Andreea Pătru 

film critic and programmer

I know I’m late to the party, but before mentioning any film produced/released in 2019, I want to draw attention to the film that marked my year’s viewing experience:
Voskhozhdenie (The Ascent, Larisa Shepitko, 1977).

Feature length
Nhà cây (The Tree House, Trương Minh Quý, 2019)
Dylda (Beanpole, Kantemir Balagov, 2019)
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)
Colectiv (Collective, Alexander Nanau, 2019)
Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You. (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019)
This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019)
De nuevo otra vez (Again Once Again, Romina Paula, 2019)
Savovi (Stitches, Miroslav Terzic, 2019)
Ma sai ke shao nv (Mosaic Portrait, Zhai Yixiang, 2019)
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Joe Talbot, 2019)

And a list of short films
Deux soeurs qui ne sont pas soeurs (Two Sisters Who Are Not Sisters, Beatrice Gibson, 2019)
Subject to Review (Theo Anthony, 2019)
Operation Jane Walk (Leonhard Müllner, Robin Klengel, 2018)
Dey Thmey Phlauv Kouch (New Land, Broken Road, Kavich Neang, 2018)
Vulcão: O Que Sonha um Lago? (Volcano: What Does a Lake Dream?, Diana Vidrașcu, 2019)

Dylda (Beanpole, Kantemir Balagov, 2019)

Yoana Pavlova 


And Then We Danced (Levan Akin, 2019)
Ayahuasca (Jan Kounen, 2019) VR
DAU (Ilya Khrzhanovsky, 2019)
Dylda (Beanpole, Kantemir Balagov, 2019)
Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov, 2019)
Ivana the Terrible (Ivana Mladenović, 2019)
La Gomera (The Whistlers, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2019)
No Data Plan (Miko Revereza, 2019)
Wan mei jin xing shi (Present.Perfect, Shengze Zhu, 2019)
Xurmalar Yetişən Vaxt (When The Persimmons Grew, Hilal Baydarov, 2019)

Jesse Percival 

Film Editor, Los Angeles, CA

For the first time this decade I found it a struggle to want to get out and go to the cinema on a weekly basis. I had little interest in many of the blockbusters that studios were churning out and the ones I did go and see left a lot to be desired. It feels like studios are offering less and less in terms of variety each passing year, and I worry with Disney slowly buying off other companies and dominating more of the market that the trend will only get worse in the coming decade. But what made 2019 a thrilling year for cinema regardless of that fact was the sheer number of voices that stepped up to the plate to deliver some of the best movies in recent memories. In fact I’d argue few films rocked my world this entire century more than the best films of 2019. You had established directors coming out with some career best work and up and coming filmmakers absolutely killing it, making it seem almost effortless. It was the first year maybe ever that I felt any one of the films in my top 10 could have been my favourite film of the year. Even more surprising? Adam Sandler ended up being the lead of my favourite movie this year, and I could never have seen that coming!

No matter how dire the industry may seem, there will always be great films being produced and there will always be a reason to get out and go to the movies. With that being said, here are my 10 favourites from this past year:

  1. Uncut Gems(Josh & Benny Safdie, 2019)
  2. Gisaengchung(Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
  3. Portrait de la jeune fille en feu(Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)
  4. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood(Quentin Tarantino, 2019)
  5. The Irishman(Martin Scorsese, 2019)
  6. Booksmart (Olivia Wilde, 2019)
  7. The Farewell(Lulu Wang, 2019)
  8. Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)
  9. Ad Astra(James Gray, 2019)
  10. Rocketman(Dexter Fletcher, 2019)

This year was also terrific for retrospective screenings. I found myself flocking to see more classics I’d never been able to see on the big screen than newer releases. In fact, based on how many sold out screenings of older films I’ve attended this year, I’d say the demand for these screenings has never been greater. Los Angeles specifically benefited from the emergence of Secret Movie Club as a major rep-house player, which brought 35mm prints of everything from Kurosawa classics to cult favourites. Just as well the recent reopening of the New Beverly Cinema meant there was always something to see, and that’s not even considering we finally got an Alamo Drafthouse. These rep-houses allowed for some of the most exciting screenings I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending, so I wanted to highlight my favourite films I saw in both 35mm and 70mm this year.

  1. Shichinin no Samurai(Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
  3. Alien(Ridley Scott, 1979)
  4. Gojira(Godzilla, Ishiro Honda, 1954)
  5. Ikiru (To Live, Akira Kurosawa, 1952)
  6. Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma, 1974)
  7. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999)
  8. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
  9. The Killer (John Woo, 1989)
  10. The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese, 1988)

Antoni Peris-Grao 

Writer and Editor. Miradas de Cine. Spain

Here you have my choices for 2019 (some from a couple of years back, some still non released out of festivals in Spain).

