Criminally Underrated Movies
We share our favorite films, plus picks from Tilda Swinton, John Waters, and more
A Canterbury Tale
1. Fat City 1972
John Huston directed this late-career gem about an over-the-hill boxer (Stacy Keach) and his young pugilist ward (Jeff Bridges). It’s a bittersweet character study of resigned machismo.
2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia 1974
Sam Peckinpah’s wonderfully seedy south-of-the-border death trip stars Warren Oates as a down-and-out barroom pianist desperate to collect a bounty. He’s a doomed loser whose fate is sealed even if he succeeds.
3. Rolling Thunder 1977
In this vise-tight revenge film, William Devane plays a POW who returns from Vietnam only to find all he loves taken from him. A shattering portrait of a man pushed to his primal limit looking for payback.
4. Near Dark 1987
Kathryn Bigelow’s ultrastylish vampire flick is a seductively sick and sexy Western-inspired road movie about a band of bad-to-the-bone bloodsuckers prowling America’s lost highways.
5. The Vanishing 1988
Hollywood’s 1993 remake doesn’t hold a candle to the Dutch original, a goosebump-inducing cat-and-mouse thriller about a kidnapper (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) and his victim’s boyfriend (Gene Bervoets).
6. Gremlins 2: The New Batch 1990
Mischief-maker Joe Dante followed his comedy-horror classic about little green meanies with a go-for-broke sequel that brilliantly channels the anarchic (and mordantly meta) spirit of classic Looney Tunes.
7. Love Jones 1997
Two Chicago artists, Darius (Larenz Tate) and Nina (Nia Long), fall clumsily, beautifully in love after meeting in an upscale nightclub. Director Theodore Witcher’s feature-film debut is a pitch-perfect, all-too-rare look at contemporary African-American middle-class life.
8. Little Dieter Needs to Fly 1998
Werner Herzog’s documentary tells the story of Dieter Dengler, a soft-spoken Vietnam vet who recounts his harrowing experiences in a Laotian prison camp and his astonishing fight for survival. The basis for Herzog’s equally great drama Rescue Dawn.
9. Bandits 2001
Barry Levinson’s loose screwball caper about hapless bank robbers (Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton) and the bored housewife (Cate Blanchett at her most winning) who falls for them.
10. Big Fan 2009
Patton Oswalt is sublime as a sad-sack superfan whose dedication to the New York Giants prevents him from pressing charges after he is assaulted by his favorite player.
Tilda Swinton’s Favorite Unsung Movies
“I loved this challenge,” the eternally cool British actress tells us. “I want to raise awareness of these films, and if anybody seeks them out that would be rocking.”
1. Peter Ibbetson 1935
“A fetish film for surrealists with the great Gary Cooper. It’s a love story of two children who get parted, meet as adults, get parted again, and then meet in dreams.”
2. A Canterbury Tale 1949
“It’s about England and pride in national history and is almost a piece of propaganda but the most poetic and elegant propaganda you could imagine.”
3. Twenty-Four Eyes 1954
“A young primary school teacher on a small island off Japan. Some of her boys grow up and go away to the war. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking.”
4. Britannia Hospital 1983
“A satire about the National Health Service. It’s sick, sick funny and super political. Lindsay Anderson is a great master of English filmmaking.”
5. Ginger and Fred 1986
“It’s about Ginger and Fred impersonators who are invited to a TV studio to take part in some terrible variety show. When I first saw it I thought it was the most extreme satire. Now it [feels like] a documentary.”
6. Barking Dogs Never Bite 2000
“The first film by my friend whom I’m proud to say I’m doing a film with [Snowpiercer]. It’s a pretty black comedy about eating dogs in Korea.”
7. Idiocracy 2006
“God, it’s so good. The performances are fantastic, and it’s incredibly witty, and look out for the President of the United States is all I can say.”
8. Gentlemen Broncos 2009
“By the Napoleon Dynamite director. It’s kind of insane. It’s about a writer whose work is plagiarized, and it’s really, really silly. Just go and find it.”
John Waters: My Picks
Director, Hairspray, Serial Mom
“Bruno Dumont’s movies, which are all depressing French art movies [such as Flandres] about farmers and the earth and misery. I love a feel-bad movie. I hate to feel good at a theater. There is such honesty in the pain he puts on screen.”
Zack Snyder: My Pick
Director, Man of Steel, 300
Splice “There’s this whole ethical debate about cloning tucked into a genre film. I really liked it a lot. I loved the scene when [Adrien Brody] is making love to the creature they created and then Sarah Polley busts in. That was an awesome scene I did not see coming.”
John Lasseter: My Picks
Director, Toy Story, Cars
“The entire library of Hayao Miyazaki. These films are amazing: My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and The Wind Rises. He’s been such an inspiration to me and most animators around the world.”
Michelle Rodriguez: My Pick
Actress, Fast & Furious, Avatar
” Rumble Fish is beautiful, sexy, and cool, in a classic-never-dies kind of way. Coppola’s amazing aesthetic choices and use of color are the most innovative I’ve seen for its time. It’s simple storytelling with a poetic, fresh style.”
Underrated Foreign Horror
1. Eyes Without A Face 1960
Like a terrifying French Face/Off.
2. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage 1970
A stylish giallo from Argento, the Italian Hitchcock.
3. Daughters of Darkness 1971
A Belgian vampiress thirsts for a newlywed couple.
4. House 1977
A bizarro Japanese phantasmagoria.
5. Cannibal Holocaust 1985
A film crew heads into the jungle. It doesn’t go well.
6. The Devil’s Backbone 2001
Guillermo del Toro’s poignant ghost story.
7. High Tension 2005
Frenchwomen turn the tables on a killer.
8. The Host 2007
A fun sea-monster mash in South Korea.
9. [REC] 2007
An excellent Spanish found-footage zombie flick.
10. Dead Snow 2009
Nazi zombies terrorize Norway.
A Canterbury Tale