Every year is a good year in film if you watch enough films, and 2019 is no exception. We rank the 10 best movie moments of the year.
It was hard to narrow down the year’s best movie moments to just 10, with the opening dance sequence in Gaspar Noe’s Climax receiving a high honorable mention, along with the haunting closing shot of Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
And of course, there’s no forgetting that way back in January, in the time of the dueling Fyre Fest documentaries, that Netflix came out on top with this unforgettable moment.
As it turns out, 2019 had an impressive number of musical moments, which you’ll see in our full countdown below of the best movie moments of the year.
10. ‘Crocodile Rock’ from ‘Rocketman’
The Elton John biopic, starring Taron Edgerton as the one-of-a-kind superstar, is a fantastical musical celebrating the life and legacy of the beloved musician, and is unfortunately, getting less awards attention due to fatigue from having the unfortunate Bohemian Rhapsody thrust upon us last year.
However, Rocketman is a far cry from that disaster of a movie, as it boasts actually wonderful, honestly felt performances and a whimsical integration of Elton John’s best hits across the movie’s biopic narrative.
Among the best moments is Elton John’s performance of “Crocodile Rock” at the Troubadour, which illustrates the euphoric transcendence of what it must’ve been like seeing someone like him perform for the first time.
9. ‘Booksmart’ party argument
While Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut boasts countless hilarious moments, its best moment actually comes during the movie’s emotional apex when our two best friends, Molly and Amy, erupt into a passionate argument during the first and only party of their high school careers.
Preceding the fight is a beautiful underwater scene set to Perfume Genius’ “Slip Away,” which then segues into Amy wandering the party looking for her counterpart. Once the misunderstanding escalates into the full-blown shouting match, the sound cleverly fades away as the camera swivels between these two characters.
At this point, the argument is only for them to hear. It would be too painful for us to eavesdrop anyway, after having spent the movie relishing in their seemingly unflappable friendship.
8. Jennifer Lopez’s pole dance in ‘Hustlers’
Jennifer Lopez throughout the entirety of Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers is a powerhouse of bravado, sisterhood and vulnerable realness. As such, she gets a exhilarating and perfectly fitting introduction to her character, Ramona, pole-dancing to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” Her moves are wild, but even wilder is the absolute presence she projects through the screen. Jennifer Lopez is a bonafide movie star, and it’s thrilling to see her given the chance to chew up such a juicy role.
Perhaps best of all, is how this scene ends: a hard cut from her final dance move to her relishing a cigarette on the rooftop of the club, adorned in a luxurious fur coat. Fewer cinematic images this year have stuck in my head as much as this one.
7. One minute of silence in ‘A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood’
Fresh off the success of her Oscar-nominated Can You Ever Forgive Me, directing Melissa McCarthy in one of her career-best roles, Marielle Heller is back doing the same with Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood. Heller brings subtle, intelligent nuance to what easily could’ve slipped into schmaltzy territory. Instead, the story of a hardened journalist, Lloyd, learning a thing or two about kindness from none other than Mister Rogers, is an exquisitely bittersweet and melancholy experience.
The best moment arrives in a diner when Mister Rogers tasks Lloyd to sit for a minute of silence and think about someone who has positively affected his life. The dull commotion of the diner dies down as lookers-on also participate and all ambient sound in the film fades away. About midway through the exercise, Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers even breaks the fourth wall and looks directly at the audience, forcing us as viewers to participate as well.
It’s an astonishing and surprising moment that somehow works wonders and could only come from a talented director like Marielle Heller.
6. Becky Something plays piano in ‘Her Smell’
The powerhouse, whirlwind performance by Elisabeth Moss in Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell is one of the very best of the year. As unhinged rocker Becky Something, Moss spends the movie in nonstop motion, going from scene to scene in manic, uncontrollable energy.
And so, when the final act comes around, where Becky is sober and the movie’s color palette softens and its energy calms, it’s like the viewer finally gets a break too. And it’s here where Becky plays a piano version of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,” a moment so packed with emotional pathos, it’s almost overwhelming.