  1. Seductive images, beguiling stories: Either because of stories that grow inside themselves or images that stay in our retinae, these group of films are the most attractive to me, even they might not be the best of the year. Some of them are well known, some like Invasion should be known. Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello, 2019), The Mountain (Rick Alverson, 2018), Ahlat Ağacı (The Wild Pear Tree, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2018), Invasion (Sharhram Mokri, 2017), Zhuang si le yi zhi yang(Jinpa, Pema Tseden, 2018), In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018), Bliss (Joe Begos, 2019), O que arde (Fire Will Come, Oliver Laxe, 2019), A Portuguesa (The Portuguese Woman, Rita Azevedo Gomes, 2019), Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019), Les frères Sisters (The Sisters Brothers, Jacques Audiard, 2018), Continuer (Keep Going, Joachim Lafosse, 2018), The River (Emir Balgazin, 2018)
  2. Animated cinema, moving cinema. I love the ability of best animated film directors to show us the real world through fantasy images, not needing a long time to explain facts and feelings, society, action, pain, good and evil or everything mixed: Weathering With You (Makoto Shinkai, 2019), J’ai perdu mon corps (I Lost My Body, Jérémy Clapin, 2019), Ce magnifique gateau (This Magnificent Cake!, Emma De Swaef, Marc James Roels, 2018)
  3. Historic drama and despite it, so real and painful: The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018), Dylda (Beanpole, Kantemir Balagov, 2019), Napszállta (Sunset, László Nemes, 2018)
  4. Real China: there’s a sort of official Chinese cinema. But there is also a cinema, more or less commercial that reflects a reality beyond Shanghai avenues and Chinese metropolis. It may be really painful but it’s not an attitude. It is a painful sight of the backstreets. Da xiang xi di er zuo (An Elephant Sitting Still, Hu Bo, 2018), Jiang hu er nv (Ash is Purest White, Jia Zhang-ke, 2018), Nan fang che zhan de ju hui (The Wild Goose Lake, Diao Yinan, 2019), Ni de lian (Your Face, Tsai Ming-liang, 2018)
  5. Diverse Far East Asia. South Korea, Japan and South East Asian countries push forward with powerful stories, authentic cinema: Gisaengchung(Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, 2019), Kuru (It Comes, Tetsuya Nakashima, 2018), Bor Mi Vanh Chark (The Long Walk, Mattie Do, 2019).
  6. Bizarre Japan: Always present in my lists. Kamera wo tameruna! (One Cut of the Dead, Shin’ichirô Ueda, 2017), We’re Little Zombies (Makoto Nagahisa, 2019), Wï â Ritoru Zonzîbu (The Forest of Love, Sion Sono, 2019)
  7. Not so classic Hollywood: movies that drink from the classics and grow to new formulas. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019), Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019), Us (Jordan Peele, 2019), Avengers: Endgame (Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, 2019).
  8. Day to day reality (either we accept it or not, intimate or social wars): Donbass (Sergei Loznitsa, 2018), Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019), Il traditore (The Traitor, Marco Bellocchio, 2019)

We’re to acknowledge there is a significant change in production and film release. Netflix means a radical change all over the world in production and especially in film distribution. Many films in this list have been made through the Netflix platform such as those by Baumbach, Sono and Scorsese. On the other hand, we know that there are huge production planning strategies over many years that involves a lot of workers, moving forward the bulk of production. Kevin Feige has built the Avengers saga through a dozen years and 22 movies. The situation is confusing with Marty Scorsese launching attacks on Marvel, while The Irishman can be seen on a smartphone screen, stopped and re-run as many times the viewer needs, instead of with proper cinema projection as Scorsese would like… So, what next? On the other hand, fortunately, a handful of artists get through their financial difficulties and show, at least in festivals, very attractive movies, especially from a moving Asia panorama.

A Portuguesa (The Portuguese Woman, Rita Azevedo Gomes, 2019)

Fidel  Jesús Quirós 

Editor at the Portal of the Latin American and Caribbean Film and Audiovisual

The Laundromat (Steven Soderbergh, 2019)
Refusing to see Irish anti-heroes or extremely violent indie Joker-prequels, the only American movie that really enticed and inspired me was one from this one from indie master Steven Soderbergh. A sarcastic look at the recent economic bubble extravagance, disguised as an anthology film, it follows the untouchables’ cheeky declarations, with its leads addressing the camera, until Meryl Streep strips it’s own mind in front of the audience.

Guest of Honour (Atom Egoyan, 2019)
This modern fairytale is so tantalising that you can touch the soul of its tormented protagonists. A riveting magic exercise of cinema.

Sauvage (Wild, Camille Vidal-Naquet, 2018)
French filmmakers always like to go to the extremes of freedom, and this film does so with hardcore explicitness, mixing existentialism, gritty realism, and contemporary visuals and music, all crowned by the sincere acting of its male lead. 

Grâce à Dieu (By the Grace of God, François Ozon, 2018)
Ozon likes to try out different genres with each new film. This one is at first Bresson-like, a catholic conscience drama, and then becomes hackneyed as Ozon abandons the protagonist’s moral battle and moves it into a quasi media-court room drama.

