2019 proved to be a smorgasbord of genre offerings on film and TV as have been most of the years in this concluding decade. Many of the films and TV shows on this list have been widely acclaimed, one of the films became the highest grossing film of all time, another looks to be revered at the Academy Awards, while a couple of the TV shows have caught the public zeitgeist. Here are the best films and TV shows of 2019. Of course, this list is purely subjective, so apologies to anyone wondering why Cats did not make the list. 😀
Onward to 2020 and the rest of the coming decade!
10. Ad Astra
This space drama starring Brad Pitt as an astronaut searching for his father was quietly involving as it took audiences into a tour through the solar system. For the most part, it was a grounded and breathtaking look at space travel in the near future. It stumbles in the third act, but what came before was quite memorable.
9. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Visually arresting while staying focused on its emotional core and story, the third and final How to Train Your Dragon film capped off a wonderful trilogy. Thanks to this film, the trilogy achieved the difficult distinction of being part of a trilogy where all the films in it were great.
TIE 8. Alita: Battle Angel/It Chapter Two
The stylish live-action adaptation of the classic manga became a cult classic for good reason. Stunning visuals and a brilliant mo-cap performance by Rosa Salazar as Alita were the best highlights in this action-packed, cyberpunk epic.
Meanwhile, the concluding chapter of Stephen King’s opus monster horror tale delivered the emotional feels and scares that started with the first It film. Brilliant acting and casting and genuine character arcs also made this a worthy sequel.
In a crowded superhero film landscape, Shazam! managed to be something unique and stood out in the field. Shazam! was witty, genuinely heartfelt and refreshing that worked as a quirky family drama, coming-of-age romp and a fun superhero film that helped to reinvigorate the struggling DCEU.
6. Toy Story 4
The fourth and final Toy Story film was just as funny, whimsical and poignant as the previous films. It introduced charming and hysterical new characters while touching our hearts as our favorite toys moved on with their lives.
5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Big, loud, and explosive like its marque monsters, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was ravaged by critics but enjoyed by the rest. No doubt, the plot, logic and characters were muddled and not essential, but who cared? This was supposed to be a big-budget kaiju throwdown and it delivered that with its jaw dropping effects and sequences of monsters stomping on cities and each other.
4. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
The last (until 2022) of the Star Wars films was a rousing, loud and messy conclusion to the nine-film Skywalker Saga. Director J.J. Abrams had the unenviable task of tying up the Star Wars films, while undoing much of what occurred in the previous Star Wars Saga film. The results were not pretty, but his efforts worked with this fast-paced space fantasy that was flawed but satisfying as it celebrated all that was great about Star Wars.
3. Spider-Man: Far From Home
The final film in Phase Three of the MCU successfully entertained audiences with the breezy misadventures of everyone’s favorite teenage superhero. The second Spider-Man solo film set in the MCU continued to showcase his angst and mishaps as he went on a European school trip. Aside from the laughs at Spidey’s expense, Spider-Man: Far From Home showcased his emotional growth and maturity as he faced adulthood and the aftermath of the events of Avengers: Endgame. The mid-credits scene was a genuine stunner that left us itching for the next film, which will thankfully happen.
Disturbing and at the same time captivating, Joker echoed other character studies of emotionally broken men like Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy. The DC film thoroughly explored the psychological deterioration of the disturbed Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) in his dismal and empty life in the gritty streets of Gotham. The film felt more like a documentary set in the hellish streets that evoked New York City in the 1970s that happened to chronicle the origin of Batman’s greatest villain.
But what struck viewers most was the performance by Phoenix as the man who becomes the Joker (depending on one’s interpretation, Fleck may not even be the actual Joker). His portrayal made Fleck a somewhat sympathetic person, yet terrifying at the same time. The unease culminated during Fleck’s complete breakdown as he embraced anarchy and chaos, which spread like a virus throughout Gotham’s restless populace.
1. Avengers: Endgame
Some may think of Avengers: Endgame as just a direct sequel to Avengers: Infinity War, but it was much more than that. Avengers Endgame was the epic, grand finale of the massive Infinity Saga which spanned over 20 films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Featuring most of the characters from the past MCU films (many of them played by high-caliber thespians), the fourth Avengers film powerfully concluded the Infinity Saga that started back in 2008 when Tony Stark first emerged from a cave wearing a suit of armor.
Avengers: Endgame is so much more than your typical comic book film with topnotch effects and fight scenes. Though it has plenty of those! This film took the time to explore the emotional aftermath of the heroes’ failures during Avengers: Infinity War and their long road back to redemption. From there, the film becomes a hysterical and exciting time travel romp rivaling the best of the Back to the Future films before culminating in an action-jammed third act. The final act of the film was already renowned for having the greatest superhero battle ever shown on film that doubles as a who’s who of superheroes against the forces of Thanos. However, Avengers: Endgame’s heart-tugging and fitting coda left an everlasting impression among viewers as it reflected on and ultimately celebrated the heroes and achievement of the MCU.
