The Best and Worst Films of 2019

In a year that marks the end of the decade, it’s fitting that 2019 contained a number of farewells in popular culture. These are not your regular franchises, but rather ones that we’ve clung onto for ages. In 2019, we said goodbye to Star Wars, the first overriding arc in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Toy Story (maybe), John Rambo, How to Train Your Dragon, M. Night Shyalaman’s trilogy, the X-Men films, Game of Thrones, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, while Supernatural’s also in the middle of winding down after its fifteen season run. We also bid farewell to the careers of Clint Eastwood (also a maybe) and Tom Hooper (okay, maybe not, but we’ll see how he recovers after Cats)

Some things ended on a high note (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), others not so much (pretty much everything else). As the New Year approaches, it’s always good to reflect upon what worked and what didn’t, and to finalize our grief of what has ended, or celebrate the pieces that enriched our lives.

Like last year, a few of us in GUG’s movie department would love to share with you the top ten films we’ve seen this year, and five that we think you should avoid at all costs. Between us, we’ve seen a lot of movies, and as you’ll see for yourself, we all have different tastes. However, while we might not agree with each other on our top choices, by the end of this article you should have a lovely collection of films to add (or scrap) from your watch lists. Since last year’s article couldn’t include movies released in the final few weeks of December, this list will consider films with a US release date from December 20, 2018 onwards.

Let’s rip off the Band-Aid, so then we can focus on the marvels of the cinematic art form, and not how it has been abused. Below are our top five worst films for this year.

Brace yourself for some bad films…

THE TOP 5 WORST FILMS OF 2019

5

Tyler Hummel

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw: Maybe not the worst film I’ve seen this year or even in its own franchise, but there’s a great amount of waste in this film. The buddy cop genre is a classic of Hollywood, and here it’s abused with an unnecessary scale and length that makes the movie dull and boring. 

Tyrone Barnes

Ad Astra: Look, I was onboard for most of this movie.  Introspective scif-fi tales of space exploration are kind of my jam.  But that’s probably why I get upset when they’re done wrong.  When the plot contrivances came out of the woodworks and just dismantled any and all suspension of disbelief I could muster (I can muster quite a bit with films like this), I was nearly in an audible rage by the end.  I’m gonna watch First Man again.

 

Juliana Purnell

The First Temptation of Christ: This is the Christmas special that caused millions of Christians and Muslims around the world to reconsider their Netflix subscription. What starts off as a light-hearted comedy with an unorthodox approach to a few theological questions, quickly devolves into crass humor showcasing an immature attitude. It’s not a parody where the topic of religion is treated to a whimsical yet critical analysis containing intellectual discourse. Rather it resorts to just mocking its subject matter, simply because the beliefs appear a little kooky on a surface level. The only reason it’s not further down the list is because the opening half is genuinely amusing at times.

4

Tyler Hummel

IT Chapter Two: The first IT movie had its flaws, but was held up with a solid set of child actor performances that lent pathos to a script that didn’t provide much. Absent that, the sequel is just a repeat of the first film and it’s irritating for that. 

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

IT Chapter Two: How do we take arguably the most appealing and daring Stephen King adaptation since The Shining and make it stupid? Take some inconsequential shock value, dull and unrecognizable characters that are the same as the characters we remember from a few years ago in name only for the most part, hackneyed convolutions of perspective and illusion, and pray to whatever god you think will listen that you can still make bank off the fans of your last outing.
 

See GUG’s review here!

Juliana Purnell

Cats: Yes, there are indeed three other films I consider worse than this. Cats fails on multiple levels due to featuring an eclectic mishmash of catastrophic directorial decisions. Some scenes are utterly unwatchable, others are absurdly goofy or nonsensical, though the film does manage to ground itself in the final act, giving it just enough time to deliver the emotion required for Memory. Yet for all of its faults, it maintains a grotesque charm, falling into the “so bad it’s good” category, which is a rarer find than what people might assume. While the other films in this list are either insulting, unethical, or downright boring, at least Cats managed to stay true to its chaotic vision, and may very well become this decade’s answer to The Room.

Both Tyler and Tyrone had IT Chapter Two in their bottom 5. Were you scared by the film? Or were you more scared of how badly this film was executed?

 

3

Tyler Hummel

Rambo: Last Blood: There’s a lot of room for the Rambo movies to be bad while still being awesome, as was the case with Rambo III. Sadly, Stallone’s “last” time playing the character is as derivative, formless and cheap as it is. Last Blood could’ve worked with a better script, and some of the set pieces are hilariously over the top, but it’s mostly dull.

