30 of the most popular movies of the year, ranked from worst to best

A lot of impressive films came out in 2019 — but some were flops. Paramount Pictures,Universal Pictures,Warner Bros
  • Some of the most talked-about films of the year include superhero films, gripping action flicks, and compelling dramas.
  • Select films like “The Farewell,” “Booksmart,” and “Toy Story 4” received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics.
  • On the other hand, critics ripped apart movies like “Dumbo,” “Glass,” and “Dark Phoenix.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

2019 was full of inventive horror films, poignant family dramas, and a seemingly endless parade of superhero battles.

Many of these big-name flicks received a lot of buzz, but some had far more positive reviews than others.

Here are 30 of the most talked-about movies of the year, ranked by their critical scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

Note: All scores were current on the date of publication and are subject to change.

“Dark Phoenix” was called a low point for the “X-Men” series.

Sophie Turner stars in ‘Dark Phoenix.’ 20th Century Fox

Rotten Tomatoes score: 23%

Summary: After a mission in space goes disastrously wrong, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) absorbs powerful cosmic energy that she struggles to control. As she starts to pose a threat to others, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the other X-Men band together to save Jean before it’s too late.

Critics largely agreed that the final instalment in the X-Men franchise ended the series on a low note.

“‘Dark Phoenix’ is the final nail in the X-Men franchise’s coffin, and it’s now up to Marvel Studios to resurrect it,” wrote Josh Wilding in his review for Comic Book Movie. “It has its good points and you’ll find moments to enjoy, but this is ultimately too average to matter.”

Critics were disappointed by the supernatural sequel “Glass.”

Critics liked the cast but not the film. Universal Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes score: 37%

Summary: A sequel to “Unbreakable” (2000) and “Split” (2016), “Glass” centres around three supernaturally gifted men: David Dunn (Bruce Willis), Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), and Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) as they confront each other within the confines of a mental asylum.

Critics felt that M. Night Shyamalan’s sequel missed the mark with “Glass,” despite the talented cast at his disposal.

“You have to admire Shyamalan’s efforts to deconstruct a genre that he evidently loves, yet there is just so little to haunt or to fool us in the result, and a few sharp laughs might have helped his cause,” wrote Anthony Lane for The New Yorker.

Critics questioned the necessity of Disney’s remake of “Dumbo.”

Audiences didn’t like ‘Dumbo’ much either. Walt Disney Studios

Rotten Tomatoes score: 47%

Summary: Based on the original 1941 animated film, Tim Burton’s “Dumbo” follows circus workers Max Medici (Danny DeVito) and Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) as they turn a unique baby elephant with oversized ears into a crowd-pleasing circus performer.

Although some reviewers found sincerity in the film, the majority of critics expressed disappointment in “Dumbo,” with many questioning why it needed to be remade.

“The refurbished story, both numbing in its predictability and painstakingly woke, is the clearest indicator that this reboot need not exist,” wrote Leah Pickett for the Chicago Reader.

“The Lion King” remake earned mixed praise from critics.

Jon Favreau directed the new remake of ‘The Lion King.’ Walt Disney Studios

Rotten Tomatoes score: 53%

Summary: “The Lion King” was another live-action remake from Disney studios, centering around young lion cub Simba (Donald Glover) as he comes of age in the savannas of Africa. Turned away by his uncle after a startling loss, Simba finds a new family with his pals Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumba (Seth Rogen).

Many critics felt that the charm of the original “Lion King” (1994) was lost in translation among the photorealistic CGI renderings, but most said that it was a good-natured movie all the same.

“‘The Lion King’ captures just enough of the original’s warmhearted excitement – and introduces enough new delights – to feel like more than a cynical Disney money grab,” wrote Hannah Giorgis in her review for The Atlantic.

Critics called “Aladdin” a serviceable re-imagining of the original film.

Will Smith stars in ‘Aladdin’ as Genie. Disney

Rotten Tomatoes score: 57%

Summary: A re-imagining of “Aladdin” (1992), the live-action film follows the adventures of good-hearted thief Aladdin (Mena Massoud). After he comes upon a magic lamp that awakens a magical genie (Will Smith) he attempts to use his three wishes to win the heart of Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott).

“Aladdin” earned mixed reception from critics, with some finding fault in the movie’s direction and others lending praise to its inherent charm.

