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20 Cinematic Masterpieces Overshadowed by the Same Directors’ Other Masterpieces

21 February 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Alex Lei

7. Slacker (1991) – Richard Linklater

Overshadowed by: Before Trilogy, Boyhood


“Slacker” is the first film from modern legend Richard Linklater and probably his most “Linklater” film to date. The film does not have a “narrative” so to speak, other than looking at a day in the lives of a number of residents of Austin, Texas, in the early ‘90s. Beginning with a monologue delivered by Linklater himself to a taxi driver, a series of shortly connected vignettes is presented to the audience.

Each time a new character is introduced, they are as much or more interesting than the last. One sees everything from pretentious twenty-something-year-olds to wannabe grungers to an anarchist old man to people just down on their luck, and many, many more, none of whom cease to entertain.

Linklater likely could have made a feature film about any of the characters he presented, but instead decided to do something fresh and innovative, and in doing so, launched a sort of “Do It Yourself” revolution, the likes of which inspired many young filmmakers, including Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez. “Slacker,” however, still stands as the crowning achievement of ‘90s independent cinema.


8. A Man Escaped (1956) – Robert Bresson

Overshadowed by: Pickpocket, Au Hazard Balthazar


Based on a true story, “A Man Escaped”, is deceptively simple film about an imprisoned member of the French resistance during WWII and his elaborate plan to escape from his Nazi prison. Naturally, many complications arise. Instead of overdramatizing these events, Bresson instead chooses to frame them simply, still but making these moments feel tense and, at the same time, realistic.

Having most of the film shot with a “normal lens” (reproducing how the human eye perceives depth) and having many close-ups of the protagonist working with his hands, the film feels grounded, as if the audience were looking at it from the hero’s perspective.

The film’s sound design is also some of the most expert ever created, making the audience feel nervous just hearing the sounds of footsteps outside of the door. Bresson’s signature quietude in combination with a suspense-filled story makes for a film experience unlike anything else.


9. The Great Silence (1968) – Sergio Corbucci

Overshadowed by: Django

The Great Silence (1968)

Dark, gritty, violent, sexual, and under the cover of snow, “The Great Silence” is a complete antithesis to the American Western. The film has a classic western setup: A mute wandering antihero (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a sadistic bounty killer (Klaus Kinski), and a new sheriff (Frank Wolff) all end up in a small western town at the same time, leading to a series of intense and violent clashes. However, “The Great Silence” never ceases to surprise.

The first twist is that it’s a western set in the snow. Instead of using the unforgiving nature of the desert to make a vast and harsh backdrop, Corbucci uses the frozen mountains of Utah to show a land that is as cold as its most sadistic inhabitants are.

Corbucci also allows his westerns to go darker than any of his contemporaries do in Italy, showing everything from mutilation to rape. Furthermore, he makes the villain, the always terrifying Klaus Kinski, superior to the heroes of the story, because he isn’t held back by any moral codes, leading to an intense and shocking final half.


10. The Nights of Cabiria (1957) – Federico Fellini

Overshadowed by: La Dolce Vita, 8 ½

Nights of Cabiria

Lying somewhere in between neorealism and a genre that can only be described as “Fellini,” “”The Nights of Cabiria” is truly the turning point in Federico Fellini’s career. Starring Giulietta Masina as a prostitute in search of love, she roams the street looking for the guy to take her away from it all, and many times, she thinks she found him, only to discover the harsh reality.

Fellini lays out the central themes and folly of the character right from the get-go and then plays with these ideas throughout the film leading to an ending that the audience thinks they can anticipate, but they will still end up surprised at the last moment. Like many of Fellini’s great works, “The Nights of Cabiria” is a comedy without compromising its tragedy, a truly wonderful film looking at hope and analyzing what we call “love.”


