So a few weeks ago I wrote a story on movies I felt were overrated. Now those were not necessarily bad movies I just didn’t think they were the amazing 5 stars everyone else seems to. The follow up naturally becomes what are underrated movies that deserve more playing time?
I actually struggled in coming up with a list because some of them seemed difficult to defend but I enjoyed them nonetheless. Some might think how could I not be into the Godfather and like Sweet Home Alabama or The Blind Side? I can’t explain it. I just do. So here are some underrated gems to check out by category:
Rom Coms that do the genre right- anyone knows I love a good romantic movie but they have been the scene of some truly horrific flops in the last 10 years. Some that were unjustly ignored are:
IQ- a funny movie starring Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Walter Manthau about Einstein’s niece falling in love. The banter between Einstein and his buddies is hilarious, the chemistry is right on. Its available on netflix so check it out (many on this list are on netflix).
Sweet Home Alabama- Predictable? yes. do some of the jokes fall flat? yes, but I really enjoy this movie. I LOVE Josh Lucas. He is super sexy and Patrick Demsey plays the other man with a lot of class. They do not take the easy way out and make him a jerk.
Just Wright- A movie nobody saw with Queen Latifah and Common. The Queen is divine as a physical therapist tasked with helping an NBA player come back from an injury. Yes, its predicable but you need some of that in this genre. Its really a fairy tale with the prince charming a basketball player and Paula Patton as the somewhat evil stepsister (god-sister in this story . She’s a gold digger with a heart and boy is she pretty)
Return to Me- Similar to IQ this sweet love story of a girl who gets a heart transplant but then falls for the widower of the heart donor. Its sweet and how great to have a Hollywood romance where the character falls in love without the girl revealing a scar on her chest. A very clean simple movie with a great group of older actors playing the Irish/Italian family of the Minnie Driver character.
Better Off Dead- I can’t really defend this movie except to say that it makes me laugh every time. A boy is infatuated with his girlfriend and then is dumped for the captain of the high school ski team. To get back he decides to ski the K-12.
Hijinks erupt with everything from Howard Cossell Japanese taxi drivers, animated burgers, a paper boy who wants his $2, a mother who boils bacon and makes goo for dinner and a brother who cuts out coupons from boxes before the cereal is eaten. What can I say? It just makes me laugh.
Drama’s that deserve to be seen-
Marvin’s Room- A gut wrenching drama with Meryl Streep, Dianne Keaton, Robert Deniro and Leonardo Dicaprio. It reads like a good play. Two estranged sisters get back together when one is diagnosed with cancer. Dicaprio plays a teen with severe behavior and mental illness issues but it is done in a realistic way. Every performance is good. It felt like watching a real family.
Warrior- Not enough people saw this great sports/family movie. The conceit is predictable. We know the brothers will end up fighting against each other but the journey is so well done. All the performances are great. Tom Hardy is super hot and Nick Nolte is totally believable as the alcoholic father everyone has discounted. The fight scenes are not overly long and the tension is built perfectly. Great example of its genre.
Secret Life of Bees- Another movie with a strong ensemble cast that nobody saw. Based on the bestselling novel by Su Monk Kidd tells the story of a little girl who runs away from home in 1964 South Carolina. She finds a new home with a family of black women that knew her mother and are beekeepers. I loved the book and the movie.
Jane Eyre 1996- I have yet to dislike a version of this story (including the 2011 filming) but this one may be my favorite big screen adaptation. Charlotte Ginsberg is the most plain Jane but that totally works for the character. William Hurt is brooding and fun as Rochester even without a British accent.
The Blind Side- Obviously this film has its fans as it won an oscar for Sandra Bullock but amongst critics it is frequently chided as sentimental and even manipulative. My answer to that is so what? Hasn’t sentimentality always been an essential aspect to the movies? Even going back to Gone with the Wind or Mrs Minver. If it is done well I enjoy a good hearted fable that helps encourage me to be a better person.
This story is of course about future super bowl winner Michael Oher and how he is adopted by the Tuohy family of Mississippi. Its the kind of movie I want to watch when I’m having a bad day or feeling discouraged and I don’t think that is a bad thing. Our society could use a little more hope and little less cynicism.