“‘Aladdin’ delivers the goods, especially when the music is playing, and while it may not be exactly what you wished for, it’s close enough,” wrote Mathew DeKinder for the Suburban Journals of St. Louis.

Reviewers said “Alita: Battle Angel” was a fun, if lengthy, action film.

Rosa Salazar in ‘Alita: Battle Angel.’ 20th Century Fox

Rotten Tomatoes score: 60%

Summary: In the action-adventure film “Alita: Battle Angel,” an abandoned cyborg (Rosa Salazar) attempts to make a new life in Iron City with the help of a caring doctor (Christoph Waltz). As the city turns against her, Alita realises that dangers from her past have come back to haunt her.

Critics generally enjoyed “Alita: Battle Angel,” saying it was a bit too long, but the action was unapologetically fun.

“‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is an action-packed ride that had me in tears,” wrote John Nguyen for Nerd Reactor. “It’s definitely one of my favourite live-action films based on the manga and anime, and Rosa Salazar as Alita brings a lot of heart to the film.”

“It: Chapter Two” received a slew of positive and negative reviews.

The film is a follow-up to ‘It’ (2017). Warner Bros.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%

Summary: In the stirring follow-up to “It” (2017), the sequel reconnects with the kids of the “Loser Club” decades later as they find themselves called back to the town of Derry, Maine. They soon realise that they will never escape their past until Pennywise the clown is defeated once and for all.

Although critics were split on their opinion of “It Chapter Two,” many felt that it served as an apt companion piece to the first film.

“If perhaps it isn’t nearly as daring as King’s novel, capturing the tone and emotional essence goes a long way towards making this study on fear and trembling effectively entertaining,” wrote Nicholas Bell for Ion Cinema.

Critics called “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” fast, silly, and fun.

Some critics felt the film was silly but they loved it anyway. Universal

Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

Summary: After facing off against each other in “Furious 7” (2015), Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) partners up with Shaw (Jason Statham) to take on genetically enhanced Brixton (Idris Elba). Hobbs and Shaw race against time to stop Brixton from getting his hands on a bio-threat that could destroy the world.

Critics called out how silly “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” was, but many found the film to be entertaining.

“It’s a thoroughly fun action comedy that delivers exactly what it promises – and if the screening I attended is any indication, kids will love it,” Matthew Rozsa wrote for Salon.

Critics found “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” endearing and cute.

Ryan Reynolds is the voice of Pikachu in the film. Warner Bros.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 68%

Summary: After he is told that his father has gone missing and is presumed dead, Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) partners up with his dad’s Pokemon (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) to find the truth. As they piece together clues about his father’s disappearance, Tim and Pikachu stumble upon a larger mystery bigger than they could have ever predicted.

Although the film had some stumbles and missteps, most critics described the film as light and fun family entertainment.

“Smart, imaginative and sweet, ‘Detective Pikachu’ offers something for everyone,” wrote Katie Smith-Wong for Flick Feast.

“Joker” was called a dark and gritty character study.

Joaquin Phoenix in ‘Joker.’ Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros

Rotten Tomatoes score: 69%

Summary: Batman’s infamous villain has his origin story unravelled in the dramatic thriller “Joker.” Clown-for-hire Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) aspires to be a stand-up comic but the insidious world around him, coupled with his debilitating mental health, leads him down a dark path.

Reviews for “Joker” were largely positive, and though some critics painted it as bleak and dull, many said that Phoenix shined in the role.

“If there is a meaningful difference between performing and acting, Joaquin Phoenix surely exemplifies the former here, creepily contorting as the Clown Prince of Crime in Todd Phillips’ timely, toxic take on the Making of a Murdering Madman,” wrote Matthew Lickona for San Diego Reader.

Critics described “Isn’t It Romantic” as likable and charming.

Rebel Wilson stars in the film. BRON Studios

Rotten Tomatoes score: 70%

Summary: Natalie (Rebel Wilson) has always thought romance movies were ridiculous but when she hits her head and wakes up in an alternate world, she realises she might be in one.

Starring in her own romantic comedy, Natalie navigates her place in a shinier New York City and a cut-throat workplace, all while trying to win over heart-throb Blake (Liam Hemsworth).

Critics said that “Isn’t It Romantic” played into the very tropes it tried to parody, but most came out of the theatre charmed by the comedy.

