[originally published on December 28, 2019]
I’ve been blogging about the things I’ve been watching almost all year (here’s the latest one, with links to all previous installments). As part of looking back at this year, below is a list of movies and TV shows I’ve enjoyed the most this year. Media that was released earlier but seen in 2019 and rewatches count as well. My post, my rules. Settle in; this will take a while. But it’ll be worth it.
I can’t really rank these because they are so diverse, so these are in just alphabetical order. They’re all great in their own ways and you should watch them.
Booksmart: The funny and smart teen movie of the year. I have some extremely minor gripes with it, but overall, I loved it.
Cruel Intentions: You couldn’t make this movie in 2019 for many reasons that become immediately obvious once you’ve seen it, so thank god they made it 20 years earlier. Pitch black teen comedy / drama, with great leads and a killer soundtrack. I loved almost everything about it.
Fast Color: An amazing superhero movie unlike any other, that is criminally unknown. Gives me hope that that this genre can contain multitudes.
Free Solo: One of the best documentaries I’ve seen in 2019, hands down.
General Magic: The other great documentary this year about the company you probably didn’t know about and yet influenced all the computing devices and gadgets you have today.
Good Boys: This was my laughing-out-loud-during-the-whole-time movie this year. It’s fucking hilarious with some really smart writing.
Long Shot: I guess this is more of an honorable mention, but really, who would have thought that Seth Rogen could make a smart and raunchy comedy in 2019? That’s good? Not me. And yet. It’s good.
Spotlight: A great movie about journalists doing their jobs and being great at it. Pure competence porn. Proves that you can make Oscar-bait but also make it actually good.
Toy Story 4: I really didn’t expect this to be one of my favorite movies this year but here we are. Possible the best one in the series. But like, Disney, don’t tempt fate by trying to make a fifth one.
Yesterday: I almost passed on this, and then watched it one day anyway and was so pleasantly surprised. It’s a great Richard Curtis movie (the guy who made Love Actually and About Time, for example.) How you feel about this will largely depend on how you feel about his other movies, and that’s all I’m going to say. I loved it.
Wag the Dog: A great black comedy in itself, but it becomes legendary once you watch it and learn that it was released a month before the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which makes it downright prophetic.
What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Deep Space Nine: I love Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and despite its faults, this documentary is a must-watch for anyone who’s a fan.
When Harry Met Sally…: Arguable the OG romcom of the modern era, that still holds up 30 years later. Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Nora Ephron, Rob Reiner — they are all great individually, but all of them together made something special.
I didn’t watch much anime at all this year. I tried out a couple of shows but never got into them. That being said I did a rewatch of Kimi No Na Wa and it’s still a great movie.
Okay, so I’ll break this down into a couple of lists, because boy did I watch a LOT of television this year. First is a top 20 of things I’ve seen in 2019 and was released this year and/or it had a season released this year:
- Russian Doll (season 1): An amazing show about trauma, connection, growing and so many other things. I wrote about it in detail with spoilers here. The second season is coming and I’m both excited and worried about it, but I think trust its creators enough not to fuck that up.
- The End of the Fucking World (season 2): An amazing show about trauma, connection, growing and so many other things. Yes, I’m repeating myself. There are so many parallels between TEOTFW and Russian Doll, even though they are very different; I love them both and I thought about it a lot and I can’t decide which one would deserve the first place this is only in second place because markdown is stupid. This show managed to pull off a second season that’s possibly better than the first one; one I didn’t think it needed a second season the first place. I wrote about it a bit more without spoilers here.
- Fleabag (seasons 1 and 2): Everything Phoebe Waller-Bridge touches turns to gold, and this is no exception. Another show about, yes, you know it, trauma, connection, growing and so many other things. So fucking good in every possible way.
- The OA (seasons 1 and 2): Hey did you know that Netflix’s business strategy is canceling shows after two, or, at best, three seasons? That’s precisely what happened to The OA which was by far the most mind-bending thing I’ve seen this year. It’s gonna fuck with your head and then fuck with it a lot more, and you’ll enjoy it. And then it’s canceled because fuck Netflix. It’s still worth watching, though.
- You’re The Worst (season 5): The final season of the best American fucked up couple on television. I’m still mad at its creators for mercilessly toying with my feelings until almost the last second, but it pays off tremendously. They pulled off a perfect ending, in every possible way. Kudos.
- Chernobyl (miniseries): It’s brutal. You know from the start it’s not gonna end well. You know history (at least the basics). And yet, it’s five hours of great television, created by the guy who wrote *checks notes* The Hangover 2 and 3. People truly contain multitudes.
- Catastrophe (season 4): The very likely final season of the best half-American, half-Irish fucked up couple on television. In each season the show got better and better and it ended on a high note.
- Bonding (season 1): Short and sweet and heartwarming and funny, not at all what you’d expect at first. I really hope it somehow gets another season.
- Succession (season 2): Part of me wanted to rank this higher but there were so many other good things this year. Still, the sophomore season of Succession was a great watch. Team Shiv for life.
- The Morning Show (season 1): I’ve said this many times and I’ll say it again. Is this a good show? Eh, not really. Is it an entertaining show? with a few exceptions, extremely. And that’s why I love it.
- Euphoria (season 1): This gave me all the feels, in many ways. I loved it, but I am worried if they can keep up the quality of the show. We’ll see next year.