Children Movies You Might Have Missed
Winnie the Pooh Movie- Finally a movie designed for little, little kids. Its short enough for them with a simple sweet story that I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for. I LOVE the music. No winking humor for adults just an unabashed little kids movie (5 and under)
Holes- The first time I saw this movie I was blown away. I called my family and said ‘you have to see it’. They weren’t as impressed but I thought it was so creative. Weaving a story of a kid sent to a desert camp to dig holes and an cowboy love story that ended badly leaving a curse on the entire family. I still think it is brilliant.
Where the Wild Things Are- This movie has its fans and I admit it is one you either go with or don’t. I did. When I saw it in the theater half of us thought it was amazing and half a big bore. I loved its realistic depiction of a child, without any of the cloying sweetness of most Hollywood movies. This is a real kid with tantrums and stubbornness.
Then he is given the chance to actually lead creatures, creatures that feature all of his good and bad traits and he realizes how hard it is. He gets a new empathy for his mother. I loved the music, voice acting, the kid is a great actor (plus looks like my step-nephew). Its different but I totally bought it.
Ponyo- A weird but delightful animated movie from Hayao Miyazaki who made Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Both of those are better movies but this one is more like My Friend Totoro and is designed for little kids. The story is simple but the images are so creative and the basic idea so dazzling that the kids have room to write some of their own story. It is about a little boy that adopts a gold fish that is the daughter of the great sea wizard. The ocean begins to search for the adorable Ponyo and everything begins.
Classics You Should See-
Talk of the Town- At its release this movie was nominated for Oscars but I doubt many have seen it. Certainly Cary Grant’s other comedies such as Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday (both wonderful) are more popular but I love Talk of the Town . It has Jean Arthur who plays the high school crush of town good-for-nothing Grant who has been framed by a union for a fire that killed a man.
Knowing the jury is rigged Grant escapes from prison and seeks refuge at Arthur’s summer home which is soon to be occupied by a potential supreme court nominee played by Ronald Coleman. Justice vs mercy is amazingly mixed in with some great slapstick. I laugh my head off at this movie and think about philosophy at the same time. A rare combination.
Brigadoon- The Gene Kelly musical most people haven’t seen. Lerner and Loewe’s broadway musical comes to life about a town that ages only one day every hundred years. Kelly and his friend stumble upon the town on a hunting trip and meet the lovely Cyd Charisse. Some great songs such as Almost Like Being in Love, There but for you go I, Waitin for my Dearie and other great music and dancing.
Lili- A movie most people probably haven’t seen but a sweet fairy tale with amazing dancing. Its the story of a girl named Lili played by Leslie Caron who stumbles upon a circus in a small town who agree to give her a job as a magicians assistant. Young, she botches the first night and runs away in distress. To her surprise she stumbles upon a puppet show and the puppets start to speak to her.
She agrees to be the MC for the puppet show but gets so lost in the illusion that she doesn’t remember who is behind the scenes. Could it be jaded carnival operator who is bitter about his career in dance going down the tubes because of an injury? You will have to see! The dancing is magnificent and like I said it is a gem.
32 thoughts on “Underrated Movies”
I actually agree with most of these, except for the few I haven’t seen. I might impose upon you to add The Princess Bride to your children’s collection and a couple of Robbie Benson’s flicks to the adult list. They are Ice Castles with Hailey Lee Johnson and Tribute with Jack Lemon.
I haven’t seen those last 2 but will have to check them out! I thought of princess bride but I wondered if it was too popular to be considered underrated
Good point, but no box office success.
True, I wonder how it was marketed? It seems like it might be tough to sort of put into words but once people see it they spread the news. Its certainly popular here in Utah. I went to a writing conference and I swear it was quoted in each class. Princess Bride is great because it entertains the whole family . Its romantic, exciting and pretty squeaky clean (hence its being popular in Utah). I wish more movies like that came out.
I’ve actually only seen three of these. (Sigh! and I consider myself something of a movie buff!) IQ, Better Off Dead and Where the Wild Things Are. I agree with you completely on those three, which makes me want to investigate the rest of the movies on your list.
