10 brilliant but under-appreciated films from 2019

Dora, High Life, and Wild Rose are amongst the films that deserved more attention in 2019. (Paramount/Thunderbird/eOne)
Dora, High Life, and Wild Rose are amongst the films that deserved more attention in 2019. (Paramount/Thunderbird/eOne)

In 2019, Avengers: Endgame became the biggest movie of all-time and now awards voters are sifting through Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood, The Irishman and Marriage Story to decide which of them deserve top prizes.

But unfortunately, every year there are a bunch of cracking films which for whatever reason don’t get the love they deserve either from the box office or the awards ceremonies. Here are our favourites (in no particular order).

The Kid Who Would Be King

Old-school magic meets the modern world when young Alex stumbles upon the mythical sword Excalibur. He soon joins forces with a band of knights and the legendary wizard Merlin when the wicked enchantress Morgana threatens the future of mankind.
Old-school magic meets the modern world in The Kid Who Would Be King. (20th Century Fox)

Joe Cornish’s long-awaited follow-up to Attack the Block is a funny, action-packed, child-friendly Arthurian adventure story which apparently no-one wanted to see.

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Which is a real shame because a) it’s one of the most purely entertaining films of the year b) it’s an original script in a sea of remakes and reboots and not supporting a movie like this means there’ll be even less of them.

Long Shot

You wouldn’t have thought there would be much chemistry between the odd pairing of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, but this romcom about a potential presidential candidate and her speechwriter shows they actually make a tremendous couple. The former demonstrates good comedy chops and there’s an excellent subversive supporting performance by O’Shea Jackson Jr. Movie drug-taking scenes aren’t always that fun to watch, but Theron wrangling a hostage crisis on an ecstasy comedown is hilarious.

Wild Rose

LFF alumni director Tom Harper (<i>War Book</i>, LFF 2014) makes a cracking return with this year’s Festival Gala, <i>Wild Rose</i>, a delightful and infectiously joyous film written by rising screenwriting star Nicole Taylor which finds Glaswegian Rose-Lynn balancing her dreams of being a country music star with the responsibilities of motherhood. Starring a magnificent Julie Walters, along with a dazzling breakout performance from the irrepressible Jessie Buckley.
Wild Rose featured a dazzling breakout performance from the irrepressible Jessie Buckley. (eOne)

Jessie Buckley puts in a star-making turn as a young Scottish single mother trying to turn her life around by becoming a singer in Nashville, with good support from Julie Walters as her mum. Buckley’s voice is spectacular, the original country songs are great and it’s uplifting without being mawkish.

Brittany Runs a Marathon

Nestling within the Amazon Prime algorithm is this sweet indie about an unfulfilled woman who decides to try and jog for 26-and-a-bit miles in the hope of turning her life around. Perennial supporting actress Jillian Bell is fantastic as Brittany, embracing her flaws as well as her good bits and we dare you not to well up at the end.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Finding a good kids’ movie can be a chore, but this is one of them, even though a live-action adaptation of a children’s cartoon sounds fairly horrendous. The cast is great, it’s fun and funny, it’s full of action and it doesn’t talk down to its audience while still being enjoyable for the parents. Plus, it’s got a kind of imaginative drug-taking sequence in it which is pretty avant-garde for a PG.

The Edge

What this documentary does so well is that even though it’s ostensibly about cricket, it’s actually about much more – pressure, mental health and high-level competition. Charting the rise of England’s Test team to become number one in the world and the impact that had on the players, director Barney Douglas combines incredible access with searing honesty.

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Administrators in all sports who spend their time wondering less about the people and more about the money should watch it. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime now.


Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart (credit: United Artists Releasing)
Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart (credit: United Artists Releasing)

Lazy critics called it Superbad with girls, but in fact this is a beautifully-written, brilliantly-acted and genuinely authentic-feeling comedy about female teen friendship. Actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are the women in question, trying to figure out the future and their place in it. Feldstein’s been nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy at the Golden Globes which is something, but it deserved more.


This uncategorisable Swedish film mixes fantasy, horror, romcom and drama to tell the story of a customs agent who can (literally) sniff out illegality thanks to her heightened olfactory senses. Due to the fact, obviously, that she’s a troll. Innovative and daring, the fact this movie works at all proves how much we need directors pushing boundaries. Sometimes this is what we end up with.

High Life

Robert Pattinson in High Life (Thunderbird Releasing)
Robert Pattinson in High Life (Thunderbird Releasing)

Space travel, weird sex stuff, Robert Pattinson – if that’s not enough to convince you Claire Denis’ drama (which might also be called a black comedy) is worth seeing, then perhaps the fact it’s a visually-sumptuous rumination on humanity might. Following a group of death row criminals who are guinea pigs on a spacecraft travelling towards a black hole, overseen by a mad doctor (Juliette Binoche), it’s affecting, bold and totally bizarre, in a good way.

Always Be My Maybe

Keanu Reeves and Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe
Keanu Reeves and Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe. (Netflix)

This Netflix romcom about a pair of childhood friends who fall out only to be reunited as adults is pretty standard in many ways, despite Keanu Reeves showing up to play a bizarro (we hope) version of himself. What lifts it is the chemistry between stars and co-writers Ali Wong and Randall Park.

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Long-time mates in real life, they make the friendship, arguments and obstacles feel real. Wong is great and an accomplished comedian, but Park is one of those actors with truly funny bones, whose every line delivery makes the words that little bit more enjoyable.