11. The Conversation (1974) – Francis Ford Coppola

Overshadowed by: The Godfather, Apocalypse Now

The Conversation (1974)

The main theme of “The Conversation” could be condensed into to one word: surveillance. In doing so, however, much of what makes the film so great is lost; it is not just a film about surveillance. ”The Conversation” is more than just a film about cold war paranoia and how surveillance affects us; it is also a total subversion of everything expected from a film like this and can be viewed as a descent into insanity more than anything.

While a much smaller film than with which what people usually associate Coppola, “The Conversation” rivals his more popular films in mastery of the medium. Every time, the audience feels certain they can predict the outcome with all of the clues Coppola provides, but then Coppola takes it in a completely different direction with one of the most surprising endings in film history.


12. Letter Never Sent (1960) – Mikhail Kalatozov

Overshadowed by: The Cranes are Flying

Letter Never Sent

Gripping, beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful, and undeniably patriotic, Kalatozov’s “Letter Never Sent” is the embodiment of Soviet filmmaking in its highest artistic form. Like many of the great Russian films, it is on a superficial level, a propaganda piece: “To those who, in any field of human endeavor – be it in the settlement of wild and desolate lands or the daring rush into space – follow in the difficult path of the pioneers, and to the Soviet people, this film is dedicated.”

Nevertheless, like many great propaganda pieces, the film’s story and themes transcend nationality, and “Letter Never Sent” shows the power of human will in a most beautiful way.

Following a group of diamond hunting geologists in the Siberian wilderness, Kalatozov’s longtime cinematographer Sergey Urusevskiy brings the film’s world to life with some of the most beautiful wide-angle photography ever shot. Kalatozov presents universal messages about duty, love, and human will in one of the greatest and most moving “man vs. nature” films ever made.


13. The Master (2012) – Paul Thomas Anderson

Overshadowed by: There Will Be Blood

The Master (2012)

A film quite unlike anything before it, “The Master” is probably Paul Thomas Anderson’s biggest leap forward and most innovative film (and yes, that is saying a lot). The first film shot entirely on 70mm since Kenneth Branaugh’s “Hamlet” in 1996, “The Master” is also Anderson’s most visually stunning.

The story of a lost soul, as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character, Lancaster Dodd, would describe it, is a beautiful tale of friendship and freedom. Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddy Quill, “the lost soul”, and it is impossible to look away from him whenever he is on-screen, stealing every scene (which is usually Hoffman’s trademark). Both lead actors give career defining performances, which will be cited for years to come, as some of, if not their best.

The unconventional pacing makes this film strange to watch at first, and it is very hard to know what to make of it upon a first viewing. However, whenever revisited, the film manages to become clearer, more beautiful, and more emotionally resonant. The film’s main themes can be summed up with one of the last things that Lancaster Dodd tells Quill: “If you figure a way to live without serving a master, any master, then let the rest of us know, will you? For you’d be the first person in the history of the world.”

Because of the serious changes in style from his previous films and the unconventional pacing, “The Master” opened to mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike, and it didn’t help that Anderson’s previous film was the incredible “There Will Be Blood”, yet somehow he pulled a Fellini and managed to top the untoppable. In a decade or two, “The Master” could very well be hailed as Anderson’s finest work, unless he somehow manages to do it again.



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  • Andrés Alafita

    I would add The Apartment, or Stalag 17 or even Ace in The Hole; overshadowed by: Some Like it Hot and Sunset Boulevard.

  • Brian Lussier

    A bunch of these are NOT masterpieces, no matter how subjective you say the term can be. And BTW, Breaking The Waves is not overshadowed by Von Trier’s other films; most critics actually consider it his greatest film, and everyone recognizes how groundbreaking it is. Funny, I finally bought the Criterion Collection Blu-ray of that film just yesterday…

    • John Doe

      “A bunch of these are NOT masterpieces, no matter how subjective you say the term can be.”

      Silly me, I didn’t know we were talking to the objective voice of cinema right here.

