The Best 2019 Movies That Audiences Didn’t Go See

Movie reviews are intended to guide audiences to the best movies now playing. Yet, the disparity between moviegoers and critics remains as strong as ever. Oftentimes, movies with poor reviews still connect with audiences, while critical darlings struggle to break into the mainstream.

Today, we’re looking at some of the best 2019 movies that audiences didn’t go see in theaters. For this list, we considered a combination of box office expectations, the film’s budget, and critical reception. By that criteria, a film could still be included even if it managed to turn a profit during its theatrical run.

Rosa Salazar at the premiere of 'Alita: Battle Angel' | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Rosa Salazar at the premiere of ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ (released January 25)

Writer/director Joe Cornish made an auspicious directorial debut in 2011 with sci-fi horror film Attack the Block, which has since developed a cult following.

However, this King Arthur update was among the year’s biggest financial disappointments. The effects-heavy family film only earned $16 million domestically against a $59 million production budget.

Perhaps Fox simply didn’t know how to market the playful adventure in a way that would distinguish it from films like Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. In any case, critics loved Cornish’s sophomore outing, earning it an 89 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

‘Happy Death Day 2U’ (released on February 13)

The original Happy Death Day proved to be a surprise smash in 2017, bringing in $125 million worldwide on a mere $4.8 million budget. Two years later, the sequel was released to greater fanfare but, apparently, the novelty of the Groundhog Day-esque premise had worn off.

Although director Christopher B. Landon’s film more than tripled its $9 million budget and earned mostly positive reviews, the resulting cume was not enough to entice Blumhouse Productions to greenlight a sequel.

Rumors have swirled about a third Happy Death Day, but Landon has flatly denied talks are happening.

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ (released February 14)

A sci-fi action-adventure from the man behind Avatar seems like the kind of film destined to break records.

Yet, even with producer/co-writer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) involved, this adaptation of the 1990s manga series failed to overcome its $170 million production budget domestically. Sure, Alita earned a bit over $400 million worldwide, but once marketing is taken into account, its profit margin was modest at best.

All hope isn’t quite lost though, as star Rosa Salazar told /Film that fans should buy the film on Blu-ray to revive hopes for a sequel.

‘Long Shot’ (released May 3)

No one knew quite what to expect when we heard that Seth Rogen and Academy Award winner, Charlize Theron were teaming up for a love story set amid the chaos of U.S. politics.

The combined star power of its two leads wasn’t enough to get audiences to come out in droves for the R-rated comedy, which brought in just $30 million domestically despite an 81 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The likely culprit of Long Shot’s underperformance? The record-breaking box office take of a little film called Avengers: Endgame. Much like Thanos, Rogen and Theron never stood a chance.

‘Booksmart’ (released May 24)

Teen comedies tend to have a built-in appeal for mainstream audiences, due to their universal relatability and up-and-coming young casts. To that end, Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut seemed poised to become the next Superbad.

Alas, near-universal critical acclaim didn’t do much to buoy Booksmart during its theatrical run. While its $22 million domestic gross far eclipsed its $6 million production budget, it fell far short of expectations.

Considering the passion among critics, Wilde’s film should have been one of 2019’s biggest breakout hits. Instead, it cements its place among the year’s most underappreciated releases.

‘Rocketman’ (released May 31)

Here’s another selection that may surprise you. After all, director Dexter Fletcher’s Elton John biopic has earned $85 million domestically (and doubled that worldwide) against a production budget of $40 million. So why is it on our list?

Fletcher’s last project was the $900 million-grossing Bohemian Rhapsody, which he stepped in to complete following Bryan Singer’s departure. Comparatively, Rocketman’s numbers are more than a little disappointing.

Critics lavished praise on the film and star Taron Egerton’s performance. However, the R rating and fantasy elements may have prevented Fletcher’s film — while technically a hit — from making the impact many hoped it might.