The number of films produced within a year, let alone a decade, is staggering and it’s only getting bigger. There are a shit ton of films out there which, for a cinephile, is hell because it’s impossible to see them all. There’s hundreds of thousands of movies and if you don’t know where to look, you’re bound to miss some good ones. This list was a collaborative effort to help shine a light on a select few you might not have seen that we think are worth your time.
These are 50 Underrated Movies You Need to See.
30. The Black Hole (1979)
Disney’s first PG rated film, The Black Hole sits smack in the middle of an uncomfortable period at the House of Mouse. With declining revenues from its kid-friendly features, Disney invested in more “adult” oriented fare, including this space epic inspired by Star Wars and the then-trendy disaster movies of Irwin Allen. It follows the crew of a ship called the Palomino and their encounter with a lost research vessel called Cygnus, apparently trapped in orbit around an enormous black hole.
I watched The Black Hole a lot in the 80’s – it seemed to end up on TV at least a couple of times a year – and I would be glued to the screen every time. Yes, there are goofy chunks to the film – those robots in particular (though I’ll always be partial to a robot named Bob) – but it was the more horror-adjacent elements that stuck in my brain. The first long pass of the Cygnus, looking like a haunted cathedral floating in space. The swirling black hole itself, growling like a monster on the soundtrack. That epic, bombastic score by John Barry. The terrible secret of the ‘robot’ crew.
The Black Hole is a weird conglomeration of disaster movie, space epic, horror film and kid-friendly Disney pablum. It’s a Frankenstein film and shouldn’t work – and for many people it may not. For me, however, it maintains both a level of nostalgic charm and still manages to creep and horrify. Worth it for epic music, awesome set design, moments of terror and an overall gothic mood. It’s the Disney version of Event Horizon, as wonderfully mad as that sounds. And I know the robots are goofy. I don’t care.
29. Beautiful Girls (1996)
I’ll admit I haven’t actually seen this movie in YEARS. But I do remember being surprised at how much I enjoyed the film, especially something being touted as “The best date movie of the 90’s!”. But I will say, it’s a very entertaining and relatable film with an excellent soundtrack. The track “Suffering” by Satchel is and always be one of my faves.
Timothy Hutton’s character Willie returns to his hometown in Massachusetts for his ten-year high school reunion and he reunites with three old friends Mo (Noah Emmerich), Paul (Michael Rapaport) and Tommy (Matt Dillon). Two of which are having relationship issues. Willie also befriends the 13 year old neighbor girl Marty (Natalie Portman) who is older and wiser beyond her age. Sure there is some awkwardness in the age difference / relationship of the two but it plays out in a very adult and grown up way that leaves not feeling disgusted.
28. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
“No matter where you go, there you are.” One of the great, under-appreciated sci-fi gems, the story of a non-existent pulp hero from an alternate version of reality is also one of my favorite films. Peter Weller’s Buckaroo is an 80’s, New Wave version of Doc Savage – supremely capable of almost anything (except singing, let’s be honest) and with a cadre of ALMOST equally talented specialists (including Clancy Brown and Jeff Goldblum), The Hong Kong Cavaliers. That this film – the first and only – is presented as the latest in what we can only assume is a series of similar adventures – is one of the things I love about it, and probably one of the things that led to it being dismissed as “strange” and “unintelligible.”
The plot involves John Lithgow (hilariously over the top as Dr. Emilio Lizardo/Lord John Whorfin) trying to steal a dimension-spanning device of Buckaroo’s design called the “oscillation overthruster” to free the “Red Lectroids” and set off a nuclear war. There are “Black Lectroids,” Ellen Barkin as Penny Pretty (a ringer for Buckaroo’s dead wife), Blue Blazer Irregulars, Christopher Lloyd as John Big-booty (“Bigbooté!”), and even a jam sequence with Buckaroo and his band. (Yes, the requisite 80’s saxophone is present.) It’s hard to talk coherently about a movie that is so on the edge of incoherence, but it’s a joyous, riotous film and I’m still sad we never got to see that Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League film.
27. Fade to Black (1980)
An underrated slasher film from the 80s where the main character, who is obsessed with movies, gets frustrated with people in his life and carries out murders with a flair of the theatrical. Very similar to Vincent Price’s Theater of Blood, he essentially recreates scenes from his favorite movies to perform his murders. Dennis Christopher gives a very underrated performance that should get more credit for his believability here. The film also stars Tim Thomerson, Linda Kerridge, and in one of their first film roles, Mickey Rourke and Peter Horton.
26. Dick Tracy (1990)
There’s a case to be made that Dick Tracy could be the best comic book movie ever made. In fact, I gave five reasons why a few weeks ago.
