2019 was filled with era-defining blockbusters, emotionally compact dramas, and just about every other type of exciting feature in between. Many of these films were true gems, but others might’ve gotten a little lost in the shuffle of weekly big screen releases and an onslaught of new content championed by burgeoning streaming services. Despite all the chaos, 29 of our contributors were able to pinpoint their absolute favorite releases of the year.
We did the numbers, compiling all of these choices into one definitive ranking decided by a simple points system. Films received more points for how high they were on a list, and they received extra points determined by the amount of lists they showed up on by the final count. Without further ado, here are the 25 best films of 2019, as decided by the Cinemaholics community.
#25 – Toy Story 4
Despite low expectations, Toy Story 4 proved there was just enough Pixar magic left in this franchise to wow a few of our contributors. The film appeared on four lists from Abby Olcese, Jake Holland, and Preeti Chhibber. And it was ranked highest by Aaron Dicer.
#24 – Spider-Man: Far From Home
Superhero films were a bit less beloved by our community this year, but two or three managed to land somewhere high on a good number of lists, including Marvel’s second solo outing with everyone’s favorite webhead. The MCU film appeared on just three lists, but it was highly marked by Craig Hanks, Jake Holland, and Preeti Chhibber.
#23 – Honey Boy
For millennials who came of age in the late 90s, Shia LaBeouf’s acting career has always been a true curiosity. Honey Boy, which LaBeouf himself wrote, examines his troubled childhood under the direction of Alma Har’el and with LaBeouf portraying his own father. And our contributors took keen interest, selecting Honey Boy on four lists from Brandon Katz, Skyler Schuler, Emily Kubincanek, and CJ Mellon.
#22 – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Despite being one of the year’s most divisive films, enough of our contributors gathered in force to champion Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, ranking it highly on four lists from Craig Hanks, Jake Holland, Tyler Carlin, and Ethan Edgehill.
#21 – Pain and Glory
Pedro Almodóvar’s melancholic tale of aging and lifelong regrets swept a lot of Cinemaholics off their feet, in big part thanks to career-topping performances from Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. The film appeared on four lists from Kimber Myers, Candice Frederick, Rebecca Pahle, and Kayleigh Donaldson, who selected this as her #1 film of 2019.
#20 – The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails entered the spotlight in a big way this year with The Last Black Man in San Francisco, their personal take on gentrification and how our identity can be haunted by the places we call home. Five contributors found a home for this one on their lists, including Mae Abdulbaki, Julia Teti, Cory Woodroof, Charlie Ridgely, and yours truly—I chose this one as my favorite film of 2019.
#19 – Uncut Gems
A gritty, unrelenting New York City as depicted by the Safdie Brothers has proven to be an even more gripping location when inhabited by Adam Sandler as a gambling addict whose schemes escalate into total, stress-inducing chaos, and five of our contributors were here for it. The film was selected by Matt Serafini, Will Ashton, Emily Kubincanek, Ryan Oliver, and Rebecca Pahle.
#18 – Jojo Rabbit
Taika Waititi’s polarizing, but altogether heartwarming coming-of-age comedy set in WWII Germany had a lot of Cinemaholics rolling their eyes, but even more found good reason to elevate Jojo Rabbit to the top of their lists. The film was chosen by Matt Serafini, Adonis Gonzalez, and Chris Sheridan. And it was the #1 film of the year for both Robert Yaniz Jr. and Charlie Ridgely.
#17 – Midsommar
Ari Aster’s sophomore horror feature had the good fortune of basing its vivid, Swedish landscape around the prestigious acting talent of Florence Pugh, our undying May Queen of both Midsommar and 2019 itself. The film was danced for by Chris Sheridan, CJ Mellon, Kimber Myers, Chris Evangelista, Sam Noland, and Will Ashton.
#16 – Klaus
The best animated film of 2019 according to the Cinemaholics wasn’t by Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, or Illumination. No, in a year packed with animated sequels, Netflix and Sergio Pablos gifted us Klaus, a hand-drawn animated Christmas film with a new, unique take on the origins of Santa Claus. And it charmed quite a few of our contributors, including Skyler Schuler, Adonis Gonzalez, Ethan Edgehill, yours truly, Tyler Carlin, and Jake Holland.
