The 50 Greatest Movie Moments of 2019

sharon movie

20. Sharon Tate Goes to the Movies In Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is ultimate a hang-out film, and while most of that hanging-out involves Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, there’s also Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. Quentin Tarantino turns the doomed actress into the heart and soul of the film – a free-spirit who drifts through Los Angeles like she’s walking on air. Most important of all: Tarantino brings Sharon Tate back to life and makes her something more than a “Manson family victim.” She’s not a victim at all here – she’s a living, breathing person. After a delightful sequence in which she effecitvely charms herself into a movie theater for free by revealing she’s one of the stars of the movie currently playing, Sharon ends up dancing her way to a seat, excited to see herself larger than life. And there’s something magical about having Sharon Tate alone at the movies, watching herself on the screen. To make the moment extra meta, Tarantino has the footage Robbie’s Sharon is watching feature the real Sharon Tate. This could’ve backfired – sure, Robbie and Tate look somewhat similar, but not that similar. But it works. And it works primarily because of Robbie. She sells the moment, looking both overjoyed at her performance, and at the reaction of the rest of the audience. They laugh at her jokes, they cheer when she kicks ass. Up on the screen, she’s alive. And in the world of this film, she has her whole life in front of her. (Chris Evangelista)

the farewell awkwafina

19. Billi Remembers Her Childhood in The Farewell

Awkwafina proves she’s more than just a comedian with her work in The Farewell. While she gets to do some drolly funny work in Lulu Wang’s film, it’s her dramatic moments that shine. Particularly a moment near the end, where her character, Billi, emotionally recounts her childhood – specifically how her family moved from China to America, and how everything she thought she knew was just gone. Wang slowly pushes in on Awkwafina’s face during the speech, and the performer has such raw emotion and heartache that it will leave you speechless. (Chris Evangelista)

I Am Iron Man - Avengers Endgame

18. “I Am Iron Man” in Avengers: Endgame

The end of Avengers: Endgame is about more than just taking down Thanos. It’s about putting an exclamation point on an entire era in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a universe which didn’t exist until after Robert Downey Jr. first stepped into the role of Tony Stark in the original Iron Man. Tony’s act of sacrifice completes his transformation from a selfish billionaire playboy philanthropist into a man who’s willing to lay down his life for the greater good, and his final, triumphant words to his most dangerous villain carry the weight of 20+ other movies in them. That guy’s always been great with a quick comeback, and this one meant the most of all. (Ben Pearson)

17. The Second Home Invasion in Us

Jordan Peele continually pull the rug from underneath our expectations in Us, his magnificent and somewhat messy follow-up to Get Out. But none of those rug-pulls makes us fall harder than the second home invasion in Us, when the shallow and vapid Tyler family are attacked by their Tethered. It’s a scene filled with even more blood and gore than the first eerie scene, and rife with sly satirical nods too — when Kitty screams at her virtual assistant to call the police, it instead starts playing N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police,” an angry rap anthem against racially motivated aggression, while blood is splattered all over it. But the most horrifying revelation of this scene is that Us is not about an isolated incident like we thought, but a mass attack happening across the nation. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

16. Captain America Leads the Charge in Avengers: Endgame

Captain America is undoubtedly the MVP of the final battle of Avengers: Endgame, and there are two key moments that we’ve combined here to represent this incredible sequence. The first, seen above, is when Cap summons Thor’s hammer Mjolnir into his hand and starts beating the crap out of Thanos. He knocks Thanos to the ground, brings down lightning, throws the hammer at his shield to create a shockwave, and generally kicks ass. Unfortunately, his victory is short-lived, and it seems like all hope is lost. But then reinforcements come in, and everyone who Thanos snapped away five years ago comes back ready for battle. And then we finally get that moment fans have been wanting to see for years: Avengers, assemble. (Ethan Anderton)

