TOPS: 10 Seriously Underappreciated Films

There are so many films out there that just don’t get the attention they deserve. Some of them may be independents, and therefor not widely known of by audiences. Some of them might just have gotten poor press or had a bad marketing campaign that didn’t appeal to movie-goers. And some of them are just written off as shallow, or boring, or flat out lame…I prefer to think of these films as misunderstood.

10. Meet Joe Black

Meet Joe Black hit theaters in 1998, so being that I was 8 years old then, I don’t really recall if it was well accepted by critics or whether or not it did well at the box office. Regardless, I find that of the people I’ve talked to about the film, none of them have seen it, which I find sad. This is a beautiful movie from the acting and story line, to the filming and soundtrack (Thomas Newman is one of my favorite movie composers). The film tells the story of Bill Parish (Anthony Hopkins), a well-loved millionaire who finds himself faced with Death. Literally, for Death takes the form of a young man (Brad Pitt) who eventually falls in love with Parish’s daughter, Susan (Claire Forlani). Aside from Se7en, to me this is one of Brad Pitt’s best performances, portraying Death with a sense of childlike curiosity and all the poise of an entity that has been around since the beginning of time. Like every film he’s ever been in, Anthony Hopkins brings a timeless elegance and richness that mirrors the feel of the overall film.

Meet Joe Black is rated PG-13 and runs a solid 173 minutes.

9. (500) Days of Summer

In no way is this movie under appreciated…by the people who know about it, that is. Though it was released in 2009, I did not see it for the first time until January 2011. Since then I have watched it a total of six times, each time as enjoyable as the first. (500) Days of Summer makes it no secret that it is based on a true story, as made humorously clear in the opening disclaimer. It follows the ill defined relationship between Tom Hanson (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). The quirky, unique style in which the film is shot and put together makes it interesting and an absolute joy to watch. Despite how much Tom is put through and how brutally realistic (500) Days portrays break ups, I cannot see this movie as anything else but delightful. And considering my crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this film is quite nearly a perfect one.

(500) Days of Summer is rated PG-13 and runs a wonderful 95 minutes.

8. The Village

I feel as if M. Night Shyamalan is constantly being underestimated or looked down upon. This is not to say that I am a fan of all of his films, but I do give him major points for being a producer, director, and writer of extremely original and visually beautiful films. The Village to me is his masterpiece, though is was poorly received and I feel that it falls by the wayside for many. Though by my list, it deems itself a wonderful film. The story is surprising and interesting, the acting is fantastic, the filming is gorgeous, the music is hauntingly beautiful and one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. The entire cast of this movie is wonderful, but what continues to puzzle me is why Adrien Brody failed to be nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor. I adore Brody, he is one of my favorite actors, and he shines in every movie he’s in (yes, Predators included; he made it worth watching), but he is so very believable in his performance as Noah Percy that I shake my head at the Academy every time I watch this film. The story itself is heartfelt and original; it allows the audience to observe two worlds side by side and evokes them to question which one they would prefer to live in.

The Village is rated PG-13 and runs a twisting 108 minutes.

7. No Strings Attached

I probably like many others after seeing the trailer for No Strings Attached wrote it off as a typical, dime-a-dozen, mindless comedy. One day, when given the choice of three movies that I didn’t particularly want to see, I chose what I felt was the least of three evils: No Strings Attached. And by some small, happy miracle, I enjoyed the film greatly. Emma and Adam met at summer camp when they were teenagers. Over the years they keep bumping into one another, their friendship never evolving until one day they cross paths again and realize they might just have discovered the perfect label to put on their relationship: sex buddies. Though not the most well written script, there are a handful of laugh-out-loud funny lines and moments and overall the story is actually quite adorable. The intense chemistry between Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman is playful and believable and in a fun surprise, Kevin Kline pops up playing the role of Kutcher’s father. Overall, No Strings Attached is a fun, light-hearted comedy perfect for those nights when you just want to laugh and be entertained.

No Strings Attached is rated R and runs a surprisingly sweet 108 minutes.

6. Devil

I hope it proves as a good example that 5 out of 10 of the films I’ve listed on here are films that I was very snooty towards and had little to no desire to see. Even though I was intrigued by another M. Night Shyamalan movie, I saw Devil in theaters only because I had a free pass for it…but I ended up being completely freaked out by it. In Devil, five people find themselves trapped in an elevator, except all of them seem to be harboring a secret. One by one they are picked off, leaving them and a police detective on the outside to figure what is going on and who is to blame for it. Devil plays off a number of human fears: claustrophobia, darkness, and the devil itself. The acting is good and the story of good conquering evil is a classic. Overall, it’s an eerie, supernatural ride of “whodunit” with a surprisingly comforting ending completely atypical to horror films.

