2019 was an uncannily good year for cinema and in any given year the lowest rungs of this list could easily be the best film of the year. Films from the likes of Tarantino and Scorsese only made my honorable mentions and a movie about Mr. Rogers barely made my top 15. This was an exceptionally great year for female directors with 3 of my top ten filled by women. Additionally, 4 of the top ten were breakout films from new directors, all of whom have promising careers ahead of them.
10. Booksmart – This comedy took the coming-of-age film into the 21st century with star-making performances from its two leads and a truly amazing directorial debut from Olivia Wilde.
9. The Last Black Man in San Francisco – This one was a surprise as it blurs the lines between the real life and the fiction of protagonist Jimmie Fails who comes on the scene in a big way with this breakout.
8. Little Women – One of the finest American novels was in the right hands with Gerwig who punched up the dialogue and used a truly magnificent ensemble to give a voice to the underrepresented and lonely.
7. Knives Out – The murder mystery is one of the sparser genres used in film, but when it is done right, as this one is, it can be a truly magical experience which is what makes this film such an amazing romp.
6. Pain and Glory – Pedro Almodovar is one of the finest directors in the world and this semi-autobiographical film might be his opus, but it also might just be another in a great career of filmmaking.
5. Marriage Story – Divorce is one of the most raw and painful experiences in a person’s life and Noah Baumbach gives it the cinematic treatment with Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver living it.
4. Apollo 11 – Documentaries usually appeal to a very specific crowd and its rare to get one that has the feel of a thriller, but this film might have been a live broadcast of the greatest moment in human history.
3. 1917 – No one who talks about this film does so without mentioning Roger Deakins’ cinematography and rightly so, since he manages to turn an already exciting film into a single-shot masterpiece.
2. The Farewell – Too Chinese for Americans and too American for the Chinese, this film may have struggled to find its niche, but Lulu Wang manages to thread the needle perfectly with help from a very personal story.
1. Parasite – There may never be another film like this one, both funny and terrifying in different intervals, this film never lets up and proves that Bong Joon-ho may very well be the greatest living director.