2019 was a bad year for films up until suddenly it wasn’t. The turnaround seemed to happen in a single weekend in August, when I was given links to review Monos, Honeyland and One Child Nation. The first is a Best Foreign Film contender about a group of kids isolated in the wilderness — a Lord of the Flies set in the fog of war. The other two are perspective-shifting documentaries I cherished.

From August onward, quite a number of insightful, emotional, thought-provoking narrative and documentary films were released. Turns out it was a great year!

Contained in this Year-in-Review:

  1. A retrospective on MFJ’s accomplishments
  2. A list of movies I loved and recommend
  3. My Top 12.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Midwest Film Journal!

MFJ Year-in-Review

This year, we have published 330 pieces to date. I personally wrote 130 of these. I completed my long-gestating Godzilla rewatch column, Are You There Godzilla? It’s Me, Evan. I finally wrote about a Movie That Made Me.

We published three major guest-centric column series: The Butler Did It, No Sleep October and Our Star Wars. Our multiple-time contributors are now listed as writers on our site. We have a list of more than 25 people who are regularly invited to write for us, as well as plans for three more series going into 2020. These are the great pleasures of running Midwest Film Journal, and what sets us apart. I hope we find more new friends in the coming year.

Our writers wrote Quill’s 101 Journalism Movies Ranked project, the top-ranked article on their site.

Our coverage of Heartland Film Festival was more substantial this year, which has been a long-time goal of mine since we started our site. Next year we’ll do the same, and hope to expand to other Festivals if possible. Additionally, we announced that Heartland and the Midwest Film Journal are teaming up for a programming block in next year’s festival, Heartland Horror, which launched this year with a screening of In Fabric.

The link to Nick’s In Fabric review brings me to the part of this where I brag about how great our writers are. If you want a taste of the year in film, look no further than these essays:


6 Underground

Ad Astra

Avengers: Endgame


Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood


Our Star Wars: “The Rise of Skywalker”: Stronger Than Blood


The Irishman

IT: Chapter 2

Abducted in Plain Sight (and other WTF Netflix Docs)


3 From Hell





Before You Know It

All is True

Read these. In fact, read everything they’ve posted. The links above represent but a small selection of our crew’s capabilities.

The Midwest Film Journal grew exponentially this year, and we have a lot of ambitious plans for 2020. But as always, our main goal it to continue providing thoughtful, engaging film criticism. Thanks for reading this year!

I Enjoyed These Movies and Maybe You Will, Too

Of the 154 new releases I watched in 2019, I recommend 50.

Each selection links to the MFJ official review by one of our writers, if available:

17 Blocks

American Factory

Avengers: Endgame

The Beach Bum

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


Captain Marvel


Dragon Ball Super: Broly

The Farewell

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

For Sama

Ford v Ferrari

Frozen II

The Garden Left Behind

Godzilla: King of the Monsters


Her Smell

A Hidden Life

High Flying Bird

High Life

Honey Boy



In Fabric

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

Jojo Rabbit

Knives Out

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

The Lighthouse

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of my Voice

Little Women

Love, Antosha



Marriage Story

Mister America


Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood

One Child Nation


The Peanut Butter Falcon

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Rambo: Last Blood



The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Under the Silver Lake


My Top 12

My Top 12 is a selection of films from this year that stuck with me throughout the year. I wouldn’t necessarily argue these are the “best” films of the year, but they made me think for awhile, or opened my eyes to different realities, techniques, or genres.

1. For Sama

2. Parasite

3. Knives Out

4. One Child Nation

5. The Lighthouse

6. Crawl

7. A Hidden Life

8. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

9. Honeyland

10. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

11. Dragon Ball Super: Broly

12. Marriage Story