We all know about the big blockbusters that have come out this year. Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book, and Finding Dory have all gotten plenty of attention. This article is for the little guys (figuratively speaking).
In this list, you’ll find a selection of movies that haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve, whether that’s because of an unfortunate box office performance or an extremely limited advertising campaign.
In some cases, less-than-stellar reviews may also be at fault. However, keep in mind that every movie on this list deserves to be seen regardless of what resulted in their “under the radar” status. The summer is almost over, after all. So as the bigger releases start to slow down, make some time to watch these smaller movies. They deserve your attention just as much.
You might notice that a few of the movies on this list are considered 2015 releases according to sites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Though these movies were technically released in 2015, they weren’t released to the general public until 2016.
In other words, they need to be released outside of the festival circuit, whether through a limited release, wide release, or VOD release. With that in mind, let’s move on and get the list started.
10. Creative Control
Manhattan meets Her in this poignant satire from first-time director Benjamin Dickinson. Granted, it’s not nearly as good as either of those films, but it’s still a unique look at love, loss, and desperation featuring breathtaking black and white cinematography that ties into the earlier Manhattan comparison.
That’s not the only thing about this movie that brings to mind Woody Allen’s classic feature. The dialog-driven nature of the film along with the structure of the plot also help Creative Control earn such a flattering comparison.
The plot revolves around an ad executive named David (played by Dickinson) using VR glasses to have an affair with a virtual representation of his best friend’s girlfriend. Structurally, the movie is reminiscent of Manhattan. As you can see though, the sci-fi twist allows the film to earn comparisons to the recent Spike Jonze hit.
If those comparisons appeal to you, this movie is absolutely worth checking out as long as you keep your expectations in check. The screenplay pales in comparison to either of the aforementioned movies and the cast can best be described as “competent.” Furthermore, the concept of the movie along with the snail-like pacing make it a bad-fit for people looking for something more traditional.
Luckily, there are plenty of people that should find things to love about the movie. The punchy dialog often hits the right marks, the extended Reggie Watts cameo is a welcome treat, and the previously mentioned cinematography is stunning. Those looking for a Woody Allen-esque movie with a sci-fi twist should find something to enjoy in this Amazon original movie.
9. The Phenom
The Phenom isn’t a baseball movie as much as it is a family drama that involves baseball. So if you see a baseball player on the poster or the box art, keep in mind that this isn’t a traditional sports movie. Also note that if you’re not a fan of slow burn movies, The Phenom may fail to keep your attention. Now that we’ve weeded out the people that this movie doesn’t appeal too, let’s get into some details.
The Phenom is about a Major League pitcher named Hopper (Johnny Simmons) who is ultimately sent to a sports psychologist (Paul Giamatti) after memories of his abusive father (Ethan Hawke) resurface and affect the way he plays. Baseball takes a backseat to the dehumanizing emotional battery that frequented Hopper’s life as he strived to be a baseball great.
The relationship between Hopper and his father is made even more enthralling as a result of the performances of Simmons and Hawke. Hawke is as captivating as he always is, but it’s Simmons who surprises.
After a long streak of small supporting roles, Simmons takes the lead and does so impressively. It’s not that Simmons has ever shown any sign of being a bad actor.
On the contrary, his smaller roles in Scott Pilgrim vs the World, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Stanford Prison experiment were plenty entertaining. He’s just never been given the opportunity to truly “strut his stuff.” The Phenom is the best Johnny Simmons performance to date. It’s a movie that has me excited about the future of his career.
These two performances, along with evident thematic depth are at the heart of the film. The Phenom works because it tells an important story led by two stellar leads. It’s not exactly a crowd-pleasing baseball movie, but it’s a brilliant acted movie with an impressive cast.
8. The Infiltrator
The Infiltrator has only managed to earn about $13 million at the box office so far, and with a production budget rumored to be north of $45 million, it’s not looking like much of a success.
The unfortunate decision to limit its theatrical release to under 2,000 screens was questionable, especially considering the popularity of crime movies and Bryan Cranston. Unfortunately, when you combine this mediocre box office performance with good-not-great reviews, you have a movie bound to be overlooked.
