30 March 2024

The Best Movies You've Never Heard Of


A friend once told me he thought I'd seen more movies than anyone else he'd ever known. I also seem to recall him rolling his eyes a bit when he said that. I didn't mind. I'm well aware that I spend a lot of time in fantasyland, and I also realize that even though I've enjoyed a great many of those movies, I've also seen many that were a stupendous waste of time.

My post today is about some that weren't.

An Unscientific Study

First, I should point out that my all-time favorite movies (Jaws, The Godfather, Jurassic Park, To Kill a Mockingbird, Casablanca, Raiders of the Lost Ark, L.A. Confidential, 12 Angry Men, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Silence of the Lambs, Aliens, Lonesome Dove, The Big Lebowski, etc., are some of them) aren't included in the following list. Why? Because you've probably seen them. All of those are well-known. 

I also didn't include three that I would've listed among the unknowns a few years ago--Galaxy Quest, In Bruges, and Blood Simple--because they've recently become more popular, maybe because viewers like me have tried to tell everyone about them. (If you haven't seen those, I suggest you treat yourself.)

Anyhow, here are my recommendations of movies of all genres that you might not know about but that I think are cool enough to watch many times each (the ones I consider the very best are at the top of the list):

50 Hidden Gems (and some Guilty Pleasures)

Sands of the Kalahari (1965) -- Stanley Baker, Stuart Whitman, Susannah York

The Dish (2000) -- Sam Neill, Patrick Warburton

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) -- Ethan Hawke, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Medicine Man (1992) -- Sean Connery, Lorraine Bracco

A History of Violence (2005) -- Ed Harris, William Hurt

The Spanish Prisoner (1997) -- Steve Martin, Campbell Scott

Signs (2002) -- Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix

From Noon till Three (1976) -- Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland

Always (1989) -- Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman

Wait Until Dark (1967) -- Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna

Monsters (2010) -- Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able

Suburbicon (2017) -- Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac

An Unfinished Life (2005) -- Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Lopez

The Last Sunset (1961) -- Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone

Wind River (2017) -- Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Graham Greene

The Hanging Tree (1959) -- Gary Cooper, Karl Malden, George C. Scott

The Gypsy Moths (1969) -- Burt Lancaster, Gene Hackman, Deborah Kerr

The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) -- Michael Douglas, Val Kilmer

Magic (1978) -- Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith

Ransom (1996) -- Mel Gibson, Gary Sinese, Rene Russo

Under Siege (1992) -- Steven Seagal, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Busey

Third Man on the Mountain (1959) -- James MacArthur, Michael Rennie, Janet Munro

Lady in the Water (2006) -- Bryce Dallas Howard, Paul Giamatti

The Rocketeer (1991) -- Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton

Sorcerer (1977) -- Roy Scheider, Chick Martinez

Secondhand Lions (2003) -- Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, Haley Joel Osment

Shadow in the Cloud (2020) -- Chloe Grace Moretz, Taylor John Smith

Vanishing Point (1971) -- Barry Newman, Cleavon Little

Used Cars (1980) -- Kurt Russel, Jack Warden

A Life Less Ordinary (1997) -- Holly Hunter, Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz

Waterhole #3 (1967) -- James Coburn, Carroll O'Connor, Claude Akins

Brassed Off (1996) -- Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fitzgerald

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970) -- Jason Robards, Stella Stevens

Fall (2022) -- Virginia Gardner, Grace Caroline Currey, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Out of Sight (1998) -- George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez

Night Moves (1975) -- Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren, Melanie Griffith

Silver Bullet (1985) -- Gary Busey, Corey Haim, Everett McGill

While You Were Sleeping (1995) -- Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman

Idiocracy (2006) -- Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph

Stranger than Fiction (2006) -- Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman

Lockout (2012) -- Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare

Someone to Watch Over Me (1987) -- Tom Berenger, Mimi Rogers, Lorraine Bracco

Amelie (2001) -- Audrey Tautou, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Joe vs. the Volcano (1990) -- Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges

