19 movies we enjoyed watching in 2019

Cape Town – It's been quite a year at the box office – from saying goodbye to the Avengers, to the controversial Joker, to almost losing Spider-Man.

There have also been some surprise hits like Fighting with my Family and some significant flops, Gemini Man we're looking at you.

We enlisted our reviewers to choose their top three movies of the year.

The list is made up of movies released in South African cinemas in 2019 that our film critics watched. The selection is based purely on personal choice and is not influenced by awards received or box office numbers achieved. These are just the movies that we loved to watch. 


Ilan Preskovsky

Avengers: Endgame

It may not be cinema according to certain legendary directors, but Avengers: Endgame is a real achievement, no matter what you want to call it. The culmination of twenty other films, the most audacious and ambitious entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is every bit as effortlessly entertaining, masterfully put together and emotionally satisfying as no one had any real right to expect.

Knives Out

Rian Johnson's surprisingly divisive follow-up to the monumentally divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Knives Out is an ingenious update of the old fashioned Agatha-Christie-style whodunit that has a surprisingly large heart at its core. Funnier than most comedies released this year with a stellar cast and the sort of beautifully constructed mystery that would do Ms Christie proud, Knives Out is easily one of the best and most thoroughly decent films of the year.

Eighth Grade

An incredibly uncomfortable but endlessly rewarding coming of age film, Bo Burnham's searingly accurate take on life as a socially anxious teenager is almost too real for comfort, but between a star-making turn by Elsie Fisher, plenty of unabashed humanity, and a razor-sharp script that brings the laughs even as you're shrinking in your seat, Eighth Grade beats even the similarly excellent Booksmart to the post as this year's answer to Lady Bird, Edge of Seventeen, and The Way, Way Back.

Elsie Fisher is a scene from the movie Eighth Grad

Gabi Zietsman

How To Train Your Dragon 3

Starting off as a story about a boy and his dragon, the How To Train Your Dragon franchise concluded on a beautiful note, making you both laugh and cry. Hiccup and Toothless will forever be a legendary duo, brought to life by an amazing team at Dreamworks, and their parting left an indelible print on my heart. Probably my favourite movie of the year, this is the movie series I will ensure my future children will watch one day.

Avengers: Endgame

Another epic conclusion to the biggest movie franchise in the world, Endgame was the culmination of more than a decade of meticulous planning, sheer will and passion. Just the fact they pulled off such an amazing conclusion to such a long-running saga - that's set to still continue in a different phase - is a miracle in itself. The franchise changed cinema forever, and whether you love it or hate it, you can't deny the cultural and societal impact this franchise has had on the world.

Alita: Battle Angel

While it might not have had the general mega-success of the other two, I just fell in love with Alita on a personal level. Time was taken to build an incredible world of cybernetic machines and sci-fi mystery, and for a change, a young teenage heroine destined to save the world was actually allowed to be a teenager. The raw power and beauty of Robert Rodriguez's vision for this anime was a cinematic marvel, and it still pisses me off that while it didn't bomb, it didn't soar like it should have at the box office.

Alita, voiced by Rosa Salazar, in a scene from Ali

Herman Eloff

The Sisters Brothers

A typical Western cliché of cowboys and crooks gets skillfully transformed into a poignant tale of brotherhood and comradery. The fast-paced chase scenes make way for lingering scenery shots and macho one-liners transfigure into elevated conversations with real depth and honesty. Underneath it all beats a dark sense of humour that ups the tempo just when the story needs it most. French director Jacques Audiard brings something completely different to the American Western genre - proving that perhaps as an outsider he offers a fresh perspective on a narrative that can so easily become stale. Exceptional acting by an outstanding cast is what clinches the deal and ultimately transforms this film into an absolute cinematic delight.

The Harvesters

From a standing ovation at the 71st annual Cannes Films Festival to winning the award for best cinematography at the eighth annual kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival – The Harvesters (Die Stropers) is a South African cinematic masterpiece. Scarce dialogue and silence are stretched out through long moody scenes that are beautifully composed to capture intimate moments. In some scenes, the soft and melancholic cinematography by Michal Englert is left to complete the narrative not explored by the characters themselves.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Set in the City of Angels in 1969, the film plays off in a Hollywood very few would recognise - a kind of stripped-bare version of the playground of the rich and famous. An almost voyeuristic peek at the real world of filmmaking - behind the glitz and glam. This wilted version of Tinseltown, that tries its best to shine bright, makes for a wonderfully melancholic backdrop to a film that will surely go down as one of Mr. Tarantino's very best. True to his style, he manages to make the ordinary feel extraordinary and turns the grotesque into gawk-worthy entertainment.