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

The Angry Birds Movie 2: I’ll admit it: the short film Hair Love at the beginning is the only reason why I didn’t put this film lower on the list. Look, we’re finally making some strong headway into solid video game adaptations.  We don’t need soulless, outdated, disposable dreck like this holding back the crusade. At least the chicks were funny, though. And seriously, Hair Love is great.
 

 

Juliana Purnell

High Life: Some people absolutely adored this film and managed to interpret… something. I wouldn’t know. All I saw was a highly pretentious piece masquerading as a deep, intellectual think tank that ultimately had nothing to say. Maybe this film just wasn’t for me. It happens from time to time. Yet in amongst its boredom-inducing scenes was a grossly sexualized plot, one that showed the terror of a woman being sexually assaulted, yet portrayed a man’s rape as being sensual and seductive. It’s an irresponsible double standard that has no place in modern cinema.

Watch it for the short film, Hair Love.

 

2

Tyler Hummel

X-Men: Dark Phoenix: The X-Men franchise is DEAD. The X-Men franchise remains dead and Fox has killed it. 

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

The Secret Life of Pets 2: The first Secret Life of Pets was just tiresome and rote.  The second film was… well basically that, just more of it.  Money talks, folks.  And what it has to say usually isn’t too intelligible.  I wished they’d gone with just a Netflix series so I could ignore it more easily.  But then again, the other far superior recent works of animation on that platform would probably make me disdain it even more.
 

See GUG’s review here!

Juliana Purnell

What Men Want: “Did the movie achieve its purpose?” That’s the question I ask myself when it comes to critiquing films. Some movies are meant to be over-the-top with their premise; promising a silly yet amusing ride while (hopefully) still offering a heartfelt message. That’s all perfectly fine provided that’s what the director intended, and that’s how one can rank these sorts of films alongside serious contenders for the Academy Awards. So here we have What Men Want, which is a comedy that isn’t funny. It takes all of the goodwill fostered by its predecessor and douses it with crass sex jokes and misandry. No one was expecting a masterpiece here, but we were hoping to be entertained.

1

Tyler Hummel

Glass: I miss that bright moment in 2017 when M. Night Shyamalan almost returned from obscurity to the A-list of Hollywood. Glass is a tribute to egotism. It’s a cheap, dumb movie dedicated to lamenting the persecution of talent and genius. Considering what kind of movies that talents of cinema can create with budgets a FRACTION of this, it’s an unqualified and pretentious failure. 

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

The Lion King: Look, I may be something of an unusual apologist for Disney’s “Live Action Remake” movement, but those guys need to throw me a bone once in a while.  This? This ain’t it, chief.  Of all of Disney’s past masterpieces, this was one that should have been left out of this project.  It’s still technically animated, and everything looks less vibrant, distinctive, and memorable than before.  I actually had to look through my Fandango account to remember that I even saw this.  And for love’s sake, leave James Earl Jones alone. The man’s had more than enough misuse to mark his golden years.
 

 

Juliana Purnell

The Haunting of Sharon Tate: Sharon Tate’s family did not give their blessing for this movie, and it’s easy to see why. Playing the titular character, Hilary Duff tries her best to invigorate a lousy script, which has her repeatedly crying and gasping at the disturbing visions she receives during the days leading up to her death. In a year where Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood exists, it’s clear that both directors wanted to examine the same concept, except that Daniel Farrands’ film explored the topic in an exploitative way, turning the Manson Family Murders into nothing more than a schlocky slasher flick. Complete with terrible hand-held camera work, abominable dialogue and poor acting, the only positive is that it made me realize that “schlocky slasher” makes for a really challenging tongue twister. Go on, try it! Ten times fast!

Only Juliana was silly enough to catch this monstrosity in cinemas.

Now that you know what to avoid, let’s finally see what we thought was worth watching in 2019. Grab a pen and paper, and be sure to add these to your list of films to see!

THE TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 2019

10

Tyler Hummel

Ford v Ferrari: 2019’s best GUY movie has been a huge hit with mostly everyone I’ve talked to about it! James Mangold, fresh off the success of Logan, uses his story to tell a surprisingly true tale of two men’s internal battle with the executives at Ford Motors to let them design a race car capable of beating Ferrari at Le Mans. No movie drew more manly tears this year than this excellent drama! 

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

Dora and the Lost City of Gold: Whatever shock you’re experiencing seeing this on my list, dear reader, take it, multiply it by leopards using an empty jacuzzi as a reference, weigh your last subpoena in dog years, and you’ll have a good idea of the level of shock I had when I left the theater (yes, I actually went out and saw this movie in a theater entirely of my own accord). There’s no reason why this movie should exist.  There’s even less reason why it should be this good.  And yet, here we are.