#15 – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Director Marielle Heller isn’t a household name like Mister Rogers or Tom Hanks, but with films like A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, she’s well on her way. This imaginative “anti-biopic” about the late children’s show host captivated both audiences and our contributors, appearing on six lists from Skyler Schuler, Aaron Dicer, Will Ashton, Abby Olcese, CJ Mellon, and Matt Serafini, who chose this as his #1 film of 2019.
#14 – Ad Astra
Brad Pitt stars as a calm and collected astronaut who travels to the depths of space to resolve his daddy issues in Ad Astra from director James Gray. The slow-burn sci-fi drama surprised a lot of us with its occasional moments of spectacle and action, reaching the heights of a whopping eight lists from Will Ashton, Brandon Katz, Matt Serafini, Sam Noland, Ryan Oliver, Charlie Ridgely, Kimber Myers, and Candice Frederick.
#13 – Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Céline Sciamma’s sweeping French romance begins and ends with splashes of exuberant color and visual prose unlike just about every other film on this list. Despite having a narrow release, the contributors who did catch the film were quick to frame it on their lists: Matt Donato, Chris Evangelista, Emily Kubincanek, Kayleigh Donaldson, yours truly, Julia Teti, and Kimber Myers, who selected it as her #1 film of 2019.
#12 – The Lighthouse
Director Robert Eggers isn’t known for making broadly accessible films, so it’s all the more impressive to see his psychotic, mind-bending thriller starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe crashing against so many lists from the Cinemaholics. It was selected by Ryan Oliver, Will Ashton, Ethan Edgehill, Chris Sheridan, and Kayleigh Donaldson. And it was the #1 film of the year for both Skyler Schuler and Emily Kubincanek.
#11 – Booksmart
2019 probably won’t go down as one of the best years ever for high school comedies, but that’s not for lack of trying from director Olivia Wilde. With Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein at the forefront as the “smart kids” who want to party it up on the night before graduation, Wilde made one of the funniest teen movies of the decade. The film was ranked by Matt Donato, Skyler Schuler, Abby Olcese, Matt Serafini, Tyler Carlin, Charlie Ridgely, Chris Sheridan, and Adonis Gonzalez, who chose this as his #1 film of the year.
#10 – The Irishman
The Irishman might very well be Martin Scorsese’s final word on the gangster films he helped define over the last half century, and if so, it’s quite the high note to end on. Featuring a slew of iconic performances from Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino, this Netflix epic wasn’t too long for most of our contributors, including Emily Kubincanek, Kayleigh Donaldson, Cory Woodroof, Julia Teti, Mae Abdulbaki, and Rebecca Pahle. It was the #1 film of 2019 for Ryan Oliver and Chris Evangelista.
#9 – 1917
World War I has been a notoriously challenging film to depict since cinema was practically invented, but director Sam Mendes found a fascinating new angle to play with by focusing on a single suicide mission stylized by an edited “one-take” format that defies realtime and physics to extraordinary effect. And its technical achievements were well-recognized by our contributors: Aaron Dicer, Matt Donato, Rebecca Pahle, Abby Olcese, yours truly, Brandon Katz, Skyler Schuler, Cory Woodroof, and Charlie Ridgely.
#8 – Little Women
Director Greta Gerwig might just be a miracle worker. Despite being the umpteenth remake of an adaptation most in the world already know cover to cover, Gerwig’s Little Women is still full of surprises, from its updated story structure to a symphony of lovely performances, particularly from Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh. The film was selected by Mae Abdulbaki, Emily Kubincanek, Rebecca Pahle, Brandon Katz, Abby Olcese, Kimber Myers, Julia Teti, and Cory Woodroof.
#7 – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
It wouldn’t be a film by Quentin Tarantino if there wasn’t a little…drama. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood chronicles a lost era of optimism and old fashioned practicality, before it culminates in the sort of dreamworld logic only rose-colored camera lens could produce. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pritt haven’t missed a step in their respective careers, and plenty of our contributors will agree this is one of the best films of the year, including Charlie Ridgely, Cory Woodroof, Matt Serafini, Aaron Dicer, Will Ashton, Brandon Katz, Chris Evangelista, and Candice Frederick.
