Given the enormous number of movies released every year, it’s inevitable that some are lost in the shuffle. Unfortunately, some films that get forgotten are actually worth a look, definitely more so than some mainstream films (cough, half-assed found-footage films, cough). To right the wrongs done to these movies, we’ve compiled a list of some you probably didn’t catch the first time around, but are more than worthy of a spot in your Netflix queue.
“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005)
This was supposed to be Robert Downey Jr.’s big comeback into the world of film, as well as “Lethal Weapon” writer Shane Black’s directorial coming-out party… but nobody saw it. Shame, since they were missing out on a witty and well-acted film noir satire. Downey plays Harry Lockhart, a petty thief who gets mistaken for an actor trying out for a role in a crime thriller. He’s paired up with private investigator “Gay” Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer) as research for his new role, and gets tangled up in a web of murder and debauchery the likes of which he’s only read about. Fast-paced, chock-full of great dialogue and self-referential without being grating, this is one of those movies that reminds us why we love movies.
“Across the Universe” (2007)
Don’t do drugs, kids: this movie will get the job done just fine. Basically, it’s a spiritual successor to “Hair” in that it deals with a bunch of twenty-somethings dealing with the social turmoil of the ’60s and the horrors of the Vietnam War, but with powerful psychedelic visuals and a litany of Beatles songs sung by a cast with lovely voices. There’s also some delightfully hammy cameos from Bono and Eddie Izzard as a philosophical drug guru and a hallucinatory ringleader, respectively. The highlight: a tear-jerking gospel rendition of “Let It Be” set to images of a soldier’s funeral and the Detroit riots.
“Mystery Men” (1999)
Ben Stiller is cool. Superheroes are cool. Fezzes are cool. Unfortunately, there are no fezzes in this film, but it’s got plenty of those first two things. When Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), the resident hero of Champion City, is captured, it’s up to a crack team of not-superheroes to save the city from Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), its resident madman. Our “heroes” include Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller, who claims to have superhuman strength when he’s angry), The Blue Raja (Hank Azaria, who actually wears green and throws any kind of silverware except knives) and The Shoveler (William H. Macy, who does exactly what you’d expect with a name like that). It also features Janeane Garofalo as a revenge-seeker who can telepathically control a bowling ball with her father’s skull in it, and Michael Bay in a cameo as an evil frat boy (What perfect casting. Zing!).
“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000)
When examining the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre, this one tends to get passed over in favor of the likes of “Fargo,” “Blood Simple” and “The Big Lebowski,” but it’s still a remarkable and unique film that deserves to be celebrated. In the tradition of Coen Brothers films defying genre conventions entirely, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is a magical realist road trip bluegrass musical black comedy based loosely on “The Odyssey” set in Mississippi during the Great Depression. It’s endlessly quotable (“Them sirens done loved him up and turned him into a horny toad!”), jam-packed with memorable scenes (the infiltration of a Ku Klux Klan rally that pays homage to “The Wizard of Oz”) and heavily features the ever-charming George Clooney, which is always a good thing.
“The Fall” (2006)
Imagine “The Princess Bride” made for the indie arthouse crowd, only with more visual splendor and less pretentiousness than that description implies. That’s “The Fall.” A little girl suffering from a broken arm meets a depressed former stuntman who tells her elaborate stories of honor, death and revenge in order to use her for his own means (which can’t be revealed for spoiler reasons). Sounds intriguing, right? That’s only half of it. Every single second of this marvelous film was shot on location with as little CGI as possible, giving great focus to the absolutely gorgeous sets, costumes and locales. And by god, it is beautiful. While the plot is just as captivating to the audience as it is to the little girl, the film’s true pleasures lie in the visuals. It’s like porn for the retinas. Ooh. Aah. We’ll be in our bunks.
What’s your favorite underrated film? Have you seen any of our picks? Leave us a comment or tweet us and let us know!