Devil is rated PG-13 and runs a spooky 80 minutes.

5. The Blair Witch Project

This film has to be one of the most spoofed and mocked movies of all time. Going into watching this film for the first time in 2009, a full ten years after it was actually made, I had already heard oodles of negative criticism about it, seen Scary Movie, and been a frequenter of SNL at the time of its release. But, I figured it was about time I see what all the fuss was about. Not once did I actually expect to be frightened by the film or even enjoy it. Wouldn’t you know that it is the only horror film I have seen that has made me afraid. The acting is raw and so believable that at times I feel guilty for watching, as if I should not be able to be an onlooker on such a traumatic moment in someone’s life. The first scene that comes to mind whenever I think of this film is when they wake up to strange sounds for the first time, ranging from disturbing howl-like grunts to a baby’s laughter; thinking about it even now gives me chills. Do I believe that this is real footage? No. Do I think that the filmmakers made this film with the intention of making people believe it was? No. But The Blair Witch Project created a new type of genre for horror films, and I’d say for the style they were going for, it is a very scary and interesting film.

The Blair Witch Project is rated R and runs a chilling 81 minutes.

4. Avatar

I don’t care if Avatar’s storyline is just Pochahantas in space or Dances with Wolves in a different outfit, I fully accept that it has been done a million times before in different ways, because I will not stop loving this movie and I will always defend it. Practically everything in the film may be done on green-screen, but regardless the visuals are stunning. James Cameron creates an entire world for the audience to journey to, and what a magical world it is. Even though I don’t get into 3-D, I have to give Cameron points for actually going the distance and filming in 3-D instead of converting in post (also I appreciate that the 3-D factor is not painfully obvious while watching in 2-D). The CGI counterparts to the actors are amazing. I have never seen such subtle nuances, individual to the actor, captured using CGI before. Because of this, parts of the movie are just as heartbreaking, happy, or angry as if it were the actors themselves on screen. Avatar for me is a very special, touching, beautiful story about love, hope, and new life. Also I feel the Na’Vi’s expression “I see you” is a very deep and more encompassing alternative to those other three words us humans use.

Avatar is rated PG-13 and runs a dazzling 162 minutes.

3. Sucker Punch

I recommend Sucker Punch to whoever I meet who hasn’t seen it. I generally get a response inquiring if that is the film made especially for teenage fanboys. I understand this assumption because at first I thought the same thing. This was the film that I was snootiest towards in pre-judging it. I thought the trailer looked ridiculous, I didn’t see any particular cohesion in it, and I found the title comical (still do, mostly because I still don’t get the relevance and I wonder if the film itself might have done better under a different title). First off, the same unique style and beautiful visuals Zack Snyder brought to Watchmen can be seen in Sucker Punch. It is a wild, fun ride for the eyes. Story-wise, it is actually very clever. An almost Inception-like structure weaves three different levels of reality together, using metaphorical actions to portray what would otherwise be a relatively mundane tasks. Besides that, the reason I defend this film so much is that it has a good message that I think a great majority of humans need to hear. Those metaphors I mentioned before? They remind the audience that their harshest critic is themselves as well as the value of persevering even when the going gets tough. Sucker Punch has a lot to offer on all fronts. It is a book that I seriously wish would stop getting judged by its cover.

Sucker Punch is rated R and runs an action-packed 110 minutes.

2. The Brothers Bloom

I’ll dive right in. Two orphan siblings grow up bouncing from family to family, until the older brother (Stephen/Ruffalo) discovers his talent for spinning cons. Through the years they make their living swindling people. Stephen writes the stories and Bloom (Brody) acts his role in them…until one day the brothers meet a woman who changes everything, for both of them. This movie is fun, quirky, unique, stylistically interesting and gorgeous, and did I mention that I adore Adrien Brody? The Brothers Bloom was released in 2008 at first in limited theaters, but then more widely. I saw it first in 2010 and found myself loving it even before the prologue could finish. The directing style is different and interesting, the comedic timing: impeccable. Already a fan of the main actors, the before mentioned Brody and Mark Ruffalo, in addition to Rachel Weisz playing an accomplished yet oddball love interest and the Bloom brothers’ mysteriously silent colleague, played by Rinko Kikuchi, the cast is strong and play their parts wonderfully (Also, keep your eyes peeled for Joseph Gordon-Leviit in a random yet delighting cameo in the opening bar scene). The Brothers Bloom is a delightful and fun experience that I challenge anyone not to enjoy.

The Brothers Bloom is rated PG-13 and runs a delightful 114 minutes.

1. The Fall

I have no idea where to start describing how much I love The Fall. It is an independent film made in 2006, another film that I had no idea existed until earlier this year, but upon my first watching of it, I fell completely in love with it. I couldn’t wait to watch it again, and remain the same today. It is one of the most intricate, stunningly beautiful films I have ever seen. Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) is a young girl who, while being in the hospital due to a broken arm, meets Roy Walker (Lee Pace), a 1920’s film stuntman who has fallen on hard times and wishes to end his life. In a ploy to get Alexandria to get him a bottle of morphine pills from the dispensary, Roy spins a fantastical tale for the young girl about a bandit and his gang out outcasts. Reality and fantasy mix throughout the story in a genuinely magical and brilliant journey that has received far too little attention. The interaction between Alexandria and Roy is so easy and believable that I often find myself wondering if half of the dialogue is improvised. Director Tarsem Singh creates a truly splendid world of fantasy through use of color, architecture, and landscape. To top it all off, the movie closes with a homage to Buster Keaton, who, like The Fall, I just can’t seem to get enough of.

The Fall is rated R and runs an enchanting 117 minutes.

4 thoughts on “TOPS: 10 Seriously Underappreciated Films

  1. Lauren!

    Let me begin by telling you which of these 10 I’ve never seen: Meet Joe Black, Devil, The Brothers Bloom and The Fall. Guess I have some movies to watch…

    I was surprised to see No Strings Attached on the list – I was pretty thrilled when you chose it! But I understand what you mean when you say people wrote it off, especially considering the then very recent release of Love & Other Drugs (which was quite amazing) and the announced release of Friends With Benefits. I loved Portman and Kutcher’s chemistry (but not quite as much as Gyllenhaal/Hathaway’s or Timberlake/Kunis’) and thought they did really well breathing life into a film that could have easily been a bore.

    On AVATAR, I will agree that it was a really awesome experience in theaters and in 3-D. However, I think some of the dialogue (“You’re not the only one with a gun, bitch,” for example) detracted from the overall film. And to tell you the truth, I kind of hate watching it in 2-D because I feel it is painfully obvious, but the fact that the coveted Academy overlooked/snubbed Zoe Saldana was crazy.

    Like AVATAR, Sucker Punch had one primary detractor for me, dialogue and delivery. Scott Glenn (“Wise Man”) had some of the worst, most cliche lines ever spoken. Which was unfortunate considering how much I looked forward to Zack Snyder’s most recent venture. I loved the imagery and the idea, I just wish someone else had been cast a rewritten part.

    Okie dokie, kudos on a great list! I might also have added some gems myself so I’ll mention them here in case anyone would care to take a look at these: Ask The Dust (2006), Beautiful Boxer (2004), Fighting Tommy Riley (2004), To Wong Foo (1995), The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009), Renditon (2007), A Single Man (2009), The Land Before Time (1988), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). Of course the list(s) could go on and on… :o)

  2. (500) Days of Summer – really? This movie is talked about ad nauseum in film circles. Of course its going to be under appreciated by people that have never heard of it, because it can’t really be appreciated at all by those people. However, those that have seem to adore the film and its leading characters.

  3. I have never seen:

    No Strings Attached
    The Brothers Bloom
    The Fall

    However, with the exception of 500 Day of Summer & Meet Joe Black………

    I absolutely positively hated Sucker Punch. I will always give a movie a chance to entertain me but I was restrained by my brother from throwing a shoe at the screen. I assume Bobby means the detractors of dialogue & delivery…..because there was none… for visuals it was grossly over CG’d and made it a huge mess to watch for me.

    Avatar was a novelty quickly forgotten… everybody once they also got bored with over priced and under featured and lackluster 3D.

    The Village was certainly not surprising & interesting to my mind I thought it was weak and predictable……but it was somewhat visually appealing even though the story lacked depth to me.

    I also think the Blair Witch Project is in the same basket with the Paranormal Activity(s)……..not one bit believable, scarey or entertaining……a big bore of a movie that should never have made it to the screen.

    Having said all that it would be a boring old world if everybody agreed on everything, wouldn’t it and thank you for your Top 10.


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