Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Friendly Film Fan! Now that I’ve seen all the movies of 2019 that I feel I needed to see, we can begin to talk about them a little more in depth. Every year, I select 5 (yes, just 5) scenes and moments from the previous year in film that, for one reason or another, stuck with me more than any other moments. It’s always a tremendous challenge to narrow these down to 5, but eventually, it does get narrowed down, and we can reflect on how spectacular these moments were, no matter whether the films surrounding them were good, bad, or just middling. A few notes before we begin: only films that have particular moments that rise to the top are considered, so don’t expect to see Little Women or Portrait of a Lady on Fire on this list; I love those films, but they’re too well-balanced across their lengths to really have one moment that sticks out. Also, this list contain spoilers. Here’s the warning: THIS PIECE FEATURES HEAVY SPOILERS ABOUT EACH OF THE 5 PLACEMENTS. IT IS LEFT TO THE DISCRETION OF THE READER WHETHER THEY WISH TO CONTINUE. With all that down and out of the way, let’s get into it. Here are my choices for what I consider to be the Top 5 Best Scenes and Movie Moments from 2019! (Some of my other favorite moments of the year can be found resting easy in the Honorable Mentions below the list.)
5. Let’s Put a Smile on That Face – Joker
Those who have been reading my work for some time know well enough that while I certainly found Todd Phillips’ take on the clown prince of crime to be interesting, and I enjoyed watching it, I wasn’t nearly as hot on it as a lot of other people, especially as far as awards bodies are concerned. However, there is one moment, directly after self-pity machine Arthur Fleck assassinates his hero Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro in a performance with no business being as good as it is), that stole the whole show and almost could’ve fooled me into thinking Joker was something truly special. As the streets of Gotham are flooded with rioters, an ambulance that’s been overtaken by some of them crashes directly into the police vehicle transporting Arthur to prison, and when the fanatics who now worship him manage to finally get him out of the car (laying him on the hood), Arthur rises to his feet, does a little clown dance, reaches into his still-bleeding mouth, and uses the blood collected on his fingers to don the infamous red smile of the most famous comic book villain of all time. It’s an entirely wordless sequence, but the way the score, the camerawork, and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance communicate what this means for Arthur, Gotham City, and a newly orphaned Bruce Wayne, inspires a deep-seated, terrific horror; it is, in all likelihood, the most deeply unsettling and scariest moment in any movie released last in 2019.
4. Hark! – The Lighthouse
Even though Joker may have contained the more horror-based moment, it’s Robert Eggers’ horror follow-up to The Witch that takes the cake here – or, rather, the lobster. A ways into the black-and-white fever dream that is The Lighthouse, Willem Dafoe becomes angry with Robert Pattinson after the latter says some insinuative words about the former’s meal preparation. Dafoe then launches into what should surely be his Best Supporting Actor monologue (if the Academy didn’t have a horror bias), and it lasts for almost two whole minutes with increasingly dramatic weight, until Dafoe finally stops talking and Pattinson says “alright, have it your way – I like your cooking.” It’s exactly the kind of bizarre scene and magnificent performance of period dialogue from both actors that make everything about The Lighthouse work so well, and it’s exactly the reason why Robert Eggers might be the most exciting horror director working in the genre today.
3. Miles Takes Daytona (7000+) – Ford v Ferrari/The Argument – Marriage Story
I really tried to choose between these two, I really did, but that’s like asking me who my favorite child is, and I don’t have any children, so it’s doubly hard (Jacob Tremblay, though. Definitely Jacob Tremblay. Or Noah Jupe. See how hard this is?) In any case, both of these scenes represent the absolute peak of their respective films, even though neither of them becomes in any way less impactful or captivating afterwards.