No Way Out (1987) -- Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young

Kings of the Sun (1963) -- Yul Brynner, George Chakiris, Shirley Anne Field

Necessary Roughness (1991) -- Scott Bakula, Kathy Ireland, Evander Holyfield

Cat People (1982) -- Nastassja Kinski, John Heard, Malcolm McDowell

No Escape (2015) -- Owen Wilson, Pierce Brosnan, Lake Bell

The Blue Max (1966) -- George Peppard, Ursula Andress, James Mason

Questions for the Class

Have any of you seen these? Did you like 'em? Any additions to the list? Full disclosure, here: Also among my favorites of the well-knowns are Die HardBlazing Saddles, and Rustler's Rhapsody, so you should consider that before taking any of what I say too seriously. But thanks for indulging me.

Have fun at the movies!


  1. You mentioned two faves of mine at the start: In Bruges and Galaxy Quest. Here are some oddities I love. Picnic at Hanging Rock. In the Loop. Kills on Wheels. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. Juliet of the Spirits. Day for Night.

    1. Rob, you're the one who put me onto In Bruges years ago, and I've sung its praises ever since. As for Picnic at Hanging Rock, I re-watched it not long ago, but haven't seen the remake. I have NOT seen any of the others you mentioned. But I will.

      I also didn't say anything about Miller's Crossing in this post, but it's another that I love, and I recall you do too. Lots of hidden gems out there.

    2. Oh, Rob - I'm in 100% with Picnic at Hanging Rock and Galaxy Quest. Other favorites:
      Fading Gigolo, Adaptation, My Life as a Dog, and my real guilty pleasures: Harold and Maude and The Magic Christian.

    3. I didn't think Miller's Crossing was obscure enough to include, but it is a big fave with me. Eve, Harold and Maude is great and another flick from the same era: The King of Hearts.

    4. Eve and Rob -- I think both of you know how I feel about Galaxy Quest. And every single person I've EVER told about that movie loves it. It flew under the radar for a long time, but is finally being recognized.

      I've seen all the others you two mentioned except The King of Hearts. Making a note.

    5. Yes - the King of Hearts was GREAT.

  2. I’ve seen Wait Until Dark and Night Moves and enjoyed them. Have you seen After the Fox (1966) with Peter Sellers and Victor Mature? it’s, shall I say, different.
    Edward Lodi

    1. Hi Edward! Yep, I saw After the Fox long ago--another little-known movie! One of the things I liked most about it was the crazy music. Yep, different in a lot of ways.

      Wait Until Dark was a huge hit among college kids when I first saw it--EVERYbody screamed at one of the Alan Arkin scenes toward the end. If you've seen it you know what I mean. As for Night Moves, can you believe Gene Hackman was ever that young?

    2. "You hear that Gina, your Mama wants grandchildren!"
      "You're a crook. Steal her some!"

    3. Another After the Fox fan!! I've gotta watch that again.

  3. My wife LOVED LOVED LOVED Joe vs. the Volcano; the most I could muster up for it was an unenthusiastic meh. My two favorite movies? Picnic at Hanging Rock (which show what great taste Robert Lopresti has) and Big Trouble in Little China.

    1. Jerry, your wife and I are probably among the very few who liked Joe vs the V, but I confess I've seen it a lot of times (actually three movies in one, right?). And WHOA, Big Trouble in Little China! I have it on DVD--talk about *different* . . . As for Hanging Rock, that one has become a classic, and for good reason. Another of those movies that WAS little-known not too long ago but that a lot of viewers talk about now.

      Thanks for stopping in, here.

  4. I remember a few of these, too, John. I played the Richard Crenna role in a local production of Wait Until Dark. The original Broadway production had Lee Remick as the blind woman (I thought Audrey Hepburn was far too weepy/whiny) and Robert Duval as Rote. I thought Alan Arkin was terrific, but I wish I'd seen Duval.
    I had forgotten several others, and thanks for reminding me of them.

