Best Films of 2019

2019 was an incredible year for cinema, well if we all erase Cats from our memories. 

While the Ruthless On Film team may have different tastes, we’re united in what makes a good movie. With that in mind the team have collated their top 3 favourite films of 2019.

Ruth

1. Vice

I was lucky enough to see the biopic Vice two weeks before its UK release. 

What followed was arguably Adam McKay’s best picture to date. If you thought his debut into drama The Big Short was good, then you’re in for a treat. Vice is another level entirely.

Vice tells the tale of how one of the most underestimated men in Government became the most powerful Vice President in American history.

We watch as Dick Cheney (played by Christian Bale) slowly but surely works his way up the political ladder, as he thickens and greys before our eyes. As the years pass Cheney gets more ruthless, ever the shrewd operator.

2. Booksmart

I love everything about Booksmart. Period.

Two inseparable know-it-alls forgo partying for studying only to find out that they wasted some of the best years of their lives for no reason. Chaos ensues.

Booksmart is an instant classic. The dynamic between Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein is second to none. They are the ultimate friendship goals.

Booksmart is for the overachievers, the geeks, the ones who never really felt like they fit in. It makes strong points about friendship and acceptance, all the while being comfortable laughing at itself. The result is a heartfelt, hilarious, progressive, no-nonsense feminist riot.

Need more convincing? Barack Obama just added Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut to his annual list of the best movies of the year.

3. If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk is a heart-wrenching glimpse into life as a black family in 1970’s New York battling inherent racism.

If Beale Street Could Talk exists narratively within two worlds. The first is a dream-like melancholy where our memories and the world we now inhabit is viewed through rose-tinted glasses. It’s poetic, hopeful and everything we aspire for ourselves to become.

The other world is the harsh reality of being a black family in New York City. It’s brutal and completely unapologetic.

The love story is like a sucker punch to the stomach. If that doesn’t finish you off then the mesmerising soundtrack will.

It’s emotional, wistful and captivating in its message. The racism that’s explored in the movie sadly remains the same today.

Jordan

1. On the Basis of Sex

For me, it’s almost borderline criminal how overlooked this film was during the Awards season, especially when it comes to Felicity Jones’ powerful central performance. 

Some of the themes and issues in On the Basis of Sex may feel old to some but they’re as relevant then as they are now. It’s an ongoing fight and, in this compelling and empowering legal drama, we’re front and centre as Ruth Bader Ginsberg makes her mark in history. 

2. Green Book

I really wouldn’t have expected to put something directed by the same guy who did Dumb and Dumber in a best of list but here we are. This may seem like a film from 2018 but, for UK release, it was January. It’s a testament to Green Book that it still feels fresh and inviting in my memory. 

Centered around two wonderful performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, Green Book is utterly joyous, heartwarming and characterful. Tackling the subject of racism, masculinity, stereotypes and why we should break then, Green Book delivers with heart and humour.

3. Ad Astra

To not give away spoilers, there’s a central question and revelation that spawns from Ad Astra that I still think about to this day. It pops into my mind and not only is it a reminder of what that question is, it’s a reminder of how powerful Ad Astra was. It’s a film that feels completely otherworldly in its visuals and landscapes but feels completely human and intimate all in the same frame. 

Ad Astra also relies on resting firmly on the shoulders of its central protagonist and there’s few better than Brad Pitt. His performance is stunning in it’s intricacy and human desire. He probably won’t be nominated, let alone a winner this Awards season, but he should be. 

Mark

1. Avengers: Endgame 

There has been a lot of debate about whether films from the MCU are truly “cinema”, what you can’t deny is that they have fundamentally altered world building in film. Endgame is the culmination of 11 years of groundwork that generated an obscene amount of money across 22 films. Seemingly every studio is looking for their own MCU with mixed success, DC I’m looking at you.

One thing the multi-franchise/multi-phase approach afforded Marvel, was time to develop characters whom the audience genuinely cared about by Endgame. It isn’t exactly how I would have wanted everything to turn out for my favourite characters, but regardless I was satisfied with the outcome. Time will tell if the MCU has had it’s moment, but for now I’m off to rewatch the whole Saga starting with Iron Man!

2. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

What a year for massive franchise ending films! Episode IX was arguably even more anticipated than Endgame, but it didn’t hit the same critical highs across the board. I can only assume those critics aren’t as familiar with Star Wars’ wider universe, because how Episode IX was able to incorporate so much into its relatively modest run time was particularly impressive. 

I’ve largely enjoyed the new entries into the Galaxy far far away, but the few niggles I had with them were all neatly squared away by the end of Episode IX. The mystery of Rey’s parents, check; giving the supporting cast something meaningful to do, check; a proper villain, check! Disney’s ownership of Star Wars hasn’t been completely flawless so far but I think they largely get what makes Star Wars unique. If the quality and tone of Episode IX and the recent Mandalorian TV show are anything to go by, the future is bright in the galaxy far far away.

3. Joker

I’m conscious that I’ve included another comic book movie in my top 3, but Joker is so far removed from the sheen of the MCU there’s no comparison. What could have easily been another generic super-hero/villain origin story, was actually a character study into what happens if someone who needs help slips through the cracks of society. 

Joaquin Phoenix delivers one of the finest performances of the year (alongside Brad Pitt in Ad Astra). His portrayal of Arthur Fleck is tragic yet terrifying in equal measure. If anyone outside him or Brad Pitt walks away with best actor honours across award season there should be an inquest.

So there you go, that’s our roundup of the best films 2019 gave us. Who knows what directorial delights 2020 will bring.

By Ruth, Jordan and Mark.

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