In Ford v Ferrari’s case (or Le Mans ’66, for my international readers), Ken Miles is racing at Daytona Speedway for the chance to drive the 24 Hours of Le Mans, after being passed up the previous year due to his perceived attitude problem; if he wins this race, however, he will get to drive at Le Mans for Ford. The company overlords want to keep all their cars at 6000 RPM or lower during the race, but knowing that means losing the race, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) writes on a chalkboard “7000+. GO LIKE HELL,” holding up the sign just as the last lap of the race is to begin. Seeing this, Miles is allowed to let loose, and what follows is one of the most thrilling moments of triumph in any sports movie put to screen, as Miles gets his revs up, pushes not just 7000, but 8000 RPM, and his incredible late surge secures him and his team the victory. The editing and music in this sequence is some of the best of 2019, and it, more than anything, makes the case for Ford v Ferrari taking home that editing Oscar come February.
Marriage Story’s climactic scene may not take nearly as thrilling an approach from a pure adrenaline standpoint, but in terms of performance, there were none better or harder to watch in 2019 than Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in this scene. Sure, it’s been meme-d to death now, and apparently no single person on film twitter understands the importance of context to inform the power of a scene, but don’t let any of that deter you; this is one of the single best scenes of 2019, going to some very ugly but simultaneously very honest places for both characters, who are opening wounds in each other that we’re forced to accept may never heal, and it’s as heartbreaking to watch as it is mesmerizing to witness. When they show Adam Driver’s Best Actor clip at the Oscars this year, this will be the scene they use.
2. The Standoff (and Escape) – Parasite
Best Picture could either go to an International Feature or a streaming film this year if 1917 or Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood don’t swoop in at the last minute and pull of another studio win like at the Golden Globes or Critics Choice Awards; in any case, either direction would make both film and Oscars history, as neither of those types has actually won before (though both have been nominated). The stronger case, though, is for an International Feature win, and this scene from Bong Joon-ho’s miraculous Parasite is the prime example of why. After a bonkers twist (says I, still in disbelief that it actually worked) that sees the family’s original housekeeper return to retrieve her husband from the hidden basement while the family that owns the house has left to go camping, a standoff begins between the two stowaways and the newly-employed Park family. And then, about halfway through that, the homeowning family returns, forcing all involved in this already-tense standoff to duck and cover, attempting to escape as they do so. The whole sequence lasts about 40 minutes and is far and away the most tension-filled sequence of the past year, as the film’s editing, performances, cinematography, and story all come together to force you to hold your breath just when you think you can let it go again. Parasite is a masterpiece through and through, without a doubt, but this is its crowning moment, and the highest point in any film of 2019 not named, well…
1. Portals – Avengers: Endgame
Parasite had the most tense sequence of 2019 in the most tense movie of 2019. Ford v Ferrari and Marriage Story both hit their high points and kept on going without a hint of slowing down. The Lighthouse and Joker share two of the best horror moments of the whole of last year. But no single movie moment, scene, line of dialogue, editing choice, or musical score swell made me audibly yelp for joy the way the portals scene did in Avengers: Endgame. After 21 previous movies of buildup, and the ballsiest climax of any major blockbuster since Empire Strikes Back in Avengers: Infinity War, the only thing we needed to see is our home team manage to pull out a win, and just when it seems that Cap is going to have to face Thanos’ army all by himself (in the best shot this movie contains), all our dusted heroes return in a glorious sequence set to recalled dialogue and a magnificent score by Alan Silvestri (who’s really outdone himself with this film), allowing us to literally stand up and cheer for these characters we’ve come to know and love over the past 11 years…and then it hits the button. With all of the Avengers lined up to fight, the score swells, the theme from the very first Avengers theme revs up to explode, and Cap finally says the words we’ve been waiting 6 years to hear him say: “Avengers…assemble.” The theme kicks in, the army charges, everything the third act contains afterwards turns to solid gold the moment it happens, and it all hinges on this single moment – the most powerful, emotionally resonant, pride-swelling, fist-pumping, brilliant movie moment of 2019.
And those are my picks for the Top 5 Best Scenes/Movie Moments of 2019! Any of these on your list? What are some of your favorite scenes and moments in film from the past year? Let me know in the comments section below, and be sure to check back in tomorrow to see some other recommended movies from 2019 before we get to the best and worst! Thanks for reading!
- The Friendly Film Fan