Ethan Anderton’s Top 10 Movies of 2019

Ethan Anderton's Top 10 Best Movies of 2019

If anyone tells you 2019 wasn’t a good one for cinema, then they’re watching the wrong movies. With all the hell raging around the world, it’s harder than ever to give us a proper escape into the movies. In fact, some of the best movies of the year didn’t even bother with trying to ignore the problems we’ve been facing, and instead used them to inform some of the most riveting, compelling, powerful and even heartfelt movies of the year. Many of them are even among the best of the decade, in my opinion. So without further adieu, let’s get into my own Top 10 Movies of 2019.

Ethan Anderton’s Top 10 Movies of 2019

Jordan Peele Talks Us Expectations

10. Us

Jordan Peele exploded onto the big screen as a filmmaker with Get Out. But rather than get comfortable with his sophomore effort, Peele gets more ambitious, creating a movie that is riddled with ambiguous metaphors, full of multiple hidden meanings. Is it about a culture losing its identity as it assimilates into a society in order to find acceptance? Is it about empty promises to a race of people that still left behind? Is is about the duality of mankind and the good and evil inside all of us? What if it’s about all of that and more? Furthermore, the film also features some of the most haunting performances of the year, especially from Lupita Nyong’o, whose croaky voice and chilling gaze never fail to create tension. This is horror at its absolute finest.

9. Knives Out

The classic murder mystery is a genre that has fallen by the wayside in favor of thrilling true crime stories. But director Rian Johnson has infused new life into the whodunit with Knives Out. However, this particular murder mystery comes with a heavy dose of relevant social commentary about racism, class and entitlement. Ana De Armas gives a breakthrough performance as the home nurse who gets caught up in more intrigue than she ever could have imagined, and Daniel Craig becomes a delightful deep fried southern detective who gives Hercule Poirot a run for his money, and he even has a better name in Benoit Blanc. Combine that with an incredible ensemble cast where each actor gets their chance to shine, and you’ve got one hell of a flick.

little women first look

8. Little Women

Despite loving Frances Ha and Lady Bird, my excitement for Greta Gerwig tackling a new adaptation of Little Women was almost non-existent. Even the presence of a stellar cast that includes Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts and Bob Odenkirk didn’t prepare me for how much I would end up loving this movie. Gerwig has injected modern life into this classic tale, finding a refreshing way to tell the story of aspiring writer Jo March by jumping back and forth in time, allowing many emotional beats to resonate in new ways. This movie lifts you up, occasionally knocks you down, but leaves your heart filled to the brim.

the report best of

7. The Report

Despite seeing this movie at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival nearly an entire year ago, somehow this movie packs even more of a significant punch in the face of another pointless, senseless and unnecessary war on the horizon. The Report looks back at the morally reprehensible interrogation tactics utilized by the United States government in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The torture on display is infuriating enough, but it’s the inaction by our government to rectify the situation and admit their wrongdoings, mistakes made on both sides of the aisle by Republican and Democratic presidents, that is truly horrifying and upsetting. This movie is dense and rich with exposition that director and writer Scott Z. Burns makes sizzle in conversations between Adam Driver as Senate staffer Daniel Jones and  and Annette Bening as Senator Dianne Feinstein, and for anyone who is unable to bring themselves to read the 500-page summary of the torture report, this movie acts as riveting and maddening Cliff’s Notes for blood stains on our flag.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood first reactions

6. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

It’s no secret that writer and director Quentin Tarantino is one of the most informed and educated cinephiles working today. So who better to write a love letter to Holllywood as the classic Tinseltown that everyone used to admire was on the verge of losing its innocence. At the same time, we have aging actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his driver and stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) on their way out of the spotlight, and a rising star in the form of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), high on the promise of her dreams coming true. These three are facing an America that is about to drastically change, and in the real world, their stories have a tragic ending. But Tarantino gives them a fairytale ending, albeit with some blood and gore, that lets this dreamy alternate version of Hollywood continue on in with newfound hope.

