From epic superhero battles and space age reflections to nods to historic eras, it has been a diverse year at the cinema. Here are David Morgan’s top 10 films of the year


Director: James Gray

AS much as it is a thrilling science fiction story, Ad Astra is a meditation on the bond between a parent and child. Little was given away about James Gray’s film in the trailer and that made it all the more powerful and surprising when at its heart it explored ‘earthbound’ matters like human nature and family.

Brad Pitt plays astronaut Roy McBride who is called upon to try and make contact with his missing father who was long presumed dead.

The backstory is that decorated astronaut Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) led a doomed expedition to try and find intelligent life in the universe and has not been heard from in decades.

But as Earth is hit with a series of electrical surges emanating from outer space, the top brass are troubled to find the source can be traced to Clifford’s station at Neptune. Pitt is exceptional as Roy on an epic, visually spectacular and haunting journey to find his long absent father. Who would have thought that a story set in deep space would be one of the most intimate films of the year?


Director: Josh Cooley

THE original Toy Story made history in 1995 with its groundbreaking 3D-style animation which firmly put Pixar on the map.

Almost 25 years later, many of us have grown up with Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Rex so it has been fantastic – and heart-wrenching – to see that reflected in the third film and now in this poignant finale.

Woody, Buzz and the gang are now the property of a little girl called Bonnie as their original owner Andy has grown up and left for college.

The toys help Bonnie adjust to kindergarten orientation but Woody is out of sorts as he is no longer the ‘sheriff’ of toy town.

That is until he discovers a new purpose helping ‘Forky’, a toy made from discarded arts and crafts supplies, and reunites with an old flame.

World leading animation with immaculate detail blends perfectly with a script full of real warmth and humour.

The cast may be plastic and wooden but Toy Story 4’s message about finding your place as things change is very human. A worthy send off to ‘old friends’.


Directors: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

THE follow-up to the highest-grossing animated film of all time? No pressure then for Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.

But while everyone was fixated on the soundtrack (the key feature of the original), the duo went about giving young fans – and grown-ups alike – everything they could possibly want from a sequel.

It is bigger in scope, it has that magical quality which ties in with spectacular visuals relating to water and the other classical elements – air, earth and fire – and more is at stake.

An ethereal voice from the enchanted forest beckons Elsa and Anna to discover the secret of a lost tribe behind a hidden pathway shrouded in mist.

The sisters must unlock dark family secrets of the past and right a terrible wrong in a much more nourished plot than the original which also has a real adventure film feel.

Frozen’s characters feel more fleshed out too with all kinds of family bonds explored and relatable themes covered in style like the passage of time and facing your fears


Director: Ari Aster

IF you are a fan of quality horror films – where jump scares are ditched in favour of unbearable tension and dread – then Ari Aster should be at the top of your list.

This year the New York director followed up his terrifying debut, Hereditary, with Midsommar which brought all those long dormant nightmares from The Wicker Man.

Described as a spiritual successor to the 1973 Christopher Lee film, Midsommar is about a grieving student who attends a mid-summer festival at a commune in rural Sweden with her boyfriend to take a profound family tragedy off her mind.

But what at first glance looks like a series of charming and quaint ceremonies turns out to be anything but with disturbing rituals around life cycles and mating just being the tip of the iceberg.

Aster’s masterful filmmaking style takes you on an uneasy journey from surreal and quietly unsettling before ratcheting up the fear factor to pure dread.

Aster takes the themes of family, belonging, loss and grief and twists them into something dark and powerful which will stay with you for a long time.


Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

FOR comic book fans, Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame was more than a film, it was like an apocalyptic event.

After 11 years and 22 connected movies, it all came to this – the conclusion of a galactic battle between ‘Earth’s mightiest heroes’ and ruthless overlord Thanos.

The second in a two-part story (after 2018’s Infinity War), Thanos has wiped out half of all life in his twisted vision to save the galaxy.

What remains of the Avengers and their allies lead a desperate mission to reverse the devastating event in what is one part time travel heist and one part final showdown with a staggering special effects budget to match.

It is not all blockbuster action mayhem either, Endgame has real emotional impact and chemistry between the cast, led by Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans, has never been stronger because some of the actors have been appearing in these films together for more than a decade.