Better Off Dead is one of my favorites, and you’re right, it’s very under appreciated. I love pulling up next to people at stoplights and saying, in my best Asian Howard Cosell: “Lane MEYER!” (Nobody ever gets it, though.)
What do you think is an underrated movie?
Hurray! I love introducing people to new movies. I think I truly picked underrated movies if a movie buff hasn’t seen them. Let me know what you think. Better Off Dead has so many quotables like ‘love, the international language’ or ‘This is real snow. Do you know the street value of this stuff?’ and ‘Sorry Ricky for blowing up your Mom’.
And of course let’s not forget “Two…Dollars.”
I love Return to Me and so few people have actually seen it. I am not a movie person and so have seen very few on your list. But, that is one that I really enjoy. I always cry.
Thanks for the comment. It is such a sweet, romantic movie. Totally PG and old fashioned. I wish more were made like it.
Thanks for the great read. I haven’t seen “IQ.” I’ll have to look for it, as my wife enjoys romantic comedies, and I like them when they’re well done. Also, plus-one for “Better Off Dead.” I grew up with that movie, so I have a weakness for it.
I agree with you on many of the films that you mention. Kudos for “The Blind Side” and “Holes.” I get tired of critics who bash a movie for sentimentality. Granted, this can be overdone, but that isn’t the case with “The Blind Side.” It’s no more maudlin than half of Steven Spielberg’s films. Also, fantastic choice with “Holes.” That should be a children’s classic, but it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Your story inspired me to glance back over my film ratings lists. Here are some that I consider the most underrated of the last decade or so…
* “Arbitrage” (2012)
* “The Cabin In the Woods” (2012)
* “Hanna” (2011)
* “I’m Still Here” (2010)
* “Solitary Man” (2010)
* “Moon” (2009)
* “Knowing” (2009)
* “Changeling” (2008)
* “Revolutionary Road” (2008)
* “Australia” (2008)
* “The Bucket List” (2007)
* “Babel” (2006)
* “Hollywoodland” (2006)
* “The Prestige” (2006)
* “The New World” (2005)
* “Hotel Rwanda” (2004)
* “Finding Neverland” (2004)
* “A Home at the End of the World” (2004)
* “Nowhere in Africa” (2003)
* “Under the Tuscan Sun” (2003)
* “The Station Agent” (2003)
* “Signs” (2002)
* “About a Boy” (2002)
* “Frailty” (2002)
* “We Were Soldiers” (2002)
* “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (2002)
* “The Contender” (2000)
I’m excited to watch some on your list I haven’t seen. About a Boy is one of my favorite movies. I also like The Prestige and Finding Neverland, Will have to check the rest out. Any others on my list you haven’t seen besides IQ? Just curious.
I love that there are lots of Better Off Dead fans out there. My Mom isn’t much of a movie buff and she laughed at it and so its been a Wagner family favorite for years. I showed it to my little brother Sammy and I think he found it funny.
I like movies such as Tree of Life that defy genres and expectations but I also like one’s that follow a familiar formula but do it well. That can be even more difficult. I think those types of movies tend to get underrated. Another I almost put on the list is While You Were Sleeping.
I definitely have not seen…
Jane Eyre (1996) — although I love the 2011 version
Ponyo — everyone loves Miyazaki’s work, but I’m not an anime fan
Any of the classics you mention. This is funny because I like classics and musicals. I guess there’s just so much to see that you can’t everything. I appreciate the recommendations.
Also, I don’t think I have watched Marvin’s Room, but I might have seen it once. It’s weird that I don’t remember for sure because I know about the film and it sounds like something I would really enjoy. Because of that, I suspect I’ve read a lot of reviews and just never got around to it. Either that or I watched it one time in theaters and haven’t seen it since.
I have seen everything else that you mention!
cool. looks like we both have more to watch. happy movies. you probably have to watch so many new movies its hard to.catch up on old one
That is a problem for me. It always bums me our when I have to watch something for work that looks like it’s going to be horrible when I know there’s so much good stuff out there.
Since you do it for your job you probably don’t feel super inclined to watch movies in your free time. How many movies do you watch a year?
