Is ‘The Irishman’ the Best Movie of 2019?

If it feels like we’ve been talking about The Irishman for years, it’s because we have. The Martin Scorsese gangster epic — which famously clocks in at 209 minutes — began development in the mid-2000s. Now, following the widest theatrical release yet for a Netflix film, subscribers to that service can finally stream The Irishman right now.

Martin Scorsese at the premiere of 'The Irishman'
Martin Scorsese at the premiere of ‘The Irishman’ | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

‘The Irishman’ is riding a wave of positive buzz

Of course, any film with the legendary Scorsese behind the camera tends to get attention. But The Irishman is a special case. This release marks the director’s return to the crime genre and his first collaboration with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci since Goodfellas.

While not all critics adore the film, most reviews are quick to point out the ambitious scope of The Irishman. Scorsese uses de-aging technology to allow De Niro to play the same character across several decades. Moreover, the performances by him, Pesci, and Al Pacino are heavily expected to garner some awards attention.

Its Netflix release may provide a surprising contrast to Scorsese’s more traditional views of cinema. Nevertheless, people are definitely curious to see The Irishman. That eagerness will probably only grow as the accolades come rolling in.

National Board of Review names the year’s best films

With all the love heading The Irishman‘s way, the film seems poised to make lots of year-end top 10 lists. But is it really among the best films of 2019? According to the National Board of Review (NBR), The Irishman is indeed the year’s finest release.

The NBR is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “the support of film, domestic and foreign, as both art and entertainment.” In its annual year-end honors, The Irishman received Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay. Timed to the film’s release, Scorsese, De Niro, and Pacino also shared the NBR Icon Award.

Additionally, the NBR released its list of the year’s Top Films. In alphabetical order, these include 1917, Dolemite Is My Name, Ford v Ferrari, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Richard Jewell, Uncut Gems, and Waves. The NBR also separately honors foreign, documentary, and independent features.

The next Best Picture winner?

With such a groundswell of support, The Irishman could very well be an Oscar frontrunner. With the Gotham Independent Film Awards already in the rearview, awards season is officially underway. And the NBR designation will only bring The Irishman further into the forefront for Oscar voters.

Although Scorsese’s film triumphed over many other awards hopefuls at the NBR, the organization has a pretty mixed track record in predicting Best Picture Oscar winners. True, the NBR did proclaim eventual Oscar champ Green Book the best film of 2018. But the last time the NBR picked correctly prior to that was in selecting Slumdog Millionaire as 2008’s Best Film.

That being said, the NBR award does confirm what already seemed like an inevitability. The Irishman will indeed be a major Oscar player and a lock for a Best Picture nomination. Whether it’s the year’s best film is up for debate, but its Oscar prospects certainly are not.