- Insider picked the best movies of 2019 you should watch.
- Jordan Peele haunted audiences with another mind-bender at the year’s start and Bong Joon-Ho closes out the year with another stunner in must-watch thriller “Parasite.”
- From big blockbusters to indies from powerhouse A24, here are the best films of 2019 you need to see.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Jordan Peele delivered another haunting look at society in “Us.”
Jordan Peele’s second time in the director’s chair is both brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny. If you skipped seeing “Us” in a crowded theatre, you missed out as viewers collectively cheered for the protagonist and loudly criticised any poor decisions made on screen.
Both the cinematography and outstanding score will be stuck in your head long after the credits roll. Lupita Nyong’o gives a chilling performance as dual characters. This is the type of film you’ll immediately want to watch a second time to view it from a different perspective.
“The Farewell” is a beautiful reminder that it’s never too late to reconnect with family.
A24’s well-reviewed drama shows a young woman, Billi (Awkwafina), reconnect with her family and roots in China after she learns her beloved grandmother, Nai Nai, is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The family decides to keep the news from Nai Nai and, instead, gather together to celebrate a wedding. The entirety of the film, you’re left wondering whether or not someone will eventually slip up and tell the family matriarch she has weeks left to live.
“The Farewell” tackles how to process grief and guilt while delivering hearty laughs. Most touching is the film’s boundless love shared between grandmother and granddaughter as Billi tries to find her place in the world.
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” closed out a perfect trilogy this summer.
It’s hard to imagine we would get an animated trilogy that would move audiences more than “Toy Story,” but “How to Train Your Dragon” comes pretty darn close.
The DreamWorks movie about a boy and his dragon delivers a story about friendship, loyalty, and loving someone so much that you know when it’s time to let them go. One of the trilogy’s greatest strengths has been the depiction of its heroes, living with a prosthetic limb and tail, and not treating either as a handicap. This trilogy celebrates differences and is one that will be loved for years to come.
Olivia Wilde delivered a relatable coming-of-age tale with “Booksmart.”
Wilde’s directorial debut about two best friends in high school isn’t just hilarious, it’s one that resonates with audiences because of its authentic, no-holds-barred look at teens.
Anyone who has ever chosen studying over partying can relate to Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), two overachievers who panic once they realise their presumably average peers also got into great colleges while partying their way through school. The revelation results in a raucous night of debauchery as the best friends set off on a quest to make up for lost time.
In time, “Booksmart” will find its place among “Ferris Bueller” and “The Breakfast Club” as an essential high-school movie.
“Avengers: Endgame” became the highest-grossing movie of all time and a phenomenon.
“Avengers: Endgame” may not have been the best Marvel movie, but you can’t deny that it became a cultural phenomenon. Not only did it become the highest-grossing movie of all time, but it reinvented how people see the number 3,000. A line in the film, “I love you, 3,000,” became an instant fan favourite used to exclaim an outpouring of love for over a decade of movies from Marvel Studios.
If you’ve been following along with any of the 21 Marvel movies before it, the emotional three-hour roller coaster is a satisfying payoff with nods to the universe throughout. The final 40 or so minutes of “Endgame” are non-stop action that will have you cheering before punching you in the gut and leaving you in tears.
“The Lighthouse” is a fantastic thriller with brilliant performances from Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe.
You may not have heard of “The Lighthouse,” but if you’re fans of either actor, you’ll want to watch the black-and-white horror thriller from A24 for its performances. The duo play two lighthouse keepers in the 1890s who slowly descend into madness on a remote island.
My colleague Jason Guerrasio at Business Insider writes, “From the camera movements to the lighting, production design, directing, and acting, it’s a complexly orchestrated exploration into insanity disguised as a chamber piece.”
If you’re sceptical about Pattinson as the next Batman, watch this.
Joaquin Phoenix gave a chilling, Oscar-worthy performance in “Joker.”
Did we need another actor portraying the Clown Prince of Crime? No. But Joaquin Phoenix brilliantly redefines the role as a terrifying outcast in the Warner Bros. standalone.
Director Todd Phillips delivers versions of an origin story that will satisfy comic fans while transcending the superhero genre. It’s violent and unforgiving as Phillips holds a mirror up to society and suggests that one bad day is all it could take for anyone to snap.
The film is so smartly ingrained in the Joker’s psyche as an unreliable narrator that by the film’s end you won’t even know how much of the film is real versus fiction. Whether you loved or hated the film, Phoenix’s performance leaves you deeply unsettled and wowed by his commitment to the role. Don’t be surprised if he’s nominated for an Oscar.
“Parasite” is one of the year’s best thrillers you should see without knowing anything about it.
Director Bong Joon-Ho’s look at class divisions is a must-see and absolutely haunting for its unpredictable plot twists. The film follows a teen who forges a university degree so he can tutor a wealthy family’s daughter. Honestly, you should go into the film without knowing anything more.
Joon-Ho has become known for his critically acclaimed hits “Snowpiercer” and Netflix’s “Okja” in the past few years. “Parasite” has been receiving plenty of Oscar buzz after winning the top award at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
Christian Bale and Matt Damon are at the top of their game in racing film “Ford v Ferrari.”
The feud between Ford and Ferrari in the late ’60s and the internal one at Ford as they raced to build a car good enough to win the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans makes for a drama you can’t look away from.
The high-octane races in “Ford v Ferrari” make you feel like you’re right in the driver’s seat with Ken Miles (Christian Bale). That’s because director James Mangold insisted on using real race cars in the film. Of the thousands of shots in the film, only about two include a digital car.
Bale and Damon deliver strong performances as racers and friends Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles while also making you laugh over their friendly spats. By the film’s end, you’ll have an appreciation for racing even if you knew nothing about it at the start.