    1. Steve, I'm impressed, as usual! You're a man of many talents.

      So many good memories of (the movie version of) Wait Until Dark. I think it was probably the first time I'd seen Richard Crenna in a role besides that of Luke McCoy (aging myself a LOT, here). Re-watching it is always fun, but seeing it in a theatre (several times) years ago was the best!

      As for Duvall, I bet he was good as Rote. What a villain, stalking a blind woman, and the ways she outsmarted him (knocking out the lights in the apartment, etc.) always gave me goosebumps. What a movie!

      Of those forgotten movies, watch The Dish sometime. It's fantastic, and NObody's seen it.

    2. I liked The Dish. Oh, speaking of the late great Alan Arkin: The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

    3. Rob, I liked that one, I liked that one! I think that was Arkin's first movie, and I also think he was nominated for an Oscar for it.

      I watched The Dish again a few weeks ago, with one of our science-minded grandkids. He loved it.

  5. My husband and I both loved The Ghost and the Darkness, a rare instance of agreement on a movie. I'm a big Val Kilmer fan, and it was a terrifying film in a good way. I hated Cat People, one of the few horror films I've attempted. I must have been a captive audience, or else I didn't know where it was going. I doubt I sat through it to the end. I have a vague recollection of being in someone else's home. Otherwise, John, you're such a...I was going to say "boy," but I guess "guy" does it just as well. I might have seen Amélie, because I've seen more than my share of French movies. I don't know which movies other people consider obscure. My favorites include Enchanted April and Strictly Ballroom, which might be, as well as My Cousin Vinny and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which are surely not.

    1. Go ahead and say it, Liz--I never grew up. Yep, loved The G & the D, but I also liked Cat People--scared the hell out of me. Amelie is WAY different, which is probably one of the reasons I liked it. (Loved the music, too. I'm big on movie music.)

      I agree that there's really no way to know what other folks consider obscure--the ones I listed are just some I liked but never hear anyone else mention. I've seen the ones you noted except for Enchanted April. But it's now on my list to watch--thanks!

  6. I'm laughing because I had the same thought as Liz, in that you are such a guy!! A terrific list, with a lot of things I haven't seen on it. Thank you. Now, I wish someone would write a list of great films like above, that pass the Bechdal test. That is, films that have at least two females in speaking roles, who at least once in the movie, speak to each other about something other than a man. That said, I will still enjoy going through your list! Melodie

    1. Melodie, that sounds like a good project for you! But you're right, there aren't enough of those.

      One girly movie that I did like, a LOT, was Somewhere in Time, the one with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve. Loved it. And you're right, who but a guy COULD like a movie like Rustler's Rhapsody?

      Quick note, about one of those in the list. Monsters is a movie I have absolutely never ever heard ANYone else mention, very low-key, very slow movie, no recognizable stars, low budget, etc., etc., but absolutely terrifying. The buildup of tension before anything is really shown is unbelievable. Anybody else seen that one?

      Thank you, Melodie, as always. Love your comments.

    2. John, I love Somewhere in Time. But would you believe, I don't think it passes the test. I will definitely have to think about movies that do. There aren't many, from recent times. Lots from the 40s. Melodie

    3. You're right, Somewhere in Time doesn't quite fit the bill.

      I really do think you should do a post on that, Melodie. Don't forget!

  7. Just remembered Spirit of the Beehive (Spanish, 1973). No way to describe it (some writer I turned out to be) except that it has stayed in my mind these many years.
    Edward Lodi

    1. Never saw it, Edward! Another one for my to-be-somehow-acquired list. Thank you!

  8. Elizabeth Dearborn30 March, 2024 14:38

    The Road to Wellville, Reversal of Fortune, The Producers (Zero Mostel & Gene Wilder version), Inside Man, Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, The Inspector General. I absolutely love Idiocracy!

