Barry Lyndon: An underrated Stanley Kubrick masterpiece telling the tale of a wandering rogue finding many adventures in war and gambling into nobility. Much lush visuals like a picaresque painting and a charming story too.
Black Dynamite: It's "the funniest movie you've never seen." It only played in theaters for two weeks and grossed just short of $300,000 on a $2.6 million budget.
The dark satire Man Bites Dog definitely Needs More Love, but it's easy to see why it didn't catch on. A mockumentary about a Serial Killer and the violent crimes he commits? And it's funny? It simply must be seen to be believed.
On Her Majestys Secret Service is possibly one of the best Bond films that no one knows about. It's also the closest adaptation of the bunch, sticking to Ian Fleming's novel from the explosive beginning, to the absolutely heartwrenching ending. It's just as much a Shakespearean tragedy as it is an action film. Just watch it; Lazenby is actually pretty good as Bond.
Funny People. A thoughtful, quirky comedy with two big name stars, Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, directed by the king of comedy of the moment, Judd Apatow, about a dissatisfied comedian who finds out that he has a terminal illness and has very little time to live. Subtle, with some tearjerk moments and a very contained, nuanced performance by Sandler. Perhaps hurt by the season in which it was released and the fact that it's not Sandler's usual fare.
The Fall. I can't even fathom how the director pulled this movie off with no CGI whatsoever. Just about any scene in the film could be framed and put in an art museum. It's that beautiful. Then you take into account that shooting took 4 years, over 20 countries, and the film becomes a miracle.
My Favorite Year is a brilliant comedy that Needs More Love. Peter O'Toole plays a drunken former Swashbuckler movie star who absolutely destroys a young admirer's heroic illusions (and yet - somehow - also manages to justify them) and it's funny every single viewing.
Not so much for a show as for a character, the DVD commentary for the S1 finale of Robin Hood has most of the cast talking about how sorry they feel for Guy of Gisborne. After a few minutes of this, Jonas Armstrong speaks up in defence of Robin: "Why does everyone feel sorry for Gisborne? He's a murderer! What about poor Robin?!"
The Way of the Gun. It has a great cast and a in a lots of ways is a modern Western, but many people often think that is a Tarantino Rip-off.
North By Northwest. Plenty of people know Psycho and The Birds, but since NbN wasn't so much a horror/suspense/thriller as an action/adventure/spy parody/comedy/suspense amalgam (put together seamlessly, I might add), and since most people aren't willing to hunt it down, it ends up quite neglected, except by film aficionados, and film students.
Perhaps in need of even more love, Lifeboat and Rope.
Fluke is probably the most underrated dog movie of all time. It follows the story of a dog named Fluke who is actually a reincarnation of a human who died in a car accident. When he starts to remember, he decides to go look for his family. It might sound silly, but it's filled with so much Tear Jerker it's not even funny.
Demon Hunter is a halfway decent supernatural action flick, but no one knows it exists.
The films of James Gunn. Though often a critically well-received writer and director, his films always seem to end up falling through the cracks or get screwed by the studio with no advertising or because his films aren't very mainstream. Examples include:
The Return of Hanuman is quite different from other Indian films. The movie is also one of the few movies which doesn't revolve around a Hindu god (in this case, Hanuman) in the past, but also in the (Bollywood-esque?) present (and even makes the gods depicted as hilarious). It's also a fine quality 2 dimensional Indian animated movie (though with a bit of Conspicuous CG), which is pretty hard to find nowadays since most present Indian animated films are either 3D or a half-and-half mix of 2D and 3D . The movie overall is hilarious if you actually get it, with some heartwarming and awesome moments.
Milos Forman's adaption of Dangerous Liaisons, Valmont, came out one year after Stephen Frears' and fell through with the audience. Both are excellent films, but the latter's darker approach had shaped the perception of the story so far that the former seemed tame and naive in comparison. Despite of being a completely legitimate interpretation of de Laclos' novel.
Reign of Fire. Come on, Christian Bale fights dragon alongside his best buddy, Leonidas of Sparta. The movie's only fault was that it was half an hour too short.
David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner. It's a little slow for the first twenty minutes or so, but once things start to happen it pulls you right in and will keep you guessing at what's really happening up until the end!
Resurrecting The Champ, a boxing drama based on a true story about the relationship between a sportswriter trying to get promoted and his story, a homeless man who may have been a championship boxer many years earlier. Actually has a good performance from Josh Hartnett.
