When it comes down to coming up with lists for the end of the year, very few lists excite me as the next one we are about to do as a Guide. Don’t get me wrong. Favorite amusement parks, fake news stories, and travel destinations are great spots to list. Even 100 different reasons to visit Knott’s Berry Farm gets my juices flowing. But if I had to pick one list which would excite me above all else, because I truly am a movie geek, it would be a top ten list of movies. So welcome to my favorite of all my lists: The Single Dad’s Guide’s Top Ten Movies of 2019.
A few caveats before we get into the list of movies here. I know I hate caveats. But when it comes to lists like this, a few are always necessary as threats of violence may come from the peanut gallery. I know some of you whose whole goal in life was to become Waldorf and Statler from the Muppet Show. (And most of you find yourself on Twitter.) So, I want to be clear about what this list is, and what this list is not.
First, the list is strictly my opinion. As I was not invited to any of these premieres you cannot say invitations would reflect my views on the best movies of the year. (Not that even if I had been invited I wouldn’t roundly criticize something I did not like.) Secondly, this list is bound to be incomplete. While watching many different films this year, including snoozefests like the Irishman, I have not watched every single film released this year.
As such, this list will only consist of films I have watched as putting the film on this list when I haven’t watched it would be problematic at best. (Just as I wouldn’t vote on a Razzie if I had not watched for the worst films of the year either.) Third, I do have criteria for what I think a well-done film is, despite one’s beliefs to the contrary. Fourth, I may put a brief synopsis of the film and why I like it, but it will not consist of full reviews. If I have reviewed the film for the site, I will link to my full review.
Finally, some films have not come out yet for me to watch. So, while I may be fascinated by Richard Jewell or some of the interesting upcoming movies, this list may have the feeling of being incomplete because I am releasing this list prior to the ending of the year. Maybe I will release an updated version in a couple of weeks but I will have fun putting this out in the meantime.
With all of this in mind, I will briefly discuss my criteria for film reviewing before listing my top ten. When it comes to my criteria for film reviews, it mostly comes down to one simple question. Does the film accomplish what it was trying to accomplish? If it’s a comedy, it better make me laugh. If the comedy has social commentary involved, it better not make me cringe. For a drama, does it move me on some level? If the film successfully accomplished what it was trying to accomplish, I rank it higher than some film which did not fulfill its potential. Nevertheless, if you want a longer explanation of my film reviewing process, please look at a few of these links on my top five films to get a better idea. (here, here, here, here and here)
And while I know you find all of this interesting, I ultimately know why you are really here. You wish to stone me for my top ten selections for the year. So please let me run out the back now while you read the rest of this list. I will be on a beach in the Caribbean with a Mai Tai in hand if you should try to find me afterward. Maybe. Or possibly I will be on the Swiss Alps going down the most treacherous ski runs. Regardless of what I’m doing, try not to take my selections too personally. It won’t be good for your blood pressure. Now that I got that addendum out of the way, on with the show. Because there’s no business like show business.
The Single Dad’s Guide’s Top Ten Movies Of 2019
10) JoJo Rabbit
Trying to create a film of heart, warmth, comedy, and depth, all the while having Adolph Hitler as one of the central figures of a film would seem to be impossible. And yet somehow Taika Waititi accomplished this amazing feat with this film. With Scarlet Johansson, Sam Rockwell, and Rebel Wilson on board, one might think Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo would be overwhelmed by the cast around him. But he manages to carry the central role with depth and feeling about a 10-year-old who lost his father to the war, has his mother gone for vast periods of time, and idolizes Adolph Hitler as the father figure he always wanted.
If the central plot strains credulity too much or comes with too much pain associated, you don’t need to see it. But if you can get past that you will learn to love the boy who finds the humanity in every person. And ultimately, within himself. Sam Rockwell’s turn as Captain Klenzendorf is absolutely amazing as always. And Taika Waititi, representing Jojo’s imaginary view of Hitler will have you laughing hysterically. A perfect number 10 in our top ten movies of 2019.
I have to admit, I didn’t watch this the first time passing. So I was unable to watch it until I saw it on a small screen. After watching it, I wish I had gone out and seen it earlier. Jordan Peele once again proves himself a deft director and an astute observer of society at large. While Get Out focused on the fears of becoming subsumed by another culture, Us dealt with issues of both identity and one’s place within a family.
Somehow Peele tells these amazing tales, all within the confines of a horror picture. While I find his take on identity fascinating and love how he can tell these tales representing real fears, I don’t think Us was quite as shocking as his original masterpiece Get Out, albeit a bit more polished. Regardless, I will be sure not to miss his next picture when it comes to the big screen. Peele’s films are full of potential and a great number 9 in the top ten movies of 2019.
The first of my comic book features to find their way on this list, Shazam is just good-natured fun. Beginning with the young boy being taken to the mighty Shazam (played comically by Djimon Hounsou), we find ourselves in a story about power, responsibility, and the penchant for power to corrupt every individual who comes across it. Asher Angel (of Andi Mack fame) plays Billy Batson, a young boy who will eventually become Shazam. He is an orphaned child who only wants to reconnect with his mom. Ultimately he finds himself in amongst a foster home who welcomes him as one of their own. While not really connecting with him, he finds himself given the powers of Shazam because he wasn’t corrupted by any of the seven deadly sins.
