The past year has been a phenomenal one for movies. We’ve seen major franchise arcs come to an end, indie gems introduce countless young talents, and foreign films claim national attention. Narrowing the plethora of those movies down to a top ten is hard. Narrowing the plethora of those movies down to our staff’s combined top ten? Even harder.
It must, of course, be noted that many people here at That Nerdy Site haven’t seen every movie, and that certainly affects the overall list. I’m sure no one at this site is entirely pleased with what did and did not get included, but that’s part of the fun, right?
Based on this swath of differing opinions, however, it should be noted that we’re presenting our nine runners up on an even playing field: organized solely by alphabet. After them, you’ll find the only movie we’ve separated by votes received – our Movie of the Year. So, without further ado, That Nerdy Site presents our staff’s choice for the ten best movies of 2019.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is an excellent companion piece to 2018’s Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. While the documentary provides a wide-ranging look at the man who seemed too kind to be true, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood narrows its focus to look specifically at a fictionalized version of one relationship explored in the documentary: the friendship between Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) and journalist Tom Junod, here recontextualized as Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys).
Tom Hanks shines in his supporting role as the iconic Mr. Rogers. He doesn’t attempt to physically transform into the character like say, Charlize Theron or Nicole Kidman in Bombshells, but he manages to capture the essence of the man and the transformative kindness Rogers exuded. Matthew Rhys, on the other hand, plays across a wide array of emotional states throughout the film, starting at the lowest of lows and slowly managing to repair the broken parts of his life thanks to his unexpected friendship with America’s neighbor.
Framing the entire film through the lens of an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – complete with a public access filter and establishing shots built around the miniatures from the series – allows the filmmakers to present the film in the same way Fred Rogers might have: as a way of teaching people of all ages a lesson on the power of forgiveness.
– Trevor Starkey
Detective Pikachu shouldn’t be good. It has every hallmark of a would-be bad movie. It’s a green screen escapade of a video-game/anime adaption that hinges on you not only fully believing the CGI creatures that proliferate it, but caring about them as well. It’s a movie that banks on a relatively unknown actor carrying some of the heaviest, most important scenes where his scene partners were, effectively, tennis balls. Even for long-time fans of the franchise, making one believe that this world and these characters are real is no easy feat. A film requiring such a suspension of disbelief would require a breath of wonder.
That’s what Detective Pikachu does. While not filled with stellar performances, it hits every note exactly the way it needs to give the world of Ryme City a look and feel of reality and urban fantasy. Detective Pikachu accomplishes something no other piece of media from the Pokemon franchise has done: it makes Pokemon feel like they’re real.
– Cameron Abbott
A German boy in World War II with Adolf Hitler as an imaginary friend is an odd choice for a film’s protagonist, but Taika Waititi finds a way to make it work – and young Roman Griffin Davis portrays the titular character perfectly, exploring Jojo’s zealotry and insecurities. His relationship with Thomasin McKenzie’s Elsa – the Jewish girl hiding in the house – is a core dynamic of the film and the two bounce off each other wonderfully. Waititi himself brilliantly straddles the line of portraying imaginary Adolf as Jojo’s best buddy and the genocidal mass murderer of history. Scarlett Johansson steals the show as Jojo’s mother and primary force for kindness in a weary world.
Behind the scenes, Waititi has written and directed a delightfully satirical film about how being kind is far more powerful than being cruel. The supposed strength of the Nazi ideology is made the butt of countless jokes throughout the film but the threat and power of the Gestapo and Nazi leadership is still real enough to allow for legitimate tension all the way through. Waititi evokes imagery in the film that is a magnificent blend of beautiful, absurd, and haunting, with one image in particular that stands out as one of the absolute hardest gut punches of 2019 and a moment that will stick with audiences long after the credits roll.
– Trevor Starkey
To my mind, Rian Johnson is the best blockbuster director to come out of Hollywood this century. Knives Out is a perfect example of why. With this film, Johnson not only revitalized a once beloved but long dormant genre, but did so in a way that pushes beyond the surface level, though admittedly fun, trappings of the murder mystery genre to tell a personal and timely story.
This is a movie where I’m inclined to say as little as possible to preserve one’s expectations going into the film (if you want to read a more detailed analysis, you can check out my review), but in quick summary: the film’s ability to balance mystery with the personal ramifications of Knives Out’s central death is an impressive feat made all the better by the specific personal lens through which the movie chooses to explore those ramifications.
– Ben Bellevue
Despite awards shows seeming inability to acknowledge it, this has been quite a year for talented female directors. Olivia Wilde came out of the gates swinging with the brilliantly funny Booksmart, Lulu Wang told a beautiful, personal story with The Farewell, and Marielle Heller brilliantly captures the world and tone of Mr. Rogers with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. And then, of course, we have Greta Gerwig’s Little Women – not only one of my favorite movies of a truly stacked year, but of the past decade.