5. Neon lights sequence from ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’
It’s hard to pick a favorite moment from Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature, a movie so packed with memorable and shocking moments alike, but the standout is the transition sequence that takes us into the violent and poetic final act.
It’s the introduction to the night we’ve been waiting for, the night of Sharon Tate’s murder with her final meal at Mexican restaurant, El Coyote. After following a long day of Rick Dalton on a film shoot, Cliff Booth exploring the disturbing Spahn Ranch and Sharon Tate watching herself on the big screen, the sun has set in Hollywood, and Tarantino shows us the nightlife coming alive.
Fittingly set to The Rolling Stone’s “Out of Time,” the visual of a series of neon lights accompanied with a pumped up sound mix that gives an electric jolt, sets the table perfectly for what truly, unexpected events are about to take us into this movie’s conclusion.
4. Red’s speech from ‘Us’
When the spooky, red jumpsuit-wearing doppelgänger family of the Wilsons barges into their summer home, it’s a nerve-rattling sequence that concludes with them being rounded up to sit across from the fireplace and the family that is a twisted version of themselves.
Up to this point, they’re all silent, only making grunts here and there. Until the leader, Red, finally speaks. Played by the enigmatic and brilliant Lupita Nyong’o, she speaks with an indescribable and unnerving affectation in her voice that she herself came up with; all that was written in the script was Red speaks in a voice that sounds like it has never been used before.
The face on Nyong’o, tears silently streaming down her face as she delivers the monologue, is one of the most singularly striking images you’ll see this year.
3. Frank’s phone call in ‘The Irishman’
In Martin Scorsese’s three and a half hour crime odyssey, an elegy for the mob genre, Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran, has to deliver a phone call to the wife of the missing Jimmy Hoffa, the man he just killed.
The weight and significance of this kill for Frank, ending the life of his best friend, is punctuated by the phone call he’s forced to make to the wife, well knowing not only that Jimmy Hoffa is indeed dead, but that he’s the one who did it.
De Niro’s acting in this scene is the highlight in an expansive performance, the simplest, quietest scene of the lot. He stammers and stutters, trying to find the right words, trying to console this woman who he knows will never be able to be consoled. And in that moment, he knows that of himself too.
2. The stairwell descent in ‘Parasite’
Bong Joon-ho’s genre-twisting masterpiece comes with a second act twist that is among the most exciting reveals in any movie this year. Once the Kim family has fully infiltrated the Park family’s home through various assistance jobs, they receive an unexpected visitor in the dead of night: the previously displaced housekeeper, Moon-gwang.
The bewildered Kim family follows Moon-gwang downstairs to reveal an even lower level of the basement. Unveiling the bunker below, the camera follows our characters swiveling down the stairs, rounding corners, making us anticipate what exactly has been down there this whole time. The sense of dread and anticipation created by just one shot is masterful filmmaking.
1. Adam Driver sings in ‘Marriage Story’
We all know Noah Baumbach’s latest, though titled Marriage Story, is actually about a grueling and painstaking divorce between a couple. And yet, the story told could ultimately be described as a love story. Through all the lawyers and the processes of going through their divorce, Charlie and Nicole still have a kind of love for each other. It’s not the love that existed before, but something evolved and new. They will continue to love each other in this way while separated.
The whirlwind of the divorce proceedings is felt not only by the couple at the film’s center, but by us as an audience as well. It isn’t until the final paperwork is signed, when Charlie is back in New York with his theatre troupe at a bar, and he steps up to perform “Being Alive” from Stephen Sondheim’s Company.
As you listen to the lyrics and watch Adam Driver emote so vibrantly through his singing, it isn’t until this moment that you realize the character Charlie is only just now digesting all that has happened to him and his family, and the audience feels that discovery in his performance of this song. It’s the most emotionally astute and cathartic moment in any movie this year.