Most Underrated Movies of 2019 — Best Underrated Movies (2019) – Parade
These 2019 releases deserve another look. As we near 2020 awards season kicks into high gear, we’re rounding up some stellar films released this year that deserve more attention than they got. Highly recommended, these are the top 10 underrated films of 2019.
1. The Nightingale
Jennifer Kent‘s thunderous follow-up to The Babadook stars Aisling Franciosi as an imprisoned, abused Irish convict who sets out into the wilderness of 1825 Australia seeking vengeance. To be clear: The Nightingale is not a revenge fantasy; it’s a moral, humane exploration of themes that aren’t restricted to any particular time and place. It’s not easy viewing—it’s as much a series of events you experience as it is a movie you watch—but storytelling this clear-eyed and urgent doesn’t come around all that often, and demands to be seen. Kent does not make compromises in telling challenging, impactful stories. She’s one of the most exciting filmmaking talents around right now.
Parade Exclusive: Jennifer Kent Talks About The Nightingale, Finding Light in Dark Places, and Why There Will Never Be a Babadook 2
2. Brittany Runs a Marathon
Brilliantly funny 22 Jump Street and Workaholics star Jillian Bell headlines this winning dramedy about a New York party girl who makes the big decision to get healthy—and to live a fuller, better life.
This is one of the most truthful, brutally funny movies about the realities of modern-day female friendship since Bridesmaids. Like so many of the stars of that pop masterpiece, Bell and costar Michaela Watkins (disarmingly good here) are alums of LA’s Groundlings Theater.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is the best kind of entertainment: a movie about people getting better, one that isn’t sugarcoated or fake.
Parade Exclusive: Watch Jillian Bell Royally Screw Up Baby CPR in This Hilarious Clip
3. Little Woods
In 2019, Tessa Thompson appeared in, y’know, the biggest movie of all time. Other notable appearances include voicing Lady in Disney Plus’s cutesy Lady and the Tramp remake, being the best part of box-office disappointment Men in Black: International and performing perhaps her most striking work to date in Nia DaCosta‘s suspenseful drama about a desperate drug smuggler in North Dakota. This is an intimate, effective look at the ramifications of a nationwide epidemic.
Related: The 25 Best Movies About Addiction and Alcoholism
4. Wild Rose
A star is born feels like a sheepish understatement when the topic at hand is Jessie Buckley, whose turn as a Glasgow girl with her heart in country music is one of the year’s best performances by any measurement. Wild Rose will make you laugh, and it will move you to tears. It will lift you up and it will give you an even deeper appreciation for one of the great American art forms.
Related: Jesse Buckley Talks Country Music and Why There’s No Place Like Nashville
5. Empathy Inc.
Flat-out brilliant low-fi sci-fi. Directed by Yedidya Gorsetman and scripted by Mark Leidner, this suspenseful and provocative small-scale film packs a hell of a punch. Zack Robidas stars as Joel, an investor in the wake of a highly publicized scandal who invests everything he’s got, and his family’s livelihood, into a VR startup that isn’t what it seems. The twisty plot keeps you guessing until the final moments.
With a plot that deftly grips onto real-world, modern-day fears and anxieties that most Americans can relate to, and high-contrast, carefully staged black-and-white widescreen cinematography so low-fi it feels like we’re watching real events unfold, Empathy Inc. might be the scariest damn movie of the year.
Related: Parade’s Review of Empathy Inc.
6. Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Similar to the Eugene O’Neill play in name only, 30-year-old Chinese director Bi Gan‘s second feature is a neo-noir about regret, romance and the passing of time. Around the halfway mark, it switches from 2D to 3D for one 59-minute unbroken take. Technically, this has a wow factor that you could even compare to Roma’s, though it never feels self-conscious the way Roma sometimes did. A massive success in China—even with young audiences—this is a rush of pure cinema, an intoxicating fever dream.
7. The Mustang
A master of understatement with incredible presence, Matthias Schoenaerts has always stood out. His raw, tender performance as a violent convict in The Mustang is worthy of awards recognition. This powerful, gritty and authentic drama costars Connie Britton and Bruce Dern. Executive-produced by Robert Redford, it’s inspired by the real-life Wild Horse Inmate Program.
8. The Peanut Butter Falcon
Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz‘s dramedy about a boy with Down syndrome who aspires to be a professional wrestler tackles complex subject matter (disabilities, institutions, grieving) and it’s set in a place Hollywood rarely touches (the American Deep South). With this, the first-time feature directors have created something that’s all at once touching, funny and refreshingly offbeat. The Peanut Butter Falcon opened above expectations in its limited-release first weekend, and it boasts a rare, coveted A+ Cinemascore.
A cast of dependably terrific actors (Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern, Thomas Haden Church, Jon Bernthal and John Hawkes) star alongside captivating newcomer Zack Gottsagen. This is a feel-good film that’s full of discovery, and it deserves to be discovered by a wide audience.
Based on a play by J.C. Lee, Julius Onah‘s gripping drama stars Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, and it’s about the fallout surrounding a high-school valedictorian’s disturbing essay. Particularly head-turning here is the work of 25-year-old Kelvin Harrison Jr., who dazzles in a layered, difficult part. Luce walks a tightrope and keeps us guessing, wholly invested. It’s invigorating to see actors this great sink their teeth into material this strong, and Luce deserves to be a part of awards season conversation.
10. The Report
Stirring, brilliantly performed and oh-so-relevant right now, Scott Z. Burns’s D.C.-set thriller stars Adam Driver as Daniel J. Jones, the U.S. Senate investigator who spearheaded an investigation into the CIA’s use of torture following 9/11, the largest investigative review in Senate history. As in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (which is sure to get several Oscar nods), Driver is smashing here, as is Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein.
The Report deserves to be remembered throughout awards season, particularly in acting categories, and for Burns’ screenplay. Props to David Wingo’s score, too; it’s always exactly what it needs to be.
Do you think we missed an overlooked film from 2019 on this list? What’s the best movie you’ve seen all year? Sound off in the comments.
Looking forward to the new James Bond movie? Get ready with our ranking of all the James Bond movies ever.
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