 

Juliana Purnell

Booksmart: First there was Clueless, then there was Mean Girls, and now there is Booksmart. What is delightful about this movie is that it gives the impression that the friendship between Molly and Amy was laid years before the camera started rolling. The dialogue is electric and the characters are rooted in a solid foundation, making their various interactions believable and hilarious, despite their absurd quality. Supremely entertaining, it’s certainly one of the better coming-of-age films.

9

Tyler Hummel

Dragged Across Concrete: This movie feels like it was conceived on a dare. You take one of the edgiest directors alive, give him access to Mel Gibson, and let him write a movie about police brutality. This should be the most offensive thing of the year and yet it’s one of the year’s most laid back and subdued movies. It’s a bleak crime thriller about two bad men doing a bad thing for good reasons and it’s enthralling to watch play out. 

Tyrone Barnes

Godzilla: King of the Monsters: I understand that a major blockbuster movie involving a smattering of Malthusian rhetoric being tossed about by villainous ideologues, a much-beloved character making the ultimate sacrifice to unlock a needed asset that will be used against a tyrannical alien threat, and a host of iconic larger-than-life characters teaming up against said threat was released this year.  Actually, I understand that two such movies like that were released, but only one of them made the list.  Such a shame.
 

See GUG’s review here!

Juliana Purnell

Ad Astra: This feels like the story that Sunshine tried to tell. A meditative film, it can be too slow moving and ponderous for some. Yet in amongst its stunning visuals and cynical vision of the future direction of space travel, lies a simple story about a son trying to reconnect with his distant father. Some scenes seem distracting, but it’s the film’s symbolism that keeps it on track.

See GUG’s review here!

Can you say, “Better than expected?” What movies surprised you this year?

8

Tyler Hummel

1917: Sam Mendes and Roger Deakin’s newest collaboration after their work on the James Bond franchise is about as ambitious and tense as one can imagine. This minimalist World War One thriller merely follows two men on a rescue mission to call off an attack before thousands of British soldiers are killed in a German trap. It’s a movie about the journey, in which we get to see every painful step.

Tyrone Barnes

Luce: When it comes to the torrential cavalcade of complication and confusion that is modern race issues, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who isn’t made worse off by it. Even the cleanest and most promising among us can be tainted by the pathologies of overly simplistic pressures and expectations. This, in turn, can erode (or even eradicate) whatever value such promising members can bring, leaving a seemingly impenetrable aura of cynicism, resentment, and division over all. Also, mental illness is a really serious problem that is far too often overlooked. Give this one a viewing if you haven’t already.
 

Juliana Purnell

Alita: Battle Angel: Possibly the most mainstream entry on my list, sometimes an action/adventure film just hits the spot. While it’s not a completely original piece, it’s refreshing to see a big-budgeted movie of this quality that isn’t already tied to an overrepresented film franchise. It’s engaging, the action sequences are palpable, the characters are well developed, and the emotions begin to swell at all the right moments. It’s a thrilling piece of entertainment and I can’t wait to see more.

See GUG’s review here!

7

Tyler Hummel

Shadow: The legendary Chinese director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers, Zhang Yimao, returns with this possible masterpiece. Not only is Shadow the year’s best genre films but it’s also one of the best movies of its genre in years. Though light on action, it’s a swashbuckling historical fiction epic of two kingdoms fighting for the fate of a mutually desired city as they both scheme behind the scenes to ensure their victory. 

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

Knives Out: I know Rian Johnson is still in the doghouse among people whose opinion of him doesn’t really matter, but the man has a spark of innovation and an aesthetic finesse that cannot be understated.  Knives Out makes clear its sources of inspiration from the beginning, but also manages to bring about its own identity. A sharply written whodunnit mystery with a stellar cast and more twists than I could bother to count, this was an easily approachable crowd-pleaser as well as a surprisingly witty bout of social commentary.  If only it weren’t so needlessly indulgent in its lead heroine.
 

 

Juliana Purnell

Luce: Much like its subject matter, Luce is a quietly complex film that dares to investigate the subtle remnants of race relations and their associated racism within a privileged system. While that may sound horribly “woke”, the film never makes the mistake of demanding what the audience must feel as it carefully follows the little life events of its characters. The narrative isn’t overly dramatic, with its subtle, anxiety-inducing moments feasting off our own presumptions, though it may be too small scale for some to enjoy. Ultimately it’s a perfectly nuanced, understated thriller that does not mince its words when it comes to discussing racial expectations.

