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Tuesday, 10 December 2019

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The 10 best films of 2019

We could spend this space rambling about how 2019 was a really good year for movies, and how impossible it was to choose just 10 favorites...
and how it's wild that we're at the end of the year already, and all of that.
But we know damn well you've already scrolled ahead to find out what Mashable's 10 favorite films of the year were, and frankly, we're eager to get on with it, too.
So without further ado, here are the 10 best films of 2019 (according to the Mashable entertainment team) (at this point in time) (while reserving the right to change our minds about any of this later). 

10. Knives Out 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: CLAIRE FOLGER / LIONSGATE
In terms of sheer entertainment value, Knives Out is hard to beat: An all-star cast (including Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Chris Evans) tears into Rian Johnson's juicy dialogue like a pack of hungry hyenas, as all around them Johnson unpacks a mystery as intricately constructed as the countryside mansion in which it's set. But what gives Knives Out that extra edge is the 2019 of it all — it's a classic whodunit that feels perfectly suited to our own dysfunctional times, with a surprisingly hopeful message at its core.

9. Us 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Jordan Peele's Us feels like a feature-length nightmare, trapping the Wilsons and the audience with a sinister logic that's more visceral than cerebral. And like a vivid dream, it lingers even after waking: The fear takes a while to subside, and the anger and the sadness even longer, and puzzling out what exactly it's tapping into takes longer still. (Oh, and that involuntary shudder we feel now whenever "I Got 5 On It" comes on the radio now? That's probably never going away.) 
That staying power can be attributed in large part to Lupita Nyong'o's indelible performance — split so precisely between terrified Adelaide and furious Red that it's easy to forget that in Nyong'o, they share a single soul.  

8. Hustlers 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: STXFILMS
Hustlers starts with what might be the single greatest cinematic entrance of 2019, as Jennifer Lopez's Ramona takes the stage, and never lets up from there. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria's film unfolds like a good old-fashioned gangster pic, only the charismatic antiheroes in this one are the strippers we might see gyrating in the backgrounds of more traditional (i.e., male-driven) mob movies. We revel in the illicit thrill of scamming the probably deserving, soak in the intimacy of these women's friendships — and when it inevitably comes crashing back down, feel along with them a twinge of regret that they couldn't get away with it forever. 

7. Little Women 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: SONY PICTURES
The best retellings bring fresh resonance to familiar tales, and that's precisely what writer-director Greta Gerwig accomplishes with her adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. The film is at once faithful to the source material and daring in its approach to that material: Gerwig scrambles the timeline to juxtapose past and present, drawing out new facets of the characters we already know and love, and deepening their emotional arcs. (The much-maligned Amy, played by Florence Pugh, may be the greatest beneficiary of Gerwig's generosity.) We're left with a new classic to treasure for years to come — one that makes the case for women's stories simply by letting the March girls be their own funny, brilliant, beautiful, sensitive, idiosyncratic selves. 

6. The Farewell 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: A24
The entire plot of The Farewell hinges one hell of a lie, and yet the film's most remarkable quality is its truthfulness. Lulu Wang, who wrote and directed the film based on her own personal experiences, starts from a foundation of cultural authenticity — sets, costumes, and personalities so vivid and particular that we feel like we've always known them — and builds from there a story that slips between joy, humor, tragedy, and tenderness without a single false note. Along the way, she gives Awkwafina a chance to shine, and prove once and for all that she's more than comic relief.

5. Apollo 11 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: NEON
Apollo 11 is a tribute to one of humanity's most staggering accomplishments, that is itself a pretty impressive accomplishment. Director Todd Douglas Miller and his team combed through thousands of hours of video and audio recordings from the event to piece together a documentary that doesn't just transport the viewer back to time and place of the moon landing, but to what must have been the feeling sweeping the astronauts, scientists, reporters, and ordinary citizens at the time — the sense that humankind was about to achieve the impossible, and that nothing would be off limits ever again.

4. Avengers: Endgame 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: MARVEL STUDIOS
Even in a cultural landscape so dramatically transformed over the past decade that 2012's Avengers looks positively modest by today's standards, Avengers: Endgame was one hell of a flex. The studio gathered practically every Marvel movie character of the past 11 years for an adventure they promised fans would pay off 23 films' worth of storytelling — and against all odds, it worked. Sure, we could nitpick about the time travel, or side-eye some of its iffier creative choices. (Are you absolutely sure you've earned that "female Avengers" girl-power moment, Marvel?) But there's no denying the thrill we felt when Captain America wielded Mj√∂lnir for the first time, or the tears we shed over Iron Man's sacrifice, or the deep, deep sense of satisfaction we got from watching our beloved heroes reunite for one last battle.

3. Marriage Story 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: NETFLIX
It's hard not to cast blame while watching Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) suffer the breakdown of their marriage in Marriage Story. The problem is figuring out exactly where that blame should go, because writer-director Noah Baumbach offers no easy victims or villains. Instead, he contrasts the warmth and humanity of all his characters against the impersonal and dizzying legal process of divorce, and allows our leads to come out the other end having forged an entirely new relationship — not a marriage, anymore, but a hard-won love and commitment of a different kind.

2. The Irishman 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: NETFLIX
Leave it to Martin Scorsese to find another way into the gangster epic. The Irishman's basic premise may call to mind his previous mob classics, like Goodfellas or Casino, but in its aching concern for the state of a man's soul, it has as much in common with his Silence or The Last Temptation of Christ. What we get are the reflections of a man (Robert De Niro, never finer), looking back on a life not terribly well lived, taking stock of his deepest regrets, trying to fix what was broken beyond repair long ago, and watching himself get swept away, as we all will someday, by the relentless march of time. 

1. Parasite 

The 10 best films of 2019

IMAGE: NEON
Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is a shapeshifter: Just when you think you've finally got a handle on the thing, it has a way of slipping through your fingers and transforming into something else entirely. It's a heist film, a black comedy, a thriller, a horror, a satire, a tragedy, and part of the fun is simply sitting back to see what new shades it might take on next. 
Through all these turns, though, the one thing that's never in doubt is that we're in the hands of a master. Every frame, every line, and every twist of Parasite feels considered and deliberate, and yet it never feels clinical or contrived, because the twin engines driving the whole thing forward are empathy and rage — specifically, class rage, directed not so much at the 1% (though they do get a healthy skewering) as at the entire rotten system that makes a story like this plausible in the first place. Parasite is one of the most entertaining movies of the year, and one of the cleverest, and one of the most deeply affecting. Simply put, it's the best.

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