    1. Idiocracy is becoming more true all the time, Elizabeth! Love that movie. As for the others, my favorite of those is probably The Road to Wellville (different, right??). And I haven't seen The Inspector General. I'm getting a lot of good recommendations, here!

      Thanks as always, and keep writing!

  9. The Informant! (exclamation point is part of the title.) "Based on a tattle-tale."

    1. I too liked The Informant!! (Add another exclamation point to the title.) Another of Matt Damon's wild movies--he's made several (see Suburbicon, above).

      Thanks for the comment.

  10. I saw Vanishing Point when it first came out, as part of a two-film matinee (I think the other film was about the Monterey Pop festival). Back then, they didn't run you out of the theater after a movie, so I actually sat through it twice, the other movie sandwiched between the two showings of VP.

    Another little-known treasure is Silent Running with Bruce Dern, a science fiction movie in which Dern is the only human character through much of the movie.

    Zachariah, the first (and perhaps only) rock'n'roll western is another little-known treasure. I had the soundtrack long before I ever saw the movie.

    Among my favorite movies, though they are far from unknown: The Princess Bride, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Young Frankenstein, all of which I've watched several times.

    1. Michael, I know why you sat through Vanishing Point twice: the girl on the motorcycle, right? I really really liked that movie--it was the first time I'd heard of Cleavon Little. For me, though, sitting through it twice was easier--it wasn't part of a double feature.

      Ah, Silent Running--another gem from long ago. But I have NOT seen Zachariah!

      Yep, love those last three, but as you said, they're known quantities. Plenty of great quotes came from all three. The great screenwriter William Goldman said The Princess Bride was the highlight of his career.

  11. BTW, lately when I post a comment and click the Notify Me box, and then publish, it publishes the comment, but doesn't notify me. Anyone else having this problem? Anyone have any idea as to how to fix it? Thanks!

    1. Thanks for pointing this out, Eve. I didn't know about it. (And I'm no help in fixing it because I've never clicked the Notify Me box.) Any answers, Leigh? Rob?

      The Blogger program itself is often a mystery.

  12. I meant to add this in my earlier post, but forgot. How about Charade from the early sixties? Great cast: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthou, James Coburn, George Kennedy, and a logical surprise ending that's set up from the beginning.

    1. Last year I watched Charade and To Catch A Thief, both for the first time in 50 years. I concluded that if you want to watch only one Cary Grant- starring Hitchcock-style movie set in France you should definitely go with Charade. "Of course, you won't be able to lie on your back for a while but then you can lie from any position, can't you?"

    2. Steve, I didn't list Charade because I figured everybody'd seen it, but it's always fun to watch it again. (Seeing a young George Kennedy, James Coburn, etc., always reminds me how old I'm getting.)

      Rob, I watched both those not too long ago, myself. One of my favorite Cary Grants, believe it or not, is Father Goose. Corny but great fun, and I still hum the music now and then. Love those old old movies.

      Talk about memory lane . . .

    3. Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, Arsenic and Old Lace-- I love Cary Grant films. As for your list above, I've seen 13 of the 50. I rewatch While You Were Sleeping around Christmas every couple of years.

    4. Noreen, 13 out of 30 ain't bad--I actually think lots of folks haven't *heard* of some of these, much less seen them. And I LOVE While You Were Sleeping. It's one of those I could watch over and over. (As my wife would approvingly say, there are no bad guys in that whole movie.)

  13. I've seen some of them! And heard of some of the others! And my best friend in High School's little sister was scared to death of the commercial for "Magic..."

  14. Oh and I'll add the 1967 movie "The Spirit Is Willing" to your list!

  15. Jeff, Magic has been one of my favorites for many years. The novel (Goldman) was every bit as good, also. Anthony Hopkins was wonderful. As for The Spirit is Willing, haven't seen that one!!! But I will (the spirit is willing . . .).


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