Screen Test: The 20 Best Films of 2019

I don’t think 2019 was a particularly good year for film. But it wasn’t noticeably worse than the last few years and there were a few surprises that made up for some pretty dull screen time, including Monos (Apocalypse Now meets Lord of the Flies meets Fitzcarraldo), the pervasive dissipation of Her Smell, the acerbic wit and frantic hormonal rush unleashed in Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, Godard’s best film in years, the incredible footage of Maradona in his prime, Penny Lane’s hilarious tribute to the Church of Satan, the wild ambulance rides in Give Me Liberty, which are much more thrilling than any Fast and Furious movie. Any way, here’s my list of 20 films from last year that grabbed my attention and held it long enough for me to remember them months later.

1) Monos
Director: Alejandro Landes

2) Sea of Shadows
Director: Richard Ladkani

3) The Report
Director: Scott Z. Burns

4) Her Smell
Director: Alex Ross Perry

5) The Image Book
Director: Jean-Luc Godard

6) Midsommar
Director: Ari Aster

7) Booksmart
Director: Olivia Wilde

8) Transit
Director: Christian Petzold

9) Diego Maradona
Director: Asif Kapadia

10) The Mountain
Director: Rick Alverson

11) Birds of Passage
Directors: Cristina Gallego & Ciro Guerra

12) Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
Director: Stanley Nelson

13) Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Director: Céline Sciamma

14) The Proposal
Director: Jill Magid

15) Hail Satan?
Director: Penny Lane

16) Us
Director: Jordan Peele

17) Peterloo
Director: Mike Leigh

18) Give Me Liberty
Director: Kirill Mikhanovsky

19) The Edge of Democracy
Director: Petra Costa

20) The Animal People
Directors: Denis Henry Hennelly & Casey Suchan

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3