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Rantz: The 10 best films of 2019

Screenshot from Parasite, the best film of 2019, according to Jason Rantz.

As a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, I’m lucky enough to see virtually every movie that comes out — from bizarre foreign black comedies to superhero blockbusters. And unlike in previous best-of lists, I struggled to fit my favorite movies of the year into a top ten list. The quality this year was that good. Here are the 10 best films of 2019.

10. Teen Spirit: Writer-director Max Minghella manages to retell a standard story in an innovative, lyrical way, with music video-like direction, and a killer performance (including on stage) by Elle Fanning.

9. Honey Boy: This is the manifestation of a deep dive psychiatric session, transformed into a character-driven drama. If you ever wondered why actor Shia LaBeouf (who brilliantly plays a younger version of his father in a performance that should earn him an Oscar nomination) went off the rails, or why anyone becomes the handful they turn into as an adult, you should see this powerhouse film.

8. Marriage Story: This film starts at the end of the marriage, but in the messy divorce, you learn more about the marriage than you would in a traditional film that focuses on the leadup to the divorce. It’s compassionate and maddening, deeply emotional and gut-punching with unforgettable performances by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver.

7. Joker: This is the R-rated comic book film we deserve, about a complex and disturbed villain that seeks to explain how damaged people can turn into monsters. Todd Phillips handles the material respectfully and honestly, even if sometimes a bit too on-the-nose. The third act of this film is arguably the best, most unnerving and disturbingly tense 30 minutes of any movie you’ll see this year — except my #1 film below.

6. Booksmart: A coming-of-age film that is as fresh and edgy as all of its predecessors. It’s razor sharp and laugh-out-loud funny, yet through all the vulgar jokes, still manages to have a heart.

5. Ford v Ferrari: This is an immersive racing movie that treats the racing as honestly and respectfully as the character’s relationships with one another. It’s a well-rounded film that races by, despite the 152 running time. The characters well-developed, the history interesting and entertaining, and lead actor Christian Bale gives yet another brilliant performance in one of the year’s most entertaining films.

4. Richard Jewell: Sometimes all you need is a great story, told simply with actors bringing their A-game. That’s what you have in the latest Clint Eastwood film. The story of what the media and FBI did to an American hero deserved to be told and no one but this director and these actors could do it so well.

3. 1917: Told in one continuous camera shot, two soldiers are tasked with delivering an urgent message to stop British troops from walking into a trap that will kill 1,600 men. While the filmmaking conceit heightens the drama, it’s by no means why this film is so good. It’s tense, and urgent, well-acted and emotionally draining film that makes it not just one of the best war movies of all-time, but one of the best films of 2019.

2. Jojo Rabbit: To truly understand the horror of Nazism, it turns out you needed it told through the eyes of a young boy whose pretend friend is Adolf Hitler. This satire hits all the right notes, keeping it appropriately funny, while bringing in the painful drama at just the right moments. The marvel of this film is the way it depicts someone, under the influence of propaganda, realizes all the hate that he’s been taught in just that: built in irrational hate.

1. Parasite: This complex, multi-layered film has a lot to say about class and culture, messages it sends in the most innovative, and genre-bending ways. In every scene, there’s an underlying unease — you have no idea where it’s coming from until it hits you. And you’re left… shaken and moved. Who is the parasite in this movie? All of us? The less you know going into the film, the better experience you’ll have. I’m choosing not to show a trailer. Go in blind, leave mesmerized and haunted.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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