The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 1


The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 1

What makes a movie underrated? Well, we live in an era where a film lives and dies by its opening weekend box office. Spectacle often overrules substance which means films more left of center have trouble competing with blockbusters.

A film can also get screwed by bad marketing campaigns or bad reviews. But even great reviews can fall on deaf ears. The customer isn’t always right. If that’s the case why would “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” be a huge hit at the box office? Bad taste often trumps art.

Sometimes a film does gets reevaluated years later, finally given its due. I’m proud that as a kid I knew “Blade Runner” and “The Thing” were great, even though both were critically panned and bombed at the box office. Now they’re rightly considered classics But I would’ve told you that when I was 10!

But there are many others films that despite their cult following deserve more recognition. I’ve picked 30 underrated gems worth rediscovering.

If you click on the image you can buy on Amazon where applicable and I’ll be sure to note if any are on Netflix streaming. All purchases go towards the running of this site ūüôā

Here we go:

30. “Idiocracy” (2006)

Mike Judge has bad luck at the box office. “Office Space” was a bomb. But now it’s a classic. Lightning struck twice with “Idiocracy”, a film which was shit-canned by Fox (presumably because it slammed Faux news). It’s not perfect, but it nails the point that as a culture we are getting dumber by the minute due to our cynical consumerism, political circus, and poor education.  All while being hilariously scathing. Hopefully it’ll get “Office Space” status some day. Mike Judge is a pop culture prophet.

 

29. “Southern Comfort” (1981)

Walter Hill’s backwoods suspense tale is almost a companion piece to “Deliverance”. A group of soldiers go on maneuvers in the Louisiana Bayou and get hopelessly lost. They see some canoes and use them to get back to their base.  But then they’re attacked by Cajun villagers angry at them for stealing their boats and paranoid by their presence. It’s one taut suspense tale directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors) and anchored by great performances from veteran actors Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine.

 

28. “Autofocus”(2002)

A darkly comic film, it concerns the true story of the life and murder of “Hogan’s Hero’s” star Bob Crane, whose rampant womanizing ruined his marriage and destroyed his acting career. Greg Kinnear plays Crane, and he’s affable and appalling in equal measure. Crane’s buddy John Carpenter (played with reptilian sleaze by Willem Dafoe) filmed their sexual escapades and was a prime murder suspect. Director Paul Schrader has a skill for the lurid making him the perfect choice for this disturbing sex addiction binge that predates “Shame”. “Autofocus” will make you feel dirty after you watch it, but you won’t be able to turn away.

 

27. “The Proposition” (2005)

[amazon_image id=”B0017PI4Y6″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Proposition [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

Written by the sharp sonic wordsmith Nick Cave (he also does the score), this movie is a bleak Aussie Western, which concerns the Burns Brothers gang. Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) will forgive the crimes of brothers Charlie (Guy Pearce) and Mikey, with the stipulation  that they must in turn kill their murderous brother Arthur, a legendary killer played by Danny Huston. This is one dark film, shot with a hallucinatory, mesmerizing glaze.

*Director John Hillicoat’s next film, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s, “The Road” also deserves more acclaim then its received. 

 

26. “The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane” (1976)

[amazon_image id=”B000ALM4MQ” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane[/amazon_image]

This creepy 70’s gem stars a young Jodie Foster as Rynn Jacobs, a mysterious girl fending for herself in a sleepy New England town. She’s harassed by Frank Halliet, the son of her landlady, played with perverse menace by Martin Sheen. He has an unseemly attraction towards the young Rynn, who most take drastic measures to protect herself as well as having to come to terms with her own dark past. It’s an eerie, atmospheric thriller.

(This is available on Netflix Streaming).

 

25. “Animal Kingdom” (2010)

Here’s another Australian film with Guy Pearce which involves an outlaw family, but this time it’s the present day. 17-year-old J. Cody’s mother dies of a heroin overdose. He’s taken in by grandmother Janine and her devious gangster sons. Pearce plays a detective who offers J a way out by being an informant on his family, which leads to unbearable suspense. Jacki Weaver’s Janine is a villain of audacious cruelty. She was Academy Award nominated as best supporting actress but sadly didn’t win.

*It’s being developed into a Showtime series. Could be cool.

 

24. “The Next 3 Days” (2010)

[amazon_image id=”B004OZZ624″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Next Three Days[/amazon_image]

This Paul Haggis directed film starred Russell Crowe as John Brennan, a man trying to get his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) freed from a murder charge that she never committed. After the legal system fails them, he goes for a drastic measure; breaking her out of prison.

This film requires a steady suspension of disbelief, but if you go with it, it’s a thrilling and entertaining film, which will have you exhausted by its conclusion.

(Also available on Netflix Streaming).

 

23. “Sorcerer” (1977)/”To Live And Die In L.A. (1985)

[amazon_image id=”B0024F08KQ” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]To Live and Die in L.A. [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

Director William Friedkin hit it big with “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist”. But these 2 films tanked commercially and critically. “Sorcerer” stars Roy Scheider as a criminal who takes on a dangerous job in Nicaragua. If he’ll deliver explosives to help knock out an oil fire, he’ll become rich. The problem is the explosives are very unstable, and any big bump in the road could blow him and his cohorts sky-high. In one nail-biting scene, the criminals have to contend with driving the bombs across a perilously weak rope bridge. It’ll take your breath away.

