The Top 10 Movies You've Never Heard Of
Friends, Romans, film enthusiasts, lend me your ears! Are you tired of seeing the same boiler-plate films over and again? Does it make you sick to your stomach when the teenager falls down when they are running from the baddie? How about when the good guy saves the girl just in the nick of time? If you're anything like me (not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing), you are tired of the overproduced, predictable movies Hollywood is shoving down our throats. Often, we choke them down, but the aftertaste isn't always pleasant - and at 10 dollars a pop, when do we say, "enough is enough"? This is where I come in. Now, I don't claim to be some kind of film guru, but I've seen my fair share, and like you, I'm always looking for something refreshing, satisfying and entertaining. So here it is, friends. My list of the Top 10 Movies You've Never Heard Of (probably). Before I get started, there's a catch (there's always a catch). As a film enthusiast, I know that these films (even the B movies) have been in the public eye before and surely, there will be one comment on my thread like this: "ZOMG!! Thts mah favorite movie, how can u say that?! :( #idiot" or something to that nature, and that's totally okay. Just remember, this list is for the average moviegoer and chances are most people will at least take interest in one of the ten - and if so, my work here is done. So, without further adieu.
1. The Perfect Host (2010)
The first movie on my list is a little jewel called, The Perfect Host starring David Hyde Pierce and Clayne Crawford. In the film, fugitive con man John Taylor (played by Crawford) negotiates his way into the house of Warwick Wilson (Pierce) just before his dinner party. The movie begins by forming an interesting relationship between the two characters while they discuss Warwick's upcoming dinner party. The deceit turns sour when Warwick realizes John is a criminal, but the real crisis of the movie only occurs after Warwick's party guests arrive and things get weird.
Though this film was first introduced at the Sundance Film Festival, where it received acclaim, it never got the full attention it deserved. The film had a limited release, and only earned $48,000 overall in the US over a three month period.
Favorite line: Warwick Wilson: "Lighten up, John. It's a party!"
Why I like it: Besides the film's over-the-top portrayal of the upper class, David Hyde Pierce's eerily true-to-life performance of a delusional host who will do anything to entertain his guests is enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies. Think twice next time you pick which fork to eat your salad with.
2. Moon (2009)
Moon stars Sam Rockwell and Sam Rockwell. Wait, what? This is a Sam Rockwell fan's dream come true. Rockwell plays astronaut Sam Bell who works in a mining facility on the Earth's moon. When Bell's mining vehicle crashes it activates, another Sam Bell to take his place. The two battle over which one is the real Sam Bell. Is this real life, or is Bell experiencing a bit of space madness? Bonus points for the film makers for getting Kevin Spacey to lend his voice to Bell's robotic counterpart.
Another Sundance favorite, but this film actually didn't do very big revenue worldwide which includes 3.3 million from the United States. It was overlooked by the Academy despite Rockwell's amazing performance. It seems whenever I bring this film up for discussion, no one has ever heard of it.
Favorite line: Sam Bell: "You look like a radioactive tampon... like a banana with a yeast infection."
Why I like it: This film is classic science-fiction and takes me back to the time of great films such as: Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey and THX.
3. The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
The Kentucky Fried Movie is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I know this movie may not be as unheard of as the others in my list, but due to its vintage, I think this film has earned a spot on this list. TKFM is a culmination of crude and downright tasteless skits (even though they are hilarious). Donald Sutherland and Bill Bixby make small cameos, but otherwise, the film is filled with unknowns. The film was made in 1977, and most likely would be given an NC-17 rating by today's standards.
TKFM was shot on a low budget, only $650,000, but managed to pull in 20 million worldwide (which is a lot in 1970s money). The movie has been overlooked as of late because of it's somewhat outdated humor. If you were to show this film to a 15 year old, they would probably not understand the context of the film's humor.
Favorite line: News Anchor: "The popcorn you are eating has been pissed in, film at 11:00."
Why I like it: Besides being as tasteless as a 70's film can get, this classic movie helped establish the careers of the writing team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. These three writers went on to create such epic titles such as Airplane!, Top Secret! and Police Squad! which spawned The Naked Gun series.
4. Hard Candy (2005)
Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page star in this creepy little tale of revenge. Hard Candy stars Wilson as Jeff Kohlver and Page as Hayley Stark. After the two chat on the internet, they agree to meet in person. Hayley, who is underaged, convinces Jeff to take her back to his place, and he agrees. After drugging Jeff, Hayley starts to mentally torture him and tries to convince him to admit to the murder of a local missing girl. Throughout the film, the two have a battle of wits as Hayley continuously tries to convince Jeff to commit suicide to his alleged crimes.
