Aaron’s Outstanding Top Ten Films of 2019

Here it is, my Top Ten Films of 2019! After plenty of viewing and consideration, I have put together my list of year-end favorites. This was another incredible year for film, and having watched around 200 2019 releases theatrically, as well as on various streaming services (though Netflix had another banner year), there was a lot to narrow down from. Some films were instant favorites, others stuck with me and only managed to grow on me over time. All of that in mind, the following is the list of films that resonated with me most, complete with runner-ups, honorable mentions, and more. (Reviews are linked when available. As per usual, I’ve also linked some fun Easter Eggs in all of the pictures. Enjoy!)

Runner-Ups (Ranked 25-11):

25. Avengers Endgame 

24. Jojo Rabbit

23. Fast Color

22. Waves

21. Toy Story 4

20. Dolemite Is My Name

19. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

18. Ford v Ferrari

17. The Farewell

16. Monos

15. Apollo 11

14. A Hidden Life

13. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

12. The Irishman

11. Marriage Story

The Top Ten:

10. Shadow

“Without the real, there can be no shadow.”

While already an accomplished filmmaker, following the one-two punch of Hero and House of Flying Daggers, I’m all for anticipating whatever period martial arts film director Zhang Yimou wants to put out there. Shadow happens to be another terrific effort bringing out all the great things about films of this nature. The action, choreography, production design, costumes, and skillfully handled melodrama all speak to a compelling story full of thrills. A unique approach this time around is Yimou’s choice to deliver a film shot only with tones of black and white, in the style of Chinese paintings. This stylish choice allows for one of Yimou’s more inventive features. The director is at the top of his game when it comes to delivering a story grappling with ancient Chinese eras while delivering epic final battles involving everything from spears to bladed umbrellas (it’s as awesome as it sounds). With the character-focused first half serving as great build-up to the non-stop action in the latter half, Shadow provides highly satisfying entertainment and intrigue.

9. Transit

“Who forgets faster, the abandoned, or those who left them?”

This challenging yet stunning German feature from director Christian Petzold really left an impact on me. It is set in an alternate reality depicting a modern society as though it were under fascist control akin to the politics of World War II. It takes a significant amount of effort to commit to a concept such as this. Thanks to the work in production and costume design, along with smart writing, Transit pulls this off. It tells the story of a man impersonating a deceased writer to flee his country, only to find love during his journey. There are more complications from there, but the film is distinct in its setting and finds plenty of strength in presenting the world it has built while letting the superb performances help speak to the unfolding drama.

8. 1917

“If you fail, it will be a massacre.”

I feel bad for suggesting director Sam Mendes was perhaps continuing to ride the coattails of Christopher Nolan. Yes, Skyfall owed a lot to The Dark Knight, and it felt like 1917 would owe plenty to Dunkirk. However, 1917 is its own magnificent example of cinema at its finest. One of the better examples of how to justify going to the movies in a world full of 4K TVs and streaming service options, 1917 is a triumph of craft made to be experienced in the largest format available. A simplified story of two soldiers needing to travel from A to B leads to a terrifically tense feature delivering on all the exciting aspects of what a war movie can offer. The World War I setting means digging into the real ugliness of this war, complete with the claustrophobic trenches and the unpredictable dangers of No Man’s Land. This is all in service to a brilliantly filmed movie thanks to the insane efforts by cinematographer Roger Deakins and editor Lee Smith to put together a film devised to play as one continuous shot. It’s that sort of movie magic that allows audiences to get lost in the incredible filmmaking and acting on display.

7. Midsommar

“So, we’re just going to ignore the bear then?”

Ari Aster’s Hereditary was an excellent debut film, capitalizing off an eerie sense of dread in the middle of a horror-infused family drama. Midsommar is an interesting pivot that still shows a wonderful handle on the atmosphere but also feels unique in its presentation. While using the folk horror genre as a launching point will call to mind a film like The Wicker Man, Midsommar goes in its own strange direction. It is less about its inevitable ending, and more focused on playing into Florence Pugh’s journey as a character dealing with grief, a deteriorating relationship, and her presence in a quirky (and deadly) Swedish cult society. Shot almost exclusively in daylight, following a haunting opening sequence, the very bright film arrives in such a contrast to the actual events taking place. And yet, for all of the moments featuring horrific visuals, the execution and tone speak to something oddly serene in many instances. It’s the reason Midsommar has lingered in my mind, along with these other films, throughout the year.

