The movie industry was on its A-game in 2019, without a doubt. Buoyed by infusions of cash from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, studios took more risks and told more ambitious stories. From Adam Sandler's dazzling performance in Uncut Gems to the Robin Hood tale of Hustlers, here are the best movies of 2019 according to the Mic staff.
It's hard to explain what the appeal of coming deathly close to a heart attack is, but the Safdie brothers have a knack for tapping in to just that. Their latest, Uncut Gems is, as nearly everyone will tell you, stressful. But it's also one of the most beautiful movies of the year. The film follows Howard Ratner, expertly played by Adam Sandler, as he races to piece together enough schemes to pay back some very angry goons. Of course, like the diamonds Howard hawks to celebrities in New York's Diamond District, there are layers to Uncut Gems that make it shine and, more importantly, stick with you. — Jeff Ihaza, Culture Editor
Parasite’s power is in its accusatory glare. In a year dominated by damning portrayals of the one percent, Bong Joon Ho's sharp satire on class stratification sets itself apart with its ability to shift from a truly delightful comedy to a bonafide horror story with swiftness. We belly-laugh as the unemployed Kim family scheme and finesse their way into the orbit —and wallets — of the wealthy Park family. Then, we suddenly find ourselves squirming with discomfort as the darker contours of the plot are revealed within the family’s basement. The emotional whiplash the audience incurs opens us wide, leaves us vulnerable to the film’s unsettling illustration of inequality. We’re all at once confronted by a wagging finger, pointed right in our direction. When Mrs. Park enters a closet with Birkin bags on display, we’re acutely aware of how unfair it is that we live in a world where someone can own several $30,000 bags they’ve never worn while another lives in a sleeping bag on a sidewalk. As a New Yorker who has numbed to the many homeless people I pass during each commute, if only for self-preservation, I left feeling like a scab had been picked. I felt raw, and the sting felt something like moral clarity. — Shanté Cosme, Executive Editor
Toy Story 4
How do you keep updating a beloved franchise for the modern mood? Add an extremely anxious spork, bone-chilling ventriloquist dummies, a full-blown existential crisis, and an examination of the road not taken, and voila, you’ve transformed Toy Story for 2019. The most recent (and likely final, at least with the original crew) installation in the series was still, yes, a movie made for children, but also a film that sweetly sent its first film’s original viewers off into adulthood with as much care as it allows Woody to explore the world outside one single child’s house. I was 5 years old when the first Toy Story came to theaters, and at age 29, it felt completely appropriate to quietly sob in the theater as Woody and Buzz waved goodbye. — Hanna Howard, Innovation Editor
I skipped class and lied to a professor I didn’t respect and who didn’t respect me to go see Hustlers. It turned about to be the perfect context in which to see the film. It opened with a stunning strip scene from Jennifer Lopez, who danced to Fiona Apple’s "Criminal" in a glittery silver g-string and an Instagram influencer hat. Lopez is Ramona, an ambitious, enterprising, mothering woman who uses stripping as a launchpad for white-collar crime.
Somehow, in six-inch platform stiletto heels, Lopez’s body gyrates and charms, like she was summoned up just to spellbind you. And she does, for the entire film, which made me cry, laugh, and remember that while men on Wall Street are playing a high stakes version of Settlers of Catan with life on Earth, the rest of us are wrestling with abstract concepts of morality and goodness. To have a cast of talented women abandoning those questions for the sake of retribution and survival was so gratifying.
Also, having an Usher cameo was so incredibly joyful, funny, and pleasurable it seemed stunning that it hadn’t happened since the last decade. Having Usher say “It’s Usher baby,” was such a perfect switch in the film that I still think about it. — Opheli Garcia Lawler, Contributing Writer
It seems like Waves is still flying under-the-radar for most people, and that’s a big mistake. Movies as emotional, gorgeous, and thoughtfully-crafted as writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ tale about a South Florida family nearly blown apart by tragedy and patched back together by love just don’t come along that often. There are plenty of standout aspects of this film — the soundtrack is a knockout, featuring Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Animal Collective and so many more dynamite artists — but newcomer Taylor Russell’s heartbreaking performance as Emily has begun attracting awards attention. The Gotham Awards named Russell its “Breakthrough Actor” of the year in early December, and she deserves all the accolades. — Kara Weisenstein, Contributing Writer
In our current cultural moment, there seems to be a certain cachet afforded to the unexpected. A foldable screen; a surprising sex symbol; a reality star president. But so much uncertainty can be exhausting. There’s beauty in people being exactly who you think they are.
That's why I loved Knives Out. It's a movie about rich people being terrible, where Chris Evans gets to fully lean into his status as a beautiful white man and smarmily utter the phrase "eat shit" five consecutive times. It's suspenseful and self-aware, a stacked cast diving head-first into a masterful dark comedy. It's the most fun I've had at the movies in a long time. — Kimberly Alters, Politics Editor