Tossing my hat into the ring with the close of a decade. Here is my list of 10 Films that were unfortunately missed by the general public.
These are in absolutely no particular order. Each film has stuck with me in some way over the years for one reason or another. There are so many good films released each year that garner awards and accolades, but many times certain films are overlooked. Either due to marketing, budgets, or release schedules many films hide in the shadows of blockbusters. Next time you’re at the video store or adding some items to your Netflix queue try some of these movies.
I’ll link to the trailers and the note the widest release in theaters. Most of the films on the list float around 100 theaters. To put it into perspective movies like Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull reach over 4,000 theaters.
Gus Van Sant’s incredible poetic film loosely based on the shooting at Columbine High School. The camera dreamily follows a wide-range of students following up the climactic shooting. Much of the film was naturally improvised dialogue which helped make the movie feel more realistic. What stood out the most for me besides the horrific climax was interactions in the film. You would watch a scene of different characters walking through scenes and interacting and later watch the same scene but from the perspective of someone else.
Widest Release: 100 theaters and HBO
Crime dramas with smokey atmospheres, smooth talking detectives, and femme fatales are all things that help define old school noir pictures. Take these stereotypes and apply them to a modern high-school setting and you’ll have Brick. Many times the homage to hard-boiled classics feels forced, but with great performances and dialogue from both Joseph-Gordon Levitt and Lucas Haas the film holds up to scrutiny.
Widest Release: 45 theaters
Two engineers discover they’ve created a time machine that allows them to travel into the past. Unflinchingly scientific and confusing this film necessitates multiple viewings. The writer, director, and lead actor of the film, Shane Carruth, poured his life and savings into this film. With a background in Mathematics and an extremely low $7,000 budget this movie is incredibly impressive. Quite deservedly won the 2004 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. I absolutely love this movie.
Widest Release: 31 theaters
An early 20th century stuntman, Roy Walker, gets hurt in an accident while trying to impress the woman he loves. While bedridden in the hospital a young girl, Alexandria, befriends him. Roy begins telling her a story that reflects his depression and progression towards suicide, however you see the story as Alexandria imagines it happening. This leads to incredible fantasy, humorous misunderstandings, and towards the end of the story a bond between the two main characters that help them deal with their real-life issues. Filmed over the course of four years in 20 different locations worldwide it is an incredibly marvelous film to behold.
Widest Release: 111 theaters
Jet Li has done a number of American movies which is why this one of the more popular movies on the list. However, I feel like when ever I bring up Fearless around people who like martial arts movies and / or Jet Li they haven’t seen it. Fearless is easily one of Jet Li’s best films and demonstrating that he can actually emit more than two emotions like in most of his films. The fact is that most traditional martial arts films follow a specific storyline and character development for the sheer purpose of getting from fight to fight. That is the case with Fearless, however it’s a much deeper look into the genre, specifically with Jet Li’s character, Huo Yuanjia and watching him transform from a total arseface to an admirable fighter on the world stage. Pick up the Director’s Cut if you can, it runs at an extra 35 minutes and contains a fight with Michelle Yeoh.
Widest Release: 1,810 theaters
Christian Bale has become an extremely popular actor. However, most people have never heard of his role in The Machinist. Playing a paranoid insomniac, Trevor Reznik, we see what the mind is capable of after life-shattering tragedy. Never before has an actor completely and devastatingly transformed themselves for a role. Christian Bale starved himself for four months losing 62 pounds. Even at an emaciated 120 pounds he wanted to go further but his doctors wouldn’t let him due to health concerns. Keep in mind that Bale was up for the role of Batman while making this film and gained back 100 pounds in a couple of months. Bale is an incredible actor and this film showcases at what lengths he will go for his craft.
Widest Release: 78 theaters
Science fiction films now evade traditional story telling and tend to lean on heavy use of action and special effects. Moon is a refreshing homage to sci-fi movies of the past like 2001 and Aliens. Director, Duncan Jones, wanted to create a sci-fi movie like the ones he grew up with and even employed the model maker from Aliens for his film. Starring Sam Rockwell as Sam and the voice of Kevin Spacey as GERTY, a helper robot. Sam is nearing the final weeks of three-year stay along on the Moon mining Helium-3. His only companionship is GERTY and video messages from his wife and child on Earth. With his contract nearly up, Sam begins preparations to head home to his family, that is until he thinks someone else is on the Moon with him. Is Sam feeling the effects of long-term isolation or is there really someone else there with him? Dun dun dun!
Widest Release: 252 theaters
After a large Indian lunch I went and watched this movie at the Philly Film Festival. There is one scene in the movie that is so visceral that I was forced to retreat to the bathroom from nausea. It definitely was because of all the food I ate, but this movie stuck in my head for years. With subsequent viewings I could handle it and each time I’d recommend the film to more people. The twists you can see coming, but they twist you further than you expect and the powerful performances from Ellen Page (pre-Juno) and Patrick Wilson will completely engage you in this film.
Widest Release: 152 Theaters
This brilliant movie is the most I’ve ever laughed at anything. It’s horrendous to think with such a limited release that so few people will get a chance to see this movie in a proper setting. You need to be surrounded by an audience, preferably wearing a vintage polyester suit, and holding some malt liquor. Never before has a film so perfectly melded homage and parody. Cameras go out of focus, boom mics are seen in frame, things are purposely wrong about this blaxploitation film and the audience erupts in laughter every time. Michael Jai White (writer, lead actor) is a genius and I’m looking forward to the sequel and animated series.
Widest Release: 70 theaters
This movie totally flew under the radar despite having big stars like Colin Farrell and Ray Fiennes. I don’t think it was marketed correctly, with the quick cuts in the trailer confusing itself as an action, comedy, buddy movie. It’s a dark comedy, plain and simple. The script is over the top wit and makes this film worth checking out. And I can’t help but burst out in laughter when Colin Farrell karate chops a midget. If you like Guy Ritchie flicks then this is right up your alley.
Widest Release: 232 theaters
What films have you found yourself recommending to others over the years? It’s easy to think of all the blockbusters and award-winners, but think about the films that did something new or just didn’t get the attention it deserved.