6. High Flying Bird

“You want to get back to the court, and as your agent, I want to get you there.”

The experimental side of Steven Soderbergh came out once again via Netflix, with another film shot entirely on the iPhone 8. This time, however, he delivered a fresh and exciting feature – a basketball drama that doesn’t really feature any actual basketball. Moonlight writer Tarell Alvin McCraney’s script for High Flying Bird is clever. It presents a story that feels akin to something on the level of David Mamet in the way the dialogue relates to the ins and outs of being a sports agent. I have no real attachment to basketball, let alone the world around its players. Yet, I was utterly immersed in the journey star Andre Holland is on, as he navigates through an NBA lockout, in an attempt to help out a star client, and work on changing how the system is managed. Holland is terrific, and the added support from Zazie Beetz, Melvin Gregg, Sonja Sohn, and Bill Duke, among others, does a great deal for the film. Not only that, High Flying Bird looks fantastic. The way Soderbergh captures the scope of New York while finding ways to show the inside various office buildings and apartments keeps the film on its own level. It doesn’t call awareness to what it’s being shot on but continually feels impressive.

5. Us

“If you wanna get crazy, we can get crazy!”

Jordan Peele had no thoughts on slowing down, following his Oscar-winning success with Get Out. Rather than rest on his laurels, the director has crafted another ambitious social thriller playing into other aspects he sees in society today, and on a larger scale. Us also works on a purely visceral level, thanks to the primal idea of deadly doppelgangers going on the attack. The Twilight Zone inspiration provided Us an interesting high concept to work with, but the film’s intentions spoke to a variety of themes and social commentary, in addition to being a feature full of cinematic references. Honestly, just on a technical level, there is so much to admire in what Peele is doing, with a creepy score to top it all off. At the center of all of this is a black family unit that is both a subversive way of handling this sort of horror story and one wholly appropriate for what is taking place. The cast is all-around terrific, but Lupita Nyong’o delivers a dual performance for the ages, serving as both hero and villain of the story. With his name attached as a producer to a couple of upcoming horror features, I can only hope Peele’s sensibilities rub off on others appropriately.

4. Uncut Gems

“This is how I win.”

2017’s Good Time was enough to have me excited for what Josh and Benny Safdie would do next with even more resources at their disposal. At the same time, Uncut Gems still functions as a down-and-dirty thriller melding the high class of those looking to buy and sell jewelry with the grittiness of characters like Adam Sandler’s Howard Ratner. This film did a number on my anxiety level. My first viewing had me rocking back and forth on the edge of my seat, having a blast, while always being worried. Sandler gives the performance of his career, which is nothing to scoff at when considering his work as an actor in films such as Punch-Drunk Love, The Meyerowitz Stories, or Funny People. It comes down to seeing filmmakers who know how to tap into the energy he can bring to these sorts of challenging roles. Around the Sandman, you have an incredibly compelling movie. The dive into the world of sports betting and the unsavory characters it brings out allows Uncut Gems to work as a fantastic New York film, held together with a synth-infused score and an Altman-like approach to the editing. Not hurting at all are strong supporting performances from both Kevin Garnett and newcomer Julia Fox, who stand as strong as Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, Judd Hirsch, and Eric Bogosian. Still, even if you hate Howard, you can’t not get a kick out of the crazy journey he goes on.

3. Parasite

“You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan. No plan at all.”