Aus dem Nichts (In the Fade, Fatih Akin, 2017)
Such a solid journey into intolerance and the aftermath of violence, pending until the last moment, when the protagonist must choose and her own fate and an ending for us.

La Sapienza (Eugène Green, 2014)
As part of a Critics Program I could see this magical film from five years ago. There is not much to say about it, only that it reminds us of the total freedom and possibilities of the film medium, a lesson for creators to come.

L’Insulte (The Insult, Ziad Doueiri, 2017)
If you have any doubt about the globalisation of the seventh art, take a look at this superb film, which is as accomplished a production as anything coming from the major audiovisual nations of the world, and going deep into the Lebanese soul’s turmoil.

Los sonámbulos (The Sleepwalkers, Paula Hernández, 2019)
Havana Film Festival is wisely awarding more women filmmakers, and The Sleepwalkers won Best Film. This is a film from the European-New Argentinean Cinema stock, but which moves beyond this style with a kind of post-feminist stance including self-criticism, but is in fact a radical and definitive move against patriarchy.

Três Verões (Three Summer, Sandra Kogut, 2019)
This film fictionally documents the recent economic crisis, with brilliant editing and the poignant remarks of a humble but naïve caretaker, a wannabe businesswoman, trapped in a macho universe.

Un rubio (The Blond One, Marco Berger, 2019)
It seems that not only feminist but also queer narratives may have their peak in Latin American cinema. Berger travels here into new territories of eroticism and love. It comes across as slow at first, and too obvious, but it takes time to create a visual fabric of its own, where nothing is missing or fails, until the cathartic ending.

Agosto (August, Armando Capo, 2019)
Independent young Cuban filmmakers don’t stop looking to the big screen, against all odds. This film creates a totally subjective immersion into the world of a teenager during the so-called Special Period, and specifically the Raft Men Crisis. A coming of age film, and coming to terms with the director’s own past, while opening a path to new aesthetics for the Island’s audiovisual-makers, for so long under the heavy burden of the influence from the classic works of ICAIC  (Cuban Film Institute) directors, whose rule during previous decades seems to be coming to an end.

These are to me the few films that excelled in 2019. I have to confess that they are the best of the few I saw, since every year I go more personal in choosing what to watch, so one cannot expect this are really “the best of”. To this you have to add that there are only a dozen cinemas in downtown Havana, screening average commercial flicks, and a single cinémathèque, where you could not miss a single film in order to have the slightest idea of what has been going on in filmmaking, let’s say, during the last lustrum.

Not to mention here, the cherished streaming in an environment when we all strive for a one dollar an hour access to the slowest connection to the  internet. Yet the weekly audiovisual package (2 dollars all) seems the only option with releases. Full HD and classics.

The best opportunity for Cuban filmgoers continues to be the Havana Film Festival., where you can see, yes, for ten cents (two Cuban Pesos), recent releases, avant-garde, arthouse and Festival awardees.

To make things worse, at the end of the 2010s, we haven’t found the promised land of digital or 3D filmmaking that might re-energise auteur works, Godard, Herzog and the like. While VR is lurking on the horizon, we hope that the maze of 3D franchises will be considered some day as early cinema attempts

Christopher Llewellyn Reed 

Lead film critic at Hammer to Nail, Associate Editor at Film Festival Today, co-host of the podcast The Fog of Truth, and host of Dragon Digital Television’s Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed.

Top 10 Documentaries (in alphabetical order)

American Factory (Steven Bognar/Julia Reichert, 2019)
Apollo 11 (Todd Douglas Miller, 2019)
The Brink (Alison Klayman, 2019)
Cold Case Hammarskjöld (Mads Brügger, 2019)
Los Reyes (Iván Osnovikoff/Bettina Perut, 2018)
Maiden (Alex Holmes, 2018)
Mike Wallace Is Here (Avi Belkin, 2019)
One Child Nation (Nanfu Wang/Jialing Zhang, 2019)
Pahokee (Patrick Bresnan/Ivete Lucas, 2019)
Tell Me Who I Am (Ed Perkins, 2019)

10 Documentary Runners-Up (in alphabetical order)

Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops (Jenifer McShane, 2019)
Facing the Dragon (Sedika Mojadidi, 2018)
For Sama (Waad Al-Kateab/Edward Watts, 2019)
Gay Chorus Deep South (David Charles Rodrigues, 2019)
Hail Satan? (Penny Lane, 2019)
Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska/Ljubomir Stefanov, 2019)
Knock Down the House (Rachel Lears, 2019)
Midnight Family (Luke Lorentzen, 2019)
Midnight Traveler (Hassan Fazili, 2019)
Skid Row Marathon (Mark Hayes, 2017)

Top 10 Fictional Narratives (in alphabetical order)

Gisaengchung (Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, 2019)
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019)
The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, 2018)
1917 (Sam Mendes, 2019)
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)
Ramen Teh (Ramen Shop, Eric Khoo, 2018)
Teret (The Load, Ognjen Glavonić, 2018)
Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018)
Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)