#6 – Us
Jordan Peele’s twisty, meta horror feature was one of the first widely celebrated films of 2019, and that hasn’t changed much for our contributors all these months later. The film appeared on 11 lists from Will Ashton, yours truly, Robert Yaniz Jr, Julia Teti, Cory Woodroof, Chris Evangelista, Adonis Gonzalez, Jake Holland, Ethan Edgehill, Tyler Carlin, and Mae Abdulbaki.
#5 – Marriage Story
Girl meets boy. Girl marries boy. Girl has a kid with boy. Girl divorces boy. And that’s where Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story picks up, as the audience experiences the fallout of a marriage in disarray. And our contributors couldn’t get enough of this film and its whirlwind performances from Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, and many more. The film was selected by Cory Woodroof, Candice Frederick, Charlie Ridgely, yours truly, Mae Abdulbaki, Aaron Dicer, Emily Kubincanek, Robert Yaniz Jr, Ryan Oliver, Brandon Katz, Abby Olcese, and Will Ashton, who chose this as his #1 film of 2019.
#4 – Avengers: Endgame
The most superhero movie of 2019 is apparently also the best according to the Cinemaholics. Noted for its massive achievement in over a decade of buildup, Avengers: Endgame will likely be forever known as the one 2019 finale that actually went over pretty well. The film was selected by Matt Serafini, Ethan Edgehill, Jake Holland, Adonis Gonzalez, CJ Mellon, and Robert Yaniz. It was the #1 film of the year for Brandon Katz, Tyler Carlin, and Craig Hanks.
#3 – The Farewell
Lulu Wang’s cross-cultural family drama should be a lot more depressing and cynical than it ultimately is, so it’s no wonder Awkwafina picked up a Golden Globe for her performance as Billie, a young adult who struggles to hide the truth of her Nai Nai’s terminal illness from, well, Nai Nai, played by Zhao Shuzhen, who deserves more awards than she’ll likely receive. The film was selected by yours truly, Chris Evangelista, Ryan Oliver, Matt Donato, Matt Serafini, Emily Kubincanek, Cory Woodroof, Candice Frederick, Julia Teti, Robert Yaniz Jr, Kimber Myers, Mae Abdulbaki, and Preeti Chhibber, who chose this as her #1 film of 2019.
#2 – Knives Out
Rian Johnson’s surprise hit Knives Out has already sparked a franchise and more than a few memes involving donut holes and sweaters worn by Chris Evans. But at the heart of this film is a quirky, inventive whodunnit that feels both like a throwback and the start of something refreshingly new for Hollywood. The film was chosen by Preeti Chhibber, Kimber Myers, Charlie Ridgely, Chris Evangelista, Brandon Katz, Kayleigh Donaldson, Adonis Gonzalez, Chris Sheridan, Robert Yaniz Jr, Skyler Schuler, Matt Serafini, and Mae Abdulbaki. It was the #1 film of 2019 for Aaron Dicer, Cory Woodroof, Jake Holland, Ethan Edgehill, and Abby Olcese.
#1 – Parasite
We’d have an easier time telling you who didn’t put Parasite somewhere on their list. Bong Joon-ho’s electric, class warfare heist is simple, pure joy, and it’s the sort of crowdpleaser that can unite just about every type of moviegoer, as you can see from the near-unanimous praise for it from our contributors. To save some time, we’ll just tell you who selected the film as their #1 of the year: Mae Abdulbaki, Julia Teti, Candice Frederick, and Rebecca Pahle.
There were scores of other films our contributors wanted to highlight, so here are some of the most highly ranked ones that didn’t make the final cut: The Nightingale, Under the Silver Lake, Fighting With My Family, Climax, Waves, John Wick Chapter 3, Hustlers, Ready or Not, Transit, The Peanut Butter Falcon, and Apollo 11.
Jon is the co-host of Cinemaholics and author of two books: the novel Killerjoy and a book about Pixar called The Pixar Theory. His favorite movie is usually The Mask of Zorro (don’t ask).