There's a Good Chance You Missed These 10 Most Underrated Movies of 2019
This has been a huge year for movies, with plenty of blockbusters dominating the conversation. In between, though, there were several underrated movies that flew under the radar for most moviegoers in 2019. Perhaps you heard about these movies but never quite got around to them, or maybe you simply didn't hear about them in the first place! In a lot of ways, these underrated movies are mirror images of the big blockbusters: we've got family dramas, coming-of-age films, revenge thrillers, and even a superhero movie, all coming and going with a minimum of attention. As the year comes to a close, it's the perfect time to catch up on some of the movies you might have missed. Keep reading for our favorite underrated movies of 2019!
Blinded by the Light
Out of the trio of jukebox musical movies this year, Blinded by the Light is the one that flew under the radar the most, in contrast to the flashier Rocketman and more star-studded Yesterday. But the sweet, funny movie, based on the real-life experiences of cowriter Sarfraz Manzoor, is definitely worth a second look for its uplifting themes, willingness to tackle complicated issues without getting didactic, and genuine belief in the power of joy and music. In today's world, sometimes we just need a spark of hope and joy in our art, and Blinded by the Light has that in spades.
Among all the brand-name sci-fi and superhero movies, this indie gem got lost in the shuffle, and that's a real shame, because it's an inventive and touching take on the genre. When a young woman (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) with superpowers has to flee from scientists and government agents who want to capture and study her, she seeks refuge with her mother and the daughter she left behind, both of whom also have superpowers. It's equal parts sci-fi thriller and family drama, using its smaller scale and more thoughtful tone to focus more on character development than on battling baddies, which makes it so much more than your usual glossy, CGI-fest superhero movie.
The title character, played by Julianne Moore at her most emotionally complex and luminous, is going through all the difficulties and indignities of middle age: watching friends get laid off while struggling to save for her own retirement, trying not to interfere in her adult children's complicated lives, and finding new romance with a divorced man with plenty of his own baggage. It's both heartwarming and heartbreaking as the movie meditates on connections longed for, lost, and occasionally found. The movie is filled with those bursts of intermittent intense emotions — joy, regret, sorrow, love — that pepper our own lives, making it a truly rich, subtle movie experience.
The Great Hack
The Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal was one of the defining issues of the past several years, and this Netflix documentary dives into the terrifying details. It's a scathing look at how social media and targeted ads played a role in manipulating individuals, exposing data, and influencing major events for the clients who paid for that data, most notably in the 2016 presidential election and the Brexit campaign. The movie follows several key players to explore how, exactly, the data breaches happened, what they were used for, and how Facebook itself became complicit in the massive scandal. It's a deep, sometimes downright horrifying look at one of the biggest tech scandals of our time.
We guarantee you've never seen Elisabeth Moss like this before. The star of Mad Men and The Handmaid's Tale abandons her star-making, subtler roles for a delightfully out-there, no-holds-barred performance as the damaged, messy, wild lead singer of a punk-rock girl band. This movie doesn't shy away from the ugly side of her character: the earliest scenes show her in the angry, strung-out, dangerous part of a drug addiction, and it gets a lot uglier before things start to look up. But it does look up, and that's the point: a journey of self-discovery and recovery doesn't have to be boring or trite — it can make for incredibly compelling storytelling.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
It's a bittersweet, devastating love letter to architecture and a particular experience of a city that's changing too fast for the people who have lived there for a long time. Jimmie — who shares a name with the actor who plays him — returns daily to a house that he believes his family used to own. Despite it being long since sold off to (white) gentrifiers, he returns constantly to fix it up with the help of his friend. It's a movie that's less about the plot itself and more about the emotional experience, as we watch Jimmie's emotional connection to a constantly changing city.
Tessa Thompson is, of course, best known for her role as Valkyrie in the Marvel movies and Lily James for Cinderella, but in this dark, compelling indie, they both prove their ranges are much more than blockbuster heroines. The duo play a pair of sisters: one who's just finished parole for smuggling drugs to try to help her dying mother, and one who is unexpectedly pregnant but can't afford to raise the child or to jump through the hoops to have an abortion. It's a devastating, challenging look at the healthcare crisis that still foregrounds its characters above the tough themes it pushes audiences to consider.
In this historical drama, an abused and angry Irish convict heads out into the Australian wilderness in search of revenge. Despite the "revenge plot" being the overarching story that's holding the movie together — complete with some violent moments — it's not the usual hyperbloody, hyperstylized revenge flick we've gotten used to. Instead, it puts our protagonist (played by Aisling Franciosi) front and center and allows us to follow her story without flinching away and without losing a sense of humanity. It pushes the story forward without feeling forced and gives us real character development instead of standard-issue "revenge thriller" plot points.
Sometimes, a charming rom-com is just what we need. In the shadow of the buzzier titles this year is this sweetly funny movie about two platonic pals who agree to be each other's dates to several weddings in a row. Although you know from the start where this is inevitably going to end up, the journey getting there is a blast, with sharp dialogue and painfully realistic emotional beats. Stars Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid have a natural, playful, sparky chemistry that anchors the film and helps to elevate it beyond just another comedy. It's truly a grown-up rom-com for the modern day.
Julie, an aspiring filmmaker played by Honor Swinton Byrne (yes, that would be Tilda Swinton's daughter!), falls into a relationship with a charming, sophisticated older man in this coming-of-age drama. That premise isn't anything new; in fact, it's the basis of countless films with similar ideas. So what makes this one so interesting? In large part, it's because Byrne, along with director Joanna Hogg, allows us to focus mostly on Julie's own journey and her rich inner life. The romance is secondary to her own self-realization, and the meta aspects of the movie (it is, after all, a movie about someone who makes movies) are handled with a deft, thoughtful touch.