the farewell real grandmother

5. The Farewell

It’s easy for movies that play the Sundance Film Festival to be impressive. The buzz in the mountains is heightened by the elevation and the excitement of seeing these movies for the very first time with a crowd of movie lovers. But every now and then, one of those movies has the legs to go the distance all the way to the Oscars the following year, and The Farewell is one of them. Written and directed by Lulu Wang, the film tells the story of a Chinese family trying to keep a terminal cancer diagnosis from their grandmother. They all use the guise of a cousin’s wedding as an opportunity to say their goodbyes, and the result is a funny, touching, story that is representative of an under-served culture on the big screen, and one that is very personal to Lulu Wang.  But the movie also resonates universally in its approach to family love, memories, identity and success, largely thanks to a breakthrough, award-worthy performance from Awkwafina.

4. Avengers: Endgame

Blockbusters tend not to get much love during awards season, and even when critics round-up their end of the year lists, prestigious dramas often outshine these big budget special effects extravaganzas. But in the same way that the Academy gave a record number of Oscars to Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in honor of Peter Jackson’s achievement for the entire J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, Avengers: Endgame deserves recognition as the culmination of an unprecedented blockbuster franchise featuring interconnected stories, crossover characters, and an overarching narrative that builds to something truly spectacular. But even without taking into account this conclusion to the first era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is a blockbuster that packs an emotion punch, brings some of the most astounding comic book action to life, and has some damn fine performances from the core team of superheroes played by Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner.

3. The Irishman

Death comes for all of us, and that seems to be something that’s on the mind of director Martin Scorsese with his epic crime drama The Irishman. Throughout the movie, text appears in front of various crime bosses and thugs detailing the manner of the year in which they died and the gruesome manner in which they met their end. No matter the power they had, the money they grabbed, the status they earned, they all ended up in the same place: six feet in the ground. And that’s exactly where we’re all headed. So what is our legacy? What are we leaving behind? What will truly matter when we all reach the end? This is exactly what Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is left wondering as the last man standing from these decades of crime and betrayal. The final shot brings together everything that came before it as Frank asks a visiting priest at his nursing home to leave the door to his room open a little bit. Is it in memory of the man he betrayed? Is it a hope that his family will one day walk through it and understand the sacrifices he made for them, even if they were misguided? Or is it his way of keeping the door open to the past where he felt like his life had purpose? Maybe it’s all of that.

Jojo Rabbit

2. Jojo Rabbit

It’s a shame that we have to remind people how shitty Nazis were and how bad it is that they have a newfound confidence in today’s circus of a political climate. But Taika Waititi deals with this burden as only he can with Jojo Rabbit. The movie follows a young boy (newcomer Roman Griffin Davis) who has been brought up to be a Nazi, hoping to become a man at a boys camp where they learn all the best ways to be cruel, hateful, and honor the Führer. But it should come as no surprise that all the Nazis in this movie are bumbling buffoons (Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson hilariously among them), and our main character has a lot of lessons to (un)learn from them when he discovers a teenage Jewish girl being hidden in his attic by his mother. Whipping back and forth between gutbusting comedy and heartbreaking drama, this is a story of acceptance and natural love in the face of indoctrinated hate. And it has Taika Waititi also making an absolute mockery of Hitler, so what else can you ask for?

Parasite

1. Parasite

With all the buzz surrounding this movie once it hit theaters back in the fall, I was glad to experience it having read very little about the plot. That made this a roller coaster of a theatrical experience, especially since the movie isn’t so easily defined in one particular genre, fluctuating from an amusing family heist to a grim thriller and a poignant commentary on class. Full of suspense, horror, comedy, chills, and plenty of shocking twists, there’s no movie out there like Parasite. Director Bong Joon-ho lifts up the poor, knocks down the rich, but ultimately takes blender to everyone to show that we’re all animals willing to do whatever we have to in order to keep what we have or get something more, even if it means defying others of the same satisfaction. It’s brutal in its scathing commentary on the dark side of our ambitions, and even though the escalation of the film’s thrills feel like they could only exist on the big screen, the sentiment of what happens on the screen is very much present in our everyday lives.

If you’d like to see what my favorite movies of the decade were, spanning 2010-2019, head over here.

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