The hard things about a top 10 list is depending on my mood when I write the list it could change form day to day. 2019 was an amazing year for movies and having 40 to choose from, this was a hard list to make. There are some controversial choices that I am certain will make so people’s worst movie of the year lists. I have connected emotionally with more movies this year than I have since I started my frequent movie viewing trips in 2014….
… and now for my favorite movies of 2019:
#10 – X-Men: Dark Phoenix
My Synopsis: This is a conclusion to a 4 movie series following the young X-Men. This story focuses mostly on the character of Jean Grey who is possessed by a powerful force that enhances her powers and her negative emotions. The X-Men need to help influence Jean to make sure she doesn’t go Dark and become an unstoppable force that could destroy the world.
Why I like this movie: This was the controversial choice I mentioned but even with its flaws there was an underlying message in this movie that I needed to hear at the time I saw this and that alone gives it a place on my top movies of the year. There is a flashback early in the film where Professor Charles Xavier adopted young Jean Grey… during a conversation they had Jean says, “You think you can fix me too?” and Charles replies “No, because you are not broken.” At the time I heard this I was still dealing with not feeling like myself… I felt very broken. The reminder that I am NOT broken really spoke to me. This theme comes up later in my list.
OH… and there is also one of the best fight scenes on a train at the conclusion of this movie that rivals many of the Marvel Universe movies. Give this one a try. It isn’t perfect and I am not oblivious to the flaws here but it touched me and so it has earned its place on my list.
#9 – Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker
My Synopsis: The conclusion of Rey’s story that began in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This movie tries to not only conclude her journey but also 8 other films that came before it.
Why I liked this movie: Before I go into it… I know that this movie has a lot of flaws and major plot holes but despite that I LOVED this! The reason is because it connected me with my childhood. Long before I ever saw a Star Wars movie I had the toys. I got to see my toys come to life in the 1970s on the big screen. Star Wars has been in my life as long as I can remember and it has been there through all eras of my life in the background. Because of this, these stories are special to me and I can forgive many of the errors and just enjoy the ride.
What surprised me was when I got out to the car I cried for a few minutes. With the nostalgia trip this took me on it connected me with some long lost memories and reminded me of many different trips to the theater with friends and family. I remembered conversations with friends from when I was in the 3rd grade talking about what I, at the time, just saw in Return of the Jedi. I really didn’t have high expectations for this one and was shocked when it had hit me so hard.
Daisy Ridley did an excellent job at bringing this character to life. You believe every emotion that Rey feels as she is pulled between the dark and the light sides of the force. With this performance this has placed Rey in my top 5 all time favorite Star Wars characters (just behind baby Yoda). I hope to see this character again in the near future. I also look forward to seeing what’s next for Ridley.
#8 – The Peanut Butter Falcon
My Synopsis: The movie follows Zak, played by Zack Gottsagen, who has Down Syndrome. He escapes from a group home to go on an adventure to become a professional wrestler. On his journey runs into Tyler who is a fisherman with a dark past, played by Shia LaBeouf, and his social worker Eleanor, played by Dakota Johnson.
Why I liked this movie: This movie has a great message that you can be whoever you want to be despite your limitations. It’s a great story about pushing through the resistance and it also had a sub message… you can be a good person despite what you have done in the past. Keep moving forward. In an interview with the filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz I learned that THIS story was inspired by the actor who played Zak, Zack Gottsagen. They met him unrelated to making a movie and when Zack found out that they were filmmakers he told them that they were going to make a movie that he was going to star as the hero. Learning about the real life Zack and being inspired by his positive attitude, they got to work on writing and creating this masterpiece of a film.
#7 – Ready or Not
My Synopsis: This story is about a newly wed bride meeting her husband’s rich family for the first time. They got their fortune by making board games. When anyone joins the family they play a game chosen from a box as a part of the family initiation. The problem is that if they pull the game of “hide and seek” … the new family member, in addition to having to hide in a home that they aren’t familiar with, must be killed before the night is over or the entire family dies… or that’s at least what the family thinks will happen.
Why I liked this movie: It is just too much fun! This movie is a good mix of comedy and horror and it is such a fun ride. Watching the main character navigate through an old creepy house with secret rooms and pathways avoiding the family and just trying to survive the night is just pure fun! If you can handle horror this is worth your time. It is very fast paced and it is well written. I look forward to seeing this again sometime soon now.
#6 – The Farewell
My Synopsis: A Chinese-American girl, Billi as played by Awkwafina, learns that her grandmother is dying of cancer. The whole family decided to keep it a secret from the grandmother and Billi is learning to deal with this and struggles with what to do with her emotions. Based loosely on a true story.
Why I like this movie: Some of my favorite movies are the ones that either touched me emotionally or caused me to question the way I see the world. This did both. I don’t want to ruin this movie but the theme that really spoke to me was the American way that focuses on the individual verses the Chinese way that puts the community/tribe/family first. This story has that perfect balance between serious drama and comedy.
#5 – A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
My Synopsis: A fictional story based loosely on a real friendship between Mister Rogers (played brilliantly by Tom Hanks) and a journalist for a major magazine. Mister Rogers agrees to do an interview for an article in Esquire and makes it his mission to positively influence the journalist and his family.
Why I liked this movie: Fred Rogers was an amazing human being. I learned this last year while watching the documentary on his live, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”. We learn from that story and in this movie that Fred Rogers was an ordained minister but decided to forgo being a traditional pastor of a church and become a children’s show host. His desire was to connect with every child directly through the TV and help them deal with the things that kids go through. He lived the biblical message “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Loving your neighbor was just as important as loving yourself. Since last year I have been trying, and many times failing, to model my life after some of the things that Fred Rogers taught. I try not to hold onto anger and I try to really understand other people’s point of view no matter how strange it may seem at face value. This is also the second movie this year that reminded me that “we are not broken”. I hope to continue to show myself and others grace as we try to navigate life together.
#4 – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
My Synopsis: This story follows Rick Dalton (Played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best friend and stunt double Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt) as Rick deals with the fact that he may be a has been. This a fictional story that takes place in 1969 Hollywood. As a sub plot the story follows Sharon Tate, who in real life was murdered by Charlie Manson’s followers.
Why I liked this movie: I loved the details director Quentin Tarantino put into this movie to recreate another time with the sights and sounds. I like a movie can successfully create a window to the past (see #2 on my list). For most of the movie it follows the lead characters at a slow pace as they deal with life. One way I connected with this movies was when I was 5, a close family member was murdered. Growing up I connected that story to the Manson murders, even though it was unrelated, because I connected the life of a loved one cut short with Sharon Tate’s life being cut short just as her movie career started to take off. The last 20 minutes of this movie was particularly interesting to me because of this.
#3 – Knives Out
My Synopsis: Appears to be a classic who done it murder mystery in a big house with a detective on the case that appears to be steps ahead of everyone as he instigates the crime. Director/Writer Rian Johnson once again subverts the well known tropes in this drama. What you see in the trailers doesn’t begin to prepare you for the fun that is this movie.
Why I liked this movie: Ana de Armas… I love this actress! I first saw her in Blade Runner 2049 and she was great in that. She really sells her role. The one thing this movie has going for it is Rian Johnson as the writer and director. He is known for doing genre movies and subverting all audience expectations. This makes this “who done it” a lot of fun as they go several layers deep in the plot.
#2 – Little Women
My Synopsis: I guess I don’t need to explain this but here it goes… this is based on a novel that is based on the life of Louisa May Alcott from the 1860s. The story shares moments of the lives of the March sisters as they deal with life in their time. What drew me to this movie was Greta Gerwig. She wrote and directed my favorite movie of 2017 (which also stared Saoirse Ronan who is in this movie) and I wanted to see what she could do with this story, that from interviews, it showed that she is a life long fan of this book.
Why I loved this movie: Stories like this are why I love to go to the movies. Stories whether fictional or based on real events have a life to them when they inspire others. Even though these stories didn’t necessarily happen exactly the way the did in Alcott’s life but this is a time capsule giving us a window into a world that is over 160 years ago. The characters even make reference to who would want to read about them. Of course the answer is several generations of women (and men) have enjoyed these stories of a time that in many ways is very different from ours today but the human journey and the emotion is still the same in 2020 as it was in 1860. They make many references to how women of this era were second class citizens. As someone who delights in women continuing to take on leadership roles and even seeing popular media that now feature woman as the main protagonist (example… Star Wars:7-9) the messages in this story are just important today as they were in Alcott’s time. It sad that woman have been suppressed for so long and it is great to live in a time where that is changing.
I think that people who have enjoyed past versions of this story shouldn’t assume that this is one to miss. Gerwig tells this story in a non-linear fashion that keeps it interesting. There is also a VERY multi-level meta story going on here that has a great pay off at the end of this film. THIS is the part I don’t want to spoil for you.
I have seen this movie twice already and I enjoyed it just as much on my second viewing. Currently listening to the beautiful soundtrack as I am typing this.
#1 – Jojo Rabbit
My Synopsis: The story follows Jojo who is a young boy in the Nazi version of boy scouts during WWII. We follow his journey as he goes from a diehard Nazi Jew hater to him realizing that everything he believed in was wrong. Also he has an imaginary friend who is his vision of Hitler played by Taika Waititi, the write and director of this film
Why I loved this movie: The big theme of this movie is about learning to question everything you believe in. I’ve had to do this a lot recently and I have had to come to terms with the fact that things that I accepted as truth for most of my life aren’t as I clear as I once thought.
There is a good balance of comedy and heart. The boy who plays Jojo, Roman Griffin Davis, did an amazing job at selling this role. You truly feel the emotions that he is going through… and even though this is in many ways a comedy, this kid goes through a lot of heartache and if you have a heart, you will along with him. Yes there are sad moments in this but I PROMISE the tears that you will be shedding by the end of this will be happy tears.
So there is my list? If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook please let me know what you think. What are your favorite movies in 2019?