The Best Movies of 2019 So Far – Top New Films This Year – Town & Country

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Each and every one of these films is a pleasure (and possibly a masterpiece).
These are the must-see films to check off your list before the end of the year.
Yes, we’ve all most likely seen a big (or small) screen version of Louise May Alcott’s famous story before—but never one quite like this. Greta Gerwig’s all-star production breathes new life into the March family with smart, deft direction, gorgeous visuals, and top-drawer performances from a cast including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep.
The perception that this World War I drama, directed and co-written by Sam Mendes, was filmed in one long shot might be movie magic—albeit magic very well done—but the anxiety that the story, about two British soldiers crossing enemy territory to do a necessary but seemingly impossible task, is real. Watching breakout star George MacKay maneuver deadly obstacles at every turn makes for undoubtedly one of the year’s most tense films but also one of its most spectacular and enjoyable.
Director and writer Lulu Wang’s second movie presents a profound and touching story of love and loss, but it isn’t without great moments of humor. But that’s not surprising when you consider it stars Awkwafina, a contemporary comic great who also shines in the film’s dramatic moments. And there are plenty of them, considering The Farewell follows her character as she copes with news that her grandmother is dying—something her family doesn’t plan to tell that grandmother—and travels halfway across the world to say goodbye without actually doing just that.
It might be too early to say whether Lupita Nyong’o will earn an Oscar nomination for her double role in this horror mega-hit from director Jordan Peele, but there’s no doubt that her performance—as a woman trying to protect her family when the world seems to be coming to an end—is one of the year’s most impressive. Co-stars, including Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss, give impressive performances in the frightening, delightful movie as well.
The latest from director Noah Baumbach stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a married couple—she’s an actress, he’s a director—whose relationship starts to sour. The two split when she heads from New York to L.A. for a job, and whatever good will is left between them is tested by a difficult, prolonged divorce whose only upside might be introducing the likes of Laura Dern and Alan Alda in superlative supporting roles.
One of the most buzzed-about films of the year, this intense thriller from South Korean director Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival—and for good reason. The eerie film follows an impoverished family that schemes to work for—and become part of— a richer clan, disturbing events follow. It’s a movie about class and the extreme disparities of modern life, yes, but it’s also wickedly fun and scary to boot.
This story of a group of New York City dancers who try to weather the 2008 financial crisis by scamming their high-roller clients was one of the fall’s biggest hits, and with good reason. The movie, directed by Lorene Scafaria, has it all: high stakes, brilliant costumes, witty dialogue, lots of heart, and Jennifer Lopez in what might be her career-best role as the gang’s ringleader. If there’s an oversized fur coat craze this winter, you can blame Hustlers.
It’s been a great year to be Renée Zellweger, and a large part of that is thanks to this powerful Judy Garland biopic. The movie, directed by Rupert Goold, follows Garland in the last months of her life as she performs what would become legendary shows in London, battles her seemingly inescapable demons, and squeezes in one last marriage to a guy she barely knows. The movie is visually delightful and entirely engrossing, and its start is electric in her role. No wonder awards buzz has been building since it first premiered.
Quentin Tarantino’s ninth movie covers a lot of bases. It’s a period piece about the way the movie industry was changing in the mid-20th century; it’s a story about Sharon Tate and the Manson Family; it’s an elegy for the matinee idol; it’s a contemplation on small decisions that change history; it’s a cattle call for Hollywood offspring in bit parts. But most of all, it’s a sprawling, compelling piece of work that not everyone will agree on, but which makes for exceptional viewing and even better conversation afterward.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut managed to take all of the things that have made the one-wild-night teen movie genre great since the beginning of time—best friends, raucus parties, first loves, raunchy humor—and not only master them, but do so in a way that felt smart, modern, and fresh. It also didn’t hurt that her cast—including Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Lisa Kudrow, and Diana Silvers—was the year’s funniest. Expect to be hearing about Booksmart for the rest of this year and beyond.
This thriller, directed and co-written by Neil Jordan, puts international treasure Isabelle Huppert to fine use as a woman who develops an unexpected and dangerous attachment to a young friend (Chloë Grace Moretz). It’s unexpected, more than a bit campy, and undeniably frightening.
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Real-life married couple Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in this thriller from Oscar-winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi that follows a woman (Cruz) who returns to her Spanish hometown only to have her teenage daughter go missing. It’s a twisted, dark movie with white-knuckle moments and knockout performances from its leads.