10 Fictional Narrative Runners-Up (in alphabetical order)

Captain Marvel (Anna Boden/Ryan Fleck, 2019)
Dora and the Lost City of Gold (James Bobin, 2019)
Doubles vies (Non-Fiction, Olivier Assayas, 2018)
Drei Zinnen (Three Peaks, Jan Zabeil, 2017)
Honey Boy (Alma Har’el, 2019)
Motherless Brooklyn (Edward Norton, 2019)
Plus One (Jeff Chan/Andrew Rhymer, 2019)
Todos lo saben (Everybody Knows, Asghar Farhadi, 2018)
The Two Popes (Fernando Meirelles, 2019)
Vuelven (Tigers Are Not Afraid, Issa López, 2017)

There were many interesting films to see and review in 2019, indies and blockbusters alike. Perhaps my favourite movie of the entire year was the documentary Los Reyes, which exists far outside the Marvelverse, yet profiles two very special superheroes (in my book), albeit of the furry variety. One of the best visual treatments of dogs I have ever seen, Los Reyes follows two strays, Chola and Football, who live in the oldest skate park in Santiago, Chile, where they lead an existence filled with tennis balls and the quotidian pleasures of their profound friendship.

Indeed, I think I drew some of my greatest satisfaction from documentaries this year, with, Cold Case Hammarskjöld, Mads Brügger’s crazy investigation of the long-ago death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, also among my Top 10. Pahokee was another winner, its portrait of 4 high-school seniors in a small Florida town a deeply moving cinematic experience. Sure, I loved many narrative fiction films, as well, but was most transported by the documentaries.

I’d like to sing the praises of two more documentary films that could easily have made it into my Top 20, if only one could fit more numerals inside those limiting digits: Searching Eva (Pia Hellenthal, 2019) and Where We Belong (Jacqueline Zünd, 2019). The former, which I saw at AFI DOCS 2019 (where I interviewed the director and writer) offers an intriguing mix of fiction and nonfiction techniques in its portrait of feminist intellectual – and sex worker – Eva Collé. The latter, which I saw at the 2019 Full Frame Film Festival, is a profile of children of divorce, examining the toll that separation takes on its innocent victims. Both are shot beautifully, using stunning compositions and evocative sound design to tell their powerfully affecting stories.

For Sama (Waad Al-Kateab/Edward Watts, 2019)

Daniel Ribas 

Assistant Professor of Film Studies at School of Arts, Universidade Católica Portuguesa. Film curator at Curtas Vila do Conde and contributor to the Portuguese daily Público.
  1. Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
    A black face haunts us. She rebels against the wind, against the present. The long-awaited new film by Pedro Costa is an instant classic, coherently mixing the genre tradition of classical cinema with the most carefully crafted shots. There is no film like this.
  2. Beoning (Burning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
    The slow pace of tormented youth. It’s South Korea, but it could be in anywhere in the world. The sense of interior malaise is so well shot in the sequence in which, at the sunset, the girl takes her clothes of. A mix of freedom and distress and a contemporary version of The Misfits.
  3. Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018)
    Christian Petzold is the perfect heir of a melodramatic tradition, in which melancholia blends with emotional events. Transit goes further at the possibility of crossing times, in a tour de force of narrative flexibility and cinematic graciousness.
  4. Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)
    Melancholia is also the perfect definition of James Gray’s films. Using the space film as a new container, he constructs a slow-paced “near future”, in which humans try to preserve their humanity. Every experience is the same story for Gray.
  5. Di qiu zui hou de ye wan (Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Bi Gan, 2018)
    There was an impressive long shot in Bi’s first film Kaili Blues (2015). In it, the director crossed boundaries of time and fiction/non-fiction. The second feature is a bigger accomplishment, crossing yet again layers of time and space, and in which we see, almost for the first time, a film where gravity is put into question. Where does Bi’s night go?
  6. Les enfants d’Isadora (Isadora’s Children, Damien Manivel, 2019)
    The first feature of Damien Manivel is a quiet and beautiful homage to dance and to Isadora Duncan. The three parts that unite the narrative are so perfectly tied that the film encompasses three generations and a sense of urgency in dancing for our lives.
  7. High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)
    The peculiar work of Claire Denis has in High Life a variation: yet again we see how groups work and how individuals can just try to overcome their inner solitude. Here in space, the place of loneliness, everything is crucial. And Tindersticks ft. Robert Pattinson’s “Willow” is one of the great songs of recent cinema.
  8. La Vida en Común (Ezequiel Yanco, 2019)
    Again, a small and gentle Argentinian film, the second feature by Yanco, makes the wonder of recent hybrid cinema. La Vida en Común combines stories of an indigenous community and the urge, by a group of boys, to kill a puma. Landscape and humanity struggle to be urgent.
  9. Atlantique (Atlantics, Mati Diop, 2019)
    The first feature by Diop is a film about class struggle and feminist surge, mixing layers of humans and zombies to claim a political stance against the contemporary world. Its story matches the story of power and its victims. But Diop has the perfect spell to shuffle this universe.
  10. Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, 2019)
    The Brazilian zombie-western is a tale about our times, about what the world is becoming, and how power doesn’t need a license to kill. It’s as funny as it is scary.

