Halfway through 2019, Hollywood appears to be in a bit of a weird state. On the one hand, the money coming in for top earners is without precedent, box office records being shattered one weekend after the next in an arms race to see who can pull down the first billion-dollar domestic run. (Spoiler: Sooner or later, it will invariably be Disney.) On the other, the wave of long-overdue audience fatigue for an endless deluge of remakes, sequels, reboots, and “reimaginings” is finally starting to rise, with much of the summer so far checkered by a progression of expensive duds.
But if more and more Hollywood money is being poured into franchises with every passing year, 2019 also exists in the time of the boutique indie film revival. Distributors like A24, Neon, and ::tugs collar:: even Netflix are finding ways to get the people who’ve stopped going to the movies to come back out for original properties, or to at least check them out at home. The chain multiplexes may be full of whatever Disney’s pushing at the moment, and the rest of the industry might be scraping for the rest of the available space, but a mix of new and veteran filmmakers are putting their work with studios that appreciate it, and know how to sell it the right way, especially online.
As you’re about to see, many of Consequence of Sound‘s favorite films of 2019 so far weren’t among the year’s widest releases, aside from the one with the unfathomably wide release (and re-release), but as we’ve said before and will always say again: the movies are still good, and for all of the hyperbole, there’s never really been a point at which they became empirically bad. Maybe the early 2000s. Regardless, we invite you to join us, and we’re sure debate us as well, about our top 10 films of 2019 so far. Still six months to go, and now that Sonic the Hedgehog has been pushed back to 2020, it’s still anybody’s race to win.
10. Happy Death Day 2 U
Release Date: February 13th via Blumhouse
Who’s in It? Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Ruby Modine, and Steve Zissis
You Gotta See This: Slasher sequels aren’t exactly known for their originality, which is why Christopher Landon’s Happy Death Day 2U is such a breath of fresh air. Rather than give us more of the same, the sequel eschews most of the first film’s horror elements in favor of science fiction, adventure, and comedy. Rest assured, Landon (this time working from his own screenplay) juggles it all with ease. Special attention must be paid to Jessica Rothe, however, who has emerged as this generation’s most talented Scream Queen. She’s exceptional in every scene, giving the film an unexpected emotional depth, while also making Happy Death Day 2U one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. Sadly, the film’s underperformance at the box office all but ensures we’ll never get a third installment, which is a real birthday blunder considering the bonkers cliffhanger that concluded the sequel. –Trace Thurman
Extra! Extra! Read Clint Worthington’s full review here.
09. Avengers: Endgame
Release Date: April 26th via Walt Disney Studios
Who’s in It? Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, and 40 other A-listers
You Gotta See This: When Marvel first announced that Endgame would serve as a bookend for over 20 movies, well, there were doubts. Why not? The cast alone spelled trouble, what with the four dozen heroes attached to the project. To everyone’s surprise, however, it wound up being arguably the most hard-hitting drama of the entire saga, not only due to the narrative’s emotional gravitas, but because of what the film itself represents. Like 2017’s Logan, there’s an awareness of time with this three-hour epic, and there’s something existentially sobering about seeing many of those A-listers waving goodbye. It’s a reminder of all we’ve invested and all that’s changed, for good and bad. That’s a feeling you can’t make up on the spot, that’s a feeling you build. –Michael Roffman
Extra! Extra! Read Dominick Suzanne-Mayer’s full review here.
08. Horror Noire
Release Date: February 7th via Shudder
Who’s in It? Keith David, Jordan Peele, Kelly Jo Minter, Ken Foree, Tananarive Due, Rusty Cundieff, Ernest Dickerson, and Paula Jai Parker
You Gotta See This: Adapted from Professor Robin R. Means Coleman’s nonfiction novel, this essential documentary presents a crash course in black history through the lens of black horror films. Horror Noire assembles an all-star team of scholars, critics, directors, and actors to chronicle tropes, narrative stereotyping, and social impact under the deft direction of Xavier Burgin. With a persuasive mix of insightful analysis and a contagious passion for the genre by its participants, Horror Noire makes for a compelling entry point for films buffs and horror fans alike. Above all, it demonstrates just how much representation matters. –Meagan Navarro
Extra! Extra! Read Rathan Krueger’s full review here.
07. Long Shot
Release Date: May 3rd via Lionsgate
Who’s in It? Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, and Alexander Skarsgård
You Gotta See This: Long Shot really leans into its title. Yeah, yeah, there’s the whole “Wait! Charlize would never go after Seth!” argument, but there’s also the whole conceit that we might once again live in a world that could be bipartisan. Hilarious, right? Yet by the end of Jonathan Levine’s political rom-com, you’re a believer. There’s a holistic magic to the film that recalls the chutzpah of Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire and the idealism of Rob Reiner’s The American President. It’s cozy, it’s friendly, but it’s not altogether an escape. The film’s willingness to contend with today’s cynicism is its strongest parlor trick, and the way it uses that bit of self-awareness is why it has our vote. –Michael Roffman
Extra! Extra! Read Michael Roffman’s full review here.
06. High Life
Release Date: April 5th via A24
Who’s in It? Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, and Mia Goth
You Gotta See This: Claire Denis’ sensual, thought-provoking, and deeply unsettling English-language debut High Life might be set aboard a spaceship, but make no mistake: this is an auteur dragging a genre into their own wheelhouse, and not the other way around. As a prisoner (Robert Pattinson) struggles to keep himself and a newborn alive on a one-way trip into a black hole, after some kind of catastrophic incident, the film untethers itself from time, linear storytelling, and cultural taboos alike. There is violence, there are fluids (and lots of them). And yet, in the tradition of great sci-fi, Denis proves willing to start asking questions where others wouldn’t imagine treading. Without judgement, without preconception, she looks into the void and considers exactly what it’d turn us into if we ever got close enough. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Extra! Extra! Read Sarah Kurchak’s full review here.