Bong Joon-ho’s already impressive output is almost no match for his acclaimed effort from this year. Having already won the Palm d’Or, with an eye on netting some Oscar nominations (let alone wins), the near-universal love for Parasite is such a refreshing bit of synergy. It’s a film that continually lives up to its own hype, and it’s not as though it’s some standard piece of fiction. Combining elements of dark comedy and Hitchcockian-level thrills, Parasite is a masterfully made look at class-based societies, much like the have’s and the have-not’s story told in Us. The layers to the film find a way to go to various extremes, without ever feeling out of place for the tone of the film, yet continually delivering on new surprises. The strong performances are a great plus as well, with Song Kang-ho continuing to stand out as an actor deserving of much larger recognition outside of South Korea. Considering how all of the settings were physically built for this film, I can only imagine where Bong’s imagination will take him next. As it stands, Parasite is a fantastic feature that has a purpose as well as high entertainment value.

2. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

“You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.”

Seeing and hearing things here and there about Joe Talbot’s debut film, following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, had me prepared for a flick entirely up my alley. The small wave of movies focused on gentrification, racial divide, and the nature of masculinity in the bay area has proven to be a very rich sub-genre of film. The Last Black Man in San Francisco continues the trend, serving as an artfully made mood piece. I’ve described the film as a cinematic tone poem, and that continues to hold true. The semi-autobiographical story of Jimmie Fails focuses on a time of struggle for those who once held a specific opinion of San Francisco, only to deal with how it has continued to evolve. Jonathan Majors deserves a massive amount of credit for delivering one of the best performances of the year as Jimmie’s best friend Montgomery, a man with his own unique approach to the changing effects of time. As a whole, the film has so much to say about its subject. The Last Black Man in San Francisco accomplishes as much through a terrific amount of confidence in the filmmaking. It also features what is perhaps my favorite film score of the year, which is no small accomplishment.

1. Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood

“That was the best acting I’ve ever seen in my whole life.”

I don’t think it’s cheating to say I reserved a spot for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood, as it should come as no surprise that I would adore this film. There’s no reason to bury the fact that I simply respond to everything Tarantino does as a filmmaker. I can try to be as critical as I can, but here’s another film firing on all cylinders in what it’s attempting to accomplish. As an ode to Hollywood’s golden age, Tarantino has delivered his sweetest film, with enough laid-back charm to bring to mind his work on Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. At the same time, all of the directorial ambition that found him at his best as a filmmaker with Inglourious Basterds shines through here, as we follow an aging actor and his stunt man/best friend, with a B-plot focused on the innocence of Sharon Tate, as she enjoys life breaking out as a young actress in tinsel town.

While some questioned the motives of Tarantino making a movie involving the Manson Family, anyone familiar with the filmmaker may have had an idea where he was going with this story (certainly nowhere malicious, and with the approval of the Tate family, no less). Not only did he find a way to balance the elements one typically finds in his films, there’s a real dedication to being as thoughtful as possible in managing a feature that spends its time crafting its characters and Tarantino’s own thoughts on Hollywood, as a filmmaker who is also aging with the times as well. The result is a splendid, funny, tense, well-crafted, and highly entertaining ride through an era, with pitch-perfect performances adding up to my favorite film of the year.


Honorable Mentions (Ranked 50-26):

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Dark Waters, Shazam!, See You Yesterday, The Report, Wild Rose, I Lost My Body, Little Women, The Nightingale, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Non-Fiction, The Lighthouse, Climax, Ad Astra, Knives Out, Queen & Slim, Tigers Are Not Afraid, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, Pain & Glory, High Life, Booksmart, Missing Link, Honeyland, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Movies I Missed:

American Factory, Aquarela, Birds of Passage, The Cave, Corpus Christi, Diane, An Elephant Sitting Still, First Love, Hagazussa, I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians Invisible Life, La Flor, Light of My Life, Nobadi, One Child Nation, One Cut of the Dead, Peterloo, Present.Perfect., Swallow, Sweetheart, Synonyms, Weathering With You

And that’s a wrap for 2019. I’ve once again decided to focus exclusively on the good, so don’t look for any “worst-of” lists from me. I continue to be quite thrilled by what film has to offer, and I’m very happy with how the effort I have put into all of this has paid off in various ways. Please be sure to enjoy some of the other recent lists I’ve put together, including my picks for the best Blu-rays of the year, and my favorite movie scenes of 2019. I even put together my list of the best 3D films of the decade. Feel free to hear more of my thoughts on the year’s releases, along with others via the podcast I’ve co-hosted for eight years and counting.

