Every Movie I Watched for the First Time in 2019: An Analysis

2019 Analysis

Near the beginning of 2019, I watched Life Itself, the 2014 documentary about the life and work of famous film critic Roger Ebert. Consider this quote from Ebert:

“We are all born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We are kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people, find out what makes them tick, what they care about. For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that, to me, is the most noble thing that good movies can do and it’s a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them.”

These days, cynicism, dissatisfaction, and tribalism are commonplace. In regard to film discourse, these trends are fueled by Twitter, Cinema Sins, and bitter critics. If your only source of film analysis is the internet, it is easy to believe that most movies are studio-driven, kitsch-filled, cumbersome pieces of politically troublesome garbage.

But that isn’t true. Yes, some movies are driven more by commerce than art. Yes, some movies are hackneyed messes. Yes, all movies require thoughtful social critiques in regard to representation and message. And, yes, many movies fall short in light of those critiques.

At the end of the day, however, movies are stories, and stories can change lives. Stories can unite. Stories can unearth secrets. Stories can reinvigorate individuals. Stories can reignite hope. And, as Roger Ebert explains, stories can nurture empathy.

So, yes, let us continue to thoughtfully analyze our media consumption. But I suggest that we do so with the active understanding that we are trying to make our stories better. Brilliant, life-affirming stories should be the goal.

To compare the information below with my analysis of my 2018 movie-watching experiences, click here. (And click here for 2016’s list.)

Raw Data

Of the movies I watched in 2019

16% of them are animated films (up 3% from last year)
17% of them are foreign films (exactly the same as last year)
12% of them are documentaries (up 6% from last year)
40% of them are sci-fi, fantasy, or apocalyptic movies (down 5% from last year) 
48% of them feature female protagonists (up 8% from last year)
47% of them were released in 2019


More Female Protagonists: In 2018, 40% of the movies I watched featured female protagonists. In 2019, that percentage rose to 48%, which is a positive trend. In fact, of all measured trends, that category rose the most from 2018 to 2019. A portion of that jump is likely due to my intentional movie selection process. However, given that 47% of the movies I watched this year were released in 2019 (compared to only 33% of my 2018 viewings being 2018 releases), it seems as though female protagonists may be on the rise in Hollywood and beyond. According to a study released by the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, as written by Umberto Gonzalez of The Wrap, “The percentage of films featuring female protagonists rose from 31% in 2018 to 40% in 2019, reaching a recent historic high. 43% of films featured male protagonists, and 17% had ensembles. The study defines protagonists as characters from whose perspective the story is told.” The study, as noted by the Hollywood Reporter, “looked at 2,300 characters in the 100 top-grossing domestic films of 2019.” This trend is exciting, and I hope it continues. Either way, I will continue to seek out films that feature female protagonists.

Stagnated Foreign Film Exposure: For the past two years (2018 and 2019), only 17% of the films I watched were foreign films. Though that percentage is likely lower for many other Americans, I believe that I can do more as a moviegoer to broaden my cinematic horizons. Steaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime make it exceedingly easy to access foreign movies, and I will use them to increase my percentage of foreign film in 2020. I encourage everyone to do the same.

Of the foreign films I did manage to watch in 2019, I particularly enjoyed Haider (2014) and The Lure (2015).

Double Documentaries: Last year, I vowed to watch more documentaries. From my analysis last year: “I need to watch more documentaries. I tend to favor fiction because I value nuanced characterization, and my habit has been to search for that in fictional stories. But I need to remind myself that real people are profound characters too. I need to play the monologue from Brian Cox’s version of Robert McKee in Spike Jonez’s Adaptation. over and over again in my mind.” In 2019, I made progress. Only 6% of the movies I watched in 2018 were documentaries, but 12% of my 2019 viewings were documentaries. 12% is not a great amount of films, but it is certainly an improvement from 2018.

