As with every year, 2019 had its share of films that critics praised, Rotten Tomatoes deemed as certified fresh, and… were panned by audiences.
If we are to look at the reviews they’ve received, the movies on this list were supposedly among the better films of 2019, with a few titles even appearing on best of the year lists, some of them on our page too. However, based on the audience reaction, the films on this list are at best mediocre, with some of them not even getting a 6/10 on platforms such as IMDb or Metacritic, and all of them being rotten judging by the Rotten Tomatoes audience score.
Without further ado, here are 10 movies from 2019 that critics liked, but audiences didn’t. As always, let us know in the comments what is your opinion on these films.
1. The Souvenir
A semi-fictionalized version of director Joanna Hogg’s experiences at film school, “The Souvenir” is set in the 1980s Sunderland and stars Honor Swinton Byrne as Julie, a young film student who falls in love with Anthony (Tom Burke), an older man who works at the Foreign Office. What starts as an intense relationship shortly stumbles because of Anthony’s untrustworthy character and hidden addictions.
Critics praised Joanna Hogg’s film as a uniquely impactful coming of age drama. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said that “the director confirms her status as a modern visionary with a deft, distinctive and deeply personal story of young love”, while Monica Castillo from RogerEbert.com called “The Souvenir” “the most empathetic movie to capture that kind of bad romance”, referring to the toxic relationship depicted in Hogg’s film.
With a 90% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes (and an 8.12 average rating), it is obvious that critics really liked “The Souvenir”, yet that isn’t the case with most viewers. The film has a rotten 36% audience score, and many audience reviews call it a dull, boring, and hard-to-sit through experience, and criticize the hard to swallow relationship between the two main characters.
It is true that the film might have benefited from a shortened runtime, as it drags during its second act and at times becomes a little tedious, yet the charming performances from Byrne and Burke combined with Hogg’s very personal script and David Raedeker’s grainy cinematography make “The Souvenir” stand out as one of the year’s better-crafted dramas.
2. See You Yesterday
Perhaps the most divisive film of 2019 when it comes to critics’ vs audience reaction, this Netflix original science fiction film produced by Spike Lee follows C.J. Walker and Sebastian Thomas, two teenage prodigies who create time machines in order to save C.J.’s brother from an incident that claimed his life.
The critical reaction for “See You Yesterday” was overwhelmingly positive. It has a 95% Tomatometer score (with a 7.34 average rating), and a 74 Metascore. Brian Tallerico from RogerEbert.com labeled it “an ambitious, striking debut that takes unexpected creative risks and heralds the arrival of an exciting new filmmaker”, Benjamin Lee from The Guardian called it “a smart, often ingenious, new film that takes a depressingly familiar scenario and then adds some time travel to the mix” and the list goes on.
Surprisingly, the audiences didn’t feel the same – at all. On Rotten Tomatoes, the audience score is a disappointing 34% (with a 2.45/5 average rating), IMDb rates it as a 5/10, and even the user score on Metacritic is 4.9/10. So what happened?
Most viewers found the film too juvenile, complained about the poor screenplay and acting, felt like the critics praised it only because of political correctness, and above all felt cheated by the film’s lack of an ending.
3. High Life
Claire Denis’ ambitious science-fiction film features Robert Pattinson as Monte, a troubled man who has been sentenced with a deadly space mission whose purpose is to extract an alternate form of energy from a black hole.
The film was lauded by critics for its compelling narrative, dark atmosphere, great production design, and Robert Pattinson’s stellar performance. However, its non-linear and somewhat confusing narrative didn’t appeal as much to audiences, neither did the film’s slow pace and overall strangeness. On Rotten Tomatoes, “High Life” has a certified fresh 82% Tomatometer score (7.42 average rating), while viewers gave it a 42% audience score, with a 2.8/5 average rating.
4. Ad Astra
“Ad Astra” disappointed at the box-office, was panned by audiences, yet it was still one of the best-received films of 2019 if you are too look at the critics’ reactions.
With an 84% fresh score on the Tomatometer, critics praised James Gray’s cerebral sci-fi for Brad Pitt’s fantastic performance, the impressive visuals and technical aspects, and the intelligent and provocative script. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film “absolutely enthralling”, David Ehrlich of IndieWire said that “Ad Astra is one of the most ruminative, withdrawn, and curiously optimistic space epics this side of Solaris. It’s also one of the best.”, and Xan Brooks of The Guardian called it a “superb space-opera” and praised Pitt’s performance.
At the opposite pole, audiences weren’t impressed at all with Gray’s movie. With a 40% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and a mediocre 6.6 on IMBd, “Ad Astra” was criticized by many viewers for being too slow, monotone, and unimpressive apart from the beautiful imagery and Pitt’s performance.
Audiences expected another “Gravity” or “The Martian” and instead received a quasi-Tarkovskian, slow-burn, and melancholic space opera that only appeals to a certain type of moviegoer.
5. In Fabric
This Giallo-inspired horror-comedy directed by Peter Strickland (“Berberian Sound Studio”, “The Duke Of Burgundy”) tells the story of a cursed dress and the devastating consequences it has on two of its unlucky owners.
As with Strickland’s previous movies, the critical reaction to “In Fabric” was overwhelmingly positive (the film holds a 94% score on Rotten Tomatoes), while the audiences were less enthusiastic. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw rated the film a 4/5 and called it a ghost story that is “utterly unlike anything else around”, while David Ehrlich from IndieWire gave it a B+ and called it a “mordantly funny and unapologetically fetishistic homage to vintage Euro-horror”.
However, audiences weren’t as impressed with Strickland’s latest film (it holds a 6.3 grade on IMDb, a 5.8 user score on Metacritic, and a 48% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes), with many of them considering “In Fabric” too strange for its own good, and a hard to sit through movie.
“In Fabric” certainly isn’t a film for everyone and it indeed suffers from a somewhat disjointed narrative that loses its steam in the less interesting second act, but if you are into Giallo or you’ve enjoyed the director’s previous work, you will surely find many things to like about it.