Best Of 2019 So Far – Jenni Holtz

We’ve somehow made it halfway through 2019, a year with too many new releases to count! With the growing streaming market, films are becoming more accessible to audiences at faster paces. The success of Netflix originals like Someone Great and Always Be My Maybe show that the platform is for more than just television series. Even so, there’s no slowing down the box office — smash hits like Avengers Endgame, Captain Marvel, and Aladdin have been huge money makers for bigger studios this year. 

With so much to choose from in the first six months alone, 2019 is shaping up to be a stellar year for movies. To help narrow down your watchlist, here is a list of my five favorite films from the year so far. 

5. Her Smell (dir. Alex Ross Perry)

Elizabeth Moss shines in this dark, character-driven film. The visuals are gritty, messy, and enticing. Her Smell explores addiction in the music industry through the story of Becky Something (Moss). Becky, a washed-up punk rock star, is grasping at the adoration she once received and fighting her addiction to drugs and alcohol. At times the film is painful to watch; the themes are heavy and it’s frustrating to watch Becky slipping into her illness. As it progresses, the tone of the film feels thriller-like. The tone, head-banging music, and Moss’ performance are what make Her Smell.  

4. Midsommar (dir. Ari Aster)

Ari Aster’s sophomore feature is a captivatingly bright horror-comedy. The film deals with themes of grief and emotionally abusive relationships through the story of five friends’ trip to Sweden for a festival. There, things get increasingly disturbing. Aster’s use of vibrant color and unflinching camera provide an unusual experience for horror. Nothing is hiding in the dark. The frightening images are bathed in light and the camera lingers, instilling a sense of dread rather than relying on jump scares. 

3. Us (dir. Jordan Peele)

Us is an instant classic. Peele has established himself in the horror genre through his intentional use of music, color, and themes tied to relevant social issues. Us follows Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and her family when doppelgangers called the tethered appear outside the family’s vacation home. Nyong’o’s performances as Adelaide and her tethered are absolutely captivating. The visual duplicity and use of mirrors is stunning and the scares, though not terrifying, are satisfying and creative. If you liked Get Out and enjoy classic horror, Us is a must-watch. 

2. Knife + Heart (dir. Yann Gonzalez)

Knife + Heart is a captivating queer horror film. In the past, queer representation in horror has been… questionable. Often, LGBTQ+ characters are villainized and othered (such as in Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and Insidious Chapter 2). In Knife + Heart, though, the queer characters are the focus of the story. Their community is being targeted by a killer who invades safe spaces and violently kills queer people, many of whom are sex workers. The narrative takes the deaths of queer people seriously and still manages to be an enjoyable horror movie with solid scares. 

1. Booksmart (dir. Olivia Wilde)

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart is a delightful romp that subverts stereotypes while maintaining its humor. The film follows best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) as they party-hop the night before their high school graduation. The night tests their friendship and helps them appreciate the different sides of their peers. Bringing authentic sweetness to the high school party genre, Booksmart is a welcome addition to the classics like Superbad, Easy A, and Can’t Hardly Wait.