“So many charming, carefully-crafted laughs that make it worth an hour and 28 minutes of your time,” wrote Hannah Chambers for Cosmopolitan. “It’s like the writers forced a robot to watch years worth of rom-coms, and then scientifically created this perfect spin with all of their idiosyncrasies.”

Critics said “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” was surprisingly imaginative.

The film is based on a series of books. CBS Films/YouTube

Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

Summary: Based on the gruesome children’s series, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” takes place in 1968 as a group of young teens break into a haunted mansion and mistakenly unleash a dark force upon their town of Mill Valley. As their friends start to disappear, Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) tries to quell a dark spirit before it takes her as well.

Even though some reviews pointed to a weak screenplay, most critics were taken aback by the film’s strong production value and inventive imagery.

“Impressively gruesome and thematically rich, drawing on political allegory that goes far beyond the simple spooks and scares of the stories themselves,” Katie Walsh wrote for Nerdist.

“Captain Marvel” was rescued by a strong central performance.

Brie Larson in ‘Captain Marvel.’ Marvel

Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

Summary: “Captain Marvel” traces the origin story of superhero Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she returns to earth in search of her past. Teaming up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Carol works to discover who she really is all while they face off against a planetary threat.

Although superhero films are hardly few and far between these days, critics enjoyed the film and pointed to the unique charisma of Larson’s performance as a highlight.

“Superhero cinema has lectured us, ad infinitum, on the responsibility that is conferred by extraordinary gifts,” Anthony Lane wrote for The New Yorker. “Praise be to Larson, for reminding us that they can be bringers of fun.”

“Good Boys” was praised for its good-natured humour.

The film was lauded as a coming-of-age comedy. Universal Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%

Summary: Desperate to learn more about girls before they transition into middle school, Max (Jacob Tremblay) and his friends spy on their female neighbours. When the girls destroy his father’s drone to teach them a lesson, Max and his pals go on a ludicrous adventure that involves skipping school, dodging the cops, and getting a jumpstart on puberty.

Despite the movie’s raunchy nature, critics doled out positive reviews for “Good Boys,” calling it a surprisingly wholesome coming-of-age tale.

“The movie’s charm comes from its ability to conjure up the innocence of the twilight of childhood; its humour arises from the adult perspective of certain not-so-innocent things,” wrote James Berardinelli for Reel Views. “‘Good Boys’ may not be for everyone but my funny bone was tickled.”

Critics loved “Long Shot” because of the chemistry between its leads.

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in ‘Long Shot.’ Summit Entertainment

Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%

Summary: In the romantic comedy “Long Shot,” Fred Flarksy (Seth Rogen) reconnects with his childhood crush Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who now works as a diplomat. Charmed by his self-deprecating humour, Charlotte invites him along as a speechwriter as she campaigns for president.

Critics felt that “Long Shot” did little to break new ground in the romantic-comedy genre, but they applauded the chemistry between Rogen and Theron.

Rhys Tarling wrote for Isolated Nation: “Even when the story is treading well-worn territory, Rogen and Theron are so authentic and lively together that you don’t care [if] you know exactly where it’s going, you’re just happy to be along for the ride.”

“Midsommar” was hailed as an inventive, thrilling horror movie.

Many felt ‘Midsommar’ was terrifying. A24

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

Summary: Following a horrific family tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) travels to Sweden with her long-term boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) to attend a summer festival that only happens once every seven decades. As people begin to disappear and things go amiss, Dani suspects that the small Swedish village harbours a dark secret.

Critics praised “Midsommar” as a successful follow-up to writer-director Ari Aster’s debut film “Hereditary” (2018).

“Even more than ‘Hereditary,’ ‘Midsommar’ lives on the edge where horror meets absurdity, prompting the kind of laughter that comes from not knowing how else to respond,” wrote Jake Wilson for The Age.

Critics called “Downton Abbey” a pleasant follow-up to a cherished series.

Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery reprise their roles in the ‘Downton Abbey’ movie. Focus Features

Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

Summary: An extension of the much-beloved television series, “Downton Abbey” picks up where the show left off, with the high-class Crawley family anticipating the arrival of the king and queen. As the Crawley residence learns that the royal rulers travel with their own staff and servants, tension arises in the noble Abbey.

Critics generally favoured “Downton Abbey” as an enjoyable addendum to the established television series.

“With a two-hour running time, ‘Downton Abbey’ can indulge itself in some of the more delicious aspects of its six-season run,” wrote John Anderson in his review for the Wall Street Journal.

