A Decade Later: Looking Back at 2019’s Best Films

Published on January 1, 2020

Perhaps the best year for film of the decade, 2019 contained many good, great, and amazing entries. It goes without saying that a top 20 or 25 of the year would be more fitting. Yet to offer the best of the best, here presented are the ten best films of the year, which even Time Magazine has recognized.

Of Note: A highly acclaimed war film, 1917, does not get a wide release in theaters until January 10th. As such, the film is not included in this list. 

Marriage Story

Marriage Story is possibly the best film of 2019, and perhaps the best comedy-drama of the decade. In the past filmmakers have been challenged to seamlessly blend these two genres together.

Yet director Noah Baumbach took up this challenge and passed with flying colors. This, and the duo of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson works powerfully. 

The Irishman

The Irishman is a must-see meditation piece that touches on consequences, crime, family, and faith. It stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci in some of the best performances of their careers. That is saying a lot.

Yet in the end, you realize you’re watching a late-era masterpiece from top-tier filmmaker, Martin Scorsese. 

Knives Out

Rian Johnson has proven himself as one of the premier directors of the decade. Bolstered by an ensemble cast that works humorously beautiful, this whodunit works with rhythm and chaos from start to finish.


Joker is one of the biggest spectacles of the year, led by director Todd Philipps and the award-worthy performance by Joaquin Phoenix. But what Joker does so brilliantly is reflect our current culture and shed light on areas of our skin and bone societies that still have a long ways to go. 

Toy Story 4

Toy Story 4 fits the canon of near-perfection quality that many of us have come to expect. That’s saying a lot, but Pixar for the fourth time has produced a moving finale we never knew we needed. As many endings have left audiences disappointed, it’s settling to know that we have a friend in the Toy Story series


From director Bong Joon-ho’s ability to create a portrait with nearly every shot, to a story that leaves you entertained from start to finish, Parasite is a two-hour serving of smooth excellence. To add to that, offering some of the most shocking twists of the year, Parasite features an excellent cast and timely messages that apply across the globe. 

Avengers: Endgame

The Russo Brothers have crafted a film meant for the film medium. The final piece in the epic “Infinity Saga” works as a satisfying, moving, and cinematic spectacle. Filled with excitement, fan service done well, and pathos, Avengers: Endgame is a testament to what can be done with a clear and overarching vision. 

Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waititi not only attempts, but succeeds in making a satirical black comedy that offers heavy laughter on the one hand, while shifting towards pathos at times on the other.

In addition, Jojo Rabbit succeeds with gripping music and cinematography, plus one of Scarlett Johansson’s best performances of her career

Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems incorporates outstanding direction, a harmonizing score, and a consistent and gritty tone. Directors Joshua and Benjamin Safdie are in complete control of the anxiety-inducing tone that runs throughout the film.

It’s such a gripping tone that it leaves one with a sense of shock, questioning, and relief. That and it’s one of the finest outings by Adam Sandler of his career. 

The Farewell

Resulting in great direction by Lulu Wang, solid performances from the cast, a moving musical composition, artistic cinematography, and a raw, real, and grounded script, The Farewell earns its place as one of the best of the year.

Honorable Mentions: 
  1. Booksmart
  2. The Lighthouse

2019 was one prolific year for film. We can only hope that a decade later, the 2020s will have film entries that match such caliber.

David Zimmerman is a Contributor at Grit Daily. He is a Portland-based screenwriter, film columnist and the founder of Zimm Score Movie Guide. When he's not writing about the big screen, you can find him nerding out with other cinephiles at local PNW breweries and traveling the world with his wife.

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