For film critics and serious movie fans, we’ve reached the part of the year where things start to get a little crazy: awards season. Before studios start releasing their Oscar contenders, I always like to take a look back and determine what my favorite films of the year have been to date. Few of these will be up for any major awards, but I loved all of them, and that was the only criteria for this list. Take that, Academy!

Avengers: Endgame – I complain a lot about how I could do with fewer superhero movies, but there’s no denying that Endgame was an incredible culmination of effort that fully deserves critical praise (especially Downey Jr’s performance), technical achievement awards and its top-grossing movie of the year position. What I care about most when I watch a movie is if it made me feel something. Mission accomplished here.

The Farewell – Speaking of feeling all the feelings, this indie from writer-director Lulu Wang will have you laughing out loud one moment and holding back tears the next. It stars Awkwafina as Billi, a young Chinese woman living in New York who returns to China after her family learns their matriarch Nai Nai (Billi’s grandmother) is dying of cancer. However, no one has actually told Nai Nai this news. Instead, they all go home for a fake wedding in order to spend quality time together with Nai Nai before it’s too late. This all actually happened in Wang’s family, too! It’s a film that’s moving and uplifting (I promise!), and I find myself thinking about often. 

Toy Story 4 – The final (?) installment in the Toy Story franchise hits the Box next month, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend checking it out. I actually think it’s more for adults than for kids, what with Woody’s (and Forky’s!) existential crises and all. I loved thinking and debating what it all meant afterward, and drew lots of parallels between Woody’s conflicted feelings about his purpose in life and parenting overall. (But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of laughs and action to keep the kids entertained, of course! This IS a Disney movie, after all.)

How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World – We took my son and a bunch of his friends to see this for his birthday this year, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart. My son was downright obsessed with everything Dragon-related for months. Thankfully, this third and final installment of the trilogy was amazingly well done — beautiful to watch with a touching story to boot.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – This sequel earned a spot on my list because I remind my son and daughter of its main lesson on a weekly basis. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it yet, but let’s just say that any parent of two or more kids is going to relate. On top of that, it continued the original’s tradition of hilarious one-liners, pop-culture references and excellent songs that are gonna get stuck inside yo’ head.

Booksmart – This is the only movie on my list that I’m confident will REMAIN on my favorite movies of 2019 list after awards season is over. It’s currently my #1 movie of the year — I adored every single second of it. (And it’s now at the Box, so you should check it out!) It’s about two overachieving high school seniors (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein) who realize on their last day of school that classmates who put in minimal effort and partied all year long still got into top colleges and have bright futures. So the two friends decide to cram all the fun they missed into one wild night.

Yesterday – As a Beatles fan, I was confident I was going to like this movie based on its concept alone, and I was correct. It imagines a world in which The Beatles never existed … except that struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) somehow does remember the band — and all their songs. What happens when he attempts to pass off their hits as his own? Needless to say, this movie has already won Best Soundtrack in my mind. It also features a scene with Ed Sheeran that is so funny that my husband and I still laugh about it months after seeing this movie at the Chicago Critics Film Festival this spring. Since it’s now at the Box, I think we’re going to have to watch it again soon!

What are your favorite movies of the year so far?

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