Because of the subject matter of this film, the studio gave it a budget of less than 1 million dollars and was filmed in 18 days. Another Sundance film, this film never had a full nation-wide release. Despite its limited release, Hard Candy still managed to gross 7 million worldwide, but only 1 million coming from the US.
Favorite line: Jeff: "Ah, so you and your mom are both whacked?" Hayley: "I dunno. There's that whole nature versus nurture question, isn't it? Was I born a cute, vindictive, little bitch or... did society make me that way? I go back and forth on that..."
Why I like it: While the subject matter of this film is a bit taboo, I found the characters of Hayley and Jeff to be incredibly fascinating (mostly due to the amazingly dramatic performances of Wilson and Page). During the film, the protagonist and antagonist switch roles, and at some point, you can't help but to feel bad for Wilson's character even though he is supposedly getting his "just desserts." There are parts of this movie that seriously made me cringe, and at one point I was even rooting for Wilson's character. Props go to Page for her role as the psychotic Hayley Stark in this phycological thriller.
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
In The Assassination (I'll refer to it as that for all intents and purposes), Brad Pitt plays famous American outlaw Jesse James alongside Casey Affleck who portrays the deceiving Robert Ford. The film takes place during the last few months of Jesse James life leading up to his murder by the treacherous Robert Ford. At this point in his life, James has become an irritable and untrusting organized crime leader. When James meets Ford, Ford does anything to get accepted into the James Gang. Once in, Ford's idolization of James turns into jealousy and pushes Ford over the edge. Ford strikes when he sees the perfect opportunity to commit his deadly act of treason.
The Assassination grossed only 3.9 million in the United States and earned approximately 1 million in the UK. Based on a budget of 30 million, I would have to say that this movie tanked when it was released because of its limited release. Furthermore, The Assassination has grossed over 9 million in DVD sales. Despite the numbers, the film still shows up on many top 10 movies of 2007 list and was even nominated for Academy Awards (Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Casey Affleck).
Favorite line: Jesse James [to Robert Ford]: "Can't figure it out: do you want to be like me or do you want to BE me?"
Why I like it: Pitt gives a knockout performance as the outlaw Jesse James. In the film, James is seen as distant, paranoid and short tempered - Brad Pitt really knocked this one out of the park with his stoic portrayal of a man at his wits end. Kudos go to Casey Affleck for the man you can love to hate in Robert Ford. This tale of woe is based off of the 1983 novel of the same title, and I think this film does it justice all around. Nothing better than a nice wholesome tale of jealously, greed and envy.
6. Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)
In Wristcutters: A Love Story, Patrick Fugit, Shea Whigham and Shannyn Sossamon star as three postmortem thirty-somethings who are stuck in a strange purgatory specially reserved for people who have committed suicide. In this strange world, the inhabitants live much like they did in their real lives except for jobs, money, organization etc. When Zia (Fugit) hears a rumor that his ex girlfriend has committed suicide and is living in their purgatory, Eugene (Whigham) and Mikal (Sossamon) accompany him on a journey to find her. On their journey, the trio comes across some pretty interesting characters and predicaments.
Wristcutters originally screened at the Sundance Film Festival, but was picked up for a limited release and soon after a wide release. Overall, the film only grossed just under 100k nationwide. Despite the low numbers, DVD sales and popularity on Netflix have given the film a large cult following.
Favorite line: Zia: "Being here with you reminds me of what I was like before my suicide." Mikal: What were you like?" Zia: "I was happy."
Why I like it: The film's creepily black and white post production imagery gives a haunting illusion of purgatory to the audience - giving us the all important eerie feeling while watching. In the film, the characters cannot smile and they have no real purpose - exactly how I think existing in purgatory would feel. Wristcutters also gets extra points for a cameo by Will Arnett.
7. Ink (2009)
Ink is a sci-fi fantasy tale where "Storytellers" travel across space and time to deliver dreams to sleepers across the world. Of course, there are the malicious "Incubi" whose sole purpose is to unravel the very essence of the Storytellers by terrorizing sleepy victims with vicious and dreadful nightmares. The heart of the story centers around a creature named Ink who kidnaps a young girl in hopes of using her to become accepted by the Incubi. The Storytellers must track down Ink while fighting for their lives against the evil Incubi. The movie stars Chris Kelly, Quinn Hunchar and Jessica Duffy.
Ink was introduced at the Santa Barbra International Film Festival, but was never picked up by a major studio for release in theaters or DVD. DVD sales are sold directly through the production company. In 2009, Netflix and Hulu both obtained the rights to the film. The film has gained a cult following due mostly to its illegal download which has reached over 400,000 downloads.
