In the past, I’ve just thrown up lists of every movie I saw for the first time in a year, but I’ve started to be more selective about what I call a ‘favorite’ movie of the year. So I really think about which films have left an impression on me in the long term or had a viewing experience that is quintessentially 2019. With that in mind, I’ve narrowed it down to eleven films and come up with some rules:
- The film must have been watched in 2019, but need not be released in this year.
- I’ll write a short statement about why this made my favorite list.
- If a film is missing that you think should be on the list, please remember maybe I saw it and chose not to put it on the list, or haven’t seen it yet. These are my personal choices. If you’re curious about my viewing habits, follow me on LetterBox’d under ReadingMalone.
- Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Consider my horror education lacking in that it look me until 2019 to finally see this pinnacle of Hollywood cinema. Since I love the Frankenstein mythos and lecture on adaptations of the material, I felt like it was about time I saw James Whale’s sequel and was not disappointed. It took key moments from the novel that were missing from the first film, added some interesting material, and, while she doesn’t appear on screen all that much, our titular Bride certainly makes an impact. This is a film I look forward to revisiting time and time again.
- The Ruins (2008). Generally I enjoy ecological horror because it’s closely aligned with my own rural horror. However, this film wasn’t quite what I expected and somehow more. I love that none of the choices were easy and that no one was a good guy or a bad guy and it told the same tired old story in a new way (also daylight horror for the win). The visceral moments of body horror are so well done and totally unforgettable. The performances and practical effects help sell what could be a laughable premise and make it a brilliant and terrifying reality.
- Logan Lucky (2017). I remember watching trailers for this film and then kind of forgetting about it? But after watching this hillbilly heist flick I’ve basically been recommending it to everyone I know and pushing it on them like drugs because I wish I’d seen it in theaters. Not only is it funny, but I love the whole robbing-raceway plot and family dynamic between Channing Tatum and Adam Driver. The film has so many people I enjoy in it and is so genuine, if a little saccharine at times, that I can’t not love it and all its West Virginian charms.
- Bad Times at the El Royale (2018). I’ve had this on my To-Watch this for a long time but finally got around to it recently and it was just as enjoyable as I hoped. The ensemble cast really delivers in their performances and the Tarantino-esque structure of the film allows for some mysteries to remain hidden until the end in this taut thriller. The music and setting are all wonderful and I like how each of the characters are built up and interact with each other. I was kept guessing until the end about some things, couldn’t begin to guess others, and what was obvious was meant to be. This is a fairly tight story that’s also full of those lovely aesthetics we do so love.
- The Nightingale (2018). Everyone raved about Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook back in 2015 and then a few years rolled by and her second film had a pretty quiet premiere internationally. Like sure, we hype up Ari Aster, Jordan Peele, and Robert Eggers with their indie darlings but when the singular woman of the horror renaissance quartet comes about people are weirdly silent. While I haven’t yet had a chance to see The Lighthouse, I’m comfortable saying, personal reasons aside, The Nightingale was the most haunting, uncomfortable film of the sophomore films so far. It was hard to watch. And maybe people want to distinguish it from horror by calling it a historical drama, but it shares many of the same basic plot points with classic horror films and it delivers a visceral reaction so I’m comfortable calling it a horror film. The performances are all around powerhouses and, while I don’t want to watch it again, I can’t help think of it often like a traumatic event seared into my brain. Beautiful cinematography and score/music as well.
- Long Shot (2019). I’m so happy with this rom-com renaissance we’re having in films and I’m sad that this Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen number was pretty much ignored by the public because it’s darling. Like sure, it has the requisite Rogen weed and wank jokes, but, at its heart, this is a story about love overcoming incredible odds—in this case political. It’s also wonderful to see Charlize Theron exercise her comedic side and they have wonderful chemistry. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is a great addition to the cast and I love seeing him in more films. Plus the soundtrack is fantastic.
- Midsommar (2019). For personal reasons, this will be my favorite horror film of the year. It’s the first movie I ever saw by myself, just me and two other people in the audience, and I didn’t know I’d be affected by the plot. Within a few minutes, I was holding in full-on sobs (lucky I had tissues in my purse) and they did not really stop for the whole film. Some people said this daylight horror about a grieving girl, her clueless boyfriend, and his friends encountering ancient Swedish rituals was actually a comedy but I saw deep into the tragedy’s heart and emerged in flames. The score, like Aster’s Hereditary, is really memorable, particularly “Gassed.” I’m so thankful for all this film has given me this year, and happy, in a weird way, that it’s on my comps list so I can keep talking about it for a bit longer.
- Crawl (2019). Crocodile/alligator movies are some of my favorite animal horror films and this film really stands out. Not since 2007’s Black Water have I been so thrilled by the appearance and disappearance of my darling reptiles on the screen. This is the first horror film my sister and I saw together (the first rated-R film I took her to) and we both cringed with the gore and jumped at a few of the scares. The actual plot, aside from the alligators, was surprisingly deep and I liked what that brought into a genre that usually passes over character studies in favor of scares. This is a film I’ll be happy to watch over and over again.
- Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019). Normally it takes me years to see a Quentin Tarantino flick and I’ve never seen one in theaters before, but I was happy to go with my coven and explore that classic Hollywood magic of the summer of 1969. As someone formerly obsessed with the Manson murders, I was pretty aware of what the movie was probably about but, in the end, I think the friendship and brotherhood between Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth was what I needed most out of the film. The aesthetics and soundtrack, so many of the quotable lines, and a timeliness story of knowing when your time is up and over can’t be underrated.
- Knives Out (2019). I was hyped for this from the first trailer and Chris Evan’s cussing lips. What an ensemble cast! What a mystery! Plus my dear Christopher Plummer! Let’s not forget the sweater seen round the world. What I actually saw was not what I expected in terms of plot but a little bit more. I enjoyed the characters, the set design, the costumes, and everything about the general mood and feel of the film. When I left the theater I felt inspired to try my hand at writing mysteries or amassing a large fortune so I could afford a mansion with hidden rooms. I look forward to watching the film again and unraveling more of its secrets.
- John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch (2019). I don’t really watch comedy specials, but I made an exception for John Mulaney because he’s a sweetheart and I kept seeing screenshots on Twitter. What I found was a genuine, warmhearted children’s special that examined fear and common antics I remembered getting up to myself (or my sister doing). I laughed at the jokes and almost cried from laughing in the last ten minutes. I jammed along to the super catchy songs. I almost cried when it got sentimental. I felt seen and called out several times. This is fabulous; what a way to end 2019.
I’ve got my eye on a lot of trailers for films coming out this year and I’ve still got catching up to do from past years so I’m sure I’ll find new favorites in 2020 to add to my ever-growing list of all-time faves.