Here we are, at the end of a year (and decade!) full of awesome movies. As we count down the final days of December, the Pop Insider team members took some time to choose their absolute favorite movies of 2019, from off-beat indies to mega-blockbusters. Take a look, and close out the year with these suggestions for an epic movie night!

captain marvel
Photo: Marvel Studios

Captain Marvel

Marissa DiBartolo:

This was a banner year for movies, with major sequels, spin-offs, and film series finales topping the box office week after week. And while I was reluctant to choose “just another superhero movie,” Captain Marvel was so much more than that. The perfect medley of refreshing heroes, feminism, and nostalgia, this Marvel flick had heart, humor, action, and fan service that perfectly melded into an out-of-this-world movie-watching experience. Brie Larson offered a stellar depiction of the modern female superhero, with more sass than smiles. The film came at a perfect time, reminding everyone that you can’t keep women down — no matter what color your blood is.

Maddie Michalik:

When she sets herself free, she will soar. This movie meant so much more to me than being just another Marvel film. It’s about how many people saw the movie for the first time and could relate (but maybe not to the part about fighting an elderly woman on the subway). It’s about how many young kids watched this movie and could look up to a hero who isn’t like the rest. It’s about Carol Danvers going against anything anyone has ever told her and becoming the strongest hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I look forward to so much more kick-ass girl power next year. 

WATCH IT NOW: Stream on Disney+ 

Read the Pop Insider’s full review here!

Photo: Focus Feature

Downton Abbey

Ali Mierzejewski:

This movie was the perfect example of “fan service.” It gave Downton Abbey fans exactly what we wanted. It was a full-cast reunion full of validating storylines for all of our favorite characters (#JusticeForThomas), sweeping and lavish camera shots of how the decadent upper class lived, and the perfect number of Dowager Countess quips. And it was just plain entertaining. I stand by my only complaint about this movie being “Not enough Matthew Goode.” Do I think that Downton Abbey was the BEST movie of 2019? I sure don’t. But it was my favorite to watch.

Sierra McCleary-Harris (Sort of.)

TBH, this is too hard, goodbye. JK, I will share my top three with you all so you can bask in the glory of my lameness: Won’t You Be My Neighbor, The Farewell, and Downton Abbey. It all comes down to three factors: my love for Mister Rogers, my appreciation for Awkwafina’s range (go, gurl!), and my ongoing thirst for Matthew Goode. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

WATCH IT NOW: Rent or buy on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes

Read the Pop Insider’s full review here!

toy story 4
Photo: Disney Pixar

Toy Story 4 

James Zahn

Following the conclusion of Toy Story 3, it felt like the story was over. Nearly a decade later, the toybox reopened as the Pixar team discovered a way to pull audiences back in by clarifying that Toy Story 3 was the end of Andy’s story, but not of the story of the toys themselves. Toy Story 4 felt like a fresh start for the franchise, honoring everything that came before it, including the feature films, shorts, and TV specials. The advances in technology are remarkable and, having had a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes at Pixar last spring, I have a lot of respect for the folks who created such a beautiful film that not only told a great story but also managed to include a lot of inspiration from real-life toy history. There’s only one film with a chance of bumping Toy Story 4, and that’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which I haven’t seen as of this writing — but Kenner Star Wars figures are canon in the Toy Story universe, thanks to Toy Story 4!

Madison Ciccarelli:

Toy Story is a series that is very near and dear to my heart. I grew up watching Buzz Lightyear and Woody change as I got older. In a way, I matured with them, and that’s why Toy Story 4 was so special to me. It was beautifully animated, heartfelt, and explored mature themes in a way that was raw and human. The movie was the perfect conclusion to years of iconic movies; it made me sad and I 100% cried in the theatre, but I don’t regret a second of it. Woody started making his own decisions as a grown toy like I had as a young adult. I left the movie feeling inspired, hopeful, and excited for my next big adventure. 

WATCH IT NOW: Rent or buy on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes

Photo: Universal Pictures

Joe Ibraham: Us

In my opinion, Jordan Peele’s second directorial project, Us, failed to one-up his first (Get Out). That said, it’s still an incredible and creative story. Us has a little bit of everything: stellar performances (Lupita Nyong’o was amazing), a compelling story with an even more complex meaning, a sprinkle of comedy, and a dash of horror. To be honest, I think my adoration for Us is more about Jordan Peele than it is everything else. Peele is a true cinephile, and as someone who appreciates all the small details, I can’t help but gravitate toward his work.

WATCH IT NOW: Stream on HBO |Buy on Amazon, iTunes

Read the Pop Insider’s full review here!

Avengers Endgame
Photo: Marvel Studios

Madeleine Buckley (that’s me!): Avengers: Endgame

I pretended to think a lot about my selection for this, but let’s be honest— I really couldn’t pick anything else to be my favorite movie of this year. I saw Endgame four times in theaters (please, don’t do that math) and cried my eyes out every. single. time. And while I can’t say that Endgame was the best movie I saw this year — that pick would probably go to Jojo Rabbit, Booksmart, or Knives Out — I have never been more excited about or emotionally invested in a movie, ever. This year marked the end for so many franchises and shows, and I would argue that Endgame was the most successful of them all. It delivered a complicated, surprising, incredibly emotional, and ultimately (in my opinion) satisfying ending for a group of heroes who ruled this decade. It had a storyline that newcomers could still generally follow but mixed in countless throwbacks and Easter eggs for the diehard fans. Sure, the time travel rules make less sense each time you watch it, and professor Hulk is slightly unsettling, but I can list countless moments that certainly compensate: *spoiler alert* the portals scene, Cap wielding Mjolnir, Black Widow’s sacrifice, Peter and Tony reuniting, Cap passing the shield to Sam, etc. I love this movie 3,000. 

