Reading over this top ten, it is probably our most left-field in quite some time. Yet variety is always is a good thing and we’re sure this will be one of our most controversial line-ups for a while. If we were to extend this you’d probably see Dolemite Is My Name, The Irishman, Ed Skrein’s body in Midway, Hail Satan?, Cats (yes we said it) and Child’s Play.
10. The Good Liar
Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Helen Mirren play twisting and turning mind games with an elegant thespian charm in The Good Liar. Bill Condon, a dab hand at this sort of sharp and snappy character piece, allows the two actors to revel in the high camp turns of the narrative – it takes us to curious places (such as seeing Dame Helen updating her Plenty of Fish profile), but the final pay off us ultimately very satisfying.
This Slovenian drama made its UK debut in 2019 and left a strong impression on us. Tackling the concept of toxic masculinity in Eastern Europe, writer-director Darko Stante’s debut feature film is one of simmering aesthetic intensity and a subtly complex performance from Matej Zemljic.
8. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
It feels a little like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile slipped under the radar upon its release – perhaps its Sky Movies debut limited it? This is ultimately somewhat disappointing as this Ted Bundy drama from director Joe Berlinger was a tremendous showcase for Zac Efron’s dramatic ability. A fascinating true crime narrative and impressive supporting performance from Lily Collins adds to the macabre appeal of this serial killer drama.
7. Vox Lux
Another 2019 UK release, Brady Corbet’s intriguing Vox Lux grips with its rapid tonal shifts and anti-A Star Is Born narrative as it explores the pitfalls of fame. Like the filmmaker’s previous works, Vox Lux plunges us into the uncomfortable territory and forces us to grapple with it. This dark narrative mapping paired with Natalie Portman jumpsuited-up and belting out Sia-penned bops, is a recipe for success.
2019 is the year that Grande Dame Guignol cinema made a comeback. The first of the new entries in the hag horror genre was Ma – a high camp piece from Tate Taylor which saw Octavia Spencer’s Ma develop an unhealthy obsession with a group of youths. It gave us countless moments of depravity and hilarity – a dog blood transfusion, a gratuitous hit and run, “Don’t make me drink alone!” and robot dancing ticking all the previous boxes.
Renée Zellweger compels in Judy, an immersive glimpse into the later years of Judy Garland’s life. The film manages to capture Garland’s towering impact with a compassionate eye, amidst the personal tragedies she faced.
This 2019 UK release cemented our love for Félix Maritaud, one of the most exciting actors in cinema at the moment. Camille Vidal-Naquet’s film glimpses non-judgmentally into the freedom and dangers of sex work, the sense of community and destruction that it can simultaneously bring. It’s an upfront, ferocious film with an unflinching turn from Maritaud.
The second of our hagsploitation entries, Greta, saw Isabelle Huppert gleefully pirouette into the subgenre with aplomb. The titan of French cinema grips in this high camp horror as the lonely woman, obsessed with her new young friend. Watching Greta get away with her plan for so long, is ultimately a thrilling experience with Neil Jordan unravelling each narrative thread with a macabre delight and Huppert having a ball.
2. Knife + Heart
Vanessa Paradis leads Knife + Heart, an arthouse thriller set in the gay porn industry of 1970s France. Blending moments of taut suspense, neon-tinged horror, unsettling avant-garde imagery, and a surprisingly heartfelt narrative – co-writer, director Yann Gonzalez has crafted an intoxicating piece of queer cinema.
Ari Aster creates a true masterpiece of the horror genre in his first film since Hereditary. Tackling the nasty side of Swedish folklore in this tale of Americans caught up in Midsommar traditions, Aster’s film plays like a contemporary version of The Wicker Man. Providing some of the most horrifying imagery of the genre and a narrative that grips us in its macabre dynamics, Midsommar is the defining film of 2019.