her life without ever even being touched by the evil that took her away just as her career was getting to its highest point. This is Quentin showing off his skills with dialogue better than he ever has before. Plus, any film that sets Nazis on fire with a giant flamethrower is instantly amazing.
6: Jojo Rabbit
Speaking of setting Nazi’s on fire. For a film I just saw a few days ago to claim a spot on this list, it has to be something special. Jojo is something special, a blistering attack on nationalism that is sorely and sadly still needed. Loaded to the brim with great jokes, fantastic performances and one of the most jaw dropping emotional gut punches I’ve seen all year. This is the kind of film that you would hope we’d get out of the current political climate, the kind that’s able to bring everyone in with its brilliant comic absurdity before making sure everyone walks out with the message ringing loudly in their ears. When Jojo isn’t making you laugh or cry, it’s trying it’s damndest to make you think. Plus, who doesn’t love a movie where Nazis are repeatedly kicked in the testicles? It’s the best place to kick them, along with “In their faces” and “Anywhere that your foot can reach, just keep kicking those Nazis”;
The second Jennifer Lopez walks onto the screen to the tune of Criminal by Fiona Apple and does her opening pole dance, this movie was on this list and from then on it was just a question of how high up it was going to go. Everything about this movie is just brilliant, from its stellar cast led by my ideal Supporting Actress Oscar Winner Jennifer Lopez to the bold colour palette that they use to the soundtrack loaded with fantastic music that makes the entire movie feel richer. This film just grabs hold of you from the start, doesn’t let go and really gives you one hell of a good time. It pulls off so many difficult tricks, including never objectifying the female leads. When they’re shown in a way that’s sexual it’s because those characters want to look like that, they’re the ones in charge and it works so well. Every scene was so good, I was beaming like an idiot from start to finish and wanted even more. Also, again, Jennifer Lopez is so good that I will be so many kinds of pissed off if she isn’t nominated when Oscar season comes around.
4. Use Me
There is no good way to really describe Use Me beyond just screaming “GO SEE IT”. A thrill ride that starts as your average documentary about a sex worker that soon turns into a strange version of Taken, Use Me blew me away from the moment it started. The fact that this film is made this way because the film maker realised his documentary subject was too normal and well adjusted is the icing on a brilliant cake. Not only does it provide a great thrill ride from start to finish, it’s a fascinating way to explore just what a financial dominatrix can do for their clients. This was my favourite Sydney Underground Film Festival film, I had a hunch one of the films I saw at that festival was going to make it to this list but Use Me got here so quickly and easily. It’s almost like Ceara herself just demanded that I name her film as one of the best and I was a willing submissive who said “Yes mistress” and gave the film this spot… it’s also really good, go find it and see it. It’s on DVD now, have fun.
3. Knives Out
From start to finish, this film is immaculately thought out. Every little piece fits perfectly, like the stitches holding together the woollen panels of Chris Evans’ amazing sweater. Making an original murder mystery that’s entirely solvable by the audience with the clues given is no small feat, but to do that while also delivering a powerful message about immigration and the horrors of modern day politics? God damn this is next level stuff. Every cast member is at the top of their game and clearly having the most fun, so much fun that it’s infectious. The final scene where they reveal who did it and reveal that one line of dialogue wasn’t exactly what it sounded like was so perfect I was literally clapping with approval. Best of all? Rumour has it that there might be more movies with Daniel Craig’s character solving more murders and I want this to happen so badly. I want a brand new cast of huge names to be asked to play the most insane and stupid people imaginable. It’s so good guys, seriously so good. It’s probably still in cinemas, go out and see it after you read this list.
The musician biopic is the kind of movie that’s so simple and formulaic that they should almost automatically be excluded from these kinds of lists. Biopics of musicians especially just boil down to “And then I wrote this song, and then I wrote this song, and then I did this drug while writing this song, and then I did another drug while performing this song at this big concert”, repeating that pattern for 2 hours while an actor proves their prowess by perfectly mimicking some random celebrity. Rocketman did something very different that pushed it into being something special… it remembered that this is a movie, therefore we can do whatever the hell we want so why not turn Elton John’s life into an elaborate fantasy musical? That little decision changes the film so much, now it can just focus on actually telling the story of Elton’s life and use his impressive catalogue of music to make the emotional moments even more intense. Sure, we could have a lengthy sequence showing the start of his shopping addiction and his strange relationship with John Reid… or we could sing Honky Cat and make a glorious musical number that visually tells that story better while also letting us enjoy the fun flirtation between the two male leads.
