PRESS PLAY: TOP FILMS OF 2019

It’s been a big year for cinema. We’ve rated the best movies to put on your watchlist right now

19.12.2019

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Looking back, 2019 has been a year of firsts for film. We’ve seen Beyoncé as a lioness, J-Lo as a stripper and Iggy Pop as a zombie. There’s been more genre-provoking horrors, some audacious dramas and a variety of standout indie hits. If you find yourself in the slump between Christmas and New Year comatose from that third mince pie and that fourth (wait, fifth) mulled wine, our top 30 films of the year have you covered.

THE FAVOURITE

The film that won Olivia Coleman her Oscar, this period-piece directed by Yorgos Lanthimos isn’t like your usual Sense & Sensibility/Pride & Prejudice style of film. It’s satirical, spunky and has a sharp script that is brought to life by glowing performances from Coleman as Queen Anne, and her two ‘favourites’ - Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone.

MARRIAGE STORY

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johanson play a married couple going through a testing bi-coastal divorce in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. A film so accurate in its depiction it leaves you questioning your own relationships, this Kramer vs. Kramer style drama takes the top spot for many reasons.

BOOKSMART

Witty, sharp and brutally honest, Olivia Wilde serves up a highschool movie you (we) can actually relate to. Think Superbad with a more female focus, just switch the iconic period-on-leg scene for a barbie doll sex scene.

THE IRISHMAN

Watching The Irishman is like watching a who’s who of Italian-American actors. With direction from Martin Scorsase and a stella cast that includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci as well as Ray Romano and Bobby Cannevale, it’s practically a 3-hour ode to the mob-film genre. If you liked The Sopranos, then you’ll love this.

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Where The Irishman is an ode to mob films, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is Tarentino’s ode to Hollywood. Set in 1950s Los Angeles, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt play a Spaghetti Western actor and his sidekick-cum-stuntman enveloped in the murder of Sharon Tate. You could consider it 2019’s marmite movie - many love it, some hate it and others love to hate it.

CAN YOU FORGIVE ME?

Richard E Grant and Melissa McCarthy shine in the autobiographical story of Lee Israel, the writer and biographer who forged letters by celebrities to make ends meet. Both scored Oscar nominations for Oscars for this sad portrayal of loneliness and desperation, which is made light by their credible on-screen chemistry.

THE FAREWELL

After a Chinese family finds out their beloved grandmother has months to live, they decide not to keep it secret from her, and gather the family for final farewell under the guise of a wedding. Awkwafina, the comedic genius you loved in Crazy Rich Asians, returns in this heartfelt story of family bonds and culture clashes.

JOKER

It’s tough to think of role where Joaquin Phoenix hasn’t excelled, but his portrayal as the Joker, darker and more manic than you have seen him before (yes, even darker than Heath Ledger’s), deserves credit. Also, who knew he could dance?

MID90S

Jonah Hill delivers arguably one of the most underrated films of the year with Mid90s. This coming-of-age accidental comedy follows Stevie, a young teen who makes new friends as he learns to skate. Think Larry Clark’s Kids combined with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and a killer soundtrack.

THE SOUVENIR

An age-old tale of a female student that falls in love with a mysterious older man, but this cinematic triumph from Joanna Hogg is certainly no cliché. Three words for you: style, substance and script.

MIDSOMMAR

Ari Aster, who terrified us before with Hereditary, delivers another horror hit with Midsommar. This time, we follow a couple and their friends to a rural town in Sweden for a festival, which turns out to be led by a pagan cult.

LITTLE WOMEN

If you weren’t sold on the cast alone - Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet… need we go on? - the fact it’s an adaptation of one of the most classic books in the English language, by one of the most celebrated female directors, Greta Gerwig, will surely have you booking tickets for this late release in 2019.

FOR SAMA

An epic and heart wrenching documentary following Waad al-Kateab, a girl living amongst the uprising in Aleppo. The documentary spans 5 years, and sees her fall in love, get married and birth a son, Sama.

HUSTLERS

Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers serves big everything energy: big attitude, big ideas, even bigger coat. She, with the assistance of Constance Wu under her wing, bring wealthy men from Wall Street into the club in a plot to scheme them. It’s the film you can thank for finally putting Cardi B on the big screen. About time.