15. The Big Fight Scene in Marriage Story

A marriage isn’t just a legal method to commit to a relationship – it’s you giving someone permission and the necessary weapons to break your heart. After spending much of the film following Charlie and Nicole carefully maintaining their civility during an increasingly ugly divorce, Marriage Story breaks out the knives late in the game. A measured conversation slowly ramps into a screaming match, with both former partners targeting hidden weak points, targeting one another with low blows that cannot ever be taken back. Although the sequence has inspired a popular (and very funny) meme, no amount of internet comedy can dull what is one of the most devastating and well-acted scenes of the year. (Jacob Hall)

portrait of a lady on fire best of

14. The Ending of Portrait of a Lady on Fire

I wrote about this scene in detail for /Film’s Best of the Decade coverage, and since the film hasn’t opened in wide release yet, I’ll keep this description short and spoiler-free. But suffice it to say that Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s lingering final shot is one of the most powerful images of the year, a poignant culmination of the movie’s swooning romance, and a wonderfully realized microcosm of one of the film’s key ideas – how the act of looking at another person, of really seeing them, can feel vital and even revolutionary. I bow down before actress Adèle Haenel and writer/director Céline Sciamma. (Ben Pearson)

13. The Final Moments of Parasite

Bong Joon-ho’s darkly comic thriller is a tightly wound ball of a movie, like a spring coil set to explode. Which makes it more surprising (in a film filled with surprises) when Parasite doesn’t explode at the end so much as let out a long, sad, deeply cynical sigh. After the birthday bloodbath that leads to Kim Ki-jeong’s death (Park So-dam) and her father Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) on the run as a fugitive from the law, Parasite becomes a slower and more aimless movie than it was before, the Kim family defeated by their ambitions and forced back into their impoverished lives. But when the son Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) finds returns to observe the wealthy house at the center of their misfortunes, he sees the lights flickering on and off in what is revealed to be a Morse code message from his father, now living in the underground cellar. Overjoyed to see his father safe, Ki-woo writes back an optimistic message to him, promising that he will make enough money to buy back the house so all Ki-taek needs to do is walk upstairs into the sun. But as Ki-woo writes the message and dreams of the wealthy future he knows he will have, the camera pans down from the window of the semi-basement down to Ki-woo, in an echo of the opening shot and a bleak visual statement that these dreams all reside above ground, where the poor don’t belong. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

12. Jo Negotiates Her Happy Ending in Little Women

When Louisa May Alcott first published Little Women in 1868, she was pressured by her publisher to change her ending so that her heroine, Jo March, would end up married by the end. It’s a real-life situation that Greta Gerwig’s adaptation cheekily reflects, in an Inception-style ending that is left ambiguous as to whether Jo (Saoirse Ronan) gets the romantic ending she writes in her book. The final 10 minutes of the film are bookended by Jo negotiating with her publisher Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts), who is rankled when she insists that her heroine end the book married to no one, keeping in line with her frequent declarations that she will never marry. But Mr. Dashwood insists that the character must be married, or else the book won’t sell. Jo acquiesces as long as she gets to own the copyright to her book, and the scene cuts back to her running in the rain to reunite with Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel), the handsome French professor who she had fallen in love with in New York. “I love it,” Mr. Dashwood remarks after the scene plays out, swooning violins and all. “It’s romantic.” In the film’s final minutes, a sunny future is envisioned in which a married, blissfully domestic Jo walks through her crowded school with her sisters, cutting back and forth between that and a joyful Jo watching her book get printed through a window (in a scene not unlike a woman watching her newborn in a hospital). Little Women presents two options: the life of domestic bliss or the life of a writer? It could be one or the other, or both. Whatever the ending you prefer, both are valid, and both are just as joyous. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

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11. Jo Walks Down the Stairs Twice in Little Women

Greta Gerwig’s screenplay for Little Women breaks the classic novel into two separate timelines, with past events running parallel to the present. However, this is not just a stylistic choice, but an emotional one. Late in the film, Jo (Saoirse Ronan) runs down the stairs of her home to see that her extremely ill younger sister has made a remarkable recovery. Years later, but only moments later in the film, Jo slowly steps down those same stairs, only to learn that poor Beth has finally passed on. The juxtaposition of similar imagery is powerful and reinforces what so much of the film is about: the past and the present, our happiest moments and our saddest, all coexist within us at the same time. (Jacob Hall)

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