It also helps that the film is led by Taron Egerton who, if I were running things, would be walking home with an Oscar in a few months because his performance is one for the history books. He not only completely embodies Elton, the insanely talented bastard decided he was going to sing like Elton too just because he could. You want proof he should get the Oscar? Look up the scene where Taron sings Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and tell me that man didn’t just demand his Oscar while sitting in the back of a cab dressed like the devil. Also this film is so gay and I love it even more for that… but, even being a glorious gay musical about Elton John can’t make you the best film of the year. No, for that to happen you need a little bit of help from a man in an iron suit, a hero lost in time and a god of thunder… and about 40 other heroes.
I know. Believe me, I know. This year has certainly been an interesting time to try and say “My favourite film of the year was the gargantuan superhero film made by a company that’s as close to being a monopoly as we’re ever going to get” but it’s the truth. When currently relevant film maker Martin Scorsese and wine maker Francis Ford Coppola called this film out as not being cinema, I felt myself shrinking away because even back then I knew this was my top film of the year. Hell, I basically called this in 2018 when I said that if Endgame managed to stick the landing after Infinity War that I would have a very easy top spot on this year’s list. What can I say? They stuck the landing so perfectly that I have no choice but to call it the best film of the year.
Sure, Endgame is the end result of a decade of Marvel changing the face of cinema to the point where now we rely on Netflix to create our emotional dramas… but you can’t tell me you didn’t cry when Black Widow told Hawkeye to let her go before she fell to her death.
Sure, Disney owning so many major properties is a terrifying reality that will forever change just what can be made since any property owned by the Mouse will need to be as family friendly as possible… but can we be honest and admit that we all whispered “Language” when Cap said it was time to go get the son of a bitch?
Sure, insert obvious statement about the extreme capitalism right here… but… but it’s so pretty!
Look, I could sit here and try my hardest to justify why this is the best film based upon the films own merits. I could spend pages upon pages of text discussing how it’s a brilliant cap to a decade of film, how it’s the perfect ending to several major characters stories or how that end battle scene is one of the most perfectly planned battle scenes in cinema (that thing plays with the audience so perfectly you could set your watch to when it’s going to give the heroes the upper hand and when it’s going to give Thanos a win). Hell, I could even sit here and patiently explain why the time travel in this film is perfect and go on a diatribe about why you need to stop over analysing magic science in movies because the themes and story is more important than the supposed logic of a science that doesn’t actually exist but instead… I’m going to link you to a video of the audience reaction to Endgame, just to remind yourself how it felt to sit in that audience the first time (hell, the first several times) and experience the collective reaction to that movie.
Every character got applause when they popped up, the crowd collectively laughed at every joke, awwed at all the sweet moments and sobbed loudly and openly at the sad ones. You can feel the pure shock that ran through the audience when Thanos’ head was removed and we all realised they were doing a five year time jump thus meaning this wasn’t going to be an easy undo (*coughcough* Justice League *coughcough*). If you don’t want to watch a full half hour of clips and reactions, just fast forward to the big battle scene and prepare to hear an audience losing its damn mind because every single cool thing they ever wanted to see was put on screen. When Cap says “Avengers… Assemble”, it’s like a fucking bomb explodes and that bomb is made out of the audiences pure joy. Is it fan service? I don’t care, I simply don’t. If fan service is this glorious, then let them service me all they want.
Reviewing this film was so hard because I didn’t want to spoil a single second of it for anyone, the experience of viewing it was so special that there was no way I could fathom taking that away from anyone. My only regret of that review is not making the graphic to give this film 6 stars out of 5. If cinema is meant to make you feel something, then Endgame was the greatest piece of cinema that I got to experience this year and I have no shame in admitting that my favourite film of the year now holds the title of the highest grossing box office film of all time (before inflation, obviously. Nothing will ever topple Gone With The Wind because that is literally impossible nowadays and thankyou to the internet for bringing that up every single time someone mentions box office). My only shame is that I didn’t go to see it a 5th time in the cinema.
And that was my best list. Come back tomorrow for the same format that’s loaded with negativity because the worst list generally gets double the views of the best list. Let me know what your favourite films of the year were and feel free to call me a corporate hack for my top pick, I probably deserve it… still my favourite though.