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Once Upon a Ti

Alex Isaacs


Matwetwe was my local movie of the year. The film encapsulated South Africa in a way that I haven't seen before. It used humour to highlight a wide range of issues and gave us an incredible performance by Sibusiso Khwinana, who was brutally killed just as the country got word of his effortless talent in this film. If this is where South African cinema is headed, we're on the right path.


Booksmart was one of the laugh-out-loud funny and intelligent movies of the year. Directed by the force of nature that is Olivia Wilde, it served as a nuanced look at the female adolescent experience that I wish was around when I was a young queer person. I wish it had gotten more hype by the machine that is Hollywood so that it could have made a bigger splash, but hey, at least it exists and might open the door for more cinema like it.


With Parasite Bong Joon-ho is at his full powers in this film that unpacks class, climate change and everything between. It's incredible in every way and flawless. It also gave me the introduction to Korean cinema that I didn't know that I needed. That mix of comedy, horror and mystery runs throughout the best films from the country, and I am now in love.

Woo-sik Choi and So-dam Park in 'Parasite'.

Leandra Engelbrecht


Jordan Peele's follow up to Get Out is a beast of a different nature. This film haunted me on another level which made me examine some of the internal fears I wrestle with. It had the perfect balance of the "traditional horror" (violence, gore, scares) and intelligent, well thought out themes that had me mulling about them long after the credits rolled. Lupita Nyong'o's show-stealing performance was the driving force behind the film and genuinely marvellous to watch.


Nothing is more delicious to watch that a bunch of women take down powerful men, it's even better when it is true-life. Hustlers was a big surprise for me not only did Jennifer Lopez give a performance of a lifetime the behind the scenes story of how this movie came to be is also important. In a time when not a single female director was nominated at the Golden Globes, this is an essential piece of work. The film was shot in just 29 days with a mostly female crew and cast, the big studios just didn't get it until one believed in the project. JLo is no doubt the star; however, Constance Wu deserves mention, her performance as Ilan said in his review, "is both fiery and beautifully controlled".

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw

I never thought that I would ever have a Fast & Furious film on my favourite movie list, but, hey, here we are. The spin-off breathed new life into the tired franchise (sorry, not sorry). What makes this movie so great is the charms, charisma and chemistry of the two leads Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. I enjoyed every piece of snappy dialogue, action scene and thrilling car stunt." And the cast was easy on the eye. As Gabi said in her review: "It has three core elements that create a surprisingly great movie - a sincerely witty banter written by snarky geniuses, action sequences that will leave you breathless and a duo that should never have worked on paper but somehow will become your favourite buddy-cop team-up."

Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson in a scene from '


Ford v Ferrari

Starring Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and a gaunt-looking Christian Bale as the legendary Ken Miles, this sporting drama starts like any other good race - filled with promises, it hits obstacles in the middle, and by the end hangs the giant question mark on whether or not the team you are rooting for can actually make it. The film is beautifully directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line/Logan) who rather unceremoniously tells a beautiful part of racing history in the most unpretentious way at all possible. With its thrills, conflict, and drama any moviegoer will be satisfied, leaving the cinemas having watched a remarkable film, but the true fans will walk away with more. They'll understand the sacrifices, the danger, the desire-driven by an inexplicable inner-force, and the consequences.

Christian Bale in 'Ford v Ferrari.'

The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos' eccentric masterpiece, almost didn't make this list because for most of the world it was released in 2018, but it was in South African cinemas in February 2019. So, with that little bit of technicality out of the way, I want to state once again that Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are so incredible in this movie that I wanted to watch it on a loop. Forget the hype and the awards and the critical acclaim. It's gripping because it's a film about power, love and everything in between, not just a royal love triangle. It's a feast for the eyes and something to digest for a while afterwards. It's one of my favourite movies, ever made. 

the favourite

Compiled by Leandra Engelbrecht

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