It’s been a big year for comic book movies, but there are plenty of other great films to catch up on too. Here are some of the best
Avengers: End Game was an epic conclusion to Marvel’s long-running saga, but (despite appearances) cinema is about more than when the next comic book movie is out. Our look at the best films of 2019 is a mixture of well-worn blockbusters and a few surprises you may not know. And, if you’re interested in what’s still to come, try our guide to the new films coming out in 2019.
Director Adam McKay’s follow-up to the roaring success of The Big Short is a similarly comedic biopic based on the life of Dick Cheney, dubbed the most powerful Vice President ever. Christian Bale plays Cheney opposite Amy Adams, who plays his formidable political partner and wife. It’s a darkly funny, nihilistic take on a traumatic period of history, which earned a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards.
Detective Pikachu only exists because of the success of Pokémon Go – the hit location and augmented reality game launched in July 2016. The live-action Pokémon film stars Ryan Reynolds as the voice of the electric character, with an accompanying deerstalker hat. There are perhaps one too many twists in the tale, but it’s an easy-to-watch fun, family-oriented film. It also did surprisingly well at the box office, becoming one of the biggest gaming-related movies of all time.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
For his latest film, Quentin Tarantino went big – although arguably, he usually does. His cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as two aspiring TV stars hoping to succeed in the film industry in 1969 Los Angeles. The film is set in the context of an America rocked by the Manson Family murders – the killings perpetrated by a cult formed in California and led by Charles Manson. By the end of the 60s, Manson was predicting an apocalyptic war based on racial tensions. Hyper violence and a cult of deranged leaders: it is not hard to see how it all makes for a classic Tarantino.
We’re cheating a little here. Strictly speaking, The Favourite came out on December 26, 2018 in the UK, but we’re calling it 2019 due to proximity. Olivia Colman won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Queen Anne, isolated and manipulated by Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and her younger cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone). It’s a darkly comic psychological drama with a loose relationship to the truth, but it’s all the more entertaining for the license it takes.
Jordan Peele returns with another horror derived from life in America – this time a family is stalked by their evil doppelgangers. “Structured like a home-invasion drama, ‘Us’ is a horror film—though saying so is like offering a reminder that “The Godfather” is a gangster film or that “2001: A Space Odyssey” is science fiction,” says the New Yorker’s Richard Brody. Fans of Get Out will find lots to love here, though Us is the less funny of the pair.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Guns. The third outing in the cult action John Wick series sees Keanu Reeves joined by Halle Berry, playing a fellow assassin and friend, and Laurence Fishburne as an underground crime lord. In this installment, Wick has a $14 million price on his head and a massive gang of angry assassin types trying to kill him. In other words, it’s classic John Wick and it’s great fun.
Was it perfect? No. Was it an incredible conclusion to more than ten years of interconnected movies? Absolutely. Directors the Russo Brothers adeptly juggle the plot strands of Marvel’s epic, which keeps you hooked despite its epic run time of over three hours. There’s so much in the film, it’s bound to reward repeat viewing.
Alex Garland of Ex Machina and The Beach fame adapts one of the best sci-fi books of the past 10 years, Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. This adaptation was criminally underseen on its release, going straight to Netflix, but it’s actually excellent – Natalie Portman is great and it makes several changes to the book that fans will appreciate. “Annihilation is more than mere visuals and it will shock, fascinate and haunt audiences, whatever screen it’s watched on,” says Benjamin Lee at The Guardian.
A bizarre but brilliant film about a literal troll who works as a border security agent, due to her inhuman sense of smell (she can sniff out emotions). From the same writer as vampire child classic Let the Right One In, Border has the same mix of cruel realism and violent fantasy. Also features troll sex!
Captain MarvelHad Marvel realised quite how popular Captain Marvel would be, it might have featured the character more prominently in its other big movie this year. Still, it’s churlish to complain given we did get Captain Marvel and it was outstanding. Brie Larson nails the title role and it’s great to see Samuel L. Jackson, skilfully de-aged for the 70s setting, getting a little more to do in a Marvel movie.
Teenage coming of age comedy about a party before the protagonists go off to college! Sound familiar? Starring Jonah Hill’s sister, this is like a much better, more diversely represented Superbad. “The screenwriters don’t so much reinvent the formula as refresh it, infusing some familiar situations with an exuberant, generous, matter-of-factly feminist sensibility,” says A.O. Scott at the New York Times.
Ash is Purest White
An epic, sprawling gangster movie set in an industrial city in China, in which a young dancer named falls in love with a mobster. He goes to jail and she enacts revenge. “As the country undergoes social, political, economic and ecological transformation, he asks how an old model of being can survive, suggesting that the jianghu, or outlaw, spirit might be the thing that persists,” says The Guardian’s Simran Hans.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant both earned Academy nominations for their roles in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a low-key biography of Lee Israel (McCarthy), a writer who in desperation resorts to forging letters from dead authors and playwrights. It didn’t win big at the box office, making just short of $12m on a budget of $10m, but it’s a great film where McCarthy proves she has serious acting chops beyond comedy.
Toy Story 4
Buzz Lightyear first appeared in Andy’s toy collection in 1995. Now, almost 25 years later the fourth instalment of Toy Story is out and it’s another huge hit. Buzz, Woody, Mr Potato Head and the rest of the toys are now in the possession of new owner Bonnie. When Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, Woody and his new friends have to go on a road trip adventure.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
A sequel to 2017’s Homecoming, Far From Home is set after Avengers: Endgame, and sees Peter Parker go on a school trip to Europe with his friends. When he’s abroad though, he has to team up with Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) to battle four extradimensional humanoids called the Elementals. It also sets the scene for the future of the Marvel series after the events of Endgame. Like the first film, Holland nails the lead role and the final act lifts a good film to a great one.
Ari Aster’s Hereditary, which came out last year, was a rare thing: a genuinely terrifying, critically acclaimed horror film. His latest, Midsommar, stars Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor as a young couple on holiday in a Swedish village. They attend a festival that only happens every 90 years, which initially seems idyllic, until (you guessed it) the party descends into cultish violence.
Monte (Robert Pattison) and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a mission to the outer reaches of the solar system, but they’re hurtling towards a black hole. This sounds like a standard sci fi action movie, but it’s actually a high art masterpiece. “An Old Testament parable catapulted forward into the 23rd century, a primal scene in a pressurised cabin of sci-fi pessimism, suppressed horror and denied panic,” says The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw.