Ranked Worst to Best: 2019 Movies

A few weeks ago, my top ten films of 2019 finally stopped looking mildly embarrassing, but even now I would argue that this year wasn’t particularly exceptional for cinema.

PREVIOUS YEARS:

Ranked Worst to Best: 2018 Movies
Top 10 Movies of 2017

Avengers: Endgame delivered big, but a lot of other major blockbusters fell disappointingly flat. Fortunately, Netflix went some way to picking up the slack, while a couple of films came from out of the blue to unexpectedly find a place in my heart.

THE WORST

31. Brightburn

Worst Picture

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The idea of an evil Superman lends itself effortlessly to cinematic storytelling and has been explored previously in several thought-provoking comic books. Perhaps that’s why it’s so frustrating that Brightburn is the version that made it to the big screen.

Rather than attempt anything of substance, David Yarovesky opted to make the laziest kind of slasher flick; discarding meaningful character development to rely almost entirely on gore and shock value. The screenplay is weak and the performances weaker still, with Elizabeth Banks giving an embarrassing turn as the film’s Martha Kent stand-in.

30. Io

Worst Supporting Performance: Anthony Mackie

io-2

One of roughly 17 million “Netflix Original” movies to hit the streaming service this year, of which a small fraction are actually worth watching — needless to say, Io doesn’t qualify.

To give credit where it’s due: the cinematography in this film is actually quite well done and Margaret Qualley is serviceable in the lead role, but any good will is completely destroyed by the tedious plot which would bore anyone to tears.

Co-star Anthony Mackie earns his worst supporting performance award with a stoic turn that is utterly devoid of his natural charisma, not to mention the most forced and awkward romantic chemistry to grace a feature film this year.

Read my full review for Starburst Magazine.

29. Fast & Furious: Hobbs and Shaw

Worst Director: David Leitch

hobbs and shaw

After four deliriously entertaining instalments, it’s a huge shame that the Fast & Furious franchise had to come grinding to a halt with this sub par spin-off. Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson reprise their roles from the core series, but their uber-macho quips aren’t nearly as effective when bumped up from side gag to the main attraction.

In addition, thanks to an asinine contractual agreement that dictates neither Johnson nor Statham can lose an on-screen fight, the action scenes are laughably stacked against Idris Elba’s villain to such an extent that he never feels like a formidable threat.

It’s hugely disappointing work from director David Leitch, who has proven himself very capable at directing action in the past with the likes of Atomic Blonde and John Wick. He picks up Worst Director, meaning Ryan Reynolds narrowly avoids a worst supporting performance nod for his awful cameo.

Full review here.

28. Glass

Worst Lead Performance: Bruce Willis

Glass

The decision to set 2017’s Split in the same universe as 2000’s Unbreakable was strange enough, but few could have expected quite how odd the product of that unnatural pairing would be.

Never one for bowing to convention, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan opted to crossover his two films in a psychological thriller that questions whether his core characters are indeed superhuman, or merely three people with severe delusions.

It’s a concept that has potential but the script feels like it was rushed into production, which it evidently was given the quick turnaround between Glass and Split, culminating with an ending ripped straight from Rian Johnson’s textbook on “subverting expectations.”

Bruce Willis takes home Worst Lead Performance for his halfhearted reprisal of Unbreakable‘s David Dunn. Glass winds up as just another vehicle for his now trademark disinterested persona, it’s a shame he likes money too much to retire from a craft he’s clearly lost all passion for.

Full review here.

27. Joker

Worst Screenplay: Todd Phillips and Scott Silver

Joker

For some incomprehensible reason Joker became a cultural phenomenon upon release in October, which is bizarre on account of its sheer mediocrity. The comic book thriller makes play at being a profound indictment of society’s failings, but in reality barely scratches the surface of the real-world issues it attempts to explore.

In fact, the script is both derivative and somewhat juvenile, with a spectacularly stupid finale that fails to offer any meaningful payoff to the rest of the film’s tedious character study. Phoenix postures in the lead role, using weight loss, cackling laughter and floaty dancing as a distraction from the fact that his character is completely lacking the realism this film claims to provide.

Full review here.

26. Us

Most Overrated

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Jordan Peele’s sophomore outing is spectacularly inferior to his directorial debut. While the social commentary of Get Out felt sharp and intelligent, this second attempt just comes off as utterly daft.

Peele’s script makes no sense when interpreted literally, while no single metaphorical explanation is able to connect up all the dots either. Conveniently, the writer himself has declined to elaborate on what the film is really about, but it’s hard not to wonder whether it is in fact a mishmash of disparate ideas that simply don’t work together in tandem.

He is able to claw back a bit of good will given that most of the film’s action sequences are competently directed, but these alone aren’t enough to carry a script so poor. Lupita Nyong’o does her best in a dual role, but her performance as Adelaide’s evil twin is less scary than it is unintentionally funny.

