1994 was an extraordinary year for movies. The Shawshank Redemption, The Lion King, Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, Speed, Dumb and Dumber, The Mask, Natural Born Killers, True Lies, The Crow; 365 days of cinematic excellence. 1994 was so good it was unnatural, an absurd alignment of the stars - something that could never happen again in Hollywood. 2019 however, may have just given 1994 a run for the money. 2019 may not have quite reached the heights of 1994 but its closer than any year in the 21st century has any right to be.
Despite Far From Home, Rise of Skywalker, Captain Marvel, Dark Phoenix and of course Endgame, 2019 was not dominated by franchises. 2019 was the year for powerful stand-alone movies that not only made their mark on the year but in history. 2019 was a year where directors could make the movies they wanted to - unique, enthralling stories that reminded us of the magic of Hollywood.
10. John Wick: Parabellum
John Wick was never meant to grow into a franchise, yet the popularity and brilliance of its first entry propelled John Wick to the sequels. Chapter Two was a ride brimming with action and violence while expanding the wholly original universe at the same time. Parabellum took it all a step further.
The first 30 minutes of Parabellum may be one of the tightest first acts in a film ever, the action is relentless, assassins are on the hunt and John Wick on the run. With some of the most creative set pieces in the franchise and Keanu Reeves owning his role once again, Parabellum is the new standard for action in Hollywood.
9. Ad Astra
Ad Astra is a thoughtful film. It’s less about science fiction and more about sentiment, it’s a story of love, loss and betrayal brilliantly acted by Brad Pitt. Pitt brings a subdued but profound performance to a film that would have fallen flat without him. Ad Astra takes its time. It builds its protagonist as he journeys across the infinite expanse of space in search of answers to questions he’s terrified to ask.
Ad Astra is an emotional journey and a meaningful one. Unlike the psychological and intellectual experience that Interstellar was, Ad Astra tells a more emotional story that, despite being set light years away, is relevant.
8. The Irishman
The Irishman was a return to Scorsese’s mob epic roots, a movie in the vein of Goodfellas and Casino, but it had been more than 20 years since either of those films. The Irishman proved Scorsese is still playing his A game. The Irishman was a movie only the experienced hand of Scorsese could direct, contemplative and quietly intense. The Irishman was a movie that questioned mortality and morality.
The Irishman also brought together three powerhouses of Hollywood - DeNiro, Pacino and Pesci. Pesci especially giving a performance fierce and gentle at the same time. The Irishman put to rest all doubts around the ability of Scorsese and if this is his farewell to the mob genre, it is a worthy one.
A dark, disturbing tale of a man driven to violence by an ignorant and oppressive society. Joker is a commentary and a powerful character study, Joaquin Phoenix is perfect in this version of the Joker, making the character his own.
Joker is directed with expertise and patience, Todd Phillips creates a dark, grounded story without falling trap to cliché. Joker did justice to the character, bringing the clown prince of crime to life in the unsettling and violent canvas of Gotham city.
1917 was more than a one shot gimmick. 1917 is a genuinely immersive experience, the mind blowing cinematography by none other than the great Roger Deakins; Mendes' taut direction and the strong performances all come together to create an intense, beautiful and enthralling journey of two brave men.
1917 unlike most war films chooses to explore the horror of the aftermath rather than the violence of combat. George MacKay is brilliant, delivering a performance that conveys the emotional trauma war can have on a soldier. 1917 is as much an emotional journey as it is a physical one. A journey that gradually leads us further behind enemy lines, a one shot master piece and a serious contender for best picture.
5. Official Secrets
One of the most underrated and overlooked films of the year, Official Secrets is a tight and grounded true story. Keira Knightley gives one of her best performances and Ralph Fiennes, unsurprisingly, is brilliant in a film that constantly drives up the stakes. Official Secrets is an incredible story, the fact that it is true only adds to the experience. One seemingly simple action can become a national crisis and soon there is no one to trust, much like its tagline - Nothing is more dangerous than the truth.
4. Knives Out
Whodunnits is a genre for novels, Agatha Christie perhaps dominating that arena. Rarely does a film come along, that can bring a similar sense of mystery and tension. Rian Johnson stepped up to the task and delivered in spades. Knives Out is an entertaining, intelligent and unique mystery with an unbelievable cast. Daniel Craig shines as the detective in a performance that is charming, hilarious and intense. Knives Out is completely original and proves that stand-alone movies still have a place in Hollywood.
3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Tarantino’s ninth film was a blast. A film crafted for the movie fan, an entertaining glimpse into the industry while simultaneously making a commentary on the current state of Hollywood. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is what a good time at the movies is. Fun, violent and creative. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are marvellous, especially Pitt with another Oscar worthy performance in the year.
2. The Two Popes
The Two Popes tells the story of the final days of Benedict XVI as pope and his conversations with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. The Two Popes has one of the best scripts of the year, the two men’s banter is like swordplay, a mere conversation with the intensity of a duel.
The Two Popes is a story of courage and character uplifted by the incredible performances of its two leads Hopkins and Pryce who inhabit their characters with unbelievable perfection. Edited like an action movie, The Two Popes continually builds momentum, each moment deepening the story and keeping its audience engaged. The Two Popes was an overlooked movie in 2019 but nothing short of brilliant.
1. Ford v Ferrari
Ford v Ferrari is that movie which just does not slow down, it has everything a great movie should have, it very literally fires on all cylinders. Mangold is one of the most talented directors working today and Ford v Ferrari suggests he may be even more. Christian Bale becomes his character Ken Miles transforming even physically. Matt Damon gives one of his strongest performances in recent times as Carroll Shelby and together they form a wonderful chemistry. We constantly care for the characters, we want to see them win, and with each victory they do pull off, we feel it.
Ford v Ferrari has something for everyone, it’s not just for the car maniacs, it’s an experience for everybody to enjoy. A journey that is entertaining, exciting, emotional and heart-warming, creating an experience that is quite near flawless and for that reason, it is our number one movie of 2019.