SzteinCreative’s Top Ten Films of 2019

It’s been another killer year at the multiplex, and narrowing down my top 10 favorite movies of the year was significantly challenging this year. With that said, with a lot of hemming, hawing, and rewatches, I was able to narrow down the best of the best. Forget the Golden Globes, screw the Oscars, this is the only, definitive ranking of the best films of the year. Please call my agent to address any complaints, oversights, or to just tell me how wrong my choices were. Also, be sure to check out my honorable mentions below the list!

Behold, the TOP TEN FILMS of 2019!


10) The Irishman – I originally left this one off the list, but after discussing it with a friend, I’m convinced that this is one of the greatest film accomplishments of the year. Its rewatchability factor is lessened by its imposing length and episodic structure, but the craft, incredible performances, poignant story and and brilliant structure is not to be ignored. It’s a masterpiece.

9) Uncut Gems – This dark comedy is one of the most unbearably tense films of the year. Adam Sandler (finally) shines in a movie that takes advantage of his talent while giving him meaty drama to sink his teeth into. Watch as the gambling addict plays all sides in search of the biggest win of his life in this film noir set in a Jewish owned Jewellry shop. The celebrity cameos are never distracting. It’s like an episode of Curb your Enthusiasm directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

8) Ford vs Ferrari – In a year with John Wick, Rambo, Terminator and Fast and the Furious spin-offs and sequels, say hello to the best action flick of the year. Riveting racing sequences and fun dialogue are counter balanced by excellent performances by Christian Bale and Matt Damon.

7) Knives Out – An incredible cast brings their best in this funny and exciting whodunnit. Come to see some of the greatest actors of this generation as you’ve never seen them before. Beautifully shot to boot.

6) Come to Daddy – This one came out of nowhere to steal the entire Toronto After Dark Film Festival for me. Elijah Wood plays a weirdo who gets invited to spend some time with this estranged father. Pure unadulterated and completely unpredictable insanity follows.

5) Midsommar – It’s weird, it’s slow, it’s pretty long, and I was riveted by every incredibly photographed minute. One of the best horror films in years, and a nearly unbearable level of tension which is barely broken by expertly inserted humor.

4) 1917 – Here is an absolutely towering technical achievement that tells a small story of two soliders on a pretty straight forward mission, painted on an enormous canvas. Get a message to our troops on the other side of enemy territory, or everyone dies. Much like Dunkirk two years ago, this is a staggering portrait of war put into the smallest perspective possible. The super long take gimmick really sells the ebbs and flows of quiet reflection and bombastic intensity that is life on the front lines. As a film geek, it’s also pretty fun to play “spot the cut”. This and Uncut Gems were the two films that convinced me that I needed to redo my list after publishing a week earlier.

3) Joker – It’s wonderful to see comic book movies do something completely different, in this case by essentially remaking Taxi Driver and the King of Comedy. This is powerful filmmaking, anchored by a truly transformative Joaquin Phoenix performance. Hard to believe this came from the same franchise that produced the unbearable Suicide Squad and Justice League. This is dark and expertly made entertainment for adults.

2) Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi knocks it completely out of the park with this delightful satire on hate and racism. A young German boy whose best friend is an imaginary Hitler navigates his life at the end of World War II through the eyes of an innocent child as his mother, (beautifully played by Scarlett Johansson) does what she can to shield her son from the horrors of hatred and protect the innocent. It’s hilarious, heartbreaking, and one of the most powerful filmgoing experiences of the year.

1) Parasite – Anyone who knows me, knows that I love a good fucked up Korean thriller. This satirical tale of poverty vs. wealth explores the symbiotic and mericless relationship between the two in truly original fashion. This masterpiece from the man who brought us Snowpiercer and The Host takes one of the most stunning second act twists ever. See it immediately if you haven’t, as it was my runaway pick for best film of 2019.

 What? You’re still here? Need more cinematic excellence in your life? Here’s a whole bunch of other movies that I loved this year and are all well worth your time. They just couldn’t crack my coveted top 10 for one reason or another. Maybe they’re a great story but have limited rewatchability. Maybe they had just a niggling flaw or two that kept them from near perfection. Maybe you love them more than I did and I’m just an idiot. Whatever the reason, just know that I loved these flicks too, and they’re totally worth talking about, just not good enough for me to embed their trailer below their writeups.

