This year may not have been the greatest in terms of cinematic offerings, but there were several movies that moved beyond the generic sequels and reboots that clogged up theatre screens.
Among them are a movie about a young boy coming to terms with the Nazis occupying Germany during the last days of the Second World War, a big-screen comeback for Eddie Murphy and an animated film featuring the antics of a discarded plastic fork.
No one can say there wasn’t some variety in 2019.
See our picks for the top movies of the year below, in no particular order.
At first, the subject matter of Jojo Rabbit catches you off-guard: is it OK to laugh at a joke about Adolf Hitler and the Nazis? As the movie progresses, you understand what director Taika Waititi is up to, and the laughs come frequently — but don’t get too uncomfortable, there are moments of genuine shock and upset, too.
Widely considered the best movie of the year across the board by dozens of critics, Parasite is an original, spellbinding thriller, something we don’t see much of anymore. The winner of the coveted Palme d’Or at Cannes, the movie follows the Kim family, which is struggling to make ends meet. Things change when they encounter the rich Park family, and they craft an intricate scheme to exploit them for money.
In a nod to famed mystery writer Agatha Christie, director Rian Johnson has crafted a kooky caper movie, replete with stars (Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, etc.) from end to end. The premise is a simple whodunit, but the end product is something far more fun, creative and entertaining.
Love it or hate it, Joker got people talking. It also got people to the theatres, and broke records for box office both nationally and internationally. Starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, the movie is unsettling and mesmerizing. There’s already talk of a sequel, so this probably isn’t the last time we’ll see Phoenix in the clown makeup.
Probably the biggest hurdle for most people contemplating watching The Irishman has to be the three-and-a-half-hour running time. The payoff is simply too good to resist, especially with old-school legends Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in the starring roles. It’s even worth it just to see the de-aging CGI. Director Martin Scorsese returns to helm the movie, and he does it as only he can.
Dolemite Is My Name
Based on a true story, in the movie Eddie Murphy is Rudy Ray Moore, a rapper and comedian who has never quite made it “big.” He then creates Dolemite, a raunchy pimp character, and seeks to take him to the big screen. Eventually, he does, and Dolemite becomes a smash-hit, going on to star as one of the most popular Blaxploitation characters of the 1970s. This film also features an all-star cast — a very funny one at that.
Rapper-turned actor Awkwafina is well-known for her comedy (as we saw in the hilarious Crazy Rich Asians), but here we see her take a dramatic turn. In the movie, she plays U.S.-raised Billi, who returns to China with her family to say goodbye to her beloved grandmother, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. To mask the truth from the matriarch, the family stages a fake wedding as the reason for their visit.
Jordan Peele’s follow-up to smash-hit Get Out, Us had big shoes to fill. While most critics agreed that it didn’t quite match the satirical bite of his first movie, Us has its own sinister qualities and commentary about modern society. It also featured Lupita Nyong’o in her scariest role yet; her deep, guttural, creepy voice still haunts to this day.
Toy Story 4
This latest Toy Story iteration felt different from its predecessors, almost like it had grown up. Once again, Woody (Tom Hanks) is dealing with being separated from his owner, but this time it’s more about his cowboy ways being out of style than him out-aging his “kid.” In the end, Woody must choose between moving on to new horizons or staying with a child who doesn’t appreciate his worth. One thing’s for sure: it ain’t a Toy Story movie without tears in the finale. Bonus: Forky.
Elton John has lived a fascinating life, and is a perfect subject for a biopic. Partially overshadowed by last year’s Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman holds its own as it tells the story of John’s life. A charismatic Taron Egerton excels in the lead role. Packed end-to-end with John’s songs, this is a real treat for all fans of music.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
If you crave nostalgia, there’s no better movie this year. Meant to tell the personal story of longtime childhood TV hero Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mr. Rogers, the film ends up being more about our community and how we deal with one another rather than a straight-up biopic. Expect an Oscar nod for Tom Hanks — again.