Welcome to Horror News Network’s Best Horror Movies of 2019, a series where our staff writers declare their top three picks of the year and use the data to compile an ultimate top ten list of 2019. Be on the lookout for a new “Top 3” list from an HNN writer every day in early January, and and stay tuned for our ultimate list at the end of the series!
John’s Top 3 Picks of 2019
#1: The Lighthouse
Not only do I find The Lighthouse to be the best horror movie of the year, I place it just behind Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood as the second best movie of 2019. Featuring powerhouse performances by Willem Dafoe (who deserves a Best Actor nomination for this performance) and Robert Pattinson and expertly directed by Robert Eggers, The Lighthouse is classic cinema at its best. Yes, an actual sequel to The Shining came out this year… but The Lighthouse is the true spiritual successor to Kubrick’s cabin fever masterpiece to debut in 2019. Repeat viewings of this film open up its brilliant sound design and allow the viewer to catch every visual detail, absorb every nuance, and chortle at every absurdity. It simply doesn’t get better than this!
Anybody can make a film scary when it’s set in the pitch darkness and deep shadows of the dead of night, but shooting a horror epic set almost entirely in the seemingly unnatural (to Westerners) never-ending daylight of a Swedish summer solstice is a challenge of a higher level! Writer/director Ari Aster proves with Midsommar that his mind-blowing work on Hereditary wasn’t just beginner’s luck, and Florence Pugh delivers a leading performance worthy of the May Queen’s crown. From it’s beautifully unsettling set design to its intricate costuming and fascinating sense of tradition, Midsommar is truly a cinematic sight to behold!
For the record, I struggled with selecting my third favorite horror movie of 2019. The Lighthouse and Midsommar stood head and shoulders above all of their contemporaries this year, and they so clearly represented exemplary horror filmmaking that all of the contenders for my personal number three spot were distant thirds at best. I whittled my list down to a couple of engaging and well-made, but flawed, horror films including Crawl, Ready or Not, and Us, before finally deciding on…
When writer/director duo Dan Berk’s and Robert Olsen’s Villains is at its best, the film is a cleverly composed and visually engaging study on what might happen when bad people decide to invade the home of even badder people. Bill Skarsgård, Maika Monroe, Jeffrey Donovan, and Kyra Sedgwick are an ensemble cast for the ages, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off of Skarsgård’s and Monroe’s delightfully toxic Bonnie and Clyde-like relationship. Yet, somehow Donovan and Sedgwick manage to out-crazy the two them over the course of this bizarre film! Villains isn’t as consistently perfect as the first two films on this list, but it’s a well-written, entertaining, and original movie that makes Berk and Olsen a horror filmmaking team worth following in 2020.