While he doesn’t always use his powers for good, ultimately Billy uses Shazam (played hilariously by Zachary Levi) to right wrongs going on around him. And he finds that family isn’t always the people of our birth, but those who choose to love us and surround us with love. While not a perfect superhero picture, it’s pretty darned enjoyable and we can’t wait for them to bring back Shazam for another run within the larger DC Universe. And it’s a great number 8 for the top ten movies of 2019.
7) Toy Story 4
I feel like the story of this film comes from two different perspectives. Did I enjoy this film? Yes. I think this film was quite an enjoyable film with a cast of characters I still really enjoy. Did I like some of the new elements of the film? Yes, the Bunny(Jordan Peele) and ducky(Keegan Key) were funny and were my daughter’s new favorite entries. And I love Forky (Tony Hale). I know he’s silly but I love that character. Did the movie still pull on your heartstrings effectively? Yes! The possibility of losing Bo Peep again is heart-wrenching. And Woody losing all of his pals and his old life also ate away at you. Even the new story of Gabby Gabby (Christina Henricks) wrung a few tears from me.
But then I come down to the necessity of whether this movie was necessary any more. On a strictly enjoyment standard this does quite well. But on a “does this film need to be made?” standard, I feel like it doesn’t quite meet some of the other Pixar greats. When movies become more about cash grabs then art, they suffer. I’m glad this didn’t suffer as much as most. But some part of me wants to pretend the end of the Toy Story series was Andy driving away from Bonnie as he left her with all his former Toys. That felt like the perfect ending for me and the Toy Story Saga. So a great unnecessary movie as number 7 of the top ten movies of 2019.
6) Spiderman: Far From Home
The second of the comic book entries and first of the Marvel entries on this list, Spiderman: Far From home ups the Spiderman game within the larger Marvel Universe. We have just lost so many major characters by the end of Endgame, it felt like the air might have been sucked out of the Marvel Balloon. But they picked up right again with Spiderman here. Afterward, it felt like the Marvel Universe could go forever.
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) must pick up the life he lost after being gone from five years and having his mentor die so abruptly. Happy (Jon Favreau) and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) try to keep him on the straight and narrow. But Peter feels a little lost trying to find his life all over again. And overwhelmed with the vacuum that Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) left. But pick up he does. And he does it quite well as Spiderman must face Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) and doubts about himself. It’s light. It’s breezy. The movie still has some depth. And it works. My favorite Spiderman yet at number 6 for the top ten films of 2019.
I argued with myself a great deal about where to put Endgame on this list of films. It felt more significant than Shazam. Many would rate it higher than Spiderman. I’m not going to critique those who would. On the other hand, the significance of this piece, and the emotional resonance it had after 21 films had come before it far outweighed the enjoyment factor. And yet I enjoyed this film at the same time.
Maybe, for some, it felt like the Harry Potter and Twilight movies where they tried to make the last book into two films. (Or better yet where the Hobbit turned into three movies.) Some might have felt like it was trying to steal your almighty dollar. But after watching these films over a couple of times, I cannot say I would have removed one scene. This means a six-hour film epic for the Infinity War, while possibly good for fans, was never going to happen.
Therefore, Endgame had to be how it was. And it was the exact length it had to be. Can you watch it without watching Infinity War? Not really. But for those who did see Infinity War and Endgame, did the movie Endgame pack an emotional wallop? You bet it did! And any Marvel fan you tell I love you 3000 will probably shed a tear right there on the spot. It’s the end of an era in the Marvel Universe. Endgame perfectly sent off some of our favorite Marvel stars along the way. I will be eternally grateful for that.
4) The Highwaymen
Part of me feels skeptical about the ability of made for television fare to resonate as well as films on the big screen. But with rapidly rising home television systems and increasingly amazing audio technology, watching a straight to television film with a big screen TV at home can have a cinematic feel if done right. The Highwaymen accomplished this goal in the straight to Netflix fare.
With the story of Bonnie and Clyde half in the foreground, and a half in the background, this is the tale of two lawmen: Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson). The law has been trying to capture Bonnie, Clyde and the gang for a prodigious amount of time, but they have been running circles around the law. And they had much of society who had taken to lauding them with anti-hero status. In other words, many people wanted their autographs rather than having them arrested.
These two men struggled with how to bring them in, as well as their own personal demons. It is a great tale about the law and the men who are forced to carry out the law. We get a behind the scenes look in what it takes to bring someone to justice, and the lines often straddled right up to the edge of in order to accomplish their goal. Costner is amazing as the hardened Frank Hamer, and Woody Harrelson brings depth and humanity to his role as Gault. I cannot praise the film highly enough. You should go check it out now on Netflix if you haven’t already. And a surprising entry at number 4 for the top ten movies of 2019.
3) The Joker
The fourth and final comic book film in this list of top ten films for 2019, the Joker really defies logic when it comes to the comic book genre. Sure, Christopher Nolan showed us the way to bring grim reality to the comic book genre. And Heath Ledger exuded the psychotic break from the reality of the criminal sociopath. It seemed impossible to eclipse, and yet Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker seemed to do just that.
