• Stephen Hanlon

The Digital Madman’s Top 10 Underrated Films of 2019

Every year my fiancée and I watch hundreds of films, whether if it in the cinema or on one of the many streaming services available such as Netflix. On a few occasions, I’ll even sit down myself and watch a film alone just to unwind after a long day at work.

2019 was no different as I’m sure these eyes must have seen at least a couple of hundred movies throughout the year. Some were spectacular, and some were a terrible let-down. While films such as Avengers Endgame, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Toy Story 4 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood dominated the box-office and the headlines, they weren’t necessarily the best films of the year. If anything, it was movies which either flew under the radar or didn’t have a Disney stamp on them which ended up being some of the best films of the year.

So, with that being said, here are my Top 10 Underrated Films of 2019;

10. Le Mans 66

Le Mans 66 may be the finest racing films since Rush.

The story of the infamous feud between Ferrari and the Ford Motor Company is potentially a Film of the Year candidate and a sure-fire contender for multiple Academy Awards nominations. However, despite it starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon, it flew under the radar for a lot of people because it had the misfortune of being released around the same time as both Joker and Frozen 2.

Le Mans 66 starts off slowly, but the film reaches a thunderous pace when it eventually hits its stride. However, the slow build means a greater reward by the time the actual race at Le Mans gets underway with the fantastic race sequences and superb acting from both Bale and Damon making for a winning combination.

9. Fighting With My Family

Fighting With My Family is far more than a film about wrestling.

If you had told me that the goofy lanky guy from the British version of The Office would write one of the best films of the year then I’d have told you to lay off the drugs, or share them if they gave you those sort of thoughts. But write one of the films of the year he did.

Fighting With My Family is a biographical sports comedy-drama which tells the true story of WWE superstar Saraya-Jade “Paige” Bevis and her family struggles as she looked to become a professional wrestler.

While the film is far from your typical biopic, it managed to stand out for its raw performances and representation of mental health and substance abuse issues. The fact that the cast was rounded off by Lena Hadley, Nick Frost and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson didn’t hurt it either.

8. The Current War

General Zod and Doctor Strange face off in the battle of electricity.

For a film whose actors have become known for playing Marvel and DC comic book characters over the past decade, The Current War does a remarkable job at making you forget this. While the film was shown at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival, it was only released to cinema audiences this year, with very little marketing to hype it up.

The film tackles Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse’s (Michael Shannon) fierce rivalry in the field of invention and technology. While it is nowhere near one of the best films of the year, it is one that flew under the radar and was damn good for what it was. It was beautifully produced from the very first frame to the very last and the addition of Tom Holland and Nicholas Hoult only added to its unique characters. Unfortunately, strong performances from all weren’t enough to overcome an average screenplay and allow it to compete with the bigger releases at the time, namely IT: Chapter 2 and Joker. September/October was definitely the rise of the killer clown when it came to cinema.

7. Hustlers

Hustlers is effectively sisterhood of the travelling strippers.

Without sounding sexist, any film that casts Jennifer Lopez as a stripper I will watch. What could have easily been a shameless money grab filled with scenes of half-naked beautiful women turned out to be so much more.

Both flashy in its presentation and meticulous in its construction, Hustlers is a true-crime docudrama about a group of strippers ripping off their oblivious Wall Street customers. Unlike a lot of recent movies, it understands what it is and doesn’t try to be something it clearly isn’t. The film is very much a look at the seedy underbelly of the strip club industry and how it affects the people associated with it.

6. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

A film so dark that it belongs in the DC Universe.

Despite most of the film taking place inside a dark, cavernous warehouse used by seven members of an unnamed midwestern militia, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is an effective little thriller. The story follows the seven militia members as they try to figure out which of their number is responsible for shooting up a police funeral and therefore making their group the number one target for law enforcement in the State.

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek very much feels like what Reservoir Dogs might have been like if directed by Martin Scorsese. There, I said it.

5. Doctor Sleep

Ewen McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson steal the show in Doctor Sleep.

Despite being a complete box office bomb, Doctor Sleep was easily one of the most underrated films of 2019. The sequel to The Shining, based on the novel of the same by Stephen King, Doctor Sleep follows Danny Torrance (Ewen McGregor) as an adult who is on the run from a cult who drain The Shining from people with similar abilities to Danny in order to achieve a longer life.

What makes Doctor Sleep shine (excuse the pun) is how it brings The Shining full circle and explains a lot of the questions asked of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaption. Plus, a standout performance from Rebecca Ferguson coupled with yet another strong showing from McGregor make it a shame that it didn’t receive more plaudits upon its release.

4. The Great Hack

The more I see of Mark Zuckerberg, the more impressed I am with Jess Eisenberg's portrayal of him in The Social Network.

This was probably the best documentary I’ve watched since Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. The Great Hack follows the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal and looks at just how much information is available online about any given person.

While you would need to take this documentary with a pinch of salt, it does offer an alarming glimpse of the way data is being weaponized for political gain -- and what it might mean for future elections.

3. Pain & Glory

Pain & Glory will definitely be an Oscar contender.

The only film on this list not spoken in the English language (mostly because I simply don’t watch enough foreign language films). Pain & Glory tells the story of a once renowned film director whose career has begun to decline and how he decides to deal with the realisation that he is no longer relevant in the industry.

If you’re a betting man (or woman) then stick a few quid on this winning Best Foreign Language Film at the 92nd Academy Awards in February.

2. Her Smell

Her Smell has more tragedy to it than a Shakesphere play.

There is no doubt that Elizabeth Moss has probably had the best post-Man Men career out of the show’s incredible ensemble cast. This year she added yet another notch to her bedpost of incredible performances with Her Smell.

The film tells the story of a disintegrating rock star whose addictions and ego cause her and her formerly beloved band to self-destruct. It is very similar to the real-life issues and struggles of Courtney Love and could be argued that the film somewhat resembles her life. The story itself is harrowing, following Moss’s character of Becky from her struggles and addiction as a Rockstar to her journey to recovery and being overwhelmed by the guilt and shame of the life she has led.

1. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

If you haven't seen it already, The Last Black Man in San Francisco needs to be top of your list of movies to watch.

Without a doubt, easily the most underrated film of 2019. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is the story of Jimmie Fails whose obsession is fixing up a beautiful old house which used to belong to his family but now technically belongs to two white gentrifiers. Despite this, Jimmie returns to the house everyday to work on its restoration with the help of his friend, Montgomery Allen.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a tragedy about a dying city that pushes out the people who helped make it desirable in the first place.

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