CAPERNAUM

After being sentenced to a five year jail sentence for committing a violent crime, a 12-year old Lebanese boy sues his parents for the treacherous upbringing they gave him.

GREEN BOOK

Set in 1960s America, in the height of racial tensions, an African American pianist hires an Italian American driver and bodyguard with an alcohol problem on his tour. A classic narrative of unlikely friendship formed over a journey across the Southern states that won 3 Oscars.

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO

This winner at Sundance follows two friends Jimmie and Montgomery as they reclaim a Victorian house once owned by Jimmie’s grandfather. Located in the affluent Fillmore district of San Francisco, they begin to question their identity as two black young men in an area heavily becoming gentrified.

US

In his second feature since the pioneering film Get Out, writer and director Jordan Peele enthrals and scares us in equal measure in his horror, Us. The chilling story follows Lupita Nyong’o and her family who are attacked on a family vacation by their doppelgängers.

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Willam Defoe and Robert Pattinson play two lighthouse keepers on a remote island in 18th century Maine battling melancholia and madness all at once. An alternative take on your typical horror, this psychological thriller filmed in black and white will have you on the edge of your seat.

HIGH LIFE

Robert Pattinson and Juliet Binoche star as criminals on a space voyage tasked with breeding a new generation after the demise of the human population. You had us at ‘Robert Pattinson.’

SORRY WE MISSED YOU

Ken Loach exposes the realities of Britain's zero-hour contract culture in his gruelling Sorry We Missed You. Like with his previous film I, Daniel Blake, Loach sets the narrative in the North East of England and bases it on real life interviews and research. Raw, honest and seriously eye-opening, but we wouldn’t expect anything other from him.

FROZEN II

For those that loved the first one (and let’s be honest, who didn’t?) Elsa, Anna and Olaf are back for a second instalment of Frozen. Part two sees Elsa on a rescue mission to save the Northuldra, the indigenous people trapped in their enchanted forest by a magical fog. Alluding thoughtfully to climate change and colonial history, it’s a fun-fuelled fable with singalong smashers.

THE LION KING REMAKE

Jon Favreau directs Beyoncé, Donald Glover and Seth Rogan in this visually transcendent version of Disney’s 1994 classic The Lion King. Shakespeare's play Hamlet gets an animal overhaul with photorealistic graphics in this reboot with all new songs. Don’t worry though, Mufasa’s voice is still played by James Earl Jones.

ROCKETMAN

This Elton John biopic from Dexter Fletcher fuses the flamboyance and flair (or flares) of the seventies with all the euphoric songs from the piano prodigy and his song writing partner, Bernie Taupin.

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

Based on the 1974 novel of the same name, If Beale Street Could Talk follows sweethearts Tish and Fonny, who is battling a false rape accusation from a racist cop. Whilst pregnant and fighting for her beau, Tish relies on her Harlem community for support. From the director that gave you Moonlight.

AVENGERS END GAME

After the end of Avengers:Infinity War, where the dark titan Thanos destroyed half the universe, Marvel fans were left to eagerly wait for the next instalment. Well wait no more - the next edition, Avengers End Game, sees the squad coming together once again to repair the chaos, no matter what the cost.

EIGHTH GRADE

You may have buried the trauma of being 13 somewhere deep inside your subconscious but take this as a warning - Eighth Grade will have it all rushing back to you. Being eternally embarrassed of your dad and wearing a swimsuit at a party are experiences we know too well, and Bo Burnham’s execution is dead on.

THE DEAD DON'T DIE

As much as we don’t mean to go on about Adam Driver (despite appearances), him in a comedy-fuelled zombie movie with Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Chloë Sevigny makes it really, really difficult for us.

KNIVES OUT

Fans of the murder mystery will revel in Rian Johnson’s contemporary take on the classic whodunit. A star-studded cast that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Toni Colette and many more, this late release is already tipped for Oscars.

BORDER

This Nordic-Noir love story between misfits isn’t your average romance. But then, neither was The Shape of Water, and that did o-k. Border tells the story of Tina, a customs officer who can smell emotions. She lives her life thinking she’s different until she meets a man just like her. An indie success from the writer who gave us Let The Right One In.

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