Cinema, TV, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Now TV, craning your neck to catch a few minutes over the shoulder of a teenager on a crowded train… there are lots of different ways to watch films in the modern age. And with thousands of movies being released each and every year, across dozens of different formats, it’s not always easy to keep up.
We can’t stand the idea of you spending hours and hours online, rifling through all the year’s terrible releases and checking out all the thousands of different reviews – or worse still, trying some films out of sheer hope and wasting half your evening. So, instead, we’d like to provide a service here. We’d like to tip you off as to the standout crime films of the year. Because we live to give.
So, then. Just for you… here are the best crime movies of 2019.
The best crime movies of 2019:
Let’s kick things off with the most talked-about film of the year – Joker. When news first broke that Todd Phillips was making a Joker origins story, most film fans just assumed we’d be served up a fairly juicy but still relatively generic superhero film. But not so. What we got was a 21st century version of The King of Comedy, complete with Robert De Niro and all.
In casting Joaquin Phoenix, the filmmakers were making a statement. This wasn’t to be some silly comic book story for kids. A renowned method actor that’s seemingly incapable of putting in a bad performance, Phoenix brings something entirely new to the clown nemesis of Batman – pathos.
The Joker, we discover, is a failing clown and aspiring stand-up comedian called Arthur Fleck who’s beaten down by life, has beaten up half the people he meets and is suffering ever-worsening mental health issues. This is a journey of a man from victim of crime to criminal mastermind. Or at least the beginning of that journey. Only Joker will have grossed over A BILLION DOLLARS by the end of the year, so a sequel is almost inevitable.
IMDb rating: 8.8
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
It’s been six years since the stunning conclusion of Vince Gilligan’s incredible AMC crime drama Breaking Bad. Widely considered as one of the greatest television series ever made, fans have had to make do with the okay-but-not-as-good spin-off Better Call Saul to fill the gap since 2013. Until now.
How Netflix managed to keep the project under wraps for so long is anyone’s guess. Only rumours of a Breaking Bad movie only started swirling around the internet this year. And then? Within weeks, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie went online!
Just like the TV show, it’s masterful. Tense, well-written, exciting, El Camino works as a fitting end for the show. Even if it almost entirely Heisenberg free.
IMDb rating: 7.5
A second entry for Mr De Niro on our list. Often considered the world’s finest living actor, the 21st century hasn’t exactly been kind to Bobby’s CV. But this incredible and epic sweeping three and a half hour mobster drama from frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese goes part way to addressing that.
De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, Scorsese… The Irishman is every crime film fan’s dream picture. Based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses, this is about as Scorsese-y a film as it’s possible for Martin Scorsese to make. So if you don’t like exceptionally long films about serious criminals talking in rooms, interspersed with the odd scene of ultraviolence, this might not be for you.
As for the rest of us? What a treat.
IMDb rating: 8.6
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile
A movie about Ted Bundy starring Zac Efron? Yep! While the finished product didn’t quite meet our lofty expectations, this rather uniquely-titled film, taken from Bundy’s sentencing judge’s closing speech, is still worth seeking out.
Director Joe Berlinger made the film – which is based on Bundy’s ex-girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall’s memoir, The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy – at the same time as overseeing the Netflix docu-series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. So it’s well researched.
Efron is excellent, although there is a vague feeling that one of America’s cruelest and most sadistic ever serial killers is slightly too sympathetically portrayed throughout.
IMDb rating: 6.6
This tale of a bunch of Special Forces pals robbing a drug cartel isn’t the most cerebral film released in 2019, but it is one of the most exciting and testosterone packed. Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal team up to rip off a crime lord in pretty spectacular style.
Ben Affleck dozes his way through a good portion of the film, but Isaac and Pascal impress in this Netflix flick that’s a cut above most recent heist thrillers. It was never likely to trouble the Academy, but it’s a fun way to spend two hours.
IMDb rating: 6.5
Whodunits aren’t exactly popular in the movie world at the present time, are they? Before Kenneth Branagh’s version of Murder on the Orient Express, you’d be hard pressed to think of one coming out of Hollywood since… 2001’s Gosford Park, perhaps?
Well, all that changed this year with the release of Knives Out. From the acclaimed director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper), comes a fresh twist on the genre. It’s a slight subverting of the whodunit, but this is no smug parody – there’s an obvious love and warmth for the work of the likes of Agatha Christie here.
Part of its charm is its incredible cast: Daniel Craig and Lakeith Stanfield investigate the murder of Christopher Plummer. They have to pick a killer from a ragtag ensemble cast including the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Chris Evans, Toni Collette and Michael Shannon. Now, that’s a lot of talent.
IMDb rating: 6.8
In the Shadow of the Moon
Dangerously close to veering into science fiction territory (okay, it full on smashes straight into it), there’s more than enough crime to level out this time travel thriller starring Boyd Holbrook. Directed by Cold in July and Hap and Leonard’s Jim Mickle, the plot is far too dense to go into here, but suffice to say that it’s a bit of a head scrambler.
Holbrook, who you may recognise from the first few seasons of Narcos, is excellent throughout. As is The Last Man on Earth’s Cleopatra Coleman. Now available on Netflix, it’s well worth half an evening.
IMDb rating: 6.2
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Big things were expected from Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Big things were delivered too. ‘A love letter to 1969’ that dealt ostensibly with the fading careers of two friends, western TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), on the surface, this LA-set flick should be a gentle affair. It is, however, anything but.
The film’s second plot thread deals with the second biggest news story of 1969: the Manson Murders. Tarantino + Charles Manson = plenty of violence. The film’s incredibly bloody crescendo lingers in the memory, but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is actually at its best when it takes a gentler, sweeter, more relaxed approach.
One of the year’s best, without a doubt.
IMDb rating: 8.0
Dragged Across Concrete
The movies of S Craig Zahler split opinion. Depending on your tastes, his output is either classic neo-noir storytelling and high end genre kicks. Or it’s tedious, overly violent, nihilistic rubbish. We, however, prefer that first description.
We made Zahler’s 2017 stylish fight-fest Brawl in Cell Block 99 one of our crime films of the year at the time. And we’re making his twisting and darkly funny follow-up Dragged Across Concrete one of our crime films of 2019.
What’s not to like about a film centred around two crooked cops – played by Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson – that attempt to rob a gang of robbers? Obviously, it all goes terribly wrong. Because, well… why wouldn’t it?!
IMDb rating: 7.0
There you have it. Best get a few big bags of popcorn in, eh?
Have we missed any of the best crime movies of 2019? Let us know in the comments below…