“To Live And Die In L.A.” is a crime drama featuring Willem Dafoe and C.S.I. star William Petersen. Peterson is a former Secret Service Agent who’s now part of an anti-counterfeit ring, intent on bringing down criminal kingpin Rick Master (Dafoe). It’s an excellent cat and mouse thriller, with a badass car chase which takes place driving the wrong direction on the freeway.

*Friedkin’s  disturbing serial killer film “Rampage” is also worth discovering, and you can catch it on Netflix streaming.

 

22. “Ruben And Ed” (1991)

Simon the cat in happier times

Need a good laugh? Well check out this odd couple comedy which involves Ruben (Crispin Glover) a social misfit who needs help burying his dead cat. Along comes Ed (Howard Hesseman) an Amway-style salesman who needs someone to come to a meeting to get them indoctrinated in a pyramid scheme.

They make a deal. Ruben will go, if Ed helps him bury the cat. While this may not sound funny on paper, it’s a gut buster. Just check out this flashback of his cat waterskiing to see what you’re in for.

 

The only way you can get a copy is to actually order through the director himself! My wife did so last Christmas and it was one of the best gifts ever. You can order it here.

*Crispin Glover appeared in character as Ruben on David Letterman, and tried to kick him on the show! Check out the legendarily bizarre appearance.

 

21. “Shadow Of The Vampire” (2000)


Another film starring Willem Dafoe (perhaps the king of underrated films?), this is one of his greatest roles. A fictional account of the filming of “Nosferatu”, it follows the premise that the actor playing the creature (Max Schreck) was himself a real vampire, and the cast and crew do their best to survive the shooting. But the film’s director (F.W. Murnau,  played  by John Malkovich) proves just as unhinged as Schreck and their battle of wills is equal parts disturbing and humorous. Dafoe was rightly nominated for an Oscar for his performance, but alas didn’t win. Bullshit, yo.

Director E. Elias Merhige balances the black humor and dread adeptly, and we’re left with one of the coolest vampire movies in recent memory (sorry, Twilight doesn’t count!).

So that concludes The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 1. Now click here to check out Part 2.

You might enjoy my recent Dark Knight Rises Review, and my list of best comic book films, and best worst films.

 

5 comments

  1. Very cool list!

    I got around to writing about “Southern Comfort” last year…

    http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5663&reviewer=327

    …where I described it as a deep-in-the-bayou slasher movie! Glad you cited this one. I’ll always have the image of poor T.K. Carter getting killed by that steel-jaws trap! (At least we didn’t see him killed in “The Thing”.)

    Can’t share your enthusiasm for “Auto Focus.” For an underrated Schrader lurid, I’ll take his “The Comfort of Strangers”! But Dafoe is indeed creepy — kind of like a restrained Bobby Peru with better teeth!

    As for “Little Girl Lives Down the Lane,” Sheen shows he can be very creepy, too, as he was as the demented politician in “The Dead Zone.” Seeing the previews for it back in the day when I was young, it made you think there was a monster in the basement.

    Awesome that you picked “The Next Three Days,” which I thought was phenomenal. And it helped that I knew absolutely nothing about the plot going in. It was the best thriller since ‘Deja Vu,” and a real surprise coming from Haggis, whose “Crash” I absolutely despised. It was nice to see him turn into a first-rate director.

    And remember us describing “To Live and Die in L.A.” as one of those movies where you feel like taking a bath afterward because the texture is so sleazy! (I have to turn my head so as not to see petersen’s dick and balls in that bed scene!) I still don’t know why Masters goes through with the funny-money deal being that he knows Chance and Vukovich are federal agents, but what a surprise that one them gets shotgunned! Wonderful lighting by the German Robby Muller, who before shot only art-house films.

    Finally, who can forget Glover’s kicking incident on Letterman!

    • Glad you like some of the picks! Funny that I have the same feeling after watching “To Live” and “Autofocus” of needing to cleanse myself from the grime. Same with “Bloodsucking Freaks” hahaha! You nailed it on your review of “Southern Comfort”. Such a cool thriller.

      I think you’re really going to like the list as it moves up the ladder ūüôā

  2. Also, your review is interesting in pointing out the similarity in tone of “Southern Comfort” to “Alien”. I didn’t think about the fact that Hill produced the latter so that might have influenced his narrative.

    I know “Crash” was hated by many but I thought it had merit. At least it’s better than Croneberg’s haha!

    And Sheen is profoundly creepy in “girl.” his comeuppance as the villain of “The Dead Zone” always cracks me up!

  3. From the interviews I’ve read, Friedkin defends “Sorcerer” more than any of his films. And Roger Ebert loves the hell out of it, too. I’m not as enthusiastic about it, but I don’t think it has any less merit than the well-respected movie it’s based on, 1953’s “The Wages of Fear,” which, like ‘Sorcerer,” takes too long to actually get the plot moving. What’s really interesting is that Friedkin went from doing two talking-heads pictures — “The Birthday Party” and “The Boys in the Band,” both adaptation of stage plays — to the ferocious velocity and intensity of his next project “The French Connection.”

    Oh, and check out what Letterman’s wearing — Adidas running shoes with his suit!

  4. I remember him rocking the Adidas back then. I miss the NBC late night. That was funnier than his CBS incarnation.

    Did you ever see Friedkin’s “Bug”? I’m also curious to check out his new film “Killer Joe.”

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