2019 in Film Exit Survey: What Films Came Away as the Big Winners and Losers?
The MovieBabble staff saw many a film in 2019. Now that we have turned the calendar over to a new decade and had a moment to reflect, it’s time to close the book on the year that was and share some of our favorite — and least favorite — items in film.
Members of the MovieBabble staff break down some of the more noteworthy parts of the year in our 2019 in Exit Survey.
Describe your overall enjoyment of the year in film with an appropriate GIF.
Chris van Dijk:
Was 2019 ultimately a good year in film?
James Titchmarsh: Every year is a good year for film in my view, if you take the time to look for them, you can always find all sorts of fantastic films littered throughout the year, a hidden gem or otherwise. There has never been a bad year of film, good cinema is always there.
Kali Tuttle: 2019 was a landmark year in film in that two of the biggest franchises in movies right now (possibly in history) saw an ending of some sort. It makes me curious to see how next year will turn out.
Sean Coates: Every year is a good year in film if you watch the right ones. This year, in particular, I’ve had the opportunity to attend several local film festivals and receive press invites to screenings through MovieBabble and Another Bloody Movie Podcast, which has allowed me to see many more great films that I perhaps would have otherwise had seen than in previous years. Furthermore, with my University workload significantly increased this year, I was much more selective about what I watched and what I felt like I could skip.
Sebastian Sanzberro: A mediocre year laced with a few standouts. Middle-of-the-road describes a large chunk of it for me. Sequels and reboots that weren’t necessarily better. Lots of assembly-line, cinematic products with the occasional surprise thrown in. Then again, that’s pretty much every year of the 21st century to date. We need another decade like the 1990s.
Anna Campion: 2019 was a great year in film, I think, mainly because I think a lot of stories were told that are traditionally not seen in American cinema, like Booksmart‘s lesbian arc, Knives Out comment on immigration and class divide, Little Women‘s narrative structure, and EVERYTHING involved in Parasite.
Ashvin Sivakumar: An outstanding year for film! All-around the best year of the decade for films, and featured a diverse range of films.
Adina Bernstein: I think it was a fair year in film. Some of the films were excellent, others I wish I could go back and un-see.
Chris van Dijk: 2019 was a magical year of cinema. Not only did I finally get to see The Irishman, the belated reunion of Robert De Niro and Scorsese but also the cinematic epilogue to Deadwood! Not to mention another masterful Quentin Tarantino film! I don’t think this year, in terms of excitement, will be topped anytime soon.
Michael Heimbaugh: I don’t really subscribe to the idea of a particular year being “good” or “bad” for art. Lots of excellent movies get released each year, and so do lots of not-so-excellent ones. But there’s great new art to be found at any given time as long as you know where to look for it.
Spencer Henderson: In my opinion, there is never such thing as a bad year in film because there are always gems to be found that I revisit. At times 2019 tested my patience, but I think ultimately the year was a strong year in film.
James Titchmarsh: My favorite film of the year easily has to be Ad Astra, the moment the film begun playing I new was in for an all-time favorite, and by the time the credits rolled, I was in total awe and believed I possibly witnessed my favorite movie of ALL TIME. A second viewing solidified it as such. That’s right: Ad Astra has become my favorite movie of all time. It is by no means a perfect film, and there are films that I have seen which I consider to be better crafted but something about Ad Astra delivers something that I don’t get from those other films (except a select few). Once the credits rolled the first time I saw it, I literally sat in the theater for 45 minutes not knowing what to do with my self. Ad Astra changed me. That being said the best-crafted film of the year is obviously Bong Jong-Ho’s Parasite or Rian Johnson’s Knives Out with Scorsese’s Netflix Epic The Irishman in a close second as well as Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Kali Tuttle: Avengers: Endgame all the way. Watching it now is boring but that first theater experience was something I won’t forget.
Sean Coates: Parasite at #1, with Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Her Smell just below it tied for #2. As I stated in my review, Parasite is the cinematic equivalent of a Turducken; an outlandish genre mash-up that should not work on paper, but is made into something truly special through the incredible talents of Bong Joon-ho. Not to discount documentaries from this discussion, The Australian Dream is a truly excellent documentary from this year and I’m eagerly anticipating how an international audience is going to react to this film and the Adam Goodes Story.
