Ten Movies: That you’ve probably never seen

| August 15, 2011

These aren’t the Best ten movies you’ve probably never seen, these just are ten movies that you’ve probably never seen, but should.

Rodger Dodger

Roger Swanson (Campbell Scott) is a cynical man who believes he has the singles scene figured out and uses what he knows to manipulate women until his teenaged nephew Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) visits and asks Roger to take him under his wing for a night to help him solve the frustration of his virginity.

This 2002 film won a handful of independent awards and yet it seems to have sunk into obscurity. Eisenberg turns in a wonderful performance as a hopeless romantic who is seemingly alone in a world that doesn’t believe in love—I’ve often called Adventureland a spiritual successor to Roger Dodger. Out of everything on this list, this is the one you’re least likely to have seen, and yet, it may be one of those that deserves your attention most.

Primer

Two men build a box in their garage that allows them to travel backwards in time. As they circle through time, carefully scheduling their lives around what’s in the box and when, we begin to see that more is happening than seems physics-ly possible (Sorry).

Shane Carruth’s Primer is a masterpiece of science fiction. A quiet and thoughtful movie, Primer takes advantage of Carruth’s seemingly intricate knowledge of physics in a way that usually confuses audiences on the first viewing. It spawned a number of similar films including the popular french film Time Crimes. While Carruth still hasn’t followed up on Primer (his second film, A Topiary, is due out in 2013) he still has quite a name for himself on the independent film scene and was asked to lend his expertise to Rian Johnson’s Looper, due out next year. If you consider yourself a sci-fi fan this is a must see.

Cool Hand Luke

Arrested for taking the tops off of parking meters while drunk, Luke is the stand out prisoner in a southern chain gang trying his best not to cave in to the demands of the authorities.

This isn’t an unknown movie, but it’s one that most young people have probably never seen. In the list of great 60’s films that young movie fans feel are historically relevant enough to seek out, Cool Hand Luke doesn’t rank especially high, but it should. The source of a number of memorable quotes and strikingly unique sequences, Luke is one of my personal favorites and unlike some films from the time (Hang your heads in shame Vanishing Point and Five Easy Pieces) doesn’t suffer from age or an ere-specific vision.

Dark City

John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakes into a world that may be more malleable than he could have believed, though he doesn’t remember who he is enough to be sure. As he investigates a string of prostitute murders he discovers a group of bald strangers who seem to know what’s going on around him.

This 1998 film by Alex Proyas made him instantly, however temporarily, a favorite director among sci-fi fans. Proyas co-wrote the screenplay with Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight). Inspired by the bizarre writings of one of Sigmund Freud’s patients, Dark City is an adventure through a completely unique world. There aren’t enough sci-fi movies like this one and if you don’t take the time to see it you’ll miss something special.

The Machinist

Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) can’t sleep. He’s a man that seems to be wasting away and he doesn’t know why. When he catches a strange man watching him at work he realizes that someone out there may have unfortunate plans for him and he needs to find out why.

This is easily the most disturbing movie on the list, mostly because of the ridiculous amount of weight that Bale lost to play this role—only to put on so much muscle in the following months that when he interviewed for Batman they said he was too bulky. This is a thriller that will keep you guessing right up until you realize that the truth is made worse by its simplicity.

Brick

High school student Brendan doesn’t know where his ex-girlfriend Emily has disappeared to but he knows that it’s no where good. As he works to uncover the truth he stumbles upon a series of murders and a power struggle that could cause an extra-curricular civil war.

Writer-director Rian Johnson twists genres “like dead Russians write novels.” This is a noir detetive story that ranks among the best of the classics and yet the high school setting, played entirely straight, makes it feel fresh and fun. This movie is among my favorites and Johnson’s skillful writing is inspirational. There aren’t many movies like this one and Brick is done so well that it’ll be hard not to love.

Bubba Ho-tep

Sebastian Haff (Bruce Campbell), an old man confined in a nursing home, believes that he is the real Elvis Presley. He and his close friend Jack (Oasie Davis), who believes that he’s the real John F. Kennedy, discover that a mummy has moved into the neighborhood and is sucking the souls out of the nursing homes inhabitants through their butt-holes.

There really is nothing else like this movie, and maybe their shouldn’t be. I can’t say much about this other than that the only thing not perfect about this movie is the low-budget scarab effects. Bruce Campbell is amazing and so is the concept of this movie. This is a cult film that rewards multiple viewings.

City of God

City of God follows the lives of two young boys from the slums of Rio de Janeiro. As they make different choices in their lives and grow farther apart, they explore the underground world of Brazil from both sides.

This isn’t an unknown film—Roger Ebert considered it the second best film of 2002—but it isn’t one that most have seen, especially compared to its cousin Slumdog Millionaire. This isn’t a movie for everyone but it’s a powerful and emotionally resonant film that, for those inclined to this kind of film, will never forget.

Downfall

During the final days of the Third Reich, as Russian and American forces approach Berlin, Hitler and his generals hide in his Berlin bunker and attempt to build a strategy for the future of the Nazi regime.

The best performance by an actor playing Hitler. A realistic portrayal of Hitler during an under-examined period of WWII history. A quiet and angry character drama that feels like the closest thing to documentary as possible. Yes the entire movie is in German and it’s hard to watch without thinking about the popular meme it has spawned, but still, this is a great movie for anyone interested in the subject.

Duel

David Mann (Dennis Weaver), a business man driving across the desert to meet a client, passes an old tanker truck. The driver, seemingly offended, chases down Mann and threatens his life.

This was Steven Speilberg’s first feature film and it has more historical value than anything else. This movie is especially interesting once you’ve seen Jaws, because so much of the tricks and skills that he used to build suspense in Jaws were sharpened here. Even though this movie was a relatively unknown made-for-tv film, it still shows all the stylistic trappings of a Spielberg movie. While this may not end up being one of your new favorite movies, it is worth your time if you can get your hands on it.

-James Hart

About the Author:

James grew up in a house where Friday night was Movie night, which meant that he’d watched more movies than anybody else his age before he was even old enough to watch the rated R ones. He’ll watch just about anything, though he tends to avoid the horror movies without a sense of humor. Among his favorite movies are: Alien, Fargo, True Romance, Ed Wood, and Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. He’s a die-hard LOST fan and a Brown Coat. As a writer, story usually comes first for James. Memorable characters and sharp dialogue are the things that separate the classics from the chaff. That said, he does his best to keep having fun at the movies. He’s seen plenty of critics who would once have accepted summer blockbusters as entertainment become jaded and nit-picky. Sure James loves the art of film and storytelling, but fun comes first, the fun that he had watching Raiders when he was little. Also, E.T. scares the pants off him.
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