The Salton Sea is a taratino-esque crime film that really showed off Val Kilmer as an actor. It's not talked about very much and is a bit divisive in it's reception, but it's a dark and very well made film.
Another Val Kilmer flick, called Spartan. Labeled by many as the 'thinking man's thriller', it's both a moody and incredibly atmospheric film. Lot's of Spy Speak and Mamet Dialogue, and some really memorable moments.
Narc is a gritty crime film that was done on a modest budget. Some have said it's like a darker version of Training Day. The film has some amazing acting and a powerful ending.
Fish Story is a Japanese film composed of vignettes beginning with the world waiting for an apocalyptic comet to strike, and then going back in time to some college guys out on a group date, a doomsday cult that's 13 years too early, a ship hijacking, and finally back to the recording of a song we've heard several times thus far, and how it saves the world. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and enjoyable to watch the pieces come together, it's available for instant viewing on Netflix.
De Laatste Zomer (The Last Summer) is a very under the radar low-budget film about four teenagers spending their last summer together. The acting and writing is of a really high quality, and even parts or aspects that should feel predictable somehow don't.
Gummo is a very divisive film due to it's weirdness and disturbing nature, but it's managed to build up a cult following. It could be seen as a case of style over substance, but it's a highly original film and has some very memorable scenes.
The Assassination Of Richard Nixon is a clever and fair look at how a person can be broken down and driven to violence. The main character (who is based off a real person) is one of the greatest losers ever in a film, and even at the end of the film it's hard not to empathize with him. Great acting from Sean Penn as well.
Ben X is a very believable and emotional look into autism and what a struggle it would be to live with on a daily basis. It also covers themes such as bullying and escapism, and makes an interesting statement towards the end.
The 2007 Australian film Noise'' has been seen by few, but it's a fantastic crime film with a great atmosphere and interesting characters.
Suicide Club might seem like little more than Gorn, but it also has some great black humor and a unique atmosphere. It's plot is rather confusing (and it's sort of successor didn't help much), but if you can handle the violence then there's an interesting experience to be had.
The Messenger is a war drama that shows the lives of two soldiers as the do Casualty Notification service. Because of this there's not really any combat, nor does it contain a strong political message. Instead it's more of a character study, and it has some brilliantly acted and heartbreaking moments.
The 1995 film ''Safe' is about a housewife who developers multiple chemical sensitivity disorder and must seek treatment. It's an interesting look at mental illness, how it's treated in society and functioning in different sorts of social settings.
Whilst it is a film that will be too raw for some people, Nil By Mouth deserves to be seen by a few more people. It's one of the most believable/realistic in it's portrayal of domestic abuse and London street life.
Strange Days a fantastic cyberpunk film that failed to find an audience when it was released, and it sucessfully blends elements of drama, romance, action and science-fiction. The POV-cam SQUID scenes are all very well made and immersive, and despite the occasional corniness it provides a darker look into humanity. Ralph Fiennes does a great job acting as the sleazy Lenny Nero, and it also has a great soundtrack that fits perfectly with most of the scenes.
Clean, Shaven provides a realistic and objective look into schizophrenia by showing us the abstract images and sounds the protagonist is experiencing. This makes it quite a Mind Screw, and it's not a particularly uplifting experience either. But for the right tastes it's a perfect film.
Castaway on the Moon is a very under the radar Korean film about a suicidal man turned castaway and his communication with a hikikomori. It's an unusual premise, but it's much better than it sounds and despite appearances has little in common with Cast Away. Even though the story can seem a bit absurd it's a very touching and enjoyable film.
Breakdown is a thriller with Kurt Russell playing the lead, and it manages to be both intense and believable throughout.
The Seventh Continent is one of Michael Haneke's lesser known films, but it's also one of his best. There are lots of shots of the main family doing mundane activities to emphasize the emptiness and loneliness that they are going through. It's never melodramatic nor does it milk the audience for emotions, and their suicides at the end is incredibly tragic and powerful.
The Class (2007) is an Estonian film about extreme bullying and the very real effects it can have.
Gasper Noe's Enter The Void is a uniquely visceral and ground breaking film. It's quite disturbing to watch (as expected from Gasper) due it's all it's strange and sexual imagery. But from it's POV scenes to the protagonists out-of-body experiences it's a film like no other. Enter The Void was Gasper Noe's dream film, but unfortunately it did very poorly financially.
