Last week, I posted my list of Top 10 Overrated Films. In the interests of fairness, I’ve been thinking about underrated films. You know, those ones that pass under the radar, aren’t seen at the cinemas/have a limited release, and are quietly forgotten about…but are in fact awesome! Or those that were released to middling/negative reviews but I actually enjoyed. I had an absolutely massive list of underrated films, but it’s difficult to decide what’s underrated, isn’t it? But it was rather difficult to narrow them down to just ten. But here it is…my Top 10 Underrated Films!
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
This is one of the most emotionally complex, dark and satisfying Disney tales that many people overlook. Of course, it squeezes in some songs and three comedic gargoyles, but it’s willing to plunge depths not seen in most Disney films. Sexual lust and sin are two of the adult themes tackled in this film. Judge Claude Frollo is one of the all-time great Disney villains, voiced menacingly by Tony Jay. The songs are catchy, it balances light and dark, and it’s an atypical Disney film.
- The Fall
I’ve seen plenty of movies, but few films have been as visually stunning as this fantasy from the mind of Tarsem Singh. It’s basically about a man telling a story, but the plot is secondary to the visuals (but it’s still a decent story!). Every scene is eye-catching, for one reason or another. It’s a cliché to say you’ll never see anything like this before or after you watch it; but in this case the cliché is true. The Fall is a feast for the eyes and deserves a wider audience!
- Source Code
I’ve never thought this film got the love it deserved. Sure, I hear people talk a lot about Ducan Jones’ first film, Moon. But his second film, Source Code? Not a lot of talk. And I’ve always wondered why. Yes, it’s basically Groundhog Day with a sci fi flavour, but it’s different enough to be more entertaining and exciting than Groundhog Day (and maybe a better film?!?!). Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an US Army captain who’s sent into a recreated version of a person’s last memory to find a bomber. He has to relive the memory over and over again until he finds the culprit. Jones proved he could do sci fi action as well as sci fi drama with Source Code. So watch it right away!
This is one of the best comic book films out there…although it isn’t based on a comic book! Sam Raimi moved slightly away from his horror origins with Darkman, a tale about Dr Peyton Westlake, who’s beaten half to death by a gang. Westlake’s been testing a synthetic skin and he attempts to remake his own face (burnt off by acid!), while at the same time seeking revenge on the gang that left him disfigured. He also uses his synthetic skin to imitate the faces of his enemies! Raimi couldn’t get the rights to Batman, so created his own dark and gritty superhero. It’s innovative, thrilling and deserves to be held in the same regard as the original Batman.
- Jacob’s Ladder
If you want Tim Robbins best performance, look no further than this surreal masterpiece. Robbins stars as Jacob, a Vietnam war veteran who’s haunted by terrible hallucinations and war flashbacks. We can never tell what’s real and what’s not, as his hallucinations become ever more terrifying. It works as a horror film, as a drama, and a surrealist film. It’s tough to watch and some of the horrific images will stay with you for a long time. But it’s worth it.
- Four Lions
A comedy about terrorism? In Britain? How funny could it be? The answer is: VERY BLOODY FUNNY! Four inept terrorists plan to commit a terrorist attack at the London Marathon. Along the way, they come up with silly schemes (like a false flag operation to blow up a mosque, using birds as suicide bombers) and think about the Rubber Dingy Rapids. You’ll feel torn between laughing out loud and reprimanding yourself for laughing. But, as they say, sometimes laughter is the best medicine, and isn’t it good to laugh at terrorism? Chris Morris (behind The Day Today, Brass Eye and Alan Partridge) made a statement with his directorial debut. We want more!
I thought of either this or Prisoners for an underrated film by Denis Villeneuve, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as a man and his doppleganger really stands out, above even Hugh Jackman’s compelling performance in Prisoners. It’s a modern take on a tale as old as time: a man meeting his doppleganger. But it’s presented in a fashion that confuses and enthrals you. I cannot emphasise just how good Gyllenhaal is in this film. You can instantly tell which character he’s playing, giving subtle gestures to the man and his doppleganger. Oh, the ending is something to behold as well.
- Empire of the Sun
I fear that this is always overlooked when discussing Steven Spielberg’s best movies. I mean, come on, people would choose Saving Private Ryan over Empire of the Sun? Is that possible? For me, Empire of the Sun is one of Spielberg’s finest films. I may be biased, as it’s based on a Ballard novel (and Ballard is one of my favourite novelists). Yes, it’s a World War II film, but from a different perspective than the usual Western conflict we typically see. Here, we see through the eyes of a young boy (played magnificently by a young Christian Bale), who was part of a wealthy English family in Shanghai before the Japanese invaded China. He’s then put into a Japanese internment camp. You may think it’s not the most uplifting story, but it’s full of beautiful images and top-notch acting. One of the great war films, and one of Spielberg’s greatest films.
- Day of the Dead
For me, this is the best ‘Dead’ film that George Romero ever made. It has strong competition from its two predecessors, but why is Day of the Dead almost always forgotten about? It has more blood and gore than either predecessor, a more complex plot, and a zombie you can care about! In fact, the zombie’s probably the most sympathetic character on screen, so I can understand why Day of the Dead is often forgotten. It’s depressing and full of loathsome characters. But it deals with politics, society, war and many other philosophical themes in a way that no other zombie before or since has been able to do.
(Click here for my review!)
No, not the one about racism! David Cronenberg’s name is synonymous with body horror, but in the late 80s/90s he began to step away from all of that and focus on “drama.” Dead Ringers and M Butterfly were two of the contenders for this spot, but it’s Crash that I’d place as a close second behind The Fly in a Top 10 Cronenberg Film list. It’s a perfect match of source material and director, as Ballard’s novel plays right into Cronenberg’s hands. It’s a meditation on the melding of man and machine in the late 20th century. Yes, it’s all about people who are sexually aroused by car crashes, but what did you expect from Ballard and Cronenberg? One of the finest film adaptations ever.
(Click here for my review)
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Click here for my Top 10 Overrated Films
Agree or disagree? Any you’d take away or add? What is your Top 10?