Stuart Richards 

Lecturer in Screen Studies, at The University of South Australia and film critic on Radio Adelaide

1917 (Sam Mendes, 2019)
While it’s technically not one continuous shot, it’s a technical and immersive masterpiece.

Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)
Max Richter’s score has been getting a heavy workout over the last few months. Brad Pitt’s performance really should be in the awards conversation, rather than Tarantino’s Hollywood.

And Then We Danced (Levan Akin, 2019)
What Levan Gelbakhiani, in his first screen acting role no less, achieves is no less than extraordinary. His slow embracing of a queer masculinity is a beautiful character arc.

Beach Bum (Harmony Korine, 2019)
This film is an absolute trip and the (incorrect) reviews from stuffy critics are even more hilarious.

Booksmart (Olivia Wilde, 2019)
This film made me emit guffawing noises I didn’t think were possible. Billie Lourd’s recurring character was a highlight.

Dolor y Gloria (Pain and Glory, Pedro Almodóvar, 2019)
Special acknowledgement goes to the nearby couple who audibly gasped when Antonio Banderas kissed Leonardo Sbaraglia.

Gisaenghching (Parasite, Bong Joon-ho 2019)
Jessica. Only Child. Illinois, Chicago

The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019)
I know this film is a uniquely Chinese-American story but there are several moments that reminded me of conversations I have had with my Scottish-born mother. I miss my own Nai-Nais.

High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)
The sound design is spellbinding.

Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria, 2019)
Best use of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”. I loved the queer subtext.

In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018)
To quote Miss Luckmore, purchasing the ticket to this film “validated (my) paradigm of consumerism.”

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
I didn’t expect to love this more than The Witch and yet here we are. Robert Pattinson is fast becoming my favourite actor working today.

Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)
Unfortunately, I accidentally saw this film with all of the loudest people of Adelaide, so my experience of seeing this was not an enjoyable one. There were key scenes, however, that I couldn’t shake; the group of women being empathetic being one of them. Bobby Krlic’s score, particularly the track “Fire Temple”, is haunting.

The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, 2018)
As evidenced by my anxiety attack on the tram afterwards, this film is significantly disturbing and yet it features some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen this year.

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady On Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)
This film, without a doubt, is my film of the year. It’s the perfect example of slowness not being boring. The final shot affirms my love for Adèle Haenel.

Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

Peter Rist 

Professor of Film Studies at Concordia University, Montreal, Québec, Canada

2019 has been yet another bad year for world politics – a Brexit and Trumporama – and the environment, with only the Hong Kong elections at the end of it and (Time “person of the year”) Greta Thunberg’s efforts among the few positives. But, it was a good year for cinema. In Montreal, I give thanks to Mustafa Uzuner for his distribution of films through Acéphale that otherwise, we would not see: e.g., Mariano Llinás’ La Flor, Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 3D, Alejandro Landes’ Monos, and to Charlotte Selb & Roxanne Sayegh, who have mounted amazing series at Cinéma Moderne this year, with directors in attendance, including Llinás, Lav Diaz, Hamaguchi Ryūsuke, Anocha Suwichakorrnpong, Alex Ross Perry, as well as Laura Huertas Millán in conjunction with the international documentary festival, RIDM, and the Mexican feminist experimental collective Colectivo los Ingrávidos (RIDM and Benjamin R. Taylor’s VISIONS). The Cinémathèque Québécoise (CQ) also co-sponsored the Diaz survey and in March mounted a complete retrospective of Hong Sang-soo, 2008-2018. So, thanks to them, also. Finally, a big merci to the clever programmers of Montreal’s FanTasia genre film festival in July, who are never able to show anything that TIFF might just want to include in their festival, whether they do or not.

Many of us have become incensed at collective best-of-the-decade lists that have been appearing – the larger the numbers of participants, the more mainstream they are – so I am reluctant to provide a list this year. (I have written a counter decade-best piece, here.) But, here are a couple of attempts:

Twelve (actually thirteen) older films, which I saw for the first time in 2019, in the order in which I saw them:

The Crimson Kimono (Samuel Fuller, 1959) on 35mm at Noir City, San Francisco, in February
The Day After; and, Le caméra de Claire (Claire’s Camera), Hong Sang-soo (2017) both on DCP at CQ, in March
Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947) on 35mm nitrate, Rochester, NY, in May
Touching the Skin of Eeriness (Hamaguchi Ryūsuke, 2013) on DCP, Cinéma Moderne, in May
Batang, West Side (Lav Diaz, 2001) on DCP, Cinéma Moderne, in June
Evolution of a Filipino Family (Lav Diaz, 2004) on Betacam tapes?, CQ, in June
Tötet nicht mehr! (Misericordia, Lupu Pick, 1919) 35mm, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, in June
Hottamaru Days (Nao Yushigai, 2016), on a computer, FanTasia film festival, in July
Fen dou (Struggling, Shi Dongshan, 1932) DCP, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, in October
A Wife by Proxy (John Collins, 1917), 35mm, Pordenone, in October
No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015) DCP, Cinéma Moderne, in November
Sol negro (Laura Huertas Millán, 2016) DCP, Cinéma Moderne, RIDM, in November

