It’s been an up and down year in both the world and in cinema; for all the good there is the bad. You may not have had the election result you wanted, Britain is due to make its biggest post-war decision, and everything can seem a little darker. But we at No Majesty want a little positivity, and so, as we say goodbye to 2019 we round up the ten films we liked the most from the year.
10. LE MANS ’66 (JAMES MANGOLD)
This film managed to bring to life the true story of Ford’s bid to beat Ferrari at the 24 hour race at Le Mans in 1966. Christian Bale and Matt Damon portray the true friendship between Ken Miles and Caroll Shelby, and are both on winning form. The great performances are helped by a director in complete control and happy to keep us on the same level as the cars during the races. It’s played big, and lacks some nuance, but as a sports movie for the masses it’s thoroughly enjoyable.
9. MARRIAGE STORY (NOAH BAUMBACH)
The perfectly observed drama that also provided several memes. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are rightly being lavished with praise and awards nominations but the strength is in Noah Baumbach’s writing which is often very funny and well observed as well as not making either good or bed, it’s less interested in these ideas and more occupied with showing what happens when a marriage ends. Like a more subdued Kramer vs Kramer this may be a little slight for some but is very moving.
8. JOKER (TODD PHILLIPS)
Intense, super-serious and problematic but as an approach to a Scorsese-style psychological drama it helps mainly due to the work of Joaquin Phoenix. Easily a shoe-in for awards, his turn as Arthur Fleck punctuates the angry-white man trope with it’s finest addition. Sure, it’s been a hot topic movie, but the box office returns and the conversation have mainly been a help. It also helps that Phoenix is supported by Robert De Niro and Frances Conroy being on from as the tension mounts.
7. THE TWO POPES (FERNANDO MEIRELLES)
Who would have thought a drama about two religious types getting all aggy about religion would be such an engrossing drama. Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins hold the screen as Bishop Bergoglio (our now Pope Francis) and Pope Benedict XVI, while Meirelles directs with style but also reverence and restraint. It might not be appealing to those without an interest in religion but for those who give it a chance it’s an often funny, interesting look at a relationship between two men who have opposing views about the same Man.
6. ROCKETMAN (DEXTER FLETCHER)
The manic ballsy yang to Bohemian Rhapsody’s boring ying. Fletcher’s take on the life of Reggie Dwight the once and future Elton Hercules John is an out-and-proud musical, full of profanity, musical numbers, drugs and gay sex. As John Taron Egerton is the best he’s ever been, singing, dancing and throwing hissy fits like you wouldn’t believe, while Richard Madden and Jamie Bell are perfect support as John Reid and Bernie Taupin. It’s loud, brash and in your face, exactly like it’s main subject is, but it’s as sensitive as the man behind the big specs.
5. HONEY BOY (ALMA HER’EL)
A form of therapy for Shia LaBeouf and his conflicted feelings on his childhood. His performance as a version of his father is nuanced, but never shies away from what abuse can be like. Noah Jupe is just as good as the young LaBeouf stand-in able to hold his own against an on-fire Shia, while the direction from Alma Her’el is both intimate and unflinching, never for a second feeling exploitative.
4. MIDSOMMAR (ARI ASTER)
The difficult second movie from a lauded new voice is always something to be wary of. Coming shortly after his first film Ari Aster’s Midsommer was a long, oppressive journey of darkness encased in beautiful vistas and bright sunlight. Those looking for ball shaking fear are not likely to be satisfied but those looking for mounting dread, and a central performance for the horror ages by Florence Pugh were treated to an absolute gem.
3. KNIVES OUT (RIAN JOHNSON)
Coming off of The Last Jedi was never going to be easy, but coming out with this classic whodunnit with a modern bent is an absolute blast. Ana De Armas and Daniel Craig are on top form as they sleuth around the sinister mansion with a little political bite in it. The box office and critical success has proven that Johnson is fantastic at writing and directing and that those who wanted his career to be over after his Star Wars movie is clearly foolish.
2. US (Jordan Peele)
Jordan Peele shattered a glass ceiling for African Americans in horror cinema and wonderfully subverts expectations with his second directorial offering. Us isn’t as funny as Get Out was, but what is loses in laughs it adds in enigmatic horror. Helped by a superb cast headed by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke in duel roles, the film doesn’t offer easy answers but it’s artistic merit is easily one of the best this year and it’s use of a remixed Five On It is also haunting.
1. AVENGERS: ENDGAME (ANTHONY & JOE RUSSO)
The biggest movie of all time that took all the money, the high water mark for what a shared cinematic universe can do. Easily the best film of the year in terms of scope and ambition but also heart and passion. A freer looser movie than the method-paced Infinity War, bringing a close to the first eleven years, and three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was never going to be easy, but the Russo brothers, along with writers Marcus and McFeely and grand-architect Kevin Feige crafted a crowd pleasing action film that manages to bring together everyone.
Paul Klein is a Film Studies Graduate from London, former writer at The Metropolist.