The 50 Greatest Movie Moments of 2019

weekend box office doctor sleep

35. Dan Torrance Reunites With Jack Torrance in Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep takes its sweet time returning to the haunted Overlook Hotel from The Shining, but the wait is worth it. The grown Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) wanders the halls that defined and destroyed his youth, eventually coming to a familiar bar with a familiar bartender. While the specter refuses to acknowledge it, Dan and the audience knows this is the ghost of Jack Torrance. So father and son have a chat, with Dan cradling a glass of whiskey and thinking hard on the sins and addictions of his family. He eventually puts the drink down, at peace with his illness and his father’s crimes. It’s a powerful scene, made all the better by Henry Thomas’ choice to not do a Jack Nicholson caricature as Jack. (Jacob Hall)

the death of dick long trailer

34. How Dick Died in The Death of Dick Long

The Death of Dick Long is one of the most overlooked movies of 2019. It’s about a bunch of Southern-fried morons with lots of time to kill, and when one of their own dies in a freak accident, a cover-up kicks in that lasts for most of the movie. But when one of Dick Long’s pals finally has to explain the circumstances of Dick’s death to one of his loved ones in an emotional speech (I don’t even want to spoil it here in case you end up watching it – and I hope you do), the movie takes what could easily be a dumb joke and plays it fully straight. It’s reflective of the film’s entire approach and its treatment of its characters, never taking the opportunity to mock its characters for an easy laugh and instead affording its lovable idiots some genuine, human respect. (Ben Pearson)

El Camino gunfight

33. The Gunfight in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has worn his Western influences on his sleeve for years, but the shootout in El Camino between Jesse Pinkman and one of the Nazi sympathizers who treated him so brutally during his captivity is where Gilligan leans into those influences the most. In the tension-building and framing, it’s pure Sergio Leone. But in the creative and explosive culmination of the shootout, with Pinkman shooting his opponent through a gun hidden in his jacket pocket, the execution is pure Gilligan. (Ben Pearson)

1917 ending run

32. The Ending Run From 1917

As 1917 progresses, we watch Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) endure overwhelming obstacles in his attempt to deliver a message that will save hundreds of British lives. But as the clock ticks down, he has to think outside the box if he’s going to save them in time. Instead of shoving his way through the trenches to reach his final destination, Schofield does the unthinkable: he climbs up on the battlefield and runs perpendicular to waves of soldiers charging toward the front lines, desperately trying to dodge explosions and collisions with his fellow soldiers to cross his metaphorical finish line before all those doomed men walk into a trap. The camera pulls back, capturing the scope of the run in its full, terrible, jaw-dropping glory, all as the score swells and sound effects blast away in surround sound. It’s a moment tailor-made for the big screen, and one of the most indelible cinematic images of 2019. (Ben Pearson)

Sweetheart monster

31. A Flare Reveals the Monster in Sweetheart

J.D. Dillard’s indie horror survival film Sweetheart was unceremoniously dumped in 2019, but I’m hopeful that it will find its audience now that it’s streaming on Netflix. Even though I wasn’t head over heels for the film, there’s one moment in it that’s so objectively brilliant that it had to make this list. A few nights after Jenn (Kiersey Clemons) washes up on a deserted island, she’s surprised when a plane flies by overhead. She scrambles for a flare gun, runs down to the beach, and fires, desperate for the plane to notice and come rescue her. Instead, the flare slowly falls into the ocean – and just before it hits the water, it illuminates the gangly silhouette of a two-legged sea monster. It’s a shocking, terrifying reveal, and a perfect visual introduction to a force of nature that becomes the movie’s primary antagonist. (Ben Pearson)

30. Charlie Sings in Marriage Story

Marriage Story is a hard movie to sit through. It can be funny, but it’s also painfully raw. And after all the horrible fights and bitter divorce battles have seemingly come to an end, Noah Bambach does something interesting: he lets Adam Driver sing. Driver’s Charlie, still reeling but resigned to his divorce from wife Scarlett Johansson, is out with some friends when a piano player starts tinkling Being Alive” is from the Stephen Sondheim comedy “Company.” Charlie knows the song – he’s a theatre kid, of course he does – and he immediately begins crooning it. His singing seems sarcastic at first, but he gets more and more into the song, his voice rising. His relationship has ended, and he knows it – and he knows he’s lost it all. In a year full of great Adam Driver acting moments, this might be the best. (Chris Evangelista)

29. Romona’s Pole Dance in Hustlers

Hustlers waits a tick before bringing Jennifer Lopez as super-stripper Romona. But boy oh boy does she make an entrance. Lopez’s character takes the stage at the strip club and works that pole – and the room – with vigor, all as Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” blasts over the soundtrack. Lopez is sleek and sexy, and most of all, entirely commanding. We can’t take our eyes off her as she swings about and makes every poor sap in that room howl like a werewolf. And when it’s all over she struts off stage and has perhaps the best first line of the year: “Doesn’t money make you horny?” (Chris Evangelista)

28. Dani’s Group Cry in Midsommar

This is the scene that sold Midsommar for me as being not simply a horror film, but a horror film with a happy ending. It boils down to the idea of shared trauma — something that Dani (Florence Pugh) had been sorely lacking in her life in the aftermath of her entire family’s death. Stumbling upon her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) having sex with another woman in a strange, freaky orgy of bodies, she begins to cry, the sobs rolling through her body like a tidal wave that can’t be contained. It’s the breaking point for Dani as she loses the last person she thought she loved, until a group of women from the commune join her in her feral, outraged sobs, heaving in time with her and sharing in her grief. It’s a bizarre and beautiful moment that echoes real life: in the trauma we share and the communities we form through it. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

27. The Final Shot in Knives Out

In the end, Rian Johnson’s whoddunit doesn’t care so much about who did it (though the reveal is a treat), but who deserves it. At the end of Knives Out, it’s revealed that the deceased Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) bestowed his entire estate to his beloved nurse Marta (Ana de Armas), the one genuinely good person in the film. When Benoit Blanc’s (Daniel Craig) investigation turns up a ruse to rob Marta of this inheritance, he exposes it all, leaving the wealthy members of the Thrombey family quite literally kicked to the curb as Marta stands above them on a balcony, sipping coffee from a mug with the cheesy text, “My house, my rules.” The twists and turns of Knives Out leaves us with the most satisfying possible ending in this year of “eat the rich.” (Hoai-Tran Bui)

26. The Crane Shot in One Cut of the Dead

The first half hour of One Cut of the Dead is an intentionally shoddy, low-budget horror movie filmed in one chaotic take. The middle half hour flashes back in time to reveal the harried development of this ambitious project. The final half hour lets us watch the actual filming from a distance, as everything goes hilariously wrong before going wonderfully right. The shaky, amateur hour crane shot that concludes the original film is revealed to be a last-minute improvisation after the actual breaks. The only solution: the cast and crew must build a human pyramid, passing the camera up to the highest person to nail the shot. Watching everyone come together to get this done is a hilarious pay-off to a gag set up so early in the film and a beautiful tribute to the literal blood, sweat and tears shed during production of a film. (Jacob Hall)

25. The Fish Scene From The Irishman

A moment of levity before one of the tensest scenes in the film, the fish conversation is Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is an enigma. It has some basis in fact: the real Chuckie O’Brien (Jesse Plemons’ character) claims he really did transport a fish in his car the day Jimmy Hoffa disappeared. But Martin Scorsese uses this factoid to let his actors riff on the absurdity of it all. Does it have any bearing to the plot? No, but these wonderful esoteric moments are what make The Irishman so special. (Chris Evangelista)

the lighthouse trailer

24. A Curse Over Bad Cooking in The Lighthouse

If you set aside the gothic horror, the allusions to ancient myth, and the overwhelming sense of cosmic dread director Robert Eggers soaks into every frame of his follow-up to The Witch, you’re left with one of the best movies ever made about having a shitty roommate. The taciturn Thomas Howard (Robert Pattinson) and the grizzled Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) have little love for each other when they’re assigned to care for an isolated lighthouse for one month and their resentment only grows over long days, uneven work duties, and many, many farts. Eventually, Howard makes it clear that he doesn’t enjoy Wake’s cooking, leading the older man to curse his young comrade with a monologue – filmed in one unbroken extreme close-up on Dafoe’s face – full of fury and scorn, demanding that the gods of the sea strike the younger man down. It’s the film in a nutshell: hilarious and weird and creepy and unlike anything else.  (Jacob Hall)

23. John Gets His Ass Kicked in John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum

The great thing about Keanu Reeves’ John Wick is not that he’s the most skilled hitman on the planet – it’s that he’s the most skilled hitman on the planet who faces increasingly stacked odds, gets his butt kicked and his nose bloodied, and keeps on getting back up. Late in his third adventure, an already battered and exhausted John faces off against two assassins played by The Raid franchise veterans Yayan Ruhian and Cepep Arif Rahman, who proceed to hand his ass straight to him, tossing him through one glass window after another. But they always pause, letting John stand back up, making it clear that they’re downright honored to be fighting him. Eventually, John turns the tables and lets them live out of respect, but it’s a long, bloody, hilarious road to that point. It’s the appeal of these films in a nutshell. (Jacob Hall)

the farewell real grandmother

22. Tai-Chi in The Farewell

Amid the big questions that The Farewell poses about ethics and its depiction of the growing cultural divide between East and West are small moments of quiet sentimentality that make Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical drama feel so real and tactile. One such moment is when Billi (Awkwafina) joins her grandmother Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) as she practices tai chi outside. Nai Nai attempts to coach her granddaughter through the movements, which Billi halfheartedly does, affectionately calling her “stupid child” — a term of endearment in Chinese. Nai Nai preaches the benefit of tai chi, beaming as sheconfidently declares her practicing of the martial art as the reason for her continuing good health. A flicker of sadness passes through Billi’s face and she practices the movements with a renewed energy, yelling out an awkward “Hai!” It’s a wonderfully quiet moment that puts on display the real love that Billi and her Nai Nai share for each other, and embodies the film’s thesis of gaining a fuller understanding of cultural differences through grief: at the end of the film, Billi is back in the streets of Brooklyn and still in turmoil over the secret of her grandmother’s cancer. She stops, takes a deep breath, and yells out a loud, ringing “Hai!” (Hoai-Tran Bui)

21. Every Scene with Billie Lourd as Gigi in Booksmart

Carrie Fisher may have left us a few years ago, but she left behind her daughter Billie Lourd to keep us company. Thankfully, Booksmart let her break out in a big way as Gigi, the wild eccentric high school student who inexplicably keeps running into Amy (Kaitlyn Deaver) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) throughout their night of debauchery. Gigi is the epitome of cool, is never short on good drugs, and is truly the life of the party. She’s like a fairy godmother, and Billie Lourd was so outstanding while shooting the movie that new scenes were written for her throughout production. (Ethan Anderton)

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