IMDb, the Internet Movie Database, is something of the audience’s Rotten Tomatoes. The movie-centric website features all the information you could ever desire about every film ever made, and it also gives users an opportunity to rate those movies on a star-system of 1-10.
The website’s user-base is decidedly mainstream – some of the highest rated films on IMDb include “The Shawshank Redemption” (#1), “The Godfather” (#2), “The Dark Knight” (#4) and the whole “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (#16, #11 & #9). Not that there’s anything wrong with selections such as these, they’re all great movies, but collectively, IMDb’s taste in film is not avant-garde.
Because IMDb’s population is mainstream in its majority, when an art film, or a movie of unorthodox form is negatively rated, it seems to be more often due to a confused defense-response than any real critical analysis.
It’s difficult not to come off as pretentious concerning this topic, although this is simply the truth: sometimes when a movie-goer who is used to a certain breed of easily-digestible film is confronted by something utterly different, he/she responds in an unfairly critical manner, just not a manner in which the artistic value of the film itself is fairly recognized or taken into consideration.
In addition to this, when exploring the IMDb message boards of many of the films on this list, one will encounter far more perplexed, shallow criticism than genuine analyzation.
Everyone has radically different tastes in movies, and by no means should anyone’s opinions be devalued because of their preferences, but it is also frustrating to watch when certain movies are subjected to the low ratings of opinionated disparagers who know not what to make of a piece simply because of its esotericism.
This list is dedicated to some of those films, which we feel have been criminally underrated by the IMDb user-base – I’ve chosen titles with scores of 7.0 (the average IMDb rating) and below (as of 5/29/15), which objectively deserve higher when viewed through the eyes of someone with an appreciation for cinema as art.
10. Noah (Aronofsky)
IMDb Score: 5.9
“Noah”, auteur Darren Aronofsky’s interpretation of the iconic Biblical tale, suffered from being written off as yet another dumb, audience-pandering Christian propaganda film.
Being a religious-themed movie is tough when the market is predominantly populated by such notable titles as “God’s Not Dead”, “Heaven Is for Real”, “Left Behind” and “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas”, but maybe if more people had understood the significance of Aronofsky’s directorial credit, “Noah” would have been viewed through less eager-to-judge mindsets.
Keeping in mind that Aronofsky previously directed the sinful, lesbian-themed “Black Swan”, and also that he’s an atheist whose interest in the story of Noah has nothing to do with actually believing in it, his debut foray into big-budget, mainstream filmmaking reveals uncommon depth and intelligence for a blockbuster of its scale, as well as the artistry and style reliably present in an Aronofsky picture.
“Noah” is not the director’s best – in fact, out of his six feature films, it’s his worst – but it’s certainly worth more than a 5.9, and is actually one of the better Biblical epics in recent cinema history (even if that’s not saying a whole lot).
9. Enemy (Villeneuve)
IMDb Score: 6.8
An indie favorite among the cinephile crowd, yet largely misunderstood by the general movie-going public, “Enemy” is a modern doppelganger thriller in the surrealistic vein of David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Alfred Hitchcock. Following the success of his abduction mystery “Prisoners”, Denis Villeneuve’s second teaming with Jake Gyllenhaal is captivatingly creepy and irresistibly atmospheric, showcasing the director’s talent at building suspense and provoking an unsettling, enigmatic flare from a story.
Much of the backlash from the typical IMDb user can be attributed to the confusing nature of the storytelling, which intentionally puts the audience in the dark, and also the film’s ending, which was much debated and doubtlessly left many unsatisfied.
While these aspects of “Enemy” certainly would have distanced those expecting a traditional, understandable narrative, the film’s greatest strengths are in its unorthodox direction and mystifying air. Much has been made of the ending, and regardless of the range of opinions, it is undeniably daring and chilling.
8. Goodbye to Language 3D (Godard)
IMDb Score: 6.0
In his late period pièce de résistance, 2014’s “Goodbye to Language 3D”, Jean-Luc Godard seems determined to redefine the “Language” of cinema – for the second time in his sixty-year spanning career. To anyone who has seen Godard’s latest transcendental free-form piece, it is certainly no surprise that it did not make for a universally positive experience for the users of IMDb.
This explosively philosophical mash-up of narrative and video- filmmaking styles is arbitrary to the point of complete structural abandon, and the end result is an artistic triumph, although it does require a highly sophisticated appreciation for cinema to fully grasp just what makes it so special.
Something that “Goodbye to Language 3D” undeniably does, is show the audience things we have never seen before. Premiering at Cannes 2014, the film gave cinephiles a 3D movie they could get behind, and a whole barrage of innovation in the visual departments. Although “Goodbye to Language” may not play as well on a small screen, for those of us lucky enough to catch it in theaters, in 3D, it was a one-of-a-kind cinema experience that could only be credited to a master of the medium.
7. The Babadook (Kent)
IMDb Score: 6.9
“The Babadook” was arguably the horror film of 2014. First-time director Jennifer Kent’s vision, along with the performance of Essie Davis, made for a genuinely scary film with impeccable production, as well as a sense of spirit which is too often absent in the genre’s offerings today. The film’s powerful psychological themes of grief and real human horror permeate the story and mood, and they help “The Babadook” rise above its lukewarm contemporaries in an overcrowded playing field.
It’s hard to believe that a film as good as this one scored a mere 6.9 on IMDb. If you haven’t seen “The Babadook”, don’t let this figure put you off though – Davis’ performance as a widowed mother trying to contend with her increasingly disturbed son is enough of a reason to.
It isn’t uncommon for horror films to have female leads, but in place of a one-dimensional damsell, Davis is unforgettable, in a turn that actually led many to place her work among the best performances of the year. Both the film and the performance defy expectations, raising the standards of what is expected from modern horror.
6. Antichrist (Von Trier)
IMDb Score: 6.6
Whenever a movie dares to depict the taboo, or a filmmaker goes where others would not, criticism and divisive reception are inevitable. This has been evidenced over and over again in the history of cinema thanks to filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch – and Lars Von Trier – whose 2009 boundary-pushing “Antichrist” found him going further than ever before, and reaching new heights as an auteur and an artist.
Still wildly disagreed upon, the film explores themes of depression and grief with uncensored sequences of sex and grisly mutilation which range from wince-inducing to barely watchable. Other themes in the film also led some to accuse Von Trier of being a misogynist.
The polarizing nature of the piece would definitely provide insight into its criminally low IMDb score. Again, films as audacious as Von Trier’s are bound to be subject of misunderstanding and strong opinions both positive and negative, but for those who can handle the intense, visceral cinematic experience that is “Antichrist”, a real surprise awaits – a visually stunning, bravely introspective work of art characterized by Lars Von Trier’s bold daring to make a film which few other directors would have to gumption to.