Additionally, I put a lot of focus on the Godzilla franchise this year. Be sure to check out all that I had to say in that regard, including a beginner’s guide, fun facts, rankings of two of the eras, a commentary, and more. Finally, feel free to leave comments and check out the lists all the other folks at Why So Blu have put together. I’ve been happy to continue contributing what I can, and it doesn’t hurt when you have so many good releases to talk about. So, here’s to seeing more, as 2020 is bound to feature plenty of films I know I’ll be into, as well as a lot of surprises.


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

9 Responses to “Aaron’s Outstanding Top Ten Films of 2019”

  1. Brandon Peters

    As always, I love reading through your lists. I’m jealous of (But more excited for) films I’ve yet to have the opportunity to see. But, I love taking note of ones I’d might have missed you talking about through the year and also enjoy the extra fist bump of seeing a film you turned me onto making the list.

    The thing I dig about your list, as opposed to the other critics is they will try to steer as unique a direction as they are able (Some films are just too damn good that everyone will have them in there), but you stay the course no matter if 100 people list such a film as a #X or just you. Its awesome.

    Oh and I have to get back to your easter eggs later, much of the clips are blocked by my work internet!

  2. Brian White

    Ditto to what Brandon said above. Breath of fresh air not seeing Irishman in Top 10 like everyone else has it.
    I knew Hollywood would be your number 1.
    Do you have Godzilla King of Monsters so high because of your love for him? Just trying to gauge your critique of that one. I wanted to love that so much like I did Kong!
    Where’s Star Wars? 🙂
    I was late today as I was absorbed in your end of post Easter egg video. Thanks! Haha.
    I did watch Dolemite last weekend. I need to watch the San Fran movie on your list on Prime.
    Parasite is pre-ordered!
    Impressive with the word count too!

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    Thanks guys.

    @Brandon Yeah, I mean, I could throw Marriage Story way high or shower praise on The Irishman, I think they’re both great, but I just gotta go with the films that left a strong mark and had me holding onto them. The ranking after maybe 6 is pretty negligible, but if I can bring more attention to Transit, I’m going to do it.

    @Brian – It is what it is. I have Godzilla KOM high because I love the movie. Not as much as Kong, but it’s a pure blast of fun (with reviews and podcasts linked to even better emphasize why). I hope you enjoy all the little fun links I found. I hope you enjoy Parasite!

  4. Gerard Iribe

    Whoop whoop! Wow, what a list, and aside from some of the obvious titles that will also be on my list, I’m taking notes on those indies. Transit? Never heard of it, but it’s in my queue along with a few titles in your runners up list now! Now it’s on to the Easter egg hunt!

  5. Brian White

    LOL I seriously ALMOST put that “I Got 5 On It” music video link in my review too.

  6. Brian White

    @Gerard…Aaron wrote a review on it July here on this site 🙂 https://whysoblu.com/transit-blu-ray-review/

  7. Gerard Iribe

    @Brian – Wow, and I see that it’s on PRIME right now!

  8. Gregg

    Quite the collection here. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, after watching it again, has overtaken Django Unchained as my #1 Tarantino film. That movie is so spectacular from top to bottom. I noticed Dark Waters was on your Honorable Mention list. The movie was decent but there seemed to be something lacking. If anything, it made me despise DuPont. Glad you got to see 1917! It’ll be a Thursday viewing this week for me. It’s unfortunate that didn’t have a national release all at once. I am very curious about Shadow. House of Flying Daggers was great so I’m onboard for another work by that director.

  9. Aaron Neuwirth

    Thanks Gregg!

    Yeah, I mean, Dark Waters was in the bottom towards 50, but I do like Mark Ruffalo films where he shouts, “They Knew!”

    I can’t imagine you not loving 1917, so looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    And yeah, if you’re a fan of Yimou’s martial arts films, Shadow has some great stuff for sure.