Sebastian Sanzberro: Personal favorite would be Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It was rich in character, had the trademark Tarantino dialogue, and I left the theater with a Brad Pitt-sized grin.
The Rise of Skywalker would be my runner-up because… well screw it, I’m a sucker for Star Wars, and yes, the admittedly obvious fan service still worked.
Anna Campion: My favorite movie from this year is split between Little Women, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Booksmart…I’m a simple woman.
Ashvin Sivakumar: James Gray’s Ad Astra. A truly meditative and reflective exploration of the human psyche.
Adina Bernstein: Best was The Farewell. Favorite was Avengers: Endgame.
Chris van Dijk: As you can probably guess, my favorite film will have to go to The Irishman and Deadwood: The Movie (third being Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). Both these two movies were films I had dreamed of seeing and both exceeded my expectations.
Michael Heimbaugh: The Irishman. A beautiful, grim meditation on death, loyalty, and redemption from one of our modern masters. Just a monumental, stupendous thing. So glad I got to see it in a theater.
Spencer Henderson: It’s so hard to pick just one, I think the best film of the year is either Parasite or Marriage Story, but I assume other writers on the staff will choose those so I will go with Knives Out as my favorite. I am a huge fan of Rian Johnson as a filmmaker and have been since I was in 8th grade, and I think the murder mystery genre compliments his style in virtually every single way. The cast is fantastic, the story takes some genuinely interesting turns, and it has timely themes all while being a great original genre film. I can’t wait to see what Johnson does next as a filmmaker.
Least favorite movie?
James Titchmarsh: My least favorite movie of the year is Logan Paul’s Airplane Mode. Nuff said.
Kali Tuttle: I hate to say this but it was probably The Rise of Skywalker. Even Charlie’s Angels held my attention better. Skywalker was a mess of a film that I don’t think I could ever watch again. The only reason I would ever watch it again would be to watch Emperor Palpatine being carried around by a toy machine claw.
Sean Coates: Oh boy, This is gonna make people mad. Although there were some absolutely diabolical films this year such as Cats, It: Chapter Two and Velvet Buzzsaw that I think are much worse than this film, no other film in 2019 pissed me off more than Ari Aster’s Midsommar. Overlong, self-serving, shallow exploitative bullshit parading itself around as a deep and symbolic portrait of a relationship in turmoil. The first film in a long time where I seriously considered walking out of the cinema.
Sebastian Sanzberro: Terminator: Dark Fate was a giant waste of time. A surprisingly uninteresting Linda Hamilton and a former Governator tossed into a whirling maelstrom of mediocre CGI-action bullshit.
Zombieland: Double Tap would be my runner-up. In two movies this would-be film franchise went from “Shawn of the Dead’s Ugly American Cousin” to “Big Bang Theory of the Living Dead.”
Anna Campion: My least favorite movie not only of this year but maybe of this decade was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — a horseradish film.
Ashvin Sivakumar: Tied, but The Haunting of Sharon Tate and Cats.
Adina Bernstein: The Kitchen. To say that it was a disappointment is an understatement. It had so much potential but was so bad.
Chris van Dijk: Undoubtedly Murder Mystery. A brutal piece of shit. I’m still sore about it. Everyone keeps talking about how great Adam Sandler is in Uncut Gems. I’m sure he’s great but I still can’t forgive him for me having wasted my time with Murder Mystery. I still have nightmares about it.
Michael Heimbaugh: I’d have to go with Antiquities, Daniel Campbell’s insipid, hollow tale of white guy self-discovery. You can feel it bending over backward trying to be so funny and so quirky and interesting — and yet it yields the opposite result.
Spencer Henderson: I’m not the biggest fan of choosing the worst films just due to the insane amounts of effort making films take from often times a great number of individuals. That said, I genuinely found absolutely ZERO redeeming qualities to viewing The Haunting of Sharon Tate and found the film to be so morally bankrupt and insulting to the memory of Sharon Tate as a human being, that I don’t feel bad for calling it out here. I think everyone involved in the making of the film should be deeply ashamed of the morally reprehensible excuse for a film that they put out into the world, and furthermore, I wholeheartedly believe the world is a worse place simply due to the existence of the film.
