Tuesday, February 28, 2012

100 Underrated Movies

  1. Afterlife (1998) This Japanese film is brilliant and totally unique, the kind of movie that changes lives.
  2. And Then There Were None (1945) Superb film. It’s acclaimed but not very well-known and it deserves an audience as big as Casablanca’s.
  3. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Many critics are quite sniffy about this movie, but it’s Frank Capra’s best film after his three masterpieces It Happened One Night, Mr.Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life.
  4. Bad Company (1972) A truly beautiful film and perhaps the best Western of the 1970’s (sorry Peckinpah, Eastwood et al)
  5. Billion Dollar Brain (1967) One of only two really good Ken Russell films, the other being Altered States.
  6. Bird (1988) A biopic of Charlie Parker, it’s one of Clint Eastwood’s best films, along with The Changeling and Gran Torino
  7. Bus 174 (2002) Incredibly tense Brazilian documentary about a real-life bus hijacking.
  8. Cape Fear (1962) It doesn’t usually feature on lists of the greatest movies of the 60’s. It should do. Infinitely better than the Scorsese remake mainly because Robert Mitchum’s performance as Max Cady is so much more subtle and engaging than De Niro’s.
  9. Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) As good as Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko i.e. very good indeed.
  10. Carlito’s Way (1993) It got quite good reviews, but not good enough. It’s a flat-out masterpiece, with brilliant performances from Al Pacino and Sean Penn, and some of the most interesting camerawork and sound design ever put on film.
  11. Catch-22 (1970) Disjointed, but has some incredible scenes.
  12. Catfish (2010) Weird, original and totally engaging
  13. Celebrity (1998) Unfairly dismissed Woody Allen picture. I prefer it to Midnight in Paris.
  14. Chaplin (1992) David Thomson called this movie ‘dreadful’. Well, I think his review is ‘dreadful’ because the film in fact is excellent, brilliantly acted and very moving.  
  15. City of Hope (1991) John Sayles’ best film.
  16. Come and See (1985) Highly acclaimed by some critics, it should nevertheless be even more praised, because it’s such a shattering masterpiece. In the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan Spielberg tried to match Come and See in terms of depicting the horror of war. He came close, but didn’t quite reach the level of this film.
  17. Die Hard 2 (1990) Better than the original and better than just about everything else Bruce Willis has ever done.
  18. Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) Still Ang Lee’s best film.
  19. Enemy of the State (1998) Incredibly fast-moving, hi-tech thriller that can be  watched over and over. Tony Scott can do some things right.
  20. Falling Down (1993) Fascinating film with Michael Douglas’ greatest ever performance, but critics couldn’t get past the fact that it was directed by Joel Schumacher.
  21. Four Lions (2010) One of the best British films of the last ten years. Chris Morris on top form.
  22. Galaxy Quest (1999) This sharp sci-fi comedy/satire seemed to get lost in the shuffle. It’s well worth watching.
  23. Get Smart (2008) Not a great movie, but a very good one, and a lot of fun
  24. Go (1999) Doug Liman’s finest hour.
  25. Grand Canyon (1999) The critics all said this film was false and contrived. They were wrong.
  26. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) Forget all other Japanese animation (sorry Miyazagi) and just see this.
  27. Gun Crazy (1949) It’s well-regarded but not well-regarded enough, because it’s one of the top 5 films of the 1940’s.
  28. Hard Eight (1997) Paul Thomas Anderson’s first film is much better than the over-rated There Will Be Blood
  29. Hot Shots Part Deux (1993) Funny as hell.
  30. Intermission (2003) Excellent Irish film
  31. It Happened Tomorrow (1944) Trippy, head-spinning Rene Clair fantasy. 
  32. JFK (1991) Some object to the thesis of the film, but to my mind that’s irrelevant because as film-making it’s Oliver Stone’s best work and reaches heights very few other films even come near.
  33. Johnny English Reborn (2011) It starts out flabby and unfunny but grows on you and then builds and builds until in the end you realise you’ve been laughing non-stop for an hour.
