PCR’s Top 25 Films of 2019

The 2019 film year has given us great features that have stuck with us after initial watches and months thereafter. Last year was a record-breaking year of achievement with an increase in storytelling from women, people of color, etc. And 2019 was even better. Our PCR team (7 voters) and guest writers (7 voters) put together the best features of the year. This involved coming up with individual top 25 lists, which added to a total of 105 different films among 14 participants. The films were ranked then amalgamated on a point system (#1 = 25 points, #25 = 1 point) to create our final top 25.

Interestingly, not a single film appeared on all of our lists, but that just speaks to the team’s diverse taste and love for different types of filmmaking. Throughout these past 12 months of watching movies and creating our list, we’ve come to understand and appreciate the respective opinions of every team and guest member, which allows us to celebrate the various experiences of watching these films. So without further ado, here are PCR’s favorite 25 films of 2019:

25. Jojo Rabbit

courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Jojo Rabbit had all the ingredients to be a horrible film, yet Waititi does an exceptional job with everything: directing, writing, and acting… easily one of the best in 2019.”

Rosa, guest | EIC of Rosa’s Reviews

Jojo Rabbit is a heartbreakingly touching film. Director Taika Waititi blends humor and heart in a story about the devastating times of Hitler’s regime and simply makes it work. The talented ensemble, especially Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates, were a joy to watch on screen. And despite not being a film for everyone, Jojo Rabbit is one of our favorites of the year.

Bia, film & book reviewer for Pop Culture Reviews

24. I Lost My Body

J'ai perdu mon corps (2019)
courtesy of Netflix

I Lost My Body is a film about a hand that has become separated from its body. And it’s an unexpected favorite for our team, truth be told. The story itself is almost dreamlike. And the yearning I felt from the hand (sounds ridiculous, I know) was so heart wrenching that the ending felt like a relief and heartbreak all at once. Beautifully told and beautifully animated, I Lost My Body is the hidden gem of 2019 and certainly one of the best.

Kenia, film critic for Pop Culture Reviews

23. Booksmart

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart (2019)
courtesy of United Artists Releasing

There have been several coming-of-age films in recent years, but for her directorial debut, Olivia Wilde wanted to tell a new kind of story with Booksmart. With genuine laugh out loud moments and hilarious characters, this coming of age story takes every well-known high school stereotype regarding cliques and humanizes them. It is, perhaps, the most realistic and convincing depiction of some of our team members high school experience. So for that, it’s one of our favorites of the year!

Bia, film & book reviewer for Pop Culture Reviews

22. The Nightingale

courtesy of IFC Films

No film shocked me more and left me in such a numbing state as much as Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale. It’s one of the most brutally violent films of 2019; but don’t let that stray you away from this masterpiece. This tale of revenge is riveting and emotionally taxing, but The Nightingale is sure to leave enough tears in your eyes and fire in your veins to last until the next one. So, can you blame us for it being one of our favorites of the year?

Brittany W., EIC & lead critic for Pop Culture Reviews

21. Rocketman

Taron Egerton in Rocketman (2019)
courtesy of Paramount Pictures

After stepping on to help finish Bryan Singer’s Queen ‘biopic’ in 2018, filmmaker Dexter Fletcher swiftly moved onto projects of his own, which included a musical biopic based on the life and career of global music icon Elton John. It is with Rocketman that Fletcher is able to truly show audiences what makes him such a great director. The film works as a meditative piece on the importance of self love and a belt-worthy musical featuring some of Elton John’s most iconic songs covered by lead actor Taron Egerton. Rocketman was one of the biggest surprises of last year. It’s no wonder our team loves it!

Manh, media relations editor for Pop Culture Reviews

20. High Life

Robert Pattinson and Scarlett Lindsey in High Life (2018)
courtesy of A24

Claire Denis’ High Life is one of the weirdest, most cerebral films you could possibly ever see. It’s another great addition on Robert Pattinson’s resume that shows he’s a capable actor, even in the most extreme circumstances. There’s nonlinear storytelling, criminals on a damned space station mission, and a device specifically used by the crew to masturbate. High Life is the kind of experience you might not enjoy on your first go-round, but it’s a film that has grown on me with multiple rewatches, which is exactly why it’s on our list!

Terrence, film & TV critic for Pop Culture Reviews

19. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry in John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)
courtesy of Lionsgate

Let’s be honest. We know what to expect now that we’re three chapters into John Wick’s world. Guns, Swords, and Hand-to-Hand combat across varied locations and even sometimes, prolonged sequences! John Wick 3 gives us all of this and more! And it’s fresh off the heels of John Wick 2‘s ending, immediately throwing us into the action of our hero being on the run. It’s action-packed and continues to build a universe of assassins and unique characters with more extreme, albeit comical ways to see how John can kill people. It’s everything you could want with a summer blockbuster.

Terrence, film & TV critic for Pop Culture Reviews

18. US

Image result for us film
courtesy of Universal Pictures

Newly crowned horror maestro Jordan Peele returned last year with his sophomore film, US, after igniting the film industry two years prior with his razor-sharp socio-political masterpiece Get Out. US is as horrifying as it is a great and timely social commentary on our incessant fear of ‘the outsider’, and the different social dynamics that come with being (or not being) of a certain level of class, privilege, or wealth. Spearheading the film is Academy award winner Lupita Nyong’o, who delivers one of the best performances of the entire year (and decade) with her jaw-dropping dual role as Adelaide Wilson and Red. It is for these reasons that Jordan Peele’s US has landed a spot on PCR’s best films of 2019.

Manh, media relations editor for Pop Culture Reviews

17. Honey Boy

courtesy of Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios

Honey Boy is a very personal film from Shia LaBeouf, who penned the most heart wrenching and cathartic journey for his character. There were moments where I’d be watching the film knowing they were just fictional characters on screen telling this story with urgency. But then I would be reminded that Shia had to go through this as a child, and it brought me to tears. Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy is a true masterpiece.”

Amanda Guarragi, guest | EIC of Candid Cinema

16. Ad Astra

Brad Pitt in Ad Astra (2019)
courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Ad Astra is James Gray’s follow up to the criminally underrated Lost City of Z, and it shows Brad Pitt summoning up his star power to play against type as an introspective overachiever on an Apocalypse Now-esque mission to save the world. A soaring score and brilliant cinematography combine to buttress a surprisingly intimate and somber story about family, obsessions and loss. Pitt’s adventures range from fast-paced chases on the surface of the moon to political subterfuge on Mars, but Gray deftly marries the fantastical future to the grounded present. As a result, the film about space exploration to Neptune still packs an emotional punch, which is exactly why it’s one of our favorites of the year.

Keif, film critic for Pop Culture Reviews

15. Shazam

Image result for shazam
courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Superhero Films are not distant from comedy, but for the coming of age story of Billy Batson and his family, it’s a hilarious one with a heart of gold. David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! presents an adventure inside of the DCEU that has heart and almost pitch-perfect casting with Zachary Levi as the superpowered Shazam and a family-friendly outing that anyone can enjoy. Shazam! fits right into the DCEU and proved itself a worthy addition to the universe.

Terrence, film & TV critic for Pop Culture Reviews

14. Luce

courtesy of Neon

One of the most underrated gems of 2019 has got to be LUCE. Julius Onah masterfully confronts black identity, privilege, power, and perception in ways that asks audiences to question their own beliefs. It’s certain to make you uncomfortable at some point, but the best films usually do. And it’s exactly the kind of storytelling we appreciate at PCR. See Luce as soon as possible.

Brittany W., EIC & lead critic for Pop Culture Reviews

13. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

courtesy of A24

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a tale of two friends in a city that’s threatening to leave them behind. It’s one of the most beautiful looking films you could have seen all year, and it’s held down by two performances from Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors. Exploring San Francisco through gentrification, family legacies, and a score that elevates the many emotional beats and grandeur of the scenes, TLBMISF is a triumphant film that deserves a viewing.

Terrence, film & TV critic for Pop Culture Reviews

12. The Lighthouse

courtesy of A24

In The Lighthouse, Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are magnetic as Thomas Wake and Ephraim Winslow. Robert Eggers (director of The VVitch) continues to show a deepening fascination with horror in the ancient and the uncanny as his use of a premodern aspect ratio (along with a decision to film in black and white) provides for a completely immersive experience. In The Lighthouse, he combines Greek Mythology, creepy imagery, weird eroticism, surprising amounts of humor, and brilliantly rendered creatures to create a movie that will sit with you well after an ending both confounding and exhilarating. This movie is best enjoyed with a dictionary and your thinking cap on.

Keif, film critic for Pop Culture Reviews

11. 1917

George MacKay in 1917 (2019)
courtesy of Universal Pictures

On paper, Sam Mendes’ 1917 sounds like a run-of-the-mill war drama and not one that would garner a lot of interest outside of the usual niche film circles. But generic war film it is not, as 1917 does absolutely everything in its power to stand out from the crowd (and succeeds in doing so). From the stunning illusion of the entire film being shot in one-take, to Newman’s spine-tingling score that perfectly complements Deakins’ visuals, 1917 is a technical marvel on the level of Nolan’s Dunkirk. And it packs an emotional punch that’s guaranteed to have many leaving the theater in tears.

Manh, media relations editor for Pop Culture Reviews

10. Marriage Story

Marriage Story
courtesy of Netflix

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is captured with ugliness and honesty. The screenplay is one of our favorites of the year due to its subtle brilliance yet captivating nature regarding marital devastation and the brokenness of love. It’s a tear jerker, sure; but sometimes, we need those.

Brittany W., EIC & lead critic for Pop Culture Reviews

Marriage Story is told through the complex circumstances of divorce. This movie has touched my heart in many ways especially considering the acting. In particular, Adam Driver shows that he’s consistent on doing what he does best: giving a genius performance.

Bia, film & book reviewer for Pop Culture Reviews

9. The Irishman

The Irishman
courtesy of Netflix

In 2019, nothing made me face mortality [in film] more than watching a mobster lose every family member and friend he ever had because of his decisions. Sounds ridiculous, right? Be that as it may, it’s the power of storytelling in Martin Scorsese’s brilliant mob epic, The Irishman. In this character study based on Frank Sheeran’s escapades as a hitman, kills and betrayals are on full display, but so are the feelings of regret, grudge and introspection, making Scorsese’s masterpiece The Irishman one for the ages.

Brittany W., EIC & lead critic for Pop Culture Reviews

8. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

courtesy of Neon

Céline Sciamma’s deeply romantic masterpiece, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of the best films of 2019, hands down. It’s razor-sharp in intensity, yet tender and methodical in depicting what it means to truly get to know someone for who they are. Profoundly rich with patience and genuine love, Sciamma’s direction paired with Claire Mathon’s cinematography celebrates everything we at PCR love about filmmaking. And that is why Portrait of a Lady on Fire is simply unparalleled. Be sure to see the film during its wide release on Valentine’s Day 2020!

Brittany W., EIC & lead critic for Pop Culture Reviews

7. The Farewell

courtesy of A24

The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang, tells the story of family and love, and how at times we do not believe they are the same. It is a sweet film, with the entire cast delivering wonderful performances. I smiled through both the comedic and emotional moments (and through the tears), right until the end credits, when I couldn’t help but laugh at the surprises life throws our way. The Farewell is a film everyone should see at least once.

Kenia, film critic for Pop Culture Reviews

6. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Image result for once upon a time in hollywood
courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to a bygone era, a historical fairy tale about the world that was. It’s also Tarantino at his most accessible- the classic quirks and tics are there, but packaged in such a way as to feel familiar even to the uninitiated. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are a dynamic pairing, and their interplay alone is worth the price of admission. An all-star cast delivers (including a scene stealing Mike Moh as Bruce Lee), and the payoff for this lengthy movie is extraordinary. 

Keif, film critic for Pop Culture Reviews

5. Uncut Gems

Image result for uncut gems
courtesy of A24

Uncut Gems moves like a freight train and hits like a sledgehammer. Boisterous, crass and fast-moving, Uncut Gems hangs on a titanic performance from Netflix Maven Adam Sandler. The Safdie brothers have firmly established themselves as directors to watch by crafting a follow-up to Good Time that is equally unsettling, funny and grimy. Come for Adam Sandler, but stay for surprising performances by newcomers Kevin Garnett and Julia Fox. The stories of hustlers, hoods and athletes all intertwine to tell a parable about sociopathy and the pursuit of riches. Prepare to be frustrated, nervous and enthralled from trippy beginning to shocking end.

Keif, film critic for Pop Culture Reviews

4. Knives Out

knives out
courtesy of Lionsgate

With a killer (pun intended) cast and great original screenplay, Rian Johnson is able to orchestrate an impressive and entertaining whodunnit full of laughs and twists. Knives Out is nonstop murder mystery fun. And the ending is one of the most satisfying of 2019. So, it’s fair to say that this was one of, if not the most, entertaining films of the year, which is exactly why so many members of our team voted for it!

Bia, film & book reviewer for Pop Culture Reviews

3. Midsommar

Image result for midsommar
courtesy of A24

“Taking place in almost endless sunlight, Midsommar is built on an unsettling story, gorgeous cinematography, and excellent camera work. Aster’s choices blur the passage of time, and pitch-perfect scene transitions cause a sensory overload that anchors or disrupts as needed to support the unfolding story.”

Ro, guest | contributing writer for MTR Network

There’s much to be said about horror films and the way they resonate so acutely within the human psyche. Midsommar, Ari Aster’s most recent project, delivers such a perfectly executed, anxiety-inducing, psychological horror that it’s easy to see why he has become a director to look out for. Midsommar is a film I would recommend to anyone looking to get their heart racing. Simply put, it is brilliant.

Kenia, film critic for Pop Culture Reviews

2. Joker

courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

In a year that was filled to the brim with comic-book blockbuster spectacles, it was the quieter, more unconventional comic-book film from Warner Bros. Pictures that arguably resonated more with audiences globally. Joker is a harrowing take on an already unhinged and chaotic character, and Phoenix’s masterclass performance is what ultimately makes the film such an emotional gut-punch (and honestly hard to watch at times). But from a film-making perspective, it’s an absolute joy to behold, and it’s for these reasons among many that Joker is one of our top films of 2019.

Manh, media relations editor for Pop Culture Reviews

1. Parasite

Woo-sik Choi and So-dam Park in Gisaengchung (2019)
courtesy of Neon

“Despite returning to a modest budget and a fully Korean cast [from his English-language films], Parasite features more twists and turns than any popcorn thriller. And Bong orchestrates enough heart-stopping set pieces to make Christopher Nolan blush.Parasite is flawless.”

Johnny Sobczak, guest | contributing writer for Inside The Room.

Our team at PCR couldn’t agree more. Rightfully, Parasite was one of the most talked about films of 2019. Unpredictable and dark, Bong Joon-Ho’s feature is a well-told commentary on class difference and the consequences it has on a family’s livelihood. The script is stellar, and the visuals are delicious. It’s no wonder it’s number 1 on our list.

Kenia, film critic for Pop Culture Reviews

Thank you for tuning into our Top 25 Films of 2019. What are some of your favorite films from 2019 that did not make the cut? Tweet Us at @PopCultureRevs and share with us some of your favorites!

*PCR would like to thank every individual that contributed to our voting system to make the final list. The contributors are as follows:

Ayanna B.
Beatriz B.
Amanda G. 
Cass G.
Kenia H.
Kolby M.
Ro Moore
Jesabel R.
Terrence S.
Johnny Sobczak
Manh T.
Keif W.
Brittany W.

*Editor’s Note 🙂

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