Luce is a high achiever, making it to the top ten on both Juliana and Tyrone’s lists!

6

Tyler Hummel

Parasite: I have not given Boon Jong Ho enough credit. I’d long been afraid to approach his films postSnowpiercer given how irritatingly on the nose their political metaphors have been. I never gave Okja a chance because of my skepticism. Boy was I wrong. Parasite is one of the most nuanced, fascinating and enjoyable films about classism I’ve ever seen!

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

Ready Or Not: No, it’s not a murder mystery.  More like a tightly woven labyrinthine dark comedy/bloody Tom & Jerry short that I would expect from the likes of Taika Waititi, but it’s a barrel of laughs all the same.  I’m surprised I haven’t heard of anything by this director duo before, but I’ll be keeping a look out from now on.  Who would have figured that cherished family traditions could have a demented or even demonic angle to them?  No one could have imagined that, right?  RIGHT??
 

Juliana Purnell

The Peanut Butter Falcon: It’s hard to describe and impossible to manufacture, but some films seem to develop a soul. The Peanut Butter Falcon is much more than a simple road trip movie. The characters and their plight imbue a charming warmth that instil an involuntary smile across a viewer’s face. Feeling like a spiritual twin to Little Miss Sunshine, The Peanut Butter Falcon is an utterly delightful and refreshing watch.

5

Tyler Hummel

Ad Astra: James Grey’s quasi-breakout science fiction film is one of the year’s genuine highlights! The story is a strange amalgamation of 2001 and Apocalypse Now but carries itself on its own ideas. The movie’s deep cynicism about human nature is quite sobering, as it asks us to consider the negative side effects of man’s desire to explore the stars and seek eternal truth.

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

I Lost My Body: I probably should spend more time with this one, and I certainly will, but how often do I get to encounter a quietly surrealist meditation on such existentialist concerns such as failure, desire, missed opportunities, and depression?  How often does such food for thought come to me through a traditionally animated film on Netflix?  Those people in France have been holding out on me for a while now. This is no exception.

 

Juliana Purnell

The Farewell: The Farewell is a fascinating blend of Eastern and Western values, and when those little gaps are explore in both cultures, they create moments of laughter, tears of despair, and a heartfelt appreciation of both perspectives. The film offers Awkwafina’s most wonderfully subtle and tempered performance yet. The story masters a number of emotions and even a startling conclusion–I have so many questions!

4

Tyler Hummel

Jojo Rabbit: Taika Waititi is a saint. His newest comedy feels like it should be riding the edge of being offensive but, as a Polynesian Jewish man, he’s deeply aware of the line he’s dancing on and his portrayal of Hitler ends up being one of the year’s funniest performances. This is the kind of comedy that purposely jumps between the extreme highs of comedy and tragedy. You won’t see anything else like it this year.

Tyrone Barnes

Shadow: After so much thoughtless drivel, Zhang Yimou’s black-and-white-but-not-really exercise in the complexities of contrast and deception was just what the doctor ordered. The stellar if somewhat melodramatic performances, the killer production design, the mesmerizing choreography, and the hauntingly beautiful cinematography?  That was just the lollipop for being a good patient.
 

 

Juliana Purnell

Doctor Sleep: This has no right to be as good as it is. Out of all the movies on this list, Mike Flanagan had the most difficult task. Not only did he have to follow one of the most iconic horror films of all time, but Kubrick’s version of The Shining is wildly different from the events in the book, which makes King’s sequel almost incompatible when piecing the two texts together. Yet Flanagan took it in his stride, masterfully crafting a tale that is deeply satisfying and true to its characters, while also paying homage to his famous predecessor.

See GUG’s review here!

Shadow is well-worth the subtitles.

 

3

Tyler Hummel

A Hidden Life: Terrance Malick’s newest masterpiece is quite similar to his other films in form and function. It’s a long-winded, visually poetic story with a simple narrative and characters reflecting on the horror of their situation. The questions and the journey is the point though. This movie asks many of the same questions Martin Scorsese’s Silence asks. When can Christians compromise? What is our responsibility in a world where we have free will? A Hidden Life is the best film this year that addresses the inner morality of the Christian life. 

Tyrone Barnes

Jojo Rabbit: I once thought of Taika Waititi as sort of the poor man’s Wes Anderson.  No more.  With JoJo Rabbit–a thematically heavy, but ironically light-hearted tale of a saucer-eyed moppet who seeks to become a competent and loyal vanguard to Hitler’s regime–Waititi has firmly established himself as an auteur of his own design.  Only he could be bold enough to make a child’s imaginary manifestation of Hitler charming and amusing.  He also makes the daringly insightful suggestion that evil and childishness go hand in hand.  What’s next for this guy?

