Labor Day has come and gone, which also means that it’s practically the end of the summer movie season. The Films of the Summer of 2019 has had their fair share of sequels, remakes, and franchise continuations. But, there have also been some original gems that have made their way into theaters over the past couple months. Below, we have compiled a list of my top five films from this summer, which range from the biggest of blockbusters to the most intimate of indies.
This list is in no way comprehensive, nor will everyone agree with our sentiments. There were over 100 films released in the summer of 2019, and choosing just five took a fair amount of soul searching and thought. If you think we missed one, be sure to hit up our Facebook page and leave some comments as to what your favorite films of the summer of 2019 were.
A frequently hilarious blend of commercial entertainment with an indie spirit, Booksmart deserved so much more attention than it actually received during its theatrical release. Assuredly directed by Olivia Wilde in her first time behind the camera, the film stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein as two academically successful high-schoolers trying to compensate for the fact that they did not have enough fun over the last four years by cramming all the fun into the night before graduation.
Lazily described by many as a “female Superbad,” Booksmart gives us a look at a very specific type of female friendship, played with an immense likability by Dever and Feldstein. What starts out as a string of one-crazy-night hijinks evolves into something much deeper than that, subverting expectations and giving genuine insights about the ways high-schoolers perceive each other during those four formative years. Oh, and Billie Lourd literally pops up out of nowhere multiple times and steals every scene she is in.
4. Toy Story 4
When a fourth Toy Story film was announced to be in development, I was definitely one of those people that couldn’t see a plausible narrative reason to continue the franchise after Toy Story 3 beautifully concluded Woody’s story with Andy. After seeing the film back in June, I realized I should never doubt the creative minds over at Pixar. Toy Story 4 serves as a bittersweet epilogue of sorts, with Woody struggling to find out what his purpose is, when he no longer has Andy to keep happy.
Existential, gorgeously animated, and cleverer in its humor than pretty much any children’s movie being released nowadays, Toy Story 4 is reliably on-brand for a Pixar film. And while many of the returning characters get significantly less screen time, the writers give us a variety of new and interesting characters that keep this fourth outing feeling fresh; this includes the most sympathetic of all of the Toy Story’s antagonists, Gabby Gabby, whose character arc ends up being just as emotionally moving as Woody’s, a character we have known for four movies now. That’s quite a feat.
3. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
One of the more memorable moviegoing experiences of this year, not least of which because I traveled to LA with friends to see the film in its birthplace, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s loosest and most mature offerings, allowing us to live in a lavishly recreated, ever-evolving 1969 Hollywood for a couple hours, with characters who are struggling to come to terms with the fact that the times are a-changing.
A fairy tale in the vein of a sprawling day-in-the-life type of narrative structure, Hollywood sees Tarantino reveling in his love and nostalgia for Hollywood, for the film industry, and for an actress who deserves to be remembered for the life she lived, instead of how it ended. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie light up the screen like the talented A-listers they are, taking us through a very specific time and place in Hollywood history, and giving us a melancholic, contemplative, and daydreamy look at what could have been. Props to Tarantino for the best use of a song this year, making a certain montage one that I won’t soon forget.
2. Avengers: Endgame
As a culmination of 21 films and over a decade of interwoven superhero storytelling, you can’t really get any more satisfying or narratively coherent than Avengers: Endgame. It kind of blows my mind that this film works as well as it does. a cinematic event that won’t be matched for quite some time and it makes this one of the best Films Of The Summer Of 2019.
With a story that celebrates the MCU’s history, Endgame sees its remaining heroes coming to terms with their own failure and finding it within themselves to risk their lives in saving those that they’ve lost. For a film this gigantic in size and scope to take its time to be introspective with its characters is something to treasure, and it makes all the emotional payoffs that much more effective.
That portals scene is one of the most triumphant and downright chill-inducing moments in a superhero film, because of Silvestri’s score, because of the sheer amount star-power on screen, but most of all because the filmmakers have made us care about all these characters.
1. The Farewell
My favorite film of the summer is about as far from a summer blockbuster as you can get, but it is undoubtedly the film that had the most profound effect on me over the past few months. Based on an actual lie, The Farewell tells a deeply moving story about a family carrying the emotional burden of the truth about one of their own’s fatal illness.
The Farewell is both culturally specific in its premise and wholly universal in the way it portrays family dynamics. Writer/director Lulu Wang (who based this story on her own personal experience with her grandmother) shows us a family that is instantly recognizable and relatable, in one way or another. As a result, seeing how the emotional weight of the circumstances affects the various members of the family becomes poignant and heartbreaking in the sincerest of ways.
Cinema is supposed to make us feel something, whether it be excitement, happiness, sadness, etc. The Farewell made me feel a lot of things, and it did so through pure, sublime filmmaking.
And with that, those are our top five favorite films from this past summer. Some of these have already been released on home video, while others are still in their theatrical release. We highly recommend checking out all five of these, however you can.