2019 Year in Review

Illustration by Joseph Qiu.
Illustration by Joseph Qiu.

축하해요 to Bong Joon-ho and the Parasite crew on taking the highest-rated spot in our 2019 Year in Review. Congrats also to Anthony and Joe Russo and the Marvel team on Avengers: Endgame finishing the year as the Most Popular film.

I find it beautiful that people would express their feelings and put their heart and their mind into cinema” —⁠Céline Sciamma on Letterboxd reactions to Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

The Letterboxd Year in Review is presented by NEON.

The 2019 Letterboxd Year in Review is out, and, as voted by you, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women are the three highest rated films of the year, while the Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Endgame is the year’s most popular film. Feel free to dive in, then come back here for some insights and behind-the-scenes tid-bits:

The 2019 Letterboxd Year in Review

Pro tip: on devices with keyboards, we recommend navigating via the up/down arrow keys for the most satisfying experience.

Right out of the gate, we could tell Parasite and Portrait of a Lady on Fire were going to have an impact this year—we picked them in our top 10 Cannes premieres of 2019, but we couldn’t have predicted that Parasite would topple The Godfather’s long-standing position as the highest-rated film on Letterboxd. An epic achievement. As director Bong told us at TIFF when we revealed he was on track to have the highest rated film: “I’m so happy with that. All the cinephiles, the film geeks. Me, also the cinephile, so I’m very happy with that news. Thank you!”

Céline Sciamma was also touched by the attention that Letterboxd members have paid to Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which had a limited US release in December and gets a wider run in February. “I’m paying a lot of attention about what’s going on around the film, what is being said,” she told us. “I’m really looking at things, so I’ve seen a lot of Letterboxd” —⁠she sees you!—“and the fact that people who were touched by the film would take the time to write about it, I think it’s something really beautiful because, especially with this film, which is about how love is an education to art—because art consoles from love or makes us greater lovers—I find it beautiful that people would express their feelings and put their heart and their mind into cinema.”

Getting to the heart of why we created Letterboxd, Sciamma concluded: “That’s the beauty of this digital era. As a young cinephile there was no internet, and I remember writing, just only for myself in little diaries about film. And so I found it really, really important.”

The two highest-rated films of the year are both distributed in the US by NEON, who we are proud to have on board as an official presenting partner for the 2019 Year in Review. NEON’s manager of acquisitions, Mason Speta, says: “The Letterboxd community is home to the most committed and passionate cinephiles, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be recognized by the people who love movies as much as we do.”

In that same Cannes piece, we highlighted just one documentary, For Sama. The heartbreaking first-hand account of life as a young mother in Aleppo has gone on to become our Highest Rated Documentary of 2019. “It really means a lot to us,” director Waad al-Kateab told us. Her co-director Edward Watts added: “To know that it’s reaching so many people is such good news. The dream was always that the film would reach so many people and they would come in contact with this incredible story, so it’s fantastic to hear that people have seen it, and that they like it!”

The Lighthouse also appeared on our Cannes list; it finishes the year as our Highest Rated Horror (read our Q&A with writer-director Robert Eggers here). Quentin Tarantino is 2019’s Most Watched Director, after thousands of you revisited his back catalog in anticipation of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

A global scan of the 50 Highest-Rated Narrative Features favors the US, with 20 films on the list, but the remaining films come from far and wide: Korea, France, China, Brazil, India, Japan, Spain, Germany, Colombia (twice), Turkey, Sweden, Romania, Italy, Mexico, Austria, Iceland, and a couple set in the Arctic Circle and outer space.

We’re very pleased to see, in the highest-rated category, that two of the top three directors are women—Céline Sciamma and Greta Gerwig. The only other time a woman has featured in the top three in our history of Years in Review was in 2017, when Gerwig’s Lady Bird took the second spot. Overall, ten women directors feature on the top 50 narrative films list, down one from 2018’s record of eleven. On the other hand, ten women directors feature among the twenty highest-rated documentaries, with Waad al-Kateab and Beyoncé Knowles in the first and second spots. These are the ten highest rated films by women directors in 2019, and here are the ten most popular.

Best of the decade

Also included in this year’s review is an extensive selection of 2010s best-of-decade lists, covering narrative, non-fiction, directors, directorial debuts, action/adventure, animation, sci-fi, comedy, comic/manga adaptations, horror, romance, war, mini-series, comedy specials and underrated films of the decade.

There’s so much to explore, so that’s it for now, but the goods keep coming! Look out for interviews with the directors of For Sama and Portrait of a Lady on Fire in the next few weeks. We’d love to hear your observations in the list comments, and to know what you’re anticipating most in 2020.

A few important thank yous: to NEON for partnering with us, to Joseph Qiu for 2019’s beautiful illustration, to Jack Moulton for data deep-dives and list-keeping, and to all the filmmakers for continuing to inspire us. And to all of you: thanks for another excellent year. As Céline says, art makes us greater lovers!

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