Twelve terrific new films (all directed or co-directed by women), all on DCP, except where noted, and all but Varda’s last film were seen in Montreal; in the order in which I saw them:

High Life (Claire Denis, 2018) April, at Cinéma du Parc, in release
Varda par Agnès (Varda by Agnès, Agnès Varda, 2019) June, Il Cinema Ritrovata, Bologna
Oda sal wala (Ode to Nothing, Dwein Baltazar, 2018) July, FanTasia, at Concordia University
Maggie (Yi Ok-seop, 2018) July, FanTasia, at Concordia U.
Shooting the Mafia (Kim Longinotto, 2019) July, FanTasia, at Concordia U.
Honeyland (Tamara Kotseva and Ljubomir Stefanov, 2019) September, du Parc, in release
Los Silencios (Beatriz Seigner, 2018) October, Brazil film festival, Cinéma du Parc
Ich war zuhause, aber… (I Was at Home, But…, Angela Schanelec, 2019) November, Goethe Institut screening at Cinéma du Parc
Atlantique (Atlantics, Mati Diop, 2019) November, Cinemania festival, at the Cinéma Imperial
Present.Perfect. (Zhu Shengze, 2019) November, RIDM, at Cinéma du Parc
Little Women (Great Gerwig, 2019) December, Columbia Pictures DVD, screener
Queen and Slim (Melina Matsoukas, 2019) December, Cineplex Forum, in release

Kate Robertson 

Australian art and film writer based in New York

In no order, this list is the most interesting genre cinema I saw in 2019, films with bold aesthetic choices, intriguing narratives and compelling performances, including many strong roles for women.

In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2019)
Swallow (Carlo Mirabella-Davis, 2019)
Sea Fever (Neasa Hardiman, 2019)
Tigers Are Not Afraid (Vuelven, Issa López, 2017)
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
Gisaengchung (Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)
Bor Mi Vanh Chark (The Long Walk, Mattie Do, 2019)
Daniel Isn’t Real (Adam Egypt Mortimer, 2019)
Monument (Jagoda Szelc, 2018)
Beoning (Burning, Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)
Luz (Tilman Singer, 2018)
Kamera wo tomeruna! (One Cut of the Dead, Shin’ichirô Ueda, 2017)
Climax (Gaspar Noé, 2018)
The Wind (Emma Tammi, 2019)
Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)
The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, 2018)
Holiday (Isabella Eklöf, 2018)
Starfish (A.T. White, 2018)
Knife+Heart (Yann Gonzalez, 2018)

Jonathan Rosenbaum 

Chicago, Jonathanrosenbaum.net Most recent books are CInematic Encounters: Interviews and Dialogues (2018) and Cinematic Encounters 2: Portraits and Polemics (2019), both from University of Illinois Press.

Greasing the wheels of commerce is usually the chief reason for end-of-the-year movie polls, which, like the Oscars, only intensifies our ongoing cultural confusion of criticism with advertising. This helps to explain why (and how) Harvey Weinstein became Janet Maslin’s favourite film critic in her 1999 Cannes coverage for the New York Times, devoting far more space to his opinions about the prizes than anyone else’s, including the jury’s. Perhaps because the head of that jury was David Cronenberg, an intellectual, the need for anti-intellectual cultural arbiters to drown out such choices was as pressing two decades ago as it is today. We all need to be told not once, but repeatedly, why Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is more important to the state of our civilization, lives, and senses than Vitalina Varela, and whereas this sort of gatekeeping function was once reserved for the Times and its equivalents, today its equivalents have become Film Comment, Sight and Sound, and countless other grease factories.

One reason for bringing up Cannes is that those who attend that festival have the jump on everyone else in perusing many of the likelier candidates for best-of-the-year lists, and those like me who depend more on what screeners are mailed to me and when are still busy catching up. I finally caught up with Gerwig’s wonderful Little Women after Christmas, only saw Uncut Gems a week or so earlier because someone commissioned me to write a piece about it, and still haven’t seen Motherless Brooklyn because no screener has arrived, so the absence of all three from the list extracted from me by Sight and Sound in late October, along with An Elephant Sitting Still and Dark Waters, shouldn’t be surprising. Even in early January, the following list of (hypothetical) favourites in alphabetical order necessarily remains a work-in-progress.