We haven’t loved every big rock ‘n’ roll biopic that’s been released in recent years (cough cough), but Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman—which tells a slightly fantastical, deliciously musical version of Elton John’s life story with Taron Egerton in the lead role—was an absolute pleasure. It tells the tale of John’s wild ride from nerdy English kid to drug-addled superstar (and beyond) with a sense of humor, a strong visual point of view, and some first rate dance numbers.
Mindy Kaling wrote and starred in this smart comedy about a TV talk show legend (Emma Thompson) who’s attempting to extend her professional expiration date and also perhaps expand her emotional IQ. It’s sharp and stylish, and delivers thoughtful cultural critique without missing a chance to be very, very funny.
Is the latest from director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck really a three-hour, German-language look at the life of an artist (inspired by Gerhard Richter) who grew up under Nazi rule? You bet. But it’s also a visually stunning, entirely enchanting exploration of love, passion, and what it means to bring beauty into the world.
To call this movie from British director Joanna Hogg an early 1980s love story feels like we’re underselling it. Yes, it’s the story of a young woman (a fantastic Honor Swinton Byrne) and her relationship—in this case with an addict and liar played by Tom Burke), but it’s also about art, friendship, the lies we tell our families, and what it means to know yourself. It’s exceedingly reassuring to know a sequel is already in the works.
Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer star in Christian Petzold’s film about a man trying to escape an occupied France, who begins traveling with the papers of a dead man—and finds himself tangled up with his wife as well. It’s a thoughtful, tricky, and thrilling example of masterful storytelling, where nothing is quite what it seems and what feels familiar might be the most dangerous thing of all.
Sure, this final film in the Avengers series is a big-budget, over-the-top popcorn movie designed to lure us into cool movie theaters on hot summer days. But it’s also a charming, bright, and satisfying addition to the Marvel universe that not only ties up loose ends from the series—which has spanned more than a decade—but offers some truly impressive new moments as well. Is it high art? Debatable. But for pure movie magic, Endgame might be the year’s film to beat.
Elisabeth Moss is no stranger to bestowing incredible depth upon characters who, in lesser hands, might not receive it. Her skills are at their peak in Her Smell, director Alex Ross Perry’s frank, unforgiving film about a rock star who is consumed by the struggle between art and excess. It’s hard to watch Moss’s Becky Something spiral out of control and lose her grip on not only her talent, but her family, friends, and career. But it’s an undeniable pleasure to watch another collaboration between Perry and Moss, whose work together always offers illuminating and intriguing observations about humanity.
In the years since Downton Abbey the television series has been off the air, our affection for the Crawley family and their staff (and their home, and their dogs, and so on) hasn’t dimmed in the least. So, we were thrilled when the Downton Abbey film was released and gave us a chance to catch up with our favorite characters as the eponymous mansion is thrown into a tizzy over an impending royal visit. And we weren’t alone in being charmed by the film; it had a huge opening weekend and became a certified blockbuster. Can a sequel be far behind?
The latest from director Martin Scorsese finds the filmmaker reunited with actors—Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci—who’ve been in some of his greatest films. But this isn’t a reunion tour. Instead, Scorsese’s three-and-a-half-hour mob saga gets top-notch performances from all of its stars and delivers—in addition to all the mafia antics you could ever want and a healthy dose of humor—a compelling, thoughtful, and meditative look at family, aging, and what it is we leave behind.
Pedro Almodóvar’s latest follows a filmmaker (a brilliant Antonio Banderas, who won the Best Actor award for the part at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) who resembles, you guessed it, Almodóvar himself. In the film, Banderas’s character grapples with addiction, bad romantic choices, and a career gone somewhat off the rails. It’s a sharp, brave, and winning movie that displays the hallmarks of Almodóvar’s best-loved films—bright colors, offbeat humor, a knack for family stories—but feels like a step beyond what we’ve seen from him before. (Indeed, Banderas interacting with Julieta Serrano, who plays his mother, makes for some of the director’s best-ever family scenes.) This movie is sure to please longtime fans as well as convert any newcomers lucky enough to stumble upon it.
An artist dispatched to an island off the coast of France? A willful young woman resisting the marriage her rich mother has arranged? A fiery love affair between the two? What’s not to enjoy about Céline Sciamma’s film—winner of a prize for its screenplay this year in Cannes—which looks at an unexpected, impossible, and thrilling romance at the end of the 18th century.


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