Brightburn; Captain Marvel; Crawl; Dark Phoenix; Doctor Sleep; Glass; Jumanji: The Next Level; Replicas; Us; Zombieland: Double Tap
A beautifully animated and captivating series used rotoscoping to illustrate the fluid reality experienced by its main character Alma (Rosa Salazar). After a near-death experience, she gains the ability to move through time and reality as she helps her dead father solve his murder. The animation was quite unique, but its character study was even more provocative.
Less of a sequel to Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ seminal comic book and more of a spinoff, Watchmen was highlighted by its timely and relevant storylines set in an alternate world that surprised audiences.
8. The Handmaid’s Tale
The third season of this dystopian look at America under a brutal theocratic rule was as haunting as ever. Still, despite its harshness, the show changed gears with new characters and new aspects of society while providing glimmers of hope to keep us watching.
7. Game of Thrones
Yes, the final season of Game of Thrones was a letdown compared to the other seasons of this landmark fantasy show. It was rushed and left many unanswered questions. Nevertheless, Game of Thrones’ final season managed to conclude its sprawling epic tale of warring kingdoms with terrific, unmatched production values, effects and acting.
6. Stranger Things
The loving tribute to 1980s genre flicks continued to entertain viewers in its third season. The characters, including Eleven, were allowed to grow and mature as they faced off against interdimensional threats to their small town in Indiana. This growth and breakout new characters were the true stars of Stranger Things, not the monsters.
5. The Expanse
The decade’s best sci-fi TV show got a new lease on life in its fourth season thanks to Amazon Prime. The story of mankind’s first clumsy steps into becoming an interstellar civilization was just as enthralling as previous seasons thanks to above-par scripts, excellent special effects and its grounded and realistic aspect.
4. The Boys
Amazon Prime’s entry into superhero TV shows popped out with its black humor and graphic violence as it illustrated the seedier and more cynical side of superheroes. Graphic nature aside, The Boys was well put together and offered an engrossing behind-the-scenes look at superheroes (if you can call them that).
3. Doom Patrol
Superhero TV shows have stepped up their game and pushed boundaries. Then there is Doom Patrol, which as the best superhero TV show of 2019 added the weird to weirdness. Doom Patrol embraced its quirky and bizarre comic book roots and enthralled us with goofy, misfit characters and outrageous and unconventional scripts.
2. The Mandalorian
The first live-action Star Wars TV show is easily the flagship show on the Disney+ streaming service and for good reason as it has caught the attention of the world thanks to Baby Yoda. The Mandalorian will help keep interest alive in the Star Wars franchise thanks to its simple and effective story of an enigmatic bounty hunter and the infant child he cares for.
As an ode to Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns and Lone Wolf and Cub, The Mandalorian is a mesmerizing space western with intriguing characters, namely the mysterious Mandalorian with no name, and exciting stories. And that Baby Yoda is so adorable!
1. Star Trek: Discovery
2019 had many memorable and outstanding genre TV shows. Many of which will stand the test of time. But Star Trek: Discovery comes out on top simply for exceeding expectations after its mixed first season. In its sophomore season, Star Trek: Discovery went back to basics and embraced its traditional Star Trek roots. By doing so, the TV show delivered many standout episodes, some of which can be considered to be classic Star Trek stories.
Star Trek: Discovery was also buoyed by a breakout performance by Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, cinema-level effects and photography and fascinating storylines. Not every episode was great but they were solid entertainment, while others were instant classics. This season also confirmed beyond doubt that the show was clearly set in the actual prime Star Trek universe, which was a relief for many. In many ways, the second season of Star Trek: Discovery helped revive interest in the Star Trek franchise, which will hopefully be fueled by the upcoming Star Trek: Picard.
Arrow; Carnival Row; Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance; For All Mankind; Legion; Lost in Space; Love, Death & Robots; Runaways; Star Trek: Short Treks; Titans; The Twilight Zone; The Witcher; Years and Years
Great list and good to see Shazam feature in the top 10 films, glad they’re moving ahead with the sequel now that Black Adam is on the slate. I had issues with Joker myself and don’t feel it’s the masterpiece it’s been hailed as but there’s no denying the effect of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. But yeah, there was only one film that could be placed in the top spot, really!
My Trekkie heart soared to see Discovery as your number 1 series of 2019, it remains so divisive but I think there are only good things ahead for it going into season 3. The Expanse is a series that I’ve pledged to dive into this year, I hear so many good things about it!
Thanks so much for your insights and Happy New Year!
I did not think a lot about Shazam! but then I saw it again recently and realized how awesome it was.
As for Discovery, while there were a ton of talked-about shows in 2019 that were high quality, I kept finding myself thinking about the show and how great many of its episodes were. The last few episodes were so great and launched the show into a new direction that I cannot wait to see later this year, as well as Star Trek: Picard.
Shazam, Godzilla King of the Monsters, and Avengers Endgame were my big highlights of 2019 as well. There were a few films I missed, like Joker, so will catch up when that’s on Blu Ray. TV show high points were Stranger Things season 3, the finale season of Game of Thrones, I liked Star Trek Discovery too, and been really enjoying The Witcher over the holidays. Happy new Year and here’s to a great 2020 🙂
Thanks for the comments. The Witcher is very well done and just missed making my list. There were so many magnificent shows that narrowing it down to ten was quite hard.
Hope 2020 is just as great for films and TV shows! Happy New Year to you as well.