Favorite movie moment?
James Titchmarsh: My favorite movie moments of the year include: The reveal in Parasite, The ending of Midsommar, The entire final act of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Knives Out doughnut scene and the Second act of Avengers: Endgame. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone but if you have seen them, you know what I’m talking about.
Kali Tuttle: Probably obvious but my favorite moment has to be when the entirety of the Avengers charge Thanos and his army in Avengers: Endgame. That scene still gives me chills.
Sean Coates: I’ll just let this scene speak for itself…
Sebastian Sanzberro: Han Solo to his son Ben: “I know.” I don’t give a damn about the criticisms; I’m a sentimental old fart, and the moment worked. Sue me.
Anna Campion: The best movie moment was Florence Pugh in Little Women in the scene where she yells at Laurie and John about how she got kicked out of school. The range! Also the scene in Parasite where Kim Ki-taek kills Mr. Park.
Ashvin Sivakumar: I’ll avoid talking about my favorite film here so I’ll mention the ‘Out of Time’ sequence from Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which is so immaculately crafted and precisely formed. Truly a gorgeous, transportive sequence.
Adina Bernstein: When all of the female characters come together in Avengers to fight Thanos. It was awesome and it was perfect.
Chris van Dijk: Oof, that’s difficult. I guess if I have to choose: the final shot in The Irishman, the final line in Deadwood: The Movie and Brad Pitt ending the Manson family intruders in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Michael Heimbaugh: The downright-fantastical party sequence from Booksmart is an all-timer for me. Such a wonderful, empathetic crystallization of the terror and excitement of taking those first steps towards adulthood. The depiction of Amy’s (Kaitlyn Dever) journey towards embracing her queerness is handled particularly beautifully.
Spencer Henderson: I think the scene in The Lighthouse where Robert Pattinson says he doesn’t like Willem Dafoe’s cooking, including his world-famous lobster; as a result, Dafoe attempts to curse Robert Pattinson by summoning a Sea God in an unbelievably glorious monologue. It’s maybe the peak of filmmaking thus far?
Least favorite movie moment?
James Titchmarsh: My least favorite movie moment was Mufasa’s death in The Lion King, at least it was entertaining though.
Kali Tuttle: When Ben kissed Rey in The Rise of Skywalker, I audibly said “Ew” in the theater. It was so unnecessary. So gross. I hated it so much.
Sean Coates: There are two types of answers to this question:
Those who say the staircase dance set to Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II” in Joker…
And those who are wrong.
Sebastian Sanzberro: The ending of Terminator: Dark Fate, because it didn’t conclusively kill off this long-exhausted franchise that has been on life-support since 2003. This marks the third (unsuccessful) time this franchise has tried to reboot into a new trilogy. I wish someone would have the decency to just “terminate this fucker.”
Anna Campion: Rey and Ben kissing in TROS.
Ashvin Sivakumar: A few sequences in Cats made me want to scratch my eyes out.
Adina Bernstein: When Leia died in TROS. If that movie had a tearjerker moment, that was it. I can’t think of a better tribute to Carrie and her contribution to the world of Star Wars.
Chris van Dijk: Every second of Murder Mystery.
Michael Heimbaugh: Pretty much all of Antiquities (see above).
Spencer Henderson: I honestly think that the Joker staircase scene is one of the dumbest things I saw in a movie all year. Everything about it genuinely baffles me, starting with the godawful music choice. Beyond that, it does nothing for me on an emotional level. However I suppose on the macro-level of the film, it also does nothing for me on an emotional level. I also believe that the number of times I had to relive that stupid shit because of Twitter made it infinitely worst. Awards season is going to be the death of me.
What will you ultimately remember from this year?