The Honorable Mentions in no particular order:

1) Arctic – Mads Mikkelsen gives an intensely powerful solo performance in this nearly silent story of survival in the harshest conditions imaginable. This one hurt to leave off the top 10.
2) Fighting with my Family – A fun and affecting story of following your dreams among the backdrop of the professional wrestling world. Nick Frost and Lena Headey steal the movie as Paige’s parents.
3) Lighthouse – Simply the most original movie of the year. You’ve never seen anything like this uber tense and weird battle of wits between Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as sailors stuck together on a deserted lighthouse. Dafoe is my personal choice for best supporting actor this year. This one also hurt to leave off the top ten.
4) Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Masterful acting and dialogue power this leisurely paced trip through Taratino’s fantasy of old Hollywood. The fact that it takes forever to get anywhere in this fantasy keeps it out of my personal top ten. Brad Pitt is amazing in this one, and Leo is no slouch either.
5) Ad Astra – A pensive and weird journey through the solar system, which hides a powerful tale of the lengths a man will go to reconnect with his father. One of the best performances of Brad Pitt’s career.
6) Color out of Space – It’s Mandy meets The Thing. Bizarre, colorful, and like nothing you’ve ever seen. Nic Cage is back baby.
7) Longshot – The second funniest movie of the year after the comedy in my top 10. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron have a wonderful and raunchy chemistry together.
8) Us – It may take two viewings, and an understanding that you’re in for a metaphorical, not literal experience. Only the guy who made Get Out could get away with making something like this is in the studio system.
9) Honey Boy – Shia LaBoeuf buys himself a universe of sympathy points with this truly affecting flick about a young and successful actor living in a hotel room with his overbearing father. Shia LaBoeuf plays his own father with a strong performance that is equally infuriating and sympathetic.
10) Werewolf – This tale of of a group of children who escape a concentration camp at the end of World War II only to be surrounded by the abandoned guard dogs from the camp in a decrepit house is equal parts pure suspense and heartwrenching drama. 
11)Avengers: Endgame – A better accomplishment than actual movie. It’s loads of fun, provided you’ve watched and been invested in most of the previous 22 MCU movies. It’s impenetrable nonsense if you haven’t. Utterly nails the ending.
12) James vs his Future Self – A charming time travel comedy about a workaholic scientist who will invent time travel some day, so his future self (played beautifully by Home Alone’s Daniel Stern) returns to warn him of the great personal cost.
13) Always be my Maybe – One of the most relatable, fun, and charming romantic comedies in years. 2019 was blessed with several good ones, and this is one of the best.
14) The Vigil – A little under the radar indie that rocked my world at TIFF. A former Rabbi who has renounced his faith is hired to watch over a recently deceased man for a night before his funeral the next day. Super creepy and dripping with atmosphere. 
15) A Beautiful day in the Neighbourhood – Tom Hanks is amazing as always playing Fred Rogers as he befriends a cynical journalist who is going through a self-destructive period in his life.
16) Booksmart – No movie made me laugh harder this year than this delightful slice of life set on the last day of highschool. Every bit the equal of Mean Girls for hilariously realistic depictions of life on the precipice of adulthood. I know I said this about two other movies, but this one hurt to most to leave off the top ten.
17) Ready or Not – It’s messed up and the best example in 2019 of girl power badassery. It’s suspenseful and a whole lot of fun. Just the right amount of foreboding atmosphere and ultra dark humor.

And for good measure, lets end on a little negativity with my most disapointing filmgoing experience of the year:

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker – A nearly insulting retconning of the excellent Last Jedi, and an even more insulting rehash of past films. It has nothing new, the only surprises are terrible in their laziness, and it ends with an unsatisfying thud. It was boring to boot, something Star Wars has never been before this one. It’s not the worst film of the year, but no film made me more upset walking out. Easily the worst SW flick since Episode II.