It’s that time of year again, that time when we reflect back on all of the things the world of entertainment gave to us in the past year and rank them. Like it or not, ranking our favorite things of the year has become a modern-day holiday season tradition on the internet. So kick back, take a sip of hot chocolate, warm your feet by the fire, maybe pull up the Holiday Music channel on Spotify, and get ready to enjoy our list of the best movies of 2019.
These are the twelve films that we feel not only set the standard for excellence in the past year, but were also the most culturally significant for one reason or another. A few films that just missed making the cut: 1917, Booksmart, John Wick 3, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco. All are tremendous films that just missed making our list of 12 best. Feel free to share your own thoughts on the year in movies below in the comments.
And now, without further ado, here are Uproxx’s Best Movies of 2019.
The hook for Jennifer Lopez’s Hustlers is all flash and sex and Cardi B cameos but the heart of this gritty urban drama resides in the heartbreaking, humorous stories of women defying the odds to make it in a “man’s world.” Lopez plays Ramona, a veteran exotic dancer who takes rookie Destiny (Constance Wu) under her wing. Together with the help of two fellow strippers (Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart doing the most with their screentime) the women craft a delightfully feminist con, drugging Wall Street execs and seducing them into dropping thousands at their club each night. The heist-like feel of this film gives it some needed humor, but it’s Lopez, who feels both maternal and manipulative as the cutthroat, clever Ramona, that really elevates this drama, which is based on a true story detailed for New York Magazine by Jessica Pressler. You can read ahead to learn how it ends or you can simply watch the film and root for these women to keep scamming their johns and getting paid. — Jessica Toomer
Jordan Peele did it again with his sophomore directorial outing, proving that his horror visionary status wasn’t a one-off. Even more than with Get Out, Peele wielded his satirical pen to fashion a genuinely horrifying movie, this time providing powerful allegories and mind-bending commentary on human connection and all the uncomfortable truths that come with it. At times darkly funny and always starkly unnerving, Us serves up a terrifying series of fun-house mirrors, all woven into a layered narrative that peels back more layers of the rotten onion. The family at the center of Peele’s story unravels along with his metaphors, which he’s so adept at fashioning that everything feels frighteningly relatable. A lesser filmmaker would probably struggle while asking an audience to suspend their disbelief with a tale like this, but Peele appears to be completely at ease, toying with his audience and probably laughing merrily all the while, and knowing that sleepless nights are ahead for all who watch. That rascal. – Kimberly Ricci
10. The Death of Dick Long
If you’re tired of me talking about The Death Of Dick Long at this point… too bad. I will continue screaming about this until everyone sees it. Why? Because The Death of Dick Long is a master class in so many of the things that so many bad movies so often screw up. To name just one, Richard Jewell. That film never would’ve raised an outcry if it had even a tenth the empathy for its characters that Dick Long has. Treating all your characters like real people instead of props for an imposed plot opens up so many story possibilities. It’d be easy to look at this story on paper and think of one, maybe two funny scenes with a couple of kooky characters. Instead, Dick Long does the hard work of asking what drives each individual character and it makes the story so much richer. The paradox of taking people seriously is that it makes them much funnier. The Death of Dick Long is both the comedy and the thriller of the year. it helps that it has one of the finest ensembles of the year. In a world where awards voters weren’t renominating the same five guys from The Irishmen, Andre Hyland and Virginia Newcomb would win Oscars. — Vince Mancini
9. Knives Out
I wonder what it’s like to be Rian Johnson about right now. For two years he had to weather every internet dust-up about the critically loved, but yet controversial The Last Jedi. As we speak, there’s a new Star Wars in the news that’s taking a critical beating, but this time Johnson can kind of just sit back and watch from afar. Sure, The Last Jedi is still a lightning rod for people but Johnson is under no obligation to respond to any of this (save for one Pokemon related tweet). A big part of this is that Knives Out is such a massive hit, critically and financially. It was the darling of Thanksgiving weekend and one of the surprise hits of the year. And what’s most remarkable, it’s an original idea and not a movie based on any kind of preexisting property. (Though, Johnson has been clear he wants to make more of these movies, so that will all probably change.) So what a difference two years makes, as the accolades pour in for Knives Out while just sits there and look at that Star Wars storm cloud in the distance, knowing it’s not coming anywhere near his way. — Mike Ryan
8. Little Women
For those of us who wondered if Ladybird only worked so well because we’d grown up in the same general time period and/or area as its semi-autobiographical author Greta Gerwig, Little Women was the perfect test of her directorial skills without the training wheels of familiarity. The first 15 or 20 minutes certainly had me worried, wondering if I’d erred in thinking that this Reconstruction-era dramedy of hearth, home, and overlapping dialogue among four sisters might be for me (full disclosure: I am a male only child who has never read Louisa May Alcott). Yet the longer I watched, the more invested I became. I was practically bawling by the end. Basically the thing that happens to Jo’s publisher in the film happened to me. The publisher, by the way, is played by Tracy Letts, in one of his rare non-villain roles. It also features Chris Cooper, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Laura Dern — in one of her refreshing, non-imperious roles (did you know she can also do understated? it’s true).
