14 Wonderful 2019 Films Which Deserve More Attention

2019 is over, but it won't be forgotten for the many cinematic treats it's left us with. As I compose my list detailing the year's best films, there are a number of omissions which feel cruel to leave out. So instead of composing at least a top 70 list, I wanted to highlight 14 personal choices which left me impressed, and ready to pass a good word onto anybody who'd listen. These films won't be found in my Best Of list, but are just as deserving of attention and praise. Plus, this list allows me to do what the BAFTAs shall not, and celebrate the work of female directors.

Always Be My Maybe

Creator of hit TV shows such as Fresh Off The Boat and Don't Trust The B---- in Apartment 23, Nahnatchka Khan made the jump to feature films, and this lovable romantic comedy served as her directorial debut. Central to it all are Ali Wong and Randall Park, who play childhood friends trying to reconnect, while working through personal issues each relating to their parents. It's a sweet film full of heart, with the central pair having a winning chemistry, but there's a threat looming. As good as they are, the film is stolen from under them by a hilarious Keanu Reeves, playing a nightmarish version of himself. 2019 was certainly a banner year for the actor, and in my opinion, this was his best performance in a year full of them. It's available to watch on Netflix, and be sure to stay through the credits for an utter earworm.

Blinded By The Light

Full disclosure; I've enjoyed a few of Bruce Springsteen's songs, but going into this film, I wouldn't have called myself a fan. Coming out of Gurinder Chadha's film, I was more than ready to seek out The Boss' music. Based on the memoir of Sarfraz Manzoor, one teenagers journey of self-discovery is captured so wonderfully, with the fire sparked by the music of Bruce Springsteen. The story may be centred around a Pakistani teenager living in Luton, set in 1987, as he copes with racism and an overbearing father, but it's a tale which can be enjoyed by all. It's full of empathy and joy, sure to resonate with many viewers, all aided by Viveik Kalra, doing an astonishing job in his first feature role.

The Breaker Upperers

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If you want a job done right, do it yourself. The pairing of Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek have taking this on, as they serve as directors, writers, and stars for this film, and do each job very well indeed. This charming comedy follows two friends who run a business performing break-up services, for clients too cowardly to end their relationships. While their characters are opposites, with Mel's cheery disposition contrasting with how Jen is evidently still hurting, this is a story about how friendship can overcome all, and a refusal to let past hurts define who you are today. Special mentions are deserved for James Rolleston's dim-witted rugby player, and Ana Scotney threatening to steal the film as his brash girlfriend, who isn't as delicate a flower as initially described. A delightful time worth spending, and at only 80 minutes long, it won't take up a lot of your time.

Of all the films I enjoyed over the year, James Bobin's live-action take on the animated Nickelodeon series was one of the bigger surprises. Opening on two children recreating the show's original opening, complete with theme song, this was a film which respected its source material, while playing with them in such a humorous way. The end result works as a great introductory adventure film for children, but also revels in bonkers fun which adults can enjoy. Where else would you have the lead character singing about pooping in the jungle, before key characters imagine themselves animated in the style of the original show? It assuredly stood apart among the summers releases, and it's key success was treating the characters like real people, complete with Isabela Merced capturing the infectiously joyous attitude of Dora. Come for a fun 102 minutes, stay for the consistently hilarious use of Swiper the Fox.

As Marvel and DC continue to tell grand scale films with large budgets, Julia Hart has crafted a great counterpoint, serving as a more grounded and intimate take on superpowered beings. Ruth isn't feeling heroic, as her seizures cause earthquakes, leading her to be on the run from law enforcement, and scientists who want to study her. The one place she has left to go is back home, to the mother and daughter she abandoned long ago. As the focus firmly remains on these three generations of women, the past hangs over their heads, with Ruth being most afraid of reconnecting with her family. Their relationship is in a fraught place, but can be repaired, and makes for a compelling story focused on character, led by an exceptional Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

A story of familial struggles told in the wrestling world, Stephen Merchant adapted the life of WWE wrestler Paige for the big screen, captured in a manner that's widely accessible to all viewers. Detailing the story of Paige working towards her goal, while intercut with her brother failing to realising the same dreams, this is engrossing stuff which never undermining the characters internal struggles, no matter how fun the film may get. Front and centre are an absorbing Jack Lowden, and Florence Pugh kicking off a phenomenal year with a transformative performance. Come for the heartwarming family tale, and stay to smell what The Rock is cooking.

