Unfortunately, not every film gets the attention it deserves. With the heavy cost of a night out to the theater and variations in tastes, advertising investments and increased competition from franchises it’s becoming more and more common that some of the best features are forgotten in the crowded market filmgoers have at their disposal. The year 2019 has been no different so far with numerous big blockbuster options outshining more original works in the first six months. In fact, so far this year only three box office chart-toppers (“The Upside”, “Us”, and “The Curse of La Llorona”) have been truly original films and two of them were based on a real-life story and a horror legend so you could argue only “Us” was truly original. Everything else has been a remake, sequel, spinoff, or adaptation of an already popular property and while many of these films have, in fact, been quality products on their own they have also overshadowed some of the year’s best hidden gems. So, as we enter the second half of 2019 I wanted to take some time to recommend a few films you might have missed this year so far. These are my picks for the Top 10 Great Films You Missed So Far in 2019.
For this list I picked out ten movies that failed to top the box office chart upon their release in order to shine a light on some of the most respectable hidden or underappreciated cinematic offerings of the year from New Years Day through the 4th of July weekend of 2019. To be considered these movies had to have their widest release in the United States in 2019 so even if they are considered 2018 releases for the sake of award show contention, they’re 2019 releases in my book if they’re real theatrical push was this year. These movies don’t have to be box office failures either, but due to bigger competition or limited release, they may have flown under your radar and are definitely worth the watch.
What underappreciated movie of the first half of 2019 caught your attention? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list. Also, I did review each and every one of these movies so I have provided a link attached to their name for you to read my opinions at your leisure. Alright, let’s get to it!
Let’s start the list with a movie that’s actually not really a failure, it just deserves more attention than its already getting. “Rocketman” is the one movie on this list that has earned a decent following. After debuting in third on its opening weekend (behind “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and holdover “Aladdin”) great reviews and word of mouth have actually helped “Rocketman” stay in the top ten all of its six weekends to date amassing a worldwide gross of $173.9 million as of this posting, $89 million of which was earned domestically. So, it’s not doing too bad. However, “Rocketman” SHOULD be one of the year’s biggest hits and it’s not. As a biopic of Elton John, “Rocketman” is one of the most honest and respectable biographical pictures of the decade and is far superior to last year’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” which reached a domestic total roughly equal to “Rocketman’s” worldwide total by its sixth week. Why “Rocketman” has not received the same respect from viewers despite its amazing reviews and award season potential is anyone’s guess, but if you haven’t seen this epic biographical fantasy yet trust me it’s a musical experience not to be missed.
The newest film on this list, “Midsommar” has only been in theaters for a week but it’s destined to be an overlooked gem of 2019. The latest film from Ari Aster, who brought the world “Hereditary” in 2018, “Midsommar” is one of those films that many people won’t “get” but it’s also a movie one can only describe as an “experience”. “Midsommar” failed to crack the top ten in its debut, but still has plenty of time to rebound thus its placement so low on this list. However, Aster’s now trademark use of graphic visuals, unique and trippy storytelling, and focus on atmosphere and the creep factor over traditional scares and jump scares definitely make “Midsommar” a film worth viewing even if it might only be appreciated by very particular moviegoers with very specific tastes. If you haven’t gotten to see this amazing film, please take the time to enjoy it and appreciate it. Not only does it contain a pretty intense story, but it also provides possibly the best interpretation of anxiety as a mental illness you’ll ever see on the big screen thanks to the committed acting of star Florence Pugh.
8. “Long Shot”
Comedy has surprisingly been underwhelming in 2019 with only one true comedy movie, “The Upside”, earning a birth as number one at the box office so far in 2019. With that said my least favorite genre of film had a few underappreciated gems released over the last 6 months. One of those movies was “Long Shot”, a timely picture starring Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron that was sadly overlooked by audiences when it opened in May. Focusing on a female candidate for president who hires a sharp-tongued comedic writer to help add some humor to her campaign “Long Shot” not only offered plenty of hilarious moments while revisiting Seth Rogan’s unique brand of drug-related comedy but also presented some sharp criticism of the political divide of today. While at first it looks like just another criticism of the current administration, by the end of the film “Long Shot” turns the tables on the audience by challenging closemindedness across the board and does so with tact and style. Sadly, it was released during “Avengers: Endgame’s” second weekend and was overpowered by the thriller “The Intruder”. Despite positive reviews “Long Shot” only lasted seven weeks on the chart.
“Fighting with My Family” wasn’t really ignored but it wasn’t as successful as it should have been either. You’d think a film about a famous wrestler would be a huge draw to the cinema, right? Well whether it’s the fact that it only received its widest domestic release in 2,855 cinemas or being just another case of lack of support for female-led pictures “Fighting with My Family” only spent three of its 14 weeks in the top ten at the box office debuting at number four after an initial limited release and being overshadowed by “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”. This comedic biopic about WWE wrestler Paige and her rise to stardom not only brought the laughs but packed some great performances and a well balanced and sincere story making it a truly fun experience even if you’re not into the WWE. While there have been bigger and more tragic failures over the last six months “Fighting with My Family” is a neat gem of a film that shines a deserving light on a modern icon and even delves into some of the deeper elements that have helped make the WWE and wrestling in general such a popular spectator sport.