Let it be clear that this movie has no place being compared to the greatest crime movies. However, it’s still a solid movie on its own merit. Considering the lack of compelling crime movies that have come along lately, it’s a great way to spend two hours.
Bryan Cranston is the main draw here. As undercover agent Robert Mazur, he’s pretty much perfect for the role. Without a lead as compelling as Cranston, the movie may have felt like more of a generic crime-thriller.
Luckily, we don’t have to live in a world where Cranston didn’t land the role, so The Infiltrator ultimately benefits. The supporting cast is also well worth mentioning. In particular, Diane Kruger and John Leguizamo deliver stand-out performances that rank among the strongest in their respective careers.
It’s true that there’s an unfortunate lack of tension from time to time. It’s also true that the script has a tendency to feel familiar. Ultimately though, the good outweighs the bad in the case of The Infiltrator.
It’s easy to ignore issues with the script when the movie has a supremely dedicated cast combined with a consistently gritty tone that greatly benefits the overall film. It’s no Serpico, but it gets the job done.
7. The BFG
Most people probably wouldn’t have anticipated a Spielberg movie ever being included on a list of “Overlooked Films,” but here we are. The BFG is finally out and if its box office performance is anything to go by, we might have a Spielberg bomb on our hands. With a $140 million budget, the movie has only managed to earn slightly over $60 million so far. It’s sad to say that few peoplefelt like giving Spielberg’s take on the Roald Dahl classic a chance.
It’s even more unfortunate because this is coming out after a long string of Spielberg “Oscar” movies. Basically, Spielberg put big budget blockbusters aside to focus on more serious dramas like War Horse, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies.
All of those were fine movies, but many of us missed the days when Spielberg was more interested in crafting fun movies with more fantastical elements. Despite reassembling with the screenwriter of ET, The BFG has completely failed to resonate with audiences thus far.
There are a number of reasons one could attribute to why the movie has drawn in such a tiny audience, but the “why” is not worth dwelling on in this case. We’re here to talk about why people should watch these movies, not why they chose not to watch these movies. The BFG is a smart family film that takes Roald Dahl’s acclaimed novel and does it justice.
Though it skips over some of the darker themes of the novel (as Hollywood so often loves to do), The BFG is still a heartwarming tale with two extremely talented performers. Mark Rylance is arresting as the titular giant and newcomer Ruby Barnhill is an adorable treat. Spielberg’s knack for creating lavish spectacles also results in a technical marvel with eye-popping visuals.
The plot is rather simplistic, but it’s nevertheless effective, especially since it retains Dahl’s overall message from the source material. Don’t let the box office performance steer you away from The BFG. It may not be top-tier Spielberg, but it’s undeniably a movie worth watching.
6. Hardcore Henry
It’s not entirely surprising to see that Hardcore Henry has gotten mediocre reviews from professional critics. Some critics found that the first-person perspective was merely a headache-inducing gimmick, other critics complained that the movie didn’t give us characters worth caring about, and plenty of others found the movie to be a bit misogynistic. All of these are valid points, in all honesty. However, none of them stopped me from having one hell of a time.
Hardcore Henry often works because it’s entirely self-aware of how stupid it is. This is a movie that doesn’t try to give us a thought-provoking plot or interesting characters. It has one goal in mind: to keep the audience entertained until the credits roll.
It’s totally understandable that not everyone will be entertained by 90 minutes of first person head-bashing. Then again, if that’s not your thing, maybe you shouldn’t be watching the movie in the first place?
Unlike action-heavy, light-on-plot movies like Transformers and Batman V Superman, Hardcore Henry sticks with a cheekier tone that allows it to wallow in its own stupidity. It’s never trying to be anything more than a goofy action movie. It’s silly, grin-inducing fun at its finest. This is largely because it succeeds in terms of giving the audience a gleefully wild action spectacle.
The action scenes in the movie are genuinely exciting to watch. They’re bloody, brutal, and sometimes even quite funny. A movie that relies so heavily on action needs action scenes that are entertaining, and that’s exactly what Hardcore Henry delivers. Come in with an open mind and check your brain at the door and you’re liable to leave the movie feeling absolutely exhilarated.