I do like to watch movies just for fun, especially if I know I don’t have to write about them. I’m not really sure how many I watch. I would say at least 100 and closer to 150-200 some years.
That’s cool. I guess you know you’ve found something you love when you feel that way about it even in your free time.
You know what’s interesting is that all 3 of the classics I mentioned are under 2 hours. Lili is only 1 hour and 21 minutes. These days it feels like every movie has to be 2.5 to 3 hours long. Lili does not feel like a short movie because the story, dancing, and art direction are so engrossing. Hollywood could take a lesson in editing from these movies.
Just curious- so do you not like any Miyasaki movies? Spirited Away? Princess Mononoke because I think they are so creative. Normally I don’t like anime but I think any genre has the potential to be done well. Spirited Away is a particular favorite because its one of the few movies I’ve seen where I had no idea what was coming next- a giant baby? a bird made out of paper? a man who orders about coal-ants? So creative and I enjoyed being surprised.
I think they are OK, but I’ve never been a big fan. I really don’t know why, as many people love them and I’m open to all genres.
Rented Totoro about 20 years ago because it looked like something my daughter (6 at the time) would like. We both loved it, and I’ve seen nearly all of Miyasaki’s movies and own several. I especially liked “Howl’s Moving Castle.” Let’s not forget “Fraunch fries” “Fraunch toast” “Fraunch dressing”…which was a hoot. A great early Cusack movie, “Better Off Dead” was a huge favorite for my friends. Thanks for your list. I’m definitely checking out the ones I haven’t seen. A few favorites that are either forgotten or never were’s:
Matilda-another favorite that my daughter probably watched 50 times.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-nothing beats the book or radio show, but “Goodbye, and Thanks for All the Fish” and Marvin the Paranoid Android alone are worth buying it for.
Life of Brian and Meaning of Life-Yes, the Holy Grail is brilliant, but I think both of these are every bit as good.
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure-I still watch this once a year.
Twin Peaks:Fire Walk With Me-Every critic hated it, which is a sure bet that I’ll enjoy it.
Iron Giant-fantastic kid’s movie, set in the late 50’s.
Dead Zone-next to “The Shining”, my favorite movie based on a Stephen King book.
Bottle Rocket-early Wes Anderson. It ain’t Rushmore but it ain’t bad.
Fantastic Mr. Fox-quirky, but in a good way.
Gremlins 2-don’t ask, but I love it.
Videodrome-creepy to the max, but I haven’t seen it for a long time.
Frequency-geat family movie with Dennis Quaid. supernatural but sentimental.
Crimes & Misdemeanors-one of my favorite Woody Allen films. An exploration of moral relativism with a few laughs, but mainly pretty serious stuff.
Cool! I haven’t seen most of those. Will have to check them out but I love Matilda. Do you like ponyo? Miyazaki is so creative. It blows me away. Every frame is new and different. Thanks for your comment.
Yes. Aside from the fantastic artwork, I love seeing a movie, any movie, where the kids aren’t tiny adults. Regardless of what Hollywood thinks, kids are not tiny adults. Miyazaki’s movies don’t try to engage adults with snarky double entendre, and topical humor; his movies have a story to tell, not just a random bunch of PC moral platitudes.
BTW, your post made me dust off my copy of Better Off Dead. We’re watching it tonight. I haven’t seen it for years.
I so agree about the tiny adults. Thats what I hated about the shrek movies. Did you see the lorax? I thought it nearly unwatchable
We passed on that one. I do my best to avoid films with political agendas aimed at kids. Values and moral strengths are good to help younger children (adults too!) shape their character, but I’m immediately suspicious of movies that tell them how they should think. Seuss movies are usually pretty awful. I had the distinct displeasure of sitting through “Cat in the Hat” about ten years ago. I’ve just about recovered now.
Maybe you could do a post on the 10 most appalling movies you’ve ever seen. Truly bad, not just movies that didn’t really appeal to you. Movies that should come with an antidote.