  34. Kafka (1992) Why do critics sometimes get things completely the wrong way round? This was a better film than Sex, Lies & Videotape.
  35. Keane (2004) Hard to watch at times but emotionally powerful, with a brilliant performance by Damian Lewis
  36. King of the Hill (1993) Still probably Steven Soderbergh’s best movie after Traffic.
  37. Kung Fu Hustle (2004) My favourite Hong Kong film ever (and yes I have seen plenty of Wong Kar-Wai).
  38. L’Appartement (1996) Possibly the greatest French film ever made. Certainly the greatest 'Hitchcock film' not made by Hitchcock (Sorry, Brian De Palma)
  39. Last Train Home (2009) A riveting Chinese documentary.
  40. Leave Her to Heaven (1945) A wonderful film noir in colour.
  41. Leolo (1992) The best French-Canadian film ever made, imaginative and clever from start to finish.
  42. Les Visiteurs Du Soir (1942) Little-known Marcel Carne film is much better than the tedious Les Enfants Du Paradis
  43. London (1994) Why oh why aren’t Patrick Keillor’s films easier to find? This is the only one I’ve seen and it’s one of the most brilliant film-essays ever made.
  44. Ma Vie Sexuelle (1996) I loved this film.
  45. Man with a Movie Camera (1927) One of the few silent films that are academic classics and also a lot of fun to watch.
  46. Micmacs (2009) This masterpiece from Jean-Pierre Jeunet deserves to be as well-known as Amelie
  47. Midnight (1939) Screwball comedy that should be as well-known as Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday.
  48. Monrak Transistor (2001) The best Thai film ever made. Also one of the best Asian films ever made.
  49. Mortal Thoughts (1991) The only good think that Alan Rudolph ever did is also virtually the only good thing Demi Moore ever did, which is weird.
  50. My Myself Irene (2000) An incredibly imaginative, original comedy tour-de-force.
  51. Nighthawks (1981) This New York-set thriller is probably Sylvester Stallone’s best film.
  52. Nightmare Alley (1947) The most powerful drama of the 1940’s.
  53. Nurse Betty (2000) Very intriguing, unusual film.
  54. Office Space (1999) This film should have won many, many awards. Under-rated by ‘serious’ critics I guess because it came from Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-head.
  55. Open Your Eyes (1997) The Spanish original of Vanilla Sky is a head-spinning extravaganza of invention and imagination.
  56. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) One of the strangest and most beautiful films of the 50’s.
  57. Plein Soleil (1960) The first, French version of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley is streets ahead of the English-language film of the 90’s.
  58. Point Break (1991) Action movie that twists your emotions into knots. Kathryn Bigelow’s finest hour (and yes I have seen The Hurt Locker).
  59. Re-animator (1985) Grisly, inventive, sharp and hilarious.
  60. Rescue Dawn (2006) Great film, with Christian Bale’s best-ever performance.
  61. Rocco and His Brothers (1960) Luchino Visconti’s best film by far. Ignore The Leopard, watch this instead.
  62. Saint Jack (1979) Peter Bogdanovich’s most distinctive film, set in Singapore, taken from Paul Theroux’s novel. 
  63. Salt (2010) Much better than the awful Wanted. Also better than Mr and Mrs Smith
  64. Shoot the Moon (1982) Pauline Kael loved this film; everyone else ignored it. She was right, they were wrong.
  65. Shutter Island (2010) I heard some reviewers describe this movie as a disaster. What on earth were they talking about? It's certainly a lot better than Scorsese's Hugo, which for its first two-thirds is completely inert. 
  66. Singles (1992) Cameron Crowe’s only really great film.
  67. Slapshot (1977) One of the best sports films ever made because it’s one of the funniest. 
  68. Solaris (2002) Better than the original. This version is slow but also beautiful and hypnotic. The original was just slow and tedious.
  69. Suddenly (1954) Frank Sinatra as a political assassin; weird film way ahead of its time.
  70. The Cable Guy (1996) A darkly brilliant movie
  71. The Crime Of Monsieur Lange (1936) Great Jean Renoir picture, much better than La Grande Illusion
