We’re well over halfway through 2019, and with summer movie season starting to wind down, and whispers of the upcoming Oscar campaigns beginning to creep in, it’s high time we looked back at the first part of the year. So, here are my picks for the 10 best films of 2019 (so far).
There have been a number of foreign-language hits through the year, but perhaps the best of all is the hugely suprising action thriller straight out of Vietnam: Furie.
Effectively a reboot of Taken, the film follows a mother as she searches relentlessly for her kidnapped daughter, taking down all those that stand in her way with a never-say-die attitude and epic martial arts skills.
The film may not feature intense dramatic depth throughout, but with electrifying action, fun-loving and hyperstylised martial arts, and an exhilarating lead performance from Veronica Ngo, Furie is huge fun to watch from beginning to end.
7.8/10 – Read a full review here.
9. Wild Rose
You’ve seen the rags-to-riches musical movie a million times before, so the story of a struggling young Glaswegian woman desperate to make it as a country and western singer shouldn’t really be at all different, right?
Well, Wild Rose proves that even the most classic stories can still feel entirely fresh. Filled with aggressive and fascinating energy throughout, the film breaks through genre tropes to tell a story that’s so much more than just another rehash of A Star Is Born.
Impressing with great music (both popular and original), and a stunning lead turn from young star Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose is a real winner, and a film with both the anarchic energy and genuine heart to prove a true delight to all.
7.9/10 – Read a full review here.
8. Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
Netflix churn out documentaries like nobody’s business nowadays, with pretty much every topic under the sun getting a look in somewhere or other. And yet, in the midst of all that, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened stands out as what a great Netflix doc can really be.
Released at the end of a fearsome marketing campaign that fought of Hulu’s film on the same topic, Fyre is an intense, chaotic and breathless documentary that goes deep into an astonishing true-life story that you might not have heard anything about.
While it may often come across as a little aggressive and biased against the man it criticises so heavily, from the perspective of pure blockbuster entertainment, Fyre does absolutely everything right, whipping you up into the same frenzy that the doomed music festival became, and hitting hard with its intense and unforgiving analysis of a disaster of epic proportions.
8/10 – Read a full review here.
7. Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel may not have been the box office juggernaut that the MCU’s Avengers: Endgame was, but it actually turned out to be one of Marvel’s most refreshing and enjoyable films in a really long time.
Moving a step back from the studio’s impressive but often convoluted shared universe, Captain Marvel takes things back to basics, and tells a story that harks back to the golden era of superhero tales, with a simple, down-to-earth origin story in the vein of Superman, all the while sprinkled with Marvel’s irresistible brand of humour and comic book fun.
Featuring a hugely entertaining lead turn from Brie Larson, as well as a welcome starring role for Samuel L. Jackson as a young Nick Fury, Captain Marvel has all the credentials to be called the year’s most enjoyable blockbuster. Its plot may be a little on the basic side, but its simplicity is endearing and refreshing throughout, not to mention its brilliant fervour for as much 90s nostalgia as it can cram into two hours.
8/10 – Read a full review here.
6. Murder Mystery
An Adam Sandler comedy is one of the ten best movies of the year so far. That sentence should make no logical sense, and yet Sandler and Netflix absolutely hit the nail on the head with their latest collaboration: the genuinely hilarious Murder Mystery.
Following the story of two average joes (Sandler and Jennifer Aniston) who find themselves roped into a rich family’s holiday in Monte Carlo, the film takes a turn for the mysterious after a murder in the darkness, unfolding into a delightful parody of classic Agatha Christie murder mysteries, all set in the glamorous backdrop of the European Riviera.
With non-stop comedy and fast pacing throughout, the film is a real laugh, furthered by great action and two thoroughly likable lead performances from Sandler and Aniston. It may not be the year’s most intelligent comedy, but Murder Mystery proves Sandler’s comedic prowess in a more down-to-earth role, and makes for an hour and a half of brilliant fun to watch.
8.1/10 – Read a full review here.
My pick for the biggest surprise of the year so far, director Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart came from absolutely nowhere to be one of the funniest and most refreshing Hollywood comedies in a very long time.
What at first looks like little more than a female version of Superbad, Booksmart quickly shakes off that label with riotously funny comedy from the start, as a night for two high school nerds descends into total chaos.
Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are absolute dynamite throughout, with charisma and a degree of juvenile idiocy making their characters hilarious to watch, while director Olivia Wilde impresses hugely on her feature debut with a film that’s full of brilliant comedic energy and non-stop laughs.
And on top of all that fun, Booksmart hits the emotional beats really well too, bringing real depth to its two main characters in a way that Superbad definitely didn’t, and proving a surprisingly heartwarming and emotionally engaging watch alongside its fantastic humour.
8.1/10 – Read a full review here.
4. Toy Story 4
Did we need a Toy Story 4? Probably not. But was it great to see the legendary franchise out for one more round? Absolutely.
Having concluded the Toy Story trilogy with the perfect ending 9 years ago, you’ll be amazed by just how impressive a film Toy Story 4 is, changing up the formula of the previous three films with new characters, gorgeous animation and brilliant humour, all the while harking back to the very first film with its story and emotion.
Perhaps a more impacting watch for those that have grown up with the franchise, Toy Story 4 is bathed in moving childhood nostalgia, with more tear-jerking moments than all of the past three films put together. However, while its moving emotion is perhaps its strongest suit, the film doesn’t forget to tell an enjoyable, light-hearted and upbeat story that all the family can enjoy, actually proving to be the funniest and most consistently entertaining film in the whole Toy Story franchise – a real surprise.
8.2/10 – Read a full review here.
3. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
You would have thought that the John Wick series – which effectively consists of one man punching bad guys in a million different ways – would have grown rather tired by now. However, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum proves that even the most blissfully simple of action franchises has the style to outlast any other.
Although not quite on the refreshing and breathlessly entertaining level of the first film, Parabellum soars with yet more gleefully insane action and mystery, taking John Wick deeper into a world of conspiracy than ever before.
Even with a two-hour-plus runtime, this third instalment somehow manages to make even the simplest of action premises feel entirely fresh once again, with yet another fun-loving lead turn from Keanu Reeves, a self-aware and utterly hilarious sense of humour throughout, and the audacity to take what is already a plainly ridiculous franchise to even more ludicrous extents, all coming together to make for the most entertaining action movie of the year by a very long way.
8.2/10 – Read a full review here.
2. The Lego Movie 2
Now, it may not be anywhere near the groundbreaking level of its predecessor – which is part of the reason why it wasn’t such a critical hit – but it’s difficult to deny that The Lego Movie 2 is yet another triumph from Warner Bros.
Utterly hilarious from beginning to end, The Lego Movie 2 continues on from the first film’s irresistible and hugely influential brand of self-aware, anarchic, fourth-wall-breaking humour, with delightful laughs and ridiculous comedy abounding wherever you look.
Also, while it doesn’t quite have the jaw-dropping depth and intelligence of the first film – something not likely to be repeated for a long time – the sequel is still a bold and original blockbuster, combining easy-going, kid-friendly entertainment with genre-breaking and audacious storytelling and plot structure, surprising on a number of levels even when it might not seem to be fulfilling its potential.
So, if you liked the first film, you’ll surely love The Lego Movie 2, a film that’s fun for all to watch, but has so much in the way of hilarious comedy and intelligence under the surface that it’s difficult not to admire.
8.3/10 – Read a full review here.
By far and away the best film of the year so far, Rocketman is an electrifying cinematic experience that totally redefines what a music biopic can (and definitely should) be.
The story of singer Elton John’s life and stardom, Rocketman is a film filled with dizzying musical energy, inventive filmmaking, and a powerhouse lead performance that puts all of the most generic music biopics to shame (yes, that means you, Bohemian Rhapsody).
While it tells a historically fascinating story about the singer’s life and rise to fame (interspersed with moments of real, devastating emotional darkness), the film’s most memorable suit is its astonishing musical energy, playing out more like a big stage show than a typical biopic, with the Elton John’s life story playing out to his own greatest hits, all weaved into the film ingeniously by director Dexter Fletcher.
Few films have the capacity to thrill like Rocketman, which whips you up into a magical and delirious frenzy with its audacious and ground-breaking approach to the genre, impressing both on an emotional and historical level, as well as hitting all the right notes when it comes to really bringing the power and legacy of a great musician to the big screen.
8.5/10 – Read a full review here.