A few weeks ago I posted my Top Five Favorite Movies of 2019. Now it’s time to tackle the other side of that optimistic coin. Taking the more analytic approach, below are my Top Five Best Movies of 2019 (from those I have seen!)

The only rule I set for myself that I had to rate the movie at least a “B+”.

5. Marriage Story

Marriage Story

Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach
Cinematographer: Dean Wareham

Staring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Julia Greer, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta
Release Date: December 6, 2019

The front runner for Best Actor at the 2020 Oscars goes to Adam Driver for his performance in Marriage Story. Standing as his equal in Scarlett Johansson, who is a part of a trio of notable movies this year (Marriage Story, Jojo Rabbit and Avengers: Endgame).

The most honest and raw of the movies on my top-five list, Marriage Story finds a way to make love both the simplest and most complex experience. Nothing about the experiences that Charlie and Nicole endure during the story are enjoyable, but many of them are relatable. Whether or not you have gone through a divorce, there is something to connect to you in Marriage Story.

Probably the best pound for pound acting duo of the year, Driver and Johansson both deserve award recognition for their efforts. Their two portrayals levitate a truly grounded narrative of heartbreak, understanding and self-reflection.

“Marriage Story” – Raw Emotions At Its Finest

“Marriage Story” IMDB
“Marriage Story” Rotten Tomatoes

4. Jojo Rabbit


Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Taika Waititi, Christine Leunens
Cinematographer: Mihai Malaimare Jr.

Staring: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi
Release Date: November 8, 2019

I love conviction and I don’t think anyone is oozing more confidence than Taika Waititi in recent years. His cinematic muscles are pumping comedic reps at an incredible pace in Jojo Rabbit.

A comedic story with true heart is not easily achieved. Throw in the fact it’s a satire centering around the making fun of Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany…well Waititi is just going for extra credit isn’t he!

It’s not just the concept of Jojo Rabbit that’s admirable. The movie itself is beautifully made and the performances from everyone involved are fantastic. Amongst all the actors, the Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo and Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa are the pair that share the best chemistry together.

Their first introduction to one another plays out with a comedic-horror style, resulting in one of my favorite scenes of the entire year. The relationship that they forge throughout is filled with playful banter and relatable moments. It’s like a sibling rivalry with the appearance of distain but true feeling of understanding.

Jojo Rabbit is the best comedy of 2019 and one of the best movies of the year.

Stanko Rating: A- (4.5/5.0 Stars)
“Jojo Rabbit” | Worth The Risk, Every Second Of It

“Jojo Rabbit” IMDB
“Jojo Rabbit” Rotten Tomatoes

3. Diego Maradona


Director: Asif Kapadia
Staring: Diego Armando Maradona
Release Date: September 20, 2019

How is it possible that there was so much archival footage!? 500 hours of never-before-seen footage, all of it documenting the most controversial football player of all time.

Having had no knowledge of Diego Maradona’s story before this documentary, seeing how this legendary player went from protege, to disappointment, to legend, to ultimate villain is testament to how reality is always stranger than fiction.

Diego Maradona starts out at a frenetic pace and does not relent at any moment. The upbeat techno beats that provide the beat of the documentary act like a pulse as one tries to comprehend the two-faced life of an athletic genius. Oscar-winning director Asif Kapadia and his crew deserve immense credit for putting together the different perspectives that dot Maradona’s life.

Between last year’s Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind and Diego Maradona, HBO has made the best two documentaries of the past two years.

Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5.0 Stars)

“Diego Maradona” IMDB
“Diego Maradona” Rotten Tomatoes

2. Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood

Pitt & Leo

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cinematographer: Robert Richardson
Staring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Release Date: July 26, 2019

This is a repeat from various other lists of mine as well, and with good reason. Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood is the most love embroiled in it compared to any other movie put out in 2019. Quentin Tarantino’s passion for Hollywood, both the location and the industry is written into every scene and conversation. If this is truly Tarantino’s final original screenplay and IP, then it is really a perfect send off.

Why is Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood one of the best in 2019?  It has the best ensemble cast performance of the year. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt both give their best performances in recent years. Margot Robbie is wonderful in her subtly as Sharon Tate. But outside just the trio of stars, Kurt Russell and Bruce Dern both have wonderful little bits, and Dakota Fanning is unrecognizable in her small part as George Spahn’s overseer. Then there is also Timothy Olyphant and Al Pacino mixed in.

Just excellence across the about and Tarantino’s approval rating remains sky high.

Stanko Rating: A- (4.5/5.0 Stars)
“Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” | Tarantino’s Visual Love Poem To A Golden Age

“Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” IMDB
“Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood” Rotten Tomatoes

1. Parasite


Director: Bong Joon Ho
Writer: Bong Joon Ho, Jin Won Han
Cinematographer: Kyung-pyo Hong
Staring: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi
Release Date: November 8, 2019

Yes, you should have guessed this if you know me. I have written about it extensively. Below are some snippets from past blogs. I have it ranked second in terms of best movies I’ve seen this decade, 10th in terms of favorite movies of the decade and first among favorite movies of the year.

From “Top 10 Best Movies Of The Decade”: Again, I will reiterate that Parasite is the best movie of 2019. It is a shoe-in for the Best Foreign Film at the 2020 Oscars and should complete for Best Picture overall. Bong Joon Ho has been hitting the campaign trail hard trying to garner attention, and I truly hope that is happening. In a year of movies that surpassed expectations in terms of originality, Parasite stands among the best.

Additionally, it is in “Top 10 Favorite Movies Of The Decade” rankings as well.

From “Top 5 Favorite Movies Of The Year”: Additionally, Parasite takes the audience on a curvy trail of empathy. It’s like being part of a Rube Goldberg machine. As a viewer, you are the ball that’s being tossed through various obstacles, constantly having your pace and direction switched. How the different contraptions (in a cinematic sense, the story’s checkpoints themselves) work together seems illogical. But come the end, the audience is dropped into a pool of “HOLY CRAP WHAT IS HAPPENING” water.

Parasite continues to fester in your mind after you see it, and once it’s available on streaming and digital copy, the best thing you can do is turn off your phone, shut off the lights and let the entire experience over.

Stanko Rating: A (5.0/5.0 Stars)

“Parasite” IMDB
“Parasite” Rotten Tomatoes

Honorable Mentions

Apollo 11
The Amazing Johnathan Documentary
The Irishman
Toy Story 4

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