Gerwig proves once again that she’s one of the best in the game at choosing and directing actors, but Little Women is more than that: it’s a relevant, touching, non-pandering adaptation good enough to convert the non-believers. It’s a model for anyone adapting anything. — Vince Mancini
7. Ford vs Ferrari
When Ford v Ferrari had it’s Toronto Film Festival debut, what I remember most was the sound. Just that all encompassing VROOM VROOOOOM that has the tendency to vibrate completely through a person’s body. This is the kind of movie that could easily be forgettable in lesser hands (to be fair, I guess we can say that about every good movie, but whatever). On the surface, it’s about a car race, but it’s more about letting people who know what they are doing to have the freedom to get the thing done right without corporate interference. And Christian Bale and Matt Damon are dynamite together, in one of those kinds of movies we don’t see much anymore because they are too easy to mess up, but James Mangold takes what could have been any run of the mill story and transforms it into something truly electric. — Mike Ryan
6. The Irishman
A drawn-out, gritty crime drama packed with violence and melancholy is nothing new for Martin Scorsese and yet, The Irishman feels out of place with his trademark gangster films – in the best possible way. There’s more self-reflection, more silent contemplation in this story of Mafia hitman Frank Sheeran (a magnetic, tight-lipped Robert De Niro) who, if his own version of events which serves as narration for this 3 ½ hour jaunt is to be trusted, had a hand in some of history’s most defining moments. We travel back and forth through time – with the help of de-aging effects that feel less distracting than you’d expect – charting Sheeran’s beginnings as a World War II vet, a driver, a mob errand boy, a cold-blooded killer. But the best moments veer away from the bloody business of Frank’s life and instead reside in the portrayals of his complicated friendships with men like Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa (a boisterous, equally riveting Al Pacino) and Joe Pesci’s crime boss Russell Bufalino. These three actors, who share so much history and chemistry on screen, weaponize their years of experience to play weathered men grappling with their legacies and questioning their purpose, making The Irishman one of, if not the most, philosophically minded gangster films of its kind. — Jessica Toomer
5. Dolemite is My Name
In a recent (terrific) interview, Eddie Murphy laments that he hates it when the media keeps talking about his numerous “comebacks.” Yes, it’s true he’s had two or three of them, but with all due respect to Eddie, something IS different this time. First of all, his terrific Dolomite Is My Name is only his second film in the last seven years. And those other “comebacks” didn’t include the promise of his return to standup and Murphy’s first appearance on a regular episode of Saturday Night Live in 34 years. (He did appear on the prime time 40th-anniversary special.) Okay, so Murphy doesn’t like this being called a comeback? Well, whatever it is, it’s certainly something. And for the life of me I’m very happy it’s happening. — Mike Ryan
Nauseating. Disturbing. A total mindf*ck. Those are all fitting descriptions of Ari Aster’s Hereditary follow-up, a sophomore outing that gleefully embraces the very worst of humanity and shines an unforgiving light on those universal flaws. It’s a horror story, sure, but it’s a relationship drama at its core, flavored with pagan rituals, brutal killings, unsettling imagery, and all-consuming grief. Florence Pugh gives a career-defining performance as Dani, a young woman reeling from a terrible familial tragedy who accompanies her distant, disinterested boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his college bros to a small Swedish village to celebrate the summer solstice. Unlike Hereditary, there’s no darkness here. At least, none you can outwardly see. Instead, Aster covers the more bone-chilling aspects of human sacrifice, dismemberment, ritualistic suicide and sex acts in flower crowns and maypoles and Pinterest-worthy outdoor table settings. It’s idyllic and terrifying and it’s ending, coupled with Pugh’s tortured turn, has helped it to redefine the horror genre. — Jessica Toomer
Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is one of only two films that came out this year to appear on our “Best Movies Of The Decade” list, along with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, so obviously, it’s going to make our “Best Movies of 2019″ list, too. And why shouldn’t it? It’s an immediate masterpiece, a vicious satire about the haves and have nots, and how the have nots are more likely to rebel against each other rather than eat the rich (or at least not make their food). But beyond the topical class commentary, Parasite, which is one of the ten highest-grossing foreign-language films in North America ever, has become a critical and commercial sensation because of how effectively Joon-ho’s deft script and controlled direction juggles genres. Parasite is one of the best comedies of the year. And one of the best horror movies of the year. And one of the best con-artist movies of the year. And one of the best movies of the year, overall. — Josh Kurp
2. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
A time once existed when word of a new Tarantino project would send me reeling with anticipation. Yet his last few outings gave me pause on ramping up the excitement factor too much, especially in the case of The Hateful Eight. I even watched that movie twice, imagining that perhaps catching it while having the flu affected my frigid outlook, but nope, still no dice there. So it came as a wondrous surprise to witness this sun-soaked, fantasy-blurred, meandering return to form with Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio going full Inglourious Basterds on the Manson goons. No one does revisionist revenge fantasies like Tarantino does, and Sharon Tate finally received the overdue celebration of her work, rather than remain a footnote in the sordid Charles Manson story. Likewise, I received the sentimental Pitt/DiCaprio buddy comedy that I didn’t realize that I needed. Add in a dollop of Timothy Olyphant, a slice of Luke Perry, and a dash of Scoot McNairy, and I believe Tarantino has assembled his finest cast yet, but — let’s face it — Brandy the Dog was the rightful MVP of the bunch. — Kimberly Ricci
1. Uncut Gems
The last few years have given us so many nostalgia pieces about the “old, dangerous New York” that I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said or typed the words “old, dangerous New York.” I love that world, and The Deuce, and, yes, Joker, brought it to life beautifully (and along with it a world where corporations didn’t seem to be able to micromanage every moment of our lives the way they do now). The trick the Safdie Brothers pull in Uncut Gems is that they put the danger back in a contemporary New York we all kind of assumed had been defanged. In their hands, even hanging out in the VIP room with Kevin Garnett and The Weeknd seems terrifying and deeply sleazy. There’s a primal, untamed quality to the Safdie Brothers’ filmmaking and you absolutely love to see it. In my original review, I called Uncut Gems the extremely Jewish take on Bad Lieutenant starring Adam Sandler you never knew you needed. Bad Lieutenant is an inarguable classic, but Uncut Gems might be even better. It’s more insightful into its protagonist and achieves the same white knuckle intensity without being sensational, which is a terrifying thing indeed. — Vince Mancini