James Titchmarsh: This year will ultimately be the year that I liked most films more than the consensus, for example, I LOVED Dark Phoenix, Glass, Godzilla: King of Monsters, Under the Silver Lake and many more. Another thing I will remember from this year is the unprecedented amount of impactful blockbusters, mainly having two HUGE films that are the end (or culmination) of their franchises, Star Wars and Endgame.
Kali Tuttle: Literally the only thing I will remember years from now is when I walked out of the theater after seeing Endgame with my friend and my friend just blurted out, “I’m so sad Iron Man died!” to some theatergoers walking in who had presumably avoided spoilers the entire time until they heard my friend blurt that out. Love you, Michaela!
Sean Coates: There have been so many memorable films in 2019, but it’s the experiences I’m going to remember more. Whether it was going to a 3 am screening of The Rise of Skywalker, seeing 45 films in 18 days at MIFF, my friend and I openly sobbing during the last 20 minutes of a press screening for Portrait of a Lady on Fire or even watching the instantly forgettable Men In Black: International in (of all places) an empty cinema in Slovenia, 2019 has given me lot of films and experiences I will remember for a long time.
Sebastian Sanzberro: Two things.
The most obvious being the closeout of the current run of Disney’s Marvel and Star Wars chapters with Endgame and The Rise of Skywalker. While not definitive ends to their franchises (Disney’s not stupid), they were big, splashy, fan-service-filled farewell parties that were only for the faithful, take them or leave them. Judging from the box office, people are taking it.
The second being the rise in prominence (and prestige) of streaming services, specifically Netflix, which has become the HBO of the current decade. With Dolemite is My Name, The Irishman, and even Lost in Space. I’ve had far better movie nights on my couch at home than I’ve had at my local multiplex. Awards seasons are being forced to keep up with this rapid, exciting evolution as well.
Anna Campion: I think for me the most notable thing from this year was really unique stories doing extremely well at the box office — what other year has a foreign film like Parasite had this much success in the U.S. of all places? Also, Greta Gerwig’s Globes snub for Little Women.
Ashvin Sivakumar: The films, but most importantly the good ones, which probably includes at least 70% of the films I saw this year, showing just how incredible 2019 was for cinema. Films such as Ad Astra, The Rise of Skywalker, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Avengers: Endgame, A Hidden Life, Martin Eden, Marriage Story, Knives Out and more are films I’ll be remembering and appreciating for a very long time. It’s proven to be quite an exquisite year for cinema. I also love how diversity in the industry has risen over the past year. We got some incredible films made by women and people of color this year, such as A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, Queen & Slim, Us, Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Little Women, and Honey Boy. It’s truly been a year to remember for diversity in Hollywood and I hope that continues into the next decade.
Adina Bernstein: What stands out for me is the blockbusters. They were so well-done and had the perfect mix of action and narrative.
Chris van Dijk: My two favorite films of the year are about the painful passages of time. In The Irishman, we see an old, weak man, filled with regret, sitting alone in his room, hoping someone will come to visit him. While in Deadwood: The Movie, we see an old man, possibly dying in bed, enjoying his final moments. One is tragic, another is bittersweet. Both these characters will eventually die and life goes on. This goes for all of us. The lights will one day go out. Sitting here now, I’m just grateful for having seen these movies, for making me feel and think about these things.
Michael Heimbaugh: I had a total blast at the movies in 2019. Seeing The Irishman, Midsommar, Us, and Once Upon a Time… (among others) on the big screen were all phenomenal experiences. Most of all, however, I think it’ll go down as a year of auteur cinema holding its own (quality-wise, at least) against an onslaught of cardboard rehashes and big-budget franchises. Here’s hoping originality wins the day in 2020.
Spencer Henderson: I think as basic as it sounds, this year we saw the end of multiple franchises. At the very least, defining chapters in huge culturally defining franchises. I will never forget the disappointment of the endings of the Skywalker saga of Star Wars, or Game of Thrones. I also think Marvel wrapped up the Infinity Saga in a very satisfying way with Avengers: Endgame. I know that is literally the most boring answer, but I do think those franchises have in many ways dominated the cultural conversation over the past few years so seeing all of them come to an end as the decade did, was exciting, if to varying degrees of success.
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