Todd Phillips directs the story of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a mentally ill and often unstable man who tries to live a meaningful life and yet feels beset by life’s grim realities at every turn. Instead of being able to right the ship, this story feels like a true descent into utter madness and depravity on a level that is totally affecting. Robert DeNiro takes a turn, an offtake of his King of Comedy role, to play a late-night comedian trying to take advantage of the socially awkward Fleck for his own personal gain and at the expense of Fleck.
I would get into a full review as I really loved this movie, but I recommend taking a look at my review here. In short, I will sum up the brilliance of this film in the fact it never felt like a comic book movie. Instead, it was an effective portrayal of what madness can do to a man. And what society feels like when it cannot help the less fortunate and feels like on the brink. I think the best review I can give was my daughter telling me that you really felt bad for Arthur. And yet, she reminded me, he was the villain of the story. After that, I began questioning everything I had seen in the movie and realized how truly brilliant it was.
2) Knives Out
One of the most brilliantly marketed and well-executed films for 2019 for sure. I remember seeing the trailer for the first time and instantly being interested between the excellent editing of the trailer and the cast, I knew I had to see this film. And then I saw Rian Johnson’s name at the end of it. I admit, knowing the man behind The Last Jedi directed a film did give me pause for a few moments. But the utter hilarity of the actors and the absurdity of the plot, and I knew I had to go.
I would love to give it a brilliant review and did think about reviewing this picture myself for the site, but I accidentally read another review first (and I don’t like other reviews clouding my judgment when I write about a movie). Fortunately, I felt like the review perfectly encapsulated the picture I saw. It was a perfect blend of zany comedy and murder mystery. It very much felt like the Clue movie from so very many years before, only even better acted. (Although one can debate about the intentionality of the supporting actors in the Clue movie.) The Knives Out cast wasn’t going to rival the zaniness of Tim Curry in the lead, but they could match a lot of the same energy.
Daniel Craig is a revelation as the detective Benoit Blanc. Chris Evans is hilarious as the ne’er do well grandson Ransom Drysdale. Fill in the movie with Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanfield, Ana de Armas, Frank Oz, and Katherine Langford, step back, and watch the inspired madness begin. The murder mystery plot occurs almost secondarily to the performances. And what’s better, even when you think you have everything figured out, they still have a few twists and turns left to throw at you, down to the final moments. Definitely, a 2019 must-see and number two on our top ten movies of 2019.
1) Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
I suppose I would say I have a love/hate relationship with every Tarantino film known to man. On the one hand, much of his films feel like they exist in the realm of camp while pretending to be performance art. I feel like I should hate them for their artifice and inability to do anything original. At the same time, for years after watching his films, I find myself quoting them again and again . . . and yet again. After all, “Zed’s dead, baby.”
There is something unmistakably affecting in his films. And the characters he creates stick with you far beyond the length of the film, even in such a fake film an Inglorious Basterds. And with these alternative histories (Or should I call them historical fiction? I’m never sure.) Tarantino really seems to have hit on a film format in which his keen cinematic eye and appreciation for film history transforms into film magic.
With Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, he takes on an interesting area as he delves into the Hollywood lifestyle, both the hangers-on and the famous. It’s an intriguing commentary on Hollywood as well as a revelatory production about what life was like as Hollywood transformed from the contract star system to the independent production system which we know today. It’s all told through the eyes of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). With a huge supporting cast of stars and future stars, it can be easy to find one’s self lost in everything going on. But if you can stick through the alternative history and survive the Manson gang, you will find it well worth your while. And this rounds out the top ten movies of 2019.
Wrapping Up The Single Dad’s Guide’s Top Ten Movies Of 2019
There were many other films that could have been added to the list of top ten movie for 2019. Taron Egerton does a terrific turn as the flamboyant Elton John in Rocketman. And while I loved the picture I couldn’t find a slot for it in my ten favorites. I absolutely loved Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die. If you love a bit of deadpan comedy, you cannot go wrong with this excellent zombie comedy. And speaking of zombie comedies with Bill Murray, The Zombieland 2: Double Tap is another hilarious take on the world of zombies and what it means to be a family. And we aren’t even going to get into that other incredibly creepy clown movie It: Chapter 2. All those pictures were excellent and deserve honorable mention. But they did not break my top ten list of this year.
Of course, now that you read my top ten, you can stalk me on twitter and tell me how wrong I am, listing some other obscure movie which you loved this past year, or demanding I wait two weeks and add in some other movie you think will be amazing. But we can only judge what we see. And so, I came, I saw, and I judged the top ten movies of 2019. These are my top ten. Debate me on them. Or fight me to the death. Or maybe you should fight Zed instead. Oh, wait! That’s right. Zed’s Dead, Baby.
Continue The Conversation On The Top Ten Movies of 2019
What movie would you add to my list of top ten films of 2019? Which of the ten films would you take off? What is your take on comic book films? Would they even find your way into a top ten list? Do you have an opinion about Tarantino?
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, The Single Dad’s Guide to Life