The best movies of 2019 screwed over the rich and I have to stan

*Warning – spoilers for Knives Out, Joker, Little Women, Hustlers, and Ready Or Not ahead*

When it comes to movies, 2019 was the year of screwing over the rich.

This year, the films that have been both the most artful, as well as the most enjoyable have, in one way or another, promised retribution and/or escape for the working and underclasses.

This makes for satisfying viewing for someone like me, who was not born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

When I was a child, rags-to-riches movies very rarely starred a woman who was doing anything other than shacking up with a wealthier guy – much less a woman of Latin heritage like myself. 

Now, with the impacts of austerity and with a record number of 170,000 people sleeping rough in London, it’s hard to not enjoy watching immoral versions of the obscenely rich get taken down a peg or two.  

The first movie that blew my mind in 2019 was Ready Or Not, which starred Samara Weaving (Hugo Weaving’s niece) as Grace – a bride marrying into an obscenely rich and occult-y family who finds she must win their deadly game of hide and seek to survive her wedding night.

There was a great deal of satisfaction in watching Grace’s ultimate triumph over the murderous bourgeoise.

But more than this, the movie – however ridiculous the premise – sent the message that you don’t need to be from a good family to be better than one. 

Next up was the polarising and abrasive Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix – in a some-say Oscar-worthy turn as the titular character – which was centred around a working-class, mentally unwell guy who starts something of a revolution, violently pitting the have-nots against the haves of Gotham City.

Even though watching Joker makes you feel at odds with everyone and everything around you, it’s hard not to empathise with the overtly marginalised Arthur Fleck, when his lack of social and literal currency differs so starkly with that of the upper class who, in one scene, literally beat him down. 

It reflects how those with mental health issues often find themselves shunted to the sidelines in society. However, when Fleck becomes the Joker, he finds a violent way to take his power back from the elite. 

With 2019 seeing the likes of Extinction Rebellion pushing back against the upper political echelon, it’s little wonder that one of the most popular movies of the year featured a much more extreme form of push-back.

While I don’t condone the violence that the Joker and his angry mob of supporters stoop to in the movie, it’s easy to see where their anger has come from. 

In contrast to Joker, watching Knives Out felt like if a crime scene could have given you a hug, what with all the soft knits and cosy cords.

Writer/producer/director Rian Johnson’s (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper and Brick) murder mystery sees immigrant nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) stand to inherit the empire of famed writer Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer) following his apparent suicide – much to his shallow family’s displeasure.

The takeaway from this movie is the most joyful on this list: That you don’t have to play by the rules of the rich to beat them at their own game.

A beautiful fantasy to be sure, but one that feels so realistic when you’re watching it. 

Money so often represents control (both in movies and in life) and it can be hard to imagine a way that financial Goliaths can fall, or a way that Davids can rise above the confines of their socioeconomic classes. 

Knives Out especially resonated with me because of Marta’s Hispanic heritage. In Trump’s America, the importance of narratives which both humanise Latin Americans and show them in a triumphant light cannot be overstated.  

Even Little Women, which has been hailed as a ‘near perfect film‘, made plenty of room to reference money.

In a speech delivered to Timothée Chalamet’s Laurie, Amy March (Florence Pugh) says: ‘And as a woman, there’s no way for me to make my own money. Not enough to earn a living or to support my family, and if I had my own money, which I don’t, that money would belong to my husband the moment we got married… don’t sit there and tell me that marriage isn’t an economic proposition, because it is’.

As a woman, facing inequalities like the gender pay gap, this monologue feels vital, even today.

Even though Amy does eventually marry well, the fact that she does so knowingly puts both her prospects and indeed the prospects of many modern-day women into perspective. 

It’s of a similar ilk to Hustlers, which saw Destiny (Constance Wu), Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) and more of their fellow strippers utilise their sexuality to their advantage (not unlike a bunch of modern-day Amy Marches) and drug wealthy men so they could steal their money.

I don’t agree with their methods, but as a Latina, it was inspiring to see Queen JLo leading a pack of financially empowered women. There have historically not been many movies of this kind – with Latin women having such a powerful leading role.

There always has and always will be movies made about flouting the class system, but the role that money has had to play in cinema in 2019 has been particularly formidable and it’s been important to see.

Money so often represents control (both in movies and in life) and it can be hard to imagine a way that financial Goliaths can fall, or a way that Davids can rise above the confines of their socioeconomic classes. 

But in movies, the less privileged get to fight back against their circumstances – and win. When done properly, this gives a little hope to anyone like me who, for whatever reason, feels different to the people at the top.

The rich might be running the show in the real world but we can at least retreat into first-rate films which offer up wonderful fantasies about taking a bit of that control back. 

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