Have you ever seen a movie that seemingly nobody else you knew had seen? And wondered why the Hell that particular movie wasn't some uber-box office smash? Well, I have. Far too often, great movies are overlooked by the less-than-bright average American. And I just feel like ranting about that.
Anyway, the list:
1. 28 Weeks Later - most horror sequels suck. This one... doesn't. A believable script coupled with a semi-plausible premise following the semi-plausible 28 Days Later, I'm quite surprised it didn't do better at the box office. Effortless characterization builds on real life cliche and provides a thrill ride in which you're finally not rooting for the monsters to rip apart the inept protagonists. While I'm still leery of the announced 28 Months Later, because of 28 Weeks Later, I'm actually sort of looking forward to it.
2. Arlington Road - predating 9/11, this ultra-creepy and ultra-paranoid tale of terrorism only became more relevant after the fall of the Twin Towers. Expertly crafted, the film featured downright disturbing acting from Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, and should be revisited. A subtly powerful film made even more powerful by real world events.
3. Dark City - before The Matrix asked pop culture "what is real?," Dark City cerebrally presented the question in the form of a neo-noir science fiction film, replete with trench coat-wearing aliens. Arguably a superior film to The Matrix, the mood more intense, the tone more realistic, but the marketing... well, that was non-existent. Director Alex Proyas' feature followup to The Crow, this one is a must see.
4. The Iron Giant - Yep, a cartoon. And not just any cartoon... it's easily one of the best of the last 10 years, and with the possible exception of Lilo & Stitch (another underrated film), the best science fiction cartoon since, well... I'll get back to you on that. Funny, touching, and all-too-human, this should be in the movie library of every self-respecting parent.
5. Robin Hood - no, not the Kevin Costner vehicle, the one with the guy from Sleeping With the Enemy. Undoubtedly a victim of Prince of Thieves syndrome, this film was not theatrically released in the United States, despite starring Uma Thurman as Maid Marian. More traditional than the Costner film, it still took enough liberties with the original Robin Hood tales to remain an enjoyable, not too predictable film.
6. Ronin - quite possibly Frakenheimer's true masterpiece (see The Manchurian Candidate), this late 90s film was everything a spy thriller should be: taut, exciting, and completely unpredictable (what the fuck was in the case?). Featuring an all-star cast led by Robert DeNiro and Jean Reno, it's a strange wonder this didn't blow the top off of the box office. Also features the best car chase ever filmed.
7. Titanic - What's that you say? How does the highest-grossing film of all time wind up on an underrated list? Well, ask anybody you see what they think of the film and they'll be likely to respond the same way: the ending is good, the rest sucked and put me to sleep. Obvious bullshit, but what can you do? Don't give into peer pressure. This film was great, this film is great, and even if you can't stand Leonardo DiCaprio, this film still holds up well. James Cameron's masterpiece, even if you do like Aliens better.
8. TMNT - yes, another cartoon, albeit a computer-animated one. A fresh update of everyone's favorite mutant martial artists, this film failed to captivate the American public, despite its obvious nostalgia, excellent action sequences, and a solid (if formulaic) plot. The duel in the rain is quite possibly the coolest animated fight I've ever seen (and, yes, I've seen The Animatrix). My only hope is the relative failure at the box office won't prevent sequels.
9. Unbreakable - forget the vastly overrated The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable is M. Night Shyamalan's true magnum opus. Admit it, you hated Signs the second time you watched it, and you know that The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Happening all suck. This comic book movie without a comic book was all character, which is very, very hard to pull off in such a genre. Perhaps Bruce Willis is on to something... M. Night needs to make a sequel to this. He's already proven he can't do much else.
10. Willow - a cult classic, but still a near-forgotten entry in the lore of fantasy films. Despite being clearly a Star Wars clone, this film had everything one could want in an adventure movie. Short heroes, tall heroes, beautiful villains/heroines, and funny brownies. Not to mention the coolest hero name since Han Solo (Madmartigan, anyone?). Ron Howard didn't get enough credit and George Lucas got too much, but Willow is an awesome film.
That's it for now, folks. I'll probably do another list soon as there are a few more films I feel are vastly underrated (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Thin Red Line, Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, and Road to Perdition, to name a few).
Anyone got any to add?
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