Conrad Veidt – My Life (Mark Rappaport, 2019)
Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)
Da xiang xi di er zuo (An Elephant Sitting Still, Hu Bo, 2018)
Flannery (Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco, 2019)
Le Livre d’image (The Image Book, Jean-Luc Godard, 2018)
It Must be Heaven (Elia Suleiman, 2019)
Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)
Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018)
Uncut Gems (Josh & Benny Safdie, 2019)
Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)

Eloise Ross 


There are some obvious films that I haven’t seen this year and I considered whether to get them in – but I thought this would be giving an unfair consideration to films that clearly have a platform of publicity. I’m sure there are films that I haven’t even heard of, that might make this list had I the chance to see them. Having said that, this list of favourite new films is comprised of films released theatrically in Australia, or shown at festivals.

Favourite new releases

Di qiu zui hou de ye wan (Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Bi Gan, 2018)

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)
I saw this twice in a week I loved it so much.

The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, 2019)

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
In a cinema and in love with every moment.

Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, 2019)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019)
A 35mm print, really essential for this experience.

Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

Chun jian shui nuan (Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, Gu Xiaogang, 2019)

High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)
Especially the soundtrack.

Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2018)
Everything but the ending, which weakened the film’s chaos and resolution.

Destroyer (Karyn Kusama, 2018)
I’ve snuck this onto the list because there were elements of this film that were so affecting (the score, the grim of Los Angeles, the constant blur of memory), but some that disappointed me.

Favourite retrospective screenings

The Clock (Christian Marclay, 2010)
At ACMI, Melbourne, as an exhibition piece or a retrospective screening? Either way this makes my list as it added to one of the defining screen experiences of my decade, seen in three locations and written about in more.

Indiscreet (Stanley Donen, 1958)
A film I love deeply on this beautiful medium, a 35mm Technicolor print at Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.

Hello, Sister! (Alan Crosland, Erich von Stroheim, Raoul Walsh, and Alfred L. Werker, 1933)
Totally bonkers mess at Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.

The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963)
35mm print at the Melbourne Cinémathèque.

Sedmikrásky (Daisies, Věra Chytilová, 1966)
DCP at Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Ulzana’s Raid (Robert Aldrich, 1972)
35mm print at the Melbourne Cinémathèque.

Ishtar (Elaine May, 1987)
First viewing of this 35mm print at the Melbourne Cinémathèque.

Kesht va Ayeneh (Brick and Mirror, Embrahim Golestan, 1965)
Melbourne International Film Festival.

Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950)
Seen this film many, many time, but this time was a 35mm print at the BFI.

The Night Walker (William Castle, 1964)
Cheating a little here as this was just watched at home, but what a fun, silly time (plus Barbara Stanwyck), and definitely a highlight of the year.

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)

Julian Ross 

Programmer at IFFR and Locarno; Assistant Professor at Leiden University


No Data Plan (Miko Revereza, 2019)
AIDOL (Lawrence Lek, 2019)
Nhà cây (The Tree House, Trương Minh Quý, 2019)
Present.Perfect (Shengze Zhu, 2019)
O que arde (Fire Will Come, Oliver Laxe, 2019)
Last Night I Saw You Smiling (Kavich Neang, 2019)
Ralfs Farben (Lukas Marxt, 2019)
Atlantique (Atlantics, Mati Diop, 2019)
Carrousel (Marina Meijer, 2019)
So Pretty (Jessica Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli, 2019)


Apparition (Ismaïl Bahri, 2019)
Vulcão: O Que Sonha um Lago? (Volcano: What does a Lake Dream?, Diana Vidrascu, 2019)
Curupira, bicho do mato (Curupira, Creature of the Woods, Félix Blume, 2019)
Kasiterit (Riar Rizaldi, 2019)
Tyrant Star (Diane Severin Nguyen, 2019)
A Mordida (The Bite, Pedro Neves Marques, 2019)
Holy Days (Narimane Mari, 2019)
M.A.G.N.E.T (Basim Magdy, 2019)
Mi piel, luminosa (My Skin, Luminous, Nicolás Pereda & Gabino Rodríguez, 2019)
the names have changed including my own and truths have been altered (Onyeka Igwe, 2019)

Atomic Garden (Ana Vaz, 2018)

