The 9 Most Overlooked Movies of 2019, From Robert Pattinson’s Sexual Guinea Pig to Netflix’s Animated Marvel
Between all the movies hitting theaters and #TooMuchTV, you were bound to miss out on some uncut gems. Here are the best movies of the past year that flew under radar.
There were—I kid you not—871 movies and 495 scripted television series released in America in 2018. These were both records, with the movie-release total increasing by 120 over the previous year, and are sure to be eclipsed by this year’s overwhelming output. If that weren’t enough, only one truly original film, Jordan Peele’s Us, has managed to crack the top 10 at the North American box office this year. The rest were either superhero movies or sequels.
So yes, there’s a reason why Martin Scorsese’s so damn upset with the state of the movie industry, and why, with such an oversaturated marketplace, you probably missed many of this year’s finest entries—mostly smaller, indie-minded films that failed to carve out a niche amid the dizzying number of studio tentpoles.
And it’s a damn shame, because there were so many great little movies that flew under the radar this year, from Alex Ross Perry and Elisabeth Moss’ terrifying portrait of a self-destructive punk rocker to Antonio Banderas’ towering turn as a filmmaker reflecting on his past, present and future.
Here are the most overlooked movies of 2019.
APOLLO 11 (March 1)
Filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller, with the help of NASA and the National Archives, hit the jackpot: uncovering a treasure trove of never-before-seen 70 mm footage from the Apollo 11 mission. And it looks stunning, capturing the anxiety, thrill and wonder of the history-making moon-landing voyage. First Man pales in comparison.
ASH IS PUREST WHITE (March 15)
Zhao Qiao (Zhao Tao) is jailed, abandoned, and harassed, yet keeps finding herself under the sway of her former crime boss/lover. Under the guise of a gangster epic, filmmaker Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Sin) has crafted a razor-sharp study of alienation and the corrosiveness of the patriarchy in contemporary China. And Tao is a revelation.
HIGH LIFE (April 5)
Every film by French master Claire Denis is a cultural event, and this, her English-language debut, is a demented, deeply engrossing sci-fi saga centered on a group of death-row prisoners who’ve been sent on a space mission to find energy in a black hole—only instead, they’re being sexually experimented on by Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche), who is hell-bent on conceiving a child. Monte (Robert Pattinson), one of the more attractive convicts on board, has no idea what he’s in for.
HER SMELL (April 12)
The most agonizing movie sequence of the year features Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss), the volatile frontwoman of punk act Something She, snatching her baby in a backstage rage and barreling down the hallway, crashing into walls and disappearing from view. Elisabeth Moss is a force of nature in Alex Ross Perry’s riotous five-act drama. If there were any justice in the world she’d be an Oscar lock.
THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (June 7)
In true Superbad fashion, this film was first drawn up when filmmaker Joe Talbot and star Jimmie Fails were teenagers, and is based (in part) on how, after Fails’ grandfather died, his Victorian home in San Francisco’s Fillmore district was foreclosed on, forcing the young Fails to spend his early years in foster care. As it stands, this indie drama is a haunting and elegiac ode to San Francisco’s storied past, in-flux present, and uncertain future.
HONEYLAND (July 26)
Though last year was a bit of a mixed bag, with the mesmerizing Three Identical Strangers mixed in with busts like Assassination Nation, distributor Neon really broke through in 2019, blessing us with not only Parasite but three of the best docs of the year—Apollo 11, Amazing Grace, and this striking, fly-on-the-wall (sorry) study of a female beekeeper in a tiny Macedonian village whose way of life is under attack. What begins as a quaint, vérité portrait evolves into something far greater: a monument to the human spirit.
MONOS (Sept. 13)
A twisted mash-up of Lord of the Flies, Heart of Darkness, and City of God, filmmaker Alejandro Landes’ tale of a squad of ruthless youth soldiers in Colombia is not just the most visually arresting feature of the year, but a thought-provoking commentary on the country’s guerrilla warfare-plagued history.
PAIN AND GLORY (Oct. 4)
Outside of maybe Scorsese and De Niro, there is no current director-actor relationship richer than that of Almodovar and Banderas, and this, their eighth collaboration, is their most achingly personal work yet. It’s the story of a renowned filmmaker (Banderas-as-Almodovar) whose struggles with pain and creative ennui trigger remembrances of his past, one filled with regret. Banderas has never been more tender—and beautiful.
I LOST MY BODY (Nov. 15)
In a year that brought is a Lego Movie sequel, a Lion King adaptation featuring Beyoncé, and a new Toy Story, the most awe-inspiring animated film to come along this year involves a severed hand escaping a lab and fighting its way back to its owner. But more than that, Jérémy Clapin’s latest is a heartrending meditation on immigration, childhood trauma, and the struggle to connect—enhanced by visuals that will leave you speechless.