This is the second part of my Best Films of 2020 feature detailing my Top Ten films. Click here to read numbers 20 to 11.
Without further ado, here are my Top Ten films of 2019:
10) Jojo Rabbit
Director Taika Waititi describes Jojo Rabbit as an ‘anti-hate satire’ which perfectly encapsulates this film. There is a lot to like here and this is another original film from Waititi, who transposes his off-beat brand of humour to Nazi Germany with great results. What is also impressive is how the film takes a darker turn in the second half and there are some particular heartfelt moments, due to the good work in developing the characters. This is one of Scarlett Johannsson’s best performances here as the titular character’s mother. Taika Waititi also shines as Adolf Hitler and Stephen Merchant and Sam Rockwell also turn in strong performances. Hunt for the Wilderpeople remains Waititi’s best film though but it’s good to see his talent recognised here.
9) The Trial Of The Chicago 7
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is pretty typical Aaron Sorkin, which is a good thing as he spins a gripping yarn from the material. The trial is fascinating, particularly in how Frank Langella’s Judge abuses his power in the court of law. Sorkin powerfully interweaves the talky trial with flashbacks to the event and he masterfully creates tension in the run up to the riot. When the film depicts the event that got the Chicago 7 in hot water, it really earns its moment. The performances are suitably excellent and Sorkin has assembled a terrific cast. The particular standouts are expectedly Sacha Baron Cohen and Frank Langella, the latter is really excellent as the scheming, icy judge. Mark Rylance is also terrific as the lawyer representing the group, who at first is rather reticent but then fights for what he thinks is right. Sorkin has developed well as a director. The problem with Molly’s Game was that its second half couldn’t match its gripping first half but this isn’t the case here. The film suitably progresses and reaches a clear denouement. That said, Sorkin is still yet to match some of the director’s films he wrote in terms of artistic flair. (Full review here)
8) Just Mercy
Just Mercy is a gripping legal drama about a young and tenacious attorney (Michael B. Jordan) who defends a murder convict (Jamie Foxx) for a crime he didn’t commit. With strong performances by the duo and other members of the cast such as Brie Larson and Tim Blake Nelson, this is an assured and politicially timely piece by director Destin Daniel Cretton, who is next set to direct a Marvel feature, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
7) Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga
The idea of Will Ferrell fronting a film surrounding Eurovision was preposterous when I first heard of it but this film plays to all his strengths. Ferrell is hilarious as an Icelandic reject, who partners with his child sweetheart played sweetly by Rachel McAdams to audition for the contest. After a fortuitous turn of events, they end up performing for their country. With plenty of brilliant gags and moments, this is perhaps director David Dobkin’s best film as a director, even if the film is slightly overlong. In a year when Eurovision wasn’t broadcast due to the broadcast, the fact that this film exists more than makes up for it.
6) Richard Jewell
Richard Jewell could have been directed in Clint Eastwood’s sleep but this is yet another strong offering from the veteran filmmaker. It tells the fascinating true story of the titular character who is falsely accused of orchestrating a terrorist attack. Paul Walter Hauser is terrific in the lead role, who brilliantly manages to encapsulate the warm but slightly eccentric side of the character.
Soul is another winning original creation from Pixar and after a slightly shaky opening act on first viewing, finds its footing and often soars. Pixar stalwart Pete Docter skilfully interrogates existential themes of what it means to be alive and all the emotions associated with it including anxiety and depression. This is a far more adult film than some of Pixar’s other offerings but the characters and gags here should still enthrall younger viewings, even if the loftier themes go over their heads. (Full review here)
4) The Devil All The Time
The Devil All The Time is a sprawling and epic tale of a young man played by Tom Holland, who appears at different points of his life and how the sinister characters of the post-war backwards town that he lives in intertwine with his life. The story is intricately crafted together and shocking at times. There are some reveals in the third act are particularly satisfying and it is coherently told and interrogates some interesting themes. The cast are all great, with Robert Pattinson and Joel Edgerton the highlights.
Now into the top #3…
3) The Gentlemen
The Gentlemen is Guy Ritchie back on form. Since his two brilliant Sherlock Holmes efforts, Ritchie has fallen by the wayside with both The Man From UNCLE and Aladdin failing to impress. King Arthur was more promising in that it retained more of his signature style but it was also flawed. Going in to The Gentlemen with low expectations, this surprised me at multiple points. The cast are all brilliant and the script is razor sharp, deftly balancing its adult, violent and drug-fuelled content with a degree of silliness.
2) The Invisible Man
Writer director Leigh Whannell continues to go from strength to strength in his directorial career. After impressing with both Insidious: Chapter 3 and Upgrade, The Invisible Man is more in line with his second offering and is a giddy mix of sci-fi and horror in its execution. Elisabeth Moss is brilliant in the lead role and Whannell keeps the historical story fresh by throwing in some clever twists that subvert expectations. This film is an intelligent blast from start to finish that wildly succeeds in its genre-melding and justifies its existence as a remake, in its comparison to previous iterations.
So the best film of the year is…
Parasite is easily the winner here and it is pretty much perfect. This is a thrilling and rich study by Bong Joon-Ho about two families on opposite sides of the wealth scale. The script is razor-sharp and witty and the story takes some unexpected turns. The film constantly surprises and is consistently gripping. The performances are all brilliant and the film is technically astute. Films really don’t get much better than this.
So there we go, these films were in my opinion the best of 2019. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister