In a year that saw our beloved Avengers wrap up nearly two dozen films worth of narratives in one of the biggest spectacles seen in cinema, I saw a total of 75 movies at the theater. And throughout the past 365 days, these are the 10 that stood out, resonated, and moved me beyond words.
Well, actually, I do have some words...
1. PARASITE (99% RT Score) - Bong Joon-ho's pitch-perfect, meticulously detailed descent into nightmarish domesticity is more than a timely story satirizing class warfare. It's an absolutely absorbing and timeless tale that defies genre and demonstrates the writer-director's uncompromising clarity and vision.
2. US (93% RT Score) - Exponentially more ambitious than 2017's Get Out, Jordan Peele's big-themed, Easter-egg-filled horror show gleefully embraces its madness, sending us into a spiral that slyly comments on America's dark history while ingeniously servicing fans of 80s pop culture. Lupita Nyong'o (New York Film Critics Circle Award winner for Best Actress) gives one of the year's most memorable performances with her dual role as loving mother Adelaide and the vengeful, murderous Red.
3. MARRIAGE STORY (96% RT Score) - Noah Baumbach's exquisite portrait of a disintegrating relationship is a stunningly acted and written throwback to when movies allowed scenes and performances to breathe and be messy, making the audience feel like voyeurs eavesdropping on painfully intimate moments that are rarely seen in modern cinema. Randy Newman provides a nostalgic score that oddly uplifts with an air of melancholy while Scarlett Johanssen and Adam Driver strip away every pretense of their franchise-fueled careers to prove their raw talent.
4. THE FAREWELL (99% RT Score) - Crazy Rich Asians breakout Awkwafina shows off her impressive dramatic chops in writer-director Lulu Wang's tender, semi-autobiographical story about a family's elaborate ruse to keep their matriarch (a wonderful Shuzhen Zhao) in the dark about her failing health. The film also works as a relatable wedding comedy filled with nuanced moments that need no translation.
5. KNIVES OUT (97%) - Rian Johnson's ode to old-school drawing room murder mysteries is a richly constructed contemporary (and - gasp - original) comedy-thriller that would make Agatha Christie proud. Daniel Craig's Kentucky-fried detective, Chris Evans's meme-able sweater, and Toni Collette's ditzy schtick are just some of the iconic pieces of this perfect puzzle.
6. 1917 (90%) - "Compelling" doesn't do Sam Mendes's WWI film justice. An unbelievably tense journey through a hellscape, accentuated by Thomas Newman's operatic score, 1917 is a rare war movie that is both intimate and sweeping all at once, peppered with new names and famous faces that never distract from the mission at hand.
7. LITTLE WOMEN (95%) - Greta Gerwig's remixed adaptation of Luisa May Alcott's classic novel manages to refresh a Civil War-era story for 2019 audiences with the help of a powerhouse cast led by a fantastic Saoirse Ronan and breakout star Florence Pugh, who breathes exciting new life into the bordering-on-bratty Amy March.
8. BOOKSMART (97%) - The Class of 2019 received a graduation gift in Olivia Wilde's sweet-and-sassy coming-of-age comedy that joyfully subverts stereotypes and proves to the world that teenage girls can be just as sex-starved and sloppy as the opposite sex. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are a dynamic duo destined to be placed in the Teen Movie Hall of Fame.
9. READY OR NOT (88%) - Another satire that literally and figuratively skewers the rich, Ready or Not is a devilishly fun and subversive blend of The Most Dangerous Game, Clue, and every slasher movie that ever took place in a gorgeously Gothic mansion filled with secret passageways and sinister secrets.
10. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (85%) - Quentin Tarantino's most self-indulgent film is also his most nostalgic, a loving look at the Tinseltown of 1969 that could double as a commentary on the Tinseltown of 2019, a transitional era of social and industrial change.