      • Brian Lussier

        What I’m saying is, a masterpiece is not a subjective point of view. There are many points a film has to fill to be considered a masterpiece. Otherwise, any dumbass can call Transformers a masterpiece just because he was really entertained. And what I’m saying is, many of the films here don’t fill the criteria of what makes a masterpiece.

        • cinemaftw

          Here got a point through, a masterpiece need certain recuirment, like for instance by influential, and oscure piece of work no matter how got it is, i more disbutaliby for the title, now the key word here is “a bunch” cause pretty much the majority of this list can be found listest and a masterpiece in a number of respectable sources

  • Charles Barnes

    I’ll be forced to disagree on 2046, frankly. To me, that film felt like Wong Kar-Wai had finally solidified the technical traits and abilities that made him such a critically beloved filmmaker, and sought to superficially replicate these for another boost of the artistic ego. Throw in ambiguity, a disconnected narrative and pretty visuals and those intimidated by it will just presume it beyond their understanding and therefore a masterpiece.

    He’s crafted some of the most aesthetically stunning works in the medium’s history, but I believe 2046 to be a weak effort from the typically intense, subdued emotional rivers that consist his iconic filmography.

  • Bob Ellis

    Mean Streets get overshadowed by Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and GoodFellas.

    • Hal Dunn

      Mean Streets was overshadowed by Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and GoodFellas, cuz they were all three better movies.

      • JonRalphs

        I think saying something like Raging Bull gets overshadowed by goodfellas, taxi driver, and the departed. Unless your into movies many of the new generation won’t watch raging bull.

      • Brian Lussier

        They’re better movies, but Mean Streets IS still a masterpiece. So is The Age Of Innocence, which also gets overshadowed by Scorsese’s Holy Trinity.

    • cinemaftw

      one word: CASINO

  • Hal Dunn

    I agree The Conversation is a minor masterpiece and understandably overshadowed by The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. But The Master is so slow and painful to be just about unwatchable. Yes, the acting is great. Yes, it’s visually stunning. But that’s not enough. A dreadful mess of pretension and dull misery.

  • Dave Teves

    Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon is a very much underrated movie. It’s a masterpiece that nobody ever talks about when we talk in the context of Kubrick master works.

    • John Beckinsale

      I would also say Full Metal Jacket is one of Kubrick’s greatest films, unfairly criticised for having a ‘weak’ second half. The whole film is a masterpiece that is overshadowed by his other war pieces like Paths of Glory and Dr. Strangelove.

  • Deweb

    I would like to add The Royal Tenenbaums, overshaduwed by every new film from Wes Anderson while Tenenbaums is meaby of his most mainstream pictures that introduces us into his wonderfull world.

  • Caue Alvarenga

    After Hours

  • Noah Garner

    Late spring is my favorite Ozu film, so beautiful

  • I would replace “Contempt” with “Weekend”.

    • Ted Wolf

      Agreed, Contempt even made it into the lyrics of a Who song so it’s getting attention. I’m one of the few people in my circle of friends who’s ever heard of Weekend, let alone seen it (I did drag my wife to it).

  • yuzuki-the-movie-lover

    awesome article

  • Sidharth J Dev

    Jackie Brown. Over Shadowed by Pulp Fiction

    • Relf

      Neither are masterpieces

      • Kosta Jovanovic

        Hahahahaha, good one

  • luke

    Perhaps: High Hopes by Mike Leigh… over shadowed by (possibly still) his greatest film Naked…

  • Sean Pak

    I think Corbucci’s The Great Silence is a bit of a stretch for this list. Although Django may be the more POPULAR title by the director, I think most critics consider The Great Silence his real masterpiece. Also, Breaking the Waves still seems to be the go-to title when it comes to the question “What is von Trier’s worthiest movie?” or “where should I start with him?” so I don’t know why that’s here.

    Either way, directors such as Scorsese, Wilder and Hawks would have been better choices to include, as those three have a good number of overlooked great films.

  • ttt

    Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York overshadowed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, Adaptation