With 2019 ended, I wanted to keep up tradition and look back at what came out this year.
It’s always a surprise to lay out everything like this. Movies can be so individual at times – once it is over, you like it or you don’t. But to then take that opinion and line it up with its peers?
Last year, for example, both Paddington 2 and Annihilation made my list of must-see movies. In short, it can be very strange.
What I struggled with this year was how I was thinking about these lists, and thereby my recommendations. Letter grades were a convenient shorthand – barring alternative education routes, most folks understand A=great, B=good, etc. From there, I could translate to “must see”, “should see”, etc.
While this was always subjective, I felt uneasy continuing to describe things in this objective-seeming way. I don’t think of movies in terms of letter grades, so I shouldn’t recommend them this way.
If you want scores, there are many aggregates out there, and plenty of reviewers who use stars. I tend not to. This is not an indictment of those systems – they are the overwhelming choice for a reason. But it never felt quite right to me. It’s not how I talk about them. And that’s what I want to capture more.
So I’m making things more personal this year. 5 simple categories that you’ll see shortly, based solely on how I felt about the movie.
Reviews are linked in gold, with updates to come. This list will also grow as I make my way through stuff I missed, so if your fave didn’t make it, nothing personal.
I Loved It
You must see these movies.
They are the best 2019 has to offer. They challenged me intellectually, emotionally, and artistically. They were shockingly creative in their use of theme, setting, and/or visuals.
Go out of your way to watch these. Buy them, rent them, stream them.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
I Liked It a Lot
You should see these movies.
Some subverted expectations, using tropes to great effect. Others were deeply sincere in their presentation, forcing you to contend with their earnestness.
You’re not wrong to buy them, rent them, stream them.
Dolemite Is My Name
I Liked It
You might want to see these movies.
They’re not perfect, but they do have moments that really stand out. Some provide interesting commentary, others are feats of representation, and most are just plain fun.
These are worth renting, but you can also wait for streaming.
Deadwood: The Movie
Ford v Ferrari
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
The Kid Who Would Be King
Toy Story 4
I Thought It Was Fine
You can see these movies if you really want.
These are just fine. They may have performed below expectation, or been exactly what they meant to be: just fun rides. That is not to say they’re duds – they’ve got something for just about anybody. Your mileage may vary.
Find them on when they hit streaming if you want.
Isn’t It Romantic?
Jumanji: The Next Level
Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Queen & Slim
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
I Didn’t Like It.
You don’t need to see these movies.
These movies are disappointing. Some fail to execute on their basic premise. Others are just boring, or far too contrived.
If you see them on streaming and feel like you’d be a fan, then go for it.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
The Lion King (2019)
The Secret Life of Pets 2
I mean…how does one even…I just…