  72. The Descent (2005) One of the few really great horror films of the last ten years, it’s way ahead of The Exorcist in terms of delivering genuine chills.
  73. The Elephant Keeper (1987) Excellent Thai film that no-one’s ever heard of.
  74. The Front (1976) One of Woody Allen’s best films only stars him, and was directed by Martin Ritt
  75. The Game (1997) Perhaps David Fincher’s best movie. It’s incredible that so few people appreciated it.
  76. The International (2009) Like The Bourne Identity (an excellent film) but more complex.
  77. The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) Great action film.
  78. The Lovely Bones (2009) Again, weird that the critics hated this film so much. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either.
  79. The Middleman (1976) From director Satyajit Ray, this is the greatest Indian film ever made, and much better than Pather Panchali.
  80. The Next Three Days (2010) A great, very intense film; incredibly all the critics hated it, just because it came from Paul Haggis I guess
  81. The Other Guys (2010) Excellent film, Will Ferrell at his best.
  82. The Petrified Forest (1936) Humphrey Bogart, Leslie Howard and a great script.
  83. The Prestige (2006) Christopher Nolan’s best film, certainly better than the striking but muddled Inception
  84. The Pumpkin Eater (1964) One of the best British films of the 60’s
  85. The Rock (1996) The only good thing Michael Bay has ever done.
  86. The Spy in Black (1939) Early Michael Powell film. Great fun. 
  87. The Transporter (2002)  Excellent, well-made, action movie. Better than many 'serious' movies.
  88. The Vanishing (1988) This was badly remade in the US. The Dutch original is creepily brilliant.
  89. The Wedding Singer (1998) Why do critics go on about Adam Sandler being redeemed only by Punch-Drunk Love when this, and Funny People, are much better films? 
  90. The Whole Town's Talking (1936) Jean Arthur in a John Ford modern city-set drama: intriguing in all kinds of ways.
  91. The Yes Men Fix the World (2009) Fascinating and audacious. Deserves to be better known. I haven’t seen the first Yes Men film but would certainly like to.
  92. Thunderbolt And Lightfoot (1974) Brilliant teaming of Jeff Bridges and Clint Eastwood, with director Michael Cimino, in a caper-action movie that's also sad and moving and real.
  93. Time of the Wolf (2003) Michael Haneke’s best film (and he’s made many great ones). Just astonishing.
  94. W (2008) Oliver Stone's take on Bush Jr. Very Interesting film, not at all bad.
  95. Went the Day Well? (1942) The best World War Two movie made during World War Two in any country. The Eagle Has Landed stole some of its plot.
  96. Wetherby (1985) Shocking drama from a David Hare play.
  97. What’s Up Doc? (1972) Better than The Last Picture Show.
  98. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) This film is highly acclaimed but it deserves to be known as one of the greatest films of all time. It certainly has the best script of all time. I prefer it to Citizen Kane or Rules of the Game.
  99. Wisconsin Death Trip (1999) Just Google pictures of this film or watch the trailer and you’ll know why I included it.
  100. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) The strange thing is this film, and Cassandra’s Dream (though not Scoop), are quite good movies, and Midnight in Paris is just a little better than them, but judging from the reviews you’d think they were worlds apart in terms of quality.


  1. "Billion Dollar Brain (1967) One of only two really good Ken Russell films, the other being Altered States."

    'The Devils' isn't one of Ken Russells really good films?

  2. I mean I have a dim memory of seeing bits of it a long time ago and not wanting to see more. I kind of group it with Tommy, Liztomania, Mahler etc - that over-blown cheesy style of Ken Russell film I really don't like. Am I wrong? I like Altered States and Billion Dollar Brain because they have a much cooler style. I guess Women in Love is not bad either.

  3. I hope you are not serious about Solaris (2002) being better than the original!! The original is a true masterpiece, while the Soderbergh version is poor to say the least..
    If a film is slow it does not mean that it is tedious.
    Anyway, very nice list!!

  4. I'm afraid I am serious- but that's just my opinion!