- High Maintenance (season 3): This show about the nameless weed delivery guy in New York started on Vimeo and eventually migrated to HBO. It delivers consistently great episodes with very human stories. In its latest season, the protagonist plays a slightly more prominent role than usual, but not to the detriment of the rest. I hope they’ll keep going for many more seasons.
- The Mandalorian (season 1): If I put aside the fact that Baby Yoda is extremely cute — and he really is — there were only three episodes I liked this season (4, 6, 8). But those three were genuinely good and the last one makes me excited about what’s coming next.
- Star Trek: Discovery (season 2): Woo boy, this was a mess, especially when they change showrunners mid-season. It was, however, pretty good overall, and it’s still the best second season any Star Trek show ever produced, with the possible exception of DS9.
- Easy (seasons 1-3): Loosely connected stories of people in various stages of life and love in Chicago, done really well. I liked it a lot.
- Tales of the City (2019 miniseries): So I watched this without even really knowing the previous series existed, but I still enjoyed it a lot. It’s a mess, but a very lovable mess.
- Unbelievable (miniseries): This is an emotionally hard watch, especially the first two episodes, but it’s worth it. Great leads and a good story.
- When They See Us (miniseries): The other hard watch; even if you know the story and know how it ends, it’s still brutal.
- The Good Place (season 4, eps 1-9): This only gets on this list because of episode 8 and 9. The latter is a masterpiece that made me cry. But why did I have to suffer through 7 mediocre-at-best episodes first?
- Silicon Valley (season 6): This show overstayed its welcome and the final season was uneven and mostly forgettable — except the series finale, which was really well done and very satisfying, so it gets to be on this list.
A few more honorable mentions from this year:
Broad City (season 5): I feel like Broad City also overstayed its welcome but its final season was still pretty good.
Sex Education (season 1): This was pretty good, I just couldn’t find a place for it among all the other good shows. Season 2 is coming really soon.
Counterpart (season 2): The second season was uneven, even though the actors and the characters were great; but the writing didn’t quite live up to it. It got canceled, but it does have an ending.
Killing Eve (seasons 1 and 2): Look, the first season is almost a masterpiece; Phoebe Waller-Bridge was the showrunner and was involved heavily otherwise, and both Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh are great leads. But the quality drops sharply in season 2 and it ends in a way that undermines a lot of things it was building up towards which just pissed me off. I’ll still watch the next season; maybe it improves again.
Still with me? I’ve got a few more shows that I watched this year but were released earlier.
The Leftovers (seasons 1-3): I could write several pages about this show. The first season is extremely solid already, but the second one is one of the best seasons ever created in the history of television. The show is very overwhelming emotionally; I ugly-cried after the season 2 finale. But it was totally worth it. Season three is a mixed bag, and part of things the whole thing would have been better off being canceled after the second one. But it wraps things up in a way that’s very on-brand for The Leftovers and is ultimately worth watching.
Crashing (miniseries): A quick, funny show from Phobe Waller-Bridge from 2016. It should be binged in one sitting and you’ll be very satisfied.
Schtisel (seasons 1 and 2): This Israeli show was created a few years ago but it really blew up this year when Netflix picked it up. It’s complex with a great ensemble of characters. The writing is very uneven but I can’t help but love the show. It’s very different from what one’s used to with Western television. Thanks to its newfound popularity, a third season is now in the works.
Goliath (seasons 1-3): Billy Bob Thornton plays a mostly-high-functioning alcoholic down-on-his-luck lawyer, and he plays him brilliantly. Each season has a different feel to it; my favorite is probably the first one, but the second one was pretty great too. It gets uneven oftentimes, and some characters are criminally underused (particularly her daughter). I stopped watching the third season after a few episodes because it was too horror-ey for me. It’s coming back for its final season sometime in the future; I’ll check it out.
And finally, the greatest disappointments of the year in no particular order (but I’ll definitely start with GoT first):
Game of Thrones (season 8): I mean. Looking back, things really started going off rails after they ran out of the books after season 5, but I think everyone kept making excuses for the show — including me — and hoped that the final season will be a worthy payoff. So much for that. We did get like two goodish episodes (the first two) but the rest is just, ugh. So bad. Not to mention you couldn’t see shit during the dark scenes and then they kept doubling down on that.
See (season 1): This show was never good to begin with, even though it had a really strong and unique concept. Any sort of hope I had after the first three episodes that things would get better got quickly disproved and it just kept going downhill. A shame.
The Expanse (season 4): Much of this was table setting for Season 5 — which is happening — with frustrating storylines, characters acting out of character and a very one-dimensional villain. I hope they do better next year.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (season 3): Yet another show with a season that was all over the place. It had its good parts but a fair amount was less than stellar. And then they shit the bed in the final 15 minutes. I don’t have high hopes for the next season, but I’ll check it out.
The Magicians (season 4): It was an uneven season but I will never get past the season finale and what they did there. It feels off and it feels wrong and it still makes me angry.
Veronica Mars (season 4): Ugh, yikes. This season was already weak and then they made things a whole lot worse in the final episode. Shouldn’t have been surprised given that the movie was not great either.
If you’re still reading, thank you and I salute you; please leave a comment so I know there are people who appreciate 2380 words about stuff I watch. This was a good year for movies but an especially great one for television. We’ll see how 2020 will go.