Raju Roychowdhury 

A cinephile, programmer and researcher based in Sao Paulo

Best Feature Films (Fiction) in no particular order

  1. Le Livre d’image (The Image Book, Jean-Luc Godard, 2018)
  2. La Ciudad Oculta (The Hidden City, Victor Moreno, 2018)
  3. Tondal’s Vision (Stephen Broomer, 2018)
  4. Lazzaro felice (Happy as Lazzaro, Alice Rohrwacher, 2018)
  5. Jonaki (Aditya Vikram Sengupta, 2018)
  6. The Grand Bizarre (Jodie Mack, 2018)
  7. Sol Alegria (Tavinho Teixeira and Mariah Teixeira, 2018)
  8. Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane le ja riya hoon (Taking the Horse to Eat Jalebis, Anamika Haksar, 2018)
  9. Segunda Vez (Dora García, 2018)
  10. A Portuguesa (The Portuguese Woman, Rita Azevedo Gomes, 2018)
  11. Da xiang xi di er zuo (An Elephant Sitting Still, Hu Bo, 2018)
  12. Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
  13. It Must be Heaven (Elia Suleiman, 2019)
  14. La Llorona (The Weeping Woman, Jayro Bustamante, 2019)
  15. O que arde (Fire Will Come, Oliver Laxe, 2019)
  16. Ne croyez surtout pas que je hurle (Just Don’t Think I Will Scream, Frank Beauvais, 2019)
  17. MS Slavic 7 (Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell, 2019)
  18. Krabi, 2562 (Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong, 2019)
  19. The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
  20. Ich war zuhause, aber… (I Was at Home, But…, Angela Schanelec, 2019)
  21. About Endlessness (Roy Andersson, 2019)
  22. Asako I&II (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, 2018)
  23. Di qiu zui hou de ye wan (Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Bi Gan, 2018)
  24. La Flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)
  25. Lost Home Movies of Nazi Germany (Martin Davidson, Nick Watts, 2019)
  26. The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain (Ridham Janve, 2018)

Best Documentaries (in no particular order)

  1. State Funeral (Sergei Loznitsa, 2019)
  2. Heimat ist ein Raum aus Zeit(Heimat is a Space in Time, Thomas Heise, 2019)
  3. Marceline. A Woman. A Century (Cordelia Dvorak, 2018)
  4. The Churning of the Ocean (Kamal Swaroop, 2019)
  5. Waiting for the Carnival (Marcelo Gomes, 2019)
  6. Women Make Films: A New Road Movie Through Cinema (Mark Cousins, 2018)
  7. Varda par Agnès (Varda by Agnès, Agnès Varda, 2019)
  8. For Sama (Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts, 2019)
  9. Last Year at Marienbad A to Z (James Quandt, 2019)
  10. Nietzsche Sils Maria Rochedo de Surlej (Rosa Dias, Julio Bressane, Rodrigo Lima, 2019)
  11. Amazing Grace (Sydney Pollack, Alan Elliott, 2018)
  12. Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov, 2019)
  13. African Mirror (Mischa Hedinger, 2019)
  14. La cordillère des songes(The Cordillera of Dreams, Patricio Guzmán, 2019)
  15. Diego Maradona (Asif Kapadia, 2019)

Best Shorts (in no particular order)

  1. Vever (for Barbara) (Deborah Stratman, 2019)
  2. Ceniza Verde (Pablo Mazzolo, 2019)
  3. Its Existence Commenced This Hour (Wolfgang Lehmann, 2019)
  4. Vazios Habitados (Duo Strangloscope, 2018)
  5. Atomic Garden (Ana Vaz, 2018)
  6. He Used to Bring Me Apples (Mehdi Jahan, 2019)
  7. Hiatus (Vivian Ostrovsky, 2018)
  8. And What is the Summer Saying (Payal Kapadia, 2018)
  9. Reverse Shadow (Janie Geiser, 2019)
  10. Como Fernando Pessoa salvou Portugal (How Fernando Pessoa Saved Portugal, Eugène Greene, 2018)
  11. Midnight Orange (Gautam Valluri, 2019)
  12. Palace of Colours (Prantik Basu, 2019)

Best Cine Programs (and/or) Exhibitions (not in order of preference)

  1. Harun Farocki – Who is in charge? (17 Sep. 2019 to 5 Jan. 2020) at IMS Paulista – exhibition curated by Antje Ehmann, Heloisa Espada and Marina Barzon.
  2. Sessao Mutual Films (Bi-monthly session for a cinephilic double-bill throughout 2019) at IMS, Paulista, sessions curated by Aaron Cutler and Mariana Shellard.
  3. O Corpo nao e metafora (19-22 September, 2019) at CCSP, Sao Paulo – curated by Celio Franceschet and Carlos Pergoraro.
  4. Homenagem a Vivian Ostrovsky (24-29 September, 2019) at CCSP, Sao Paulo, program curated by Liciane Mamede for 1st Mostra Cine Brasil Experimental.
  5. Chantal Akerman – Tempo Expandido (January 2019) at Oi Futuro, Rio de Janeiro, exhibition curated by Evangelina Seiler.

Best Cinema Related Books (not in order of preference)

  1. Scott MacDonald, The Sublimity of Document: Cinema as Diorama (2019)
  2. Babette Mangolte (edited by Luca Lo Pinto), Selected Writings, 1998-2015 (2018)
  3. Paco Alagrin and Garbine Ortega (eds), Correspondencias. Cartas como Peliculas, Festival Punto de Vista (2018)
  4. Sirio Luginbuhl (Flavia Randi. Padova Cleup, eds), Collected Notes on Underground Cinema, Art and Performance 1964-2014 (2018)
  5. ECAL/Francois Bovier (eds), Early Video Art and Experimental Film Networks (2017)

About The Author

Related Posts