 

Juliana Purnell

Honeyland: A brilliant and unassuming documentary that took three years to make. In following the impoverished yet humble life of an Indigenous beekeeper in Macedonia, the directors stumbled upon a naturally unfolding tale that contrasts two very different approaches to handling the environment. Sometimes with documentaries everything falls into place, and Honeyland delivers an epic three-act narrative that doesn’t require any voice over to fill in the gaps. The beekeeper’s war with her woefully foolish neighbors therefore plays out like a regular story, with naturalistic “acting” and layered with symbolism. This oddly relatable tale operates as a microcosm for the human condition and our irritating tendency to exploit our natural resources to exhaustion. Beautifully shot and constructed, expect to see Honeyland take home an Oscar for this year’s Best Documentary feature.

Trust Taika Waititi to pull this off!

2

Tyler Hummel

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood: Tarantino’s ninth film is a fascinating culmination for Hollywood’s most self-aware filmmaker. It feels like a combination of all of his filmic tendencies, regular contributors, and fetishes, baked into a narrative designed to get it all out of his system at once. Despite that, it’s easily one of his most restrained and personal films ever. 

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

Klaus: Sergio Pablos made traditional animation great again. Okay, it was always great, but he’s reminded us how great it is stateside with a lovingly produced Christmas fable. Part Santa Claus origin story, part standard Disney-style screwball comedy, all unmitigated brilliance and passion.  Netflix is really doing God’s work in taking on the stones that so many other builders refused and making something revolutionary out of them.
 

 

Juliana Purnell

Parasite: It’s clear that Bong Joon Ho’s entire career has been a warm up for this masterpiece. He expertly weaves multiple tones, emotions and genres, creating a story that’s funny, thrilling, and sometimes downright depressing. Deeply symbolic, the film masterfully examines the topic of classism, where a wider perspective is gleaned from every rewatch. Almost perfect, it’s difficult to see why it should not be the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

See GUG’s review here!

1

Tyler Hummel

The Irishman: Anytime a Martin Scorsese film comes out there is reason to believe it’ll become one of the year’s most discussed and important films. With his newest film, he appears to have reached a kind of career and ideological peak. Even compared to his recent masterpieces, The Wolf of Wallstreet and Silence, his movie holds its place as one of his best films.

See GUG’s review here!

Tyrone Barnes

Joker: I usually rank my favorite movies on a number of scales.  Was it better than I expected?  Does it leave me entertaining thoughts about it, even after I’ve long left the theater? Was every scene one that I wanted to revisit individually again and again, but also worked together as a coherent whole?  Does simply writing about it give me the urge to pull it up on the iPad right next to me as I continue writing on it?  For all these and more reasons, Joker checks out.  I’m hoping now that DC learns that there may be value in bifurcating their productions with one arm focusing on spectacle-driven popcorn fare, and another committed to more seasoned and pensive offerings of this sort, much like the comics’ own “Black Label” imprint.  I know I’ll be watching.
 

See GUG’s review here!

Juliana Purnell

The Amazing Johnathan Documentary: If everything went right for the directors of Honeyland, then everything went wrong for Benjamin Berman’s documentary on the famous illusionist, The Amazing Johnathan. Hopelessly cobbling together what little footage he had, the film offers an amusing look at the messiness of life, eventually developing an endearing underdog vibe as Berman turns his lemons into lemonade, where his artistic journey begins to parallel that of his subject. Parasite is the better film from a technical standpoint, but while expertly made dramas will come along every couple of years (hopefully), The Amazing Johnathan Documentary is a total once-in-a-lifetime fluke. Its style cannot be repeated without becoming stale, while its meta-storytelling completely shatters the documentary genre. I would love for this to win an Oscar because it would be hilariously fitting, but it’s unlikely due to its portrayal of drug usage.

See GUG’s review here!

What film will win Best Picture?

Do you agree with our lists? Which films do you believe should have made the cut? Were there any films this year that you regretted watching? Let us know in the comments!

Positives

Negatives

The Bottom Line

 

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Juliana Purnell

After obtaining a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts, Juliana Purnell has enjoyed a successful acting career, working within theme parks, businesses, and on film sets. She has also taken on crew roles, both in film and theatrical productions. When Juliana isn't working, she enjoys watching movies of all genres at the cinema, writing, and playing with Samson, her pomeranian.

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