Favorite line: Jacob: "They're all reactions! One thing begets the next. A man has a weakness, he's flawed. That flaw leads him to guilt. The guilt leads him to shame. The shame he compensates with pride and vanity. And when pride fails, despair takes over and they all lead to his destruction. It will become his fate... Something's gotta stop the flow."
Why I like it: I love this movie (one of my personal favorites from this list) simply because of its original idea and ability to create a great story (along with effects) with a low budget. This just goes to prove that not all great movies are mainstream blockbuster star-studded films. This independent movie is a classic tale of good against evil with underlying themes of American family values and gender roles. A+
8. Bully (2001)
Bully is the true story of the murder of Bobby Kent and stars Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, Rachel Minor, Nick Stahl, Michael Pitt, Leo Fitzpatrick, Kelli Garner and Daniel Franzese. In 1993 (even though the film takes place in 2001), a group of friends in South Florida decide to get even on one of their own that has been bullying them by plotting to murder him. The group, known as The Broward County Seven, bring Kent (played by Nick Stahl) out to a swamp, murder him and leave his body. After, the teens one by one become tortured by their own guilt and begin turning themselves into the authorities.
Bully managed to bring in $500,000 dollars to the box office, but had a budget of 2.1 million. The film overall was viewed negatively by most critics and audiences despite Roger Ebert giving it a four star review.
Favorite line: Derek Kaufman: "No, you're not a cop. You don't know how these sick bastards think."
Why I like it: This movie hits home for me, literally. Having grown up (and still living) only minutes from where the true life murder of Bobby Kent took place, I have always heard the stories and rumors of why they did it. The large cast, including the late Brad Renfro, really portray the villainous teens with a gritty realism. Nick Stahl's portrayal of Bobby Kent gets into your head and kind of makes you want to feel bad enough for the murderers to the point where you almost forget they are murderers.
9. Humble Pie (2007)
Humble Pie is a story about a young man named Tracy Orbison (Hubbel Palmer) who dreams of being a famous actor despite being over 300 pounds. Throughout the film, Tracy interacts with many different characters while working at grocery store. Each new interaction brings forth another doubter of Tracy's dream, but he remains upbeat throughout his experiences.
Humble Pie only opened on a few screens across the United States and grossed a total of less than $4,000 dollars. The film never got full attention, and was only available on instant stream through Netflix for a limited time.
Favorite line: Tracy: "Is this movie suitable for minors?" Video Store Clerk: "It's been banned in seven states."
Why I like it: This sincere movie caught my attention when I first joined Netflix. Throughout the film, we follow the story of Tracy as he meets a gaggle of naysayers, but remains genuinely optimistic about his future - constantly believing that he is determined for greatness, despite the negativity that surrounds him.
10. Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Wet Hot American Summer is my big name dropper for my list of Movies You've Never Heard Of. Not because this was some sort of blockbuster, but because of the films cast and cameos. Were there any stars in Hollywood that weren't in this movie? Well, yes. But still, this movie stars a few names that you might've heard before. Ready? Wet Hot American Summer features Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Joe Lo Truglio, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks and Bradley Cooper. The film takes place during the early 1980s and centers around a group of camp counselors during their last day of camp (Jewish Camp). Many different characters are trying to achieve their own objective before the last day and of course it all boils down to the camp's farewell talent show.
Wet Hot American Summer screened at the Sundance Film Festival and sold out each screening, but was never picked up by a major studio. The film's budget was notably listed at 1.8 million, but later was revealed to have a budget of 5 million in hopes of gaining attention from a distributor. The film was initially given a 2 screen release, but grew to 30 screens and grossed just under $300,000.
Favorite line: Caped Boy: "Excuse me, ladies. You may remember me as the guy who came to dinner a few weeks ago with underwear on my head. My name is Keith Stat from Millburn, New Jersey. State bird, the mosquito. And as you may have heard, I am recently a crowned class B dungeon master. So if any of you would like to play D&D today, please speak now or forever hold your peace."
Why I like it: This movie reminds me of a simpler time in my life, a time where many people my age were stuck going to camp. Okay, let's be real, my parents never sent me to camp, but there are some great 80's camp movies that made me feel like I was really there. Well, no, not really. But they were still fun to watch anyway. This zany comedy satires the entire 80's generation and casts stars who are way older than their characters to add to the hilarity.
Are You Still With Me?
Congratulations! If you actually made it to the end of this list (without skimming, you know who you are), give yourself a pat on the back! I hope you found at least one of these movies to be worth your time. Cheers!