Frankenstein's Creature

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Having made it's world debut at Frightfest, Sam Ashurst's directorial debut was the first film to sell out at the 2018 festival, and also sold-out of its limited edition run of 200 DVD copies, in the pre-order period. It's clear that audiences were ready to try this unique take on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which originated from James Swanton's play, and were rewarded with a film unlike any other. Shot on the 200th anniversary of the novel's publication, this haunting vision depicts the story as a horrific one-man show, retold from the Creature's perspective, while rooted in a Gothic visual style. Central to it all is Swanton himself, reprising the role of the Creature with a commanding portrayal, holding your attention throughout the 91 minute runtime. At the time of writing, it's only available to watch on a digital version from Hex Media's website, and if you're willing to try a more experimental horror film, it's worth giving this Lynchian nightmare a try.

Hail Satan?

When you first hear of a group called The Satanic Temple, what are your initial thoughts of them? Director Penny Lane wanted to combat the widespread view of satanic panic, so set out to give TST a voice, and showcase how far they are from the negative perception associated to them. What started as being kind of a joke, taking on the name of Satan for trolling purposes, turned into the group being a real religious movement, doing their part to help the community, take care of those in need of aid, and advocating for the importance of separating church and state. What's left is an engrossing and informative documentary that's very relevant, while being pretty damn hilarious. Just see how they combat the Westboro Baptist Church.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror

An analysis through black representation in horror cinema, and how it was representative of societal changes, Xavier Burgin takes audiences on a journey through history, made up of a wide array of features best representing the changing years and attitudes. These are detailed through the perspectives of filmmakers, critics, and actors, who each give their own thoughts, and make you want to hear more. Throughout this wide spectrum of opinions, you'll be left thoroughly compelled, and be wanting more of Ken Foree and Keith David spending time in each others company. Available exclusively on Shudder, this is a must-see for anybody with an interest.

Missing Link

Another year passes, and another film from Laika has sadly gone underseen. The ever-reliable stop motion studio has been gifted with an output that's high in both quality and ambition, and despite this not being among their strongest works, it remains a must-see. This adventurous road-trip sees Hugh Jackman's engaging explorer guiding Zach Galifianakis' lonely Sasquatch to the Himalayas, in the hopes of meeting his Yeti cousins. They make for a lovable pair who work well off each other, making for one of 2019's best odd-couples, while the film carries a touching message at it's very core.

Despite knowing about the Iraq war and it's aftermath, I'm ashamed to say I did not know about Katherine Gun, a British whistleblower who leaked a secret memo received at her job, in the hopes it'd prevent the oncoming war. Central to the proceedings is Keira Knightley, excellently conveying the weight of it all, as Katherine wanted to do the right thing, and must face the horrific blowback which impacts various aspects of her life. What Gavin Hood has brought to screen is an engrossing story of a government lying to the people for its own needs, something which sadly remains relevant to this day.


Taking it upon themselves to adapt one of the classic films by acclaimed director, David Cronenberg, Jen and Sylvia Soska have taken the right approach. Using the basic premise as a jumping off point, they pair have persevered forward intent on carving their own path, while honouring what came before. The end result is a gripping piece of bloody terror, with brilliant pieces of body horror brought alive through wonderful practical effects.

Meeting the in-laws is always a nerve-wracking time, but making a good impression is the least of Grace's worries. Her wedding night involves a family tradition with her husband's obscenely rich family, playing a randomly selected game. The chosen game is "Hide and Seek", which sees our lead finding a hiding place until sunrise, while her husband's family arm themselves with weapons, ready to fatally catch her. Samara Weaving delivers a breakout performance in this blackly comedic spin on "The Most Dangerous Game", veering between uncomfortable tension and wacky fun, all the way to the showstopping finale. Ready or Not, you'll have a brilliant time with this one.

Wild Rose

It's unlikely she'll be recognised at the Oscars, but for my money, Jessie Buckley gave one of the year's very best performances, in Tom Harper's wonderful gem of a film. Young Scottish singer Rose-Lynn Harlan sees her release from prison as an opportunity to follow her dreams, and make it as a Country singer. Rose-Lynn also knows she must do right by her children, and feels torn in succeeding in both regards, resulting in an utterly heartfelt and touching film. It's also worth mentioning Glasgow (No Place Like Home), one of the best original songs to come out in 2019, which is a key part of this terrific film.