As someone who had little attachment to Louisa May Alcott’s book or its previous adaptations, it’s impressive how immediately Gerwig’s take was able to hook me – not just from the first scene but the first trailer. In her rendition of Concord, Mass. past, Gerwig created a stunningly vibrant world. Every second of the film gleams with life and passion. In the March sisters, we see the many wars that come with our dreams: romantic, professional, and otherwise. The story is at once warm and melancholic, joyous and pained. It’s a stunning adaptation that goes beyond exploring the period, as works of this like so often do, and instead explores the timelessness of desire.
– Ben Bellevue
I went into Marriage Story fully expecting it to be a movie filled with heated arguments and scenes depicting characters tearing each other down. Instead, this is a truly realistic depiction of divorce in the modern age: two characters who feel neglected and have grown apart, wanting different things out of life. The real fighting comes from the divorce proceedings, where each character’s lawyers battle to “Win” for their client, bringing up past transgressions to tear the other down. The writing and performances really stand out here and I love seeing each party get to tell their side of the story and why they feel the way they do.
– Frank Bozzani
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Rushing this movie in before the end of the year was a great choice on my part; I really enjoyed Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. As one could expect from a Quentin Tarantino film, it is beautifully shot and features really interesting characters who are fantastically well acted, with Brad Pitt giving a particularly great performance.
Not only set during the fading golden age of the late 60’s Hollywood, the film exists as a throwback to that era of filmmaking. With so many movies now feeling rushed, as new things are brought up to carry the movie forward and immediately resolved – never to be mentioned again, it was nice to see a film take its time with a slower pace. One of my favorite moments is Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt simply watching an episode of TV, narrating MST3K style, as they wait for Leo’s scene to appear. This is just one great moment in a sea of great moments that make up the movie, but it really helps build their relationship and my love of the characters. I really recommend this one for the fans of Tarantino and the 60’s.
– Frank Bozzani
At this point, saying Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is a brilliantly well crafted piece of artistry is nothing new. Since it’s release, “BongHive” has sprouted up to identify fans of the filmmaker who crafted the first South Korean film to gain widescale popularity in America (more an indictment on America’s aversion to foreign cinema than anything, but an accomplishment nonetheless). While not Bong Joon-ho’s first great film by any means, it can perhaps be understood why this film was the one to overcome the hurdle of American aversion – as Parasite masterfully explores the near universal fears of capitalism’s growing wealth divide with a simple complexity.
Despite taking place primarily between the radically different dwelling’s of the film’s poor Kim family and wealthy Park family, Parasite weaves an intricate tale rife with surprises, haunting imagery, and complex characters that can never be boxed into a singular archetype of moral alignment. There is a distinct and powerful message behind Parasite: an indictment of the wealth divide that threatens our world; and yet the movie paints both classes with a sympathetic brush. The Kims may desperately need the Parks for their money, but the Parks equally need the Kims for their skills. Within this capitalist world order, everyone is a parasite.
– Ben Bellevue
I am seen. These words, although often used online in jest, were my pure feelings after watching this film – and why I connected to it so much. The story of Billi and her grandma reminds me so much of the pressure I felt when it was time for me to say goodbye to my own grandmother: the paralysis of wanting to say goodbye on your own, honest terms all while being watched under scrutiny of the family around you.
Billi’s disconnect with her parents who don’t understand the millennial struggle of trying to make your way in a creative field and the arguments among the core family members were almost an exact copy/paste of the arguments I have with my own parents – who don’t understand why the youth today struggle to find happiness when we started our lives seemingly more privileged than their own. It’s not often that a movie hits this close to home. And so, I am seen.
– Christian Puente
Movie of the Year – Avengers: Endgame
With all but one of our voters putting the Infinity Saga’s epic conclusion in their top ten list, Avengers: Endgame reigns as the That Nerdy Site Movie of the Year. Below, our resident blockbuster lover discusses why Endgame is her favorite movie of 2019:
A decade’s worth of building up an entire cinematic universe comes together in this, the saga’s finale. It’s an adrenaline rush from start to finish that takes you through every choice, good and bad, that was made and has led to this moment. Even if you don’t like Marvel, you have to have some respect for what they accomplished with the climactic events that were Infinity War and Endgame.
Avengers: Endgame is an ode to every movie preceding it. It’s a spectacle and it’s remarkable that it works so well. It sticks the landing when it could have so easily crashed and burned. The entire universe is ridiculous, goofy, and chaotic, but, for me, it works. I’ve grown up with these movies for the past ten years. I’ve grown with these characters, seen them at their highest and lowest points, and fallen in love with them. Seeing their stories come to an end is bittersweet.
Now, watching Endgame is an emotional commitment; I have to clear my entire schedule. Kevin Feige and the Russo Brothers can relish in the fact that they’ve made one of the few movies that has the pleasure of cracking open my hardened exterior to make me openly weep for the last hour of its runtime… and the eight hours following. Regardless, I’m happy I’m able to experience one of the most exciting times in history to consume and bond over art.
– Chloe Naylor