Drugstore Cowboy is one of Matt Dillon's most prized films and often considered one of the best films of 1989. It's also unfortunately one of the most forgotten. It's about four people that rob drugstores for narcotics and the fallout that happens after. It can be watched on Netflix's instant stream.
* Speed Racer. When it was released in 2008, it was a critical and commercial flop. Now, it is becoming a cult classic, with many now calling it underrated, one of the most faithful adaptations ever, and groundbreaking in terms of visuals.
Whale Rider is a fictional film about the spiritual lives of contemporary Maori trying to hold onto past traditions of gender and power. A girl, Pai, rises to the challenge of being the new chief for the village, but the current chief, her grandfather, refuses to allow a girl to be trained for the role. She trains behind his back with their family members while chaos occurs in the form of a massive whale beaching. The only way the whales find the will to live is when Pai reenacts the Maori creation legend of riding a whale. Can be watched on Netflix Instant or YouTube.
The oddball Italian supernatural flick Cemetery Man premiered on only six screen in the US, got trashed by critics, made a pitiful box office gross, and came very late to the DVD market with a bland cover that gives no hint how surreal and unique it is. It's a comedic zombie movie with a romantic subplot, over ten years before Shaun of the Dead advertised itself as such, and it skillfully balances the three elements to create a dizzying and stunningly complex narrative that delivers both funny gags and gross-out moments as well as metaphorical analysis on the nature of life, death, love, friendship, happiness, and reality. It's considered one of the best horror films of the 1990s by the few people who have seen it, but it will likely never be as well-known as it deserves to be.
Santa Sangre is a surreal little slasher-thriller-romance from director Alejandro Jodorowsky that absolutely deserves your attention. It's so strange, so graceful, so over-the-top and yet so quiet — a whole lot of contradictions stuffed together to make a really captivating story about a circus magician named Fenix and his domineering mother. Fenix is an intensely charming protagonist who holds my heart throughout the entire movie, even when he reaches his darkest points, and woven amidst all the blood and vice is an incredibly sweet love story. Sort of David Lynch meets Guillermo del Toro.
Adam is one of the most honest love stories ever released. It shows the problems of a man with Asperger's syndrome, Adam (Hugh Dancy) who isn't socially involved in society. He falls in love with his neighbor Beth (Rose Byrne), who is the only person who helps Adam get out. Everyone involved in the project did their homework regarding how someone with Asperger's syndrome is supposed to act. Unfortunately, due to limited release, Adam bombed at the box office. That means many people have missed out of one of the most honest love stories released to theaters. For more persuasion, see what an internet reviewer with Asperger's syndrome himself has to think about it.
Trick 'r Treat is claimed by many critics to be the "best horror anthology in years". Produced by Bryan Singer, it was originally released at the Austin-Butt-Numb-A-Thon in 2007, before being officially released in 2009... on DVD. It has an interest story featuring a high principal moonlighting as a serial killer, a school bus massacre revisited, Anna Paquin as a supposed 'young virgin', and trick-or-treating demon attacking an old man. Everything connects back to each other at the end. Many have even called it the best Halloween themed movie ever. Unfortunately, it wasn't given it's well deserved official theatrical release.
The Thin Red Line. Specifically, the 1998 one, directed by Terrence Malick. Though it did make back nearly half it's budget, the reason it is on here is because it's main competitor, Saving Private Ryan, is more well known, and considered by some to be the better film. While it did get modest reviews, and was nominated for several Academy Awards, it won none, losing some to the aforementioned Saving Private Ryan. Some consider it to be Malick's Magnum Opus. The film takes the trope War Is HellUp to Eleven, and often adds philosophical narrations based around said trope. It also features an All-Star Cast, who all give outstanding performances. Though it could be a few minutes too long, if you want a war film that will have you moved, riveted, or both, this is for you.
Young Sherlock Holmes. It got mixed reviews and moderate box office on release, but it could be a cult classic, especially now that Sherlock Holmes is so popular now.
Inspector Clouseau is actually very good. Alan Arkin brings his own version of the favorite from The Pink Panther to different measures that Peter Sellers could only hint at.
Mr Nobody, a fantastic film with an interesting plot and take on the idea of omniscience and choices, that outside of Belgium is pretty much unheard of.