6. “Missing Link”
Stop motion animation can be a hard sell but when you have a studio like Laika producing the picture it’s bound to be both amazing and, sadly, overlooked. “Missing Link” was tragically underappreciated during its 13-week run at the box office earning only $16.6 million domestically on a $100 million budget. It is considered a box office bomb joining Laika’s other magnificent picture “Kubo and the Two Strings” as an overlooked masterpiece in its own right. It debuted in ninth after losing out to far inferior pictures like “After”, “Little” and the horrendous “Hellboy” remake” while also competing with “Shazam” which was in its second weekend. “Missing Link” not only contains some fun voice acting and an engaging story about a sasquatch trying to find his place in the world, but its animation is crisp and beautiful and it was all done through stop motion versus CGI. Stop motion has sadly become something of a lost art in today’s world but movies like this keep reminding us just how gorgeous this approach to filmmaking can be. It’s just too bad audiences don’t seem to want to invest in it anymore. Here’s hoping “Missing Link” gets a little more respect come award season where is surely deserves to be among the Best Animated Feature contenders.
Initially released in a very limited number of theaters in 2018 to contend for Oscars, “If Beale Street Could Talk” was considered to be an award season favorite but went out in a whimper. Based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name, “If Beale Street Could Talk” continued a recent trend of films with a primary focus on racism and prejudice against black Americans. Unlike many of its predecessors though “If Beale Street Could Talk” got lost in the shuffle and while it did receive some nominations, eventually winning Best Supporting Actress for Regina King’s performance, it didn’t receive anywhere near the expected exposure promised when it debuted in 2018. If you were one of the many who avoided this film in favor of other award contenders, you missed out as it contains some great cinematography, brilliant acting, an emotionally driven narrative, and spot-on storytelling. “If Beale Street Could Talk” is absolutely one of the best dramas of the year so far and showcases some worthy and talented black actors and actresses and an engrossing look at a black couple just trying to make it in a world that feels dead set against them at every turn.
4. “Late Night”
As I said you’ll see several comedies on this list, and this is one you may still have a chance to see in theaters if you’re in the right place. “Late Night” only spent one week in the top ten in its first five weekends after a wide release alongside “Men in Black International” and “Shaft” last month but it has quickly faded away despite being one of the best comedies of the year. This is a case of another comedy that offers sharp commentary in its story, characters and script with a balance of tact and humor but while “Long Shot” was more politically driven “Late Night” is more about the expectations of gender and even some race-related commentary mixed in for spice. With great acting and fun writing, not to mention two awesome actresses in Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson who play off of each other quite effectively, “Late Night” was one of several attempts in 2019 to prove that female-led comedies could earn a following at the box office. Sadly it was ignored due to bigger productions being released around the same time and a limited advertising approach from Amazon.
And we have ANOTHER comedy that was overlooked in the first half of 2019. Really this genre I claim to hate has a lot of underappreciated films worth viewing. “Booksmart” was another female-led comedy that suffered from a limited advertising approach and competition from big budget productions. Its wide release pitted it against “Aladdin” and “Brightburn” although the latter also suffered as a result of Disney releasing its live-action remake. “Booksmart” was touted as the female “Superbad” but while “Superbad” was celebrated and successful upon its release “Booksmart” never even made it into the top five and fell to fourteenth by its fourth weekend. Filled with hilarious hijinks and even a look into the modern culture of an American high school with two talented actresses, Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, leading the way, “Booksmart’s” failure feels so unjust because it wasn’t just a female-driven film, it was a VERY good female-driven film. Serving as the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde and written by four women, starring two up-and-coming actresses, and produced by four women plus a man, “Booksmart” could have and should have been a great leap forward for the genre and film in general but was sadly and tragically ignored.
2. “Cold War”
Foreign language films are aa hard sell which is probably why this movie was heavily ignored in the States. It also didn’t help that it had a severely limited release and was heavily overlooked by another black-and-white foreign language offering, “Roma”. But that doesn’t mean “Cold War” isn’t worth the time. Debuting in December in only three theaters before reaching a maximum of 270 theaters in the States on early February, “Cold War” didn’t earn nearly enough attention and never even entered the top 20 at the box office. As I said a lot of factors played into this, but it’s still a shame more people didn’t get to experience and appreciate this modern masterpiece which went on to earn numerous Academy Award nominations but no wins. While “Roma” continues to live on as a reminder that not only can foreign language movies compete at the Oscars, but Netflix can earn respect as well, “Cold War” has since been forgotten as the also-ran despite its powerful story of a pair of lovers who endure the barriers of the Cold War and rekindle their romance in different years. It’s a classic Hollywood setup with great cinematography, acting, and direction. It just wasn’t released wide enough to earn the respect is demands.
1. “The Dead Don’t Die”
Zombies aren’t as appreciated today as they were only a few years ago, but this underrated horror comedy gem reminded us all why we love these creatures so much. This is another movie you can actually still see if you’re in the right market, but it has never entered the top ten in all four of its weekends to date bowing out at 12th in its admittedly small opening last month. The lack of traction for this movie can be heavily attributed to only opening in 613 theaters in the States and reaching its peak at 690, but there was also a divide among fans and critics about whether or not this film was worth the experience. Personally, I found it to be a fantastic watch and a hilarious and fun tribute to the zombie genre while also building on the lore of one of horror’s most famous creatures in its own special way. “The Dead Don’t Die” is definitely one of my personal favorites from the first half of the year and while it’s destined to be overlooked and underappreciated as more of an artistic feature than a celebrated form of mass entertainment it’s definitely worth experiencing if you’ve ever been a fan of zombies either on the big or small screen.