“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” was called a fun romp for the whole family.

The movie is a sequel. Warner Bros. Animation

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

Summary: In the “Lego Movie” animated sequel, Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and their Lego friends band together to defend Bricksburg from an ominous threat that could wipe out their entire world.

Critics called “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” an exhilarating ride that was sure to please kids and adults in equal measure.

“Suffice to say that it’s a hell of a ride, with poignant things to say about the earnestness of adolescence and the frustrations of sibling conflict,” wrote Ed Potton for The Times UK.

Critics said “Rocketman” was a well-crafted dive into Elton John’s early years.

Taron Egerton in ‘Rocketman.’ Paramount Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

Summary: The musical drama “Rocketman” seeks to tell the story of Elton John’s (Taron Egerton’s) early life, from bright-eyed child to disillusioned rock god. As he rises to the top of the charts, Elton relies on his friend and songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) to keep him on the right path.

“Rocketman” was received as a colourful and inventive biopic, as well as a delightful homage to Elton John’s discography.

“The movie not only does a fine job in finding the emotionally and narratively meaningful moments for the songs, but also reminds you what power lies in the magical combination of music and lyrics itself,” wrote Zhuo-Ning Su for Awards Daily.

“Shazam!” earned praise as a fresh and exciting take on superheroes.

Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman and Zachary Levi as Shazam in ‘Shazam.’ Warner Bros.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

Summary: After meeting an ancient wizard, down-on-his-luck foster kid Billy Baston (Asher Angel) is given the power to become a super-strong, towering superhero (Zachary Levi) named Shazam. But Billy soon realises that his powers come with a newfound responsibility to protect his city from danger.

In an age of superhero origin stories, a lot of critics praised “Shazam!” for delivering a fresh take on a well-worn premise.

Matthew Norman wrote for the London Evening Standard: “After lazy reliance on phoney gravitas and blundering with its first serious stab at levity with ‘Aquaman,’ DC has found a comic torch-bearer of pure heart to illuminate the path of righteousness ahead.”

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” was full of fantastic action sequences.

Keanu Reeves in ‘John Wick: Chapter 3.’ Nico Tavernise/Lionsgate

Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

Summary: In the third instalment of the “John Wick” franchise, John (Keanu Reeves) remains excommunicated from the illustrious guild of assassins he held dominion over.

With a $US14 million bounty on his head, John lives a life on the run and leaves a bloody body count in his wake.

Some critics said that although the sequel didn’t live up the potential of the first film, “Parabellum” was unparalleled in its action choreography and stunning cinematography.

“It’s really impossible to keep track of all the rules, but you don’t really care… because the action scenes are so elaborate, so well-choreographed, and so much fun,” wrote film critic Wade Major in his review for Film Week.

Critics called “Spider-Man: Far From Home” a worthy entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Tom Holland in the film. Sony

Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%

Summary: In the wake of the universe-altering events of “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his friends try to regain normalcy in their lives by attending a school trip to Europe. But Peter soon learns that his responsibilities as Spider-Man can never really take a vacation.

Critics said that “Spider-Man: Far From Home” had a few flaws but as a whole it was a satisfying addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“[T]his one is a genuine winner and never wears out its welcome, even if we’ve all seen far too many superhero movies this past decade,” Jeff York wrote for Creative Screenwriting.

Critics said “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” ended on a high note.

Critics liked this follow-up to the first film. DreamWorks Animation

Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%

Summary: Taking place a few years after “How to Train Your Dragon” and its sequel, “The Hidden World” picks up with Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Astrid (America Ferrera) ruling the small village of Berk and its citizens as they live peacefully beside dragons. When Hiccup’s dragon Toothless is placed in danger, Hiccup goes to the ends of the earth for his winged friend.

Critics felt that “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” provided a fitting end to the animated series.

“So much of ‘The Hidden World’ is stuffed with filler material. But in certain wordless moments, this grand final entry really sings,” wrote The Atlantic critic David Sims.

“Fighting With My Family” was applauded as a strong sports comedy.

The film made millions in the box office. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

Summary: The sports comedy “Fighting With My Family” tells the story of British teenager Raya Knight (Florence Pugh) and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden) as they receive a rare opportunity to audition for the WWE. When Raya is accepted and her brother is left behind, she pushes herself to earn acclaim for her family in the world of wrestling.

