2020 is finally here! And what’s the best way to start off the year than by making a list of what were the best movies released in 2019? It was a pretty special year for film, even though I didn’t love hyped titles such as Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman, Little Woman, etc. This time, however, I can say I’ve watched practically everything that I was planning before making this list, so the results are pretty special and accurate. Here is Papiro & Mint’s official list of the best movies of 2019.
15. “Deerskin” by Quentin Dupieux
A movie that I practically haven’t seen in any “best of” list from this year was this incredibly interesting and weird movie about a man who after becoming so obsessed with his new deerskin jacket, he starts beliving the jacket has a voice of its own and wants to be the only jacket worn in the world. With a hilarious and absurd script, Quentin Dupieux creates a unique and strange film about a serial killer with an outstanding performance by Jean Dujardin, resulting in a movie that has literally a killer style.
14. “Consequences” by Darko Stante
Being previously mentioned at the 25 Best LGBTQ Movies of the Decade (So Far) post, Consequences is a powerful, violent and sexy coming of age about a boy who is forced to go to a detention center where he is forced to accept his sexuality while trying to fit in on a hyper-masculine environment. More than being a queer drama, Darko Stante takes a closer look at a community that still suffers from homophobia and its consequences upon a young, confused and angry generation.
13. “The Art of Self-Defense” by Riley Stearns
Another movie that not many people are talking about is The Art of Self Defence, a hilarious and smart independent film about a man who decides to start taking karate lessons after being beaten up on a dark alley at night. With strong references from Fight Club, Riley Stearns creates one of the most original scripts of the year by making fun of classical tropes of masculinity and its insecurities while making very strong points about today’s society. Definitely a must-watch.
12. “Uncut Gems” by Josh and Benny Safdie
I didn’t really think Uncut Gems would surpass Safdies’ previous film Good Time, but fortunately, it did! With an amazing performance by Adam Sandler, the film follows the misadventures of a jewelry seller in New York City and his addiction to betting. More than that, Uncut Gems is a frenetic experience about the loss of control, with a mise en scene so rich and complex that it results in a very unique experience to the viewer. The fact the Oscars didn’t give one single nomination for this film is one of the many reasons I stopped believing in the ceremony.
11. “And Then We Danced” by Levan Akin
Being probably the first movie from Georgia I watch, And Then We Danced is a marvelous film that uses dance as part of the narrative to tell a story. Focusing on a dancer who falls in love for the new and stronger member of his dance academy, Levan Akin builds a coming of age story to show the current social and political views of this country we never hear about, tackling important themes such as tradition, family and religion. A very powerful film with an incredible performance by Levan Gelbakhiani.
10. “Midsommar” by Ari Aster
A movie that had a very divisive response but I absolutely loved was Midsommar. From the same director of Hereditary, Ari Aster creates a very unique, interesting and creepy intake upon the folk horror genre and creates a beautiful and disturbing movie that can be read in many ways. With outstanding performances and production design, Midsommar is one of the best horror movies of the year.
09. “Parasite” by Bong Joon-ho
Even though I feel like the hype surrounding this film is a little excessive, we can’t forget how good and important Parasite is. By telling the story of a whole family who infiltrates the household of a rich one, Bong Joon-ho creates a very unique experience by creating several layers upon his narrative that unfolds in very different and unimaginable ways, while talking about problems of society and the difference of social classes.
08. “Portrait of a Lady On Fire” by Céline Sciamma
Probably one of the most beautiful movies of the year, every shot of Portrait of a Lady On Fire can be seen as a romantic painting. By telling the story of a painter who is hired to make a portrait of a lady without her knowing, Céline Sciamma creates a very minimalistic film that focuses on the eyes and the expressions of these two women and how their simple gestures are what makes them fall in love for one another.
07. “Synonyms” by Nadav Lapid
Being one of the most interesting and original movies of the year, Synonyms follows the story of an Israeli man who decides to move to Paris to become a French man. But what makes a French a French and a Jew a Jew? Nadav Lapid doesn’t quite answer these questions but rather plays with them on this absurd movie of a guy who wears nothing but a yellow coat and a dictionary on his pocket while trying to understand who he is and the society that he came from.
06. “High Life” by Claire Denis
Even though this movie is actually from 2018, High Life was only released in major countries in 2019, making it mandatory for this list because it’s incredibly good. Telling the story of several prisoners who are sent to a black hole while going through fertility experiments, Claire Denis builds a strange, sensual and sensorial experience that you will never fully understand what is about but will be definitely hypnotized by it, especially since it tackles existential themes and has Andrei Tarkovsky’s references.
05 “Marriage Story” by Noah Baumbach
A movie that I was very skeptical about it in the beginning but fell in love within the first minutes was Marriage Story. By telling the story of a divorce, Noah Baumbach ends up saying a lot about love, relationships and the society we live in through a touching script while Adam Driver and Scarlett Johanson do no only deliver the best performances of the year, but probably of their careers.
04. “Ad Astra” by James Gray
Ad Astra could not only be considered one of the best movies of the year but also of the decade by using a futuristic and realistic utopia to deal with personal traumas. Even though it’s a classical Hollywood film about the journey of a character, James Gray focuses on the internal journey, the one that not only takes us to outer space but also inside the universe within us all. Brad Pitt also delivers one of the best and most delicate performances of the year, resulting in a bittersweet sci-fi film that goes way beyond astronauts in space.
03. “Bacurau” by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Julio Dornelles
I had never thought Kleber Mendonça Filho would surpass his incredible masterpiece Aquarius but thankfully, he did! It’s very hard to describe Bacurau for those who haven’t seen it and it’s even harder to explain what this movie means to Brazilians as it speaks so much of our country even though it’s not a metaphor for what is currently happening here. All I have to say is that this is a western sci-fi crazy fantasy that even though I believe it’s not supposed to be taken too seriously, it talks a lot about serious matters such as globalization, exploration and social classes. One of my year favorites.
02. “A Hidden Life” by Terrence Malick
After waiting for more than a year to watch this film, I was finally able to do it in Ireland while traveling through Europe during this last month. Being afraid this would be like Malick’s latest films, which just drags on and on for hours, I found myself completely surprised to discover his most beautiful and heartbreaking film to date. By telling the story of a man who refuses to swear allegiance to Hitler once he is called upon by the army, Malick builds a movie in search of the truth of what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, what is light and darkness. Even though these have been themes he has already explored in the past, A Hidden Life feels more powerful with its astonishing beauty of both the cinematography and the story that focuses on the beauty of being human and true to oneself.
01. “The Lighthouse” by Robert Eggers
It was very hard for me to choose the order between The Lighthouse, A Hidden Life and Bacurau – three incredible movies with completely different stories, formats, and backgrounds. The Lighthouse, however, is probably the movie that left the strongest impression on me. Not only because of the fact I watched with Willem Dafoe and Robert Eggers at the São Paulo International Film Festival but also because of the experience I had watching this film reminded me of some of the reasons I wanted to make films. To watch something beautiful and sinister unfold on the screen that you are not really sure of what it means but you can’t really look away from it. Robert Eggers, Robert Pattinson, and Willem Dafoe do just that with the incredible cinematography and sound design, creating the most powerful and incredible movie of the year.
Honorable mentions: The Death and Life of John F. Donovan by Xavier Dolan, The Painted Bird by Vaclau Marhoul, Frankie by Ira Sachs, The Two Popes by Fernando Meirelles and The Golden Glove by Fatih Akin.