Listing underrated movies is definitely trickier than listing an all time favourite movie list. Probably because there is a very fine line segregating underrated films, that people watch and fail to acknowledge their brilliance and Cult films, that people watch and love, but it does not achieve commercial success. And obviously as quite a few movies can transition into the latter category, they will have to be excluded from this list.
1. Dazed and Confused
It’s a fun film about a last day of school and how the seniors to be, initiate the new batch of students passing out middle school into high school. It has a host of ‘Before they were Famous’ performances. This a film you can watch every few years and see it in a different light each time, relating the characters to people you usually hang out with. It is one of the best coming-of-age films that’s been watched by about three generations now and was recently honoured with a Star of Texas presented to Richard Linklater., And this was done by the cult filmmaker- Quentin Tarantino who rates it as one of his 10 most favourite films since he became a director.
This film, again directed by Richard Linklater, was hard to get my hands on and I had to wait almost a year since its theatrical release to find a copy online. People who know Jack Black only as a funny man are in for a surprise. This film has a tour-de-force performance by the actor as Bernie Tiede, the nicest guy in Carthage, Texas with a deep, dark secret. Also, there is a fascinating performance by Matthew McConaughey, who is by far the most underrated actor working It is a gem of a film and Jack Black definitely deserves more credit than he gets.
3. Play It Again, Sam
This is the Woody Allen movie you’d love the most, only if you had known about it. I’m not sure if it would qualify as Woody Allen film because he only wrote and acted in it. But almost anything he would go on to do later can be seen in this film, all his influences and comedy and of course Humphrey Bogart. It’s also the first time on-screen pairing of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, a pair that would reunite again in to make Annie Hall and countless other wonderful films.
4. World’s Greatest Dad
Do you remember the first time you saw Taare Zameen Par and how you cried during the song ‘Maa’? This film will do the same thing to you. Robin Williams plays the nicest father one can be to an asshole of a son, played brilliantly by Daryl Sabara (Spy Kids), who makes a hero of his son by faking a suicide note, in one the most remarkable and touching performance of his career. There is some unexplained brilliance every time a popular comedian takes up a serious role with unbelievable depth they project in their performances.
5. Planet Terror
This film is the better half of the double-feature Grindhouse. Robert Rodriguez’s deliberate B-Grade film about a small town overrun by zombie-like creatures and a military conspiracy outclasses Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof by leaps and bounds. It has one of the coolest, most mysterious characters ever written. The film engages you through massive explosions and enough blood and gore for anyone to have a fan-gasm!
This would qualify as one of the films that changed my life as it was my introduction to the Beat Generation. That aside, the film has one of James Franco’s best performances as Allen Ginsberg, inter-cut with the Howl Obscenity Trial and magical animated sequences of the poem. It’s gone almost criminally unnoticed by everyone except for the die-hard literary fans.
7. Hobo with a Shotgun
Originally a fake trailer attached to Grindhouse, it generated so much interested that it had to be made into a full feature exploitation film. It had one of the most terrifying actors of all-time- Rutger Hauer. It is an incredibly grim film that is bound to give anyone nightmares with its overt portrayal of gory violence. But on the other hand, it is a treat of a film if you make it through… Neo-Exploitation at its Best!
8. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
This one was my most recent watch on this list. This films takes all the genre conventions of films based on psycho killers in the woods and turns it on its head, quite literally and the result is an incredibly hilarious film. It is carefully plotted to deliver the ‘What-the-fuck’ laughs throughout. Must Watch!
This one is so obscure it nearly slipped my mind. In the late-90s when the Pulp Fiction-format of storytelling became popular, there were a lot of cheap imitators trying to capture Tarantino’s style. This is one of the films Tarantino himself would have been proud to have made. The film strongly emulates its influences and you enjoy every bit of it. From a cop and his wife trying to sell Tupperware to a couple of TV actors, to a bunch of people leaving their friend as a deposit in exchange for drugs and lot of other fun moments you would describe to people for weeks after you’ve seen the film.
10. Night of the Hunter (or any Robert Mitchum movie for that matter)
This is one of the films that keep you on the edge of your seat throughout its 93-minute run-time Over half a century later, it does not compromise on even a bit of tension and it is still as terrifying as it might have seemed to audiences back in the 1950s. A pair of young siblings, under the threat of violence, on the run from a psychotic con man who quotes the bible to terrifying use (long before Samuel L. Jackson) played by Robert Mitchum, behind his stashed fortune. To be honest I’d include any Robert Mitchum film on this list, the original Bad Boy movie star which was called “The soul of Film Noir” but this one is largely unknown to audiences today. Some of his other films include Out of Past, Cape Fear, Pursued, Friends of Eddie Coyle, and Thunder Road.