Since I've been in pandemic mode like everyone else, I'm doing a lot of reading, writing, and movie watching. (As if I wouldn't be doing that in non-pandemic mode.) So, in preparing for today's post, I thought it'd be fun to list a few movies that might've flown underneath your radar. We all know there are plenty of good movies that are well known (and should be) and plenty of bad movies that aren't (and shouldn't be)--but in my experience there aren't many good movies that almost no one has heard of.
I did a SleuthSayers column on this subject several years ago, based on my fondness for browsing those big four-foot-wide tubs in Walmart that contain bargain DVDs. I haven't been rummaging around in there for a while--WallyWorld isn't one of the essentials on my COVID list--but I do remember finding some real jewels in those bins in the past, and have mentioned some at this blog. Consider this an update.
A note of caution. These recommendations are my opinion only. A lot of folks, including my wife, don't agree with me about what's worth watching and what's not, in the cinematic universe.
Another note. These are not just obscure movies that I watched and enjoyed. They're obscure movies that I watched believing I wouldn't enjoy them. So they were all pleasant surprises. I'm hoping they might be to you too.
So . . . here are some outstanding lesser-known movies, with a quick note about each:
- Wind River (2017) -- A local tracker joins a female FBI agent to investigate a murder on a Native American reservation. Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene.
- From Noon to Three (1976) -- A delightful and unusual western about a bank robber and a mysterious widow. Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland.
- Idiocracy (2006) -- An average guy gets beamed into a dumbed-down future and discovers that he's now the smartest person on Earth. The more I watch the news, the more I'm convinced this could really happen. Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Terry Crews.
- Suburbicon (2017) -- A George-Clooney-directed tale of regular folks involved in quirky crime. Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac.
- Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) -- A simple jewelry-store heist takes a wrong turn. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney.
- Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) -- Murder and mayhem at a motel on the California/Nevada border. Jeff Bridges, John Hamm, Dakota Johnson.
- The Gypsy Moths (1969) -- A skydiving team puts on a show in a midwestern town. Burt Lancaster, Gene Hackman, Deborah Kerr, Scott Wilson.
- The Spanish Prisoner (1997) -- A mystery with Steve Martin in a serious role. And it works. Campbell Scott, Rebecca Pidgeon, Steve Martin, Ben Gazzara.
- An Unfinished Life (2005) -- Love and drama in present-day Wyoming. Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Lucas.
- A History of Violence (2005) -- An entertaining (and yes, violent) look at current and retired/relocated gangsters. Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt.
- Lockout (2012) -- One of only a few science-fiction movies in this list. Sort of an Escape from New York in outer space. Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare.
- Magic (1978) -- A chilling adaptation of the William Goldman novel. I bet I've watched this a dozen times. Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter.
- Motherless Brooklyn (2019) -- A complicated police drama featuring a detective with Tourette's syndrome. Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe.
- Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) -- Not only is Elvis alive, he's a resident of a haunted nursing home. Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis.
- In Bruges (2008) -- One of the quirkiest movies ever made, involving disillusioned Irish hitmen. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes.
- No Escape (2015) -- An American family is caught in the middle of a third-world coup. Pierce Brosnan, Lake Bell, and (in a dramatic role) Owen Wilson.
- A Family Thing (1996) -- A southern bigot discovers that he has an African American brother. Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones.
- Leap of Faith (1992) -- The adventures of a traveling evangelist in Kansas during a drought. Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Liam Neeson.
And my absolute favorites:
- The Dish (2000) -- An Australian satellite-tracking station takes center stage during the Apollo 11 mission. Sam Neill, Patrick Warburton, Roy Billing.
- Galaxy Quest (1999) -- A science-fiction comedy that is (trust me) endlessly re-watchable. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Rockwell, Alan Rickman.
- Rustler's Rhapsody (1985) -- The updated adventures of a 1940s TV-western hero and his sidekick. Tom Courtenay, G.W. Bailey, Andy Griffith, Sela Ward.
- Medicine Man (1992) -- A doctor searches for a cancer cure in the Amazonian rainforest. Sean Connery and a pre-Sopranos Lorraine Bracco.
Again, your mileage will vary--but if you find yourself desperate for something to stream or put in your Netflix queue, consider giving one of these a try.
Do you have any barely-known, hiding-in-plain-sight favorites? Let me know what you think.
I'll be back next Saturday with a post about (of all things) writing.