Some of my favorite documentaries on my 2019 list: Life Itself (2014), Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017), Playing Hard (2018), Nureyev: Lifting the Curtain (2018), Fyre (2019), Picture Character (2019), Cooked: Survival by Zip Code (2019), Planet of the Humans (2019), and Gay Chorus Deep South (2019).

Other Observations and Subjective Awards

2018 movies I saw in 2019 that might have made my “Top Movies of 2018” list if I had seen them in 2018: Sorry to Bother You and Nureyev: Lifting the Curtain 

Movies I FINALLY watched after years of neglect: Taxi Driver (1976), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Life of Pi (2012)

Hidden gems (meaning impressive, non-blockbuster, semi-obscure movies that I stumbled upon somehow): Playing Hard (2018), Extra Ordinary (2019), Cooked: Survival by Zip Code (2019), Circus of Books (2019)

Film maudit (films “unfairly maligned” by critics): Gemini Man (2019)

Movies that delivered exactly what I expected—no more, no less—and a note about whether or not that fact has positive or negative connotations: Aquaman (positive), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (negative), The Kid Who Would Be King (positive), Aladdin (negative), The Trip to Spain (positive)

Top ten movies of 2019: click here


Lovers Beyond Time (1990) dir. Dimitris Panayiotatos
Toward Mathilde (2005) dir. Claire Denis
Aquaman (2018) dir. James Wan
The Lure (2015) dir. Agnieszka Smoczynska
The Pixar Story (2007) dir. Leslie Iwerks
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) dir. Rob Cohen
The Eichmann Show (2015) dir. Paul Andrew Williams
Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! (2017) dir. Kunihiko Yuyama
Burnt (2015) dir. John Wells
Fyre (2019) dir. Chris Smith
Prodigy (2017) dir. Alex Haughey, Brian Vidal
Sorry to Bother You (2018) dir. Boots Riley
Fyre Fraud (2019) dir. Jenner Furst, Julia Willoughby Nason
Life Itself (2014) dir. Steve James
Polar (2019) dir. Jonas Åkerlund
Glass (2019) dir. M. Night Shyamalan
The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018) dir. Fede Alvarez
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) dir. Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
Alita: Battle Angel (2019) dir. Robert Rodriguez
The Favourite (2018) dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
Mortal Engines (2018) dir. Christian Rivers
The Trip to Spain (2017) dir. Michael Winterbottom
Captain Marvel (2019) dir. Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
The Three Musketeers (2011) dir. Paul W.S. Anderson
Baywatch (2017) dir. Seth Gordon
Epic (2013) dir. Chris Wedge
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) dir. Mike Mitchell
Laggies (2014) dir. Lynn Shelton
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) dir. David Yates
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018) dir. Genndy Tartakovsky
Shazam! (2019) dir. David F. Sandberg
Playing Hard (2018) dir. Jean-Simon Chartier
Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017) dir. Randall Lobb, Robert McCallum
Halo Legends (2010) dir. many
Avengers: Endgame (2019) dir. Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Vice (2018) dir. Adam McKay
Guava Island (2019) dir. Hiro Murai
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016) dir. Jake Szymanski
Taxi Driver (1976) dir. Martin Scorsese
Welcome to Marwen (2018) dir. Robert Zemeckis
Analyze This (1999) dir. Harold Ramis
My Blind Brother (2016) dir. Sophie Goodhart
Paddleton (2019) dir. Alex Lehmann
A Star Is Born (2018) dir. Bradley Cooper
Miss Stevens (2016) dir. Julia Hart
Justice League vs the Fatal Five (2019) dir. Sam Liu
Mary Poppins Returns (2018) dir. Rob Marshall
The Death of Superman (2018) dir. Jake Castorena, Sam Liu
Reign of the Supermen (2019) dir. Sam Liu
Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019) dir. Rob Letterman
Life of Pi (2012) dir. Ang Lee
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) dir. Dean DeBlois
Results (2015) dir. Andrew Bujalski
Game of Thrones: The Last Watch (2019) dir. Jeanie Finlay
Duck Butter (2018) dir. Miguel Arteta
Wine Country (2019) dir. Amy Poehler
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) dir. Marielle Heller
Booksmart (2019) dir. Olivia Wilde
Men in Black: International (2019) dir. F. Gary Gray
The Kid Who Would Be King (2019) dir. Joe Cornish
Mascots (2016) dir. Christopher Guest
The Disaster Artist (2017) dir. James Franco
People You May Know (2017) dir. Sherwin Shilati
Toy Story 4 (2019) dir. Josh Cooley
The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018) dir. Susanna Fogel
The Commuter (2018) dir. Jaume Collet-Serra
The Dark Tower (2017) dir. Nikolaj Arcel
Hampstead (2017) dir. Joel Hopkins
Nureyev: Lifting the Curtain (2018) dir. Jacqui Morris, David Morris
Cooked: Survival by Zip Code (2019) dir. Judith Helfand
Batman vs. Robin (2015) dir. Jay Oliva
Constantine: City of Demons (2018) dir. Doug Murphy
The Lion King (2019) dir. Jon Favreau
Triple Frontier (2019) dir. J.C. Chandor
A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018) dir. David Wain
Picture Character (2019) dir. Ian Cheney, Martha Shane
Extra Ordinary (2019) dir. Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman
Gay Chorus Deep South (2019) dir. David Charles Rodrigues
Circus of Books (2019) dir. Rachel Mason
Them That Follow (2019) dir. Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage
Planet of the Humans (2019) dir. Jeff Gibbs
Long Shot (2019) dir. Jonathan Levine
Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019) dir. Jon Watts
Hellboy (2019) dir. Neil Marshall
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) dir. Michael Dougherty
The Congress (2013) dir. Ari Folman
Aladdin (2019) dir. Guy Ritchie
Speech & Debate (2017) dir. Dan Harris
Enemy (2013) dir. Denis Villeneuve
Batman: Hush (2019) dir. Justin Copeland
Good Boys (2019) dir. Gene Stupnitsky
Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) dir. Scott Aukerman
Ad Astra (2019) dir. James Gray
Joker (2019) dir. Todd Phillips
Outside In (2017) dir. Lynn Shelton
Locke (2013) dir. Steven Knight
Sound & Fury (2019) dir. many
Gemini Man (2019) dir. Ang Lee
Little Monsters (2019) dir. Abe Forsythe
The King (2019) dir. David Michôd
The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) dir. Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) dir. David Leitch
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) dir. Steven Spielberg
The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019) dir. Thurop Van Orman, John Rice
Frozen II (2019) dir. Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) dir. Chris Renaud, Jonathan del Val
Rise of the Superheroes (2018) dir. Tom O’Dell
The Iron Lady (2011) dir. Phyllida Lloyd
Instant Family (2018) dir. Sean Anders
Knives Out (2019) dir. Rian Johnson
The Report (2019) dir. Scott Z. Burns
Where’d You Go, Bernadette (2019) dir. Richard Linklater
The Irishman (2019) dir. Martin Scorsese
Sing (2016) dir. Garth Jennings, Christophe Lourdelet
Marriage Story (2019) dir. Noah Baumbach
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019) dir. J.J. Abrams
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019) dir. Quentin Tarantino
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018) dir. Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier
The Aeronauts (2019) dir. Tom Harper
Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019) dir. Paul Downs Colaizzo
Bombshell (2019) dir. Jay Roach
Bumblebee (2018) dir. Travis Knight
The Clapper (2017) dir. Dito Montiel
Hail, Caesar (2016) dir. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Haider (2014) dir. Vishal Bhardwaj
The Danish Girl (2015) dir. Tom Hooper
High Life (2018) dir. Claire Denis

Ben Boruff is a co-founder of Big B and Mo’ Money, and he has reviewed comics for ComicBastards.com and ImpulseGamer.com. Read more at BenBoruff.com.

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