PASSING GRADES

25. Child’s Play C-

child's play

Lars Klevberg’s modern reimagining of Child’s Play starts off strong with some interesting ideas and a solid cast led by Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill and Gabriel Bateman. Unfortunately, the film’s creative flair burns out all too soon, leaving a fairly uninspired slasher in the ashes.

24. Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood C-

OUATIH

Die-hard fans of Tarantino and his distinctive style should find just enough to hold their attention for Once Upon A Time‘s bloated duration. Outside of that core group, only those with a penchant for fifties cinema need seek an audience with this clunker.

Full review here.

23. The Wandering Earth C-

Wandering Earth

The Wandering Earth made just shy of $700 million in its native China, before landing on Netflix in the West where it received considerably less attention. The film naturally lacks the same cultural resonance outside of its home country, but with some competent action sequences and a positive message it remains a mildly entertaining watch.

22. Between Two Ferns: The Movie C

B2F

This adaptation of the viral web series hosted by Zach Galifianakis is little more than a silly diversion, a glorified YouTube compilation strung together by a paper thin plot. That said, it does provide some decent laughs and is the dictionary definition of easy watching.

21. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker C

star wars

The final instalment in the mainline Star Wars saga was a display of corporate incompetence as well as an artistic failure. It’s very clear that Disney hadn’t the faintest clue where this story was going, meaning they were forced to introduce several increasingly bizarre twists that ultimately resemble messy fan fiction. The film itself is disappointing and the way this trilogy squanders the original cast is heartbreaking, but there’s some entertainment value in witnessing how ridiculous things can get.

20. IT: Chapter 2 C+ 

it

Given how bloated and flawed King’s original novel is, director Andy Muschetti has done an admirable job with his two IT chapters. While neither of these films break new ground in the horror genre, both boast strong moments and an excellent ensemble cast.

Full review here.

19. If Beale Street Could Talk C+

beale street

If Beale Street Could Talk is at its strongest when exploring the terrifying racial discrimination of the 1970s, but its fairytale romance feels ripped from a completely different movie resulting in some jarring tonal problems.

Full review here

18. Vox Lux B-

vox lux

Natalie Portman stars in this odd little feature that chronicles the life of a world famous pop star who is launched into the limelight after surviving a school shooting. Not hugely memorable, but a well made drama that takes a cynical look at the celebrity cycle with a solid turn by Raffey Cassidy, who really deserves top billing in terms of screen time.

17. Happy Death Day 2U B-

HDD2U

This sequel discarded most of the horror elements that the first film attempted, in favour of a more outright comedic approach and the gamble paid off. Owing a lot to the lead performance by Jessica Rothe, Happy Death Day 2U is a very fun watch which never takes itself too seriously, telling a strange tale of time loops and parallel universes which should please fans of sci-fi and slasher movies alike.

Full review here.

16. Captain Marvel B-

cap marvel

The MCU’s first female-fronted solo movie is disappointingly one of the more generic entries in the franchise, but there’s just enough fun here to make it worth watching. Brie Larson misses the mark in the title role, but fortunately she’s buoyed by a strong supporting cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Lashana Lynch and Ben Mendelsohn.

Full review here.

15. Midsommar B-

midsommar

After making his directorial debut last year with the stunning Hereditary, Ari Aster returned with a sophomore outing that lacks quite the same punch. Midsommar is an interesting, at times engrossing, watch with some brilliant moments and performances, but really starts to drag as it nears its anticlimactic conclusion.

Full review here.

14. Godzilla: King of the Monsters B

godzilla

Admittedly, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a bit silly, but given the source material I think that can be forgiven. Not only does this sequel feel like a faithful reimagining of the original movies from Japanese studio Toho, but it also treats every kaiju with the respect and reverence they deserve. The result is a film that feels truly epic in scope, anchored by superb visual effects and solid performances from Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown and the criminally underused Vera Farmiga.

13. Hellboy B

The Valerian Prize for Most Underrated Movie

hellboy

Due partly to contempt for how superstar director Guillermo Del Toro was ousted from the franchise, critics and fans seemed to have it out for 2019’s Hellboy well before it even released. It’s a great shame because while undoubtedly a B-movie in every sense of the word, this gory fantasy is full of memorable moments and delightfully hammy performances from David Harbour, Ian McShane and Milla Jovovich.

12. Velvet Buzzsaw B

velvet buzzsaw

Dan Gilroy’s supernatural satire provided a breath of fresh air when it landed on Netflix at the beginning of the year. Velvet Buzzsaw lampoons the pretentious art world of Los Angeles, while also somehow being a slasher movie? It’s a strange blend, but it works. By no means perfect, the feature earns a lot of credit for its novel concept and well-defined characters, performed by an excellent ensemble that includes Zawe Ashton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Toni Collette and Rene Russo.

Full review here.

11. Knives Out B+

knives out smol

Rian Johnson achieved an impressive feat by defying the wrath of aggressive Star Wars fans, returning to screens just two years after The Last Jedi to critical and commercial success. Knives Out is a fun murder mystery filled with larger-than-life characters portrayed by an all-star cast, the only downside being that some get much more time to shine than others.

THE TOP 10

10. Alita: Battle Angel

Best Motion Capture Performance: Rosa Salazar

alita again

This collaboration from director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron was a genuine visual spectacle, although predictably couldn’t find a large enough audience in cinemas. I would wager a sizeable chunk were put off by the title character’s digitally oversized eyes, which is frustrating because Rosa Salazar’s performance is easily the best motion capture work to hit the big screen all year. The superb action sequences and well realised world is an added bonus.

Read my full review for Forge Press.

9. Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari)

ford v ferrari

Le Mans ’66 feels ripped from another time, both in terms of director James Mangold’s timeless style and the sense that it’s a high-budget Hollywood film set firmly outside of the sci-fi/comic book genres. This is good old fashioned movie making, putting its faith in two established stars and a tale that paints American industrialists as plucky underdogs. It’s a tried and tested formula that reliably comes together, boasting exciting racing sequences and strong performances across the board.

8. The Favourite

Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz

the favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos returned to the big screen with another darkly comic drama that took awards season by storm. Olivia Colman’s surprise win against Glenn Close was well deserved, but shouldn’t draw attention away from co-stars Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone who give equally stunning performances. The Favourite is a delicious tale of plotting and betrayal, that culminates with one of the year’s most downbeat finales.

7. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Best Stunt Work

john wick 3

The third instalment in Keanu Reeves’ unlikely franchise is another showcase for incredible stunts and fight choreography, with director Chad Stahelski finding new ways to excite and amaze. While it’s unclear how much further ground there is to run with Wick as a character, the style and creativity of these films are breathing new life into the action genre as a whole.

6. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

Best Lead Actor: Aaron Paul

el camino

Reviving Breaking Bad was a risky move on the part of creator Vince Gilligan, but lo and behold he managed it with flair. El Camino is a superb epilogue to one of the defining series of television’s golden age, with Aaron Paul delivering one of his finest performances to date in the reprisal of Jesse Pinkman. It’s a smart and consistently gripping watch, which caps off an already strong finale with even greater closure.

THE BEST

5. Spider-Man: Far From Home

spidey

If there was ever any doubt whether the MCU could pick up and continue following the climactic events of Avengers: Endgame, they were quickly nipped in the bud by Spider-Man: Far From Home. Tom Holland and Zendaya shine in this inventive sequel to 2017’s Homecoming, which at long last brings one of Spidey’s most formidable foes to the big screen: Mysterio. Suffice to say, it was worth the wait.

4. The Sisters Brothers

Best Supporting Actor: Riz Ahmed

sisters brothers

If western movies aren’t exciting to you then don’t worry, you’re not alone. One look at The Sisters Brothers‘ box office receipts will tell you how little interest there is in the genre right now, but this film stands out as a fresh new take. The central relationship between brothers John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix feels contemporary, while Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal are utterly heartbreaking as two men caught between them.

Listen to a discussion of The Sisters Brothers on Another Take podcast.

3. Marriage Story

Best Lead Actress: Scarlett Johansson
Best Screenplay: Noah Baumbach 

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Noah Baumbach’s latest feature is an intimate exploration of a once-happy couple as their divorce proceedings grow increasingly ugly. That may sound like rather dour viewing at first, but thanks to an intelligent script performed expertly by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, Marriage Story is able to traverse a wide emotional spectrum.

2. Rocketman

Best Director: Dexter Fletcher

rocketman

An Elton John biopic really had no right being anywhere near this good, but with Dexter Fletcher at the helm Rocketman reached stratospheric heights as both a celebration of the singer’s music, and an emotionally charged retelling of his troubled younger years. The extravagant musical numbers are perfectly suited to a career that has been characterised by dramatic excess, with Taron Egerton both a strong lead and an impressive cover artist.

Read my full review for Starburst Magazine.

1. Avengers: Endgame

Best Picture

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Much like Thanos himself, this was inevitable. After Infinity War narrowly missed out on my number one spot last year, I had to take a moment in 2019 to applaud the incredible cinematic achievement of directors Anthony and Joe Russo. Say what you will about Marvel’s role as a cog in the Disney machine, but no film series in recent memory has invigorated such passionate enthusiasm for cinema trips than the MCU.

While the franchise will of course continue, Avengers: Endgame functions as a perfect farewell to some of its most iconic characters, a gleeful celebration of 10 years of cinema as well as an epic action blockbuster in its own right. The victory lap to end all victory laps, Endgame is simply astonishing and deserving of its place atop the all-time box office chart (and this prestigious list).

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