Ethan Anderton's Top 10 Movies Of 2019 So Far

We've officially hit the midpoint of 2019, and that means it's time to take stock of the year's best movies so far. This summer has been mostly unremarkable, with a few glimmers of greatness here and there, but thankfully, the rest of the year has offered some gems worth gushing about. Honestly though, most of the great movies this year, at least for my personal list, come courtesy of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and thankfully, they'll be on the way to theaters soon enough.

Below, find out my list of the 10 best movies of 2019 so far.

Before we get to the list, we'll lay down the basic ground rules. In order to qualify for our midpoint lists being released this week, obviously we had to have seen the movie already, but the movie didn't have to be released before July 1 this year. As long a movie has a release date for 2019, it's fair game. So let's get down to the movies that impressed me enough to make my Top 10 Movies of 2019 So Far.

10. Brittany Runs a Marathon

There have been plenty of inspirational sports movies over the years, but few have been as hilarious and personal as Brittany Runs a Marathon. The film from filmmaker Paul Downs Colaizzo tells the true story of a young woman named Brittany (Jillian Bell of 22 Jump Street and Workaholics) who decides to get her directionless life in order step-by-step. Literally. Out of shape and out of motivation, Brittany suddenly gets the ambition to run to the end of her block. Then she runs a couple. Then a mile. And before you know it, she's training for the New York City marathon.

But this isn't just a movie about becoming a long distance runner. It's about having confidence in yourself, feeling good in your own body, and making the most of your life when everyone else starts to count you out and put you in a corner. Jillian Bell makes a star-making turn in a lead role that lets her flex her seasoned comedic chops while also stretching into dramatic territory in a wholly satisfying way. It's a movie that's inspiring in more ways than one, and it's thoroughly entertaining as well. Read my full review from Sundance earlier this year, and get ready for the movie to arrive on August 23, 2019.

9. Toy Story 4

Color me shocked that a movie that felt totally unnecessary suddenly has become one of my favorites of the year. But here we are with Pixar Animation's sequel Toy Story 4, a movie that somehow manages to turn the perfect period at the end of Toy Story 3 into an ellipsis that leads into one more touching and hilarious adventure for Woody and the rest of Andy's (now Bonnie's) toys.

Woody has always been the star of the Toy Story franchise, and in this sequel, he's cautious and hesitant to think about having a life that doesn't require him to live for the pleasure of somebody else. It's a story that is clearly born of Pixar's animators seeing their kids grow up and no longer needing the nurturing and parenting as much as they once did. But beyond that, it's a movie about venturing out into the unknown, to a part of life where we are far outside our comfort zone. And as an adult who has grown up alongside the Toy Story franchise after seeing the original in 1995 at just nine years old, that's something that hits me right in the heart.

8. Blinded by the Light

Based on the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who also co-wrote the film directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham), Blinded by the Light takes us into the British town of Luton. Sitting 30 miles outside of London, it's the kind of place where nothing happens. But there's plenty of adversity to overcome for teenage Pakistani boy Javed (Viveik Kalra), who not only has to deal with being held back by his family's stringent, culturally conservative lifestyle, but he also with the prejudice of close-minded British people in 1987. Thankfully, there's one person will guide the way.

As the spiritual sister to Sing Street, Blinded by the Light uses the music of Bruce Springsteen to inspire this young man to be true to himself and follow his dreams, even if they go against everything his family has asked of him. But his dreams come with a lesson that he has to learn the hard way. That's what makes this coming-of-age movie resonate so much. It's a movie for all those kids who have ever felt out of place in their own home and need to feel a sense of belonging without completely forgetting where they came from. With Viveik Kalra giving an outstanding breakthrough performance, this is one of those indie gems that will warm your heart and fill you with joy. Read my full review from Sundance and seek it out when it arrives on August 14, 2019.

7. Honey Boy

Shia LaBeouf has had a tough go in show business in recent years, but he also had a rough life growing up as a child star with an alcoholic father who exploited him for his talent and abused him physically and emotionally. So what better way for LaBeouf to work through those issues than with an autobiographical movie (which he wrote himself) than by starring in a movie about his childhood years. But LaBeouf exorcises his demons by playing his own father, and he lets A Quiet Place star Noah Jupe take the spotlight as the troubled adolescent who is force to grow up and take care of himself all too quickly.

While this movie feels like it's treading familiar territory, what adds a layer of emotion and strength to the proceedings is the presence of LaBeouf telling his own story. It makes it feel that much more authentic instead of melodramatic. What could have felt like an after school special feels like a real tragedy, one that has been seen countless times throughout Hollywood's history. Director Alma Har'el makes it even more personal as she brings a sensitive eye to the story as the survivor of an alcoholic father of her own. This movie is personal for these filmmakers, and that makes it all the more harrowing and hard-hitting. Read my full review from Sundance here before the movie arrives in theaters on November 8, 2019.

6. Booksmart

Here we have a contender for the funniest movie of 2019, and it's all thanks to the incredible comedic collaboration of Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. The two actresses play a pair of dedicated high school seniors and best friends who realize they need to cut loose a little bit before heading off and reaping the benefits of working harder than the rest of their classmates to get into a good college. Of course, their night of debauchery turns into an endless barrage of insanity, danger, drinking, mishaps, betrayal, misunderstandings, and top notch comedy.

