Whoever came up with the idea to cast Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker is a genius. It is not easy to play the iconic supervillain, but Phoenix pulls it off effortlessly in Joker. Todd Phillips’ dark, twisted and undeniably unsettling origin story offers a fresh interpretation of the beloved character. Phoenix is phenomenal in the lead role, creating a complex portrait of the villain. It’s an astonishing performance from one of the finest actors working today. However, what makes Joker stand apart from other comic-book films is its topical message. It makes a powerful statement on mental illness and its growing presence in criminals. Joker is a timely film that transcends comic-book tropes to become a reflection on the world we live in today.
5. Little Women
Ever since she burst onto the scene with Lady Bird two years ago, Greta Gerwig has proven herself to be a major female filmmaker. Gerwig follows up her directorial debut with Little Women, an astonishing adaptation of the beloved literary classic. It’s a funny, heartbreaking and uplifting film that offers the perfect example of how to adapt a literary classic to the big-screen. Using a finely tuned script and excellent ensemble cast, Gerwig breathes fresh life into a story as old as time. Led by the spectacular Saoirse Ronan, the entire cast is at the top of its game and devoted to telling the story. At a time when female-driven films are a rarity in Hollywood, it’s reassuring to be reminded that movies like Little Women are still getting made.
6. Knives Out
If you’re in the mood for a gripping murder mystery, look no further than Knives Out. Rian Johnson’s clever, original and thrilling whodunit is one of the most entertaining movies of the year. Using a sharp screenplay and star-studded cast, Johnson crafts an old-fashioned murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. The entire cast is at the top of its game and seems to be having a blast of fun. From the scene-stealing Daniel Craig to the loathsome Chris Evans, every actor gets the chance to shine and leave a lasting impression. Johnson utilizes the star-studded ensemble perfectly, creating a film full of delightful surprises. Knives Out is the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year, and a must-see for moviegoers that enjoy classic murder mysteries.
7. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino is one of those filmmakers with an instantly recognizable style. You immediately know that you’re watching a Tarantino movie when there’s plenty of bloody violence, foul language and witty dialogue. With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, however, Tarantino has made his most restrained film to date. Tarantino’s ninth feature is a rousing love letter to 1960’s Los Angeles. It’s impeccably crafted on all fronts, featuring dazzling production values and incredible performances. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are excellent as a pair of struggling actors, creating a friendship for the ages. Although misunderstood upon release, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a classic that will come to be appreciated in the years to come.
8. The Farewell
It is always hard to say goodbye to the ones you love, and Lulu Wang’s latest film The Farewell beautifully captures that feeling. A funny, insightful and poignant look at Chinese culture, it follows a family that grieves the inevitable death of its patriarch. With her second feature, Lulu Wang has crafted an intimate portrait of a Chinese family and its customs. It’s anchored by an award-worthy turn from Awkwafina, one of the finest Asian-American actresses working today. Although The Farewell focuses on a Chinese family, its message is universal. It is one of those rare films that will urge you to call up your grandmother no matter how old she may be.
9. Ford v Ferrari
If you’re a car-racing enthusiast, there’s a good chance that you will love Ford v Ferrari. James Mangold’s latest film is a thrilling car-racing drama that delivers crowd-pleasing popcorn entertainment. With astounding visual effects, Mangold recreates the iconic 1966 Le Mans race. It’s fueled by fantastic performances from Christian Bale and Matt Damon, both of whom seem to be having a blast. Although Ford v Ferrari runs nearly two and a half hours long, it is one of the most entertaining movies of the year. It offers old-fashioned entertainment of the kind that Hollywood simply doesn’t make anymore.
10. Toy Story 4
How do you conclude a 24 year-old franchise? It’s a seemingly impossible task, but Toy Story 4 pulls it off. Pixar’s latest film is a funny, heartfelt and poignant finale that brings the series to a satisfying conclusion. If it truly is the last time we see Woody and his friends on the big-screen, it’s a fitting farewell to the toys we’ve come to adore. 2019 couldn’t have ended on a higher note, especially for Toy Story fans.
1917, Waves, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Jojo Rabbit, Blinded by the Light