Heat Vision's Top 10 Movies of 2019

Joker Still 2 - Warner Bros. Entertainment Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment
Where does your favorite film of the year fall on this list?

It’s all about endings. This was a year where movies…and television shows…proved it’s how you go out that counts. Many movies sought a sense of closure to their stories, from M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass and Toy Story 4 to Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker. Others had showstopping reveals and reversals, such as Jordan Peele’s Us and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. Some worked; others didn’t; some left fans wanting more; others left audiences shrugging.

It was also a year that comic book movies hit genre-defining watermarks and a year where TV shows, quite frankly, showed their film brethren how it’s done (we’re looking at you, Watchmen and The Mandalorian).

Read on for Heat Vision’s Top 10 of 2019.

10. Shazam!

It was Big via a comic book lens in a DC Comics adaptation that leaned into its goofy conventions but also brushed them aside with sprinkles of horror (thanks to director’s David F. Sandberg’s roots) and unexpected emotion (that scene where foster kid Billy Batson finally finds his mother is a stab). Zachary Levi is great inhabiting the mind of a boy in an adult body charged with superpowers.

9. Spider-Man: Far From Home

In many ways the true epilogue for Endgame, this was another winning entry of Holland as Peter Parker, this time dealing with young love, the loss of a father figure and not measuring up to expectations. That’s a lot for a movie that on the surface plays like a special episode of an '80s sitcom where the lovable gang goes to Europe with a healthy dose of Marvel villainy. And just when you think the dust has settled comes a twist ending, shaking it all and bringing a favorite character and actor back.

8. How to Train Your Dragon 3/Toy Story 4

Both excellent animated entries that served as great closures to their respective franchises. Toy Story 4 overcame the ending of Toy Story 3 to deliver a powerful and emotional tale of the evolving nature of friendship while still having set pieces and offering new takes on old characters (Bo-Peep) and introducing a new one (Duke Caboom). And nothing was as richly designed as that antique store.

How to Train Your Dragon 3 also took on the evolution of friendship and growing up, combining with great dragon action. It was a fitting closing chapter and character arc in a franchise-obsessed industry that rarely lets creators do and finish their thing; filmmaker Dean DeBlois took that chance, ran with it and didn’t disappoint.

7. Ready or Not

The better horror movies offer some deeper social resonance and this low-budget charmer was no exception. Sure, it’s the story of a bride on her wedding night being chased in a mansion by her murderous new in-laws, but it’s also a metaphor for marriage and how you marry the family, as well as the pressure of family expectations. Samara Weaving winningly carries the black comedy as the bloodied and exasperated bride in a movie that also features a bonkers ending.

6. Parasite

Speaking of shifting loyalties, no one navigated that line better than Bong Joon-ho with his parable about poor versus rich. His tale of an unemployed family who sneakily and subversively insinuate themselves with a well-to-do one feels like a drama until it veers off a cliff into thriller and horror territory and a total bonkers ending. Yet these developments never feel unnatural to the story. The title can refer to any one of the characters, including the audience that gets to feast off this wonderful host.

5. Jojo Rabbit

Yes, Jojo. Taika Waititi’s fable of a boy whose best friend is an imaginary Hitler and who then discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home is one of the sweetest, funniest and heartfelt movies of the year. Waititi brings the same offbeat sensibility that he did to his more overt genre works such as What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok and Episode 8 of The Mandalorian to craft a tale that delicately balances a heightened and stylized take on the absurdity of hatred and war with a grounded emotionality and an innocence and a child’s view with adult horrors. There may be no better director working with kid actors today than Waititi.

4. Knives Out

After his divisive The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson went the opposite direction, with a small-scale and original murder mystery. With a story firmly set in present America but embracing characters that feel like they fell out of a long-lost novel, Johnson played a delightful five-finger fillet on audiences, constantly shifting focus on who could have killed the patriarch of a family filled with eccentrics and secrets. He couldn’t have done it without a cast game to chew scenery and wood banisters, with delicious work by Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig, the latter channeling Foghorn Leghorn for his role of detective Benoit Blanc. (MRC, the studio behind Knives Out, shares a parent company, Valence Media, with The Hollywood Reporter.)

3. Us

Never less than mesmerizing, Peele’s look at a family under siege from their doppelgangers had big themes on its mind even as it freaked you out with scares. Lupita Nyong’o’s intense double turn, especially infusing her twin Red with the horror trope of unstoppable evil but also sympathy and vulnerability, was a tour de force showcase. And even as Peele took his ending into a Twilight Zone maze, the movie showed that Get Out was no fluke and that a master of suspense has been hiding all these years.

2. Joker

Creepy and unnerving, Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the man who will become Batman’s greatest villain was the transformation of the year. A character study of a man failed by the system, further shunned by society and sliding into open depression, the film took the comic book movie and a mainstream comic book character in a whole new direction and showed Hollywood and the world that there was no limit to the genre. The movie featured the career-best work by director Todd Phillips and was, taking into account the blend of crafts such as editing and production design, one of the best-made movies of the year.

1. Avengers: Endgame

It was an ending more than 10 years in the making and half the universe's fate was dependent on that one outcome. Somehow directors Joe and Anthony Russo and producer Kevin Feige pulled the strands together to not only make a blockbuster spectacle, but also infuse it with heroic melodrama, fan-favorite moments and reminders of why viewers love these characters so much. They also managed to celebrate what has come before by taking a sly tour through the Marvel Cinematic Universe while giving us a series of endings that placed everyone where they naturally felt they should be. If you didn’t cry loving Tony Stark 3000, then you certainly did when Steve Rogers danced with the love of his life.