WATCH IT NOW: Stream on Disney+ |Rent or buy on Amazon, iTunes

Read the Pop Insider’s full review here!

Photo: Annapurna Pictures

Miranda Siwak: Booksmart

I knew I’d found kindred spirits in the leading ladies of Booksmart (Golden Globe nominees Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) from the very first trailer. I could 100% relate to everything they spoke about — in both the trailer and the full film — from my own high school days. Director Olivia Wilde got the high school experience for us wallflowers and nerds just right in this LOL-worthy, coming-of-age flick. Besides, that opening scene is now my morning mantra every day when I wake up.

WATCH IT NOW: Stream on Hulu |Rent or buy on Amazon, iTunes

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Ben Goren: Ad Astra

Brad Pitt reminded us all of the reach of his craft this year by following up his wildly comedic performance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with this powerful, emotional run as a lone astronaut tasked with locating his long-lost father. Searching through the depths of space, clinical bureaucracy, and his own shielded masculinity, our finely aged hero *Brad* Astra beautifully shows the distances even the most hardened men would travel to make their fathers proud. It’s a story of male isolation, family honor, and discovering your emotional vulnerability, which might just make this movie required viewing for every 13-year-old boy.

WATCH IT NOW: Rent or buy on Amazon, iTunes

Photo: A24

Josephine Baran: The Lighthouse

If you have ever studied film or just appreciate good cinematography, The Lighthouse should be on the top of your list when it comes to visuals. Not to mention I’m a sucker for any movie that takes place in New England. The film was shot with black-and-white, 35 mm film, using a 1.19:1 aspect ratio to evoke 19th-century photography (take that, widescreen), and the low aperture makes for a depth of field that is honestly filmmaking goals. All of this mise en scene pairs so well with the creepy and sometimes horrifying screenplay itself, thanks to director, writer, and producer Robert Eggers, who also brought us The Witch (2015). You’ve seen Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson (hey, Cedric) in plenty of roles now, but they both bring their acting game to an entirely new level in this film.

WATCH IT NOW: Buy on Amazon, iTunes

Photo: Lionsgate

Nicole Savas: Knives Out

I have yet to meet someone who has something bad to say about Knives Out. Chris Evans has always been too perfect to constantly be cast in roles in which he plays the good guy, so seeing him as a total jerk (who wears a LOT of sweaters) is honestly refreshing. The film offers twists at every turn and remains lighthearted and hilarious, despite being a murder mystery.

WATCH IT NOW: Catch it in theaters!

star wars
Photo: Lucasfilm

Elena Sorce: The Rise of Skywalker

I journeyed to a theater not so far, far away for one of the first showings of TROS with a mix of excitement and anxiety. To say I’m a big Star Wars fangirl is an understatement, so this screening was more than just a night out at the movies. This was it; this was when our questions would be answered. This was when we’d see what happens to our beloved heroes. This was the end of a 42-year saga! There’s no denying that the fandom has been split, with many mixed feelings about the new sequels. This is what fed my underlying anxiety about the movie: Would I walk out disappointed? 

I’m happy to say that I was blown away by what J.J. Abrams accomplished. TROS is a love letter to the fans, both young and old, with amazing homages and resolutions for all of the characters. The movie takes you on the ride of your life, with moments that’ll make you laugh, gasp, punch your friends’ arms, and cry. This movie isn’t perfect, but with the pressure to wrap up a story that has been going for more than decades, this is the most amazing movie we could’ve hoped for.

WATCH IT NOW: Catch it in theaters! 

Read the Pop Insider’s full review here!

Photo: Fox Searchlight

Branden Mendez: Jojo Rabbit

It would have been too easy for me to choose a movie like Endgame, Toy Story 4, or Rise of Skywalker. So, I decided to remove all sequels, reboots, and reimaginings from consideration. Often, the bias of nostalgia can cloud our judgment on these billion-dollar franchises. Jojo Rabbit, a satirical tragicomedy about a member of Germany’s Hitler Youth in the waning days of World War II, is heavy on the sentiment but keeps the underlying subject matter light in a way that only Taika Waititi could. At its core, it’s a movie about a 10-year-old boy learning to love and grow beyond his prejudices, which this world definitely needs more of.

WATCH IT NOW: Catch it in theaters!

About the author

Madeleine Buckley

Madeleine Buckley

Madeleine Buckley was a Senior Editor at The Pop Insider, The Toy Insider, and The Toy Book. She covered all things toys and fandom, and has appeared on Cheddar and a variety of regional news networks to talk about the latest trends in both. She is a movie score enthusiast, mediocre knitter, proud Syracuse alumna, and Marvel lover. You can usually find her at the movies or hanging out at home with her super-pup, Parker.