Five Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen That Are Must-Watches

Published on February 27th, 2017

Five Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen That Are Must-Watches

By: Susan Monaghan




 Movies as a medium are weird. How could they not be, right? They use up incredible amounts of money, require the involvement of anywhere from tens to thousands of people, and by necessity use so many different facets of artistic expression, it seems impossible that a really great movie could slip through the cracks. You probably already know this happens all the time; artists are super persistent that way, and we’ve gotten pretty good at the whole movie-making thing since 1913. There’s a lot out there that never got its proper due. So to help remedy that, here’s a list of five great films from five different genres that made it to the precipice of recognition, only to fall unjustly short.


Adventure: The Fall


To preface – I’ve seen so many fucking movies. Too many. And this one particular film, directed by former music video director Tarsem Singh and starring Lee Pace as the angelic hero/suicidal paraplegic, is the most beautiful. Singh’s career in the music industry had left him with contacts in several continents, enabling him to shoot across more than 20 countries for a couple million dollars. The breathtaking visual storytelling, tied to the simple yet deeply compelling dynamic between Roy (Lee Pace) and the little girl he hopes to trick into stealing him enough opiates to commit suicide, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), makes it one of the most underrated adventure movies of all time.


Horror: Shallow Grave


Danny Boyle has always been criminally underrated as an auteur, most likely because his best movies don’t look anything like each other. Chances are you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, and 28 Days Later, but you probably didn’t know they were all made by the same guy. He also did Trance, which brings me to my point: I’d forgive him for a thousand Trances for making possibly one of the best horror movies of all time, the borderline-arthouse-but-way-too-believable-for-comfort Shallow Grave. Starring Ewan McGregor in the flush and bloom of youth, Christopher Eccleston right before his stint as the Doctor (but super cool, and wears a leather jacket) on Doctor Who, and Kerry Fox, who I’m sure has done other work, Shallow Grave puts three pretty, overly-confident young adults with a confusing relationship in front of fairly believable yet primally horrifying temptation. Christopher Eccleston’s role as the troubled lead carries the intensity of the film, all the way till the end.


Slick Thriller: Phone Booth


“Slick” here means that the movie I’m about to mention falls into the category of thriller characterized by early 2000s greasy, dog-eat-dog cynicism and bravely terrible fashion. Only in Phone Booth, starring the Irish myth Colin Farrell wearing tiny sunglasses as flippant semi-successful publicist Stuart Shepard, cynical self-absorption is punished to the extreme, using the “bottleneck” premise only rarely recreated successfully for film: Stuart answers a call to a phone booth after calling his almost-mistress, and is told that if he hangs up the phone, he will be shot dead by a sniper. A genius script from Larry Cohen plays out the battle between a normal man and his knawing, all-too-common sins, savagely picked apart by the disembodied voice of Kiefer Sutherland, all within the confines of a telephone booth. Watch it for the oily intensity of the best thrillers, plus melodrama rooted to this side of cheesiness by an irresistible relatability to Stuart. If nothing else, watch it for Farrell’s 8-minute long “confessional” scene, which elicited actual applause from the extras on set.


Arthouse: Chameleon Street


Written, directed, and starring possibly the most beautiful man to ever grace film, Wendell B. Harris Jr. made what could be described as a Catch Me if You Can story, a good 13 years earlier than Martin Scorceses’. Borderline surrealist, politically charged, funny as hell, gloriously written, perfectly acted, and absolutely shafted for serious distribution, Chameleon Street tells the story (or some approximation thereof) of a real-life con man, who impersonated the likes of an attorney, a Time magazine journalist, a surgeon, a French foreign-exchange student, and a man with a heart problem, all the while subverting the racist, hypocrisy-ridden professional landscape of 1980s America.


Auteur: A Serious Man


Unlike Danny Boyle, the Coen Brothers have a pretty consistent, unmistakable movie-making style (that is, really fucking good writing and cinematography to match). Most movies the Coen Brothers have made after their breakout with Blood Simple have been huge hits, from the nihilistically silly Barton Fink to the nihilistically silly Fargo to the nihilistically silly The Big Lebowski to the nihilistically…nihilistic No Country for Old Men, most people would probably respond “Oh yeah, that’s one of my favorites” to any Coen Brothers title (Hail, Caesar? Don’t know him). Which makes the overlooked state of A Serious Man so disappointing, if understandable: it’s probably their lowest-concept movie at face value, and admittedly pretty bleak (even by their standards). In reality, the only thing separating A Serious Man from say, The Big Lebowski, is subtlety. The comedy of Larry Gopnik’s psychological, theological breakdown following a series of strange events, beginning with his wife’s sudden request for divorce, is fueled less by our ability to look down on him, and more by the possibility of these things happening to us. A Serious Man is in fact one of their most high-concept works, with the exploration of the intersection of religious anxiety, familial distrust, sexual frustration, and a brother who knows the possibility rate of the universe emerging in moments of emotional complexity and bizarre story details purposefully underplayed. It also features the simplest, most soul-striking soundtrack of any Coen Brothers movie, with three Jefferson Airplane songs plus Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.”






Comments are closed.