The outcome of this story will also create ripples in many of the Marvel stories to come and it has cemented Thanos’s new place as one of the most iconic villains alongside the likes of Darth Vader and Joker.


Director: Quentin Tarantino

QUENTIN Tarantino’s ninth film is not so much a conventional story but a love letter to Hollywood’s Golden Age – and the attention to detail and the passion that has gone into it is staggering.

Anyone who has stars in their eyes when it comes to movie history will love this.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, a fading TV actor who is trying to reinvent himself in the film industry alongside his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).

This plot thread is used as a jumping off point for a number of nods and cutaway scenes which pay homage to the real – albeit exaggerated – stars and studios of the late 60s Los Angeles.

Once Upon A Hollywood is also set amid the real life backdrop of the Manson family murders creating moments of nerve-shredding tension which show Tarantino’s mastery of the craft.

Ok, typical of Tarantino’s latter work, there are moments of excess especially in the gratuitous, history bending finale.

But his passion as well as his versatility shine through in this feature where he also gets the best out of all of his cast.


Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

JUST dive in and let Anima’s hypnotic quality do the rest.

It was always going to be powerful but bewildering stuff when Radiohead’s Thom Yorke teamed up with There Will Be Blood’s Paul Thomas Anderson.

But – based on Yorke’s new solo album – this accompanying short film and mind-bending journey totally surpasses what you would normally expect from a ‘music video’.

Set in a surreal dystopian world – slightly reminiscent of the imagery of Radiohead’s OK Computer – Yorke plays a tired and dishevelled traveller who catches the eye of a fellow passenger (Dajana Roncione). And so begins a long journey for him to get to her while trying to escape an oppressive system where everyone is alike.

Read into that what you will but on first watch it is just best to be taken by the hand and immerse yourself in this feast for the senses as you spiral down into the madness of this 1984-style imagery.

The immaculate choreography is mindblowing with Yorke again teaming up with Damien Jalet who he collaborated with on 2018’s Suspiria.


Director: Todd Phillips

IT’s unlikely that anyone will ever top Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the clown prince of Gotham, but Joaquin Phoenix makes a real go of it here.

Truly one of the finest actors of his generation, he is captivating as Arthur Fleck – whose madness leads him to his alter ego of the title role.

Under the guidance of Martin Scorsese and borrowing as much from classic 80s film The King of Comedy as it does comic book lore, Joker is a DC’s best film since the Dark Knight trilogy – although it often gets too bogged down in its own grittiness.

As good as Phoenix’s performance is, there are only so many times you can watch Arthur sat around moodily smoking a cigarette or laughing at inappropriate moments before it gets a bit jading.

It’s not quite all it has been hyped up to be, but this is the defining back story of Joker’s real and devastating descent into darkness.


Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

UGLY, ruthless ambition meets dark humour in Yorgos Lanthimos’ bawdy, daring look at those who influenced Queen Anne.

The director of The Lobster and Dogtooth takes poetic licence with historical fact for his first mainstream film which still retains his style, aesthetics and sense of mischief.

In early 18th century, a frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne in a vacuum while England is at war with the French and those hungry for power circle close.

When a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah (Rachel Weisz).

Sarah takes Abigail under her wing but she soon regrets it when Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots.

Colman is excellent as Queen Anne who is more attached to her lavish lifestyle then she is to reality.

Stone and Weisz complete an outstanding cast as rivals in the corridors of power in extravagant tale that is as funny as it is surreal.


Director: Vince Gilligan

WHAT happened to Jesse Pinkman after the events of Breaking Bad?

It is probably a conversation fans of the hugely acclaimed crime series have had in pubs up and down the country.

And it had obviously been on Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan’s mind after announcing this Netflix film to tie up loose ends.

Aaron Paul slips comfortably back into the skin of Jesse – one half of a former meth empire – as he runs from his captors, the law and his past.

From the trailers it looked like El Camino was going to play out like a Fugitive-esque movie and it did have its tense moments but it was more of a love letter to the series and the character we all felt deserved an escape hatch.

The acting, the production values, the script – everything was as slick as ever.

Add to that some great cameos and you have a great send-off to one of the most highly-rated shows.