Critics admired the film for its earnest message, with many giving particular praise to Pugh for her electrifying performance.

“Pugh is the film’s main weapon,” wrote Charlotte O’Sullivan for the London Evening Standard. “Hauntingly intense in ‘The Falling’ and ‘Lady Macbeth,’ the 23-year-old turns out to be an effortlessly nuanced comedian.”

“Us” was hailed as an intriguing, original horror film.

Jordan Peele directed ‘Us.’ Universal Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

Summary: In the horror thriller “Us,” a paranoid Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) is already reluctant to visit her family’s vacation home with her husband (Winston Duke) and children. But as sinister signs crop around them, Adelaide grows more assured that something dangerous is stalking their family.

Film critics received “Us” as a riveting follow-up to Jordan Peele’s debut horror film “Get Out,” with some even saying that it expanded his scope as a director.

“As ‘Get Out’ made evident, [Jordan] Peele can be regarded as an attentive filmmaker with the mind of an anthropologist,” wrote critic Poulomi Das for Qrius. “‘Us’ doesn’t just further that reputation, but also cements the expansive scope of his ambitions.”

Critics called “Avengers: Endgame” a landmark film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film made millions of dollars at the box office, too. Marvel Studios

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Summary: Following the universe-shattering events of “Avengers: Infinity War,” Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and the rest of the Avengers attempt to turn back time and save half of humanity from being wiped away for good.

Critics called “Avengers: Endgame” a masterful conclusion to a long-running arc in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As Oliver Jones wrote for the Observer: “What you will be getting when you walk into an inevitably overstuffed movie theatre is something singular that reflects our age in a way that none of the MCU films that preceded it have-indeed, very few Hollywood spectacles ever have.”

“The Peanut Butter Falcon” was received as a warm and emotional drama.

‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ received high marks from critics. Roadside Attractions

Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Summary: In “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” ambitious Zak (Zack Gottsagen) runs away from his life in a nursing home in the hopes of meeting his wrestling idol (Thomas Haden Church).

Along the way, Zak connects with an outsider named Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) and they form a fast friendship during their misadventures.

Reviewers had little to criticise about “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” hailing it as an affecting drama with well-earned high points from the cast.

“‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ isn’t shy of pushing your buttons, but the overall effect has an innocent charm and frankness, and LaBeouf brings a winning combination of toughness and soul,” wrote The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw.

Critics adored “Toy Story 4” for its thoughtful themes and dazzling animation.

The film wrapped up the series well, according to reviewers. Disney-Pixar/YouTube

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

Summary: The last instalment in Pixar’s “Toy Story” series follows Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) as they accompany their new child Bonnie on a road trip with her family. When the group gets separated, Woody does his best to get home before he’s left behind.

Even though this is the fourth film in a series, “Toy Story 4” still impressed critics with its thoughtful story.

“It doesn’t put you through the emotional wringer the way its predecessor did, but it’s consistently inventive, funny, witty, and heartfelt,”Peter Rainer wrote for Christian Science Monitor. “In other words, it’s a lot better than it has any right to be.”

“Booksmart” was commended for its smart script and modern feel.

Beanie Feldstein stars in ‘Booksmart.’ Booksmart / United Artists Releasing

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

Summary: Upon realising that their party-hard classmates have gotten into the same elite colleges they studied so hard to attend, Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) decide to go all out before they graduate with a night of partying and irresponsible behaviour.

Critics lauded “Booksmart” for breathing new life into the coming-of-age comedy genre, with some likening director Olivia Wilde to John Hughes.

“It’s raunchy and kind of gross at times, but there is such heart, sweetness, and honesty about high school,” wrote Christy Lemire for Film Week.

Critics praised “The Farewell” as one of the most compelling dramas of the year.

Awkwafina stars in the emotional film. Big Beach Films

Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

Summary: Upon hearing that her grandmother has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, Billi (Awkwafina) is told by her parents to keep quiet about it on their trip to China.

Torn by her love for her grandmother and her promise to her parents, Billi grapples with the secret in a world away from home.

“The Farewell” earned acclaim for its subtle, emotional script and the groundbreaking talents of its cast.

“Immigrants, for whom such experiences often overlap in intimate ways, can tell some of the most compelling stories about the human condition and the dislocating shocks of modernity,” wrote Zoë Hu for the New Republic.

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