Dick Tracy is a testament to the magic of old Hollywood and deep noir. Not to mention it’s just so damn fun. That’s what keeps me coming back.
I mean, remember when movies were glamorous? Remember when the good guys were unquestionable? Remember when zany characters were part of the schtick? Remember when cinematography was as artful yet impeccably simplistic? Remember when archetype and nuance danced together on screen? Remember when bold reinvention was embraced as a filmmaking choice?
Now, I’m not suggesting we’ve lost all of these things altogether. Nor am I claiming that cinema was only good in the twenty years between 1940 – 1960. But I am suggesting that Dick Tracy toes the line of familiar, nostalgic time-and-place while boldly venturing into uncharted territory to near perfection.
We travel back in time to look to a future of limitless potential. It boasts a fantastic re-watchability factor. And lest we forget Madonna as Breathless Mahoney which was, well, perfect.
That is the power of well crafted noir, and delightful IP and visionary filmmaking. What Warren Beatty achieved here is a rare, fantastic gift.
25. Code 46 (2003)
I make allowances for small budget genre movies. A filmmaker on a limited budget has to work harder to build the world they envision than filmmakers with huge budgets. It doesn’t always work out, but I find that I can look past the obvious flaws because of the effort put in to realize the director’s vision. Limited budgets also restrict the scope of the world the filmmaker can depict, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks with their imagination. And without all the whiz-bang special effects found in big budget productions, the focus often ends up on the characters – where it should be.
Code 46, a dystopian science fiction love story set in a near-future shaped by rampant cloning and climate change, was made for roughly 7.5 million dollars. It manages to present a future Earth that is both familiar and alien, and it achieves this by shooting in existing locations. There’s no CGI, no elaborate futuristic sets, no lasers, no huge set pieces. It’s a bizarre love story set in a disconcertingly believable future. What it lacks in spectacle, it more than makes up for in great performances and impressive world building. Code 46, like other thoughtful sci-fi, sticks with you long after the credits roll.
24. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
It eats me alive that most people remember Kubo and the Two Strings for the controversy surrounding the fact that a story set in feudal Japan was cast with mostly non-Asian voice actors. While I understand that issue, I feel like people are using that as an excuse to completely ignore a beautifully crafted film. Casting issues aside, Kubo and the Two Strings is a visual marvel, as it is 100% stop-motion animation from start to finish (think The Nightmare Before Christmas). That’s really hard to do, always has been, and the fact that the filmmakers remained committed to that art form when CGI would make the job a thousand times easier should be recognized. Plus, there’s a beautiful story here about the meaning of family and how our loved ones never really leave us as long as we remember them in our hearts. It’s a beautiful story but almost no one talks about it because of the voice casting controversy and that’s no right at all.
23. Anything for Jackson (2020)
It feels like there weren’t too many movies talked about from 2020 but Anything for Jackson is one that might have flown under the radar for horror fans. It’s a reverse exorcism. Sold. Two grandparents who lost their daughter and grandson in a horrific accident want to try and bring back the grandchild by any means necessary. Even if that means kidnapping and using the dark arts. Well-directed by Justin G. Dyck with solid performances by all involved although Josh Cruddas really stands out among the rest as a creepy Satanist.
22. Secret Admirer (1985)
I can’t believe this fell under my radar for so long. On the surface Secret Admirer may seem like your typical eighties romantic comedy, but I actually found myself enjoying the shenanigans more than say a John Hughes rom-com (looking at your Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles). The plot (and most of the comedy) is focused on the delivery of anonymous letters that end up in the wrong hands and are written by the wrong hearts.
C. Thomas Howell —who seemed to have been on the verge of landing the lead role in numerous now famous ’80s films— stars as a high school student who receives a love letter and jumps to the conclusion that the hottest girl in school (Kelly Preston) must have sent it to her. What follows is a back and forth correspondence that ends up involving everyone from the parents to the teachers to the neighbors. I don’t want to give away too many details because the best part of the film is seeing how these love letters effect the whole neighborhood. All I can say is that it will be well worth your time.
21. Dark River (2017)
Based in northern England, Clio Barnards follow-up to her breakthrough hit The Selfish Giant (which could also have taken this spot) is an equally melancholic affair. The story follows Alice, a young woman returning to the home she fled 15 years earlier, in order to claim the tenancy of her late father’s farm. She soon becomes involved in a bitter dispute with her brother. Dark River has two main performers and we also have Sean Bean really living up to his own stereotype. This time being dead before the plot of the movie even starts. We do see him in flashback form but there is no doubt that Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley are the absolute stars of the show. It’s an engaging and layered plot, but there is no doubt the movie is completely elevated by its leading performers.
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What did you think of the list so far? What are some of your favorite underrated movies? Drop them down in the comments below!