Let’s talk about the best films of the year.
Honourable Mentions: Fighting with my Family, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker, Midsommar and How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
10. Ad Astra
One of the best recent trends is that we tend to get a truly great sci-fi movie every year. While Ad Astra is not up to the levels of recent greats such as Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, it is still a very good movie deserving of a place on this list. After a slow start, the movie finally gets to Mars and does what it wanted to do all along, be a largescale look at the effect of loneliness and isolation. It is truly excellent at this and Brad Pitt is simply superb at showing the hidden pain of having absolutely no one to interact with. There’s also a bit more entertainment value in this movie than what you get with some of the recent sci-fi epics mostly thanks to a rabid chimp. Still not sure if that scene was amazing or terrible but it’s certainly entertaining. By the way, if there is a director’s cut of this where the voice over is removed, bump it up a few places on this list.
9. Frozen II
This did not have the right to be as good as it was. Because Frozen has become Disney’s cash cow since its shocking success with more merchandise than any refuse tip can deal with and the fact the shorts have not been that great, not many expected that Frozen II would be very good. It would probably be decent, but surely not amazing? But yet they pulled it out of the bag and we got something that is probably just as good as the original, though only time will tell with that. They successfully expanded on the themes of the original without retreading anything and the new set of songs are incredibly catchy and fun. Plus there is a hair metal ballad snuck in here which is the greatest thing Disney have done in the last few years. I don’t think we’ll see a Frozen 3 but if we do, we will have to expect the best from them once again.
Despite being a very flawed movie where the highlight was either the final concert which you can see the real thing on YouTube or a chicken singing Galileo, Bohemian Rhapsody was very popular with general audiences and came scarily close to claiming the Best Picture Oscar. If life is fair, though it very usually isn’t, Rocketman will get the same amount of love from everyone as it is far better. It’s probably fair that Dexter Fletcher, who finished off Bohemian Rhapsody due to Bryan Singer being fired, was happy for the second try at a musical biopic and he decides to go full musical with his depiction of Elton John. It’s easy to forget that Elton John has an incredible back catalogue that easily lends itself to big energy numbers and it’s also a much more honest depiction of the subject. Elton John is often an arsehole which is refreshing considering how Brian May was made into a hero in the film he produced. This is superb.
7. Toy Story 4
In honesty, I could repeat the paragraph I wrote for Frozen 2. There was outrage when this was announced due to the fact Toy Story 3 ended in the most perfect way possible and people didn’t want that spoiled. In the end, though, Pixar made something which felt perfect as this is a film about what happens after the ending. The trick to Toy Story is that they really appeal to the people who grew up with the original and I think that’s what Woody’s story in this does so well. When you have accomplished your main aim in life, which for many is to simply get through whatever educational system your country has then get a job, we are often quite lost with what we do next and end up panicking. The movie gets this in a way that no movie truly has since The Graduate, which I admit is a weird comparison to make. But it is fantastic and is worth a place on this list.
6. Boy Erased
It’s easy to forget about the films released at the start of the year, especially when it has been a year as intense as this one, but it’s worth mentioning some of the great ones that came out at the start of 2019. One of them was Boy Erased, the truly fantastic film which finally made me like a performance by Lucas Hedges. This was a fantastic look at gay conversion camps, the horrifying and shockingly real thing that parents send their gay children to in an attempt to make them ‘normal’. I love the performances in this and the way it does try to be nuanced in the depiction of the family though obviously takes a stance on the fact these gay conversion camps are places of true evil. It’s the performance of Nicole Kidman that I think makes the film, though of course, Hedges is also fantastic and I finally get his success. It’s brilliant.
5. If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins came onto the map because of Moonlight, one of the best films I’ve seen in the last five years and probably would have topped this list this year and probably last as well. It would have been impossible to make something as good as that again but If Beale Street Could Talk comes damn close. While it’s not as prominent in the news as it was just a few years ago, even though it remains a problem, the story of a woman trying to free her wrongly imprisoned lover is incredibly painful and heart wrenching to watch. There’s a general hopelessness in the movie but there’s that one fleck of hope that keeps you watching and gets you through what is a tough watch with some amazingly acted but intense scenes. I hope Barry Jenkins can keep this quality up with his next few films.
4. John Wick — Chapter 3: Parabellum
And now for something completely different. Somehow, the third John Wick film is the best one when usually this is when a series starts to dip or just flat out tank. While I thought the lore building got a bit in the way in the second one, which I still thought was great, I can now see it was much like some of the lesser Marvel films. It was the foundation to make sure this film was as good as it was. The action is incredible and the best in the series, I mean that knife fight at the beginning is something else and makes me wish that these sort of movies would be up for the same sort of awards that the big dramas do. Well, it should at least get some nods for sound design unless the people running the Academy Awards want a visit from Keanu Reeves. And me.
Ok, I get that Joker has the most toxic fanbase out of any film this year. At times, they made the Rick and Morty fanbase look like a welcoming community. But much like that show, it shouldn’t distract from the fact the movie attracting the fanbase is actually incredibly good. In many ways, this is a redo of Taxi Driver even down to the fact Robert De Niro is in this but that’s not a slight on the movie. Being put in the same sentence as Taxi Driver is a high honour and one this movie works hard to deserve. Joaquin Phoenix is amazing as he starts off as a mentally ill person the system is failing before becoming psychotically violent as it becomes the one way he can get attention from society as a whole. The movie has been dissected to death already by me and pretty much anyone else who writes about movies but my final word on it is that it is excellent.
2. Stan and Ollie
I was gutted when this movie did not get the award nominations and plaudits that I believed it deserved. I get that there are always some award bait movies that end up being ignored but come on, considering Bohemian Rhapsody claimed far too many awards I think we could have made some room for this incredibly charming movie on the relationship between silent movie legends Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. This movie goes an alternate route by showing us the end of their career as they go on tour in the UK while trying to rustle up some money or their next movie. So what you get is plenty of their humour which made the original duo famous, and John C Reilly and Steve Coogan are incredible in their roles, as well as a great exploration of their relationship as their resentment of the mistakes the other has made in the past build up when they both realise their careers will be ending soon. I love it to pieces and can watch it on repeat.
- Avengers: Endgame
I know this is the most basic number one I could have picked for the top of my list. A true film critic would have put one of the more worthy films already on this list like Boy Erased, If Beale Street Could Talk or maybe even Joker if I write for The Sun. But I always try to be honest in these lists even if they end up making me seem like every other filmgoer. And the film I enjoyed the most this year was the conclusion to 11 years of build-up. This is a special film that will never be replicated because any other attempt to make a cinematic universe that could come close to this has failed right off the bat. But because Marvel have had plenty of patience over the years and have took their hits with the odd film which hasn’t been as good as expected, they were able to create something which got an emotional response like no other. The fact this movie was able to juggle all the balls thrown at it and the expectation going in is a feat that won’t be matched for potentially decades. Martin Scorsese may be angry at me but Avengers: Endgame is my Film of the Year.