“Klaus” is a beautiful return to 2D animation that will make you emotional.
You may not recognise director Sergio Pablos by name, but you know the projects he’s worked on. The former Disney animator (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Tarzan”) who cocreated the “Despicable Me” franchise tried getting 2D animated “Klaus” made for about a decade.
The resulting story of a spoiled postman, Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), befriending a toy maker named Klaus (J.K. Simmons) is both heartwarming and heartbreaking as the duo help transform a broken village ravaged by years of fighting.
What’s most extraordinary about the Netflix original is its commitment to 2D animation and revitalization of the medium with current technology that feels both fresh and nostalgic. Don’t be surprised if its emotional ending leaves you in tears. “Klaus” will be on Netflix Friday.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” will make you think twice about the way you treat others.
If you haven’t heard of the Roadside Attractions’ limited release, you may look at the film’s title and wonder exactly what a “peanut butter falcon” may be. The answer will make you smile.
The indie is one of the year’s most endearing films about acceptance, tolerance, and following your dreams.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” follows Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, who escapes the nursing home where he’s been cooped up by the state of North Carolina for two years. He has big dreams of attending a wrestling school. He just needs to find his way there.
He winds up in the company of a miscreant, Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). Together, the two form an unlikely alliance as two bandits on the run as Zak evades returning to the old folks home. In time, Zak opens up Tyler’s cold heart. Tyler helps Zak push the boundaries of the limitations that have been placed upon him in the past.
Gottsagen, who’s an actor with Down syndrome, helped inspire some of the film’s dialogue and shape his character through his own life experiences. That shines through in an earnest, feel-good film with a message that, at the end of the day, our friends are the family we choose.
Netflix is searching for Oscar gold with its Martin Scorsese picture, “The Irishman.”
Director Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have been talking about making Netflix’s gangster movie based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” for decades. The result is one that may earn the streamer some buzz come awards season.
Thanks to impressive de-ageing technology, De Niro plays truck driver-turned-hit man Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran over the span of 40 years as he works for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
“The Irishman” is a bit long at almost three-and-a-half hours, but if you’re a fan of Scorsese, it’s worth the ride for his storytelling that will take you back to his classics, including “Goodfellas” and “Taxi Driver.” You’ll want to watch this one for the performances of De Niro, Pacino, and Joe Pesci. The latter came out of retirement for his first role in nearly a decade.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood” will make you feel like a kid again and fill you with hope.
America’s dad embodies America’s neighbour in this story from director Marielle Heller that will make anyone who grew up with the public access TV show emotional.
The heartwarming “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood” is based on the true story about the friendship that emerged between magazine writer Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) after the cynical reporter was assigned to write a 400-word profile on the TV host. A sceptic of Rogers’ genuine kindness off-screen, Vogel slowly becomes a true believer as Rogers peels away at his hardened exterior and motivates him to focus on the things that matter in life, like reconciling a broken relationship before its too late.
Hanks is uncanny as Rogers as the movie unfolds like one giant episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood.”
You’ll walk away inspired to be a bit kinder and consider how we deal with unpleasant emotions like sadness, anger, and frustration. In a time where you’re afraid to learn all your heroes may have skeletons in their closets, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood” makes you hopeful that people can be good, decent, and just better if they take the time to do so.
“Honey Boy” is a heartbreaking look inside Shia LaBeouf’s childhood.
LaBeouf’s most personal film has him revisit past physical and verbal abuse he experienced as a child at the hands of his father while filming Disney series “Even Stevens.” The actor wrote the movie’s script while he was in rehab under a pseudonym and stars as his father in the film.
“Marriage Story” is an emotional ride through the dissolution of a marriage.
There’s a five-minute argument late in “Marriage Story” and neither Scarlett Johansson nor Adam Driver ever misses a beat in it. At one point, you can see the spit fly from Driver’s mouth because he’s so lost in his performance as Charlie yelling at his soon-to-be-ex-wife Nicole (Johansson). It’s raw and emotional and that scene alone could seal some award nods for Adam Driver.
Another standout scene occurs when Driver takes the mic to sing a song. He frustratingly can’t put into words the way he feels after his divorce, but as a theatre director, he can easily find a melody to express himself in a way that makes sense to him. It’s a moment makes you read the scene in a few different ways, especially if you know the song’s Broadway roots.
They’re not the only scene-stealers. Laura Dern is a spitfire attorney in a supporting role. If you have watched and enjoyed Johansson and Driver in their Marvel and “Star Wars” films, you owe it to yourself to watch them shine here as two flawed, but well-meaning individuals who try to make things work for their son despite the impending end to the marriage. The two will probably have you in tears by its end.
“Queen & Slim” is a heart-wrenching film that will have you on the edge of your seat until its very end.
What should be a routine traffic stop quickly escalates when a white officer pulls a gun on a black man (Daniel Kaluuya). After killing the cop in self-defence, he and his date (Jodie Turner-Smith) are on the run from the law for the next two hours in a nailbiting, nation-wide manhunt.
Lena Waithe (“Master of None”) delivers a timely script that addresses the “Black Lives Matter” movement and police brutality, while reinforcing the strength and power of community. Kaluuya and Turner-Smith give gripping performances that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. You may find yourself in tears by its end.
“1917” is a World War I film that needs to be seen on the largest screen possible.
The World War I drama follows two British soliders who travel behind enemy lines to deliver a message to their comrades in a race against time.
Director Sam Mendes’ (“Skyfall,” “Jarhead”) script is inspired by stories told to him by his grandfather. What’s really special about this war film is the cinematography. The war movie feels like it was made in two continuous shots, making you feel like you’re right in the action. Because there is so much going on in each frame to make you feel fully immersed in the spectacle, it’s best to see this one on the largest screen you can find.
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