In 2019, Marvel triumphantly concluded its cinematic universe experiment with Avengers: Endgame, Fox merged with the Disney juggernaut and Blade Runner officially became our present, but as far as I’m concerned, this was the year of the character drama. 2019 featured so many deep, riveting character studies in a variety of genres, from Border and Midsommar to On The Basis Of Sex, Unicorn Store, Shazam and even Detective Pikachu.
Here are my picks for the ten best films of 2019.
10. Joker. A raw, grim character drama with an enthralling lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix.
9. Border. A slow, psychological Scandinavian drama with tinges of fantasy but grounded in harsh reality.
8. High Life. A confronting yet quietly uplifting science-fiction drama about family, sexuality and human instincts, Claire Denis’ first English-language film features rich atmosphere and a near-perfect three-act escalation.
7. Doctor Sleep. Stephen King famously hated Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic The Shining, but I hope he and Kubrick are proud of this follow-up, which is a subtle, disturbing and superbly-paced horror film with outstanding character development.
6. Midsommar. An eerie, visually stunning slow-burn with deeply engaging characters, this is an entrancing exercise in subversion, as macabre rituals are conveyed with reverence and become mediums for the main character’s growth and healing.
5. Ready Or Not. A grisly, hilarious horror-comedy with nail-biting suspense and fantastic character depth.
4. I Am Mother. Taut, intimate and efficient, this is an ingenious sci-fi mystery featuring a nuanced central relationship between a young woman and her robot mother, and may have the most tightly-controlled plot of the year.
3. Booksmart. Olivia Wilde’s first film as director, this is a frequently surprising, endlessly witty comedy about maturity and friendship in the final days of high-school.
2. Parasite. South Korean auteur Bong-Joon-ho’s latest triumph is a darkly funny, intensely suspenseful tapestry of class angst and good people using unscrupulous methods to survive.
1. The Nightingale. A revenge thriller of unparalleled craftsmanship, Jennifer Kent’s second feature film has remarkable performances and phenomenal tension, and presents an unflinching look at the cruelty and desolation of Australia’s colonial past.
I hope you had a great 2019, and I hope you enjoy next year and its movies.