The Underseen Films of 2019

We discussed the year’s Overrated films, the Underrated films. Now we talk about the Underseen films. Since I’ve already posted a Hidden Gems list, I will specify the difference between Underseen and Hidden Gems. Which is essentially — you’ve probably heard of them but still haven’t seen them. There might be a few crossovers between the Hidden Gems and this list, but that’s purely because I really want to try to get people to see them because they deserve it.

The point of this list is to get more people to watch good movies. I think these movies are really good, and for whatever reason they never got nearly the kind of audience I felt they deserved. So my hope is that people happen upon this list, watch a few of these, like them and then hopefully tell other people about them so they can get more of a fan base so everyone’s favorite films list from this year doesn’t include the same twelve damn movies.

So here are some of the most underseen films of 2019:

1. The Aeronauts

This is barely out and is gonna end up on Amazon in a couple of weeks, but trust me, this one needs to be seen. I’m treating it as underseen because I already know most people are wondering why the hell they want to see a balloon movie. But this was positively thrilling, and I’m not sure I was expecting that. I had more fun during this than I do during Fast & Furious movies. Of course, that part is subjective, but this movie really should get a wide audience because it’s a really surprising action movie and really gives you some cool scenes you haven’t seen before. Someone climbs to the top of a balloon at like, 20,000 feet with nothing but a rope! It’s insane! This should be seen, if only because it’s a change of pace from all the action crap we normally get that’s all the same.

2. The Beach Bum

I just think people are gonna enjoy this if they see it. This is a film that got a lot of notice but not a lot of actual eyeballs. Spring Breakers seems to be a movie that has gotten more of a positive reputation and cult status in the years since it’s been released, and I feel like this one is destined to be the same (or rather, should be the same). I think it’s just a really fun, weird little movie with a great performance from Matthew McConaughey and I think it should be seen, because I feel like it’s a film that can be easily dismissed, but shouldn’t be.

3. Dark Waters

This, I believe, just came out, but it’s clearly destined to end up criminally underseen, because I can just see this getting absolutely zero awards attention and getting crushed under the weight of how much exposure everything else around it is getting. So I’m gonna try to do what I can to get people to see this. Because it’s a great film, with great performances and great writing, by a great director and it has something to say. It’s about a very important topic that has ties to every facet of modern society — which is that the mega corporations don’t care about people and are perfectly willing to let people die so long as their bottom line keeps improving. And I think that this is a film that is all around one of the absolute best of the year and is never gonna get seen by nearly as many people as it should.

4. The Dead Don’t Die

Jim Jarmusch movies always seem to be hidden gems, even when people know they exist. Every time a Jarmusch movie comes out, I always find it more solid than I was expecting, and I always say it’s a solid movie or hidden gem from the year, and every time there’s at least two people who go, “Oh, that movie came out?” Because either they’d heard of it and knew it was happening but never actually saw that it came out (because Jarmusch movies get no press or play unless you know to look for them) or they go, “Oh, I like him, I didn’t know he had a movie this year.” So I’m preemptively calling this movie a hidden gem even though it’s probably better qualified for (and still theoretically could be on) the Underseen list. It’s a zombie movie with a crazy cast — Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Tom Waits, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, RZA, Iggy Pop and Selena Gomez. It’s a revolving door of famous people who get their few scenes and then (more than likely) become zombies. It’s a lot of fun and at this point, if you’ve seen more than one Jarmusch movie you know it’s gonna be worth your time. It’s a lot of fun and definitely worth seeing.

5. The Farewell

Probably the indie darling of the year, and with good reason. And I know a lot of people did go see this and got people they know to go see it. But still, more people should see it. It’s wonderful. You know a movie is good when it’s about a very specific situation yet feels completely universal. This movie is that. I said with Lady Bird that I wasn’t a white woman who grew up in California and was involved in theater but felt and understood everything that went on there. Well, I am not Chinese and this situation is very specific to Lulu Wang’s family, but you just understand all of it. A lot of the stuff that happens feels like what happens at family gatherings. And that stuff is always wonderful to see. And I just think that this is a film for everyone that more people need to come around to seeing. And I’m aware that in the next year, when this hits streaming and Redbox or whatever that people will see it. I’m just trying to speed that process along and make sure it happens. Because this movie deserves it.

6. Freaks

I’m gonna put this on as many lists as I possibly can, just because I really liked this movie a lot and I know people don’t know it exists and haven’t seen it. And it’s really wonderful. I had zero expectations for it and truly could not figure out where the movie was going twenty minutes before it ended. And I watch a lot of movies. So typically I have a good idea where most things are going (unless it’s so good that I don’t care to think about it). So the fact that it kept me interested and guessing is very high praise. It’s one of the best sci fi movies I’ve seen in a while and really deserves to be seen.

7. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

One of the indie darlings of the year, so it should come as no surprise that it made one of these lists. It’s a really wonderful film that has a lot to say about race and gentrification. And while people have heard of this, because it will appear on a lot of the ‘best of’ lists this year, there’s no way the majority of people have actually gone out to see it. And they should, because it’s really good.

8. The Lighthouse

I hesitated in calling this either overrated or underrated. I honestly don’t know what this movie is. But I do know that it should be seen. You may love it, you may hate it. But it’s an experience. It’s fucking weird and amazing and just a hell of a film. Of course, some people will hate it. That is part of the deal. But you don’t know until you watch it. And this is just one of the more gleeful artistic expressions of the year. I can’t even believe this got made. I think it does a film fan good to see something like this, even if it’s not totally your cup of tea.

9. The Nightingale

This must be the second or third time I’m talking about this one. I think this is one of the absolute best films of the year and really deserves to have a big audience. At first, The Babadook didn’t have that kind of an audience and grew one over time, but that’s a horror movie and is easier seen than a period piece set in Tasmania. But man, this movie is so so good, and I cannot say enough great things about it. I know it’s as tough sell, and there’s not a whole lot I can do to sell people on this movie except to say that it’s the director of The Babadook, it’s got an amazing lead performance from Aisling Franciosi and it’s truly one of the best films I saw this year. Please see this movie.

10. Parasite

Oh, everyone knows what this is. That doesn’t mean you all have seen it. You hear everyone raving about it, and most of the time that kind of outpour usually creates a backlash. But this one feels different. You can hear the genuine excitement in people’s voices when they talk about this one. People don’t try to sell this as hard. It’s one of those that’s more, “Just trust me, it’s amazing.” And I think part of the reason for that is twofold: one, you can’t say anything about it so as not to ruin it, so you’re underselling it to people, and two, it really is that good. But I’m here to say that more people should see this because it’s one of the best screen experiences of the year. The less you know about this movie going in, the better. And I promise you will be on the edge of your seat at every little thing that happens. Know nothing, and the movie will do its job. There’s no way this film can ever be overexposed, so until it feels like enough people have seen this, it’s underseen.

11. The Peanut Butter Falcon

This is one of the feel-good indies of the year. They always puts one of these out at the end of the summer and it always ends up on this list. Because people don’t go see movies of this budget and you have to hope they discover them later on. This is a really short and sweet little film starring an actual man with Down’s Syndrome. And it’s about a guy who dreams of being a professional wrestler and escapes his living situation to go live his dream. And it’s just great. It’s so uplifting and so charming and just is one of those movies that will put a smile on your face. Don’t let this one get buried by the mainstream crap. That stuff isn’t good enough to obscure something like this.

12. The Perfection 

Nobody knows about this one. It’s not out there yet, and I’m not sure why. But I’m also kind of grateful. Because like Parasite, where you tell people to go in and know nothing, that’s what I tell people about this one. The first 40 minutes are truly among some of the most perfect I have ever seen. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat that entire time, trying to figure out where it was going. It’s incredible. And I think people dismissed it when it came out. Because if enough people had seen this, it would have hit the zeitgeist a lot harder. And you know when a Netflix movie hits the zeitgeist. This one for sure did not. So it’s 100% underseen. And trust me — if you want a great experience, put this movie on blindly and just watch it.

13. Polar

It’s B movie John Wick starring Mads Mikkelsen. It’s fun as hell. I know people don’t know about this movie because there’s too much stuff on Netflix for people to keep up with it all. But, the good news is, it is on Netflix, so you can easily remedy missing out on it anytime you want. This spot could have gone to any number of other Netflix movies, but this one in particular I had quite a lot of fun with because it felt appropriately self-aware and just had fun with itself. I think people should check it out.

14. Ready or Not

It’s just fun. I think it made a decent amount of money and I think it’ll do well whenever it hits streaming, but I just want people to know that it’s really good and should be seen. It’s probably fine, but you never can be too careful. The premise is really good. So I’m just doing my part to make sure the word gets out as much as possible (so go off and see this, all 13 people that read this).

15. Waves

This is one of the most emotional experiences I had at a theater this year. And judging from how few theaters they put this out in and how clearly it’s going to get ignored at a lot of the awards ceremonies (save maybe a token nomination here or there), this is destined to go into the pile of great underappreciated films. So I’m starting the train now to try to get people to see this movie, because it’s quite the experience. I don’t really want to get into it, but it’s just a really amazing movie with great performances all around and some really… okay, I’ll admit. You probably will need a stiff drink after this movie, but it’s worth it. This feels like a great cinematic work that holds its own among the great dramas you’ll ever see. I can only hope that this movie finds a proper audience (aided by awards nominations, which, for better or worse do get people to revisit movies years after the fact better than almost anything else). It is truly one of the greatest films of 2019.

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