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein feel like a seasoned comedic duo who have been working together for years. And while it's easy to see Booksmart as just a girl version of Superbad (especially with Feldstein being Jonah Hill's younger sister), the movie manages to be so much more than a retread of familiar territory. That's mostly because high school has simultaneously changed and stayed the same in the 12 years since Superbad was made. Sure, a lot of the same kids are in high school as decades before, but it's also full of more diverse and progressive personalities as society around us has become far more accepting. This is a portrait of the modern high school experience with the classic trials and tribulations that come with being a teenager, but it's enlivened by the exciting new filmmaking eye of first-time director Olivia Wilde, and it's a remarkable beginning to what will hopefully be a fruitful career.

5. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

The John Wick franchise has come a long way since the titular assassin first proclaimed that he was thinkin' he's back. While most franchises tend to stumble somewhat as they continue, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum proves that they can keep getting better in every way.

Keanu Reeves is in top form as the gun-toting, knife-throwing professional hit man who might as well be invincible, even if he takes more than a few licks here and there. With Halle Berry added into the mix with a dead-eye behind the gun, some weight behind her punches, and a pair of deadly dogs, John Wick has never been more exhilarating. Combine that with a visual feast that makes fight sequences and motorcycle chases look like electrified paintings, and you've got one of the most thrilling, bone-crunching blockbusters of the year. It's an undeniable hit that should be seen on the biggest screen possible, so if you haven't had the pleasure, you've still got some time.

4. The Farewell

This one is much more personal than any of the other films in my list. Over the past four years, I've lost one of my four grandparents every single year. It's been a crushing reminder of mortality and the limited time we have to spend with the loved ones who have been around our entire lives. And Lulu Wang's lovely, endlessly charming The Farewell not only pulled at those sensitive heartstrings, but it played them like a tearjerking ballad.

Awkwafina has a breakthrough performance that's entirely different from her star-making turn in Crazy Rich Asians. In this movie, she's much more reserved and mellow as she and her family embark on creating a fake wedding back home in China in order to secretly bid farewell to their grandmother. That's because she's just been diagnosed with a terminal lung cancer, and her family wants her to live the rest of her life with dignity and without worry. What follows is a warm, delightful family reunion that is full of all the comedy and drama that comes with seeing old relatives and reconnecting with those you once grew up with. It's a feel-good movie that will make you remember departed relatives with fond memories and hold the rest of your living family members even closer. The Farewell arrives in theaters in July 12, 2019.

3. Avengers: Endgame

Since Marvel Studios gave me one of the most satisfying theatrical experiences that I've ever had, it only makes sense that it's one of my favorite movies of the year so far. Despite clocking in at three hours, Avengers: Endgame feels like an absolute breeze as it charges through the epic conclusion of a 22-film saga that started out as a pipe dream. The movie somehow manages to build upon the expansive mythology of the superheroes we've come to love across multiple franchises and gives them character arcs that stand firmly on their own within this movie, but also somehow conclude the stories that began in their own franchises several films ago.

Bursting at the seams with massive blockbuster action, entertaining time travel, unexpected turns, and eagerly anticipated moments that franchises have been building to for years, Avengers: Endgame isn't just another sequel. This is a milestone in pop culture history the likes of which may never be seen again. It's a franchise composed of franchises that bring just as many tears as cheers. No summer blockbuster has been as fulfilling, and it'll be hard for any other movie to incite the kind of jubilation that Marvel did with this miracle of a movie.

2. Us

While Avengers: Endgame delivered the blockbuster goods, Jordan Peele brought the provocative chills with his sophomore directing effort Us. Though the movie might not seem as polished as Get Out, Peele stretches his legs and makes an ambitious reach for a movie that has even more to say about society. The movie sees a family terrified by a quartet of doppelgangers who are petrifying versions of themselves. And they come with an eerie and deadly message.

Driving this film into your nightmares is Lupita Nyong'o who turns in a truly mystifying performance as a mother haunted by her past and the the croaky doppelganger who aims to replace her and the entire family. Their motivation is one of desperation as they yearn to be free from the sheltered lives they led underground, but this is more than a Twilight Zone-esque story of being replaced by twisted versions of ourselves. It's a movie that is about being forgotten, but instead of being just one single simple metaphor, this movie comes with endless interpretations and questions, and that's what makes me love it so much. There's something new to notice and appreciate with every rewatch, and that helps make a horror movie we'll be talking about for years.

1. The Report

During these troubled political times, it's nice to be reminded that there are victories when good people stand up and do what's right. Unfortunately, the victory celebrate in The Report is but a small one compared to the atrocities that made this move necessary, and the fallout which follows the terrible and unethical decisions made by the United States government that opened the door for even more mistakes, and even worse, intentionally despicable acts.

Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns gets behind the camera for his sophomore directing effort, and he swings for the fences with this story of Senate staffer Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), who is tasked with leading an investigation into the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program that followed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The horrors of bureaucracy, political fear, and government cover-ups come to light as we see exactly what politicians tried to keep from us in their attempts to supposedly keep us safe.

This movie sizzles, which is impressive for a film that's about digging through thousands of government documents, meeting in offices, and speaking sternly to each other about dense subject matter that can barely effectively be covered by the 24-hour news cycle. But Scott Z. Burns tears through this subject matter like All the President's Men, and it's a riveting account of political intrigue, and it's all the more compelling because it's unfortunately all true. You can read my full review of The Report from Sundance right here before the movie arrives in theaters on September 27, 2019.


That's all for my personal list of the 10 Best Movies of 2019 so far. There are still some movies that I've missed that I'm very much looking forward to catching in the near future. They include Midsommar, The Souvenir, Apollo 11, The Beach Bum, High Life, Her Smell, Gloria Bell, Hail Satan? The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and Amazing Grace. And there are plenty more to come in the second half of 2019 as well, so I'm very much looking forward to revisiting this list towards the end of the year to see how my favorites have changed over time.