Let's end the year on a positive note! Here are 19 of the top films I saw this year.
In no particular order:
The Farewell - Original Review
I saw this film at Sundance and was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster. I fully acknowledge that a lot of my affection for this movie comes from a cultural connection to the setting, but the emotional core of the film is universal. Awkwafina gives a spectacular performance. If you haven’t seen the film yet, please check it out.
Parasite - Original Review
There was a lot of film world hype around this film and I did not think it was possible for the film to live up to the fervor. Yet I was astounded by the film. The performances are incredible, the story is original and wild, and the overall aesthetic is unlike any other director out there’s right now. Do yourself a favor and see this.
Us - Original Review
Similar to “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho, Jordan Peele has quickly established himself as an original voice in a sea of sequels and remakes. This was one of the only horror films of the year I was able to bring myself to see, and I was not disappointed. The horror of the film is on so many levels it merits re-watching.
Jojo Rabbit - Original Review
If you can’t tell I’m super into directors with unique voices (which… shouldn’t all directors have?) Taika Waititi is one of my favorites. Not only did he direct and write the film, but he also stars as Imaginary Hitler. It gives me great joy to think of the real figure turning in his grave at a Polynesian Jew playing him. The film isn’t all laughs, it has a wonderful balance of heart as well.
Toy Story 4 - Original Review
Honestly was somewhat prepared to write this off. Did we need another “Toy Story” film after 3? Not really. The ending of TS3 for me was a beautiful sendoff. That being said the introduction of the greatest existential crisis in the form of a spork made this film fun and refreshing.
Hustlers - Original Review
It’s a story about female friendship. It just happens to take place in a strip club. As far as crime movies go it was also more interesting than half of the other crime films I’ve seen in the last few years.
Late Night - Original Review
Another Sundance fave for me. Much like “Hustlers” it captured the female dynamic incredibly well. Though this time in a slightly (but only slightly) more conventional workplace. What I wouldn’t give to have an actual late night talk show hosted by Emma Thompson.
Rocketman - Original Review
While I was lukewarm on last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” I was all in for “Rocketman.” Perhaps because the film was unflinching in its embrace of Elton John’s homosexual journey (versus “Bohemian Rhapsody” which tried to half shove Freddie Mercury back in the closet). Either way a great performance, and of course soundtrack.
Booksmart - Original Review
Speaking of homosexual censorship…
This female led teenage romp was wildly funny, and wildly overlooked. It’s easy to make comparisons to “Superbad” (especially since Beanie Feldstein of this film is the sister of Jonah Hill) but this film isn’t a remake. Plus the friendship and positivity shared by the leads is infectious.
Detective Pikachu - https://youtu.be/77AuLqRbJzA
Will this stand the test of time? Probably not. Did it likely make my list because I spend a lot of time around certain monsters? Distinctly possible. Was Detective Pikachu himself still adorable? 100%
Captain Marvel - Original Review
Do I think this film would have been more innovative if it had come along a few years earlier in the MCU production schedule? Absolutely. That being said Brie Larson is a marvelous Captain Marvel. To finally have a Marvel female led superhero film was long overdue, and the pressure was certainly there. Thankfully Captain Marvel did what it needed to do (more on the contribution later in this list).
Little Women - Original Review
I profess I have never read the book, nor seen the other film adaptation. So this for me is now the canonical “Little Women.” Having no other expectations of it was rather liberating. It’s well executed, well acted, and fittingly modern for something that draws from dated material.
Pain & Glory - Original Review
This is truly a performance piece. My understanding is that it is the most autobiographical of director Pedro Almodovar’s work, and that the material hits so close to home for him seems to have allowed him to coax out an awards worthy performance out of Antonio Banderas. The fact that this (much like “Parasite”) was in a language I don’t speak and yet still moved me speaks volumes.
Of all the Netflix awards contenders this one surprised me the most. While it is also clearly an Actór’s (with a capital A) those actors happen to be the top of their game. Perhaps my lack of knowledge of the Catholic church allowed me to view the film from a more objective perspective, but I think the duality of the performances transcend religious background.
Knives Out - Original Review
Much like “Detective Pikachu” this film is just fun. It is also technically a detective story. Sensing a theme here? While Rian Johnson didn’t reinvent the wheel or genre here, he put together a well crafted and well acted whodunnit that was a breath of fresh air in the awards season.
Dolemite is My Name
A possibly overlooked Netflix original. It’s very inside Hollywood/film, but unlike some of the other films that tackled the same subject this year, it brought a freshness and sense of humor to the material.
Bombshell - Original Review
The mechanics of the film are flawed, but the performances are great. Much like many of the other films on the list this year I appreciated how this film captured an experience that (unfortunately) many women can relate to. I never thought I’d feel sympathy for Fox News anchors but here we are.
Avengers: Endgame - Original Review
This and the next film on the list are on here for similar reasons. The films themselves may not have been my absolute favorite, but they brought much needed closure to some long standing sagas. Plus this continues to show how much of a badass Captain Marvel is, and brought us fat Thor.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - Original Review
I struggled with whether or not I should include this on the list. As a standalone film it is far from my favorite of the year. However, that’s the thing about Star Wars films. They really aren’t standalone. Even the quasi offshoot ones like “Rogue One” or “Solo” depend on our existing love and familiarity with the Star Wars universe in some way. There wasn’t going to be an easy way to bring closure to a particular family’s story that was 42 years in the making. By not botching it up too horrendously, this film succeeds. There are many things I’d have liked to see done differently in this film, but ultimately it brought much needed closure.
The latest interviews, reviews, and opinions on film by Dana Han-Klein. Thoughts and opinions are entirely my own and not reflective of my employer or any third parties.