20 Overlooked Movies of Great Actors That Are Worth Your Time
Movies can be overlooked for many reasons:
The passage of time
Bad timing upon initial release
No advertising/promotion/backing from the studio
Movie is sold to a different distributor
Not having a wide theatrical release
No award nominations
Movie never finds wide appeal
Whatever the reason, it is fun to go back and look at those films that may have not had a wide audience initially or simply have just been forgotten through the passage of time.
Several of the films listed may be better known in cinephile circles; however, are being mentioned again so they may find another audience.
These days, movies play theatrically for so little time and are here and gone before you notice. It hardly seems fair in some cases if you really want to see a film and it is gone after two or three weeks.
The more you watch older movies, the more you gain the appreciation of the writing, acting direction, etc. from eras gone by and also compare them to movies of today.
Some people have a hard time viewing older movies with the excuse of they didn’t like the lighting, hairdos, costumes, music, etc. of the time period. Those elements are irrelevant to a good story and should be viewed anyways.
Movies in no particular order:
1. Brad Pitt in Kalifornia (1993)
A freelance writer and his photographer girlfriend (David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes) decide they want to take a trip across the US compiling information on famous murder sites for an upcoming book.
In order to share expenses, they decide to take along a couple who answers their ad in the form of a greasy trailer trash young man and his dim bulb girlfriend (Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis).
Director Dominic Sena (“Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Swordfish”) manages to put together an interesting road film to say the least mostly due to Pitt’s performance.
Early (Pitt) psyche slowly starts to crumble as the trip progresses and his true psychotic personality begins to show.
There are several murders and confrontations along the way as the tension reaches its fever pitch in the final act.
Brad Pitt is vile and disgusting in this role, but his performance delivers. You truly hate his character and want him to get what’s coming to him in the end.
2. Matthew McConaughey and Bill Paxton in Frailty (2001)
Actor Bill Paxton (Aliens and Twister) tries his hands at both acting and directing and succeeds with this top notch thriller in the vein of “The Usual Suspects”.
The story is told in flashback to a local sheriff as Fenton Meiks (McConaughey) recounts times of his younger days with his brother.
Their religious father (Paxton) claims to have been visited by mysterious, invisible angels. They have told him he must destroy the demons which are living inside human beings only he can see.
The boys soon discover their father’s dastardly deeds, but struggle with their emotions at the same time. They want to believe their dad, but their faith is tested since their father is the only one who sees them.
The way the story is told is interesting and Paxton does a great job slowly revealing details of each character and their motivations for their actions.
The payoff at the end is worthy of the story before it and does not seem like a cop out.
3. Jennifer Connelly, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Ben Kingsley in House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Kathy (Connelly) feels she is wrongfully evicted from her San Francisco home after the authorities arrive to remove her. An Iranian family moves in the empty home soon afterwards.
Kathy is determined to get her home back by any means necessary. She solicits the help of the same deputy who removed her. The deputy feels bad about the eviction and agrees to help.
Kathy pours on the seduction and gets the deputy to leave his family and apply pressure on the new family to leave the home without success.
The characters, writing and acting in the film are superb throughout as the intensity of the situation becomes more involved and emotional as the story continues.
The tragic nature of the story delivers and you are left heartbroken in the end. Although not a box office success, both Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances in the film.
4. Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson in Ironweed (1987)
You can’t get much greater acting talent than the combination of Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. Between them they have a total of six Academy Award wins and 25 nominations. Truly amazing!
The two lead actors had just finished starring opposite each other in “Heartburn” a year earlier. It is hard to believe they did not score a box office hit with “Ironweed”, although the subject matter may have prevented wide appeal.
The film tells the simple story of two homeless wanderers who meet up with each other back in Albany, New York in 1938 after being away for many years.
Both characters have had much tragedy in their lives and now they try and come to grips with where their lives have come and gone and how they have ended up here where they are now.
You feel sorry for both of them, some of their misery is their own doing; however, some of it is fate. Maybe their final days can bring them some long-awaited peace.
The film is definitely a character piece letting the two acting giants do what they do best. The characters they create and their mannerisms, dialogue and the way they play off each other makes the film worth watching just for that.
5. Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs (1971)
Dustin Hoffman headlines this tale from veteran director Sam Peckinpah (“The Wild Bunch” and “The Getaway” (1972)) about a math genius and his English wife who start a life for themselves in the rural landscape of the United Kingdom.
The couple’s life seems harmless enough until the locals start to harass the couple headlined by a former boyfriend. Tensions rise as David (Hoffman) hires a few of the men to do some work around their home and the men procrastinate getting anything done.
David’s wife, Amy (Susan George) ends up getting brutally raped within the home without David’s knowledge. Later, another altercation provokes several of the same locals to revisit the couple’s home in search of another man. A standoff ensues between the men and the couple both of which will go to any lengths to prevail.
The film was controversial upon release for the level of violence and for the depiction of the rape itself. Some thought Peckinpah was glorifying the violence instead of condemning it.
The standoff between the two sides at the couple’s home is intense and worth watching just for the final sequence. The friction-filled climax does the story justice.
“Straw Dogs” was remade in 2011 with James Marsden and Kate Bosworth in the leads directed by Rod Lurie (“The Last Castle” and “The Contender”).
6. Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle in Ravenous (1999)
If cannibal films are not your cup of tea, you may want to pass on this one.
During the time of the Mexican-American War, Captain John Boyd (Pearce) receives orders to command Fort Spencer, a remote post indeed with a seven-man regiment.
Shortly afterwards, a stranger (Carlyle) arrives and asks for assistance in locating his party who has gone missing. Through a tale of deception and remote snowy wilderness, some men become stranded and have to resort to any means necessary in order to survive.
It is hard to explain the story from here without giving too much away; however, you definitely cannot foresee where the movie is headed and thoroughly enjoy the 2nd and 3rd acts of the film as a result.
One can understand the graphic nature of the subject matter is not for the mainstream, but if you can take this type of story you should give it a watch!