“Pocahontas” would be on my list. After Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin, and Lion King, that had to be the biggest letdown imaginable. Or maybe “The Avengers.” I was very pumped, being a big Emma Peel and Steed fan. I like Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes, but my capacity for forgiveness was stretched very thin by that turkey. How about some of yours?
I just did this fun movie survey you might enjoy. http://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/09/28/movie-survey/
What would be your answers?
Totally agree with you on Seuss movies. The Lorax was so preachy and manipulative. I hate that. The songs were boring and it was like neon threw up on me. Awful. When kids movies are bad they are really bad. (Still have nightmares about Return to Oz. I don’t know what my parents were thinking with that one). Pretty much every movie ever made off a cartoon, saturday morning series fall into this category. All but the first Spy Kids were painful. Also why can’t a movie just be about a girl growing up? Why does it always involve the prom or a trip to Europe where she becomes a superstar or is mistaken for a celebrity…Sigh (Monte Carlo recent example of that)
Some other movies I hate can be seen at http://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/01/25/movies-i-hate/
but some examples (granted real critics have saved me from seeing many truly terrible films such as Battlefield Earth or Waterboy but I’ve caught some).
Drop Dead Gorgeous is probably my most hated movie ever. Its cruel, hateful and unfunny. I actually left the theater on a date in tears and cried in the lobby (what a lame date right?).
Also I’d rather eat nails than sit through Armageddon or Pearl Harbor again. On the latter our brave heroes deserve better than soapy romance and war movie cliches.
My girlfriends have begged me to see some duds with them (might call into question how good a friends they are 😉 ). For example, The Ugly Truth, What Happens in Vegas, Fools Gold, Wedding Planner and Failure to Launch. (this from the girl who thinks You’ve Got Mail is a favorite movie so I’m not above the rom com).
I’ve actually seen Avengers and found it painful like you. (I think we could have a very entertaining movie night. You and I seem to agree on a lot.)
Incidentally I enjoy reading bad movie reviews. They crack me up.
Drop Dead Gorgeous was one my daughter saw, but not me. She didn’t like it much either as I recall. Mockumentary only works when there is sympathy for the characters to go along with the sarcasm. I skipped Pearl Harbor for the exact reason that you stated. I found it offensive that something so devastating to my parents generation could be treated like it was “Top Gun.” Really sad. What next “9/11-The Revenge!”?
I actually have loved romantic comedies since I was a kid. No cable back in the day, so Friday and Saturday nights (when I was too young to go out and carouse) meant either Movie Masterpiece or The Big Movie. Both showed great old movies, and as a result I was a 13 year old kid in love with Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, and Claudette Colbert, and my favorite actors were William Powell, Humphrey Bogart, and Robert Mitchum. I saw “Bringing Up Baby,” “My Man Godfrey,” and “The Thin Man,” and I even learned to enjoy some musicals. I didn’t buy tap shoes or anything, but I got to like a few of the really good ones. Of course, there were also great B movie greats, lots of gangster and detective movies with tough cookie girls, and hard-as-nails bad guys too. Creature Feature on late night Saturday, too. I credit all those evenings spent seeing those great movies for giving me a great film education long before AMC (early years) and TCM ever existed. That, and because until the last couple decades, Omaha was kind of a sleepy town entertainment-wise, going to movies was always a fall-back position for going out.
Being a big fan of “You’ve Got Mail” you should try to see “The Shop Around the Corner” with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. If you haven’t already, that is. The story is pretty much the same, except they made Hanks into a rich guy taking over her store, and of course in the 30’s you had the Decency Code to contend with, so no sexy stuff. But I’m thinking you’d like it.
If a movie really stinks, I love reading a review that nails it in a funny way, or that punctures the balloon of the way-too-earnest filmmaker. Reading reviews on IMBD, Rotten Tomatoes, or Amazon can be addicting sometimes. I love to read gushing reviews of really awful movies.
Thanks for replying.
Yeah, we definitely like (and gag on) a lot of the same stuff.
What a neat experience at your local theaters. That is sorely lacking these days. One time I asked a friend if she liked Cary Grant movies and she said ‘I haven’t seen HER in anything’. Sigh…
I love shop around the corner. Its lovely. Its also in a broadway musical called she loves me. I guess its a story I like